Do you know what is behind your stucco?

Stucco is favored in home construction around the country, providing a durable alternative to traditional siding. When installed properly, stucco is long-lasting and largely weather resistant, providing you with a simple, high quality surface that does not rust, rot, or burn.

Despite the benefits of stucco, however, there is always a potential for problems, especially when installation isn’t properly performed. Unfortunately, many problems with stucco are not immediately apparent, creating hugely expensive repairs down the road. By taking the time to learn what’s behind your stucco, it may be possible to identify problem areas before they cause lasting damage, saving you substantial amounts of money should trouble come to call.

Cracks in Stucco

All stucco, even the highest quality options, can crack over time, even when installation has handled properly. As is the case with most concrete products, a little cracking is inevitable, no matter how hard you try to prevent it.

Cracks in stucco come in numerous different forms. Hairline cracks, or cracks smaller than 1/16th of an inch in diameter, are fairly normal in stucco properties and may not require immediate attention. Spider cracking, on the other hand, can be a sign that the base coat did not properly cure, and patterns in a wall can indicate that the wire, or lath, underneath the stucco was not properly adhered. These kinds of cracks are more urgent, and can require immediate repairs.

Mold Problems

While cracks are a fairly obvious problem that can signify improperly installed stucco, mold may have no warning signs. Since stucco is porous, water can penetrate the surface, creating mold problems behind what appears to be a pristine wall. Synthetic forms of stucco can be more susceptible to this kind of damage.

Mold behind stucco is not easy to detect, and generally requires a professional to do so. Home construction and renovation experts know how to recognize water damage, and can often identify mold problems with help from an infrared camera. When damage gets too bad, stucco may need to be either partially or fully replaced.

Wood Rot

Excess water penetrating your stucco can cause mold damage, but it can also cause the building materials behind the stucco to rot. These issues can be even harder to diagnose than mold, especially when there are no visible signs of water damage.

Wood rot is a very serious issue, and one that can lead to massive structural damages within a home. While other stucco problems can often be repaired, severe wood rot can require removing a wall’s exterior in order to replace the rotting wood inside. This kind of work can costs thousands of dollars, creating an expensive problem you never saw coming.

Although stucco holds many advantages for homeowners, it also can put you at risk for serious and expensive problems that could entail a complete renovation of your walls. Facing the issues involved with stucco walls may not be easy, but with the right team of professionals, you can identify damage, make necessary repairs, and take the steps needed to elevate the look, feel, and function of your home.


Taking Care of Your Small Kitchen Appliances Keeps Money in Your Pocket

Over time, the average person will spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on small Kitchen appliances. While some of the smaller items aren’t too expensive to replace, some of the larger ticket items (such as foodprocessors and high-end mixers) can be costly. Taking proper care of these items is easy and takes little effort. Here are some tips to help extend the life of your appliances and keep that cash in your pocket.

  • Always clean and dry Kitchen appliances as soon as you’re done using them.
  • Pay special attention to drying anything made out of metal, such as blades found in food processors and blenders. This will prevent rust.
  • For toasters, make sure to clean the slide-out tray located near the bottom. Keeping this space clear of crumbs will reduce the chance of fire or attracting bugs.
  • The best way to clean a microwave is to boil a mug of water in it. The steam from the water will help to loosen any food that has been stuck to the insides. Using an abrasive-free cloth or sponge will allow you to easily wipe away old food or residue.
  • To clean the inside of appliances such as the dishwasher blender, or food chopper, a simple solution of water mixed with vinegar does a great job. Generally, a half-cup of vinegar to one gallon of water works best. This cleaner also works well for floors and even windows.
  • With any item you are cleaning, make sure to keep the cords away from water. It is also important to remember to keep appliances unplugged for safety.
  • To keep the garbage disposal clean, put a little liquid soap into it, turn it on and run the cold water on high for about 3 minutes. Keeping the water cold will help to solidify any grease and then allows the disposal blades to break it up. If you’re looking to get a fresh scent for the disposal, cut a lemon in quarters and drop it in, then turn on the disposal. The fresh scent of lemons will last for several hours. In addition, one of the best ways to keep the garbage disposal in good working order is to use it frequently. This allows the blades to rotate and the keep the unit from rusting since it is constantly exposed to water.

Using these tips will help to keep your appliances in good working order and looking good as well, but remember to always read the manufacturer’s instructions that come with each appliance when purchased. Some units have pieces that come apart and others do not. Knowing exactly how your unit works helps to keep it working properly.

DIY Painting Tips for Homeowners

Painting is one of those home improvement projects that can seem simple to anyone not aware of the steps involved. Although most people want to get started right away and would like to have their project done quickly, there are several considerations before starting.

b2ap3_thumbnail_painting1-150x150The most important question to ask before you get started with any painting project is: Do you have the right tools? Painting requires more than just a brush and paint if you’re going to successfully change the color of any room. Here are some important items you’ll need before you get started.

