Sep 12


If you want to have a defined entrance and exit to a room, but don’t want to lose the wall space an open door can take up, the answer might be a simple cased opening. The arrangement is basically the same an interior door, but without the actual door slab. You can use a cased opening to replace an existing door or as a transition from room to room in a new partition that’s just been constructed.

What You Need for the Project

  • Hammer or finish nailer
  • Miter saw
  • Wood shims
  • Level – four foot works best
  • Measuring tape
  • Wood jamb material – available from millwork shops and home improvement stores
  • Door casing – also called door trim – it’s available in many different profiles and widths.
  • Circular saw

While it’s not absolutely necessary, you may want to match the cased opening’s trim to the other door and window trim in the room.

Tackling the Job

Whether removing an old door or starting with a new partition, there will be a framed opening in the wall that consist of vertical studs on both sides of the opening and a framed header across the top. The width of your new jamb material will depend on the thickness of the wall including the finish material on each side – a standard interior wall is 4 ½ inches thick and consists of a 3 ½ inch stud with a layer of ½ inch sheet rock on each side.

However, many older homes have thicker walls and even some newer residences may have wider walls in places to accommodate ductwork or plumbing drain lines – check your wall thickness prior to purchasing the jamb material. You want the boards to be the same width as the overall thickness of the interior wall. Most millwork shops will rip the boards to your measurements or if you have a table saw and know how to use it safely, it can be done at your home. Here’s how to build your cased opening:

  • Install the header – cut a jamb board to length to fit across the top of the opening. Hold it across the bottom of the framing header and use your level to check its alignment. Install wood shims as needed until the jamb board is level, hold it so that it’s flush on each side, and nail it in place with finish nails or a finish nailing gun.
  • Install the jamb sides – cut two jamb sides to length and after using your level to ensure they’re plumb; secure them in the same fashion as the jamb header. If you’re using finish nails, leave the heads exposed and set them later with a nail set.
  • Cut the trim – the door trim material is basically used to picture frame the opening much the same as the interior trim around your windows. Typically 1/8 to ¼ inch of the inside edge of the jamb material is left as a reveal to add a little definition to the opening so keep this in mind when measuring the trim. The bottom edge of the top piece of trim should extend about that distance from the inside surfaces of the side jamb boards. Cut the corners of the trim at a 45 degree angle using the miter box.
  • Install the trim – hold the header piece of trim in place and after ensuring the jamb reveal is the same all the way across the opening, nail it in place. Nail the side trim pieces after double checking that their alignment is correct and reveals are the same. Repeat on the other side of the opening.

If you’re planning on painting, set the nails and add a little filler, caulk all the joints in the trim and jamb boards, do a little touch up sanding, and start the first coat.

Sep 12


How to Patch a Sheetrock Hole

Whether you’re a homeowner or a tenant, at some point in your life there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have to deal with a gaping hole in the sheetrock on a wall or ceiling. It may be from a water leak, a moment of carelessness during a move, or a multitude of other reasons, but sooner or later you’re sure to have the encounter. Keep in mind that a hole isn’t a gouge or ding that can be made to disappear with a bit of spackle and a putty knife – no, this is damage that can’t be described in any other way than as a hole.

So how do you repair it other than the obvious method of hanging a picture? It’s really not that difficult for a DIYer with a little gumption.

What You’ll Need

  • Sheetrock – available from your local home improvement store
  • Utility knife – make sure it has a sharp blade
  • Measure tape
  • Level or straight edge
  • Drywall or putty knife with at least a 4 inch blade
  • Drywall mud
  • Screw gun or drill
  • Framing stud
  • Drywall tape

A little note on sheetrock: most homes have ½ inch sheetrock installed on their ceilings and walls, but if the surface in question happens to be classified as a firewall, it may have 5/8 inch thick material. It’s important that the repair be done with sheetrock the same thickness as the existing material or it may end up looking worse than the hole.

