The Timeless Appeal of an Apron Sink Explained

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As we spend a lot of time in people’s homes cleaning up water damage we are often asked about general plumbing and even fittings issues.. One common question we are asked is if you needed to replace a kicthen sink what kind would you opt for, both in terms of looks and efficency. And our honest answer is that you really can’t go wrong with an apron sink.

The humble apron sink was a feature of English kitchen farmhouses as long ago as the 18th century. Why then would such an old idea still be be one of the best kitchen fittinghs choices today? Allow us to explain:

A Brief History of the Apron Sink

Back in 18th Century a great many people tended to live under the same roof. In these households a kitchen sink was not only used for washing pots and pans and paltes and cutlery but also for doing laundry and even sometimes for general personal “washing up”. For this reason the sinks needed to be big and they needed to be deep, which is exactly what an apron sink was.

Apron sinks fell out of favor in the early 20th century when they were replaced by smaller, recessed sinks that took up less space. However they have made a comeback over the last decade or so, appealing especially to people who want their kitchens to have an old fashioned rustic look rather than a rather cold modern one that is the same as every other kitchen in every home on their street!

What does an Apron Sink Look Like?

An apron sink is, as previously mentioned, deep. Borne out of necessity in the 18th century this is now a useful feature for those who cook a great deal as they do a far better job of accommodating  large pots and pans. That is why you will find an apron sink in a great many professional and restaurant kitchens.

An apron sink – which is also sometimes referred to as a farmhouse sink –  also differs from the modern sinks you are used to seeing in a kitchen because rather than being recessed it has a front that fits over the cabinetry that supports it and juts out a little into the kitchen space.

Once again this design came about as a matter of practicality. The sinks apron – thus the name – protected the cabinetry beneath if water were to overflow from the sink and the jutted edge made sure the water went on the floor instead, here it could be easily mopped away. And the same is still true today, so an apron sink can protect your cabinetry from water damage rather well.

Another very useful feature of the original apron sinks – and many of the modern versions – is that the water faucets were not built into the sink as they are usually today. Instead the faucets were built into the cabinetry and then rose above the sink. This meant that if necessary an old sink could be swapped out for a new one without the need for any new plumbing work and again, that is still the case.

What are Apron Sinks Made From?

Those original apron sinks in the 18th century English farmhouses were made of porcelain. Porcelain is durable and relatively easy to clean so again, the focus was on practicality although a porcelain sink is also a very attractive sink.

 Many of the modern apron sinks available are also made from porcelain but that is no longer a homeowner’s only choice. These days metal apron sinks – especially copper apron sinks, are also very popular as not only are they durable but they are also extremely attractive.

 Copper apron sinks actually even get better with age. As it ages and is used copper develops its own natural patina and its colors change and darken in a way that is completely unique. For those really looking for a timeless, classic look a copper apron sink might be the perfect choice.

Stainless Steel Apron Sinks – A Modern Take on a Classic

Not everyone likes the old fashioned look for their kitchen and in a space filled with the kind of hi tech stainless steel appliances that are so popular today a traditional apron sink probably would look out of place.

There is an alternative though, for those who want to enjoy all the practical advantages of an apron sink but want a more modern look – a stainless steel apron sink.

A stainless steel apron sink has many of the same practical features as a traditional version – the depth, the overhang and the suspended faucet – but it dies tend to lend a more modern air to a kitchen space that some people prefer.

The Bamboo Apron Sink –  A New Green Classic?

As people make more of an effort to “go green” in their homes the idea of a bamboo sink is really catching on. Contrary to what you might expect bamboo actually makes a very durable sink material as it is very water resistant and retains the natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that the bamboo grass naturally possesses. Better still many of the bamboo apron sinks appearing on the market right now are some of the most stylish sink offerings you will ever see.

 

 

 

Common Gutter Problems That Regular Maintenance Can Prevent or Solve

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The gutters that run around your home are its single best defense against water damage. However they can only do their job if they are properly maintained. Most homeowners understand the importance of clearing their gutters of debris (even if they are not always very good at keeping up with the task) but clogged gutters are not the only problem that needs to be watched for.

