Category Archives: Home Improvement

A/C Maintenance: How To Replace Your Air Conditioner’s Air Filter

Air conditioners have always been popular, but they used to be expensive to buy and costly to operate. These days they are cheaper to buy. It is not so bad if you live somewhere where you need heating for three months and cooling for three months, but if you live somewhere where you have one unit or other running twenty-for hours a day, seven days a week, it is still costly.

removing-air-filterHowever, the comfort that they give to your life is remarkable. But, the thing to bear in mind is that air conditioners, like all machines, do require servicing. That is, the actual moving parts, lubricants and other fluids have to be checked professionally every two years (or whatever it says in your instruction manual). There are other parts though that need to be checked more the air being cleaned properly.

The good news is that you can do this maintenance yourself. I am talking about the washable air filter. All good, modern air conditioning units come with an in-built filter. It depends on the sophistication of your air conditioner, what its filter can trap, but most will filter small particles such as pollen and traffic pollution out of the air it is circulating in the room.

These filters need to be cleaned or replaced fairly regularly and you will have to check your air conditioner’s manual to find out what you can do. Frequently, it will say that they can be cleaned two or three times with either soapy water and a tooth brush or vacuumed clean. After that they have to be replaced, in order for the unit to be completely effective.

If you need to replace your air filter, you may find the following advice useful.


The best place to start is either the main dealer for your brand of air conditioner, the people you bought it from or the firm who fitted it for you. At least, you know you can trust them, even if it is only a case of ‘better the devil you know’. Many of the stores that sell other brands of air conditioner may stock filters for your sort as a sideline too.

You are already making use of the Internet, so that is another good place to check for current prices and bargains, before you go traipsing around town. ‘Fore-warned is fore-armed’, as they say. You can utilize the price knowledge you acquire from your Internet surfing as a bargaining tool to get the best price locally.

If that does not work or you just cannot be bothered, order on line and your air conditioner filter will be with you in a few day anyway. By the way, like with vacuum cleaner bags, it is normally better to buy several at a time. For example, if you know that they will withstand three washes, then each filter will last four months. Why not buy three and be done with it for a year?

The Benefits of Using Washable Air Filters

air-filter-washableFilters used in the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems are known as HVAC filters. Indoor air pollution is one of the most serious forms of pollution affecting every individual. Air filters help in reducing air pollutants like dust, smoke, and pollen in a particular area keeping the air clean.

Home air filters draw the air within the room which consists of various particles and pollutants like fabric, particles of human skin, pollen, insect droppings and so on. All these particles are caught in the filter as the air passes through. The air is then heated or cooled and then thrown back into the area of the house through some ducts in the system.

There is a filter even at the air exhaust to prevent any further pollutant from going back into the area. This way filters are the major barriers which help remove any pollutants. Since many kinds of pollutants get stuck to the filters during this process, they need to be cleaned and replaced regularly to maintain the efficiency of the system.

Types of Air Filters:

Deep Pleated: They are used in first heating and cooling systems and are 5″ to 6″ deep. They have a reusable frame, but the media should be replaced at least once a year.

Washable: They can be washed using water and reused every month. They are 1″ deep. They have a longer life and are more expensive.

Flat: They are made of cotton of 1″ deep size and are disposable. They can capture smaller particles. They need to be changed every two to three months.

Polyester or fiberglass: They are cheap and disposable. They capture larger particles and protect the heating and cooling system. They are available in 1″ deep size.

Electronic cleaner: They run on electricity and are permanently fixed in the heating and cooling system. They are very efficient and expensive as well.

washable-air-filter-guideThere are many varieties of residential air filters available in the market for use in the home and garden area as well. These can be both in movable and permanent form. Furnace filters and dust filters are also popular choices for home ventilation especially to keep away allergies and asthma caused by pollutants. Many people claim that they benefit from such filters although there is no scientific proof that the usage of an air filter can help keep away such diseases directly.

