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Very Excited for my New Toy

Recently, I helped a friend of mine install an electric fireplace in his home. Once all was said and done, I was simply amazed at how beautiful, modern, and luxurious the fireplace made his living room seem. It didn’t take much convincing on my end after I saw it in action – and my wife was all for it as well. She has been interested in getting a gas-powered fireplace for years, but we don’t have the plumbing for it yet and installing it retroactively would end up being quite costly. Here’s a picture of the one we installed in my friend’s beautifully, newly renovated home:

Anyway, I’ve been doing quite a bit of research and it seems that there are a number of things to consider when you are choosing an electric fireplace for your home. The first and foremost is the design, and how that impacts installation. The easiest by far are the free-standing models, but they tend to take up quite a bit of space. These are similar to entertainment centers and can even have shelves for holding books and the like. I think I want to go with something that is more built into the room. The insert models are kind of out of the question, as they generally fit into an existing real fireplace (which we don’t have) to take its place. That leaves the wall mount and flush mount options – the flush mounted options particularly look very nice and sleek. They take quite a bit more work to install than other designs, but being the handyman I am I think I’m more than up for the task. For more information, you check out this site which tells you how to choose an electric fireplace for your home.

Do any of my friends out there have any experience with electric fireplaces, or any particular brands/models they can recommend? Let me know soon if you do, I’d appreciate any sort of tips you can offer. Right now I’m looking into the top available models from Amantii, Regal Flames, and Napoleon. They seem to be the leading manufacturers out there today.

What I really like about the electric fireplaces is that they are probably much less hazardous than the gas alternatives that my wife and I had previously considered. On top of that, they seem to be quite a bit more customizable. Fore example, it seems that many of them can be run without emitting any heat, so that you can enjoy their beauty even when your home is already at the right temperature. On top of that, you can even customize the color of the flame on some models! This is probably a little bit of a quirky feature, but it’ll be nice to have I think. I imagine some colors might be better on the eyes during the day as opposed to at night. Anyway, the search continues, but I’m pretty excited about getting this cool new toy and I wanted to share.

Have a great day!

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Back To School

Well, it’s that time of year. We just spent the weekend moving my daughter in to her new dorm room for her third year of college. She’s growing up so fast! This year, because she’s a junior, she was fortunate enough to move into a larger down room. My best way of describing them would be as suites, it’s basically two separate rooms which share a bathroom and a kitchenette/common area. The place is really nice, and way better than the kind of room I had when I was her age! And I wonder where all my hard earned money is going…

One of the biggest things that she asked my help for was in finding a futon so that she could have her friends come and visit. Of course, being the dad that I am, it became my mission to find the best futon available for my (not so little) girl!

The Search

Being the savvy old father that I am, the first place that I turned to get some insight on futons was the internet. There are quite a bit of options available on the market these days, and surprisingly there may even be some good options for our own home. They are available as futons that are really only designed for the short term (i.e. my daughter’s college dorm room) to products that are really quite nice pieces of furniture. They can be fully constructed of imported hardwoods, which can come in a variety of stains and colors. I found this site to be pretty informative with regard to futons, they have some good reviews comparison. I ended up going with a slightly cheaper futon for my daughter, because I’m sure once she moves off on her own she’ll want something a little better. Still though I didn’t opt for the cheapest options because they seemed, well, cheap – both in quality of materials and construction.

 

The Assembly

This was a bit of a doozy. I forgot my toolbox at home, and the tools that came with the futon were laughable to say the least. I did have some vice grips in my car as well as my leatherman, which were not ideal but I was still able to get the job done. The problem with using tools like this is that you can damage the metal frame which can be unappealing to the eyes. I just had to make sure to go slow and do the best I could, it took me probably 3 hours but eventually I got the job done. Luckily it wasn’t too expensive anyway, because I definitely left some visible teeth marks in a few areas. All in all it wasn’t too bad, and my daughter couldn’t have cared less. She was just happy to have the futon up and running so that she could get us out of her dorm room and back to partying with her friends.