Repairing the Hole

The sheetrock in your home is secured with nails or screws to framing members in the walls and ceiling so to repair a hole, the closest studs or joists to the damage must be located. In most cases, wall studs are on 16 inch centers and ceiling joists are spaced on 24 inch centers, but depending on the age of your home, your framing could be a little different. Once you’ve located the adjacent framing to your hole:

  • Trim the sheetrock – use your level or straight edge to mark a line along the center of both adjacent framing members so that it parallels the framing. The mark should be long enough to get past all damage in the sheetrock. Using your level as a guide, and being very careful with the sharp blade, cut the rectangle of sheetrock out with the utility knife – the damaged portion of the board should be centered, or close to it, in the section being removed.
  • Install nailers – once the board section has been removed, you should be left with a square or rectangular section of missing drywall. The opening will extend over so that half of the face of the adjacent framing members is exposed, but at the top and bottom of the cutout the sheetrock will be loose. Cut your spare framing stud to fit between the two framing members at the top and bottom of the hole – a little tight is better than too loose. Tap each nailer into place so half its face is exposed, just like at the sides of the opening, and the other half is covered by the sheetrock on the wall. Toe nail or screw the nailers into place.
  • Cover the hole – use your level and utility knife to cut a piece of sheetrock to fit in the framed opening you’ve created. Nail or screw the sheetrock into place in the adjacent framing members and nailers you’ve just installed.
  • Finish the drywall – use the drywall knife to place a thin coat of drywall compound or mud over the joints in your patch and then apply a layer of tape – this is called the tape coat. Two more thin coats of compound should be applied allowing time to dry between each layer – these are called the block and skim coats.

When the skim coat has dried, sand the repair and you’re ready to paint – the hole has disappeared and no one is the wiser.

Aug 12


Home improvements are often made in a attempt to boost your Home’s value, but which improvements offer the best return of investment?

DiGiorgi Roofing and Siding’s latest home improvement article is out and we’ve created a new Infographic to celebrate. We’ve presented stats on the 10 projects that provide greatest Return on Investment (ROI) increases for home owners in a visual, concise format that could be of real interest to your visitors. We invite you to post the following graphic for your visitors, along with info on the full article.

Aug 12


Whether you’re finishing a basement and want to upgrade the existing handrail or a member of your family needs a little more assistance getting up to the top floor of your home, there may come a time when you need to install a wood handrail – fortunately it’s a very DIY-friendly project that can often be completed in one or two hours.

Wood handrails are available in all sorts of styles and wood species that can range from a simple inexpensive oval that’s perfect for the stairway down to an unfinished basement to a highly styled oak that can complement the most elegant settings. Regardless of which style you choose, the key is purchasing a handrail that’s long enough for your stairway – coming up a few stairs short in length is not a good thing!

The parts of the stairs that you need to know for your handrail installation are the riser, the tread, and the nosing. The riser is the vertical back part of each step that provides height as you go up the stairs and the tread is the flat part your shoe comes into contact with when going up or coming down. The nose or nosing is the part of the tread that extends out past the riser below it –normally it has a bull-nose or rounded shape. The rule of thumb when installing a handrail is that it should extend from the nosing of the last tread at the bottom of the stairs to the nosing of the floor or landing where the run of stairs ends at the top. Here’s what you’ll need for the installation:

  • Handrail – available from home improvement stores, millwork shops, and specialty retailers
  • Handrail brackets – available from most hardware and home improvement stores – choose the two piece type as they are much easier to install
  • Wood screws – length can vary depending on your handrail and finished wall surface
  • Tape measure
  • Level – at least four feet long
  • Drill with bits
  • Hammer

You may want to add a miter saw to the list as it’s nice to miter the ends of the handrail and add a small return, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Installing the Handrail

Just about every jurisdiction has codes that dictate how a handrail should be installed. If all you are doing is installing an interior handrail, in all likelihood you will not be getting a building inspection, but the railing should still be installed so that it meets code. While the measurements mentioned in this guide will probably work for your jurisdiction, you should still check with your local building department to be sure.

