House Painting Odors – Getting Rid of the Smell

Homeowners, especially those with small children, often ask me how to get rid of paint odors. It’s such a big concern for some folks that they’ll ask me about potential odor control before they even book the painting estimate.

The good news is that the evolution of house paint has come a long way with low-odor and even odorless lines for some applications. The bad news is there are still so many reasons to use the smelly stuff, especially if you’re repainting an older home. Alkyd (oil-based) and shellac or alcohol primers are especially effective in sealing water damage and old oil painted surfaces to upgrade them to Latex top coats. But they’re also very smelly with potentially long-lasting vapors. Even the most common low-odor alkyd paints often used today to repaint wood work can have a lingering odor for days under the most ventilated conditions.

So how do you get rid of the smell?

I’ve just received an email from a mother asking me that very question. Her young child’s room was painted almost two weeks ago and she’s left the windows open and the fan on ever since. Still, the paint smell is strong enough that she’s concerned about letting the child sleep in the room. The painting of this room involved a lot of priming to cover the dark brown oil paint used by the previous home owner. Since the color needed to be lightened up and the surfaces converted to a far more Eco-friendly Acrylic Latex, a common top brand Alkyd primer was used to give the whole room a fresh start. And although it had “Low Odor” printed on the can, it obviously was NOT odorless. To compound matters, all the woodwork had to be finished in a leading “Low Odor” brand of Alkyd semi gloss which produced a smooth lustrous finish as well as a migraine inducing vapor.

So what can you do? Well, there a few ways you can overcome these situations beyond obvious ventilation to control, eliminate and even prevent odors from lingering.

“An ounce of prevention”… Before there was such a thing as “low odor paint” we used to add a splash of vanilla extract to every gallon of oil paint to make it “low-odor”. It was cheap, easy to do and had no effect on the color. Now that low-odor alkyd paints are commonplace on the market, adding about a tablespoon of vanilla extract makes them virtually odorless.

Or, as in the case above, the painting is already done. It’s too late for vanilla and the smell won’t go away as quickly they’d like. What’s happening here is that the odors are being trapped in the walls while the paint cures and probably in all the fabrics and rugs in the room as well. They need something else to absorb them for good. So, here’s what I advised her to do. Cut up a few onions and place them in a couple of bowls of cold water. Put one of the bowls in the room and the other in the closet. As simple and crazy as it sounds, the onions absorb and actually eliminate the paint fumes and odors… sometimes as quickly as overnight!

I first learned this trick while creating a baby’s room about 17 years ago. I had spent about 5 weeks converting a badly crumbling and dusty old attic room into a nursery pending the baby’s birth. And as it turned out, the baby was born about two weeks early and was ready to come home just as I was finishing the project. The job required a lot of smelly primers and sealers to bury decades of neglect and water damage. As was customary in those days, I added vanilla extract to minimize the paints’ odor (and damage to my brain cells) but the smell wasn’t clearing up fast enough to bring the newborn in. The homeowner’s Nanny, who was moving into the bedroom next door (and who was also troubled by the smell) used a couple of bowls of cut onions in cold water over night and the smell was gone the next day. I couldn’t believe it!

I’ve recommended this technique ever since with great results. But it should be noted here that this example was in an empty room. In the case of a fully furnished room, as in our case above, you should consider airing out clothing, drapery, rugs or anything else which might be trapping the odors and give them a shot or two of Febreeze to do the trick nowadays.

Now sometimes, there are extreme cases where odors are simply not an option. Some people are highly allergic to the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) contained in paints and the tints used to color them. Some can become quite ill with even short term inhalation of the fumes. In these cases, you have to resort to the whole gamut of tricks:

  1. Before you paint, empty the room completely to make sure there is nothing that will trap the odors.
  2. Open all the windows before you open the paint cans and keep them open throughout the entire painting process.
  3. Add vanilla extract to your Alkyd, Alcohol or Shellac based paints. (Latex paints don’t usually need this step as they’re relatively low-odor to begin with).
  4. Place several bowls of onions around the room (as above) while you paint to absorb the fumes as they escape.
  5. When the painting is finished, seal and remove all paint cans, bag your drop sheets in plastic before taking them out through the rest of the house (or throw them out of the window if possible) to keep from spreading the fumes they’ve trapped indoors.
  6. Refresh your supply of onions in water as the old ones will have had their fill of vapors by the time your finished the painting.
  7. Keep the windows open and wait until the paint has fully dried and the odors have gone before you replace the furniture and other belongings.