All in all it was a successful move in. While I was working on the futon, her mother was helping her unpack everything and make the place pretty. Her new room is absolutely beautiful, I can’t believe what they are providing the students with these days! Anyway, she sent me all of these pictures so that I could share them here, she does a really good job with her camera.

That’s all for today, hope your students have all moved in safely as well!

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Fall Is Coming

Game of Thrones has made the phrase “winter is coming” circulate throughout the world like the plague. For those who don’t watch, I highly recommend it. This season really has me on the edge of my seat, and like everyone else, my Sundays have been pretty much blocked off so that I can watch it as soon as possible. It’s too bad there’s only one season left after this one, I’m not sure what I’ll do without it once it’s gone. I’m sure there will always be another great show to watch though, it just might take time for it to come around. If you don’t watch the show and you’re interested in getting your feet wet you can check out some of the previews at hbo.com/game-of-thrones, but if you’re serious about getting into it I’d absolutely recommend watching from the beginning.

But I didn’t come here to write about Game of Thrones, did I? More importantly, there’s another season that has to take it’s toll before winter can arrive. I hate to say it folks but summer is nearing it’s last days, and it’s time to start thinking about the outdoor work that needs to be done prior to buttoning up for the end of the year.

For me there are obviously a number of things to take care of, but one project that has been looming over my head is refinishing our dining room table. 

It’s an old table, so the finish is just generally worn and starting to peel all over. there are some particular areas where it is completely bare, as shown in the picture above. It’s a very nice oak table however, and we’ve had it for over 25 years. It’s really hard to come by something with this level of build quality these days, especially without breaking the bank. But I have a lot of stained surface to remove before I can get to work, and how can I do that without ruining my shoulder?

The answer, of course, is a good ole’ random orbit sander. The beauty of these tools is that they can be used both for rough work and for finish work. Unlike a belt sander, which is pure, brute force power and can leave you with an uneven surface if you’re not careful, a random orbit sander operates in a pattern that really makes the sanding process dummy-proof while still providing enough sanding power to stand up to most every day jobs. The sanding pad is a circle which makes it good for working rounded and routed edges – this can be really tricky with different types of sanders.

The truth is, I hate sanding. Even with the proper choice of tool it takes a lot of strenuous labor. The wrong tool can make the job way worse though, so knowing which one to use at the outset can make a world of a difference. Once I get this table smooth and free of the old stain, I’ll be able to give it a nice coat of a darker stain which will match our dining room much better. Hopefully all will go well and I can finish it up while we still have the last nice weather of the summer on our side.

Update: Here’s the finished product, with my wife’s artistically placed coffee drink:

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Make Cleaning Easier With A Pressure Washer

Tonight I tried something new. And I really liked it!

My neighbor had just received his new electric pressure washer, and he was cleaning the algae and barnacles off of his 19′ Boston Whaler. Up until today, I’ve only ever scrubbed the bottom of my boat with a huge brush or a paint scraper. While I’d hear of them and seen them used for years I’d never wielded a pressure washer of any type.

It’s probably obvious, but these machines save a ton of time. What would have been a solid two days of scrubbing and brushing (with plenty of elbow grease) was reduced to ~1/2 hour of time with my neighbor’s new electric pressure washer. As we got to talking I realized that there are many situations in my life where I could put this tool to good use:

  1. Clearing my driveway and removing unwanted weeds using the jet tip.
  2. Gently cleaning the delicate surfaces of my car.
  3. Removing the algae from my house’s vinyl siding, without causing any damage.

So I went ahead and bought my own. I’ve been having a blast (no pun intended) with it. It makes a quick job of my car’s rims, leaving them nice and shiny. Our house siding looks clean and brand spanking new. Our driveway is clear as can be. I even cleaned our charcoal grill, and it looks as good as new.

