MOLDetect Mold Test Kit

MOLDetect? is an EASY-To-Use and Reliable Mold Test Kit to test for indoor mold contaminants using a standardized tape lift procedure. MOLDetect? can detect all molds, living or dead, including Stachybotrys. Simply apply the test tape to the surface, lift, and place it on the unbreakable slide attached to the sample card. Then mail it to the lab for analysis (AIHA, EMPAT participant) and receive results in days not weeks. Lab report can be faxed or emailed in addition to receiving it by mail.

A Place For Everything And Everything In Its Place

Tax season is over...The spring holidays have passed... Hopefully by now you have sent your taxes in and recovered from your spring holiday preparation. You can RELAX! Sit back, get excited for summer.
Just don't let things slide too much. In order for you to be able to take the break you deserve, there are a few VITAL organizing systems you need to have in place so clutter doesn't take over.
1. Mail-establish a place for incoming mail and outgoing mail. I like to keep a picture box with my stamps, envelopes, tape, scissors, a couple of pens, and whatever else I need to send letters.
For incoming mail, you can keep a tiered tray with different categories to look at a later date-bills, medical reimbursements, to file. Frequently check the tray to see when anything is due.
Keeping your mail in one location prevents paper pileup.
2. Receipts and coupons- establish a system for receipts. You can use an expandable check file and label each section according to store, credit card, or type of purchase. Think about where you would look to find it if you needed it.
3. Library books/movies-keep anything you can incur a fine for in one location.
4. Magazine basket-keep magazines in a basket and when it gets too full, sort and purge.
5. Keys-keep your keys in one place! It may sound obvious to you but do you waste time desperately searching for your keys?
6. Birthdays-read more about keeping a birthday tracking system at http://www.best-organizing-products-superstore.com/yahoo-birthday-reminders.html
7. Gifts-I like keeping extra gifts on hand for those last minute necessities. This may sound terrible- but I also keep gifts that I receive (that I don't particularly like) in this location. I do not allow my home to become cluttered with gifts I did not like and the guilt that goes along with not using them!
8. CDs/DVDs-believe it or not, I have seen media take OVER much floor space and counter space when no specific place is designated for it. Devote one piece of furniture with drawers to contain all of your media.
9. Lists- This is my favorite! You do not need to have any fancy software or device for this. I open up a plain Microsoft word document for any list I think of-tax deductions for next year, things I have borrowed or lent out, people to send holiday cards to, holiday inventory (for instance, I need a better can opener for next Passover), spring cleaning chores, books to read, wish lists, babysitting instructions, packing lists...
You name it! Whatever thought enters my head, I write it down to prevent mental clutter.
If you are more of a creative type of person and hate the idea of making lists, do it in a way that speaks to you. For instance, create "landmarks" for your lists. For example, if you have a picture of your spouse on your desk, perhaps keeping a gift wish list or birthday list under his/her picture would remind you to plan their birthday gift.
10. Grocery shopping and cooking-Keep a running grocery list on the front of your pantry or refrigeration (with a pen!) so you can write down items as you need them.
Plan one day a week to plan all the meals for the week with the ingredients that you need. Be sure to add those ingredients to your grocery list.
Designate the same day each week to go grocery shopping.
11. Laundry and Cleaning routines One of the most important routines is the laundry and cleaning routine. Part of it is just having the supplies on hand and a comfortable spot to do the laundry.
I really love the clorox wipes- whenever you go to the bathroom, take a quick wipe of the toilet seat, vanity, and sink countertops.
Designate 2 days a week to do laundry or if it works better for you to throw a load in each morning, that's fine. Make sure you have laundry baskets in everyone's room and a large sorter basket in the laundry room. That way, each person can bring their basket into the laundry room on laundry day and sort it by color.
In terms of a cleaning routine, you have a lot of flexibility. You can designate one day a week for cleaning in addition to cleaning for a 1/2 hour every morning and evening. Think like a restaurant server-pick up after using, wash dishes, wipe down dirty surfaces often. That way you will not need a heavy duty cleaning too often.
Review! 1. Create a place for everything. Literally give the items that clutter up your home an address.
2. Build habits-Establishing routines is a very IMPORTANT concept in maintaining lasting organization. Going to the grocery store the same day every week, or returning calls between 3-4 PM every afternoon can save a lot of time and prevent physical and mental clutter.
It is my hope these tips for basic organizing systems enables you to relax more freely this upcoming summer season. Happy Organizing!
Rebekah Slatkin is a professional organizer dedicated to getting people organized through hands-on decluttering sessions, teleconferencing, coaching, and her website http://www.best-organizing-products-superstore.com Visit http://www.best-organizing-products-superstore.com and subscribe to Organewz, her ezine dedicated to organized living and get organizing tips and downloads- free.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/

How to Deal With Contractors

Not everyone is aware of how to deal with contractors. Imagine that your Home Improvement Loan has been granted. What do you do next? Do you rush out and find the first available contractor and offer them your cash? Not a good move.
Whether you're planning an addition for a growing family or simply getting new double-glazed windows, finding a competent and reliable contractor is the first step to a successful and satisfying home improvement project. Take your time to consider all your options. Do not rush into any agreement that you may later regret.
Your home may be your most valuable financial asset. That's why it's important to be cautious when you hire someone to work on it. Home improvement contractors often advertise in newspapers or the Yellow Pages. However, don't consider an advert to be an indication of the quality of a contractor's work. Your best bet is to find a contractor that has been used successfully by friends, family or colleagues. Get written estimates from several firms. Don't automatically choose the lowest bidder.
Above all, be wary of contractors who will:
solicit door-to-door
offer you discounts for finding other customers
just happens to have materials left over from a previous job
only accept cash payments
does not list a business number in the local telephone directory
pressure you for an immediate decision
offer exceptionally long guarantees
ask you to pay for the entire job up-front
Interview each contractor and ask:
How long have you been in business?
How many projects like mine have you completed?
Will my project require a permit?
May I have a list of references?
Will you be using subcontractors on this project?
What types of insurance do you carry?
Talk with some of the contractor's former customers and ask:
Can I visit your home to see the completed job?
Were you satisfied with the project?
Was it completed on time?
Did workers show up on time?
Did they clean up after finishing the job?
Would you recommend the contractor?
Would you use the contractor again?
You should not start any project without having a contract in place. A contract spells out the, who, what, where, when and cost of your project. The agreement should be clear, concise and complete. Before you sign a contract, make sure it contains:
The contractor's name, address, phone nubmer
The payment schedule for the contractor
An estimated start and completion date
How change orders will be handled
A detailed list of all materials
Warranties covering materials and workmanship
What the contractor will and will not do
Keep all paperwork related to your project in one place. This includes copies of the contract, change orders and correspondence with your home improvement professionals. You also might want to take photographs as the job progresses. These records are especially important if you have problems with your project — during or after construction.
Before you sign off and make the final payment check that:
All work meets the standards spelled out in the contract.
You have written warranties for materials and workmanship.
The job site has been cleaned up and cleared of excess materials, tools and equipment.
You have inspected and approved the completed work.
You may freely reprint this article provided the author's biography remains intact:
John Mussi is the founder of Direct Online Loans who help UK homeowners find the best available loans via the http://www.directonlineloans.co.uk website.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/

Installing Vinyl Replacement Windows on the Second Floor

If you have a two story house, and you are going to replace the windows on both the first and second floor, there are little tricks that you can use to make the upper floor job a bit safer and easier. If the windows are replacement style frames, you install them from inside the house, so the only thing that you will do different than the first floor windows is to use an extension ladder to caulk the exterior. So, let's talk about doing retrofit style windows on the second floor. You can usually remove the old window from inside the house, but if you have a picture window, you have to use the extension ladder to remove the stops holding the glass in place. Then, you can go inside the house and cut the glass free from the frame using a utility knife. Put a tarp on the ground below the window, to catch any glass pieces that may fall during the removal. Also, don't forget to keep people and animals away from the area below the window.
Once you are ready to install the new window, you can do it from inside the house. Remember, when installing retrofit style frames, you install them from outside and raise them into place. Instead, carry the window upstairs. If it's a slider, remove the screen and sliding panel. Then, using a helper, you can angle the window frame through the opening, extending the retrofit lip completely outside of the opening before pulling the window back toward you, and installing the window as if you were outside. Have your helper hold the center bar while you put a screw into the top center to hold the frame in place. You can do the entire installation from inside. The only time you will need to go on the extension ladder is when you're ready to caulk the exterior. Make sure you put a generous amount of caulk where the top of the frame meets the stucco or exterior material. You don't want any water getting past the new frame, otherwise it can work it's way through the wall and down through the ceiling or the walls. You would be surprised how easily two people can install an 8' wide by 5' tall sliding window on the second floor if you remove the sliding panels and screens. In fact, my helper and I did one 10' wide and 5' high. That was the biggest one I ever did on the second floor. You can run a bead of caulk on the outside face of the old frame before installing the new frame right from inside the room.
Now, if you are installing a picture window, it's a little tougher. You can't remove any panels to lighten the load, and it's tougher to get as firm a grip on the frame. But, on the positive side, picture windows aren't usually much larger than 3' by 5' on the second floor. If you have a large picture window, or if you have several to install, I have access to suction cups that are used in the glass industry. You can attach them to the glass and use them as handles when extending the frame outside through the opening. Contact me on my website at How to install windows if you want to get pricing on suction cups. You can get the smaller, inexpensive models for around $40 each.
So, if you are hesitating to replace your old windows yourself because you didn't think you could do the upstairs windows, now you know you can. Next week's topic is going to be about replacing the rollers on your patio door. If you can't hardly open your sliding glass door anymore, a couple of new rollers can make all the difference in the world.
John Rocco has been installing replacement windows since 1978. To learn more, visit How To Install Windows
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/

