Archive for July, 2014

Asphalt Driveway Repair

Asphalt Driveway RepairThe picture on the left shows the final result of a driveway repair involving patio stones as well as asphalt. Basically the old asphalt was cut out in a half moon shape up to about 5 feet from the garage. A strip down both sides was also cut out. Then the existing base was compacted. More stone was added to fill in the gap needed to bring the top of the patio stones even with the garage floor. We also removed the old drain pipe. We installed one of these roll out – roll up devices that stays hidden until it rains. This was done to protect the new brick and get the water as far away from the foundation as possible.

We hope that this will prevent or at the least slow down any further sink-age near the garage entrance which is what triggered this asphalt driveway repair in the first place.

Asphalt Driveway Repair – Why Not Excavate

Most contractors will excavate the entire driveway, refill with the proper stone mix and compact it down to a minimum of 18 inches. Then the new covering is installed over top of this base using either asphalt, patio stones or a combination of both. They do this to protect themselves from call backs to potential problems which may or may not occur. They have no idea what the base is like and want to ensure that they replace any existing problems with new material.

In our case we chose to not follow this approach for several reasons. One was overall cost. We saved between $6,500 to $4,000 by taking this approach. The base is already fully compacted, the existing asphalt was in good condition with no cracks or porous locations. We added crushed stone where needed, compacted and then added the patio stone in the design we had planned. The result is shown in the picture above.  This solution was augmented by then sealing the asphalt using a high quality sealer, which makes it look almost new.

Asphalt Driveway Repair – How Long Will it Last

While this solution may not last as long as a new driveway with new asphalt will last, it is certainly good for another 10 years or so. This is great for us and we saved a great deal of money by taking this approach. In addition the work was completed by the home owner providing another huge savings. The savings in labor cost along are significant and the homeowner already had the pavers from a previous job.

The original reason for doing this job was that the asphalt had sunk about 3 inches near the garage. This may happen again over time with or without new compaction. If it does sink, all we have to do is remove the pavers, add more crushed stone, compact it and replace the stone! A straightforward simple and inexpensive job.


Samsung Cell Phone Causes Fire Under Pillow

Young teen sleeps with her phone under her pillow and wakes to smoke as smoldering cell phone starts a fire! This is what happened to one teen. The picture shows the damage caused by the phone to the teen’s pillow. This was something that they sure did not expect to wake up to. Can you imagine this situation happening to you!

The whole phone melted,” her father, Thomas, added. “The plastic, the glass. You can’t even really tell that it was a phone”.  There is not much left of this phone. The family is thankful it is just a damaged pillow and not a lot more serious!

Samsung Cell Phone on Fire

The family contacted the news, and then Samsung, who pointed out that the battery inside the phone was in fact a replacement and not an original Samsung unit. They also pointed out that the phone’s user guide advises against such an action, noting that covering a device with bedding or other material can restrict airflow and start a fire. Who reads the instructions or the warnings that come with the phone. We are generally so excited to use our new phones that we ignore all of these instructions.

The Tolfrees, though, did not read that warning. (And let’s be honest – when’s the last time you read through the complete instructions to any electronic device you purchased?) “If anything, they should put a big warning on it, like a cigarette label, if that’s the case,” Thomas said.

Samsung has requested the burnt phone be sent to them for a post-mortem, and they are providing the Tolfrees with a replacement device, as well as fresh bedding and a new mattress and pillow.

Looks like the Phone Fairy came after all. This is a story that could have been much worse. Both the family as well as Samsung are really lucky that they did not have to deal with something much worse than what happened.

Samsung Cell Phone – Getting Enough Sleep

In a related story, many people are also losing sleep because they take their cell phones to bed with them. They want to stay in touch. If someone sends them a message in the middle of the night they can react to the message. Personally the writer takes his phone to bed. It stays on the night table and is used as an alarm clock. The setting for privacy is set from 10pm to 7 pm. There are no beeps or alerts during that time regardless of what messages or alerts come in.

We should say that this is common to all cell phones not just Samsung Cell Phones. If your phone does not have a privacy setting, then you are really better off to leave it down stairs away from the bedroom so that you can get a good nights sleep. Too many people are getting up in the morning not rested and not performing well during the day as a result.

