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Storage Tips for Around the Home

We all have been there. Kids and guests tracking in snow, rain, dirt, and debris into the house. There are many ways to avoid this and help with storage issues as well. If you are fortunate to have a ‘Mud Room’ or an entry-way then this will make things easier.

You can watch a great video on a mudroom build off on this website.

Don’t have a mudroom?

Mudrooms are great to help keep your home clean and leave the wet, snowy, dirty outer clothes behind before they enter your home. An ideal location for a mudroom is just before the main entrance to your home. You can enlarge a back-door pantry or build an enclosed room in your garage if the garage is a way into your home. Ideally having a door into the mudroom and a door entering the home would help with losing heat.

One great idea is to have a tray that can collect rain and snow then put a heavy duty screen or rack over the top of it where your kids and guests can put their shoes and boots. This way it will keep the floor dryer and help dry off the shoes and boots. Under tip for this is if possible put the tray and rack in front of a heater vent.

I don’t know about you but when I was a kid my mom had these little alligator clips that were clipped to our jackets so that we don’t keep losing them. This could be a tip in itself for all of you moms out there. You can use this idea to help with storage and organization by using clothespins (Remember using the solar-powered clothes dryer called a clothesline?). When you fold your laundry and find ‘orphan socks’ you can attach them to a clothespin until you find the match. Just take and screw some clothespins to a wall where you fold clothes or take a small enough dowel or wire and attach it to the wall and run the clothespins through. Another idea is to do the same things in your entryway or mudroom so that your kids and guest can hang up there hats, mittens and gloves. This way they can drip dry while they visit and need to use them later.

The inside of closet doors is another great area to add these clothespins for items that do not need to drip dry inside the home.

Unused/wasted space like overhead storage, under objects, etc can be utilized for storage.

An example of this that you may have already heard of is bolting a radio to the underside of a kitchen cabinet so that you can listen to music while cooking or doing the dishes.

Another area is building sliding drawers under your bed. This will help cut down on dust bunnies and give you the extra storage you need. If you are lucky enough you may be able to find storage cabinets that will fit perfectly under the bed but building them is a pretty easy project also.

You can find the tools, materials, and the advice you need at Northern Plumbing and Heating.

If you have extra space along the floor in the hallway or mudroom you can pick up some used kitchen cabinets and a countertop to it for extra storage also.

If there is more than enough headroom and not any danger of interfering with the flow of foot traffic you can also install storage areas overhead as well for objects that are not used very often. For objects that are used often, you should have them in areas that are easy to reach.

Blackouts, Brownouts, and Partial Blackouts

Blackouts, Brownouts, and Partial BlackoutsWe all have had at least one of these three things happen to us and we usually know what to do and look for in these situations but this helpful article will show you some things that I am sure you will not have thought of!


When the lights dim, motors slow down you definitely have a brownout. Major contributors to brownouts are space heaters and air conditions being used at the same time where the neighborhood electricity is maxed out. The best thing to do in this case is to turn off any unnecessary electrical items. I know what you are thinking. Why should I turn off the air conditioning on this hot day and let others keep theirs on! Well if you don’t want the brownout to turn into a blackout where you stand the chance of all the food in your fridge spoiling then I recommend turning off that air conditioner.


The power suddenly goes out. The first thing to do is assess the situation. Is it just your home or the immediate area?

Check your neighbor’s houses to see if their power went out to. If it did then it is likely your local power company. You can call them to report the blackout but more than likely many more people are doing the same thing but if you know a lot of your neighbors are out of town I would call anyway. Don’t forget to turn off most of the lights and appliances so that when the power does come back on that you won’t overload the circuits when the power is restored.

Okay, the blackout is in your house only. Now what?

Before you try and track down the cause first turn off most of the lights and appliances in your home so that if the power does come back on you don’t overload your circuits.

Everyone knows the next tip. Do not open the fridge any more than necessary so that you can lower the chance of everything spoiling. But one thing you may not know is that frozen food will stay frozen for up to 48 hours if closed up and never opened. The refrigerator, on the other hand, will be quicker.