Heart of the Home

It started with my need for a new mixer. OK. Well, maybe not exactly. It probably really started when we bought our home in Connecticut two years ago. The kitchen needed a make-over. Not a complete renovation-—as some do-—but a make-over, to be sure. Its footprint was fine, as was its size. Windows and doors were good, too. But it was dreary. Dark, drab and dreary.
But a re-do-—no matter the scope-—was out of our reach at move-in, just as it is now. So I’ve tried to not think about it too much.
That’s tougher than it sounds. What with me being a “visual person”-—energized by color and proportion and pattern-—and kitchen tours taking up space on every New England town’s calendar within the next few weeks, it’s almost impossible to not notice renovated kitchens. Nor to salivate over their inevitable appeal.
Such was the case this past Friday when a friend and I tromped through six fabulous kitchens in an annual little ritual. Carefully calibrated to Mother’s Day—-not to mention the bursting of daffodils, the budding of most trees, and the flowering of rhododendron-—it coincided perfectly with spring fever.
And so it was that my friend, Nancy, and I enjoyed most of the afternoon together...roaming around gorgeous homes, indulging in wonderful treats catered by local restaurateurs, and commenting on what both appealed-—and what didn’t-—to our strong aesthetic sensibilities. Nancy is an artist, too. And she just finished her own dream kitchen a few months ago. So she has not only a good grasp of the whole kitchen re-do thing; she has a similar eye to mine and is highly motivated by strong visuals.
Interestingly, we were both struck by exactly the same things. An enormous, albeit completely-perfect home, didn’t do it for either one of us as it did for a friend whom I bumped into while there. “Isn’t this absolutely incredible?” my friend exclaimed.
Nancy and I looked at each other.
“It’s perfect,” I dead-panned.
Too perfect. Perfectly painted, perfectly appointed, perfectly accessorized, perfectly clean. Was it possible real people really lived there? Could anyone have ever actually sautéed onions and garlic at its immaculate stainless-steel Viking range?
As we walked to the car, Nancy and I reflected on what truly makes a home, anyway. And where does one stop? In this real estate frenzy of the new millennium, where success is measured by capital gains, square footage and location-location-location; how much is enough, after all? Do we really need commercial-grade stainless steel Wolf ranges and double Sub-Zero’s? Granite countertops and farmhouse sinks with copper faucets? Islands with pull-outs?
Seems like we do. A Harvard University study found that Americans spent $233 billion on remodeling and repair projects in 2003, with kitchen re-do’s topping the list. A stunning 4 million Americans will do a kitchen remodeling project of some type in this year alone!
Staggering in scope, it is easily understandable. We have everyone from Home Depot to Pottery Barn to Williams-Sonoma to Target to HGTV to thank. Oh, sure. You might not need a kitchen transformation. But seriously, do you have enough fortitude to walk out of Williams-Sonoma fiscally unscathed? And have you seen the summer plastic ware at Target? As if I needed another lime green line item in my home...it was pure will-power that prevented me from grabbing a dozen of the cutest soda-fountain-style tumblers in my favorite color on my weekend outing there.
I read recently that most people do a major kitchen remodel for one simple reason: their friend did it. Oh great. A brilliant tax break? We get that. Increasing the value of your real estate. Get that, too. But peer pressure?
It’s easy to see why. I mean, a wonderful kitchen is a lovely thing to behold. I totally get it. Want it. But can’t yet have it.
So in case you’re in the same state (and I have to suppose that many of you are, given the success rate of these kitchen tours) here are “5 Strategies for Infusing-Your-Kitchen-With-Beauty-If-You-Don’t-Have-The-Designer-Kitchen-You’d-Really-Like-To-Have-But-For-Whatever-Reason-Don’t:
1) Inject bold bursts of color. Be it via woven placemats at the breakfast table, colorful pottery on your countertops, or brightly-painted kitchen towels hanging from your oven bar: use generous strokes of color to put your brain on a heightened state of alert. Your cabinets might be dreadfully tired and your outdated appliances might leave you feeling totally uninspired. But take heart: a few brilliantly colored decorative objects can provide just the punch your sleepy kitchen needs.
2) Treat yourself to one new kitchen accoutrement. Seen Le Creuset’s latest red Dutch ovens? Or Kitchen Aid’s new apple green mixer? How about a shiny chrome coffee grinder? If a total kitchen overhaul is out of your reach, perhaps one modest indulgence will give your room that little kick-in-the-pants that it needs.
3) Change the lighting. My Country French rooster chandelier ala my latest birthday, elevates my eyes upwards...out of the direction of my drive-me-crazy-cabinets and onto something much more beautiful and intriguing. Considering its relatively minor expense, it proved a clever way of adding serious visual interest to a space which otherwise drags me down visually. Shop around. While not as cheap as a new box of candles, a new lighting fixture is often a great way to go.
4) Change things in stages. Perhaps by giving your cabinets a new paint job, you can change the look of the whole room. My girlfriend, Leslie, contracted with a house painter as well as with a decorative painter to dramatically lift her entire kitchen into a veritable work of art. The decorative painter glazed and then hand-painted different floral designs on each cabinet panel, elevating the room into one of lightness and pure beauty. The end result is stunning! Maybe by simply replacing a worn-out dishwasher you can inject a dash of modernity to an otherwise out-dated room. Or perhaps the relatively easy job of changing your countertops will give you more of the look and function that you desire.
5) Enjoy your collections. Not only did my recent trip to Paris cement my affection for le coq; it heightened my awareness of any and all fabulous renditions seen since my return. I can hardly pass by a rooster without checking its craftsmanship, size and price tag. Infuse your environment with the things that you love. Be they pictures of friends and family magnetized to your fridge...or cows or pigs or roosters (we really are a silly bunch, aren’t we?) don’t be afraid to show off your collections to their fullest. When your day is looking particularly gloomy or your hormones are raging; the little things that bring you joy will help to blow both those black clouds away from your precious little head as well as more evenly distribute those swirling shivers of estrogen.
Finally, reflect on the relativity of materialism. Nancy and I—walking back from “house perfect” on the kitchen tour, talked about how it’s all relative anyway. For what seems like extravagant indulgence (or a vulgar display of wealth, depending on your perspective) is just that: it’s a perspective. It’s all relative. What seems ridiculously unnecessary to me might seem perfectly legitimate to you. And remember that most of what we possess is viewed by some 90% of the world as pure luxury. Keep perspective. If your kitchen drives you nuts, try to maintain some level of thanksgiving for what you do have, rather than some level of misery for what you don’t.
The kitchen isn’t called the heart of the home for nothing. It’s where we put love into what we put into our body. Where we infuse our food with energy. Where we sift and dice and shake and bake. Where we laugh and learn and read and relax. Do your part to make it the heart of your home...whether you like the way it looks or not.
I wound up getting a new mixer for Mother’s Day. As bizarre a request as it was-—coming from someone whose least favorite word in the English language is “practical”-—I got the desire to actually mix something up in there. (Bake a cake...or something along those lines, anyway.) And I have a funny feeling it will actually send me into my kitchen more often...whether I like it or not.
Carolina Fernandez earned an M.B.A. and worked at IBM and as a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch before coming home to work as a wife and mother of four. She totally re-invented herself along the way. Strong convictions were born about the role of the arts in child development; homeschooling for ten years provided fertile soil for devising creative parenting strategies. These are played out in ROCKET MOM! 7 Strategies To Blast You Into Brilliance. It is available on Amazon.com, in bookstores everywhere, or by calling 888-476-2493. She writes extensively for a variety of parenting resources and teaches other moms via parenting classes and radio and TV interviews.
Please visit http://www.rocketmom.com to subscribe to her free ezine and get a weekly shot of inspiration.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/

