Monday, November 24, 2008

Preventing Water Damage in the Basement

A wet basement can quickly develop into a complete disaster. Many maintenance systems are installed in the basement. These systems generate moisture leading to potential water related problems. A periodic inspection will provide accurate indications for a water problem somewhere else in your home and can help preventing a much bigger damage.

Heating and Air Conditioning System

HVAC systems must be regularly inspected if located in the basement. Check the drain pans and remove debris to allow it to flow. Do not overlook the filters and replace when needed. When inspecting the HVAC, take a close look at the ductwork. Deteriorating insulations must be treated and sealed.

Ceiling and Walls

Moisture walls are a red flag for a water problem in the basement and may be a hint for internal leaks. Take a look at the walls and search for stains. If visible, follow the trails to locate the source of the problem and fix it. Even the smallest sign for a leak in the basement must be treated promptly.


A common problem is pipes condensations caused by pipes sweating. This problem promotes mold and corrosion if ignored. To reduce condensation, consider installing insulating on all pipes.

Sump Pumps

Sump pump assist in keeping unwanted water out of your basement. When checking the pump, make sure the outlet pipe is not clogged and that it directs water away from your home. Test the pump by filling the pit with water to make sure the pump is working. Check that the pump is running and that it is actually pumping out water. Clean the air hole in the discharge line. Make sure that the motor is running well and that there are no strange noises. If you own a battery operated pump, check the battery and replace when needed. Keep in mind that all problems must be fixed immediately.

About The Author
Leo Nov is the editorial director of, a leading restoration services provider for water and fire damages.
To learn more about water damage restoration, visit

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ten Simple Steps to Taking Cuttings

There are several different types of cuttings that you can take from plants – the most common are softwood, semi-ripe and hardwood. These refer to how woody and therefore how old the plant stem is.

Softwood cuttings are taken from the youngest part of the stem, and are the easiest and quickest to take root. This makes them ideal for anyone trying this for the first time.

Softwood cuttings are taken in May and June from the new growth of the plant. They root easily – between 4 and 8 weeks – but can wilt and die if they lose too much moisture, so they have to be kept warm and moist. And the best way to do this, if you don't have a propagator, is to put the pot inside a polythene bag.

Some experts recommend using hormone rooting powder to encourage rooting, others say it is not necessary. I have taken cuttings both using rooting powder and without using it and I have had successes and failures with both. So give it a try and see what happens.

The most suitable and easiest plants for taking cuttings include: fuchsias, pelargoniums, hebes, lupins, hydrangeas and chrysanthemums.

So here's how you do it:

1. Cut about half a dozen growing tips from the plant – about 4" using a sharp knife or secateurs and pop straight into a polythene bag to keep the cutting moist

2. Use either special cuttings compost, or make up a half and half mix of multi-purpose compost and vermiculite or sharp sand

3. You can use small 3" pots for individual cuttings, or a larger 5" pot and place up to 5 cuttings around the edge

4. Trim each cutting so that the bottom is just below a leaf joint (node) – make the cut a slanted one if you can

5. Take off all the bottom leaves, leaving just 3-4 at the top, and pinch out the growing tip

6. If you are using hormone rooting powder, dip the bottom end of the cutting in water, then into the powder and shake off any excess

7. Push the cutting into the compost in the pot up to about a third of its length, and water

8. Cover the pot with a clear polythene bag making sure the bag does not press against the leaves, and place on a bright, sunny window ledge or in a greenhouse

9. Check every few days, but they should not need much watering

10. When you see new leaves appearing, you will know that the cutting has rooted – you can then re-pot the new plant into normal potting compost

And because softwood cuttings are so easy to root, it is also possible just to pop the cut stem into a glass of water, take off the bottom leaves, pinch out the growing tip, and within a couple of weeks you will see the roots starting to grow.

And that's all there is to it – your family and friends will be so impressed when you give them plants for free!

About The Author
Fran Barnwell provides step-by-step tips and advice on how to start gardening for beginners. Why not sign up for her free ezine, or order the eBook 'The Ultimate Guide to Gardening for Beginners' at her website:

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Indoor Fountains: Enhance your Interior Décor with Wall Fountains!

With the ability to purchase a pre-designed fountain for the interior that mimic commercial copper, tempered and glass wall fountains, you can benefit from the tranquility of water flow in a work of art!