Teens can be especially affected because they need a lot of sleep as their bodies are adjusting to adulthood. Parents you may want to speak with your teens or remove the phone at night so that they can get the sleep they need to have. Even school results can be impacted due to lack of sleep.

For more information about cell phone safety and cell phone insurance, click here.


Sunken Asphalt Driveway Repair

Sunken Asphalt Driveway RepairOur asphalt driveway had sunk about three inches at the garage door entrance. Not only was this unsightly, it was also awkward each time we drove the car in over it. This was also now a low spot and water ran towards the house instead of away from it creating a potential drainage problem and possible leaks into the basement. Something had to be done.

The first step was to obtain a quote for a new asphalt driveway with patio stone pavers down both sides and a half moon near the garage entrance. The quote was for $7000 and that is with the patio stone pavers already purchased. I got a second quote for just the asphalt with me placing the patio stones after the base had been prepared. This brought the cost down to around $4000 for new asphalt and also the driveway excavated down to a minimum of 18 inches.

Sunken Asphalt Driveway Repair – Do it Yourself at less Cost

I opted for the least cost solution which was to leave the asphalt in place, cut out the half moon and the edges down the side. It cost me $10 for the proper blade on my skill saw and $150 for the disposal of the asphalt along with some hard work. For a total of $160, it was worth it.

Next I also added crushed stone were needed and rented a compactor to compact the base. I left the original base intact and compacted the added crush stone. The compactor cost $40 for a couple of hours. Once the base was ready it was a simple matter to lay the patio stone. I rented a stone cutter to cut the stones I needed cut. I also placed the sand that is made for patio stones in the cracks between the stones.

Sunken Asphalt Driveway Repair – Compact the patio stones to level them

The compactor is run over the stones several times to ensure that all of the stones are level and of the same height. The compactor also cause the sand to go deep into the cracks. The process was repeated twice more to ensure that each joint between stones is full of the sand. It was then lightly watered to cause the sand mortar mixture to harden. This stops all water from going between the stones. Too much water and you will ruin the sand mortar mixture.

Total cost not including the patio stones which I already had, is approximately $350 vs. the cost of $4000. Note that my asphalt was in good shape. All I needed to do once the patio stones were in was to apply an asphalt sealer to it. The sealer added another $80 to the overall cost.


Stain Removal from Fences and Decks

pressure washerUsing a pressure washer to remove stain or paint from a deck is a great time saver and does a fantastic job if completed properly. A pressure washer can reduce the job to hours instead of days. You may have to do some sanding after you have finished removing the old stain to ensure a smooth surface, however this is much easier compared to sanding to remove the old stain. In addition you can also remove stain out of the nooks and crannies which sanding will never be able to remove.

Operators need to be careful that they do not remove the wood or cut holes in the wood if the water pressure is too high and the stream of water too tight. Practice on some areas that are out of the way and not seen or on a separate piece of wood to get the hang of it before you use it on the real thing.

Stain removal from the deck made easy

We suggest that you set the nozzle of the pressure washer to its widest adjustment. This will provide you with a 1 inch to 3 inch spray of water that will not damage your deck while at the same time lifting off any loose paint or stain from the wood of your deck. Consumers need to be careful that they do not remove any of the actual wood.

We suggest that you begin in an area that is not visible at the back of the deck to experiment and learn to use the pressure washer. You will find that you may have to vary the distance of the end of the wand from the deck to vary the actual force of the water. The closer and tighter the spray, the more damage you can do to your wood. Start from a distance of at least two feet and determine from how much closer you need to go to get the results you are looking for.

Safety is always a concern with using a pressure washer

Consumers using a pressure washer should always use safety goggles to avoid any debris from getting into your eyes. Be very careful where you point the water jet to avoid damage to your person, other people or inanimate things that could be damaged by the high pressure of the water. If you follow these steps and those above, stain removal can be very easy.

Never ever point the pressure washer wand in the direction of another person or pet. This high density high speed stream of water can easily damage and hurt someone very badly. Flying debris can also damage eyes and hurt small children, so be very careful when you are using a pressure washer around the home or on a work site.

For more practical information about maintenance issues around the home, click here.



