Prevent a Clogged Drain

One of the biggest headaches we all face is first thing in the morning when we are just waking up in a nice hot shower.  By the end of it, you are standing in a few inches of water.  It’s a clogged drain.  And no one likes a clogged drain.

It’s always been my belief that the best thing you could do is prevent a problem before it manifests.  And prevention can end up saving a lot of money by not having to hire a plumber to come and fix your drain.

The first and most obvious is to make sure nothing goes down the drain that isn’t supposed to go down the drain.  This goes for hair, shavings, and even soap.  You may think that the soap will eventually disintegrate as water passes over it; however, the soap doesn’t disintegrate fast enough.  Over time, you keep dropped slivers of soap down the drain and then it starts to build up.  What you can do is  have a strainer installed under the drain to catch anything that gets into the drain, making it super simple to clear any “clogs”.

About once every month, you should take a kettle of boiling water and pour it down the drain.  This will loosen and remove any build up of grease and gunk from body oils.  If done often enough, this can prevent any build up from causing a problem in the future.

Once every 3 months, you can pour half of a cup of baking soda in the drain followed by a slow pour of half of a cup of vinegar.  This mixture needs to sit for about 10 minutes before being rinsed with hot water for 3-4 minutes.  This should keep your drains unclogged and flowing freely for a long time.

If you follow these few recommendations, you should rarely, if ever, have to contact a plumber to fix any of your drains.

Lay Edging Around a Tree

When it comes to keeping your lawn looking nice, you typically mow it at regular intervals.  If you have trees planted in your lawn, you may run into issues when it comes to mowing around them.  You need to be careful because edging and mowing around a tree, especially when it’s young, can cause serious injuries and even kill it.

brick edgingTo prevent damage to the tree, it is recommended to lay down edging around the tree, often with brick.  Adding a brick edge around the tree not only protects it from your equipment, but it also can add a look of sophistication to your lawn.  If you continue with a similar pattern around every tree and garden area, your lawn can come together quite nicely.

You want to start by running a hose on the ground around the tree.  You can use landscape paint on the hose to create a border and outline for the edging.  You can decide what shape you would like, though circles are most common.

Once the outline is set, you want to remove the grass inside the border.  You need to be careful as to not disturb the roots of the tree.  You may need to remove the sod to permanently remove the grass.Once the grass is removed, you should start to dig around the tree along the outline.  The size of the trench will depend on the size of your bricks.  A good estimate is that the width of the trench should be roughly 1.5x the size of the brick.  It is recommended to dig about 3-4 inches deep (again, this depends on the size of the bricks) and make sure the sides of the trench are straight.  Once the trench is dug, you need to pack down the dirt at the bottom.Next comes the spacing of the bricks.  There are several ideas and methods mentioned to create the proper spacing, but it all depends on your final goal and what you want your edging to look like.  Typically, it’s easiest to lay one brick down, and start to fit them around the trench, each brick touching the previous brick, to complete the circle.  You may have to make adjustments depending on the look you are aiming for as well as to ensure that spacing is even throughout.Once you have the bricks down, each one should be tapped gently into place in the soil with a rubber mallet.  The bricks only need to settle a little bit for them to hold.The area around the bricks should now be filled in with the soil you removed to originally dig the trench.  The soil needs to be firmly packed in, but make sure that you aren’t adding so much soil that none of the brick shows.The interior of the edging needs to be filled in.  It is recommended to use mulch around the tree inside the edging.  If any of the tree’s roots were exposed, you want to slowly add mulch inside the edging over the next few weeks.  The roots need to resettle and adding too much mulch can harm the tree.After everything is complete, you can add to your edging design.  Some people will add another layer or two of brick, often staggered.  Others leave it as is.  It really is up to you.If you would prefer to have someone else do the dirty work, you can always contact a landscaper such as Natural Wonders Landscaping.

Outdoor Lighting

When someone visits your home, the outside is always the first thing they see.  To add curb appeal to your home as well as give it an aesthetic overhaul, you can install some outdoor lighting.  Outdoor lighting can range from simple to complex, but either way your home will never look the same.

The first steps to getting your home lit up in the night is to decide on a design plan for your home.  You need to decide on the types of fixtures, what you want to shine a light on, and where you can actually install the lights.

You need to start by deciding on what types of fixtures you want to use.  The available fixtures for your outdoor lighting needs include: spot lights, step lights, pathway lights, and more.