Of course, these tips are offered in connection with interior painting but you should also try adding some vanilla to your paint when painting the exterior in Alkyd coatings as well. It saves the painter a lot headaches… literally. But whether inside or out, these simple ideas combined with some good old fashioned common sense should produce a fresh new look with clean, breathable air you can live with.

Happy painting!

Small Green Homes

A small home can pack a super-sized punch when it comes to reducing a house’s environmental footprint. Energy-efficient, sustainable homes tend to be smaller homes, which inherently have less square footage inside and less acreage outside. The inside costs less to heat, cool and light, leading to less energy consumption, and a minimal-sized lawn-if any-needs minimal maintenance, reducing emissions and contributing to a much healthier environment. But there’s more to a “green home” than meets the eye.

A green home does not need to look as if it was built for the year 2100. In fact, many green homes look, from the outside, like other homes going up in new subdivisions. But on the inside and some unseen places on the outside, these abodes are unusual. Features such as rainwater capturing systems, a roof designed for solar installation, carpeting made of recycled materials, and wind power are just a few ways that a house is built with the environment in mind.

The greenest of the green are residential homes built to be certified to the highest standard of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. Conforming to the standards provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Building America Program, LEED has long been used for commercial and government buildings, but home certification is a relatively new phenomenon. One way that a green home is defined is its rating as being at least 40 percent more energy efficient than standard-code homes.

For the pure sake of building cost, smaller homes are the most likely to be built as “green” homes. Many of the systems that are constructed as eco-friendly are not cheap, and the fewer solar panels and the smaller self-sustaining heating and cooling systems equate to a smaller build-out budget. The elements that make a home a green home have dropped in cost over the past several years, but constructing a basic LEED-certified house still runs about $3,500 more than it would cost to build a regular house. The highest-level LEED-certified home costs about $29,000 more. The smaller the home, the less expensive the process. The same concept applies to existing-home renovations or “greening up” an older home.

One example of a company that successfully merges the concepts of “green” and “small” is seen with Tumbleweed Tiny House Company founded by Jay Shafer. Shafer started building small homes out of his concern about the impact a larger house has on the environment. More than 10 years later, these “tiny” portable homes not only minimize square footage, but the green homes are fully insulated with double-pane windows and an adequate heater.

More and more homebuilders are greening the American Dream. It is suggested to verify a builder’s credentials by asking for their ANSI-approved ICC-700-2008 National Green Building Standard certification (see http://www.nahbgreen.org for more information). Check out these builders online:

Atlas Home Contractors, atlashomecontractorsinc.com
BPC Green Builders, bpcgreenbuilders.com
Castalia Homes, castaliahomes.com
Dominion Homes, dominionhomes.com
Grady O Grady, gradyogrady.com
Integrity Builders, homesbyintegrity.com
Jurenka Custom Homes, jurenka.com
Ondra Home Building, ondrahomebuilding.com
RC Green Builders, rcgreenbuildersaz.com
Summit Custom Homes, summitcustomhomeskc.com
Zero Energy, zeroenergyllc.com

The Tiny House Movement and Merits of Downsizing

People are talking about the tiny house movement. What is it? Is it small houses that are being moved down the street to tiny lots? Is it a political movement? This movement is all about a segment of society that states that people are downsizing the space or spaces that they live in.

If you haven’t heard of it, the tiny house movement is a growing trend and not just a fad. It’s been featured on network television all over the world. What makes the tiny movement so big, and what determines what a small home is? The average house in America is just less than 3,000 square feet in size. Tiny houses are built with the focus on smaller simplified living so they average around 400 to 500 square feet at the most. Some small houses are very tiny, at around 65 square feet.

But Why the Movement toward Downsizing Houses?

This movement is all about efficiency, saving natural resources, and saving the environment. People who have been concerned about these factors in society have been very concerned at the amount of natural resources (and accompanying waste) that’s generated every time a standard size home is built.

And if you include all the resources that go into maintaining older standard size houses, a good argument can be made that the old adage of “Bigger is better” is not better anymore. For example: If a tiny home of about 200 square feet is built in remote areas away from sprawling cities, the house leaves virtually no impact or carbon footprint on the natural environment around it. And in many areas small houses are using solar panels for their energy source.