Here is another tip that many of you may already know. If this happens during the winter you can conserve your heat by closing the doors of unused rooms and not insulated well rooms. Then start a slow burning fire in the fireplace to keep warm since your furnace will be down for the count as well during a blackout.

This tip is a little less known but is still known by many. If you have a blackout during cold weather (below freezing) then open the faucets and let water trickle out so that you can avoid the pipes freezing. If the power is going to be off for more than 36 hours then it will be necessary to drain the water out of the main water system of the house. Like how you do when you winterize a house when you know you won’t be there during the winter.

Here is how you drain the water out of the main system:

  • Turn off the main water supply valve. This can be found close to where the main supply of water comes into the house.
  • Stop the water from entering into your hot water heater by closing the valve where the water enters it usually a pipe along the top. If you have a gas water heater be sure to turn off the gas and if you have an electric water heater be sure to turn off the breaker switch in your breaker box.
  • If your house uses a boiler shut off the water that goes into the boiler. This valve should be located near the pipe leading into it then flush all of your toilets to help drain the system.
  • If your house is heated by a hot water system you will have to open the valves on all of your radiators then open the air valves. Don’t forget to catch draining water with a bucket.
  • When checking the temperature on your boiler and it shows it cooled down enough you can attach a hose to the drain valve and send the water through the hose and outdoors.
  • Then take the hose to the bottom of the drain valve on your hot water heater and do the same thing.
  • Next, open the draincock on your main water supply and drain out the excess water that did not leave the system into a bucket. If you do not have a draincock or spigot then take two pipe wrenches and separate the pipes to drain out the remaining water.
  • Empty the remaining water out of the toilet with cups or draining into buckets by siphoning and using sponges. I know, right, who wants to try to siphon a toilet out by hand?

Partial Blackouts

Okay, you have a partial blackout this could be hazardous or as simple as a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse. But there is always a reason for the fuse to blow or a circuit breaker to trip. To keep everyone safe you have to find out why this is happening.

Overload a circuit breaker is the most common cause for tripping a breaker or blowing a fuse. Do you have a microwave and an air conditioner with a power strip with six more additional things plugged into the same outlet? This is a big no-no! Try to distribute what you have plugged in evenly and have the air conditioner on its own outlet and/or breaker if possible.

If you take care of this and replace the fuse or reset the circuit breaker and it goes out again then you have a short circuit somewhere. Look at all of the electrical cords for loose, fraying and exposed wires, or defective plugs and replace them immediately. It is possible that all of the cords look fine but it was found that behind an outlet was an old style metal circuit housing that had a wire shorting out against it. You can tell by looking at it. If you cannot replace all of the metal housings right away then wrap some electrical tape, after you shut off the power to the outlets, around the outlet itself to put a barrier between the wires and the metal housings.

To test the breaker unplug everything turn on the breaker and if it doesn’t trip or the fuse does not blow plug in each item one at a time until the fuse blows or the circuit trips then you will know which one is the problem.

If you unplug everything and the fuse still blows or the circuit breaker still trips there is a short elsewhere in the house and it is a good idea to call an electrician to test things out.

There you have a more complete guide if you experience a blackout, brownout, or partial blackout.

The 7 Best Low-Cost Alternatives to Hardwood Flooring

Fantastic Flooring Alternatives

Are your floors scratched, worn, or out of style? In the past, there weren’t a lot of options for replacing your flooring, as the primary materials were beautiful—but expensive—hardwood or costly carpeting. Today, however, this project doesn’t have to be a budget-buster. There are a number of reasonably priced flooring options that will give you a fashionable floor at a fraction of the cost. Many of these options mimic the look and texture of solid wood or other natural materials, but without the high price tag. Read on for more popular and inexpensive flooring options.

Click this link to view a slideshow and further descriptions!

5 Uses for Ice Cubes

5 Uses of Ice Cubes

There’s nothing more refreshing than a cool drink on the rocks—but a cup of ice cubes can do a lot more than quench your thirst. These versatile drink chillers work in a pinch to treat any number of household dilemmas, whether you’re looking to improve your gardening game or simply to polish up an at-home fix-it job. So, go on; refill that ice cube tray. While you wait for its contents to freeze, check out these five incredibly useful ways to repurpose ice cubes outside the glass.



