Archive for February, 2010

Sunroom Shades – Control Your Light Levels

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Sunrooms are a great place to spend a lazy afternoon. However, during certain times of the day (or year), this area of your home may be a little brighter than you bargained for. UV blocking glass may keep you from getting sunburned, but the light can still create an unpleasant level of glare. Installing shades, blinds, or drapes is one way to take control of how much sun you let into your sunroom.

Blinds and Shades

Louvered vinyl blinds or roll-up bamboo shades are the cheapest option for the floor to ceiling style windows in most sunrooms. These can be installed as a DIY project and are available in a wide variety of sizes. Consider purchasing shades from the same manufacturer or distributor who supplied the other materials for your sunroom. This is one way to get a fairly good deal and ensure a proper fit. If you have a bespoke sunroom built to your specifications, expect to pay more for custom blinds.

Sunroom Drapes

Sheer Sunroom Curtains

Sheer Sunroom Curtains

Do you prefer curtains but don’t want to spend thousands on a custom window treatment? Buy sheer fabric from a discount store and make these yourself. For full drapes, each fabric panel should be at least 1.5 times the width of the glass pane it is covering. Allow several inches of extra fabric at the top and bottom for a hem and the channel for the curtain rod. Finish with ribbon tie backs for a breezy, simple effect. If you want to be able to fully block light and conserve energy when you aren’t using the room, install solid drapes with a thermal blackout liner.

Fun Stuff

Don’t forget that skylights may need to be shaded as well. Motorized blinds can be installed to open and close with the flick of a switch. This gives you the option of blocking the rays of the sun when it is directly overhead. During the summer, this can make your sunroom easier to cool.

Reach For The Rafters With Vertical Siding

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

You know that horizontal stripes aren’t usually flattering as a fashion statement. They make you look fatter than you really are. These lines can do the same thing to your home. Traditional beveled siding wraps your home in overlapping horizontal layers that can make the entire building look short and squat.

What if you want a façade that draws the eye upward toward lovely scalloped trim or a specialty roof? In that case, you might choose vertical siding. You can purchase this style of exterior in vinyl, cedar, or fiber cement varieties; so there is a product for every budget.


Board and batten style vertical siding is available in cement fiber sections from manufacturers like HardiePanel. This look features wide flat panels (boards) interrupted by, thin raised strips of trim (battens) at regular intervals. Fiber cement can be pre-coated at the factory with a baked on finish or painted on-site. This material is very durable and resistant to wind, hail, and sun.

Board & Batten Vertical Siding

Board & Batten Vertical Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding offers even more vertical design options with fancy beaded and triple batten patterns. It come in preselected colors and doesn’t have to be painted. This option is cost effective from a maintenance standpoint. Just hose it down a couple of times a year and check the caulking around joints.


Red cedar is kiln dried in preparation for use outdoors. This pre-shrinks it by removing moisture so that it won’t contract as much after installation. Lapped, tongue and groove, board and batten, and other joining methods can be used for vertical installation to add visual interest.

Cedar that is properly primed and painted is resistant to weathering and can last for several decades with proper maintenance. If you select this wood, install a different façade material for the bottom 6”. Cedar that comes into contact with the soil is prone to decay.

Best Kitchen Entertainment Upgrade: TV Lifts

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Have you ever wanted to watch your favorite cooking show in your kitchen instead of on the sofa? You could try out the techniques those super-chefs demonstrate with all the utensils, ingredients and appliances you need in arm’s reach. Or, maybe you like to hang out at the breakfast bar with your friends instead of watching sports in the living room with the guys. Install a TV in the kitchen and you can choose whatever entertainment you want.

TV Lifts Save Space in your Kitchen

With counter top space at a premium, you will want your TV monitor tucked out of sight when not in use. This will also protect it from the occasional cooking accident that ends up with oil spatters or mashed potatoes on the walls. You have several choices for hiding your flat panel plasma TV.

Drop Down TV Lift

Drop Down TV Lift

A rising TV lift can be incorporated into your center island. This is the best location if you want to install a large screen. The surface of your island will still be flush so it can be used as a workspace. The hinged section of marble, granite, wood, or laminate concealing your TV will simply open up with the press of a button from your remote control. A scissor or telescoping lift brings the monitor into view.

Drop down “lifts” operate in the opposite direction. You can mount this kind in the ceiling or have it drop down to counter level from inside a kitchen cabinet. These are a great solution for smaller screens. Here are some extra tips for making the right choice:

  • Always choose a lift that is designed for the size and weight of your plasma screen
  • Measure the inside dimensions of your island or cabinet twice before purchasing your TV and lift
  • Avoid buying a lift that has plastic parts – these will break easily
  • Have your lift professionally installed to preserve your warranty

Whats Under Your Roof?

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Roof underlayment materials provide the final surface on which shingles are attached. The most common type is roofing felt (sometimes called tar paper). It is often made of fiberglass “paper” impregnated with asphalt. This felt is available in #15 and #30 weights with the thicker paper, 30 lb paper being slightly more durable. These products must be fire, wind, and puncture resistant to meet current building codes.

Tar Paper Installation

Tar Paper Installation

Tar paper isn’t designed to act as a replacement for shingles. It is intended to make your roof less susceptible to moisture penetration. Felt is applied over the roof decking and may be layered over an additional water barrier such as flashing tape. Roofing felt is a very inexpensive material but not as durable as some of the newer products on the market. It must be overlapped properly during installation to prevent water from seeping between the layers. Extensive smoothing is often required to prevent wrinkling.

Thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) is a membranous, synthetic roofing underlayment. It is less prone to leaking and tearing than traditional tar paper. One major advantage is the breathability of the material. Instead of trapping moisture in the attic, it permits water vapor to escape. This minimizes the risk of mold growing under the roofing material. TPO is generally available in wider widths that reduce the number of total seams that must be overlapped. This type of product is sometimes advertised as providing wrinkle-free installation.

Specialty felts are available for extreme climates. Some are designed to be self-adhesive and are thick enough to withstand ice as well as rain. They won’t allow water through – even around nail holes. These barriers are laid down first with a layer of traditional tar paper or synthetic membrane on top. With all of these materials, proper installation provides the greatest protection and longevity for your roof.

Make Your Bathroom Easy to Clean with a Shower Liner

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Tiled shower stalls are popular for a reason. They look great – for the first few months. After that, the grout may start to show signs of age. Many shampoos and body washes contain dyes that stain tiles and grout. Soap scum mixed with minerals from your water can cake to any surface. Keeping mold and mildew at bay is a constant struggle in the moist environment of your bathroom.

No matter what the makers of spray on shower cleaners claim, you will end up scrubbing your grout at some point. The only way to avoid this is to replace your shower stall or tub surround with smooth acrylic panels. Unlike a pre-fab unit, you don’t need plumbing skills to do this upgrade yourself. You aren’t removing the old tub or shower, simply covering it with a fresh, easy to clean surface.

Variety in Choice

Acrylic Shower Stall

Acrylic Shower Stall

While tub liners and shower pans are generally available in just a few neutral colors, there are lots of options for the surrounding walls. Faux granite and marble wall liners can make this “quick fix” look quite sophisticated. There are even molded acrylic panels that look like tile – but without the grout.

You can easily find products with accessories like soap dishes and safety bars. There are also companies that will customize a liner for you to fit any space and add cut outs for windows.

Before You Install

Clean your existing bathtub or shower stall before installing a liner. Also, let the area dry fully. You don’t want water to be trapped between the liner and the original surface. Choose materials that are protected with Milguard or a similar microbe inhibitor to help keep your liner free of mildew.