Name Your Own Price DIY Consultation Services

Stuck on your DIY project? Looking for advice on your home weekend project? Need an expert to help you fix your home problems? Name your own price and ask Brian Hastings. Contact Brian at 215-760-8433. Email Brian at brian@phillydiy.com

Home Improvement Products

As you walk from room to room, do you notice a few home improvement projects that you have been putting off? If you don`t have the right equipment, these jobs can seem like tasks that are not worth taking on. With the right gadgets, the work seems easier and you may be more likely to take on all those projects you`ve been putting off for months. Here are five of the top home improvement gadgets that you need.

Laser Leveler

Remember the old leveler with the bubble in the middle? You would make tiny adjustments until you found the perfect balance. But then, it was a challenge to mark off the space and even more difficult to get the same line all the way across the room. Imagine trying to do a wallpaper border with just one leveler all the way around.

Instead, opt for a laser leveler. In seconds, you can set up a level line over an entire wall. With the laser line showing, there is no need to mark up the walls to get the right alignment. It works for big projects like a wallpaper border and it also works on everyday tasks like hanging up a picture.

Laser Measuring Tape

If you like the laser leveler, you will love the laser measuring tape. In the past, it may have taken two people to measure things out. You try to make sure that the measurements are even but are you really ever sure? It can be both time consuming and inaccurate to try to measure with the methods of the past.

A laser measuring tape can be used with just one hand. The measurements are accurate and in some cases, you can even store the measurements to compare them to another measurement in the future. This saves you time and the frustration of measuring over and over again.

Electric Screwdriver

Every home needs a screwdriver. There are numerous tasks around the house that require you to work with different types of screws. Instead of using up all of your elbow grease, an electric screwdriver makes the task easy. The user just lines things up and the screwdriver does all of the work.

Instead of getting out a bulky drill, the electric screwdriver can fit into smaller spaces and works quickly. Putting together furniture or installing new hardware is simple when you can easily handle the screwdriver.

Shop Vac

If you are still dragging your vacuum around the house to each of your home improvement projects, you are wasting your time. A regular vacuum can only absorb so many things. It does not usually work for cleaning up wet spills and you have to be careful about what you vacuum up. Size does matter when it comes to your home vacuum cleaner.

With a shop vac, there is no need to worry about what type of mess you are cleaning up. Opt for a small, portable style that can easily be carried around. It will deal with anything from wood shavings to a paint spill. You can clean out the inside in no time and it is ready to go again.

Snake Light

Why does it seem like so many of your home improvement projects are in small, dark, confined spaces? You can have every light on in a room and still not be able to see under the furniture or under the cabinets. With the help of a snake light, you can shed some light into those hard to see places.

When you can see what you are doing, things tend to go a little easier. Are you looking to change your door furniture? With the help of a snake light, you can get the job done even after the sun has gone down. Use the electric screwdriver to make sure that the installation is solid. Then, when the work is done, clean up your mess with the shop vac!

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From Metro

Before you DIY, do your research

RACHEL VIGODA

PHILADELPHIA
Published: July 06, 2011 4:19 p.m.
Last modified: July 06, 2011 4:25 p.m.

Q&A

Still not sure if you should DIY?

Ask yourself these three questions, says Hendricks of the Tool Library:

1. Will I enjoy it or hate every second?

2. Do I have enough time?

3. Is it worth the money I’ll spend on materials?

RACHEL VIGODA
PHILADELPHIA
Published: July 06, 2011 4:19 p.m.
Last modified: July 06, 2011 4:25 p.m.

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Saving money by doing home repair projects yourself sounds pretty tempting. And it all looks so easy on TV! But beware: Household jobs have a way of taking on a life of their own. So whether the plan is to fix a leaky sink or remodel the whole kitchen, first check out these tips on how to DIY the right way.

Read up
Know all the steps before you start. That might mean reading articles, watching how-to videos, or even signing up for a class to learn the basics — or learn that you’re getting in over your head.