How I Got A Robot To Vacuum The House

Like most people I really hated to vacuum the house. I thought anyone who enjoyed vacuuming was close to insanity. Well, I must be crazy too because I have started vacuuming every few days. Why? Because I purchased a robotic vacuum cleaner.
All you do is place it on the floor, turn it on, and push the clean button to start it off on its cleaning odyssey. It will circle a couple of times and then off it goes around the room seeking out dirt and dust. Whether the floor is carpets, hardwood, ceramic, or tiles – it does them all with equal enthusiasm.
It is not a toy or gimmick. Rather, it is part of a new generation of household equipment that will soon become common. They are products that can make decisions as to how best to accomplish a task. Not quite true artificial intelligence, but definitely smart enough to vacuum the rugs for you.
The two preeminent manufacturers of these vacuums are Electrolux* and Roomba*.
The Electrolux version is probably the most sophisticated. It incorporates eight ultrasonic sensors and some advanced computer reasoning. It sends out a sound beam that allows it to determine where all the objects are located in the room. It can even find its way back to the charger when the power levels begin to drop. Once charged, it will appear again to continue the cleaning. When it determines the room is clean it goes back to the charger, turns around, backs into it, and turns itself off. This robot vacuum has been available in Europe for a couple of years. It appears to be the most complex of these machines and comes with a $1795 price tag.
The robot vacuum cleaner I purchased is the Roomba, manufactured by the iRobot company. It is a simpler and much less expensive version and carries a price tag of approximately $249. Its round shape, bright colour, and flashing buttons give it a futuristic look. At three inches in height and one foot in diameter it looks like a miniature flying sauce as it scurries across the floor.
It uses a bump-and-turn method of operation. Once operational it goes in a straight until it bumps into something. Each time it encounters an obstacle it turns and goes off in an alternate direction. If an unusually dirty area is found the vacuum will circle until it is satisfied the area is sufficiently clean. This way dusty corners or debris such as cookie crumbs get extra attention.
These little whirling dervishes of the vacuum world can even deal with obstacles such as stairs, thresholds, and transitions between different flooring materials. When it encounters the top of a staircase it will come right to the edge, stop for a few seconds, make a reverse turn, and go off in another direction.
Since purchasing a robot vacuum cleaner I have gone from vacuuming once a week to every couple of days. The results of the increased cleaning frequency are quite visible. This little machine has put the shine back into my carpets.
The only disadvantages I have found are minor. For instance, the dust storage bin is small. The bin should be emptied after every few uses to prevent it from becoming full. Also the power brush can become clogged with small bits of debris. This is easily corrected though by disassembling the brush and cleaning the bristles. Roomba even provides a special comb for this job. It works quite well.
So, if like me you hate the thought of getting out the vacuum and pushing it around the room, then consider a robot vacuum cleaner to help you with this chore.
Ladies, do you know statistics show that 85% of household chores are done by women. So, if you ever want to get a man to “do” (initiate may be a better term) the vacuuming then perhaps consider introducing him to a robot vacuum cleaner. The first few times I used mine I sat for hours watching it operate. I was utterly fascinated by how it traversed the labyrinth of my main floor living areas. To the extent that I could hardly wait for it to recharge so that I could start it up again.
Here is an interesting idea. Since all men like gadgets, “ Why not get Dad one for fathers day ”. That way he won’t have any excuse for not being involved with the vacuuming. Besides, It will pay him back for the toaster he got you for your birthday last year.
* Electrolux is a registered trademarks of AB Electrolux of Sweden
* Roomba is a registered trademark of iRobot
Copyright 2005 by Donald Grummett. All right reserved. Service manager of MG Appliance Repair Services in Ottawa, Canada. In the trade over 30 years as a technician, business owner, and technical trainer. For more information about appliances including FAQ, Stain guide, Recycling, and Newsletter visit http://www.mgservices.ca
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/

The Mighty Dust Mite and How To Deal With It

A Closer Examination of the Dust Mite
The dust mite's mouth parts are grouped in front of the body, resembling a head. Their body is oval and covered with fine striations. Their eight tiny legs have small sticky pads which enable them to burrow deep into carpet fibers and furniture, easily resisting the pull of even the most powerful vacuum cleaners. You definitely would not want to turn over in your bed and find yourself face to face with one of these strange looking creatures. Unfortunately, that is where their populations are often the highest. The average bed can easily have over 10,000 dust mites living in it. Dust mites do not bite, sting or transmit diseases, so they pose no harm except to people who are allergic to a protein they produce. Their numbers have increased dramatically in the past 20 to 30 years, especially during the winter months, partly due to tighter homes where ventilation is limited and temperatures tend to be warmer.
Egg-laying female mites can increase the population by 25 to 30 every three weeks. They go through five stages in their life cycle; from egg, the larvae stage, then two nymphal stages, and finally the adult. The adult may also molt once. This cycle from egg to the adult takes about one month. Adult mites can live up to two months, depending on the humidity levels and temperatures of their environment. They do not drink water but they absorb moisture from the air and their environment. They just love higher relative humidities of 70-80% and temperatures of 75-80 degrees F in which their development and food consumption increases.
Dust Mites Produce a Powerful Allergen
It is the protein DER p1 in the faecal products and disintegrating body parts of these minute dust mites that has a mighty adverse effect on those who are allergic to it. Dust mites produce about 20 pellets per day, each measuring about 10 to 24 microns in size. To put that in perspective, the diameter of the human hair measures 80-100 microns. A gram of dust can hold 250,000 of these minute droppings. They are so tiny and light that they float easily into the air when disturbed by our daily activities. Inhaling these minute particles causes allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to this protein.
Allergens from the dust mite which cause asthmatic symptoms was first suggested in 1921 but analysis of dust did not happen until 1964 when a group led by Voohorst suggested that a mite may be responsible for the dust allergen. It was soon established that the dust mite droppings contain an allergen so they became a focus over the years for their involvement with respiratory ailments. The DER p1 produced by the dust mite is though to be the most important allergen associated with asthma. About 10% of the population are allergic to dust mite extracts.
Identifying the Sensitivity to Dust Mite Protein
House dust contains many types of debris, including fabric fibers, human skin scales, human and animal dander, bacteria, cockroach parts, mold spores, food particles and other organic and synthetic materials. About 90% of the people who are allergic to house dust extracts are allergic to dust mite extracts. Symptoms which may come from sensitivities to the dust mite protein include sneezing, congestion, itchy, watery eyes and persistently stuffy nose and ears. Symptoms point more specifically to dust mites when you experience repeated sneezing shortly after awakening, symptoms get worse when beds are made or when using your vacuum cleaner, and improve when you are outside. Diagnosis, using scratch tests, etc., by an Allergist is recommended to determine which allergens cause reactions. These doctors who specialize in treating allergies can recommend a course of action specifically designed to reduce or eliminate your allergic reactions. This may include steps for reducing exposure to troublesome allergens, medical therapy and desensitization injections (Systemic Immunotherapy - SIT). The latter may be recommended if avoidance and medical therapy fail to sufficiently reduce the allergic reaction. It involves injections of a dust mite extract starting weekly, followed by injections every six weeks for three to five years.
Importance of Reducing Exposure to the Dust Mite Allergen
If your family is not sensitive to the dust mite protein DER p1, managing them may not be a high priority. For those who suffer from it, management by reducing exposure to the allergen DER p1 is quite important. Two important aspects which need to be addressed are the removal of environments which are conducive to dust and dust mites and the reduction of airborne dust mite droppings and disintegrating body parts. Inhaling these minute particles causes allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to this protein.
The exposure level at which you experience allergic reactions is determined by the sum of exposure to all allergens you're sensitive to. Those who are sensitive to multiple allergens find that reduction of exposure to any of the allergens will help in their tolerance of all the allergens. It is important to realize that you do not need to completely eliminate exposure to allergens. Simply keeping your total exposure of all allergens below the threshold at which you experience reactions is all that is necessary.
Reducing Exposure to Allergens in Your Bed
Due to the amount of time we spend sleeping the mattress should be covered with a protector, our bedrooms are the areas which deserve the most attention. Simply turning over in bed or breathing near your pillow can cause you to inhale minute dust mite droppings. Using hypo-allergenic fiberfill pillows is recommended over feather, kapok or foam since they are more easily washed. Encasing your pillows, mattress and box spring with plastic or specially coated or finely woven (pore size < 10 microns) vapor- permeable fabrics will deprive the dust mites of food and prevent many of the dust mite droppings from reaching you. The fabrics are more comfortable since they allow perspiration vapor to be more naturally carried away from your skin. Thorough vacuuming the mattresses, especially the seams and bed frame on a regular basis is also helpful. Wash your sheets and mattress pads in soapy water at 130 degrees F every one or two weeks to kill all mites. Bedding and curtains which can withstand frequent washing should be selected. Blankets can be dry cleaned or washed frequently. Using an electric blanket for eight hours every day can reduce dust mites in beds significantly. Heating blankets in a cloths dryer for several hours also kills mites. By doing this, dry cleaning or washing of blankets can be reduced to once a year.
Reducing Exposure to Allergens in All Your Rooms
Wall to wall carpet and upholstered surfaces can be reduced or replaced with hard surfaces that are easier to clean. Dust mites can not survive long on hard surfaces due to dehydration. They absorb water through contact with their environment. Dusting with a ULPA or HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner or specially treated cloths is recommended over damp mopping. The latter may increase the humidity in the house. Dust mites can't live at humidities below 50%. Using air conditioners and dehumidifiers during the summer to keep the humidity between 40% and 50% is often recommended. During winter, if using a humidifier, be careful to keep the humidity in this same range. A good humidity gauge can help monitor this. Carpets that get damp on a regular basis should be replaced with hard surfaces.
Having carpets professional cleaned with superheated steam will effectively killing dust mites in them. Carpets can be treated with sprays containing 3% tannic acid to make dust mite droppings non- allergic. Benzyl benzoate powder which actually kills dust mites is also available. Reduction of contact with dust mite droppings is often preferred since these contain toxic chemicals which some people are sensitive to.
Reducing Exposure to Allergens with Air Filters
Wearing a well fitting dust mask while vacuuming and making beds can reduce the dust mite allergens you inhale. Some allergists even recommend airing out a room really well after vacuuming to reduce the airborne particles which are stirred up by many vacuum cleaners. Furnace mounted and portable air cleaners are available but their cost may be greater than the benefits achieved by them. They definitely are not a substitute for the preventative measures described above. The best are media type filters like those which meet the stringent HEPA specification. Electrostatic filters are not recommended unless cleaned regularly in which case they may be as effective. Special filters can be placed on the furnace air vents leading to your rooms to help trap allergens before they can enter the room. Air cleaners which generate ozone should be avoided since they have little effect on allergens in the air and may worsen allergy symptoms since the ozone may irritate the respiratory system.
Importance of an ULPA or HEPA Filtered Vacuum Cleaner
The vacuum cleaner is one of the most important tools for managing dust mites and their minute droppings. Thorough cleaning of carpets, mattresses, upholstered furniture, curtains and drapery regularly will reduce the dust mite allergens in your home. It is better to clean thoroughly once a week instead of lightly every day. In order to prevent these minute particles containing allergens from being recirculated into the air you breathe, a vacuum cleaner's filtration system must be very efficient at trapping particles at least that small.
The agitation and air flow created by your vacuum cleaner to clean you surfaces causes a huge number of minute dust mite dropping to be drawn into it. They can easily pass through most vacuum cleaner bags and filters and be exhausted back into the air you breathe, making it much dirtier than before. The vacuum cleaner industry is taking advantage of the development of advanced filtration media to provide much higher quality exhausted air than was possible just a few years ago. The current cutting edge in vacuum cleaner technology is in the area of improving the filtration efficiencies of vacuum cleaners. Special high filtration paper bags are available from many manufacturers which filter much better than conventional ones. To learn more about these high filtration paper bags, see our article on the efficiency of vacuum cleaner paper bags
To reduce the effects on allergies and asthma caused by the allergens in dust mite droppings, look for a vacuum cleaner with an ULPA or HEPA filter. It also is very important to have a completely sealed system so all air flow must pass through the ULPA or HEPA filter to be cleaned by it. By combining high filtration paper bags, a Certified HEPA filter and completely sealed systems, vacuum cleaners can achieve extremely high filtration efficiencies of 99.97% at 0.3 micron size particles. ULPA filters have an even higher efficiency of 99.999% at 0.12 micron size particles. For more information about HEPA and ULPA filtration.
Dust mites are microscopic creatures which live at peace with all of us, constantly going about their routine of cleaning up our environment. Unfortunately, for about 10% of the population, the protein DER p1 in their minute droppings causes allergic reactions which affect their respiratory systems causing allergic reactions and triggering asthmatic attacks. A visit to an doctor specializing in allergies (allergist) can confirm which allergens you are sensitive to. They are able to prescribe a course of action which may include steps to reduce the allergen exposure, medication therapy and possibly desensitization injections.
Key steps to reduce exposure to dust mite allergens include encasing mattresses and pillows, washing bedding and curtains regularly, controlling humidity in you home and cleaning thoroughly with a powerful high filtration vacuum cleaner. In extreme cases, carpets and upholstered surfaces should be replaced with hard surfaces which are easier to clean and which inhibit dust mite growth. The goal is to reduce allergen exposure to below the level at which allergic reactions occur, not necessarily the elimination of all exposure to the dust mite allergen.
The Marble Master Stone Care System is specially formulated and developed by stone care professionals with more than 40 years of experience in the natural stone industry. For more information or to purchase the products, visit www.marblemasteruk.com or call 020 8807 8889.
You may publish this article in your ezine, newsletter on your web site as long as the byline is included and the article is included in it's entirety. I also ask that you activate any html links found in the article and in the byline. Please send a courtesy link or email where you publish to: support@marblemasteruk.com
Edward Green owns and operates the highly successful Marble Master Ltd company. Marble Master specializes in Restoration and Refinishing of all types of natural stone and consultancy services to Architects, Restoration Companies and Interior Designers. http://www.marblemasteruk.com
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/

