Archive for December, 2008

Luxury Gemstones in Home Interiors

December 25, 2008

Never mind the economic downturn. There are still luxury products out there for those who can afford more than just beautiful natural stone. Majestic Gemstones takes what we use as personal adornment and offers the ultimate natural stone – precious gemstones for your home.

quartz Luxury Gemstones in Home Interiors

The company manufactures luxury flooring, counter tops, fireplaces, sinks, mirror frames and even furniture. The resulting products are virtually maintenance free – they are scratch, stain and heat resistant and won’t absorb oil. These minerals are translucent so coupled with the right lighting, the gemstones will glow “majestically”. The gemstones used include amethyst, jasper, quartz, agate, sodalite, rose quartz and tiger eye. Yes, this is bling for your home!

zodiac-amethyst Luxury Gemstones in Home Interiorsfireplace Luxury Gemstones in Home Interiors

royzman20kitchen2 Luxury Gemstones in Home Interiors

carnelian-counter Luxury Gemstones in Home Interiors

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Basement Contractor

December 24, 2008

Before the 1960’s a basement was thought of as a glorified root cellar in sections. There was a large space used for things that could not fit into the garage and another for the potatoes and canned goods. The third part might be for coal or sawdust storage because many Canadian homes had furnaces that burned these fuels.

Remodelled Basement

Oil and natural gas changed the basement, first by freeing up the fuel storage space. Gas came to the furnace in copper lines and oil tanks were usually stored outside so this meant that almost 1/3 of the basement was free for other uses. Many homeowners began to think of the basement as an extension of the upstairs and this blossomed in the 1970’s.

The one problem that plagued basement remodeling was moisture. To deal with this many contractors simply sealed the wall with plastic and then put up studs and that signature wall product of the 1970’s – wallboard. New shag carpets meant for concrete were glued right down on the floor and a for a few years the basement was a cozy living space. However, when basements began to smell musty the ideal living space became a musty dungeon.

Today basement contractors are specialized renovators. Before turning the basement into livable space they will examine the space and take moisture tests with a hygrometer. If the basement has been finished before their job may be easier because the studs and electrical can, in most cases, be used again. If there is visible moisture they will have to “follow the water.” This means that they may have to take everything out and start again. And this will mean fixing the foundation either by injecting filler into any leaking cracks or excavating outside the exterior of the walls and putting in a waterproofing membrane and a gravel fill.

Utilities

Before any walls can be built a plan of the basement should be in order so that the basement contractor will know where the utilities will go. The benefit of basement remodeling is that most of the utilities are close at hand. In most homes the electrical panel is in the basement and the water and sewer drains are in the space so it’s just a matter of planning where the rooms will go and

Interior Walls

In our climate any concrete basement wall will have to be insulated. The easiest way to do this is to frame the wall and fill the centers with either fiberglass or foam insulation. Fiberglass is cheaper but foam will resist any moisture that may build up. However, if the walls have been waterproofed outside then water won’t be a problem. The contractor will make sure all the utilities are in before closing and insulating the walls.

Basement Bathrooms and Kitchens

If the basement is to be living space then provisions will have to made to make sure that the main sewer line is accessible. In many cases the basement will be “below grade” which means that any drainage will have to be pumped up to reach the sewer. During the past few years there have been quite a few new products that allow for storage and pumping of drainage up to the main grade. These are now compact and can fit right in the bathroom or kitchen. Some are large enough to handle a kitchen, bathroom and as well, a washing machine.

Basement Windows

For anyone with the space and clearance basement windows are a welcome addition. However, if the space is too far down you may need to excavate to take full advantage. A contractor may have to cut windows holes in the concrete to allow for this.

Exterior Entrances

In some cases a homeowner wants a basement entrance. If this can be accomplished then a door can allow kids to have their own entrance to the home and this can solve a lot of problems in the winter. After rolling in the snow for hours they can walk right into the basement and change there instead of messing up the main entrance door and leaving puddles of water about. Again, this will require excavation but also landscaping in order to slope the ground away from the entrance. Drainage will also have to be considered because now water will able to get directly to the bottom of the basement. A trench might have to be dug and a drain tile installed to take this water away.

Choosing to remodel the basement may seem like a lot of work and money but it is still one of the cheapest additions for new space besides taking over the garage. The other options require months of messy construction while, with a basement remodel, the carnage can be restricted to an area that can be closed off.