Uses of Ice - Cleaning a Garbage Disposal

Photo: via zzazazz

There’s nothing worse than a stinky garbage disposal, especially when you’ve got a sink full of dirty dishes to do. To clean the blades and remove odor-causing food particles that may have gotten stuck, place 2 cups of ice cubes and a cup of rock salt in the garbage disposal, then run the cold tap for a minute or two. Freshen further by tossing in a few lemon peels, turning the cool water back on, and running the machine.



Uses of Ice - Watering Orchids


If you’re worried about over-hydrating your orchid, skip the watering can and reach for an ice cube instead. This temperamental houseplant hates to stay constantly wet, which makes an ice cube the perfect solution because it melts slowly, giving the soil time to absorb the water it needs without harming the roots. Depending on the size of your orchid, two to three ice cubes (about a quarter-cup of water) per week should be enough; when one melts, place the next in its empty spot. Similarly, ice cubes can deliver H2O to hanging houseplants that are just out of reach.



Uses of Ice - Removing Carpet Dents


You decided to rearrange your furniture, but that improved feng shui came at a price: carpet indentations right where the sofa used to be. For a quick fix, place an ice cube in each carpet dent (or several down a line) and let it melt. After 12 hours, use a paper towel to blot up any excess water, then gently lift the carpet fibers with a fork so they’re back in place.



Uses of Ice - Smoothing Fresh Caulk

Photo: via emilysnuffer

It’s not easy to lay down the perfect bead of caulk! The next time you’re re-caulking your bathtub, use an ice cube to smooth the finished line. Simply run the chunk of ice along the joint (that space between the tile and tub, now fresh with new caulk) and even out the surface as you go. The ice cube won’t stick to the caulk; rather, it will melt to fit the shape of the joint, turning into the ideal custom tool for your DIY job.



Uses of Ice - Cleaning a Vase


For vases with slender necks, it can be very tough to scrub away flower residue and grime. Ice cubes make it easy: Toss a few cubes in the vase (you may have to crush them into smaller pieces to fit, depending on the size of the neck) and add 1/4 cup of salt. After that, swish the vase vigorously and watch as the ice and salt combine, forming a gentle abrasive that will quickly clean the glass.

Use an onion to clean your grill easier!

How to Clean Grill Grates - With an Onion


If cleaning your outdoor grill were just as easy as cleaning your household oven, it wouldn’t be so bad—but, alas, there’s no self-cleaning feature on this appliance. You’re stuck with the entire job. As unpleasant as it is, you absolutely have to give your grill athorough cleaning at the beginning and end of each barbecuing season. But you also need to give it a quick once-over between grilling sessions. Keeping your grates free from grease and burnt-on gunk will both prolong the life of your grill and improve the taste of your food. Fortunately for you, there’s an effective, inexpensive, and chemical-free way to get the job done right, and the key ingredient—an onion—is most likely already sitting out on your kitchen counter with the rest of your grill-time supplies.

How to Clean Grill Grates - Backyard Grill


Not only does an onion contain a natural disinfectant, but it also cleans surprisingly well. To work it over your grill, cut the onion in half and peel back the papery skin. Next, light the grill and turn the heat up high until the grates are nice and hot. (It doesn’t matter whether yours is a gas or charcoal grill—this trick works on both!) Skewer the onion with a long metal barbecue fork or grab it with tongs, and rub its cut side back and forth along the grates. Notice how the onion removes any built-up residue. Plus, the onion leaves behind a bit of seasoning on the surface—an added bonus the next time you cook. Once you’re done, dispose of the onion in your compost pile or, if you’re about to fire up your charcoal grill, throw the vegetable into the coals and enjoy an extra hint of smoked onion in your meal.

Tips that Burglars Hate!

Victims of burglaries suffer some $4.7 billion in property losses a year, according to the latest FBI statistics. You may already be protecting yourself with a deadbolt lock on your front door and a high-tech alarm system, but to go the extra mile in security, think like a thief! Here’s crucial information the bad guys wish we wouldn’t share.