Leaking Gutters

Often a section of gutter will develop a small leak without anyone really noticing it at first. If the leak is left unchecked though even a small hole can eventually cause big problems.

A small hole does not necessarily have to mean that a whole section of the gutter has to be replaced but it does need to be sealed or patched. For a homeowner armed only with a ladder that can be a bit of a challenge. Gutter sealant is cheap and easy to use, in theory anyway, but in real life it can be a different matter entirely.

Incorrectly Pitched Gutters

Any gutter has to drain somewhere but if it is not pitched correctly in relation to the downspouts that will carry the water to the drain then once again all kinds of problems and water damage are likely to occur.

If you take a look into your gutters after a rainstorm has passed and find standing water there that is a fairly good indication that it is not pitched correctly and that instead of all the water going to the downspout it is probably overflowing onto the ground instead.

Sometimes these problems are caused by the weather itself, especially a storm, and the adjustment that needs to be made is an easy one that you can do yourself. To determine how far out of line the gutter actually is you can measure from the peak to the downspout. If the difference is just a few inches often the alignment can be fixed with a simple push. You do have to be careful not to damage the gutter in the process though!

Hanging Gutters

Over time gutters that have withstood plenty of wind and rain may start to pull away from the side of the house where they belong. The fix is often as simple as adding new hangers but again, as a lone do it your selfer it can be very tricky.

To protect your home from damage and yourself from danger its a wise investment to make if you call a professional gutter maintenance company in on to fix such a problem and indeed on at least an occasional – maybe twice a year-  basis to help you stay on top of the situation in general . Saving money is always nice but scrimping on home maintenance can often cost you more than it saves in the long run, especially when it comes to water damage!

Step By Step Guide to Cleaning Your Stainless Steel Dishwasher

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In the modern kitchen, stainless steel appliances have definitely become more and more popular over the last few years. They are more expensive than their more traditional counterparts for sure but most people are seduced by their smooth sleek lines and shiny veneer.

The idea that you would have to clean a stainless steel dishwasher might seem a little strange at first, after all its sole purpose is to wash things so why would it ever need cleaning? The fact is though that in order to keep your dishwasher running efficiently and smelling nice it does need the occasional cleaning, both inside and out.

Cleaning the Interior of Your Stainless Steel Dishwasher

Cleaning the interior of your dishwasher is not too hard and only needs to be done occasionally. Here’s just how its done, step by step.

Empty all dishes out of the dishwasher.Fill your kitchen sink with warm water that has 2 to 3 cups of white vinegar added to it.
Remove the racks and the utensil holders from the dishwasher and scrape off any bits of stuck on food that may have accumulated (it happens) then let them soak in the vinegar water.
Remove the arm, grate and filter carefully (consult the instruction book for just how to do this if it is your first time.) and let them soak in the vinegar water as well.
Using a damp paper towel remove the gunk from the dishwasher floor (you will be surprised by how much there is.) If there are stubborn stains then a paste made from baking soda and water and a bit of scrubbing with an old toothbrush should remove them.
Rinse and then replace all the dishwasher parts you have removed.
Add two cups of white vinegar into a dishwasher safe mug and set it on the bottom rack of your stainless steel dishwasher and the run it on a low wash cycle, stopping the program about midway through. This will let the vinegar sit to the bottom and do its work. After allowing it to “stand” for about an hour- although some people prefer to leave it overnight – turn the dishwasher on to the Finish cycle to complete. .
Once the cycle is over, wipe down the interior with paper towels.

Cleaning the Exterior of Your Stainless Steel Dishwasher

You probably only need to clean the interior of your dishwasher once every month or so but the exterior is quite a different matter. Stainless steel looks great but the one thing it does do is attract fingerprints and smudges like a magnet. This is one of the reasons people get up choosing not to buy a stainless steel dishwasher, they do not want to have to deal with the continual need to wipe away fingerprints.