When the level of pollutants in the air is lesser, airborne diseases can be controlled to a great extent inside the house. Commercial air filters are also similar in function but much larger in the scale of application. Purolator filters are one of the popular choices for such applications. The most popular by far are the reusable air filters that can be washed.

Home air filters are quite effective in keeping pollutants away and efficiently clean the air. Their efficiency can be affected by the increasing level of pollutants during varying weather conditions. It is essential to maintain and clean them regularly and replace the filters whenever necessary.

How Hard Is It To Install A Water Softener DIY?

A water softener system can be installed in a few hours if you have some experience in home improvement projects and plumbing. If you follow the manufacturer-supplied installation instructions exactly as they are laid out you should have no problems installing a water softener system yourself.

Armed with your manufacturers guide and a step-by-step installation guide (optional), you should have no problems providing you have the correct tools and hardware on hand.

water softener

There are a few types of water softener systems, which may affect the task at hand:

  • Timer Regenerated- The softener regenerates based on a timer.
  • Meter Regenerated- This water softener regenerates by using a meter that keeps track of how much water is used.
  • Manually Regenerated- This type of water softener has a lever that allows you to regenerate the system whenever you want.

Considerations When Installing Your Water Softener:

  • You might need to purchase some piping components and solder to hold them in place because they will not be supplied with the water softener. You may also need to purchase some other plumbing tools that are required for the installation process.
  • A drain is needed for the recharge process of the water softener system. A standpipe, floor drain, or a utility sink could all be used as a drain for your water softener system. A drain should not be located more than 30 feet from the softener system and the line should not be higher than 8 feet above the floor.
  • Some of the major manufacturers of water softeners systems will not honor a warranty request if you do the installation yourself. You should check with your manufacturer before installing it to make sure this will not be an issue for you.
  • Make sure that all of the parts are included in the box with your water softener system and all of the tools that are required before you get started. Make sure you read the instruction manual carefully and that you understand the instructions, some manufacturers will write their manual in a very technical way making it a little difficult to complete a DIY installation. A great resource to ask questions if you’re stuck is
  • You will have to turn off your main water supply which could be near the road. Always make sure your gas or electric is turned off to your water heater before you start the installation process. When you have attached your pipes to your water softener turn the water on just a little bit to make sure all of the fittings are not leaking and are secure. Make sure all of your pipes are working correctly by turning on all of the faucets in your house.

  • Your water softening system should be installed in an accessible place close to the brine tank so that it can be refilled on a regular basis. It should be protected on a level that it will not freeze or get damp. Most softeners come with a 10 foot power cord but you will need access to a standard 120v, three prong, and grounded outlet.

Note: some larger, hole whose systems will be more complex and may require a local plumber for installation; the best advice here is to call around and get a few quotes before committing to a contractor.

Bouncing Back to Kitchen Remodeling Basics


Like our pictures? See more designs here.

To be factual and upfront here, the kitchen is known to be one of the busiest rooms in a home. Studies have shown that most families around the globe often use their kitchen for eating, cooking, paying bills, doing homework and generally spending time together as a family. On this note, most people will always like their kitchen location to serve its main purpose of design. In fact, so many people often want their kitchen to look attractive and interesting. In case you do not like any portion of your kitchen, it is important to execute a change through remodeling. The best Chicago kitchen remodeling is a great place to visit. The best Chicago kitchen renovation comes with a lot of benefits that you can benefit from. Reading through the rest part of this article will help you discover the benefits of the best Chicago kitchen remodeling.

Increased/Upgraded Value:

Even if you are envisaging to market a property now and later in the future, Chicago kitchen remodeling will provide your home an upgraded value. When planning to market your home, it can be difficult if the kitchen does not have an appealing look or outdated. For this reason, you will always find homeowners updating their kitchen to boost its value. Nevertheless, it will also increase the chance of marketing a home easier in the future.