Log Home Mistakes Ebook Review

Ok, you are ready to build a log home. If you are not going to build it yourself, it mean you will hire a builder. And because of that, you need to know what to ask, what to look for.
This is true when you build a house, and even more important when you build a log home. Why? Because there are not as many builders available around, so you need to be careful to pick the right one. After all, you are building your dream home here, you don't want the dream to crash because you made too many mistakes along the way?
First, a little about the author of the book.
I work on the web all the time, so I know there are many people online who write ebooks and just don't know what they are talking about. The worst subject for this is the web marketing area, where people are complete newbie, but they write and try to sell a book about becoming rich on the web... yeah right!
So, each time a see a new book, I always check first the author's bio. And David Leach is nowhere near being a newbie. He has been around the log home subject for nearly 20 years. Now, this is not enough for me as it is. Whet impresses me the most is that he has been on every side of the fence : a consumer AND a distributor. He lost his first log home because of mistakes he could have avoided.
This is what he shares with you in his ebook : the story of his own life.
Now, of course, we all know the guy wrote the book to make money, that is why someone build a business (usually!), but I have spoken with Dave, and he really has a huge passion about log home, but the most important thing is, he really, really want to help people go through the hard times he had to go through in order to be able to write his book.
What will the book help you with?
First, it will help you find the best land for your dream log home. What's the point in having a beautiful log home, if you have to spend more on the land then on the house itself, or if your location is not perfect?
In David's book, you will also learn how to select the best log home contractor for your project. Unless you plan on doing the house completely by yourself, you will need to find a provider so this is a crucial step you don't want to read to quickly.
So, my final review of the book : It is definitely a good bang for the buck. You are probably going to spend more then 100 000$ on your log home, so this tiny investment is, in my humble opinion, really this, an INVESTMENT you just cannot afford to skip.
Stephanie HetuWant more tips and techniques before you buy your dream log house? Visit http://www.log-home-enthusiast.com.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/

Electric Radiant and Floor Coverings

If the decision of what type radiant heating system to use was left to the floor-coverings, it would choose electric radiant. Eliminating the risk of water/glycol leaks, standard floor-heights, simple retro-fits, almost unlimited choice of carpet padding, uniform heat flux, easier installations and superior floor or space temperature control are only a few of the advantages of electric radiant heat. This isn’t to say that there aren’t disadvantages of electric radiant, but then I’m a sparky not a plumber, so I’m here to espouse the benefits and desirable features of electric radiant heat and its loving relationship with any and all floor-coverings. Oh, wait a minute, how could I forget, electric systems cost a fraction what hot-water (hydronic) systems do.
From the simplest of painted concrete to floors to floors that started with linoleum, added carpet, then converted to imported marble, electric radiant is truly and simply superior to hydronic radiant and here are the reasons why.
There is no water or glycol – and spilled electrons don’t damage floor-coverings, in fact, there’s no need to even sweep them up. Seriously, the safety standards and National Electrical Code keep electrical systems safe. Yes, a cable, mesh or mat can be damaged by an errant nail or screw, but the worst case scenario is the system doesn’t work as compared to a penetrated tube of a hydronic system with 100 gallons of water and glycol pumped out on the top level floor of a three floor custom home.
Built-up floor height for most electric systems is less than ?” and some as little 1/ 16” thick. Most hydronic systems pour 1 ?” of light-weight concrete over the tubes increasing construction costs and limiting the types of floor-coverings that can be installed. If you want traditional hard-wood floors, a complex system of sleepers must be installed to allow for nailing of the wood to the sub-floor.
Retro-fitting carpet over what used to be tile can’t be easily done with hot-water systems. Changing the R-value (insulating characteristic) of the floor-covering changes the amount of heat that makes it into the space in hydronic systems, since they are designed to transfer heat via a temperature difference between the water in the tube and the floor covering surface, whereas electric systems put out a constant wattage regardless of the floor-covering insulating characteristics. Floor covering types can be changed time after time with electric radiant without changing the heating system.
Hot and Cold Spots or what some-people call spot-heating can be easily accomplished by installing higher or lower heat-density and adding a simple floor- sensor to control the temperature. Have you ever noticed how dogs or cats search for the warmest piece of flooring in a home and sleep there? We added a special tile floor heated 10° warmer for our house pet that became new sleeping accommodations for Cairo.
Uniform Heat Flux – The harder the floor covering the more noticeable warm or cold spots become and the layout of the hot-water tubing and the changing temperature of the water through the loop result in changing floor-temperatures. This doesn’t happen with electric heat, each foot of cable, or length of mesh or mat generate exactly the same amount of heat as the next foot making it very easy to maintain a constant temperature across the floor. If the floor-coverings are going to be different in one room or one zone, split it into two zones of electric so the desired temperature can be maintained on each surface. This is easier to do and less costly for electric than hydronic.
Installation of any product is a concern and any time the cross-trade issues of installation can be minimized everyone wins. Electric systems don’t require any mechanical room space so long as they are installed before the floor-covering is installed you don’t have to do a lot of coordination with the other trades. If you want to climatize some exotic hardwood flooring from Brazil within the space it’s unlikely that you’ll have gas to operate your boiler, but it’s very possible that you can run your electric radiant heat off of temporary power to assist in stabilizing your wood before installation. Take that example one step further and you realize that all the other trades on site will appreciate the temperature inside if it’s Leadville, Colorado in February.
Independent of HVAC – Electric radiant can be the primary heating system, but can operate very efficiently if you want the bathroom floor 80° in June and your husband has the air-conditioner running throughout the rest of the house. Try doing this with your 1,000,000 Btu boiler and you’ll regret it when the time comes to pay your gas or oil bill.
Precise Temperature Control – Adding multiple zones to an electric system costs only pennies per foot compared to dollars per foot for hot-water. Having as many zones as you ever anticipate different areas with different floor-coverings is possible and practical, with the other benefit of precise control of temperature of every space in the home.
My mother and father used to sit and watch TV (football, basketball, etc.) in a love seat in their master bedroom and my dad was always cold while my mom was always hot. I installed a two-zone electric system right underneath the love-seat split right down the middle with a thermostat for my mom and one for my dad. Believe it or not, it worked beautifully. My dad’s feet sat on a floor that was 85° while my mom’s were on a floor that was 75°.
Cost – Installation costs of electric radiant is almost always less than any hot-water installation and the smaller the area to heat the bigger the difference. And here’s the kicker, if you save a lot of money on your radiant heating system you can spend every penny of that savings on Imported Italian Marble in your Entry and Master Bath. If you would like more information on radiant heat and it's benefits please visit us at http://www.warmquest.com
Larry Lentz has been an expert in the field of radiant heat since 2000 and strive to provide customers the most cost effective and beneficial product on the market.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/