“Part of taking a class is possibly at the end saying, ‘This isn’t for me,’” says Stacey Hendricks, head of the education committee at the West Philly Tool Library, which lends tools so you don’t have to break the bank buying new ones.

Even if you decide not to DIY, Hendricks adds, once you’ve done the research you’ll know the right questions to ask when choosing a contractor.

Start small
“People have to be realistic about the amount of time and work it’s going to take,” Hendricks cautions. He suggests testing your skills and speed with a small project. If the goal is to install hardwood floors, for example, try building a wooden shelf: “If you wind up with cut fingers and rickety shelves, you might want to hire someone for those floors.”

Try teamwork
Some contractors are happy to guide homeowners through a project, for a fee, and pitch in only for the parts that call for a professional. Because, hey, some money is better than no money.

“I’ll talk them through it on the phone, or go over and show them how to fix it themselves,” says contractor Brian Hastings, who offers “DIY consultation services” and also posts home repair and remodeling tips on his website, PhillyDIY.com.

“It’s the least amount of money,” he says, “but instead of not getting the job at all because the customer can’t afford to pay for the whole thing, it’s better to work with the customer.”

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Check out our friends from Ironmongerydirect.co.uk.

Door Closer
Our 11,500+ ironmongery products include Clip On Blum Hinges. Our range offers all the ironmongery needed for windows, doors and cabinets held in stock ready for free next day delivery to site, workshop, office or home.

Do It Yourself House Painting

An easy way to give your house a nice lift is by painting it.  Choosing a new color scheme or just freshening up the shades it already dons will both do the trick, and the process is actually pretty easy (not to mention fun, when picking colors),  both inside and out!

Unfortunately, paying a professional to do it for you can be extremely costly, and oftentimes, not worth the price of convenience.  With that in mind, here’s what to consider when preparing to paint your own house.

Really, when it comes down to it, the quality of your paint job is dependent upon the quality of the paint and products you use.  Don’t skimp!  High-quality paint not only is more durable, but it’s also easier to maintain and covers the walls faster and with more ease.  Doing it right the first time will save you time and money in both the short and long run.

That said, the only way to really guarantee you get what you pay for with the quality paint you select is by repairing the surfaces properly and preparing for the task smartly.  Gently use a power sander to clean up paint that is peeling, blistering, flaking, or wrinkling so that your surface is as smooth as possible.  Once the surfaces are ready, cover the areas close to the surface to be painted with tape, plastic, and dropcloths so that they don’t get caught in the crossfire and create a big mess.  Make sure to remove any masking tape immediately after painting so that it doesn’t stick to your beautiful, like-new walls.

In addition to quality paint, a power sander, and masking tools, there are other DIY house painting tools you’re going to need to be successful.  A tall, sturdy ladder is a must.  Make sure you can comfortably reach the highest point you’re painting without wobbling.  Buy good brushes and rollers, minding their intended use—indoor brushes and rollers are built more delicately.  Pick up some sandpaper, putty, and scrapers , which will come in handy both for preparation and for when you’re cleaning up and doing the finishing touches.

Also, don’t forget primer, if necessary, and alkyd paint for exterior woodwork, which is great for doors, door trim, banisters, etc. because of its durability.

When you’re prepared, painting becomes the easy part, and selecting a house paint color becomes the hard part.  Keep in mind the style of your home (historic, industrial), your neighborhood and neighbors, the color of your roof (so that it doesn’t clash), the color of the natural environment that surrounds your house, and, of course, your personality.  Bring on the white overalls!

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Go Green and Save Money

While many people choose to tackle Do-It-Yourself projects for small things here and there (like reupholstering a chair or even painting the frame of a mirror for a quick update), others consider DIY-ing bigger projects with big payoffs—both to save money AND save the environment.  Go green and save money with DIY green energy projects like solar panels or a wind generator.

Creating and installing DIY solar panels are time-intensive and tricky, but with the right resources, it can be done; even in a weekend!  There are websites that breakdown the process (including what products and tools you need in addition to where to get them) in a simple, easy way.  Some use video, while  others are more like an instruction manual for putting a piece of furniture together.  Shop around, and find the guide that works best for you.  DIY bloggers have endorsed the guides GreenDIYenergy.com and earth4engery.com.

