Thursday, March 28, 2013

Can I install concrete pavers myself?

Pavers may be the easiest patio surface to install yourself.

Pavers are set on sand or crushed concrete rather than bound with mortar. You can even lay pavers on top of your existing patio if it’s level and in good condition, so there’s no need to break up the old patio or excavate the ground.

Here’s an overview of the job:

  • Settle on a style. Pavers come in dozens of shapes, sizes, colors and textures. Concrete is the most popular kind of paver, but they also come in marble, clay and travertine. Decide if you want a natural stone patio, a faux-stone look, an old-style cobblestone floor or a classic brick appearance. The most versatile size is 4-by-8-inches because they’re easiest for forming a variety of patterns.
  • Get the proper permits, if required, from your city before starting the work.
  • Design your patio. Decide where you will place the pavers, the size of the floor and how many pavers you’ll need.
  • Unless you’re laying pavers over an existing patio, you’ll probably have to excavate the area. 

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Protect Your Plumbing in Five Easy Steps

Like many problems in life, plumbing disasters usually happen because of neglect.

Most homeowners don’t think about their pipes until they’ve got a clogged drain or a chronic leak. Here are five easy, inexpensive ways to prevent your home’s plumbing from causing a predicament.

  1.  Treat your drains once a month to prevent clogs, whether they seem to need it or not. But stay away from harsh, chemical drain cleaners. I like a natural, non-poisonous product called Bio-Clean, which uses a blend of bacteria and enzymes to attack organic wastes like grease, hair, food particles and sewage. You can use it on drains, grease traps, sump pumps and garbage disposals. Regular use will prevent clogging throughout your plumbing and septic system. Dilute the product with warm water according to package directions.
  2. Be kind to your kitchen sink. Its drain is the busiest one in the house, so it can cause the most problems. If you don’t have a garbage disposal, be fastidious about keeping out food scraps and grease, which can emulsify once you turn on the cold water, and build up in layers in your pipes until they’re blocked. If you have a garbage disposal, run plenty of cold water every time you turn it on. If it chops up waste without water, particles will not flush through and you can wind up with a clogged drain.
  3. Don’t flush anything down the toilet except for toilet paper. That includes facial tissue, Q-tips and even products labeled “flushable.” A tip: Switch from two-ply to single-ply toilet paper. The less you flush, the fewer visits you’ll need from the plumber. Your old toilet, which flushed five to seven gallons of water every time you used it, could handle more debris. Newer, low-flush models use only 1.6 gallons per flush, and are more easily clogged with paper and “flushable” cleaning products. 

For answers to all YOUR Landscape, Garden and Home Improvement questions, visit our website,

Friday, March 8, 2013

How do I repair blisters in drywall due to water damage?

If water is getting into your wall from rain, a sprinkler that’s too close to your house, or even from a plumbing leak you’re likely to see patches of damage on your walls near the spot of the intrusion. That’s because drywall has a paper backing, so when it gets wet, it can bubble and wrinkle, sort of like a sheet of paper does.

To diagnose the problem, place a four-foot level across the damaged area and learn how much the sheetrock has sagged. If it’s more than about 3/8 of an inch, the structural integrity of the drywall is probably ruined and the section should be replaced.

If no sagging has occurred, use an awl to randomly push into the sheetrock. You should feel substantial resistance, and the awl shouldn’t be able to penetrate the sheetrock any more than 1/8 of an inch without excessive force. However, if the awl goes through the sheet rock much deeper than 3/16 of an inch, consider replacing the section.


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