A Few Concrete Suggestions

Up until a few years ago, my professional experience was in industries including retail, energy, health care, and fast food. In 1996 circumstances and opportunity led me into the manufacturing, marketing, and installation of products used for Floor Warming, Total Space Heating, Roof Snow and Ice Melting and Snow and Ice Melting of driving and walking surfaces.
Since three out of the four applications for my company's products may be installed into new pour cementitious material like concrete, I quickly determined two things: first, that anything embedded into cementitious materials is only as good as that cementitious material; and second, that the long term happiness and satisfaction of my many of my customers was dependent on the integrity and quality of the work of others. What I did not know, but I have since discovered, is that not all concrete work is of the same quality and that while my company's heating element carries a 25 year warranty, concrete warranties are generally relatively short. As a result of this discrepancy in horizons, I quickly determined that if I wanted to be successful I needed to learn more about concrete, its installation, and the preparation required to insure a high quality job.
Since making that determination I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to observe and evaluate many new concrete pours and examine a lot of very old, yet still perfectly good, concrete. As a result of these opportunities I have noted several things that exceptional concrete professionals routinely do and I am convinced that these things, along with high quality materials, result in superior concrete projects. For more information go to : http://www.warmquest.com
Please note that I am not a concrete professional and that my motivations for writing this article are limited to attempting to insure that:
a) your concrete will look as good as possible and last for many years in the future; and,
b) if you elect to install my company's snow and ice melt products, or anyone else's for that matter, it is able to serve its intended purpose for many years to come.
Now for a Few Concrete Suggestions:
Professionals: Always use professionals that have a proven track record and willingly provide creditable references.
Dry Base: Make certain that the ground below where the new asphalt, concrete or pavers will be located is as dry as possible. It is recommended that it be covered whenever there is a risk of a storm for one to two weeks prior to the pour.
Excavation: Be sure that your excavation is deep enough to accommodate the desired thickness of the cementitious material, the depth of a sand bed if the heating cable is being installed under the cementitious material, the thickness of the insulation, and the depth of the aggregate base necessary for proper drainage.
Compaction: Proper compaction is essential and must be given a great deal of care.
Make certain that the entire area to be covered by the cementitious material is completely and properly compacted.
Drainage: In order to have proper drainage and to reduce the likelihood of vertical shifting of the cementitious material, a minimum of 6 inches of high quality aggregate should be laid over the entire area, plus one foot around the perimeter.
Reinforcement: In order to enhance the integrity of the cementitious material, reinforcement materials must always be considered as part of the installation.
Examples of reinforcement materials include fibers in concrete, welded wire fabric, plastic lath, etc.
Insulation: Insulation under concrete and pavers is a two edged sword. On the one hand, it acts as a good moisture barrier, reduces the response time of your snowmelt or heating system, and saves money by reducing operating time. On the other hand, insulation does not allow the heat from the ground to get into the asphalt, concrete, or pavers.
Geometric Shapes: Concrete tends to break into a square geometric shape. As a result I recommend that concrete be poured in square sections no larger than 9.5 feet X 9.5 feet. Pouring other geometric shapes without additional joints almost always results in undesirable cracks at undesirable locations. Each square must always have a joint on each of its four sides.
Jumpers: It does not matter what kind of joint is in the concrete, the heating element should never be allowed to run through it. Always jumper under or around any and all joints.
Thickness: I recommend that the following thickness be observed:
Concrete 5 or more inchesAsphalt 4 or more inchesPavers 4 or less inches
Suggested Mix: A six-bag mix with fiber or steel reinforcement should always be used when pouring concrete unless the structural or traffic profile requires a different mix.
I am confident that by following the above concrete suggestions you will be rewarded with concrete that looks good and lasts for many years. In the event you purchase a snow melting system and follow the above concrete suggestions you will increase the likelihood that the heating cable is able to perform for years to come by reducing the possibility that it will get damaged or broken by vertical or horizontal movement of the material in which it is embedded.
Larry Lentz
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/

Marketing For The Home Builder

When one is looking into marketing for the home builder, one should find a number of tools to promote newly built homes and home-building offers:
Advertising: the marketing for the home builder package should offer an advertising agency.
Your primary goal, to draw leads, should be catered to with such services and offerings as a marketing plan, an established venue (or venues), listings and listings links, link-backs, artistic renderings (drawings and/or photos), all to create web presence by name branding, the latest in internet sales generating techniques.
Boosts: marketing for the home builder agencies should include sales generating tools.
To generate interest and sales and then to continue that interest and maintain string relationships, the company you choose will have tools and services that ensure a complete homebuilder?s cycle secures homebuyers, keeps them, and has them passing the word of your reputable relationship on to others. Such features might include website design, maintenance, and support; online advertising, including satisfaction testimonials; offline advertising, an aggressive outreach and promotion deal, and biographical and work history and experience materials that promote your quality work, your comprehensive home building experience, and your commercial decorum.
Creative support: the complete marketing for the home builder company will offer creative support.
Rendering artists and graphic designers are at the epicenter of homebuilder marketing and sales. Architectural representation, aesthetic exterior and interior capturing, and 3D floor plan drafting and presentation are all one of the most important elements in the reaching, resale, and referral process.
The marketing for the home builder package, ideally, also includes sale training and support disclosure.
The agency that suits you best will even include a sales and marketing team that encourages your involvement by identifying strategies and techniques used to maximize your sales. In addition, a support system should be firmly ensconced in the process.
Additional marketing for the home builder pluses are a boon to your business, as well.
Such knowledgeable insight into demographics, market supply and demand cycles, and other newsworthy market research data would make for an even smoother sales process, as well as facilitate your responding to sales leads, making presentations, and responding to warranty calls. An agency that maintains and accesses a centralized database, that provides complete analyses, does buyer profiling, and works with feasibility studies as well as focus groups will assure you of a more successful new home marketing process.
May you be successful and showcase worthy!
Stephanie HetuSubscribe to the Log Home Enthusiast Newsletter and receive tips and techniques to build or buy your dream log home.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/