Depending on the length of your handrail, you’ll probably find the project is much easier if you can enlist an extra set of hands to provide some assistance. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Measure – if your stairway is against a wall (most are), the top of your handrail should be between 30 to 38 inches (remember to verify with your local building department). Decide what height you want to use and measure straight up from the nosing on the bottom tread and make a mark. Place your level against the nose of the tread when measuring to ensure you’re tape measure is plumb. Work your way up the stairs doing the same thing at every third or fourth tread until you reach the nosing for a landing or the top of the stair run.
  • Locate framing members – using the tap method or a small finish nail, locate the vertical framing member closest the bottom tread, but still in the stair run. Make a mark close to the anticipated height of your handrail. Hold the level between the marks already made at the nosings adjacent to your framing member and mark the stud at the exact height of the top of your handrail. Interior framing is normally 16 inches on center so you should be able to measure up from your initial framing member mark to locate other studs in the stair run – mark a stud every four feet and use your level to mark the exact height of your handrail at that mark.
  • Install brackets – handrails should be at least 1 ½ inches away from the wall to allow for fingers, but not extend into the stairway more than 4 ½ inches. If you’re using brackets specifically designed for installing handrails, they should take these measurements into account. Place one of the brackets on the underside of the handrail and measure from the top to determine at what height the brackets should be installed so that the top of the handrail is at the height you have marked. One you’ve determined a dimension, measure down from the marks you made on the framing members and secure the brackets to the wall. The brackets should be vertical – ensure that you hit framing with your screws.
  • Install the railing – cut the railing to length (top nosing to bottom nosing) and miter the ends if you wish. This involves cutting the ends at a 45 degree angle and cutting a very short piece of railing at a 45 degree angle and attaching it to the end of the handrail with finish nails. It gives a finished look to the ends. Lay the handrail on the wall brackets and after ensuring it’s in the right position, install the straps that hold it to the brackets. Drill pilot holes for the screws to avoid splitting the wood.

Check to ensure the handrail is secure to the wall and the brackets by giving it a good tug – if it doesn’t budge, your project is complete.


oak handrail — image courtesy of stairplan.co.uk

two-piece bracket — image courtesy of tools2parts.com

Jul 12

It’s a well known fact that people will often make their mind up about a property before they’ve even stepped inside, so whether you’re looking to sell your property or just want to give it a facelift, the exterior is the place to start.

One way that you can quickly, easily and cheaply give your house a revamp is by changing its exterior doors. Whatever budget you’re on, it’s now possible to buy a new front door for a relatively low cost, but sadly the most readily available front doors tend to be fairly bland and standardized. Worse still is that unless you want to spend ages slogging round antiques fairs and bric-a-brac shops in a vain attempt to find a door that fits your frames, you could quite easily end up thinking that the aforementioned bland doors are your only option.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – the good news is that it has never been easier or cheaper to buy custom built exterior doors for your home. Thanks to the internet and the recent boom in bespoke furniture, you can now design your own exterior doors with a minimum of effort, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover just what a low cost endeavor it can be.

When designing your door you’ll probably want to stick to one of the tried and trusted tropes that have been in use for centuries, such as glazed doors, paneled doors and solid doors, but if you decide you want a more exotic design then you’re only limited by your imagination. Unless it’s a front door, you’d be wise to consider a half or fully glazed design, as this will let more light into your rooms without compromising on security (provided, of course, that you choose the right kind of glass). It’s also worth noting that creating your own custom built exterior doors is especially advantageous if your property features irregular openings, as it’s going to be very hard to find ‘off the peg’ doors to fit these spaces anyway.

Once you’ve figured out what style of door you want, the next thing to consider is what material you want your door to be made from. In this case I’d always recommend going for a timber design, as it will be far more durable and secure than a plastic or polymer based door. Wooden frames will hold glass much more securely and keep burglars at bay far longer, so it really would be folly not to have at least your front door made from wood.

If you’re interested in finding out about custom made doors, then the website of a company called Parson’s Joinery is a good place to get more information and view some of the designs available.

Of course your choice of front door will largely be down to personal taste. One of the great boons for the modern door buyer is that nowadays you can cheaply create custom made doors. This means the only thing you’re really limited by is the size of the space your door has to fit in – almost everything else: materials, colors, designs, can be made to your own personal specifications. However, regardless of your own specific preferences, it’s always worth making sure that your choice of door suits the style of your property – there’s nothing more jarring than seeing a modern door on a period property or vice versa and it will instantly get visitors or potential buyers asking questions about your taste.