Improved/Enhanced Functionality:

Another great advantage of the best Chicago kitchen remodeling is improved or enhanced functionality. In some cases, you will discover that certain kitchens do not offer the level of functionality a homeowner may desire. For example, the counter space may not be perfectly designed to allow free cooking of food. Provided you can remodel or update your kitchen, the options will be limitless. This will help greatly in providing you the personalized functionality your home needs.

Complete Customized Options:

A fully customized option remains one of the main benefits of the best Chicago kitchen remodeling. It will allow you to do anything with your kitchen without any stress attached. Prior to commencing on your project, it is expedient to always set a budget. This will help in prioritizing the area of your kitchen you want to remodel. You will have the ability to complete the project in a step-by-step manner and creating a kitchen of your desire or choice. With the few points explained in this article, you are sure to discover the advantages of the best Chicago kitchen upgrading process.

For the best home remodeling contractor in the Chicgaoland area, visit

Benefits of Regularly Cleaning Your Chicago Chimney


Regularly cleaning your chimney has a lot of advantages. For starters, by cleaning the chimney, dirt such as soot and ash are removed. This allows smoke to get out of the chimney easily without some of it getting back into the house and choking residents. Professional chimney sweeps and cleaning services helps in improving air circulation and eliminating bad odors. One of the greatest mistakes you should avoid is cleaning the chimney without any professional assistance because you may incur accidents.

For instance, if there were nests built inside the chimney, without proper attire or preparation for the task, they may fall into your eyes. Additionally, you will waste a lot of time cleaning the chimney and in case you don’t do things right and cause damage to the chimney, you will have to spend a lot of money as well.

There are quite a number of reasons why you need to hire professional services for chimney sweeps and cleaning in Chicago. First, they are well experienced in sweeping and cleaning various types of chimneys. You may not know the difference in the chimneys and the procedures to follow to clean the chimney effectively. However, it is important that you hire one with several years’ experience since they are well versed with the procedure.

Another reason for hiring professional chimney sweeps and cleaning in Chicago: they guarantee you fast and effective results. Since they have knowledge on how to carry out the task, they will take the shortest time possible to clean your chimney and leave it sparkling. That aside, they also employ the use of advanced techniques and equipment to ensure excellent results. After cleaning the chimney, an expert will first carry out inspection before leaving.

They do this to make sure they have done a good job and their customer is fully satisfied. Working with a professional chimney sweep guarantees you 100% customer satisfaction. For quality assurance on chimney sweep services, only hire reliable services. In order to know whether they are reliable or not, you may consider looking through their customer reviews. These reviews contain information on feedback given by their previous clients. You can gauge the quality of services they offer by the number of positive or negative feedback given. Do not forget to inquire about their service costs. You need to work with reliable chimney sweeps and cleaning experts with affordable rates.

More information:

Staying On Budget When Building a Home

Budget Growth

Inevitably, any brand-new customer will ask me “Just how much will the job cost?” The response isn’t constantly straightforward and simple. You see, a house building budget plan, in both its creation and its upkeep, is more art than science.

Sure, it’s simple to state the project is a brand-new 2,000-square-foot house that will cost $200 per square foot to develop. But what does that represent? Will it be the home you desire? Does it factor in all the intangibles and tricks that any house construction project has? And you can certainly overlook any cost-per-square-foot standard if it’s an addition or redesigning project. Dealing with an existing house, specifically one that’s a little older, has its own set of rules.

Having stated that, the best technique to recognizing costs for your certain project and location is to talk with several designers, designers and builders. Each will probably offer you a different “number,” so you’ll have to drill down into the detail of exactly what that number suggests. Simply keep in mind that the devil is in the information.