When getting started on your DIY solar panels, it’s important that you first understand the process and basics of solar energy (how it’s produced, etc.).  It’s also helpful to have an idea of what you intend to power with your solar panels.  This will guide you when selecting the products and tools to make the appropriate size, amount, and caliber of panels.

Another way to generate your own power is by harnessing and using the energy created by the wind.  As with solar energy, the first step to DIY wind generators is understanding how wind energy is produced.  Another helpful hint is having a good idea of where in your area you can generate the most power (in other words, finding the windiest part of your area).  This will give you an estimate of how much power the device will actually yield.

One really neat thing about making a wind generator is that while you can buy inexpensive tools to get the job done at a hardware store, a lot of times you can use items from around the house! 

Wind turbines consist of a few different parts (that are easy mini-projects to tackle separately before putting it all together): a set of rotor blades, a rotor assembly, a mounting plate, and a generator.  The blades and the rotor are probably the trickiest part because they require very specific dimensions and other specifications that will vary depending on what size you have in mind and your needs.  While some people make the blades themselves, most get them made.  Everything can be DIY, but don’t beat yourself up if it’s not!!!

In the end, your inexpensive—but highly effective—energy will be worth whatever work and money you put into it.

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How To Hire a Contractor

ContractorsmallMost home improvement projects require a reliable, experienced contractor to do a job right.  But, sometimes, we might get careless and hire a contractor for the wrong reasons. Or, we might simply be complacent with background checks. This could result in a job gone wrong, which might cause you to lose money in the long run.  Before we begin to shell out beaucoup bucks on our home improvement savior, consider these steps to hire the right contractor.

  • Interview more than one contractor; ideally, consider three or four to interview.  If they know they’re competing with other potential hirees, they might anticipate a bidding war and lower their rates to stay competitive.
  • Ask for references.  A reputable contractor has nothing to hide and would, more than willingly, provide you with former clients who are knowledgeable about the person.
  • If available, check for reviews.  Popular contractor review sites such as Angie’s list (www.angieslist.com) provide reviews and data about your contractor.  You can browse for individuals or companies and determine if they have any negative marks or potential issues that might affect your job. You can also reference national associations such as the phccweb.org for plumbers.
  • For high cost projects, make sure that the contractor is licensed.  A licensed contractor can prove to be more than thorough in their work.  Morever, determine if the individual or company has a warranty if something goes wrong.
  • Beware of the lowest contractor bid. If you interview more than one contractor, you’ll certainly obtain varying bids for your project.  If you find a person with an unusually low bid, chances are that the contractor may be desparate.  The person can be desperate because he or she is new or doesn’t have a great reputation. 
  • Put the contract into writing.  Determine the payment schedule, start and completion date, and information about subcontractors.  By writing up a contractor, you make it clear about your intentions.

I’m sure I can list a lot more advice and information on how to hire contractors, but these points could be a great starting point.

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Energy Efficient Home – Winterize

Glowing Luxury Log Cabin Home in Winter with Fresh SnowBaseball season is over, and football season is in full swing.  You know what that means: we’re gearing up for wintertime.  With the change in weather, it’s time to make some changes in our homes to make sure that they are more energy efficient.  There a lot of easy, little things you can do around your house to make a big difference.
 
A great idea that goes a long way is adding insulation.  If your hot water heater is more than seven years old, wrap it in a pre-cut jacket or blanket, available at hardware stores.  While you’re at it, check out attic insulation products.  Insulating your attic, especially the roof, will prevent (or at least diminish) heat transfer from the room to your roof, which causes snow to melt and then freeze.
 
An even easier project would be to install a programmable thermostat, which costs about $50-$80, but saves an average of $180 each year.  All you have to do is program it to automatically lower the temperature while you’re not home or sleeping.  Also keep in mind that you won’t need as much heat if you’re cooking or baking– turn down the thermostat and let your stove or oven warm up your house!
 
