A crackling fire is a great place to gather and creates a relaxed vibe in any home. But, if the chimney hasn’t been cleaned in years, it’s time to hire a chimney sweeper.
The last thing you want is to end up in a room full of smoke from a dirty chimney, or worse, with a chimney fire that puts your home at risk. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that homeowners inspect a chimney and fireplace annually, and to clean open masonry fireplaces when there is 1/8 inch of soot built up, or more quickly if glaze has built up inside.
Three ways to clean a chimney
There are three methods that a professional can use to clean a chimney.
The top-down method: Cleaning from the top down involves climbing onto the roof, with chimney cleaning supplies (notably a stiff wire brush that fits the space, flexible rods, and a weight of some sort), lowering the brush into the chimney, and moving it back and forth in a scrubbing motion.
The bottom-up method: Cleaning from the bottom up requires the same tools and actions, scrubbing the inside of the chimney.
The dual line method: This method gets messy, but with a partner and a line attached to both ends of the brush, the entire chimney area can get cleaned, as each partner takes turns pulling the rope and brush inside the chimney. The downside to this method is that there is no way to close the fireplace space to keep the grime inside during cleaning.
No matter which method a chimney cleaning professional chooses, you’ll want to ensure that the area inside the home around the fireplace is protected from soot. Cover all furniture and floors, if the company doesn’t do it for you.
6 benefits of installing a water softener in your home
Hard water can damage your home’s plumbing and appliances and make your hair and skin feel dry. Fortunately, a water softener can remove minerals like calcium and magnesium to improve your water quality. Here are six benefits of installing a water softener in your home.
1. Reduced plumbing repairs. The hard water minerals stick to the pipes inside and can clog your plumbing and damage valves. Water softeners remove the minerals before they can do damage.
2. Longer-lasting appliances. Minerals can build up in your dishwasher, washing machine, and water heater, causing them to break down. Appliances that operate with soft water last longer.
3. Lower energy bills. Scaly mineral build-up in your water heater forces it to work harder and burn more fuel. Installing a water softener can improve your water heater’s efficiency.
4. Cleaner clothes. Washing clothes with mineral-rich water can cause your clothing to fade and give off a yellowish hue. Soft water leaves your clothes cleaner and makes them last longer.
5. Easier household cleaning. Caked-on mineral deposits in your kitchen sink or bathroom are difficult to clean. Using a water softener prevents these stubborn white stains from forming.
6. Softer hair and skin. Showering with soft water leaves your hair feeling soft and your skin hydrated. You also don’t need to use as much shampoo or conditioner.
Visit your local home improvement store or plumbing supply retailer to learn more about installing a water softener in your home.
Gourds make fun holiday projects
Gourd vines are nature’s container store.
Their beautiful fruits have been used for countless centuries as dippers, birdhouses, storage boxes, hats, vases, eating bowls, musical instruments, candle holders, salt shakers and anything else you can imagine.
They also make an excellent base for holiday decorations.
With a trip to a farmer’s market (or a search online), you can find many dried gourds in many shapes.
For a special decorating project for Halloween or Christmas, start looking now to find dried bottle gourds with a round bottom and a tall thin top, gourds shaped like big peanuts or pumpkins, or even some the size and shape of eggs. When dry, these gourds don’t have the colorful skins of smaller gourds, making a fantastic canvas for decorations.
Smaller gourds could be Christmas tree decorations, while larger gourds could be display decorations like jack-o-lanterns.
Dried gourds have usually been drying for at least a year, sometimes two, and the exterior may be dirty or even molder. Spend a minute washing them with a copper scrubber. Once dry, you may also want to use a little sandpaper to smooth out the hard exterior.
Next, imagine what your gourd could become. Pumpkin-shaped gourds could become a long-lasting jack-o-lantern. A bottle gourd could become a Santa with a tall hat, a snowman, or a penguin.
For example, get inspiration for your gourd from Christmas cards or holiday napkins.
Cover your gourd in a base coat using acrylic paints and let dry. You can lightly sketch a design over the base coat with a pencil, then go in with brushes to paint in the details.
Once painted, cover with a clear topcoat to preserve the gourd — this is especially important if you want to display it outside.