Log Wall Characteristics

Looking at all the beautiful full-color glossy photos of log home in magazines gives us an idealized vision of the perfect wooden house. Like a supermodel, we can't imagine wrinkles and imperfections, but like any natural product, log walls are full of traits that are an integral part of their character.
CHECKING: The new visitor to any log home is invariably struck by the cracks in the logs, sometimes stretching for several feet. Initially they might look alarming, but these cracks, or checks, are a natural process that occurs over the first few years when logs are still drying and reaching equilibrium with the environment. In no way do they weaken the integrity of your log wall.
When trees are cut down, there is naturally still some moisture left in the cells, especially when the tree is cut down live. These logs are called "green" and will settle many inches if used right away to build a house. Some manufacturers let their logs dry naturally – air dried – while others put the logs in a kiln and bake them for 30-45 days, which removes 80-85% of the moisture. However, they can't go any farther without doing damage to the wood, so the logs dry naturally for the next few years, and this process can create checks in the wood to relieve the pressure. However, the heartwood closest to the center of the tree is so hard that the checks will not go beyond the center of the log. As a result, you will not see the checks go all the way through.
SETTLING: As you may already suspect, there is a relationship between moisture content and settling of your log walls. No, settling does not have to be a "dirty word". As long as your builder knows how to deal with the settling and make provisions for the windows, doors, plumbing, and interior walls, your house can settle many inches and still age comfortably. Any log home will come with about a 2" gap above all the doors and windows, which will need to be filled with insulation. The builder will cut a vertical groove in the frame and affix nails to the windows and doors that will slide down the groove as the building settles, so nothing gets crushed. Most kiln-dried homes will only settle a couple of inches overall, and much of that will occur during the construction phase.
KNOTS: Depending on the species of wood used in your log home, some logs have more knots than others, just as some trees have more limbs than others. The more interesting the knot, the more likely your builder will place it at eye level, since each knot is truly unique. However, don't be surprised if the knots ooze sap on the sunny exterior walls of your house. Even the sealant won't stop the sap from working its way out. This will not happen on the inside of the house, or on the shady side. It only happens when the sun is beating down on the logs and heating them up in the summer time.
HAND-PEELED or MILLED: (or anything in between). Hand-crafted log homes are just that: the logs are cut and peeled by hand with a draw-knife, which creates a uneven surface along the log. For an even more rustic look, some of the bark is left intact. If the log is milled, the machine takes off the layer of bark, leaving a fairly smooth surface to the log. This can be sanded to a fine finish, if you have enough time or money. Sometimes, the manufacturer might take that milled log and run a draw-knife across it to make it look peeled. The type of finish is totally up to the buyer.
CHINKING vs. CAULKING: Chinking is historically done to a hand-crafted log home in order to keep the wind from howling in between the logs. It looks like a broad white band between log courses. When cut by hand, logs can be scribed so that an upper log is shaped to match the contours of the log beneath it. However, not all logs are scribed; some just rest atop the log below, creating large gaps in the uneven surface. Either way, handcrafted log homes tend to be chinked, which was historically a mix of clay, sand, lime, mud, thatch, you name it, but is now an acrylic compound which expands and contracts with the wood. Some homes still require chinking, and others use chinking for aesthetic purposes.
Many milled log homes are actually caulked with an acrylic product designed for log homes. This comes out of a caulking gun, and creates a neat, finished look as well as protecting the seams from infiltration. We tend to caulk milled homes or do nothing at all between log courses, because the joinery system is so tight that this step is not mandatory.
Every log home is unique, and each has its own personality. It's amazing how many different construction systems are available to create homes out of logs, and every style has its own characteristics. But overall, no matter what your log home looks like, the cozy warmth of logs cannot be duplicated in any other kind of house.
Mercedes Hayes is a Hiawatha Log Home dealer and also a Realtor in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She designed her own log home which was featured in the 2004 Floor Plan Guide of Log Home Living magazine. You can learn more about log homes by visiting http://www.jerseyloghomes.com/
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/


Building Trade Associations

ACCA, the association of Air Conditioning Contractors of America, dates back to 1914.(NWAHACA), The National Warm Air Heating and Air Conditioning Association, later became (ARCA), the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors of America. more info.
ACI, founded in 1904, is a technical and educational society dedicated to improving the design, construction, maintenance and repair of concrete structures. Construction Book Express offers a wide variety of ACI books and manuals. more info.
ADA. The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act states its purpose as providing "a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities." The ADA Act guarantees disabled people access to employment, public accommodations, transportation, public services and telecommunications. Construction Book Express offers a wide variety of AIA guidelines. more info.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) was created in 1857, based on the foundation to “unite in fellowship the Architects of this continent, and to combine their efforts so as to promote the artistic, scientific, and practical efficiency of the profession." Over time, these precepts have been further refined, but the basic objectives have remained the same. more info.
AISC, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry in the United States. AISC's mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural-steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. more info.
Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) represents more than 133,000 members of the civil engineering profession worldwide, and is America's oldest national engineering society. ASCE's vision is to position engineers as global leaders building a better quality of life. more info.
ASHRAE was formed by the merger of two societies, American Society of Heating and Ventilating Engineers (ASHVE), known after 1954 as American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHAE) and the American Society of Refrigerating Engineers (ASRE). The two merged in 1959. more info.
The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Codes (IAPMO) is dedicated to the protection of the public's health and safety through the development and maintenance of the Uniform Plumbing Code and Uniform Mechanical Code. more info.
On December 9, 1994, the International Code Council (ICC) was established as a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing a single set of comprehensive and coordinated national codes. more info.
The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) was founded in 1906 to establish scientific lighting recommendations and to disseminate this information to all interested parties. It is the recognized authority on lighting in North America. more info.
The NFPA mission is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating scientifically-based consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. more info.
SMACNA standards and manuals address all facets of the sheet metal industry, from duct construction and installation to air pollution control, from energy recovery to roofing. more info.
The American Wood Council (AWC) is the wood products division of the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA). AWC develops internationally recognized standards for wood design and construction. Its efforts with building codes and standards, engineering and research, and technology transfer ensure proper application for engineered and traditional wood products. Publications

Air Quality in the Office

Most of us work in environments with some type of Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning system (HVAC). HVACs are designed to maintain comfortable temperature and humidity levels and filter out any harmful air pollutants. Ventilation is defined as the supply and removal of air from inside a building. This process typically includes bringing in outdoor air, conditioning and mixing it with some of the indoor air and exhausting some of the indoor air outside. The quality of indoor air may deteriorate when this process is not working properly.

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)
HVAC systems that are improperly operated or maintained can also contribute to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). Some of the symptoms of SBS include dry mucous membranes and eye, nose, and throat irritation. These disorders lead to increased employee sick days and reduced work efficiency. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that poor ventilation is an important contributing factor in many sick building cases.

ASHRAE Standards 62-1989 & 62-2001
In 1989, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) published its "Standard 62-1989: Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality". This standard applies to all types of facilities and recommends a range of 15 to 60 cfm/person, depending upon the activity in that room. Because of recent IAQ litigation, many HVAC system designers view ASHRAE Standard 62-89, as a minimum ventilation standard that must be met, in addition to local codes. In 2001 ASHRAE reviewed Standard 62-1989, approved and transferred to Standard 62-2001.

Ventilation System Problems and Solutions
The processes involved in ventilation provide for the filtering of pollutants. Increasing the rate at which outdoor air is supplied into the building increases indoor air quality. Buildings with high ventilation rates may suffer indoor air problems due to an uneven distribution of air, or inadequate exhaust ventilation. Well-ventilated buildings may also have a strong pollutant source, which will impair the indoor air quality. The closer such a source is to an exhaust the more effective the ventilation. It is good practice to provide separate exhaust systems in areas where copy machines or solvents are used. Providing exhaust for these specific sources can result in a reduction of the overall building exhaust ventilation needed.

System Design
Designs that specify HVAC system operation at reduced or interrupted flow during certain parts of the day can cause increased indoor contaminant levels and impair removal. Minimum ventilation rates should be defined by air cleanliness and distribution, as well as temperature and humidity.
Failure to maintain proper temperature, humidity and air movement in a building can lead occupants to block supply registers. Placement of partitions or other barriers within a space can also impair air movement. Also, locating air supply and return registers too close together can result in an uneven fresh air distribution.
The location of all air supply vents must be carefully considered. Place supply vents as far away as possible from outdoor sources of pollution, such as loading docks, parking and heavy traffic areas, chimneys, and trash depots, provide a pathway for contaminants into the building's ventilation system.

Proportion of Outdoor Air
To dilute and eventually remove indoor contaminants, HVAC systems must bring in adequate amounts of outdoor air. However, because it is costly to heat cold winter air and to cool hot summer air, some building engineers reduce or eliminate the amount of outdoor air brought into the system during hot and cold spells; this allows contaminated air to accumulate inside, causing pollutant concentrations to increase.

Periods of Operation
An HVAC system that begins to operate after building occupants have arrived or shuts off before the end of the day can cause an increase in building-and occupant-generated pollutant levels. Also if the system is off at night and on weekends, building-generated pollutants can accumulate.

HVAC systems must be properly maintained to promote indoor air quality. If this is not done, ventilation systems can become a source of contamination or become clogged and reduce or eliminate air-flow. Humidification and dehumidification systems must be kept clean to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi. Failure to properly treat the water in cooling towers to prevent growth of organisms, such as Legionnella, may introduce such organisms into the HVAC supply ducts and cause serious health problems. Accumulations of water anywhere in the system may foster harmful biological growth that can be distributed throughout the building.

Economic Considerations of Air Quality
It is generally agreed that poor indoor air can adversely affect employee health and productivity. Improvements in the indoor air environment may substantially increase employee moral and productivity. Therefore, it is important to include indoor air quality controls in operation, maintenance, and energy conservation strategies.