Also be sure to check the weather stripping and caulking around your doors and windows.  If it’s peeling, cracked, or just plain old, repair or replace it as needed.  What’s even better– though quite a bit more expensive and involved– is investing in energy efficient, dual-paned windows.
 
Finally, saving some of the simplest for last, are two DIY solutions for winterizing your home.  First, on those gloriously sunny winter days, open your blinds and/or curtains and let the sun warm your rooms!  Just before the sundown, close them back up, and trap the warmth inside.  Second, combat shrinking wooden doors and sneaky drafts by getting a couple draft blockers for you doors.  Or, better yet, make them yourself with a simple sewing project that involves material, thread, and rice!
Want more ideas to winterize your home, email Brian at brian@phillydiy.com.
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Basement Remodel Project – The Frame

If you’ve ever played with Lincoln logs or Legos as a child, you’ll recall that building from the outside-in was the best way to construct a house.  With basement remodeling, you can apply the same timeless methodology in your project.  Start with the frames. The frame includes top and bottom plates, studs, and floor joists. For our basement, we’ll use metal frames to solidify the structure  of the basement.

Metal frames has some advantages. The frames don’t warp, and they even have convenient holes to slide wires and cables.  We’ll outline the walls ands rooms in our project with these metal studs.

With roughly 100 2×3 metal studs and 25 top and bottom plates, we’re ready attach the studs to the top and bottom plates.

283Before you lay the top and bottom plates, make sure that you check your plan layout. Lay the bottom plate according to the height specifications based on the plan.  With the studs cut, based on the height specifications, you can place the studs inside the bottom plate.  In most cases, the direction of the open side of the stud does not matter, unless the stud is hugging the corner wall.  If so, make sure that the flat side hugs the corners. 

 

 

IMG_2840To connect the studs to the top and bottom plates,  use a drill or impact drill to screw the studs tightly.  Connect the screws on the top and bottom for both sides by drilling the screws between the two small bumps found on each plates.  These two bumps represent the distance of 16 inches relative to the next set of bumps.  This distance is crucial to maintaining a uniformed structure throughout the  basement frame.  

 

 

IMG_2849Once the frames are set, erect the frames up against the wall.  In our case, we used a Hilti concrete gun to bolt the bottom studs to the concrete every 16 inches.   This will ground your bottom plates to the concrete, solidifying the frame set.

 

 

 

Using your blueprints or plans, keep erecting frames until you reach a corner.  For corners, you’ll need to prop the studs perpendicular so that the flat sides are facing out.  By doing so, the dry walls have a flat surface to corner.

We’ll continue with advance techniques for framing next time, with more basement remodel pictures.

If you’d like more advice and information, contact Brian at brian@phillydiy.com

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Saving on the Home Energy Bill

iStock_utilitybillIn these tough times everyone looks to save where they can. It’s very easy to save this winter with a few easy tips designed to make even the most inexperienced into thinking green and saving their hard-earned cash. Use less energy through not only reducing waste, but also through optimizing efficiencies with existing equipment! See my money saving tips below to begin spending smarter for utilities:

 

HEATING:
• The single-most cost-cutting measure is to replace your dial thermostat with a programmable digital model. These are widely available and relatively inexpensive (retails for approximately $20 at your local hardware store etc.). BENEFITS: through programmable times and temperatures you can enjoy a savings of about 10% per year by turning your thermostat down 10 – 15% when you are sleeping or out of the house.
• Clean your furnaces and boilers. Change filters and remove excess dust and dirt from the flute. Also, bleed radiators until all air is removed from the system.
• Check all windows for cracks and drafts. Repair any cracks with caulk (silicone outside, standard, paint-able caulk inside). If extremely drafty (and replacing the window is not in the budget) apply standard window film to keep drafts to a minimum.
• Check doors for drafts. If drafty apply weatherstripping (available at any hardware store, etc. for approximately $10) and make sure seal is snug after application for maximum benefit.
• Direct airflow into most used rooms while decreasing the flow in rooms seldom used.

