Friday, August 24, 2007

Stay Safe When Installing Kitchen Range, Oven

Handy@HomeBy Paul BianchinaDistributed by Inman News

Stay safe when installing kitchen range, oven
July 27, 2007

Getting to be time for some new kitchen appliances? One way to save some money along the way is to do the installation yourself, which is not as hard as you might think.
Most appliances come in several standard sizes, so if you can find a replacement that's the same size as the old one, the installation is considerably easier. New appliances that are larger then the old ones will require that you enlarge the cabinet or countertop opening, which can sometimes be a tough chore. New appliances that are smaller will require that you reduce the size of the opening, and that can definitely lead to a number of problems.


1. Always shut the electricity and gas supplies to the appliance before removal and reinstallation. Do not reactivate either one until you are sure all the installation steps have been completed, and all of the tape and other packaging materials have been removed. If you have any questions or concerns about the gas or electrical supply or connections, or any other installation step, always consult a licensed professional before proceeding.
2. Appliances are very heavy and require two people for installation. Do not try to do this all by yourself -- you risk damage to the appliance, the cabinets, the floor, and, most importantly, you!
3. Place a piece of plywood, heavy cardboard, packing blankets or other protective material over your kitchen floor to prevent damage to the flooring during the removal and installation steps.


Ranges are found in three basic configurations. These include freestanding, which sit on the floor and fit between the counter on either side of it; slide-in, which sit on the floor but also overlap the counters for a cleaner, more custom look; and drop-in, which rest on both the counter and the lower part of the cabinet, and do not go all the way to the floor.

Freestanding ranges are very easy to install. Remove the old one by sliding it forward enough to reach and unplug the electrical cord or disconnect the gas line, then remove it completely from the opening. Install a new electrical pigtail (power cord) or gas line on the new range following the manufacturer's instructions, slide the new range into the opening, plug in the cord or connect the gas line, and adjust the leveling feet as needed. Slide-in ranges are installed in the same manner, but the countertop cutout might need to be adjusted slightly prior to installation -- check the manufacturer's template for exact sizes.

A drop-in range is typically hard-wired instead of just plugging in. Slide the range out far enough to access the electrical junction box and then disconnect the wires (or disconnect the gas line), then remove the old range by lifting it out of the opening. Consult the manufacturer's templates and make any adjustments to the cabinet and counter openings that might be required. Carefully lift the new range into position, reconnect the wires or gas line, and then slide the range completely into place. If required, finish the installation by installing any fastening screws provided by the manufacturer.


A cooktop drops into an opening in the countertop, so here again it is best to have a replacement unit that fits directly into the old opening. To remove the old cooktop, disconnect the wires inside the junction box or disconnect the gas line, both of which should be located inside the lower cabinet. Lying on your back reach up inside the cabinet and undo the fasteners that hold the cooktop against the countertop -- usually screws, small bolts or thumbscrews. Lift the old cooktop out of the opening.

Check and adjust the countertop openings as needed, then drop the new unit into the counter. Following the manufacturers instructions, install the fasteners that hold the cooktop to the counter. Finally, reconnect the electrical or gas lines.


First, remove the old oven door. This will give you access to the fasteners, and will also make the oven lighter and easier to remove. Unscrew the attachment screws that hold the oven to the cabinet, then slide the oven partly out of the opening. Rest the oven on a bucket, box or other support, and disconnect the electrical wiring or gas line, then remove the oven completely.
Check the cabinet opening to be sure the new oven will fit properly, and adjust as needed. Remove the oven door, following the manufacturer's instructions, then carefully lift the oven partly into the opening and support it as before. Reconnect the electrical or gas lines, and slide the oven all the way into the cabinet. Check the fit, and then secure the oven in place by installing the new attachment screws. For hardwood cabinets, be sure you predrill the cabinet before attempting to install the screws.

Copyright 2007 Inman News

Friday, August 17, 2007

To File Or Not To File A Homeowner's Insurance Claim?

When it makes financial sense

Friday, August 17, 2007By Paul BianchinaInman News

It's an unfortunate fact of life that bad things can occasionally happen to your home. Water damage from a broken pipe or a fire from an overheated stove can happen at any time, and can easily cause tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in structural damages and contents losses.

That, of course, is why you have homeowner's insurance. But the question that often comes up is "Should I file a claim?" It's not always an easy one to answer, and there are several factors you need to weigh before you make that decision.


The first question that comes up is whether the loss is covered by your homeowner's policy. Generally, the policy will stipulate that the damage to the home needs to be "sudden and accidental." Some examples would be a pipe that freezes and breaks; a washing machine or a toilet that overflows; an electrical circuit that overheats and starts a fire; a wind storm that causes shingles to blow off the roof or a tree limb to come crashing down; or a drunk driver that misses the corner and smashes into the front of your house.