  1. Identify the job. Will it be a brand-new home, an addition to your existing house, a kitchen or bath remodel or some combination of these? Each has its own budgeting approach. While a basic “per square foot” cost may work for a new construction project, it definitely won’t work for kitchen area and bath remodels. And for something like an addition or remodeling to a historic house, throw out any sort of cost standards. The best technique to developing a budget plan for tasks like these is to talk with experts with experience.
  1. Identify the pieces within your budget. Clients frequently don’t determine all of the pieces of the spending plan. Sure, the largest piece may be the construction expenses, however there will be many other costs. They can consist of land costs, legal charges, moving, decorating, landscaping, impact charges, architectural fees, permit expenses and financing costs. At the outset, recognize all of your possible costs and assign each a value. It would be a shame to finish the house however have no cash left for landscaping or furniture.
  1. Know thyself. If you simply need to have that beautiful variety that costs as much as a new luxury vehicle, do not budget plan for the generic range from the local appliance shop. Consider exactly what you truly want and how you actually desire to make use of the house you’re creating, and see to it you have actually budgeted for it.
  1. Be ready to splurge. In the spending plan, permit for the couple of places where you’ll want to spend lavishly. For instance, the kitchen backsplash is a location you might wish to do something really special and remarkable. If you spend a great deal of time in the kitchen area, the backsplash is something you’ll see several times a day for years. Even if it costs a significant amount, permit yourself to spend lavishly a little on something you’ll delight in.
  1. Have a plan. A sure way of breaking your budget is to defer decisions or, as they state in Washington, “kick the can down the roadway.” Building has started and you have not made almost enough decisions about what tile, what plumbing components, what trim, and so on. The contractor starts pressuring you to deciding or, worse, just does something without your input. You might discover yourself tearing out work or, even worse, have to live with something you actually do not such as because you don’t have the time or cash to change it.

The very best way to avoid these nightmare situations is to have your architect and/or designer prepare an in-depth set of illustrations and make all your decisions before starting building. Then, don’t alter your mind. It’s much easier stated than done, however preparing a strategy and sticking to it is the finest method to stay on track.

  1. Have a contingency. Like other laws of nature, the law of a construction job is that “stuff happens.” It might be a problem with the bearing ability of the soil or uncovering decomposed wood when preparing to develop the addition. The finest way to deal with the unidentified is to permit a contingency in the budget.

The best approach is to begin with a higher contingency, say 15 % to 20 % and after that slowly lower the contingency as you go through the task phases. When you first start the design, you’ll have a line product in your budget for a, say, 20% contingency. After the drawings are done and the pieces of the task are determined you may lower the contingency to 10%. As you you go through construction, you’ll be able to minimize the contingency even more so that when building is total the contingency is zero.

You don’t have to spend that contingency. If it isn’t really made use of, consider it found cash that you can save. That’s a terrific way to feel great about remaining on track and can be found in under budget plan.

  1. Beware scope creep. A sure method to bust your budget plan is the feared “While we’re it we may also …” You might validate it by saying “it’ll just be a couple of hundred dollars,” once you do that a couple of times, you’ll have added a bunch of work and will absolutely blow your spending plan. Keep in mind that you made a plan and stay figured out to adhere to it.
  1. Consider tradeoffs. Sometimes it’s difficult, if not impossible, to pass by that genuinely amazing product that you find during the job that’s not in the spending plan. When this happens, take a look at your spending plan and what you have left to achieve, with the objective of minimizing the expense of something else to afford this new discover. Is there a part of the work, such as painting a few spaces, that you can do yourself? Maybe you can utilize carpet in lieu of hardwood in the visitor bedroom. Get what you want and remain on track by moving budgeted quantities from one pocket to another.

Home Improvement Tips

Tips from Amy Devers, co-host of DIY to the Rescue.

Amy Devers

  • Save those fake pre-approved credit cards you get in the mail — you can use them as glue spreaders or shims.
  • When driving screws into dense hardwoods, lubricate them with wax or soap to prevent stripping the hole.
  • Double-sided carpet tape works great for temporarily fastening templates without leaving screw or nail holes.
  • If you happen to ding your wood in the course of a project, use a wet cloth and a clothes iron to steam out the dent.
  • Save that old electric carving knife. It’s the perfect foam saw for upholstery projects.

Tips from Karl Champley, co-host of DIY to the Rescue.