LIGHTING:

• As summer comes to an end, we see less sunlight and more darkness. Our lights are used more inside our homes and thus our lighting costs increase substantially. To lower these costs we can do many little things that cost very little but make a huge impact. Aside from keeping lights turned off in rooms unoccupied, energy saving bulbs are a wonderful addition to any cost-cutting or environmentally conscious consumer. These hard working bulbs last up to 10 years and can reduce energy expenditures by up to 20%. *One note about these bulbs* When turning them on they warm up to their brightest state. Unlike traditional bulbs, they take a moment to achieve the brightest possible state.

WATER:

• Invest in an inexpensive shower-head that restricts water-flow but increases pressure – no lack of water-pressure with these heads.
• Wrap the hot water heater with a (fiberglass reinforced, water heater wrap available in home-improvement stores for approximately $30). When your traditional hot water heater need replacing, invest in an instant hot water heater that will drastically reduce residual hot water heating costs as water will be heated “as needed”. These can be moderately priced but will pay for themselves within one year through the energy savings achieved.
• Do not leave the water running when doing dishes. Use an energy-saving dishwasher when possible but otherwise, fill up a dishpan of hot, soapy water and rinse dishes with cool water.

APPLIANCES:

• Washing machines should be run with a FULL LOAD ONLY. When it needs replacing, move to a highly efficient, energy-saving model.

CEILING FANS:
• Not all ceiling fans are created equal. An economy ceiling fan will move minimal air while higher quality ceiling fans will prove to be a wise investment. A high quality ceiling fan will have a blade pitch of 13 degree or greater.
• When utilizing good quality ceiling fans, they can be of great value to you during the winter months. Reverse the blades to circulate heat (which will naturally rise to the ceiling) and push it down to the living spaces. They can reduce heating bills by approximately 10 % per season.

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Basement Remodel Project – The Plan

planningVery few plans without a well thought out delivery can be succesful.  Like most pojects, the plan is the foundation of any project and without it, you’ll be at the mercy to the unknown.  Take some time to think about what you want first.  Once you have an idea of the floor plan, start measuring the walls, including the rooms

The Planning Sheet

A great place to write the floor plan is through a grid sheet. You can easily find grid sheets at your local office supply store or even online.   A common unit of measurement is 1 grid = 1 square foot.  Measure the floor plan by feet and determine the square footages with the measurement.   The square footage is especially important to gauge the amount of flooring that you need (e.g. carpeting, laminate, or hard wood).

Remember, walls also have dimensions.  With design, you need to give the walls dimensions such as thickness.  Finished walls typically have 4.5 inches in thickness.  Structural add ons such as doors and windows may also affect the measurements as well. 

The plan should also contain media points like telephone jacks, fiber optic cable, cable tv, switches, and power outlets.  It’s a general rule in the U.S. that the outlets need to space out around 6 feet.  If you have the final picture, consider where the furniture will be placed.  This will give you an idea of where the cable and telephone jacks need to go.

Bedrooms

For planning bedrooms, you’ll need to make sure that it has an egress window if there’s no functional window.  Fire safety requirements demand these windows are available inc case of emergencies.  Egress windows may require a good contractor since it may not simple to place. 

Bathrooms

In some cases, home owners want to make their basements more like a fully functional floor.  An enhancement could be a full or half bathroom.  Consider carefully the dimensions of the bathroom.  Moreover, placing the bathroom near a sewage and water pipes can have its benefits.

Posts

In most basements, the posts support the floor joists.  You’ll often see the metal post that emerges from the concrete floor to the top of the basement ceiling.  Although the post has a clear function, the post could look rather dull for the end product or decor.  If you don’t want to leave them  bare, consider other options such as premade encasings.  These are cylinder-like sheets that conveniently wrap around poles.  Other options include

With a good plan, you’ll make life much easier for your remodeling project. You’ll be able to create a step-by-step process that gets you to your final vision of your remodeled basement.

For more information or help, contact brian@phillydiy.com.

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