There are two other things you’ll also need to think about when choosing an exterior door – the level of security it offers and how weather proof it is. Again, this is where it’s advantageous to choose a custom made door, as they offer you the ability to design your door to meet your exact requirements.

Although interior doors aren’t as important in terms of making a first impression, they still play a big role in shaping the aesthetic feel of your house, and custom made doors again allow you to create pieces that perfectly suit your interior design scheme. Interior doors’ functionality in terms of retaining heat and stopping draughts is also something you should consider, as their design can add value to your property and save you valuable pound in utility bills.

Jul 12


If the hot water in your shower doesn’t seem to reach the temperature it once did or last as long, it may not be your imagination – it might be time to replace your hot water heater elements. Most traditional electric water heaters have two elements that heat the water in the tank and depending on which begins to fail, your water will either not get as hot as it should or you’ll run out of heated water very quickly when filling a bath or taking a shower.

Fortunately, changing the elements is a fairly easy DIY job and in no time at all you can be washing the project’s grime away under a stream of hot water.

A DIY Guide for Replacing the Elements in an Electric Hot Water Heater

Very rarely do both elements go bad at the same time, but they’re fairly inexpensive so it can be a good idea to replace both even if only one is failing. Why go through the whole project again in a few weeks or months? Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Turn off the power – there should be a breaker in your electrical panel marked “water heater.” Turn this breaker to the off position and make sure family members know it is to remain that way until the project is complete.
  2. Turn off the water – there should be a valve on the cold water supply line going into the water heater – turn it off.
  3. Drain the heater – there’s a drain valve near the bottom of the hot water heater tank that allows you to hook up a common garden hose. Connect a hose and depending on where your tank is located, put the other end out a window or door or down a floor drain — into a tub will also work. Open the drain valve at the tank and check that water is exiting through the hose.
  4. Remove the element covers – there should be two small panels held on by screws on the exterior of the water heater tank – these allow access to the elements and the wiring to the elements. Remove the panels and sit them and the screws aside.
  5. Electrical testing – even though there should not be any power to the elements with the breaker turned off, it’s still a good idea to use an electrical tester at the wire terminals on the ends of the elements just to be sure. An inexpensive tester that lights up if electricity is present is all that you need.
  6. Purchase new elements – examine the exposed ends of the elements to see how they are secured to the tank. Most heaters have elements that are either held on with bolts (these are called flange elements) or the entire element screws in. Purchase new elements that attach in the same fashion from your local hardware, home improvement, or plumbing supply store. They should match the voltage of the old elements and be the same or less wattage.
  7. Release the tank pressure – when you get back from getting the elements, check to see how the tank drainage is proceeding. If you have a 40 gallon or larger heater, it can take a while. Tapping on the side of the tank can give you a good idea of how much water is left – when it gets pretty low, open the pressure release lever at the top of the tank to speed things along.
  8. Replace the elements – when water finally stops coming out of the end of the hose, close the drainage valve and remove the hose. You can also close the pressure release valve at this point. Disconnect the wiring from the end of the old elements and remove them from the tank – once loose they should pull straight out, but you may have to tap gently to free them up. Install the new elements taking care to seat the new gaskets that should have come with them properly. Reconnect the wiring in the same fashion as it was on the old elements. Leave the access panels off for now.
  9. Refill the tank – check to ensure the drain valve is closed and then open the water supply valve at the top of the tank. As the tank fills, check for leaks at the new elements. If you have any leaks, turn off the water and drain enough to remove the element and reseat the gasket. When you’re sure there isn’t any water escaping, put the access panels back in place.
  10. Turn the power on – when you’re sure the tank is full, turn the breaker back on to heat the water. DO NOT do this unless the tank is full as your new elements may burn up if they aren’t covered with water.

Congratulations, you have replaced the elements in your water heater and depending on the size of your tank; there should be hot water at the faucets in 30 to 45 minutes.

Photos courtesy of plumbing.hardwarestore.com

Jul 12


A blocked toilet can range from minor inconvenience to being a major problem depending on whether it’s your only bathroom or if you have happen to have overnight guests. Regardless of where it rates on your pain in the you know what scale, the main concern with an out-of-commission fixture is usually getting it repaired as soon as possible.