Click this link to view the slideshow with the tips and tricks that you can use!

10 Astonishing Feats You Can Accomplish with Kitty Litter

The cat’s out of the bag! Even households without furry feline friends should add kitty litter to the weekly shopping list. This inexpensive and readily available product is perfect for everything from deodorizing to traction control. Read on to discover how you can use this multifunctional marvel to improve your own home.

Watch this slideshow to find the other uses for cat litter!

Three Ways to Test Your Outlet

The first one is to obtain a voltage tester and insert it in either of the vertical slots. The round one is a ground and we will tell you how to test that in a bit. If the voltage tester lights up or beeps then you have power there. It is a good idea to test the outlet even though you shut off the breaker. Who knows you may have turned off the wrong breaker!

To test the ground on a three-prong outlet get a neon test light and insert one end in the ground and the other end in both of the vertical slots (be sure to touch the safe insulated part of the tester) of the outlet. If you get a bright light each time then you have a good ground.

To find the hot wire in an outlet box first turn off the breaker to the outlet, test it to make sure it is still not live like in the first paragraph, then unscrew the cover and box and pull from the wall. Next, make sure that the wires are separated and turn the power back on. The last thing to do is get an inductive voltage detector and hold it close to each wire and if the detector lights up then you have the hot wire.

Things you may need:

How to Install Door Trim

The first thing that you want to do is make sure that the jamb at the top of the door is level then make sure the side jambs are square to the top jamb. This is very important if you are trying to install trim in an older door frame. If the door frame is out of alignment you can use shims to correct it if it is not square or is not level. You can hold up the trim to the door and mark it to make sure that any adjustments you make with the shim will be covered.

Measure the trim to fit the top jamb of the door and use the miter to cut a perfect 45-degree angle on both sides. With the door jambs leveled and squared using shims, this should work out just fine. Drill pilot holes into the molding slightly smaller than 4d finishing nails. A 1/16 inch drilling bit should work fine. If this is not done cracking of the trim may happen when you try to nail the trim up. Use the 4d finishing nails for the trim and if you are nailing the trim into a wall stud use 6d finishing nails. DO NOT drive the nails flush with the molding until all the pieces are up and aligned just in case you have to take them back out and reposition the molding.

Repeat the procedure for the trim along the side jambs carefully measuring and mitering 45-degree angles. If the pieces do not match up perfectly flush then adjust by sanding the edges of the mitered edges until it becomes flush. Use a sanding block to ensure a straight sanding job. 120 grit sandpaper should do the job nicely, if not go with something one step coarser. Once this is done use the 4d finishing nails for the trim and the 6d finishing nails that go into the studs drilling pilot holes beforehand.

Once everything appears flush go ahead and finish driving in the nails flush and paint or stain as necessary.

Things you may need:

What to do if your pipes burst or are frozen this winter!

Frozen Pipes

First of all, inspect your pipes to see if they are just frozen or frozen and burst. If the pipes are just frozen the best method of thawing them out is to use a propane torch. But be aware! Never use a propane torch near a gas line, by flammable material, or on a plastic pipe.

When thawing with a propane torch move the flame constantly back and forth from the faucet end to the frozen area of the pipe.

It is best to use a flame retardant material or flameproof backing sheet when doing this. If the place where you want to use a propane torch is questionable then use a heat lamp or hair dryer instead.

If your pipe is located behind the wall you can set up a heat lamp at the location where it is frozen but never set it up to closer than a few inches away from the wall. To help determine the location of the frozen pipe go around the house and see which faucets and other water sources still work and not work then go back and trace the pipes to help find the location.

Pipes Burst

First of all turn off the water at the source to stop the water from spraying. If the water pipes bust but not spraying turn off the water at the source anyway just in case the frozen area breaks free. For quick temporary fixes, you can do the following.

If the leak is a small leak after turning off the water dry off the pipe thoroughly and wrap the area tightly with either duct tape or plastic tape.

If the leak is more severe and you need a stronger solution to stop it you can cut a rubber hose to fit around the area and secure it in place with tightly wrapped wire put on in a tourniquet style using pliers or get some hose clamps that are used on automotive hoses to do the job.