Resolving Air Quality Problems
Operate the ventilation system in a manner consistent with its design.
Perform maintenance and inspections on a regular basis.
Identify pollution sources and either remove them or use alternate venting techniques.
Increase ventilation rates during periods of increased pollution for example: during painting, renovation, and pesticides use.
Stay up to date on revisions to Ventilation Standards and Building Codes

Back to the Home Inspection Directory

Every Home has Defects

We'd all like to buy the perfect home. Unfortunately, it doesn't exist. Even new homes have defects. That's why it's important to have any home you buy inspected by qualified professionals-even if it's brand new.
You'll undoubtedly discover defects during your inspections. In fact, you should hope that any significant defects are uncovered before you remove your inspection contingency from the purchase contract. It's far worse to be surprised after closing by unanticipated repair expenses.
Armed with a complete assessment of the current condition of the property, you can make an informed decision about whether to purchase the property in its present condition. Or, you may want to renegotiate the terms of your contract with the seller. If defects are incurable, you may want to withdraw from the contract altogether.
Your purchase contract should set guidelines for how inspection defects are to be handled. For example, the seller may have had a "termite" inspection completed before marketing the property. If so, the contract might specify which party-buyer or seller-will pay for the required corrective work.
Not all inspection contingencies are the same. Some specify that the buyers have the unilateral right to approve or disapprove inspections. In this case, if the buyers disapprove the inspections, the contract may be cancelable at the buyer's option.
House Hunting Tip: Even if your contract allows you to withdraw due to inspections, carefully consider before electing this option. You will already have spent considerable time, effort and money finding and inspecting the property. If the defects are correctable, it's usually worthwhile to try negotiating an agreement with the sellers rather than starting the process over again.
Some inspection contingencies provide for buyers to give the sellers the opportunity to correct defects, rather than just walk away from the deal. In this case, the terms of the contract often become subject to further negotiation.
Before asking a seller for inspection-related concessions, make a list of the significant defects that you discovered during your inspections. Then find out how much it will cost to repair these defects. When you make your request, put it in writing and include a copy of your cost accounting list along with the reports and estimates on which you're basing your request.
You may find that the seller is not willing to negotiating over items that were disclosed to you before you made an offer to purchase the property. It still may be worthwhile to point out that the cost of the previously disclosed items in addition to the newly discovered defects alter the amount you can reasonably pay for the property.
Sellers are wise to consider any reasonable proposal from a well-qualified buyer. If the inspection-related defects are significant, they are likely to be a concern to other buyers. Depending on the law in your state regarding seller disclosures, you may have to provide copies of the buyer's reports to future buyers who are interested in the property.
There are several ways in which sellers can participate in buyers' repair requests. They can have the work done by closing, if time permits. Often contractors will accept payment at closing.
Or they can credit money to buyers as long as the credit is called a credit for buyers' nonrecurring closing costs. Lenders usually limit the amount of such a credit to 3 percent of the purchase price or equal to the actual amount of the nonrecurring closing costs, whichever is less.
The Closing: Some lenders will allow money from the seller to be held in an escrow or trust account so that work can be completed after closing.

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Reinvent Your Home

Dream big and realize that you can achieve the feel of a new home without having to move. One of the great ironies of homeownership is that most houses reach their highest potential just when they are sold. The owners get by for years without improving or repairing their home. Does your house fall into this category? If so, get busy and start improving your greatest asset.
Remove Your Blinders
Stop looking at your house for what it is and begin to discover what it can be. The first step is to remove your blinders.
Whenever you live in one place for a while you develop a shorthand way of looking at it. Now, take a few minutes and really examine how you feel about your home. Inevitably, a number of characteristics will come to mind: some good, some bad.
You might think your house is cute, but cramped, or dark, but cozy. Some set of characteristics dominates the way you feel about the home. When you see a new idea or product for the home, your subconscious asks, Will it look good in my dark, but cozy house??
It's as if you take the basic characterization as being unchangeable, when in reality, just about anything can be changed. Plus, it will almost always be less expensive to upgrade your home than it will be to move into an already upgraded home. So if you like the neighborhood-don't move-just take whatever steps are necessary to improve your home.
Visualize Your Dream Home
At one extreme, you could tear down the house and start over again. Since that is drastic, just think about what you would do if you had a fresh start. Here are some thought-provoking questions:
What would you build if you could start over?
What would your dream house look like?
What would the master bedroom look like?
How about the kitchen?
How many cars would you like the garage to accommodate?
What if you changed your paint color scheme?
Let yourself go. Consider installing a large, two-person tub with jets that will help you unwind at the end of the day. If an area of your home is notoriously dark, install windows or glass blocks to provide natural light. Outside, how about a large deck for entertaining? Would it be nice to snuggle in your own private home theater? How would skylights change the feeling you get when you walk into the kitchen?
If your family seems to be outgrowing your house, add on a new room. Changing the appearance of the front entrance can drastically improve the look of your house. Also, landscaping with the help of a professional can do wonders for an overgrown, under maintained lawn. Replacing wallpaper, flooring, cabinets, fixtures, and appliances can update your home and make you feel like you're living in a brand new house.
Gather Ideas
Build your dream house in your mind. It's a great exercise for getting the blinders off. Once you begin to envision what you really want, you can start letting go of the old image of the house. With that done, you're ready for step two: gathering specific ideas.
The trick is to focus on desires. Don't spend too much time thinking about what you can afford or what is practical. Essentially, you are brainstorming. Even unworkable ideas are good because they often lead to still better, more feasible ones.
Go on a quest to discover your options. Go to home shows. Buy some magazines. Tour some model homes in nearby developments. Virtual equivalents for many of these activities now exist on the Internet. When you see something you like, take a picture, copy a photo, make some notes or tear out the page.
Gather together all the good ideas you find into a folder. Take it out from time to time and let the images stimulate your mind. You'll soon start combining ideas and coming up with completely new ones.
Once you begin to find that new ideas are getting rare, take your file to an architect or a design/build firm. They can help you figure out what's feasible. In many cases, they'll help you discover alternative ways of getting the results you desire the most.

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Investing in Your Home's Future

When you're trying to nail down a budget for your brand new house, "what's 1 percent in the grand scheme of things?" asks Newark, Ohio, custom home builder Vince Ghiloni. The dollar amount is not much, but, as Ghiloni tells his clients, the purpose is significant. He calls this 1 percent "insurance for the future."
Getting more specific, Ghiloni says he typically allocates about 1 percent of a construction budget for "beefing up the basics." He builds a stronger foundation, a stronger and more rigid frame, and he uses more insulation than the local building code requires so that "my houses will look as good inside and out in 15 years as they do the day my clients move in and they'll use less energy."
Expressing similar sentiments, Boston custom home builder Tom Silva, who is best known as the contractor for the This Old House television show says, "When the structure is stronger, elements that make it pretty will last longer." Unbeknownst to most homeowners, he explains, the building code is primarily a safety standard, not a quality one. The focus of the code is the safety of the people building and living in the house, not how well the materials will weather and look over time.
But, Silva elaborates, " If you over-structure and go a little beyond the building code, your house will be stiffer and withstand more punishment from rain and wind and snow as well as the normal wear and tear that occurs in any house that's lived in with kids running around and jumping up and down. When a house is stiffer, it's also more pleasant. When the kids jump overhead, the ceiling fixtures won't swing and the dishes won't rattle in the cabinets."
The four places that Silva encourages his clients to "heavy up" are the structural frame, insulation, windows and the heating and air conditioning system. "Spend a little extra here," he says, and it "will put money in your pocket."
Owners are frequently tempted to cut back on these essentials to make the project come in on budget and still get the oak floor and granite countertops. But Silva says, "You shouldn't cut back. You will save money forever in reduced utility bills and vastly reduced maintenance costs." You can add the granite and oak floor in five years, but in the meantime you're "living in a happier and more comfortable house with windows that always work." In fact, in his experience, five years later, many owners do not find the oak flooring and granite counters so compelling, and they decide to put the money somewhere else.
One place where Silva would "heavy up the structure" but one that most clients take for granted is "what the house sits on—the foundation," which he characterizes as "a snowshoe for your house." The cost for extra reinforcing to the foundation footer and wall is inconsequential, he says.
Most builders say that clients usually resist putting money into things they can't see, but Silva says in his experience people are amenable "when you explain not only what to do but also why to do it." It also helps when the person doing the explaining, as in Silva's case, enjoys iconic status as the most trusted home builder in America.
Beefing up a foundation is a good idea no matter where you live, Silva says, but enhancing other basics depends on where you live.
When you have a fairly benign climate, the case in Charlottesville, Va., for example, you won't benefit from thicker stud walls with more insulation. But, says Charlottesville custom home builder Randy Rinehart, the type of insulation you use will make a big difference in the degree of comfort inside the house. He uses a blown-in cellulose insulation made from recycled newspapers because it reduces air infiltration, which can make rooms drafty in winter. The insulation makes the temperature more even throughout the house, and it deadens sounds from outside.
Rinehart says that clients rarely squawk about the cellulose insulation, which might add $300 to the cost of a 2,500 square foot house. But there can be a lot of soul searching about the windows. When a house comes in over budget, windows are a tempting target because you can substitute cheaper ones and lower your cost without having to alter your design. But, over time window quality will have an impact on the ambience of a space and your enjoyment of it, Rinehart says. Everybody wants big windows that flood a space with natural light. But a cheap builder-grade window is generally less effective in stopping heat loss so you can feel drafts in the winter. In a few years they tend to leak, and the vacuum seals between the two panes of glass often break down so that the panes frost up in cold weather and you can't see out of them as well.
Windows won't frost up during California's mild winters, but the weather there must still be taken into account when choosing them. The salt air, wind and sun can ravage the exterior of houses built near the coast says Frank Fanto of Mendocino. "Some clients want to save money on the exterior to get more sizzle inside, but what you save up front will cost you in maintenance down the road."
Fanto always recommends clad wood windows (the exterior side of the window is vinyl or aluminum that is finished with a highly weather resistant paint). When clients want casement-type windows, he specs corrosive-resistant hinges and hardware. For the exposed wood siding that is standard in his area, he uses copper or stainless steel nails because the cheaper galvanized type used in most parts of the country will rust and leave stains running down the side of your house.
Though the climate of California is more benign than the rest of the country, the natural disasters—earthquakes, mudslides and brushfires—are more severe. As a consequence, the building codes are more stringent than those in others parts of the country, and "beefing up the basics" is not necessary, Fanto says.
But there are other extras that can enhance your enjoyment of your house. Along with making the exterior of the house weather resistant, San Luis Obispo, Calif., custom home builder Turko Semmes adds extra sound proofing to reduce noise within the house. He routinely installs resilient metal channels to dampen sound transmission in walls between bedrooms, bedrooms and bathrooms, and in the ceiling between bedrooms and noisier rooms below, as for example a bedroom over a kitchen-family room area. For a 2,500-square-foot, two-storied house he says the extra cost for the resilient channels would be about $300 to $500. If you're considering French doors for the entry to a master suite or a home office, Semmes likes to add a second layer of glass for sound proofing, which adds about $100 to the cost of each door.
Though many clients have a hard time getting enthusiastic about extras that they won't see, all the builders say they have a harder time with what they can see and are wildly enthusiastic about. The number of decisions that must be made can overwhelm even the most decisive business executive as the number of choices in everything has exploded, observes custom home builder Alan Washak of Columbia, Md. Ten years ago nearly everybody got oak floors. Now oak, maple and cherry floors are standard, and there are plenty of exotic tropical hardwoods to choose from if you want something really different. Once you pick the wood, you still have to decide on a finish and a stain. The oak flooring supplier offers ten stains, and the stair rail supplier offers thirty, Washak said.
Even harder than choosing everything is imaging what it will look like in the finished house. "You can have a very detailed set of plans and a computer simulation, but it's not real life. Most people won't get it until they're standing in it," Washak says. For the kitchen, where most people spend a lot, he and several other builders said they create cardboard mockups to give homeowners a feel for what the counter layout will look and feel like.

