Tackle spring cleaning with the environment in mind
Spring is a time of year when many people resolve to give their homes or apartments a thorough cleaning. Spring cleaning projects help people revitalize their homes for the warm months ahead, when windows are once again opened, fresh air pervades homes and items that might have accumulated over a dark and dreary winter have become a distant memory.
Many families have spring cleaning rituals that allow them to efficiently clean their homes in a single weekend. But it’s just as important for spring cleaners to place as great an emphasis on the environment as they do on efficiency when cleaning a home. Eco-friendly spring cleaning practices produce less waste and rely on less chemicals to rejuvenate a home and get it ready for those seasons when huddling inside under the covers takes a backseat to lounging around the house as fresh air washes into the home. The following are a handful of ways to efficiently clean a home while also protecting the environment.
Clear out the clutter
Clutter is an enemy to homeowners and the environment alike. That’s because addressing clutter is often an inefficient process in which homeowners methodically go through items that have accumulated over the years, individually choosing which items to keep and which items to discard. Clutter can also prove harmful to the environment because rooms filled with clutter tend to collect dust, reducing air quality and leading to more indoor air pollution that can prove harmful to human health.
When sifting through clutter in a home, discard those items that have gone ignored for years, as they likely have little or no financial value and it’s safe to assume they serve no practical purpose as well. Once clutter has been cleared out, prevent more of it from accumulating by making a conscious effort to discard items once they no longer serve any practical purpose. This includes old newspapers and magazines, as well as any other items that are likely to sit in a pile or on a shelf for months on end. Preventing the buildup of clutter reduces the amount of time you need to spend spring cleaning next year while also improving indoor air quality.
Use cleaners only when windows are open
Many people get a head start on spring cleaning in late winter, when the weather might have started to warm up but has not yet warmed to the point when windows throughout the home can be opened. Though there’s nothing wrong with starting early, avoid using cleaning products on days when you can’t open the windows. Many cleaning products contain ample or even just trace amounts of chemicals that can compromise indoor air quality and may exacerbate existing medical conditions like respiratory ailments. When using cleaning products, try to do so only when the windows are open and fresh air can enter the home.
Ensure appliances are working at peak efficiency
Spring cleaning is a great time to inspect appliances to make sure they are operating efficiently. Clean or replace filters on window air conditioning units. Dusty or dirty filters will force the air conditioner to work harder and use more energy to cool a room. In addition, dirty or dusty filters make units less efficient, which means rooms won’t cool as quickly on those scorching summer afternoons. Appliances forced to work harder also cost more money, and those costs can be considerable.
When checking appliances, be sure to check the refrigerator as well. Refrigerators are plugged in all day long, and those that are not operating at peak efficiency can cost you a lot of money in the long run. Periodically clean the coils on the back of your refrigerator so it can operate more efficiently, saving energy and money.
Vacuum cleaners should also be inspected before each use to make sure reels are not covered in hair, which can make it nearly impossible for the machine to collect dirt and dust from the floors.
Use reusable cloths
Another way to turn spring cleaning into a more eco-friendly affair is to forgo using paper towels in favor of reusable cloths. Reusable wash cloths can be just as effective at wiping down counters as paper towels, which require more and more trees to be cut down and eventually end up in landfills. If you are feeling especially eco-friendly, you can go the extra mile and create your own reusable cleaning cloths out of old clothes or linens, saving you money and making use of items that might otherwise have been headed straight for a landfill.
Spring cleaning can rejuvenate a home after a long winter. Emphasizing eco-friendly techniques when cleaning can ensure your home’s revival is as beneficial to the environment as it is to the home’s inhabitants.
Home improvement glossary
Understanding the terminology used in the home improvement and construction industries can help homeowners be better informed and involved in projects around their homes. The following are some common industry terms.
Aggregate: Crushed rock used in many asphalt applications.
Ampacity: The amount of current a wire can safely carry.
Asbestos: A fibrous material that was once used widely in building materials but is linked to cancers of the lung and lung cavity.
Backfill: Soil or gravel used to fill in against a foundation.
Beam: Horizontal framing member designed to carry a load from joists or a roof.
Butt joint: Lumber pieces joined at the ends.
Casement window: A window with hinges on one of the vertical sides making it swing open like a door.
Caulking: Flexible material used to seal a gap between two surfaces.
Code: Rules set forth by a government institution to determine fair and safe trade practices.
Curing: A process that brings paint or masonry materials to their final, durable form.
Drywall: A wall finish made from gypsum plaster encased in a thin cardboard.
Estimate: The anticipated cost of materials and labor for a project.
Fixed price contract: A contract with a set price for the work.
Flashing: Sheet metal or roll roofing pieces fit to the joint of any roof intersection or projection.
Footing: Widened ground base of a foundation to support foundations or piers.
Framing: The structural wooden elements of most homes.
GFI: A ground fault current interrupter, which is an electrical device used to prevent injury from contact with electrical appliances.
Jamb: The exposed upright part on each side of a window frame or door frame.
Level: A tool to check for level or plumb surfaces.
Permit: A legal authorization to begin a work project.
Pitch: The slope of incline on a roof.
Rebar: Steel rods that are imbedded in concrete for stability.
Shim: A tapered piece of wood used to level and secure a structure.
Stud: Vertical parts of framing placed 16 or 24 inches apart.
Watt: A measure of the electrical requirement of an appliance.
Home improvement tips learned the hard way
‘Tis the season for home improvement projects, and weekend warriors will soon be visiting home supply retailers to buy everything from paint to plywood. There are many advantages to making home improvements on your own, including the opportunity to test your mettle at projects big and small.
