Archive for February, 2011

Tire Performance

the right tires for your carGood tires will perform well in all kinds of conditions, snow , rain, hot pavement, gravel roads and sandy beaches. In fact, your tires actually give you much more comfort than many people realize. Good tires that are properly inflated and balanced along with the suspension system absorb  the bumps and potholes on the road providing you with a smooth ride at slow as well as high speeds. The tire performance is optimized when you they are balanced and inflated to the correct tire pressure.

With this in mind, it is important that you do take good care of your tires. In fact, you would not want to be driving a car that has worn out tires on it since it would be unsafe in many different situations, rain, snow and ice to name three.

Bald tires do not provide sufficient traction in these conditions and they are also more prone to blowouts. Aside from this, your chances of meeting a flat tire or having one of your tires blow up increase as the tread is worn down. Taking care of tires is important and relatively easy.

Tire Performance – Maintain Your Tires

There are four things that must be done to maintain your tires:

  • Proper inflation
  • Balance
  • Tire rotation
  • Alignment

Proper Inflation

At least once a month, you should check the tire pressure. All tires should be checked. To be sure that you have put in the right amount of pressure, check your car owner’s manual to confirm the proper pressure level. You may also find the information regarding this stamped on the side of the tire or on the information plate on the door jam. Make sure that you do not under inflate them or over inflate them. Both can cause premature tire wear.


While driving, if you notice that your car is pulling in one direction even if you are driving on a straight road, then would be the time to have the wheels aligned. By having the car aligned, you are driving much safely and you also are lessening the pressure on the tires thus making them last longer.When the car pulls to one side or the other, the tires are also wearing on one side, which will prematurely cause them to wear out.

Balance Your Wheels

You should also have the wheels checked and balanced if you  feel continuous  vibrations while driving at certain speeds. This is cause by the wheels not being properly balanced and can cause them to wear more quickly. While they are being balanced you should also have the tires rotated on your car to take advantage of different wear patterns on each side of the car.

Tire Rotation

Check your car’s manual for proper instructions concerning when to rotate your tires and the method of rotation. This will help to ensure that your tires will last longer and wear evenly across all four tires.

Your cars tire performance can be maximized if you take care of them following these steps mentioned above. Every tire has an expected life span and mileage expectation. You will only achieve the advertised amount of mileage if you maintain your tires at the optimal level all of the time, other wise they will wear faster than they should.

If you have comments on tire performance, on maintaining your tires etc, please feel free to leave comments. Our readers will appreciate your input. For more information on tire performance, click here.


Frozen Pipes

Frozen PipesIn our last post we talked about ,” Turning the Heat off  While on Vacation”. Frozen pipes can occur when you turn the heat down and it gets too cold outside causing potential frozen pipes as shown in this picture. If you have uninsulated water pipes on the outside wall you risk these pipes freezing in cold weather, however they can also occur for many other reasons as well. Many new homes have fresh air intakes that are required for today’s HVAC systems. If this fresh air intake is too close to any of your water pipes , they can freeze during very cold weather. By redirecting the make-up air inlet down to the floor, you can provide some pipe freezing protection.

Frozen Pipes can cause thousands of dollars in damage, from leaking water once they thaw out , not to mention the frustration of not having running water due to frozen pipes. Many of the northern states and all of Canada can have very cold weather during the winter, so if you do not pay attention to this issue of potentially freezing pipes you can have a huge expensive problem on your hands.

Frozen Pipes – Shut the Main Water Valve Off

If the pipes are already frozen and leaking you need to shut the main water valve off to prevent additional water leaking from the pipes.  If the pipes have not yet frozen, but are in danger of freezing make sure you know were the shut off valve is and have the name of a plumber you can call if there is a leak unless you can fix this problem yourself.

Remove all of your possessions that could get wet from the area to avoid any damage to them if there is a leak from the pipe bursting under the pressure of the ice in the pipes.

Next you need to deal with this fresh air vent. Do not plug this vent since that is what is providing you with fresh air in your home and avoids all kinds of issues including carbon monoxide build up in your home.

This fresh-air intake pipe is mission critical in today’s newer homes. It provides makeup air for ventilation fans, combustion air for some appliances, and it may be providing air for a traditional masonry fireplace.

Without a make-up air or fresh-air intake, you can have dangerous back drafting of exhaust gases from your fuel-burning appliances. Whatever you do, don’t block this mission-critical pipe.