Basically our entire yard and house exterior has been given a facelift, and best of all it was incredibly easy. I didn’t even use any detergent, and I’m sure it work even better if I had.

The pressure washer came with a few different nozzles, and I’m going to try the gentlest one on my car in combination with some detergent. I suspect that it will be much better than washing by hand with a sponge, and with less risk of introducing scratches. On top of that, it will probably use a lot less water than normal.

Anyway, you can head over to thebestelectricpressurewasher.com for some useful information if you are interested. They have some great reviews and a helpful buying guide that made my purchase quite easy. I opted to go with an option that boasted a lot of power, even though it was a bit on the pricier side. I think it has paid off. Hopefully it will last for years to come.

If you don’t have a pressure washer, I’d highly recommend you look into one. Mine has been a huge time saver. If you really need even more power you can look into gas-powered pressure washer, but I opted for an electric model for ease of use (and less trips to the gas station).

Fall is coming faster than imagined. Make sure you’re ready for the fall cleanup!

 

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Keeping Your Lawn Nice and Green

Yesterday my neighbor was asking me how I keep my lawn so green and healthy. His lawn is fully grown, but there are a few patches where the grass has turned brown and in general there is quite a bit of crab grass.

He’s seen me out there working from time to time, but he didn’t understand what I was doing differently to make my lawn look so inviting. There are a few points that are really important and can help make for an excellent lawn. I found this video pretty helpful:

As the video shows, aerating at the beginning of the season can be a huge help in getting a nice deep root bed that channels plenty of water. Once the aeration is done, it is important to keep the lawn well watered all season – ideally at least once a day and ideally in the morning. The reason you want to do it in the morning is that it will give the soil plenty of time to dry out over the course of the day, so that when night comes it won’t stick around and cause mold problems with the roots of the grass.

In terms of repairing brown spots in your lawn, you can buy rolls of turf from your local hardware store – or, you can borrow some grass from another part of your lawn. I usually take some grass that is growing around my compost heap and use that. Then you just have to make sure to water it thoroughly and it should take in no time.

If you are suffering from crab grass or similar weeds, there are really two options. The first is to use fertilizer and crab grass killer, as they show in the video. This is certainly the easiest route, but as with most things in the garden these days I do prefer organic alternatives whenever possible. Sometimes if you have a lot of weeds you don’t really have an option, but other times you can take care of small patches of weeds by digging them up and patching them with new grass as I described earlier.

Other than that, just keep up with your general maintenance – watering daily and mowing as necessary. Good exposure to sun never hurts either, as long as you keep the lawn well watered!

So, how did I help my neighbor? Well, he is trying to get in the habit of watering in the morning. Previously he has done it in the evening, and I think this one change will give him quite a bit of progress. Unfortunately, as he does have quite a bit of crab grass he did have to treat with crab grass killer on a large portion of his lawn. However, we went around and dug up weeds and patched with live grass wherever it could work.

For more information, check out this site, which I also find helpful.

That’s all for today – as always, thanks for reading!

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We Are Online!

Hello Everyone!

My blog is now online. Many thanks to my daughter (who specifically asked to remain nameless) for helping me set it up. I feel so techy!

This isn’t the best tip ever, but I have to start somewhere!

For months the knobs on our kitchen cabinets have been coming loose, but no matter how often I tightened they just kept coming undone. So I started thinking about other ways of keeping them put. I’ve used Loctite in similar situations, and teflon tape can often do the trick as well. But, to save myself a trip to the basement I used what we had readily available in the kitchen – small pieces of elastic bands. I just cut a small strip of the elastic (the thinner style, about 1/2″ length), wrapped it around the threads of the knob, and tightened the knob snug while holding the elastic in place. It’s been two weeks now and they are still holding tight.

Any way, hopefully I’ll have some better info for you all as time goes on. At any rate, thanks for taking the time to read!

-Sean