Many a novice DIYer has learned the ups and downs of home improvement through trial and error. But the following are a handful of lessons first-timers can heed before beginning their maiden voyages into the world of DIY home improvements.
Measure twice, cut once
Perhaps this is the best-known mantra of home improvement, yet many still ignore it. Whether you’re anxious to get started or simply because you still cannot convert metric to standard formula, you must take the time to measure twice before cutting. Learning that you’re a hair too short later will be prove frustrating and time-consuming and often necessitates a last-minute run to the store for more materials. Always measure multiple times before making cuts.
Enlist a helper
Having a partner helping with the work is the most efficient way to tackle a project. This person can assist you with heavy lifting or moving things or by holding the ladder or simply passing tools your way. He or she also can manage work while you make another run to the home center for more supplies. Having a helper around also provides companionship during tedious projects.
Lighten the load
You run the risk of injury, both to yourself and your belongings, if you attempt to move heavy items on your own. When moving heavy items, take steps to lighten your load. For example, empty or remove drawers from desks and dressers before moving them. Rely on sliding pads when moving furniture so items can be slid into place instead of lifted. Always ask a buddy to help move especially heavy items.
Prime before painting
In an effort to save time, some people will look for painting shortcuts, and these may include skipping the priming portion of painting. Priming helps to cover existing paint color and prevent bleed-through of stains or darker hues to the next coat of paint. Failure to use a primer could mean having to paint coat after coat, which can become costly and take up a significant amount of time. Always rely on a priming product, or look for a paint that blends a primer within to achieve better coverage. And while you are ensuring a proper paint job, remember to use painter’s tape or an edging product to help keep paint off of moldings and trim.
Use the right tools
The right tools make work safer and easier. Think about how much faster you can cut through a tree trunk with a chainsaw rather than a handsaw. Improvising or using the wrong tools for the job can cost you time and increase your risk of injury.
Turn electricity off at the panel box
Be especially cautious when working with electricity, turning off the current. This means shutting down the power on the breaker box. A live wire can provide a minor shock or lead to serious injury. Take the extra time to ensure the power is off before working with any exposed wiring.
Expect the unexpected
Although many renovation projects go off without a hitch, you never know what you might uncover when you embark on repairs or remodels. Homeowners have come across all sorts of hidden problems when doing seemingly minor repairs. Removal of drywall may uncover insect damage in beams or indications of water infiltration. Some people take down old paneling, only to discover it was covering heavily damaged walls beneath. One repair project can run into another when home improvements are being made. Always leave breathing room in your budget and schedule extra time for unforeseen tasks as well.
Lighting sets the stage for outdoor fun
Tis the season for making changes in and around the home. The arrival of warmer weather renews homeowners’ vigor for various home improvement projects, and many have grand plans for interior and exterior renovations as they prep their living spaces for comfort, beauty and entertaining opportunities. While there are many worthy projects to pursue, adding outdoor lighting to a home can help increase its value and make the home safer and more attractive in the evening hours.
According to the American Lighting Association, with a few updates to outside lighting, families can make even better use of their homes at night. Adding outdoor lighting is easier and less expensive than many homeowners may know, allowing them to transform an existing patio, deck or pool area into an enjoyable nighttime retreat. Pool parties, dinners on the patio or barbecues with neighbors become even more memorable when outdoor lighting is added or improved. But homeowners who want to install or upgrade their outdoor lighting should consider the following tips, courtesy of ALA.
Lighting is typically layered into a room or outdoor space in three ways: overhead, task and ambient. Even outdoors, where there are no typical boundaries and borders, those three layers are necessary. Outdoor overhead lighting should improve visibility on steps, paths and walking surfaces, especially where there’s a bend or an intersection. Task lighting can be used around cooking or gardening areas. Ambient light will cast a comforting glow around any outdoor space.
To improve visibility and security, combine a motion detector with a sconce to illuminate dark corners or entryways. Be sure to aim lights away from the door to improve visibility. Lanterns on either side of the door can give a home a warm, welcoming appearance and improve the safety of entryways.
Create outdoor rooms
Outdoor lighting at the borders of a space is a great way to create barriers, both vertically and horizontally. Lights in a tree create something akin to a chandelier hung in the middle of the sky, and even accent lights in the general area of the edge of a patio, deck or porch will shine across the space and provide enough of a comfort level for people to understand where things are.
Outdoor lighting that casts a glare can be blinding, as can light that’s too bright. Lighting along paths should be cast downward, with fixtures that are hooded. A variety of lighting options will create layers, allowing you to add or subtract as necessary. Exterior-safe dimmers also can provide flexible control over the level of light, as can movable fixtures added to a patio or porch.
Add decorative elements
Just as arbors, pergolas, patios and other outdoor elements help to enhance the style of an outdoor space, so, too, can lighting contribute to a well-designed landscape. Lighting should play up decorative features of a yard and add the ambience that homeowners desire. Step lights make passage safe while also highlighting molding or trim details. An outdoor chandelier can make for a wonderful accent during dinnertime on the deck or under a pergola. Patio lights provide atmosphere as well as illumination for cooking outside.
Enhance views from inside
Outdoor lighting can make the view from inside pleasant and enjoyable. Use a variety of lights, including spotlights on trees, lights dotted along pathways and accent lights on unique landscape features, to create an idyllic landscape visible from inside the home.
Outdoor lighting enhances functionality of yards and landscapes while making such areas safer for homeowners and their guests once the sun has gone down.