Keeping the exterior of your stainless steel dishwasher clean is not as hard as it sounds. You can use simple warm water to wipe down the exterior but that does tend to leave streaks behind. Most people however find that an ordinary household glass cleaner is great for cleaning fingerprints and smudges off stainless steel and it is far less expensive than the specialist stainless steel cleaners sold in some stores.

During that once a month cleaning it also pays to check the pipes and hoses that connect the dishwasher to the water supply. A slow leaking dishwasher is a very common cause of both water damage and mould in homes, mainly because people do tend to simply assume that as long as the dishwasher still runs everything is A-OK, when in fact that is sometimes far from the case. This simple five minute check every month can prevent water damage and mould problems and so is time very well spent.

Why the Type of Wood You Burn in Your Fire Pit Really Matters

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Not so long ago we discussed the safe use of fire pits and how to help ensure that your outdoor cooking activities do not end up damaging your home or worse. Today we want to discuss the actual wood you burn it.

If you are a relatively new wood burning fire pit owner you may wonder if it really makes a difference what kind of firewood you use. Wood is wood right? Actually no it is not. What kind of firewood you choose for use in your fire pit really does make a difference to how well it perform as well as to how long it will remain in good shape while stored.

Green Wood vs Seasoned Wood

The most common mistake people make when they first purchase a wood burning fire pit is using what is called green wood rather seasoned fire wood. Green wood is wood that has only recently been cut. When any wood is freshly cut it actually consists of about 70-75% water. as you might imagine firewood that has such a high moisture content is going to be very hard to burn. Usually the result is a smoky smouldering mess, not the roaring fire you were hoping for.

Seasoned firewoood on the other hand is perfect for use in a fire pit. In order to season firewood it is left exposed to the air (but nor to the rain or to insects) for a minimum of eight to nine months. By doing this a great deal of the excess moisture evaporates away, leaving you with logs that are nice and dry and ready to burn.

Types of Wood to Consider Burning in Your Fire Pit

Burning any type of wood in your fire pit is going to be a bit of a smoky experience but the type of wood you use can produce a differing flame as well. For instance, hardwoods like hard maple, pecan, ash, white oak, birch and hickory all produce a very hot flame but without a great deal of smoke. They also tend to be longer burning than other woods, so they are a great choice for a long chilly evening outside but perhaps not so great if you only want a fire that burns for a few hours in the height of summer.

For a less intense flame spruce, yellow pine and fir all give off a medium amount of heat and have the added bonus that they also give off a more pleasing aroma as they burn.

If you will be using your fire pit to cook the kind of wood you choose will make a difference to the flavors of your food, as well as to the way the fire burns. Here are some of the most commonly used cooking woods and examples of the foods they pair best with:

Alder – Alder produces a very delicate, if slightly sweet taste. It is great for cooking white fish, chicken and turkey.

Apple – Apple is one of the most popular of the “cooking woods” and it produces a heavier flavor than alder that is both sweet and smoky at the same time. It is great for preparing lean beef, ham and chicken.

Cherry, Grape, Mulberry and Pear – these less common cooking woods are an excellent choice for cooking all kinds of meets if you want a subtly sweet flavor that still has a nice robust smokiness.

Maple – Maple produces a mild smoked flavor with a tiny bit of sweetness and is an excellent choice for roasting vegetables.

Mesquite – The most popular “barbecue” cooking wood mesquite has a strong smoky flavor that is great for red meat.

Oak – Oak produces a very strong smoky flavor and is possibly the most popular cooking wood amongst those who like red meat, pork and game to have a very strong flavor.

Easy Tweaks to Create a Healthier Bathroom

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The average bathroom is not always the healthiest room in the average home, even if on the surface it looks pretty clean. There are all kinds of nasties lurking there that people may not even be aware of. The good news is that with just a couple of tweaks you can solve many of these problems and make your bathroom a healthier place:

Water Quality – Even if your tap water is treated at a municipal plant before it enters your home, there are still plenty of unwanted ‘extras’ that lurk in the average home’s tap water. The water that comes out of your bathroom tap will be kinder on your skin, safer and maybe even pleasant enough to drink if you have permanent water filters installed on the taps of both your sink and bath, as well as on your shower-head. If you have hard water then a whole house water softener may be a better choice.