Direct the air coming from the intake away from your water pipes. You may have to move the pipe or even add an extension on to it to take the air away from the vicinity of the water pipes. Even a deflector to deflect the cold air away from the pipes as it enters your home, will help in an emergency.

Thawing the Frozen Pipes

You can now start to thaw the frozen pipes. Do not use a torch. You can place  damp towels in a microwave oven and heat them up just like flight attendants do for all those pampered passengers who fly first class on airplanes. Wrap the pipes with these steaming hot towels to start thawing the frozen pipes. It will probably take repeated heating in the microwave for the towels to thaw the pipes.

Another approach is to place an electric space heater in the room were the pipes are frozen and warm up that room. This will take some time as well, but will gradually relieve the pressure on the pipes. Combining the hot towels and the space heater may make this a quicker job.

Consumers have also use hair dryers with the blower directed at the frozen pipe to thaw them out. Remember once the water begins to flow the water will melt the rest of the ice in the pipe.

Avoiding Future Problems with Frozen Pipes

Unless you provide some kind of permanent solution to this problem, it is quite likely that you will have frozen pipes again the next time it gets really cold outside. Some people have been forced to let the water run at a trickle so that there is always water moving in the pipes to keep them from freezing. This is a good short term solution, but not a long term one.

You may need to consider one or all of the following solutions to avoid this problem in the future:

  • Move the end of the fresh air intake away from the water pipes
  • Extend the end of the fresh air intake to the bottom of the floor
  • Insulate the water pipes in this room
  • Place a hot air duct in this room, and open it when the weather is cold
  • Place an electric space heater in the room and run it when the weather is cold
  • Move the water pipes to another area

Comments are welcome. Any comments that help our readers with this issue will be appreciated and displayed on this post.

Hardwood Floor Installation

Hardwood Floor InstallationHardwood flooring is increasing in popularity. It is one of the most durable choices compared to carpeting. With current prices, hardwood flooring is very competitive compared to wall to wall carpeting which has really become passe. Hardwood Floor Installation is easy with a few basic carpentry skills. Installing a hardwood floor is a relatively easy do-it-yourself project, however stairs can be more challenging, even for the best carpenters.  Many people will opt for carpet on the stairs to avoid additional expense and concerns about slipping on the hardwood flooring on the stairs. A prefinished hardwood floor has a better finish and there is less work involved installing a hardwood floor.

Hardwood Floor Installation

The materials and tools that you will need are as follows. (note that you can also rent the tools you do not have at many of your local home improvement stores.)

  • Hardwood flooring
  • Staple gun
  • Vapor barrier paper
  • Variable speed drill and assorted drill bits
  • Hammer
  • Chalk line
  • Tape measure
  • Pry bar
  • Pneumatic Flooring Package (air compressor and hose, nail gun, mallet and staples)Chop saw
  • Table saw
  • Nail set
  • Hardwood flooring wood putty
  • Earplugs and safety goggles

The steps for hardwood floor installation are as follows:

  • Select the hardwood species and the board widths for the room you will be working in.
  • Measure the width and length of the room and calculate the square footage. Allow 10-15 percent extra for irregular boards and any cutting mistakes.
  • The sub-floor minimum requirements are a 3/4″ plywood sub-floor. Eliminate squeaks by screwing a long drywall screw into the sub-floor and joist where the squeak occurs. Remove all molding from the room and vacuum and clean thoroughly.
  • Roll out strips of vapor barrier paper, allowing at least a 4″ overlap and staple securely to the sub-floor. We used a 15 pound tar paper or felt. In climates were there is a basement, the vapor barrier is usually not required.
  • Begin the installation at the longest unobstructed wall. Remove the shoe molding and snap a chalk line 3/8″ out from the baseboard to allow for expansion in the hot, humid weather and contraction in the colder, drier weather of the hardwood flooring.
  • Begin by selecting a long board to start the first row. Pick one that is straight. Align the edge of the board with the chalk line and drill pilot holes down through the hardwood plank and into the sub-floor and joist. Face-nail each board at the point of every joist and set the nail with a nail-set. Face-nail the entire first row and remember to keep the board lengths random. It is important to face-nail the first row because you can’t get the pneumatic nail down in there, it will hit the wall and the force would push the wood against the baseboard and you would lose your 3/8″ expansion and contraction.
  • It is important the lay the first boards perpendicular to the joist which are underneath. That is important because you want to get a nice solid anchor. You can look at the sub floor to see which way the nails and seams run. You might be able to go underneath your crawl space or into your basement to see how they run.
  • After the first few rows have been installed, drill pilot holes down into the tongue of each board and hand-nail the rolls until there is enough clearance for the pneumatic nail gun.