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All About Blueprints (home)

December 18, 2008

No matter how you obtain your house plans, your completed set of plans should include:

  • Front elevation
  • Side elevation (one for each side)
  • Rear elevation
  • Top view of each floor (floor plan)
  • Detailed layout of kitchen cabinets
  • Foundation plan
  • Electrical layout
  • Plumbing layout
  • Window and door schedule
  • Roof plan
  • Construction details and framing information

    Most stock plans will offer a material list to go with the blueprints. This gives you the list of materials and how much you will need. A material list is a great aid in the cost estimations. Often, the stock plans will also include an Outline Specification that you can modify to the products that suit you.

    How Many Sets Do You Need?

    Use the following as a rough guide:

  • 1 or 2 sets for your bank, mortgage broker, and construction lender
  • 1 or 2 sets for filing with your municipality
  • 1 master set for you
  • 1 master set for your general contractor
  • 3 or more sets for subcontractors and suppliers

    The House Designers offer blueprints for all the house plans.

    You can’t really have too many sets of plans. The more you have available for your subcontractors and suppliers the easier it will be to get bids quickly and accurately. Blueprints are copyright protected, so you cannot have them copied at your local print shop. You will have to order as many as you will need at the time your order them or obtain a reproducible.

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    How To Treat Mold in the Home

    December 18, 2008

    This article is courtesy of Healthy Home Designs

    by GreenHome.com
    Reprinted with permission from GreenHome Inc. copyright 2001

    Here’s some information on the health concerns related to mold exposure. You’ll find some general guidelines on mold detection and cleanup, as well as removal of mold contaminated materials.

    ABOUT MOLD

    What is it?

    Molds are simple, microscopic organisms, found virtually everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Molds can be found on plants, foods, dry leaves, and other organic material. Molds are needed for breaking down dead material. Mold spores are very tiny and lightweight, and this allows them to travel through the air. Mold growths can often be seen in the form of discoloration, ranging from white to orange and from green to brown and black. When molds are present in large quantities, they can cause allergic symptoms similar to those caused by plant pollen.

    Should I be concerned with mold in my home?

    Yes, if the contamination is extensive. When airborne mold spores are present in large numbers, they can cause allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections, and other respiratory problems for people. Exposure to high spore levels can cause the development of an allergy to the mold. Mold can also cause structural damage to your home. Similarly, when wood goes through a period of wetting, then drying, it can eventually warp and cause walls to crack or become structurally weak.

    What does mold need to grow?

    For mold to grow, it needs:

    • food sources – such as leaves, wood, paper, or dirt
    • a source of moisture
    • a place to grow

    Can mold become a problem in my home?

    Yes, if there is moisture available to allow mold to thrive and multiply. The following are sources of indoor moisture that may cause problems:

    • flooding
    • backed-up sewers
    • leaky roofs
    • humidifiers
    • mud or ice dams
    • damp basement or crawl spaces
    • constant plumbing leaks
    • house plants – watering can generate large amounts of moisture
    • steam from cooking
    • shower/bath steam and leaks
    • wet clothes on indoor drying lines
    • clothes dryers vented indoors
    • combustion appliances (e.g. stoves) not exhausted to the outdoors

    CAUTION:

    If you see moisture condensation on the windows or walls, it is also possible that you have a combustion problem in your home. It is important to have sufficient fresh air available for fuel burning appliances, such as the furnace, water heater, stove/range, clothes dryer, as well as a fireplace. A shortage of air for these appliances can result in back drafting of dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide into the home. To prevent back drafting of air, you need either open vents or a ventilation system that brings fresh air into the home to replace air that is exhausted out.
    Have your local utility company or a professional heating contractor inspect your fuel-burning appliances annually.

    HEALTH EFFECTS

    How am I exposed to indoor molds?

    Mold is found everywhere, indoors and outdoors. It is common to find mold spores in the air of homes and growing on damp surfaces. Much of the mold found indoors comes from outdoor sources. Therefore, everyone is exposed to some mold on a daily basis without evident harm. Mold spores primarily cause health problems when they enter the air and are inhaled in large number. People can also be exposed to mold through skin contact and eating.

    How much mold can make me sick?