Walls and Floors – Even if the salesman tells you that a certain carpet is water resistant and fine for use in the bathroom, if yours is a busy bathroom chances are that it won’t be able to stand up to all the moisture and humidity and mould will start to form pretty quickly, even if you cannot see it. Wallpaper is another mould magnet. And the biggest problem really is that mould developing underneath these surfaces will likely go unseen and make it’s way into the walls and floor themselves, creating a situation that will likely call for professional mould remediation.

To create a healthier bathroom for everyday use , and to avoid the hassle of having to have floors ripped up and walls treated to solve a mould problem, avoid these two décor options. If you already have them in place consider replacing the carpet as soon as possible with some nice ceramic tile and having the wallpaper stripped off and a fresh paint job done in its’ place.

Bathroom Cabinets – In order to be functional any bathroom needs a good set of cabinets to store all of that bathroom “stuff” that the average family seems to accumulate tons of. If you have older MDF cabinets though it may be time to consider replacing them. MDF tends to “offgas” a great many VOCs – volatile organic compounds- nasty things that can cause headaches at the least and possibly cancer at the worst.

Our Expert Tips on How to Get Mould out of Fabric

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One situation that we have often encountered as mold remediation specialists is that when a space has fallen victim to a mould infestation it is not just the walls, floors and windows that have been affected so have fabrics in the room (stored clothing is a common one) and so we are often asked if we have any tips for saving such things, especially if they have become particularly smelly (which is often the case) And fortunately our answer is yes, we do, and so today we thought we’d share them with you.

Products to Remove Mold from Fabric

‘Regular’ laundry detergent is not usually up to the job of properly removing mould from fabrics so you will have to look at other solutions. There are quite a few solutions you can wash mouldy clothes in to more effectively get rid of the problem. Some of ones include bleach, Borax (the stuff with the mules on the box) white vinegar and baking soda. We tend to advise sticking to the latter three products if at all possible as they are less likely to do any permanent damage to the fabric which bleach often can, especially when it comes to delicate fabrics.

In fact perhaps the very best ‘recipe’ we can offer is a combination of Borax, white vinegar and baking soda. The baking soda is essential as it is a fabulous ‘odor eater’ that is tough enough to tackle the dreadful smell that mould causes on affected fabrics. The white vinegar on the other hand is a very effective stain fighter that won’t discolor fabrics in the way that bleach might. And the Borax just adds that little bit of extra cleaning power that is often called for.

Once you are ready to begin your restoration project it’s best to wash your clothes in hot water. Hot water removes mould stains far more effectively than tepid water and better removes mold spores and allergens too. Of course make sure you don’t use water so hot that it can damage your clothing so check the labels before choosing your settings.

Getting Started 

When you’re washing mouldy fabric it’s best to wash them through at least two full cycles. Then after your clothes have been washed hang them on the line in the sun. The heat from the sun and the sun’s ultraviolet light will help to kill any lingering mold and the breeze will help get rid of any lingering smells far better than any artificial dryer sheets can.

Not all fabric can be saved, in some cases the mould has just been there for too long and has, as it is a living, growing organism, managed to infest the fabric at the deep fiber level. However, many mouldy fabrics can be saved, so if an item holds special value to you trying to save can never be a bad idea.

How to Keep Your Investments Safe from Natural Disasters

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As many poor souls in Texas have recently discovered , a natural disaster can destroy everything you own in just a few short minutes. Although hopefully a flood of epic proportions will never affect the area you live in, a flash flood, a hurricane or a fire can wreak just as much havoc.

While there is nothing you can do to prevent most natural disasters, there are some safeguards you can begin putting into place right now that could greatly soften the blow suffered by your personal finances should the worst occur.

Make Sure You are Carrying Enough Insurance

Having to pay big insurance premiums when nothing ever seems to go wrong can often seem like a big waste of money. You write a monthly check to your insurance company every month and never see anything in return, so why bother? That is how you might see it in the good times, but should disaster strike you will be more than happy that you kept a decent insurance policy current.