Spotlights provide a wide area of light that is often very bright.  If there are certain areas you need lit up for any specific reason, a spot light is the simplest method to do so.  They can be installed in almost any location, can be directed in many directions, and typically only require minimal power to function.  Many spotlights are actually used with motion sensors to add safety and security to the home.

solar path lightsWhen it comes to path lights, it’s important to look at the different types.  Many people go with solar lights because they are inexpensive and super easy to install.  For installation, you power them “on” and drive them into the ground where you want them.  When they are “on”, they charge during the day and actually light up at night once the sunlight threshold is low enough.  The downside to solar lights is that they can either not power through the entire night (depending on the charge) and they are not the brightest of lights.

If you are looking for a brighter option in path lights, there are many options available that require a run of power.  The cabling is easy enough to install as you dig a small trench, place the cable in, and cover it back up.  The cabling here is designed to withstand outdoor temperatures and weather.  With this design, the lights are completely controlled by you, either by switch or by timer.  These lights are also brighter as they are not running off of a rechargeable battery through the night.

Regardless of your choice in path lights, the idea is to outline a safe walkway with the lights.  Though they can be used in other aesthetic regards, typically they are for shining a light through safety.

step lightsStep lights provide a similar function as path lights.  These lights are installed on any steps and give you a clear indication of where the steps are so you can avoid any unnecessary trips or spills.  There are several options for step lights.  You typically either see them on the back side of each step or along the wall leading up the set of stairs.  Either method requires a little more work than your path lights.

To install step lights, you may have to get a little inventive depending on your steps.  If your steps are wood, you can easily carve out sections to run and hold the lights so they can sit flush with the steps.  You will be able to run the cabling on the backside of the steps with little problems.  If your steps are made of stone or any other harder material, you may have to get a little creative.  Either you will need drill through the material, in which case, it’s as simple as wood steps, or you can run the cabling on the outside of the steps.  If you decide to run the cabling on the outside, just ensure that they are either well-hidden or tacked down so no one can trip on them.  You can also find a runner that will hide the cable for you while blending in with the steps.

There are many other options to help improve the look of your home.  You can purchase uplights to place around your deck or patio.  These lights, as their name suggests, shine light in an upward direction.  Some provide color gels so you can alter the color of the light.  When placed against a surface or a yard feature such as a fountain, the look can be incredible.

deck lightsThere are also options for deck and patio lighting.  Some of these lights will run around a railing while other will hang from an awning.  Either way, the installation is relatively simple.  It’s going to be similar to running a string of lights around the area you want lit up.

Now, there are also some lighting options that I would not recommend you try yourself.  These would include in-pool lighting, any lighting that will be installed directly into your patio/deck floor, any large lighting design that requires its own power source (you will need an electrician for this, anyway).

Adding some light to your home can be a simple job.  Sometimes it’s just easier to hire someone else to do it, especially if any lighting is going on the roof or hanging from your eaves.  Anything that can pose a risk of injury, I would recommend leaving to the professionals.  If you are looking to hire someone, my recommendation goes to Outdoor Comforts, providers of outdoor lighting in Houston, TX.  These guys have done some amazing work and have recently expanded.  They also have you covered if you are looking for outdoor lighting in San Antonio, TX.

Cleaning Grout

We’re going to start off with a simple “fix” you can perform around your home which will undoubtedly improve the look of your walls or floors.  Of course, this only works if you are using tiles somewhere in your home and the grout in between the tiles has started to discolor or become dirty.

nice clean groutThere are a few steps you should attempt prior to fully replacing the grout.  The first is very simple, though it can be a bit of work depending on the area your tile covers.

What you want to do is take a small piece of sandpaper and fold it in half.  You then want to run the sandpaper back and forth along the grout lines to remove any and all stains that are simply on the surface of the grout.  You can also try to use a pencil eraser, though sandpaper is often more effective.

If you are unsuccessful with sandpaper, you can purchase some grout cleaner from your local hardware store.  If you prefer to save a little money, you can make your own mixture with bleach and water.

When working with the cleaner or the mixture, you want to make sure you are wearing protective gear including goggles and gloves.  The cleaner needs to be sprayed or poured on to the grout and then worked around, usually with a toothbrush.

If you are still unsuccessful in cleaning your grout with sandpaper or grout cleaner, it may be time to move on and just replace the grout.  We will be touching upon a DIY grout installation soon and will link to that once we complete it.