Interior decorators may choose to have a specially designed, custom-built wall fountain: something unique. And a company called Bluworld Innovations can create one. However, with many do-it-yourself homeowners and business owners, a more affordable option is to take a look at what pre-designed interior (exterior, too) fountains are available.

If you're interested in a fountain piece that hangs like a painting or tapestry, wall fountains are worth checking out. Made with a variety of materials such as slate, copper, glass, pebbles and river rock, wall fountains blend naturally, enhancing the Feng Shui as well the décor in a room. see:

For contemporary spaces, where fussy works of art or decorative objects are excluded and more simple and linear choices favored, these types of hanging fountains are perfect. Prices range from around $200 for a small vertical fountain to around $3,000 for large double and triple panels.

For a slightly different look, consider hanging an art wall fountain (literally). Produced by Harvey Gallery, waterfalls overlay actual oil paintings. With works that look like Picasso, Renoir and Monet, fountain pieces entitled: Koi, Vineyard, and San Francisco Nights, encompass bold and exciting painting design, as well as color. The flow of water combined with some of the fountains optional lighting (tiny holes of light within to create the feel of stars and such) creates something special.

And finally, waterwall fountains and windows, made with tempered glass. These waterfall fountains offer a distinct and elegant feel, combining an artistic contemporarily shaped water feature with natural deep-etched art images on glass.

About The Author
Nicole Martins is a contributing author to Best in Garden Fountains, which provides information and reviews of popular indoor and outdoor fountains. You can visit this site at:

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Visualizing Your Home Theater

What do the words home theater mean to you? A big screen TV in your living room with surround sound speakers hidden behind the couch, or a custom designed room with every possible high-end audio/video equipment and dedicated theater seating? The choice comes down to your level of use . . . and your pocketbook.

Start with the room you plan to use as your home theater. If it's your multi-purpose living room, think about mounting a flat-panel LCD HDTV on the wall and finding one of the many artistic solutions for hiding the screen when it's not in use. Make sure the furniture that houses your audio/video components has a cable management system to hide power cords and sufficient ventilation. Rear wheels on the cabinet make accessing your connections much easier!

There is a large range of possible entertainment centers: a plasma console or wall system, an entertainment center with bookcase or storage, cabinets to hold a large screen display. Be sure to measure your room accurately to know what will fit best in the space you have available. If you're redoing a room or moving to a new place, now is a good time to prewire the room for audio, video, security and communication needs, including cabling for future technologies. It makes for an elegant, nearly invisible installation of equipment, with more leeway in the type of furniture you choose. Another possibility — if your "home theater" room also includes your computer desk, think about using your PC to store and play your favorite MP3 files, patched through an amplifier.

There are so many choices — media stands, audio stands that hold 5 to 10 AV components, TV stands for any size television (some loaded with features like wire management systems, adjustable shelves, open ventilation, tempered glass) — as well as choices in styles and finishes, from the beauty of natural hardwoods to contemporary design elements. With such a broad variety of audio/video and other furnishings, mounts and accessories, even the most demanding A/V enthusiast or home decorator will be satisfied with the way your home theater looks.

Once you've housed your components, the next most important choice involves your seating. Do you prefer watching movies in your home theater from the comfort of a recliner, cuddled with someone special on a couch, or from dedicated custom theater seating? Do you prefer seating covered with micro fiber fabric, microfiber suede, faux leather or premium leather? Does a home theater conjure up visions of kids with large tubs of buttered popcorn, beer and chips for the guys watching the big game, or romantic glasses of wine? Choose an easy-to-clean surface, and have sturdy tables close at hand to your seating.

As long as you're visualizing your perfect home theater set-up, remember to connect the lighting and the home theater system to a master remote control. With a few taps of your finger, the DVD spins, the lights dim, you sink into your seat, and enter a galaxy far, far away . . . right from home.

About The Author
Parvati Markus
When Parvati Markus is not writing helpful and insightful articles like the one you just read from, she works with The Kabbalah Centre and freelances on non-fiction books and articles. As a recent arrival in L.A., Parvati is completing her "residency requirement" by writing a screenplay.
Find great home furniture online at

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Suddenly... Condensation!

Every year, usually in January, we (Builders Architectural - a top Chicago-based window contractor) receive phone calls from customers who complain of sudden condensation on their windows.