If you own your home and carry a mortgage, maintaining a homeowners insurance policy is mandatory. You should review the policy you have though, to make absolutely certain that you have adequate coverage that would allow you to repair or rebuild your home after a natural disaster without having to pay too much out of your own pocket.

Renters Need Insurance Too

Renters are rarely required to carry insurance, so a natural disaster can be especially devastating for them. Most renters insurance policies will not only help offset the cost of replacing your stuff, but also the cost of a hotel room if your home becomes completely uninhabitable for a while. Such policies are very inexpensive and are a precaution well worth taking. Many car insurance companies offer rental insurance as well, and may offer you an extra discount if you buy both kinds of policies from them.

Upgrade Your Home’s Safeguards

While there is nothing that you as a homeowner can do to control the forces of nature, there are safeguards that can be put it in place to minimise the chance that certain disasters will destroy your home and endanger your family. Preventable fires destroy hundreds of homes every year, simply because homeowners failed to have their electrical wiring checked for faults on a regular basis, or did not remember to check the batteries in their smoke alarms.

Do not let that happen to you. If an electrical socket sparks occasionally when you pull a plug in and out do not ignore it, call in an electrician right away to figure out why it is happening. And yes, it gets very annoying when your smoke alarms go off every time you cook at temperatures that are a little hotter than usual, but by removing the batteries out of frustration, you could be putting everything you own, and your family’s life, in serious danger.

Create an Emergency Fund Now

Having an emergency source of cash you can depend on in the event of a natural disaster can be truly helpful. Even if you already have a savings account consider setting up a new one, one that cannot be touched unless it is absolutely necessary – your very own emergency fund. Look for a savings account that offers the best possible rate of interest and try to add funds to it at least once a month.

You should also keep an eye on your credit card balances. While plastic should never take the place of a cash based emergency fund, having a credit card in your wallet that is not maxed out can be very handy when a natural disaster has rendered your home unfit to live in for the moment and you need to check into a hotel or pay for the gas you’ll need to drive to your parents’ house.

Think About the Unthinkable

No one ever really likes to think about the very worst thing that could happen in the event of a natural disaster, that they could become one of the sad statistics on the evening news. As disturbing as it is to consider your own mortality in this way, you really do owe it to the people who depend on you to do so.

Maintaining a legal, up to date will, designating power of attorney to a trusted individual should you ever become unable to make decisions for yourself and buying a good life insurance policy are all things you should do now. Life can take unexpected and tragic turns, and it is not always a natural disaster that is to blame. The loss of your income may very well devastate your family far more than any natural disaster ever could, so trying to safeguard against that reality only makes sense.

Protect Your Personal and Financial Information

If a natural disaster has you fleeing your home in a hurry, or unable to enter it at all, all of your personal and financial records may be lost for good. Keeping copies of these records, or even the originals themselves, in an outside storage location makes a great deal of sense. Keeping your valuables, your deeds and tiles and other important papers in a wall safe at home might seem like a good idea, but if the wall the safe was installed in is gone so is everything that was in it. Invest in a safety deposit box at your local bank instead and make sure that whenever you gain new important documents you place copies into it.

Overflowing Gutters, Water Damage and Home Owners Insurance : What You May Not Know

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Most homeowners know that they should maintain their gutters better but somehow for a lot of people that task gets pushed right to the bottom of their around the house to do list. Cleaning and maintaining gutters yourself is tricky – even downright dangerous at times – and calling a professional gutter maintenance company is easy but many people put off spending the money to do so.

Gutter maintenance is certainly not a glamorous concept. Having your living room repainted or buying a new carpet, now those are home improvement projects you can get excited about. Gutter cleaning? Not so much, which is why it gets so easily overlooked.

To say that this can turn out to be a big mistake might be something of an understatement. Overflowing and leaky gutters can cause all kinds of water damage related problems – everything from causing cracks in your home’s foundation to interior leaks in in your walls and ceilings. In fact its amazing – but not very funny – when you realize just how much harm overflowing gutters can cause.