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The Attention Your Landscape Needs

Part of the joy of landscaping is the care and maintenance you give to your yard. Depending on the type of plantings and the size, some gardens can require constant full-time care. If you not a big fan of yard maintenance, it might be wise to design a yard that's easy to care for. The first thing to remember with any "yardscape" is that it's a living, breathing entity. Even the simplest, easy-to-care yard will need watering, feeding, cleaning, and disease prevention.
Consider the following list of projects around the yard:
Flower Beds and Planting Areas The amount of time spent here will depend on your plantings. Some plants require constant attention; others are relatively maintenance free. Most flowerbeds contain perennials, which are plants that come back year after year -- expect some to die off over the winter. Check the condition of plants during spring, and replace dead plants with new ones.
Cover ground with an organic mulch. This will help the soil retain moisture and keeps weeds to a minimum. Many flowers do best when you dead-head them (pinch off spent blooms), which encourages more flower growth. After the first hard freeze, cut back all the branches of your plants. And cover plants with mulch to protect them during the cold winter months.
Refuse RemovalDuring the fall, many plants lose their leaves. This leaf material makes a great natural mulch to cover and protect your plants against the cold winter. Remove all leaves from the lawn areas. The layer of leaves can restrict the amount of light reaching the lawn and trap water near the roots. If you have too many leaves, many cities offer leaf-pick-ups with their trash pick-ups.
Hedge and Tree TrimmingShrubs and trees need seasonal trimming. Get a pruning instrument and cut off any dead branches. You may also need to prune back live branches that are getting out of control. Many hedges need to be re-shaped several times a summer. Electrical hedge sheers reduce a lot of arm strain on larger hedges. Do not prune or trim during the fall. This will stimulate growth during a time when the plants should be starting their dormant phase.
Insect ControlNature has a cycle of life, and insects are a part of that. Most healthy plants stay relatively insect-free. For the occasional infestation, consider using natural methods of removal. Sometimes a plant can be washed down with a strong stream of water. Or many garden centers sell other insects (like ladybugs) to get rid of bugs and worms. Chemicals are also a choice; however, you should use extreme caution when applying them. They will not only harm "bad" bugs, but "good" bugs too. They can also harm household animals, birds, children and adults when applied incorrectly. Consider using household "natural" chemicals to control insects. (For example, placing a shallow plate filled with beer in your slug-infested garden often will attract then kill the slimy critters who chew holes in leaves.)
Spring Clean-upThis rite of spring signals the start of the growing season. Most gardens will need a good raking to clean out the leftover leaves and trash that have built up over the cold months. Consider applying a fresh layer of mulch to protect the fresh shoots from a late zapping of frost. This mulch will also keep the ground moist and cool during the summer months and keep weeds at a minimum. And over time, the mulch will work its way into the soil and revitalize it. For best results, choose a mulch made of small organic pieces--"bark fines" or another material like recycled cocoa shells work well. Mulch made from larger wood pieces (like cedar strips or aspen) will take longer to break down into the soil.
WeedingUghhh! They just keep coming back! Removing the entire unwanted "weed" by its roots is the surest way to get rid of it. Herbicides do work, but use extreme caution when applying. They will not only kill the "weed" but also other nearby plants. In planting beds, you can keep weeds to a minimum by covering the soil with an inch or two of mulch.
MowingThe frequency depends on how much you water and feed your lawn. Mowing once a week is typical. Don't cut the blades of grass too short. Longer grass is healthier and retains water better. Many mowers come with "mulching" option that cuts the grass into tiny bits and returns them back to the lawn. This returns important nutrients back to the soil and reduces the amount of fertilizer you need. It also eliminates the need to bag the grass.
Sprinkler MaintenanceA well-designed, professionally-installed sprinkler system should need little maintenance over time. However, you will need to "winterize" it during the fall and start it up during the spring. You system has several pipes that can freeze and burst during winter. Either drain or "blow out" the water from the pipes in mid fall when your yard has gone dormant. Also turn off the timer so it can't accidentally start during the winter. In the spring, you'll need to re-start the system by turning on the timer and possibly turning on a master valve. (Check your system guide for details.)
FeedingYour yard needs food! Depending on your climate, your lawn may need 2 to 5 feedings per growing season. And your growing beds could also use some food. Chemical fertilizers work, however there are several natural organic options too.
Weed PreventionAn inch-thick layer of mulch will keep your planting beds relatively weed-free. The best weed-prevention for lawns is a healthy lawn. Grass is a plant that grows thick and bushy when healthy. This usually will choke out any other "weeds" that could grow there. Exceptions are plants like crabgrass. These grow from seed every year. Some chemical fertilizers come with a "pre-emergent" which kills the seeds in the spring when the plants are dormant.
Core AerationAerate your lawn at least twice a year. This reduces the soil compaction and allows air and water to cycle in and out of the soil. Your lawn will thank you by growing thick and healthy every year.
ThatchingThis is a layer of dead grass that builds up over time just above the soil surface and needs to be removed. Regular aeration often removes a lot of thatch. You can also "de-thatch" your lawn in the early spring with a special machine. Do it while the lawn is still dormant, or else you can damage your lawn.
Perenniel or AnnualWhen planning your flowerbeds, remember that a perennial plant is one that, once planted, will come back year after year, while an annual is one that is planted for only one season.
Landscaping StylesOver the centuries, gardening has developed lots of landscaping specialties.
Here are a few to inspire you:
Topiary - Remember the movie Edward Scissorhands, about a young man who crafts amazing shapes and sculptures by trimming bushes and trees? Topiary design has been for years, and it's largely popular in more formal gardens.
Shade gardening - Some plants do better with less sun. This has sparked a recent trend toward shade gardening. These types of plants and flowers do great under the large canopy of a shade tree or a man-made trellis.
Butterfly gardening - Dozens of butterfly or bird species common to your area make a welcome addition to many gardens. Certain species of plants provide a food source and are useful for attracting these flying friends. Create areas that are open yet protected from the wind.
Rock gardens - While rocks make a wonderful addition to any garden, some gardens are made entirely of rocks. They can be very natural looking. Create a Japanese-style rock garden or choose specific plants to fit between the cracks of the rocks.
Xeriscaping - As much as 50-percent of household water is used for the yard and garden. This landscape specialty includes lots of low-water plants and flowers as well as design ideas to reduce needless water evaporation.
Organic - It's becoming a more popular trend to grow plants organically. That means no chemical fertilizers or sprays and an environmentally conscious way to create a beautiful outdoor living space.
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