(continue reading…)

Dealing with a Flat Tire

Flat TireDealing with a flat tire can be a troublesome event if you are not prepared. When your car’s tire goes flat, this kind of situation should not be a problem for you as long as you are properly prepared. After all, most cars already come with spare tires and a jack, along with other odds and ends that would help you facilitate changing your tires in no time at all. If you are uncomfortable with changing a tire or calling a friend, calling CAA in Canada or AAA in the US as long as you are a member will lessen the task for you.

Dealing with a Flat Tire Yourself

For some it might even be appropriate to try changing their tire when it is still inflated and under perfect conditions as a test run, so that you know how to change the tires. A neighbor had to call his oldest son to come and help him one night at 2 in the morning, because he could not figure out how to change the tire on his car.

There are proper ways to change a tire. Always make sure that you are doing so with safety in mind. To change a tire or a couple of tires, park your car first in an area where the ground is level. This helps to lessen the chance of the car rolling forward or backwards off the jack. Always place  parking brake on before you do any work at all. If your car is equipped with a manual transmission system, place it in gear. Always turn off your engine for there is no need for it to be turned on and running.

However, if you have no choice and have to park in an area where there is an incline, put a huge rock or a wheel chock beneath the opposing wheel so that you would not find your car rolling down the incline.

In fact whether you are on an incline or not, it is always a good idea to block the wheels if you can to stop the vehicle from moving for any reason. Also make sure you are well away from traffic so you can change the tire safely.

Changing Your Flat Tire

Remove  your spare tire as well as a tire iron and the jack from the trunk. Remove the hub cap if there is one. Then, loosen the lug nuts on your wheel while the wheel is still touching the ground. Do this before you jack up your car. Make sure that you loosen each and every lug nut that connects your tire to the wheel without unscrewing them completely. As long as the lug nuts are loosened up and not unscrewed completely, there is no chance that the wheel can come off by accident.

Following the instructions in your cars manual, place the jack in the proper location and  start jacking up your vehicle. Although we are repeating this point again, it is one of the most important things you should do –  check your car owner’s manual for the specifics on the location as per where you should put your jack.

When you jack your car, make sure that you raise your car a little higher than needed so that you can not only remove the old flat tire but you can also install the new inflated tire.

Once the car has been jacked up,  unscrew completely all of the lug nuts. Remove the flat tire and place it to the side. Roll your new tire into position and mount it on the lug bolts. Then, place back the lug nuts and tighten them up as tightly as possible without turning the wheel.

Now lower the jack until the wheel is contact with the ground but not bearing the full weight of the car. Tighten the lug nuts one more time and then lower the jack completely and remove it. If you have a hub cap, you can now put it back on.

Repair Your Tires Immediately

We suggest that you have your spare tire repaired as soon as possible, since you never know when you might have another flat tire. Also check the inflation on the spare tire as soon as possible since most tires will lose a little bit of air over time.

We are glad to receive comments from our readers and suggestions about dealing with flat tires. For more safe driving ideas, click here.


Turning the Heat off While on Vacation

Turning the Heat off While on VacationWinter time is a great time to take a vacation. Get away from the cold weather and snow to somewhere sunny and warm.  Most people are really excited about their vacation and forget to think about their homes while they are away. One person I know left for two months without considering what would happen if the furnace stopped working. The heat system stopped working and the pipes froze while he was away.  The bill for repairs cost him $95,000 to have the repairs completed for water damage from cracked frozen water pipes. Turning the Heat off While on Vacation was very expensive for my friend.

Never Turn Your Furnace Off

For the record you should never turn your furnace off While on Vacation. You may want to turn the thermostat down while you are away to save money and reduce your heating costs.

Most people will turn down the thermostat in their homes when they are away for an extended period.  With the cost of heating fuel these days it is becoming more important to do this to save money and reduce your heating and electrical bills. The question is what temperature should you set the thermostat to while you are away? The answer really depends on a number of things.

  • Do you have plants
  • How long are you going
  • Do you have pets that will be at home
  • How cold does it get outside
  • Are there water pipes along exterior walls that might freeze
  • What does your insurance company require

Consider Your Pets

If you have pets, you probably want to maintain the temperature at a level they are used to. Otherwise they will suffer needlessly during cold evenings and nights. Some plants may also not do well if the home is too cold.