Gutters and Home Owner’s Insurance

Another reason that gutter maintenance is so important is that if an overflowing gutter is shown to have been the cause of certain types of damage to your home then there is a good chance that your homeowner’s insurance may not completely cover the cost of making any necessary repairs.

The problem is that most homeowner’s insurance policies have a clause that states the homeowner is expected to maintain a basic standard of home maintenance at all times. And as gutter cleaning is pretty basic many insurance adjusters see a clogged gutter as a sign of neglect on the part of the homeowner and reduce the amount of the payoff.

Getting out a ladder and climbing up to the roof yourself can be a very daunting prospect, of that there is no doubt. Even if you have a good head for heights cleaning a gutter efficiently by yourself is a pretty tough prospect as well. For those reasons calling in the pros is usually the better solution if you live in anything but a single story home.

In terms of costs a regular, bi annual or quarterly gutter cleaning is more affordable than you might imagine and you should actually think of it as a moneysaver and a potential homesaver. After all, if paying for a day of the services of a professional gutter maintenance company can save you from being stuck with a bill for – and the sheer inconvenience of – repairing a cracked foundation or a ceiling that caved in thanks to a water leak then it really is an investment well worth making.

 

 

 

Is Your Home Trying to Kill You? Home Hazards and Your Health

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You slog to the gym every day whether you really feel like it or not. You cut back on all those bad for you foods (that you love) and really make an effort to eat healthy these days. You even dropped a few of those extra pounds (or are at least trying to.) All of this is wonderful, but what you may not realize is that the most unexpected things can be bad for your health – and your home might just be one of them.

Here are some of the health hazards that might be lurking in your home. All of these situations can be fairly easily remedied, you just have to realize what a threat these home hazards are, which many of us really don’t.

Radon – You can’t see it, smell it or touch it but radon may be lurking in your home, especially if it has a basement. Radon is a gas that is created naturally as result of the normal breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It can worm its way into your home through cracks in the foundation or in walls and floors. Radon is nasty stuff , it has been shown to be a leading cause of lung cancer (so much for having given up smoking)

Testing is really the only way you can determine whether or not you have a radon problem in your home. Most hardware stores sell an easy do it yourself testing kit. If that test indicates that you do have a problem then it is time to call in the pros to help you figure out where it is coming from and how to keep it out.

Mould – Mould is another nasty that likes to lurk in homes everywhere. When it is under the floorboards or hiding in a dark corner of your basement you may not notice it for months, even years. Moulds can worsen allergies that anyone living in the home may have and some strains can even be deadly if allowed to take hold. If you catch it quick enough most mold can be banished fairly easily but if there is a lot of it, or it seems to be hanging in there rather stubbornly calling in a professional to help you get the mold out for good should be your next move.

Falls – A fall in their own home kills hundreds of people – young, old and in between – every year and injures thousands of others and many of them could have been prevented. To make your home a safer place to navigate keep electrical cords neat and off the floor, anchor down area rugs and make sure that any hard surface flooring (especially in the bathroom) is not too slippy and shiny and take steps to reduce the humidity in your bathroom to reduce slippy floor syndrome that way too (and doing so will also help prevent mould.)

Fire – The average home may have dozens of fire hazards lurking within it. See that mass of plugs plugged into that one power strip attached to your kids computer/TV/ three video game consoles set up in their room? That’s an accident just waiting to happen. Often in the form of a devastating fire. So are all the wires attached to the home entertainment system in the living room and the microwave/toaster/coffee maker all plugged into the same outlet in the kitchen.

Instead of buying more extension cords call in a good electrician to wire you a few more sockets. Your home will be a safer place and the chances that a power surge will kill off all your expensive electrical equipment in just a split second will be reduced as well as the very real fire risk.

Other electrical fire hazards are harder to see because they are hiding behind a wall in the form of worn out or faulty electrical circuitry. Have all of the electrical wiring in your home checked by a professional electrician at least once every few years and if they tell you it needs replacing take their advice. A little extra expense now could save you a lot of heartache down the road.