While calling a professional plumber is always an option, emergency service normally isn’t cheap — especially if it’s after hours or on a holiday which for some strange reason is when most backed up toilets tend to occur. Fortunately most clogs can be fixed by the average DIYer. If I had called a plumbing contractor every time there was a blocked toilet in my house over the years, he probably could have taken an early retirement.

Using a Handheld Auger to Unclog your Toilet

Toilet plungers come in several sizes and shapes and can be used to clear minor blockages. However, for some reason my clogs never seem to be minor so I gave up on plungers many years ago. However, it’s still a good idea to keep one on hand as they’re inexpensive and might actually work for your situation.

A long time ago when my children were young and stopped up toilets were a weekly occurrence, a plumbing contractor give me a tool that quickly became worth its weight in gold: a handheld drain auger. They can vary in size, but most are about 4 feet long and have a tube that has an approximate 90 degree angle at one end and a rotating handle at the other. Extending out of the angled end is a heavy duty wire that looks like a cartoon pig’s tail. Here’s how the auger works:

  1. Turn the water off to the toilet if you haven’t already – there should be a valve where the water supply line comes out of the wall or floor.
  2. Put the angled end of the auger down into the toilet bowl so that the wire “pig’s tail” is situated in the throat of the bowl (the opening where all the water and waste disappears).
  3. The angled portion of the tube normally has a vinyl sleeve to protect the inside of your bowl from scratches, but the “pig’s tail” can still do some damage so take care when getting it situated.
  4. When the auger is in place, start rotating the handle. The “pig’s tail” and about 4 feet of heavy duty coiled wire behind it will slowly rotate its way through the throat of the toilet and into the first foot or so of the fixture’s main drainage line.
  5. When all of the wire has been extended, pull on the handle and it will retract back into the tube. On occasion you may have to rotate the handle in reverse to help the wire along.
  6. Turn the water back on and flush the toilet but keep your hand close to the valve in case the blockage isn’t totally cleared. In my experience, the auger takes care of most clogs with a single pass, but on occasion it may take two.

Handheld drain augers are sold at most home improvement and hardware stores and will take care of most common toilet blockages. If a dog should happen to drop a toy or bone into the toilet and it gets stuck in the fixture’s throat, the auger probably isn’t going to work. Don’t ask me how I know – I just do. In those cases the toilet must be pulled and the obstruction removed from the bottom of the throat, but that’s a “how-to” guide for another day.

Toilet Auger — photo courtesy rigidtools.com

Jul 12


Being smart about your use of energy at home is essential if you want to cut your energy bills. Not only that, energy efficiency reduces your carbon emission, which means that you are also doing your part in saving the environment. Be sure to incorporate these energy saving efforts in your everyday home life.

  • If you won’t be using your appliances or gadgets for a while, turn them off completely instead of putting them on stand-by. When the computer is on hibernate or the television is only turned off using the remote, it’s still using up electricity, which is a waste of energy.
  • When buying new appliances, be sure that they carry energy saving labels, which are assurances that these models produce the same result as regular appliances or gadgets without using up as much electricity.
  • Speaking of energy efficient appliances, if you are still using light bulbs around the house, replace them with CFLs, or compact fluorescent bulbs. CFLs use only a fraction of the energy burned by regular light bulb, while emitting the same radiance.
  • During the winter, home heating takes up a large percentage of the household’s costs. You can lessen your need for constantly turning up the heater by insulating your roof and walls. You should also check for and fix drafts in windows and doors.
  • In contrast, summer means high energy costs in an effort to stay cool. Remember to keep your air conditioning use to a minimum, and use ceiling or stand fans to keep air circulating around the house.
  • Always use the right sized pan when cooking so that heating it will not take twice as long and use twice as much energy. Also, cool off leftovers before putting them in the fridge, as the fridge has to work twice as hard to keep the temperature cold when you refrigerate hot food.
  • Use the washing machine only if you are doing full loads. Also, hang your clothes outside to dry instead of using a dryer.
  • Outside the house, you can save fuel by riding your bike or walking to close destinations instead of taking your car. You should also get rid of gas guzzling cars and replace them with models that are designed for fuel efficiency.

The smallest effort in conserving energy can add up to a lot in the long run, so be very conscious about where you may be wasting energy, and encourage friends and family to do the same.