How ceiling fans can save you money every season
Ceiling fans are known for keeping your home cool on hot summer days. However, did you know that fans can help keep your house comfortable all year? They can also help you reduce your energy bills. Here’s how.
A switch on your ceiling fan’s central unit allows you to operate it in a clockwise or counterclockwise rotation. Set your ceiling fan to turn counterclockwise during warm months to push air downwards and create a cool breeze.
A standard air conditioning (AC) unit uses 3,500 watts of power. On the other hand, a ceiling fan uses just 50. If you use ceiling fans, there are many summer days when you don’t need the AC. Ceiling fans also complement your air conditioning. Fans keep air flowing throughout the room and help maintain a constant temperature, so your air conditioner won’t operate as much.
During winter, change your fan’s settings to spin clockwise at a low speed. The fan will redistribute rising warm air from your furnace throughout the room. You can turn your thermostat down and still be comfortable. Moreover, your furnace won’t work as hard, saving you money.
Lastly, ensure your fan blades are tilted at 12 degrees to provide sufficient airflow. However, if they’re angled at more than 16 degrees, they’ll cause too much wind causing loose objects to blow around the room.
Trendy colors in 2022-23
Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of life, and interior decorating trends haven’t been immune. The calming color palettes in vogue for residential design reflect a desire for comfort during these unprecedented times. Here are three colors that are leading the way into 2023.
1. Natural green. This is the year of green, with brash and bold giving way to calm and subdued. Natural shades of green offer a connection to the natural world and have a grounding effect. Deep hues suggest greater intensity, while light shades convey serenity.
2. Sky blue. Alongside earthy greens, homeowners are choosing the naturally inspired energy of sky blue. This color works well on walls and provides a pleasing alternative to stark white.
3. Light brown. Another increasingly popular and organically inspired choice, pale brown hues are calming and serve as a backdrop for bold colors and patterns. Use brown for cabinet accents to bring a sense of cozy calm to your room.
Use your imagination and choose a shade that expresses your personality.
Sick building syndrome: symptoms and prevention
Poor indoor air quality can make your family sick. Breathing in allergens and other contaminants can lead to sick building syndrome (SBS). Fortunately, products are available to improve indoor air quality and help your family breathe more easily.
Symptoms of SBS
Sick building syndrome is an umbrella term for several ailments. Typically, if you have SBS, you’ll exhibit cold- or flu-like symptoms, including
• A sore throat
• Sneezing and a runny nose
• Body aches, chills, and a fever
• Difficulty breathing and a tight chest
• Fatigue and difficulty concentrating
• A burning sensation in your nose
• Dry and itchy skin
• Nausea and dizziness
The causes of SBS include mold, pet dander, and bacteria that circulate through your home if your furnace isn’t regularly maintained.
How to prevent sick building syndrome
There are several ways to improve the air quality of your home.
• Clean your ducts and furnace. You should have your ducts professionally cleaned every two years to remove contaminants from your HVAC system. Families with children and pets should do this more often.
• Install an air purification system. Hire a professional service to retrofit an air purifier to your existing HVAC system. A HEPA filter or a UV antibacterial system will effectively clean the air in your home and create a healthier living environment.
Lastly, ask a local HVAC or home improvement specialist what you can do to improve the air quality and prevent SBS in your home.
4 ways to store your kitchen knives
You use your kitchen knives every day, so having an efficient place to store them is essential for your kitchen design. Here are four methods for storing kitchen knives.
1. Under-cabinet block. Some knife blocks come with a swivel and attach underneath your cabinets. Additionally, some under-the-cabinet designs are equipped with a fold-away drawer that separates and organizes your knife set.
2. Magnetic wall strips. Storing your knives on a magnetic strip attached to your wall or fridge frees up valuable counter space. Moreover, minimal contact with the blades means your knives will stay sharp.
3. Knife blocks. A knife block allows you to keep your knives close to your workstation for easy access. However, repeatedly inserting and removing them from the block can dull the blades.
4. Drawer docks. Drawer dock products protect and se¬parate your knives, so you can quickly grab what you need. A drawer dock is an excellent solution for young children because it stores sharp knives safely away and out of reach.
Upgrading your kitchen knife storage is easy. Visit your local home renovation outlet and ask about available products.