Things that are typically not covered include ongoing maintenance issues, such as a plumbing drip that has gone on for many months or shingles that fail because they are past their useful life. Flooding and earthquake damage are typically not covered unless you have specific coverage on your policy, and many homeowners' policies now either exclude or limit coverage for mold.


Another key question about whether or not to file a claim is the value of the loss. Some people view their homeowner's policy as something to be used for a loss of any size, while others view it in the same vein as a major-medical insurance policy -- it should be used only in the event of something catastrophic.

Every homeowner's policy carries a deductible amount, which is a sum of money that you are required to pay toward the value of the loss. For example, suppose your home is damaged and the contractor will charge $10,000 to repair it. If you have a $1,000 deductible on your policy -- a fairly common amount these days -- the insurance company will settle with you for $9,000, and you will have to make up the other $1,000 of the contractor's bill.

The size of your deductible contributes to your thinking on whether or not you want to file a claim. If you have a loss that is valued at $1,200 and you have a $1,000 deductible, the $200 that the insurance company would contribute toward the repairs would not be worth having a claim on your record. On the other hand, a $1,000 deductible would be a minor contribution to make against a major fire damage claim that resulted in $75,000 worth of damage.

You will need to weigh the value of the loss against your own financial situation and the impact that the claim will have on your record before you make the final decision to file a claim.


Many people hesitate to file a property damage claim due to concerns about their "claim record," which is the history of claims that have been filed against a particular piece of property. In general, insurance companies look at the number of claims filed against a piece of property in the last three to five years, the nature of those claims (fire, water, storm, etc.), and the dollar value of the claims.

Different insurance companies seem to have different criteria for how they view claim history and how they weight the different factors, but all of them do take the property's history into consideration in one way or another when it comes to rates and whether you will be eligible for renewal when a policy expires.

Remember that this is typically the record of claims filed on a particular piece of property, not claims filed by a particular person (although that may be taken into consideration as well). As such, you may be filing your first-ever claim on the house you've owned for the last two years, not realizing that there had been two previous claims filed by the last homeowner. For that reason, when you purchase a previously owned home, it's a good idea to ask for a disclosure of any claims that have been filed against the home.


Filing a claim is not something to do casually, or to do on a loss that is not very much over your deductible. On the other hand, you shouldn't feel like you need to shy away from a claim if you need the insurance company's help in making the necessary repairs -- that is, after all, why you have the policy.

Unfortunately, the typical insurance policy is not written in plain English, so it may be difficult to understand what is and isn't covered. There is also nothing in the policy about how claim history affects you. So, if you have any questions about coverage, deductibles, claim history or anything else pertaining to how well your single biggest asset is protected, don't ever be afraid to ask your agent for clarification.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at

Friday, August 10, 2007

Attic Ventilation Makes A Healthy Home

Handy@HomeBy Paul BianchinaDistributed by Inman News

June 15, 2007

If you're like most folks, you've probably never given any consideration to how well ventilated your attic is. But proper attic ventilation is very important to your home's good health, both in summer and winter.

In the summer, a good flow of ventilation will remove unwanted heat that is trapped in the attic. That heat can damage the roofing, and it also makes it that much more difficult to keep your home cool. In the winter, removing attic heat allows the underside of your roof to stay closer to the ambient temperature of the outside air, which helps prevent ice damming. And throughout the year, good attic ventilation removes excess moisture before it can accumulate and create the potential for mold growth or damage to wooden structural members.

Properly installed, attic ventilation works on the natural passive movement of air. For the typical attic, this means a combination of low vents along the eaves of the roof, and high vents along roof's ridge. Since the air in the attic is warmer at the ridge than it is at the eaves, lower temperature air is drawn in through the low vents, pushing the higher temperature air out through the high vents. While the movement of air is more dramatic in the summer when attic temperature differentials are higher, this movement actually occurs at all times and in all temperatures.


How much ventilation your attic needs depends on the size of your house and, to some degree, its shape. To determine ventilation requirements, most building codes rely on a simple mathematical formula of 1 square foot of ventilation area for every 300 square feet of attic area. For example, if your home has 1,500 square feet of living space, you would need 5 square feet of vent area to provide an adequate amount of air flow (1,500 square feet divided by 300 = 5).
Since it is the passive movement of the air through the attic that creates the ventilation, the placement of the vents is a very important consideration in how effective they will be. They need to be installed so that roughly half are in high locations along the ridge or in the gable ends, and half are placed low along the eaves.

Attached garages can add to the ventilation load of the home as well. If your home has an attached garage and the attic of the garage is continuous with the attic of the house, then the square footage of the garage needs to be included as well. For example, if your 1,500 square foot home has a 500 square foot attached garage and the attics are continuous with one another, then the required vent area goes from 5 square feet to 6.67 square feet (1,500 square feet + 500 square feet = 2,000, divided by 300 = 6.67).