Jul 12


Looking for some of the most engaging and enjoyable Home and Garden programming? These 5 shows host experts that share their knowledge and experience with viewers at home.

House Hunters

House Hunters provides one of HGTVs most successful shows. It airs every weeknight at 8:00 p.m./9:00 Central Time and deals with issues prospective home buyers deal with when attempting to find a new home. The show takes house hunters through the process of evaluating a home and deciding if the home is right for them.

Kitchen Cousins

Contractor Anthony Carrino and Design expert John Colaneri take viewers through the process of designing and building. While their main focus involves kitchen design, they also provide information and tips on general design. The show airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV.

Color Splash

This highly entertaining show introduces viewers to the concept of color and how it affects the mood of a room. David Bromstad takes viewers through the process of changing the entire atmosphere of a room simply by paying attention to the color scheme. Mood creates your reality and Color Splash shows you how on Saturdays at 9:00a.m./8:00 Central Time on HGTV.

Design Stars

Design Stars shows at 9:00a.m./8:00 Central Time on HGTV. Now in their 7th season, the show takes up and coming designers and pits them against each other to see which participants can create the best designs. The stakes are high, as the winners receive their own TV show on HGTV. Contestants are judged by professional HGTV designers Genevieve Gorder and Vern Yip.

Property Brothers

Property Brothers provides couples with the chance to buy and fix up a home with the help of their professional team. Viewers get to watch the transformation and see detailed before and after video, as well as watch the process of fixing up a home that less risk-taking couples would pass on. The process begins with finding a home, buying it and then turning it into the couples dream home. The tagline for the show is “Sell,” “ReImagine” and “Renovate.” The show airs Wednesdays at 9:00a.m./8:00 Central Time on HGTV.

Jun 12

Tips For Decorating Your Home

Buying a new home is an exciting experience. Whether it is your first new home or you are simply making a change, it is a fresh start and an opportunity for something brand new. It would be easy to bring your current decorations and accessories with you, but it is far more fun to create some brand new character in your new home. There are lots of ways to decorate your new home without spending a lot of money or even needing a building permit.

The Kitchen

Home Depot Kitchen
Image from HomeDepot.com

Assuming your kitchen appliances, cabinets, walls, and floor are already what you want, you can create a new look with some simple accessories. You can add a country detail by matting and framing seed packets from your local garden center. Hang them in a neat array or scatter them about the room. Floral dishes and matching curtains and dish towels will continue the effect. You may choose one or two colors to create a theme or use many different colors for a bright, happy kitchen.

The Dining Room

Image from EthanAllen.com

Even if your new dining room is small, you will want it to be something special; after all, your family will likely spend time here almost every day. You may treat it as an extension of your kitchen, continuing the theme you have chosen, or you can make it a room of its own. A modern glass top table is accented with a shimmery candle centerpiece; for something more traditional, you may choose solid wood furniture and simple sconces on the wall. Dining room chair slip covers make great decorative accents that can be changed seasonally so you can have a new look whenever you like.

The Living Room

Lowes living room
Image from Lowes.com

Once upon a time, the living room was kept pristine for the sake of entertaining guests. Today, the living room is truly a living space. As you decide how to decorate it, you must first decide how the room will be used. Is this a place to watch sports on the weekends, curl up with a great book, or play board games with the kids? Your answer will decide the slant you will take with your decor. A room centered around the television will benefit from a large entertainment center where you can display your DVDs, sports memorabilia, and the like. A room that is used more for a den will look beautiful with book shelves full of your favorite classics, and shelves on the bottom reserved for your family’s favorite games.

The Powder Room

Power Room from the Dutch Boy
Image from dutchboy.com

Your powder room or primary bathroom is used every day, by family and often by guests. You want it to be warm and inviting. Soft colors and framed art dress up the walls, while coordinating guest towels look great against the painted or tiled walls. The rug should match the colors of the towels and the colors in your artwork; framed art may be whimsical, cute, or classic. Finish the decor with simple curtains that do not overwhelm the room but are effective in granting privacy.

Visit the California Apartments Blog for additional interior decorating tips as well as new home reviews such as these Taylor Morrison homes and these new homes in Palm Beach.