  • Paint Chip Colors – Almost everyone starts with a good idea of what color you want a room to be. Paint chip samples are free at paint and home improvement stores, and you can select several tones in the color(s) you are considering. When you decide which two or three colors you like best, tape the paint chip cards to the wall and leave them there for several days. This will allow you to see the color in all lights at various times throughout the day. What looks good in the morning may not look so appealing in the late evening. Additionally, some paint stores even provide small paint samples so you can put a little on the wall, let it dry and see how you like it.
  • Drop Cloth – It doesn’t matter how careful you’re planning to be, tiny paint splatters will get the better of you if you don’t invest in a drop cloth. The best are thick canvas ones that will hold paint even if the can itself were to spill. Though the better-quality drop cloths can be pricey, keep in mind that your investment is long term — they can be reused for many years and projects to come.
  • Primer – Primer is necessary if the room is any color other than white to begin with. It serves three purposes: to help the paint better adhere to the wall, to prevent mold issues in areas such as bathrooms and to reduce the number of coats of paint to be applied for darker walls.
  • Paint Brushes and Rollers – There are different tools for different tasks. Select your brushes depending on whether you are using water- or oil-based paint; use angled brushes to “cut in” along baseboards and the ceiling. There are also a variety of rollers depending on the type of wall you are painting, such as a textured wall or ceiling versus a smooth finish. A sales rep at the home improvement store can assist you in finding the correct tools for your specific needs.
  • Painter’s Tape – Along molding and edges where you don’t want paint, use a quality painter’s tape. This will allow for straight lines. Test out the seal of the tape first by lightly painting around the tape to ensure no bleeding occurs. If it does, make sure to press the entire length of the tape against the wall before starting again.

In addition, to prep the area, remove outlet and light switch covers, move furniture out of the way, and have ladders or other equipment nearby and ready to go.

When you begin the project prepared, the job will not only be easier, but it will cause less stress and allow you to enjoy the process as well as the results.

Choosing the Right Kitchen Lighting

The Kitchen is a busy space in the house. In fact, for many families it is the hub of the home. Not only is it used for meal preparation and eating, but it is also a place for kids to do homework and the gathering spot to entertain. Thus, it is important to have the right lighting located in the right spots of your Kitchen.

b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC_0034-150x150The type of Kitchen lighting that will work best will depend on the type of activity you are doing in that space and the size of your Kitchen. Where visibility is essential to Kitchen safety, such as the primary food preparation areas, the lighting installed should be bright. The goal is to provide plenty of light for the cook’s needs.

Start by selecting overhead lighting, which will light up the entire room. Recessed lighting, decorative chandeliers or other overhead lighting fixtures all apply soft general lighting to the entire Kitchen.

From there, choose task-specific lighting. For more counter top light, under-the-cabinet LED lights can be installed, and both the battery-powered and hard-wired versions can be easily turned on and off as needed. For working at a kitchen island, hang pendent lights that will provide focused lighting in that area. Pendent lighting fixtures are usually only an option forKitchens with higher ceilings because they often need hung approximately 30” from the base of the ceiling, which doesn’t work in Kitchens with lower ceilings.

In storage areas, such the pantry, lighting is important so you can easily find things. If you have a walk-in pantry, recessed lighting should provide you with ample light, and instead of a standard switch, think about having a push-button switch installed into the door jam that will turn on when the door opens and turn off when it is shut. This will keep your hands free for the task ahead.

Another spot to consider lighting is the inside of cabinets with glass inlay doors. These accent lights can add a touch of elegance to any kitchen space and will create an instant focal point in the room. Additionally, you can add small recessed lights to call attention to meaningful collections, such as antique dishes. Keep in mind, decorative display lighting should be soft and muted.

Choosing the right kitchen lighting doesn’t need to be a difficult task. Simply consider the size of the kitchen, the area of placement and the amount of light needed. Doing so will allow you to create a beautiful kitchen space that is well lit and beautifully accented with the right lighting choices.

Kitchen Organization for Tight Spaces

One of the most common complaints homeowners have about their kitchen is the lack of storage space. One solution is to hire a contractor to remodel your kitchen; but if you aren’t quite ready for that project, here are a few tips to help you create a well-organized kitchen in your existing space.

One of the best ways to increase storage space in the kitchen is to think vertically. Installing shelves, pot hangers and other vertical storage options will allow you to conveniently store many kitchen items – decreasing clutter within cabinets, drawers and closets. Other vertical spaces in kitchens that can double as storage options are the backs of doors, tops of cabinets and above the island. Basically,
b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC_0114B-150x150anywhere you can add shelves or hanging storage units will help with kitchen organization.

Stackable food containers are a great way to achieve kitchen organization in pantries and other areas where you store food (including the refrigerator). Airtight plastic containers are easy to reseal, they keep foods fresh, and because they are stackable, they keep things neat and orderly.

Store everyday cleaning supplies under the sink or in a designated area, and hang a broom and dustpan holder in an out-of-the-way-yet-convenient spot, such as the little gap beside the refrigerator. All other cleaning supplies that aren’t used as often can be stored in another area of your home – perhaps the garage, basement or laundry room.

Closet, cabinet and drawer organizers are available for purchase at most department stores – all are designed to keep your kitchen tidier. If you don’t find the solution you are looking for in the housewares department, check out office supply stores. They have many handy options that can easily be used in the kitchen.

Finally, if after organizing you find that you still have too much clutter in the kitchen, it may be time to downsize your kitchen belongings. Instead of keeping all of your rarely used small appliances (such as the ice cream maker or the bread machine) on the countertop or cabinets, find another home for them – a hall closet, or a shelf in the garage or basement. You can grab them when you want to use them, yet they aren’t taking up precious kitchen storage space.

By implementing these tips, you should be able to organize your kitchen space so it is more functional, less cluttered and overall more enjoyable to cook and entertain in.

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