This condensation can be surprising because of its sudden onset and large volume. Condensation is widely misunderstood but actually it is quite simple.

Think of a glass of cold beer on a muggy summer day when you are outdoors. The glass in your hand is dripping water on its outer surface to such extent you might almost think the liquid is actually leaking through the glass.

Unless you are drinking from a practical joker's dribble glass, leaking glass is probably not the cause. The real cause is airborne water vapor(a gas) converting to liquid when it cools while contacting the cold glass. The water vapor has cooled to its "dew point" and condensed into a liquid.

This happens on your windows during a winter cold snap in the exactly same way.

Lets say you live in Chicago and so far the winter has been moderate. Your humidifier is set at 35-40% relative humidity(RH). One day the outside temperature drops from +30F to +10F.

Suddenly your windows are fogged. In extreme cases water drips down the face of the windows. Left unattended, water can damage window frames and finishes.

Then you call your favorite window contractor and complain that your windows are defective. Chances are they are not. The elevated humidity in your home has come in contact with very cold glass surfaces. The water vapor within the air has changed to a liquid form and is now visible on your windows.

Generally, most windows which are "thermal"- meaning they have insulated glass and either wood frames or aluminum frames with thermal breaks - are designed to function well to a range of +10F exterior and +70F interior, with an interior relative humidity (RH) of 25-30%. If any of these variables change, condensation may result.

Window treatment should help, shouldn't they?

One of the most surprising aspects of condensation can be that it frequently take place behind fixed, insulated, or tightly fitting window treatments such as heavy drapes or honeycomb-style window treatments.

This is not what one would expect. We correctly think of these treatments as adding insulating value to the house. Why would condensation take place here?

The answer is simple. While it is true that window treatments can reduce the flow of heat through a window opening, there is an unfortunate by-product:

Window treatment prevents the flow of roomside heat from warming the glass surface. Glass surface temperature will cool. An environment may be created for condensation.

While window treatments retard the flow of heat, they don't do much for retarding the flow of water vapor. You need a fully taped foil or plastic vapor barrier for that.

Remember osmosis and diffusion from high school biology? Of course you do. These forces of nature are playing themselves out on your windows and draperies. To refresh your memory:

Osmosis: The force in nature wherein water naturally migrates from a place of greater concentration to a place of lesser concentration. This is your roomside humidity equally dispersing itself throughout your house.

Diffusion: Osmosis through a semi-permeable membrane. The membrane is your window treatment. Diffusion is also known as "vapor drive".

What can be done in my home? # Wipe off the condensation. By doing this, you are physically reducing roomside humidity.

# Open the windows an inch or so. The dry outside air will mix with humid inside air and reduce roomside humidity.

# Lower your humidifier settings to 25% or below.

# Open up your blinds and drapes to a level which will allow the roomside heat to warm the glass surfaces.

# Use exhaust fans during and after showering and cooking.

# If you are painting or drywall taping open the windows to allow moisture to dissipate.

# Look at your clothes dryer. Make sure it vents to the exterior. "Vent-less" clothing dryers can bring large amounts of moisture into living spaces.

It could be the windows too...

After excluding non-window sources, look for these possibilities on the windows themselves:

# Weather-stripping not tightly compressed allowing air infiltration into the space. Although we know that air infiltration can actually reduce interior humidity, it can also focus a cold spot on a metal window or glass edge.If there is a cold spot you could see condensation or even frost which could be window related.

# There could be a similar cold spot where caulk is missing at the perimeter of the window.

# Your windows could be single-glazed, where only one layer of glass, rather than two, separates you from the exterior.

Deal with humidity first

Good strategy would be to deal with the living space issues first. If you attack them as we describe above, condensation can disappear in 24-48 hours.

If condensation persists, look to the windows and caulking.

About The Author
Mark Meshulam is Executive Vice President and Director of Engineering for Builders Architectural, a top Chicago-based window contractor.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

The Magic Of Merino Wool Blankets

If you've ever wondered why people's eyes light up when the name Merino is spoken, then you'll want to check out this info to get the scoop on their famous blankets!

You might have thought that wool meant a heavy, cumbersome, musty olive drab green blanket. Those days were over since Merino came on the scene.

Merino blankets are created exclusively from wool obtained from white sheep that were originally grown raised around Merino Spain.