How to Manage Energy Use

If you have not already done so, it is about time that you change all of your lights to something better such as fluorescent or LED bulbs. While you are thinking about reducing energy, widen your scope and consider how to manage energy use as part of your everyday lifestyle. It is amazing just how much energy you can save and by extension reduce the overall cost of your energy use as well. Anytime you can save money and use it for something else it is a good thing in our books. Energy use falls into several categories and we can cover each of these in a bit more details.

Manage Energy Use – Electricity

just about everything is running on electricity these days, so if you make a conscious effort to reduce your electricity use by turning off lights, turning off appliances when not in use, turning up the thermostat in the summer time and down in the winter will make a huge difference in your electrical bill.

Manage Energy Use – Heating Fuel

We called it fuel since some people heat their homes with natural gas, others by electricity and some by oil or even wood and coal. Anytime you lower the thermostat means you are going to use less fuel to heat your home, less energy and reduce your heating bill. For those homes that forced air furnaces, while you are using less fuel, you are also using less electricity as well since the fan is not running for as long or as often.

Manage Energy Use – Water

Believe it or not, it takes energy to deliver water to your home. But that is not the real cost as far as consumers are concerned. Most cities charge for water based on how much you use and as a result when you upgrade to more efficient showers, toilets and water your lawn less you will be using less water and paying lower monthly bills for water.

Manage Energy Use – Your Car

There are multiple ways to use less gasoline. Avoid jack rabbit starts and stops. Combining errands, taking the bus, walking or biking and driving a fuel efficient car are among the ways of reducing your gasoline use and paying much less in total at the pump.

How to Use a Pressure Washer

Pressure WasherA Pressure Washer can be a very useful tool around the home when used properly. It can also be an extremely dangerous tool if not used properly. We believe in safety first and urge readers to also read their instruction manuals. Pay particular attention to the safety aspect of the instruction booklet. We are not encouraging readers to purchase any particular type of Pressure Washer. However we do encourage consumers to use them carefully. I was originally against buying one of these tools. I thought it was kind of frivolous and just a gimmick until I borrowed a neighbors. Then I realized just how useful a tool it actually was. Since we purchased it, we have used it for many different projects, that have been made much easier than it would have been other wise. If you are considering purchasing one, just do it. They are really quite good.

Pressure Washer – Safety

The basic rule is never point the wand at anything that you do not want damaged. This includes other people, yourself and anything that could be damaged by a high pressure stream of water. We have seen a jet of water cut right through wood, cut plantss in half, pierce the skin and remove paint from a car.  Used incorrectly they can be both dangerous and cause a lot of expensive damage. Read all of the instructions and experiment first on something that you do not mind damaging to get used to using a pressure washer.

Pressure Washer – Adjust the Water Jet

The wand is designed to allow operators to adjust the concentration of water exiting from the wand. It can deliver a really tight stream of water. This is useful to cut things with, get at hard to remove paint on a cement wall and remove stain from wood in hard to get to places. Adjusting the wand so that the stream is wider is also convenient. This adjustment will reduce the pressure of the stream which can be use to remove paint from walls or stain from wood. We found that it was excellent for removing loose paint and stain from wood.

When we wash the car, the wand is set to deliver as wide a stream of water as possible. Make sure you stand well back to make sure that there is little chance of removing any paint from your car. If your car is rusty or has loose paint, it is going to come off. This may some damage on your car that you may not be expecting. Standing back about six feet so that the wand is at least three feet from the car is usually enough. This distance should ensure that the paint will not be damaged by the pressure washer. If there is loose paint or rust on the car, even at this distance it is probably going to come off.


Being Green Again

ARE YOU “GOING GREEN?” This is a great story that we included here because it is so true!

Being Green Again

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

Was She Right?

She was right — our generation didn’t have the ‘green thing’ in our day.
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles, and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed, sterilized, and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.
So they really were recycled.
But we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable, besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribbling. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown bag but we didn’t do the “green thing” back then.

We walked up stairs because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the “green thing” in our day.

Energy Eating Appliances

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line — not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.
Back then we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana .

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. Writing pens were refilled with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.

Back then people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the “green thing.” We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the “green thing” back then?
Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartass young person…
We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off . . . especially from a tattooed, multiple pierced smartass who can’t make change without the cash register telling them how much.


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