    It depends. For some people, a relatively small number of mold spores can cause health problems. For other people, it may take many more. The basic rule is, if you can see or smell it, take steps to eliminate the excess moisture, and to cleanup and remove the mold.

    Who is at greater risk when exposed to mold?

    Exposure to mold is not healthy for anyone inside buildings. It is important to quickly identify and correct any moisture sources before health problems develop. The following individuals appear to be at higher risk for adverse health effects of molds:

    • Infants and children
    • Elderly
    • Immune compromised patients (people with HIV infection, cancer chemotherapy, liver disease, etc.)

    People with these special concerns should consult a physician if they are having health problems.

    What symptoms are common?

    Allergic reactions may be the most common health problem of mold exposure. Typical symptoms reported (alone or in combination) include:

    • respiratory problems, such as wheezing, and difficulty in breathing
    • nasal and sinus congestion
    • eyes-burning, watery, reddened, blurry vision, light sensitivity
    • dry, hacking cough
    • sore throat
    • nose and throat irritation
    • shortness of breath
    • skin irritation
    • central nervous system problems (constant headaches, memory problems, and mood changes)
    • aches and pains
    • possible fever

    Are some molds more hazardous than others?

    Allergic persons vary in their sensitivities to mold, both as to amount and type needed to cause reactions. In addition, certain types of molds can produce toxins, called mycotoxins, that the mold uses to inhibit or prevent the growth of other organisms. Mycotoxins are found in both living and dead mold spores. Materials permeated with mold need to be removed, even after they are disinfected with cleaning solutions. Allergic and toxic effects can remain in dead spores. Exposure to mycotoxins may present a greater hazard than that of allergenic or irritative molds. Mycotoxins have been found in homes, agricultural settings, food, and office buildings.

    DETECTION OF MOLD

    How can I tell if I have mold in my house?

    If you can see mold, or if there is an earthy or musty odor, you can assume you have a mold problem. Allergic individuals may experience the symptoms listed above. Look for previous water damage. Visible mold growth is found underneath materials where water has damaged surfaces, or behind walls. Look for discoloration and leaching from plaster.

    Should I test my home for mold?

    The California Department of Health Services does not recommend testing as the first step to determine if you have a mold problem. Reliable sampling for mold can be expensive, and requires equipment not available to the general public. Residents of individual private homes must pay a contractor to carry out such sampling, as it is not usually done by public health agencies. Mold cleanup is usually considered one of the housekeeping tasks of the private citizen, along with roof and plumbing repairs, sweeping and house cleaning.

    Another problem is that there are few available standards for judging what is an acceptable quantity of mold. In all locations, there is some outdoor levels of molds. If sampling is carried out, an outdoor air sample needs to be taken at the same time as the sample indoors, to provide a baseline measurement. Since the susceptibility of individuals varies so greatly, sampling is at best a general guide.

    The simplest approach is: if you can see or smell mold, you have a problem. Once you know the problem exists, follow the procedure given next.

    Unless the source of moisture is removed and the contaminated area is cleaned and disinfected, mold growth is likely to reoccur.

    General Clean-up Procedures

    • Identify and correct the moisture source
    • Clean, disinfect, and dry the moldy area
    • Bag and dispose any material that has moldy residues, such as rags, paper, leaves, or debris.

    What can I save? What should I toss?

    Substances that are porous and can trap molds, such as paper, rags, wallboard, and rotten wood should be decontaminated and thrown out. Harder materials such as glass, plastic, or metal can be kept after they are cleaned and disinfected.

    Ultimately, it is critical to remove the source of moisture first, before beginning remedial action, since mold growth will return shortly if an effected area becomes re-wetted.

    Removal of moldy materials?

    After fixing the moisture source and removing excess moisture, the cleanup can begin:

    • Wear gloves when handling moldy materials
    • Remove porous materials (examples: ceiling tiles, sheetrock, carpeting, wood products)
    • Carpeting can be a difficult problem – drying does not remove the dead spores. If there is heavy mold, disposal of the carpet should be considered
    • Bag and discard the moldy substances
    • Allow the area to dry 2 or 3 days
    • If flooded, remove all sheetrock to at least 12 inches above the high water mark. Visually inspect the wall interior and remove any other intrusive molds. (This step may have to be carried out by a licensed contractor).

    CAUTION:

    Spores are easily released when moldy material is dried out.