  • When painting a surface that needs to be primed – new drywall or wood – tint the primer to match the finish coat, reducing your painting project from three coats to two.
  • Sand the face of the hammer head with sandpaper to help the hammer grip the nail and prevent the nail head from slipping.
  • Wrap paint rollers and brushes in a plastic bag between coats to keep them full of paint and prevent them from drying out.
  • Don’t try to work with electrical or plumbing projects you are not confident about. It often costs more to repair later and can be dangerous.
  • When drilling though ceramic tile or natural stone, place masking tape on the surface. This makes marking the tile easier and helps the drill bit stay in one place.
  • When building or renovating your home, always print a budget breakdown. If you’re not sure how to do one, invest in a professional estimator or quantity surveyor to do it for you. The printout will show you the cost of every trade, nail and screw, giving you an accurate figure to base your budget on. This information is great for comparing quotes as you will have done the homework and know the costs!

Tips from Amy Matthews, host of Bathroom Renovations.

Amy-MatthewsCreate space and style in a small bathroom by adding niches in the wall and shower area.

1. With the walls open, find a space between two studs that is free of electrical and plumbing.
2. Cut a 2×4 for the top and bottom of the niche and attach to the studs.
3. Cover with drywall or cementboard, mud and tape, and then paint or tile to finish.

Now you’ve created an out-of-the-way shelf space for clean towels or products, or for a fun design element: add a recessed light to the top of the niche and place a favorite decorative item below. For the shower, measure the height of your bath products so the niche becomes a custom shelf.

  • Save money by shopping at your local re-use center. You can find great pieces of granite or marble left over from larger jobs, that are just the right size for a bathroom countertop.
  • If there’s a custom tile that you love but your budget won’t allow you to cover the entire bathroom with it, use it as an accent tile and purchase lower-cost field tiles. You’ll save money and still get the look you want.
  • If you’re soldering copper in a tight area and you’re a little nervous about burning the house down (never a good idea), place a nail plate behind the pipe so the flame hits the metal and nothing else.

Tips from Paul Ryan, host of Kitchen Renovations.


  • If you have a paint roller that’s too dirty to use anymore, use it to clean the gutters on your house. Using an extended handle, slide it along the gutter to remove the debris and leaves.
  • A level can be very useful as a cutting guide for your circular saw. To use one, line it up so that the saw blade is in the right area. Clamp it into place and you’ll have a good solid surface for the saw bed to ride along.
  • To repair a nail or screw hole in drywall, use a screwdriver with a rounded end on the handle. Press the end of the handle into the screw hole. The pressure creates a divot. Fill the divot with spackle or drywall compound and you’ll have a nice smooth surface.
  • When planning a budget for a home improvement project, add 10 to 15 percent for surprises. You never know what you may find until you start a project.
  • When changing blades in a utility knife, wrap the old blade in tape before you throw it away. This will cover the sharp edges of the blade to protect from injury when packing down the garbage or taking out the trash.

From Chris Babcock, co-host of Restoration Realities.

  • Chris-BabcockExpect the unexpected. Just when you think there isn’t termite or water damage, it’s there. Have the patience to work through these issues and anticipate that budget costs will change.
  • Educate yourself before diving in. The reason so many projects are left uncompleted is a lack of understanding of how it goes back together. Explore the history, structure, codes, safety and aesthetics before you decide to tear apart the house over the weekend.
  • Don’t skimp when it comes to replacing the work that needs to be restored. Buy the right tools and materials for the job. That will ensure that the original integrity will be restored.
  • Play the part of a good detective. When working on a historical project, look for “ghosts,” or old remnants of the past such as old wallpaper, paint marks, or even molding and trim pieces. These will help you in restoring your project to its original character.
  • Regularly scheduled maintenance is key to preservation. Keeping the outside elements away, such as water, wind, cold and heat, is the key to maintaining a treasure from the past.

Tips from Ed Del Grande, host of Ed the Plumber.