If you are planning to leave for more than a few days on vacation or a business trip there are a number of items to think about before you go so that you will not have to deal with a catastrophe when you return. We all want to save money, but there are some things that we just cannot avoid, otherwise the cost could be much greater than what we are saving. Here is a partial list of items to consider. For a more complete list click here.

We put together a brief checklist of items that you may want to consider before leaving your home empty while on vacation.

  • Call your insurance company to confirm what they require to maintain your insurance. Many will not approve your claim unless you are following their guidelines.
  • Turn the water off before you go. Even if the furnace  is off and your pipes do freeze there will be far less damage to your home.
  • Turn down the thermostat to a reasonable level. We turn ours down to 60F or 17C, while other people are even more aggressive turning the thermostat down even lower.
  • Unplug all TV’s , radios, etc so that your electricity bill is minimized while you are away
  • Set lights on timers so that passersby will think someone is at home
  • Arrange for someone to clear the snow off the driveway while you are away
  • Have someone to pick up the mail and look after pets if you have pets
  • Arrange for someone to check on the house on a regular basis following the guidelines of your insurance company

Smart Meters

More and more people are also installing smart thermostats which allow them to control the temperature of their home remotely. For some this is a great invention which allows them to monitor the temperature and remotely set it to correspond with colder or warmer outdoor temperatures.

You can also check out a more comprehensive website by clicking here to review a full list of do’s and don’ts. Our travel web site as well has a list of steps to consider if you are moving to another country or going on a longer vacation.

We appreciate comments and suggestions about this topic. You can save money by reducing the heat while you are gone on vacation, however it pays to be smart about it and avoid larger expenses by not going overboard!


Apple iPhone 4

Stolen iPhones and SecurityThis weeks Cell Phone Review is the ” Apple iPhone 4″ offered by AT&T, Bell, Rogers and other wireless carriers throughout the United States and Canada. While this is an older iPhone, they are up to 7 now with 8 on the horizon, many people still use this iPhone.
With the iPhone 4, Apple again shows that it is a powerful player in the smartphone wars. It won’t be for everyone, the call quality and reception vary if you don’t use a case, and AT&T’s network remains a sticking point for US users, but the handset’s striking design, loaded feature set, and generally agreeable performance make it the best iPhone yet and a leader in the smart phone wars.

The issues with call reception and call dropping seem to have gone away. Users now know how to hold the device and they also know that they should invest in a case which not only helps with call reception / dropping, the case also protects the device as well. Overall a good investment. These are sought after devices and in the writer’s opinion is the best smart phone on the market. However that being said, it may not satisfy everyone’s need. If your prefer the tactile feel of regular keyboard, then the Apple iPhone 4 will not meet your needs. Once you get used to the on screen keyboard, I have found that you can actually type as fast if not faster than with other more tactile keyboards.

Apple iPhone 4

Price Range: is listed as $299.99, however if you sign a contract, you can get it for a lower price, so negotiate. If you want to buy it outright, it is probably going to cost you in the neighborhood of $700.00


  • Candy bar design with internal antenna
  • Polyphonic ringer,
  • Voice dialing,
  • Call timer
  • Conference calling
  • Voice recorder
  • Caller ID
  • Speakerphone
  • Video editor, multitasking, integrated digital compass
  • 32 G of memory
  • SMS, Skype, email, POP2 , IMAP4, GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA
  • Internet browser
  • App store, Itunes, video calling
  • Supports MS Excell, Word and PDF
  • Download iBooks, Audio files, Video files, Games, iTunes music
  • 5 megapixel camera, auto focus, Video recorder and GEO Tagging
  • GPS maps and compass
  • Alarm clock, calendar, reminder, calculator
  • LCD display, 900*640 pixels, scratch resistant glass with retina display
  • Digital player – Apple Lossless, WAV, MP3, AIFF , AAC
  • 1 x Headset jack – Mini-phone 3.5 mm, 1 x Dock connector – 30 pin dock connector, USB cable
  • Lithium Ion battery
  • Talk time – Up to 840 min (2G), Up to 420 min (3G)

The Good: The iPhone 4 offers enhanced performance, a lovely new display, and an improved design. It also adds a ton of sorely needed features, both by itself and through the iOS 4 update.

