In Hour 1, listen to learn about fire concerns with open floor plans, fixing a sticky vinyl floor and more.
Fire Safety and Open Floor Plans
Nowadays, everyone wants an open floor plan, but keep this in mind: The National Fire Protection Association warns about fire concerns that go along with them.
Since 1980, the number of house fires has been cut in half, due to smoke alarms, but since 2010, house fire deaths have been on the rise.
Part of the reason for this is open floor plans. With fewer walls, fires can spread more quickly. Also, modern homes are built mostly with synthetic materials that burn much faster than natural materials.
30 years ago, you had about 15-17 minutes to escape a house fire. Today, the National Fire Protection Association says you only have about three to five minutes.
To increase your chances of surviving a house fire, make sure your smoke alarms are in working order. You should check them at least twice a year. A good time to do this is when time changes in the spring and fall.
The National Fire Protection Association also recommends new homeowners go a step further and seek out homes with fire sprinklers or ask for this technology when building a new home.
Having a combination of smoke alarms and fire sprinklers in a home can significantly cut your risk of injury or worse from fire; the home fire death rate is an astounding 90 percent lower when hardwired smoke alarms and fire sprinklers are present.
And of course, make sure your family has an escape plan.
Sticky Vinyl Floor
Jeffery Winig has 20-year-old vinyl flooring in his Saratoga Springs, N.Y., home.
“I’m having problems trying to keep the floors clean and non-sticky. Any suggestions on products that will clean and/or seal the floors would be greatly appreciated,” he asks.
It sounds like the protective coating on the vinyl floor has probably worn off.
All vinyl floors have a clear wear layer on the top to protect the floor. Over time, it can wear off and expose the flooring’s resilient core. This can make the floor feel sticky, which then attracts dirt and makes them harder to clean.
The easy way to tell if the wear layer is missing is to test a spot that hasn’t had a lot of foot traffic. If that spot is easier to clean, then the coating has probably worn off.
We suggest resealing the floor with a commercial sealer, like CoverTec VinylGuard WB Polyurethane Vinyl Floor Sealer or Mohawk E-Z Vinyl Sealer. The only downside is these products are relatively expensive.
Try installing luxury vinyl tiling over the existing vinyl floor. It’s fairly easy to install and holds up great to foot traffic.
In Hour 2, hear how to prevent laminate floors from buckling, remove floor-to-ceiling mirrors, get rid of moles and more.
Preventing Laminate Floor Buckling
A listener has a vacation home that’s only occupied a few months out of the year, and he wants to know the best way to prevent buckling and shrinking on the laminate floor.
“What should I keep the A/C unit set to as far as the high and the low settings?” he asks.
Preventing buckling has more to do with humidity than temperature. Moisture in the air causes expansion and contraction, so get a dehumidifier to remove as much of it as possible.
Since this is your vacation home and you’re not there all the time, get a small one that can be set on your countertop and have the drain directed toward the sink. That way there’s no chance of any overflow causing water damage to the floor.
Also, keep this in mind: buckling usually happens if there isn’t enough expansion space left around the perimeter of the room. Check to see if there is enough space between the flooring and the wall for the boards to naturally expand.
As for the temperature setting, I keep the air conditioner in my vacation home set at 76 degrees Fahrenheit. At one time, I set it at 78 degrees Fahrenheit, but mold and mildew started to form. I’ve found that at 76 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s enough air exchange to prevent that.
Removing a Mirror From a Wall
Shirley in Anchorage, Alaska says: “One wall in our dining area has floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and I hate them. Is there an easy, safe way to remove them?”
Removing floor-to-ceiling mirrors can be dangerous, because broken glass can cause serious injuries.
Take all precautions to protect yourself. Wear long sleeves, leather gloves, and a full face shield so you won’t get injured if any glass breaks away.
Use a large putty knife to pry off the edge of the mirror to see how they’re fastened. Most of the time, there’s more than one way it’s fastened to the wall. They could be glued or held in place by clips.
If they’re clipped to the wall, simply unscrew the clips to remove the mirror.
If the mirrors are glued to the wall, take a putty knife and slip it behind the mirror. Sooner or later, the drywall or glue will eventually give, but it could shatter.
You also can try running a nylon string or a piano wire behind it. There’s also a tool you can get from the auto parts store called a windshield cutout wire. It’s a long wire with teeth on it and handles on the end. Run it behind the mirror and saw it back and forth to remove it.
If you’re not comfortable with removing it yourself, call a professional.
Moles Vs. Voles
William recently purchased a home with a small pond, and he says he has a large vole problem. He’s tried sonic noise devices, but they haven’t had any effect.
“Is there a non-toxic way to get rid of the voles and grubs they eat? I don’t want to harm the fish in the pond,” William asks.
One part of eliminating any rodent problem is to get rid of their food source.
One clue here is when William mentions “the grubs they eat.” Voles are vegetarians, so the problem might be moles, not voles.
Here’s an easy way to remember the difference between the two: Voles are vegetarians, and their name starts with a “v.” Moles are meat-eaters, and their name starts with an “m.”
Voles look like field mice with short tails, compact heavy bodies, small eyes, and partially hidden ears, according to Clemson Cooperative Extension. They are 5-8 inches long and have prominent orange teeth for gnawing plant roots and stems.
Moles, on the other hand, are 4-7 inches long with paddle-shaped feet and prominent digging claws. They have an elongated head and snout, small eyes, and no external ears.
You can try treating your lawn with an herbicide to kill the grubs. However, this will only help slightly, because moles eat other insects as well.
If you really want to get rid of the moles in your yard, the only surefire way is to trap them. Follow trap directions exactly, because improper placement of the trap will doom your efforts!
While you can’t control whether or not new moles will move in, trapping lets you know for sure that you’ve eliminated the ones you have. Before you begin, make sure mole trapping is legal in your state.
Read our guide on How to Deal With Moles In Your Yard for more methods.
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Unclogging Showerheads — High mineral content in water can create a crusty buildup on showerheads, creating a weak, erratic spray. Fix this by soaking the showerhead in white distilled vinegar.
You can remove the showerhead and submerge it in a bucket of vinegar, or fill a plastic food-storage bag with vinegar, slip it over the showerhead and secure it with twine or twist-ties.
Allow the showerhead to soak in vinegar for 24-48 hours.
Cordless Drill Holster — Make a convenient storage holster for your cordless drill from a 12-inch length of 3-inch-diameter PVC pipe.
Use a jigsaw to cut a slot in the pipe slightly wider than the tool’s handle, and about 6 inches long. Then screw the pipe to the underside of a shelf.
Now, slide the drill into the slot, leaving the handle hanging below. This is a great way to save shelf space and keep the tool at the ready.
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