    Soap clean-up

    Before disinfecting contaminated areas, clean the areas to remove as much of the mold (and food it is growing on) as possible.

    • Wear gloves when doing this cleanup
    • Use a non-ammonia soap or detergent, or a commercial cleaner, in hot water, and scrub the entire area affected by the mold
    • Use a stiff brush or cleaning pad on block walls or uneven surfaces
    • Rinse clean with water. A wet/dry vacuum is handy for this.

    Disinfect Surfaces

    • Wear gloves when using disinfectants
    • After thorough cleaning and rinsing, disinfect the area with a solution of 10% household bleach (e.g., 1 and a half cup bleach per gallon of water). Using bleach straight from the bottle will not be more effective
    • Never mix bleach with Ammonia – the fumes are toxic
    • For spraying exterior large areas, a garden hose and nozzle can be used
    • When disinfecting a large structure, make sure the entire surface is wetted (floors, joists, and posts)
    • Avoid excessive amounts of runoff or standing bleach
    • Let disinfecting areas dry naturally overnight – this extended time is important to kill all the mold.

    CAUTION:

    Bleach fumes can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, and damage clothing and shoes. Make sure the working area is ventilated well.

    Can cleaning up mold be hazardous to my health?

    Yes. Exposure to mold can occur during the cleaning stage. Mold counts are typically 10 to 1000 times higher than background levels during the cleaning of mold damaged materials. Take steps to protect your health during cleanup:

    • When handling or cleaning moldy materials, consider using a mask or respirator to protect you from breathing airborne spores. Respirators can be purchased from hardware stores; select one for particle removal (sometimes referred to as a N95 or TC-21C particulate respirator). Respirators are not as effective removing bleach fumes, so minimize your exposure when using bleach or other disinfectants.
    • Wear protective clothing that is easily cleaned or discarded
    • Use rubber gloves
    • Try cleaning a small test patch of mold first. If you feel that this adversely affected your health, you should consider paying a licensed contractor or professional to carry out the work
    • Ask family members or bystanders to leave areas when being cleaned.
    • Work over short time spans and rest in a fresh air location.
    • Air your house out well during after the work

    CAUTION:

    Never use a gasoline engine indoors (e.g. pressure washer, generator) – you could expose yourself and your family to carbon monoxide.

    Can Air Duct Systems become Contaminated with Mold?

    Yes. Air duct systems can become contaminated with mold. Duct syst/…can be constructed of bare sheet metal, sheet metal with an exterior fibrous glass insulation, sheet metal with an internal fibrous glass liner, or made entirely of fibrous glass. If your home’s air duct system has had water damage, first identify the type of air duct construction that you have. Bare sheet metal systems, or sheet metal with exterior fibrous glass insulation, can be cleaned and disinfected.

    If your system has sheet metal with an internal fibrous glass liner, or are made entirely of fibrous glass, the ductwork normally will need to be removed and discarded. Ductwork in difficult locations may have to be abandoned. If you have other questions, contact an air duct cleaning professional, or licensed contractor.

    After I’ve cleaned everything as thoroughly as possible, can I still have mold odors?

    Yes. It is possible that odors may persist. Continue to dry out the area and search for any hidden areas of mold. If the area continues to smell musty, you may have to re-clean the area again (follow the cleaning steps given in this sheet). Continue to dry and ventilate the area. Don’t replace flooring or begin rebuilding until the area has dried completely.

    How can further damage to my home be prevented?

    Check regularly for the following:

    • moisture condensation on windows
    • cracking of plasterboard
    • drywall tape loosening
    • wood warping
    • musty odor

    If you see any of the above, seek out and take steps to eliminate the source of water penetration, as quickly as possible.

    Can Ozone air cleaners help remove indoor mold, or reduce odor or pollution levels?

    Some air cleaners are designed to produce ozone. Ozone is a strong oxidizing agent used as a disinfectant in water and sometimes to eliminate odors. However, ozone is a known lung irritant. Symptoms associated with exposure include cough, chest pain, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. Ozone generators have been shown to generate indoor levels above the safe limit. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that ozone is not effective in controlling molds and fungi, even at high concentrations far above safe health levels. Also, ozone may damage materials in the home. For these reasons, the California Department of Health Services strongly recommends that you do not use an ozone air cleaner in any occupied residential space.