The Bad: Multitasking entails some trade-offs, and home screen folders are limited to 12 apps. AT&T reception continues to be spotty, and you’ll need a case for the best calling reception. Also, we’d prefer a 64GB model.

From Reviews:

Display: LCD display, 900*640 pixels, scratch resistant glass with retina display

Keyboard: Built in Qwerty keyboard on screen

Audio Playback: Digital player – Apple Lossless, WAV, MP3, AIFF , AAC

Video Playback: Digital player – Apple Lossless, WAV, MP3, AIFF , AAC

Capacity: 32 G memory

Connectors: 1 x Headset jack – Mini-phone 3.5 mm, 1 x Dock connector – 30 pin dock connector, USB cable

Accessories: 1 x Headset jack – Mini-phone 3.5 mm, 1 x Dock connector – 30 pin dock connector, USB cable and many 3rd party accessories

Sensors: GPS & Maps

Headphones: 1 x Headset jack – Mini-phone 3.5 mm,

Size & Weight: 2.31 inches wide, .37 inches thick and 4.5 inches high weighing in at 4.8 oz’s

Colors: Black

External Buttons & Controls: Most are on screen, however there are volume, power buttons on the sides

Cellular & Wireless: WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM in the following bands WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900

Power & Battery: Lithium Ion battery, Talk time – Up to 840 min (2G), Up to 420 min (3G)

Languages: Multi language support

For more information about Apple iPhones, click here.



Installing Prefinished Hardwood Floors

Installing Prefinished Hardwood FloorsInstalling a prefinished hardwood floor is probably one of the easiest things to do compared to previous years. Most flooring companies offer professional installers to install their product. They also provide training to their customers if they plan to do the installation of the hardwood floor themselves. It might take you a bit longer. You will need some additional tools which you can rent or buy. However you will have the pleasure of doing it yourself and the pride that goes along with it. In addition you will also save some money as well. Originally installing a hardwood floor had multiple steps:

  • First install the hardwood
  • Then sand and finish the hardwood to create the shiny look and feel
  • Add varnish or verathane to protect the wood and give it a finished look.

This was a great deal of work and there was dust from sanding everywhere in the home. Today, in fact prefinished hardwood floors are by far the majority of flooring that is installed. There is still dust created from cutting the pieces to fit and from nailing onto the existing floor. However the dust is much reduced compared to sanding a hardwood floor. Most installers who are refinishing hardwood floors will now use dustless sanders.

hardwood floor installationProfessional Installation of Your Hardwood Floor

Whether you install the prefinished hardwood floor yourself or have a professional install it, you can start in the morning and have your furniture in place in the evening. That’s how quickly and efficient the flooring is for consumers who want to install hardwood flooring. Add corner round to the walls to finished it off and paint the corner round to match your walls or furniture and you have a new floor that will last for many years.

If you are doing the installation yourself, chances are that you will be slower than a professional, so it may take a few days to finished the job. You will also have to purchase or rent a few tools including a hardwood floor nailer which makes the job much easier.

Customize Your Color and Wood

Another major advantage of prefinished hardwood floors is that there are multiple colors and stains that can be purchased. Choose something that matches your decor that will last the test of time with regard to interior design fashion and furniture selection. In addition, consumers can be confident of a consistent color or stain across their entire prefinished hardwood floor, however be sure to select your wood from the same dye lot when you make your purchase and also purchase sufficient wood for the entire job. Different dye lots can have slightly different colors and stains.

The hardwood also comes in a variety of sizes as well as types of wood. Chose narrow planks or wider planks depending on the design you are trying to create.

Dealing with Dust

Although prefinished hardwood floor material can be purchased and installed ready to use quickly, there is one area that many people may not realize that they need to be prepared for.

Installing prefinshed hardwood flooring in a new a house is not a problem. All dust, shavings etc will be cleaned up before you move in. Unfortunately if you are installing flooring into an existing home, all of the dust from the time your home was constructed and also while you have been living in your home will be stirred up and find its way into everything. Even if you remove the carpet, sweep , vacuum several times there still seems to be a lot of dust that gets disturbed and lands on everything. Be prepared for a major dusting after you are finished.

Consumers should remove as much as possible before hand. No matter how much you vacuum, there still will be dust clouds as the floor is being laid. Still, in the end, you will love your prefinished hardwood floor. When it is finished and the house is back to normal most consumers feel it was worth it!

We have had hardwood flooring in our home now for 10 years. It still looks as good as new and we could never go back to carpet! For more information on Hardwood floor installation, click here.



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