If the garage is attached to the house but the attics are not continuous, you have a slightly different situation. Because the attic of the garage is still going to get warm (even if the garage does not have a ceiling), that heat is still going to have an impact on both the garage roofing and the heat being transferred to the house, not to mention on the garage itself and all its contents. Therefore, the garage attic needs to be ventilated as well. You can use the same 1:300 formula, but the square-foot requirements and the layout of the vent locations for the garage should be considered independently of the house attic.


If you were to purchase a vent that is 12 inches by 12 inches (one square foot) in overall size, you would not actually be getting one square foot of ventilation area. The framework of the vent and especially the insect screening in it reduces the overall amount of area that the air can actually pass through -- sometimes by as much as half.

For that reason, vents are rated in net-free area (NFA), which is the actual amount of open ventilation area that the vent contains after deducting out all of the space taken up by the frame and the screening. The exact NFA will be printed directly on the vent by the manufacturer, and it's important to utilize this number as opposed to the overall size of the vent in making your calculations for how many vents you will need.

With whatever type of vents you use, remember to keep them free of insulation and other debris that reduce their effectiveness, and to be certain that all bathroom, kitchen and other exhaust fans in the house are vented all the way to the outside, not into the attic.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at

Copyright 2007 Inman News

Friday, August 3, 2007

Save Money On Home Improvement

Where to find best deals on materials

Friday, August 03, 2007By Paul BianchinaInman News

There's no denying it -- remodeling, repairing and decorating your home can be an expensive undertaking. But with a little creativity and some wise shopping decisions, you'd be surprised at how much you can save on your next project!

Lumber: There are a number of different lumber grades available, and the higher grades also carry higher price tags. If you don't need the increased structural capacity or better appearance of the higher grades, save some money by selecting a lower grade that's appropriate for the intended use. Also, many lumber yards have piles of lumber that are culled out because it's warped, split or otherwise unsuitable for sale at full retail. You can often pick this material up at sizable discounts, and it's perfectly good for jobsite uses such as blocking, temporary bracing, etc.

Beams: Another place to save some money is with the purchase of beams. Many structural-engineered lumber beams come in long lengths that are cut on site at the lumber yard, leaving drops that are too short for long spans. You can often pick these up cheap, and they can be used as headers for doors and small windows, or in other framing applications.

Large versus small packaging: Some construction items, such as nails, screws and other hardware, are available in both small and large packaging. Buying in larger packages saves you money on a per-pound basis, so long as you have a need for the items now or in the foreseeable future. If you only intend to use a few of the items, you're better off buying the smaller packages
-- even though you pay a little more per pound, you don't waste money on excess you'll never use.

Bulk buying: Along those same lines is buying in bulk. Items such as sand, topsoil, gravel, bark, and other bulky construction and landscaping materials can be purchased in bags, but you really pay a premium on a per-cubic-yard basis for that convenience. If you have a pickup truck or a small trailer, picking these materials up yourself in bulk will save you quite a bit of money. For even larger quantities, paying a small fee to have them delivered will still result in a sizable per-yard discount over bagged material.

Concrete: For small jobs such as setting a fence post, you can't beat the convenience of bagged concrete mix. But once your project gets up around a quarter of a cubic yard, bagged concrete becomes a whole lot harder on both your wallet and your back. Many towns have small-yardage concrete companies that are much more economical, and you can also have a full-size concrete truck deliver the wet material for a very reasonable "short-load" fee.

Small pieces of plywood: Many home centers and lumber yards have smaller, precut pieces of plywood and other materials, and you can save yourself some money if you only need a small piece for a one-time project. However, these small panels are quite expensive on a per-square-foot basis, so if you have a future need for the plywood and a place to store it, you're definitely money ahead by buying a full sheet and cutting it yourself.

Tools: When a home-improvement project calls for a particular tool that you don't currently have, consider how often you might use that tool in the future. If it's a basic item, such as a circular saw or even a paint brush, that will see a lot of use over the years, then buy the best you can afford. It's safer, easier to use, and its long life will more than pay for itself when compared to cheaper tools that require periodic repair or replacement. A tool you might only use a few times could be a lesser expensive model, so long as it's safe. If the tool will more than likely be a one-time use, consider renting instead of buying.

Sweat equity: Got a little more time than money? If you're having work done on your home, talk with the contractor about what things you can reasonably do -- and the key word is reasonably -- to save some money. Perhaps you can do your own painting, or scrap things out and clean up the site at the end of each day. But whatever your agreement is, get it in writing!

Seconds, roll ends and discontinued items: Many retailers have items such as appliances and plumbing fixtures that they sell at sizable discounts because they are slightly blemished, have minor scratches or are in the store because someone misordered them. Flooring companies often have "roll ends" of carpet and vinyl for sale at a fraction of their original price, and that are perfect for smaller rooms. Many paint stores will have sales on mismatched or mistinted paint, or wallpaper that was misordered. Tile stores often have a sizable inventory of discontinued tiles, stones, grouts and other materials at great prices. If you can be a little flexible and creative in your design thinking and are willing to do a little research, you'll find there are bargains all around you!

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at