Today, Merino wool is taken from sheep and lambs in Australia and New Zealand as well. The heavy fleece shorn from these lambs is of exceptional quality and very, very soft.

The long natural fibers allow products created from this wool to be lightweight while providing extremely good insulating properties...some say possibly the best insulation possible in a woolen blanket.

Anything created with these extra long fibers are incredibly durable and will look great after years of use. It'll be resistant to flame, doesn't wrinkle easily and resists dirt naturally.

What more could you ask for in blankets for your home?

The finest quality wool in the world, the yarn used to create a genuine Merino blanket will be 100% from Merino sheep.

If the label indicates the product is lamb's wool, the wool will be even softer and more luxurious. You'll find many blankets created in solid colors to highlight the lush appearance of these particular wools.

How about sage, linen, scarlet, peach or navy for a few of your choices!

The term "hand" refers to how a fabric feels when placed in the human hand. The hand of the fabrics created from Merino wool is especially soft and silky. These bedding products feel so very luxurious, you'll want nothing else!

Let's look at a few of the most popular types of blankets created from this very special world famous wool.

Faribault Mills offers a really nifty, creative blanket created for the couple that never can agree on temperature. Their Dual-Weight Merino Wool Blanket is woven so that one side of the fabric is twice as insulating as the other side. It has a lightweight thermal weave, the breathable blanket allows the cool-natured partner to sleep on the heavier, warmer side while the other partner can enjoy the lightweight, less insulating portion.

These oversized blankets are available in king and queen size and are crafted in the United States from the finest Merino yarns. Edges are whip-stitched for elegance and the blankets are machine washable.

Eldridge Textile's Victory Merino Wool Blanket is made in Italy from the finest Australian wools. The yarn is left with a slight nap to increase thermal heat retention. The wide jacquard border on all four sides of this blanket provides for long wear and tear and come in some intensely gorgeous colors also!

One favorite I wanted to mention is made by Campagnia Lane Preziose. They provides several exceptional choices in Merino products. Like their silk and lambswool blanket, which has silk borders on all four sides. Sweet!

It's available in a color called stone, which is almost pure white. While this one costs a bit more because of the silk embellishment, the classic, elegant look makes it worth the price if you're looking for a perfect compliment to the bed or even the sofa.

You'll also find summer- weight woolen blankets and even baby blankets in a gorgeous pallet of colors that'll just thrill you!

Sure, you'll find lots of wool blankets that are less expensive than Merino.

But if you're looking for the exceptional softness and heirloom quality that come with such a blanket, then you'll be warmly surprised at all of the selections available when you shop online.

You've got the world at your fingertips!

About The Author
Patricia Bowlin makes it easy to create a bedroom with flair! Find countless Free tips, ideas and information here on choosing all of your bedding by visiting now

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Usefulness Of Home Security Systems

There are a lot of low-tech methods of home security. Neighborhood watch programs, bright street lights and basic deadlocks on the doors can all be effective ways of discouraging intruders. But electronic means are more reliable and less prone to human error, which is why many people have turned to burglar alarms or other home security systems.

As crime rates rise and the days of leaving your doors unlocked recede into the distant past, home security becomes an increasingly vital concern. The marketplace has been flooded with a variety of methods for keeping one's home safe from intruders and to protect oneself against theft.

A basic burglar alarm relies on sensors on the doors and windows. When the alarm system is active, any attempt to get into the house will trip the sensors and raise the alarm.

What happens from there depends on the type of home security system you have. The most expensive systems send a message directly to the police. However, because of the cost, today it is primarily businesses and other institutions that use this method. Most consumer systems send the alarm to an agency that will quickly try to determine if the alarm is genuine (by calling the homeowner or property manager) and if it is, notify the police.

Some alarm companies also have personnel who patrol neighborhoods and may respond to alarms. These personnel are not police officers and generally avoid engaging intruders. Their purpose, rather, is to frighten off burglars, who rely on the cover of darkness and don't want to be caught by anyone, police officer or otherwise.

One useful feature of many home security systems is a motion-sensitive spotlight. These have sensors that detect movement, and so anytime someone passes in front of it, a bright beam of light comes on. Not only does this remove a burglar's favorite tool -- darkness -- it may even trick an intruder into thinking someone is home. Anything you can do to thwart a would-be thief is worth looking into.

About The Author
Christine Loxley writes for a website packed with home security articles and intruder alarm resources.

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