  • Ed-Del-GrandeMake sure you and your entire family know where the main water shut-off valve is located and how to turn it off in an emergency.
  • Installing a whole-house water filter will not only give you great tasting water and ice cubes, but it can also prolong your plumbing fixtures from clogging up with debris saving you many costly repair bills!
  • To test for correct water pressure you can quickly attach a water-pressure test gauge to an outside sillcock or faucet, turn on the faucet and read the pounds per square inch you have in your home. Normal operating water pressure should be around 45 psi – 75 psi. Anything over 80 psi is considered too high by most building codes.

Tips from Lynda Lyday, co-host of Talk2DIY.

lynda_lydayProblem: What’s the best way to repair a crack in an acrylic and fiberglass shower?
Solution: First, check the warranty of your shower and if it’s still under warranty, don’t make repairs yourself because it will void the warranty.

1. Score the crack so the adhesive will stick.
2. Clean the area with a toothbrush and rubbing alcohol.
3. Apply the sealing paste and allow it to harden.
4. Sand until smooth and buff with buffing compound.

Problem: What is the best way to create an indoor waterfall?
Solution: Build a frame with 2×4 wood studs and finish it with green board drywall or cement backer board, to combat possible moisture leaks. Bury the pump in the well below. Cover with faux rocks. (You can get faux rock that’s poured from molds that look like rock, but much lighter to work with.)

Problem: What causes the water from a newly installed faucet to flow slowly?
Solution: Check the shut-off valve. Sometimes when replacing a faucet, it’s easy to forget to turn it all the way back on.

1. Make sure the supply line from the valve isn’t kinked. Get the proper length for what you need.
2. Check the aerator. Soak it in water and vinegar and poke through the filter holes with a toothpick to get all the deposits out. Even a faucet can be clogged.

Tips from Tim Hockenberry, host of Home Maintenance.

Tim-HockenberryAir Conditioner Maintenance & Spring Cleaning

It takes good airflow to cool your home efficiently and effectively. If you have an outside air-conditioning unit, you need to keep it obstruction-free and clean by doing some simple maintenance at least once a year:

  • Maintain a 2-foot space around and a 4-foot space above your condenser clear of plants, branches and debris.
  • Insert a common kitchen knife between the thin metal fins of the condenser and straighten out any bent fins. Slide the knife between any fins not evenly spaced to clean out debris.
  • Check to see if your unit is level. If necessary, carefully lift the unit and place pressure treated lumber or concrete stepping stones under it to level.
  • Disconnect the power to the condenser unit and spray off any additional dirt and debris on the unit with your garden hose.
  • Check all the ducts and vents for leaks. Patch them with heat-graded foil tape. Don’t use duct tape; it dries out and cracks. Despite the name, it’s not meant for ducts.

Tips from Dean Marsico & Derek Stearns, hosts of Rock Solid.

dyc indoors out 02Finding the Perfect Stone Materials for Your Home

1. Use a nearby quarry as your reference center — a place to find stone materials and obtain advice. If you want to do installation yourself, ask whether your quarry or stone yard offers classes. If you want to hire somebody, ask for mason recommendations. Also, if you have a lot of questions, go in off-peak hours – late mornings and late afternoons during the week, early mornings and late afternoons on Saturday.

2. Know the layout of the quarry. Start at the main office, get a map and ask for directions. The quarry can be expansive with its cutting shops, warehouses and displays spread over the yard.

3. Do your homework. Have some idea of what type of stone you want. Use pictures from magazines and books or visit other job sites for ideas. The more you know, the better you’ll be at decision-making time. Also, know what your project dimensions are, and ask the experts for help with ordering the right amount.

4. Know the stone. Don’t choose stone on looks alone. That could be a costly mistake! Know which stone is “right” for the project. Some stones are conducive to interior use, while others are best for outdoors. Some stone is cheaper but will cost you in labor time; more-expensive stone will save you time and effort. Many quarries will let you take samples home to help you make your decision.

5. Know what’s new. Don’t hesitate to ask what’s new. Newer products, like thin stone veneer and paver products, can often make your job easier.