Smaller Homes Are Economically Friendly Too

When you consider many automobiles today cost over $50,000, it’s easy to see the economic value in getting involved in the tiny house movement. Small homes or houses can cost as little as $37,000 if you buy a pre-fabricated or pre-built one. If you build it yourself you’ll save a lot more.

A lot of people think that buying a tiny home means living in a cardboard box or something like that. Not so. Because the cost of a tiny house is so low, builders can focus on higher quality building materials that are more energy-efficient and last longer than materials used in traditional home building.

The small house movement is also providing an affordable means of home ownership to people whose homes were destroyed during hurricanes in the southeastern U.S. in the past ten years. Some people whose houses were completely demolished could not afford to rebuild, or they did not have sufficient insurance coverage to rebuild the home they had before. So tiny homes provide a comfortable and safe life for them.

Downsizing to Simple Housing Is the Answer for Some

There are some people who have not been affected by natural disasters or financial meltdowns. They simply want to join the movement because for a lot of people in today’s hectic society, simplicity is king. Many people in society during the last few decades have found themselves working long work weeks and getting little time off, only to spend that time constantly maintaining a large house that they hardly ever spent any time in. Although small homes will always be just that, the tiny house movement is growing into something big.

Go Eco Friendly With Your Bathroom

Individuals who strive to make their bathroom suites more eco-friendly could find prospective home buyers are attracted to their property.

This is because new research carried out has shown energy efficiency is among the top priorities for people on the lookout for a new abode – and this might include whether or not a residence has shower enclosures.

The study revealed one in seven of those questioned claimed the factor that mattered most to them when considering their future dwelling is how environmentally friendly the place is.

Other aspects to rank highly in the poll included the price and size of a house.

Those looking to improve the sustainability of their bathroom may find a dual-flush toilet is a sound investment, the features can help conserve water.

People who make the most out of shower enclosures in their bathroom suites could be doing their bit for the environment by assisting in water conservation. People wishing to make their bathrooms more eco-friendly should take more showers.

A five-minute shower uses about 40 litres of water – about half the volume of a standard bath.

There a number of other ways homeowners can attempt to restrict their water usage. These include people turning off their taps when brushing their teeth – as a running tap can use up to nine litres of water every minute – while using a water-saving device in the lavatory cistern can save between one and three litres every time the toilet is flushed.

Checking tap washers is another quick and cheap way to limit output and do you bit for the environment.

Homeowners could make their properties more environmentally-friendly by using special strips of foam around doors and windows – such as those used in bathroom suites – to reduce draughts.

Environmentally friendly bathroom accessories appear to be of interest to consumers, with regards to taps and faucets, people are only just considering how much water they are using.

Speaking to the Kansas City Star, kitchen and bath designer Scott Bennett explained that where toilets are concerned, conservation has been a factor for a number of years.

The news source noted that one way to be green in bathrooms is to look at the various showerhead options on offer, such as low-level fixtures and high-end electronic systems.

These save water by cutting the flow rate. Other design improvements push the water out with greater force, so customers arguably can’t notice much difference.

Achieving Greener House Through These Easy Tips

Green is in – not just in the sole sense of its color, tones, and hues but also due to its association to efforts done to help preserve Earth and its resources. If you are a homeowner who is concerned of helping in the large-scale conservation efforts, making your house greener and more at tone with nature through the following easy tips can be your right start.

Cut down on what you consume.

Consumption reduction is probably one of the easiest ways to make your house greener. Cutting down on what you use and consume will reduce your household waste production. According to available stats, the United States generates an annual municipal solid waste of 208 million tons – and the figure has your waste contributions. By reducing your consumption of every thing such as toilet paper, bottled water, and other packed things- you are actually contributing not only in lessening waste production but also in reducing energy consumption needed to manufacture those things.

Replace old appliances with those bearing the Energy Star logo.

The use of appliances contributes to about 20% of a household’s electric bill. Of this 20%, a large segment comes from your old appliances. Replacing them with Energy Star compliant counterparts would cut down on your energy consumption. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the energy-efficient appliances utilize up to 50% less of what the standard models use. This is a huge slice on your average electricity usage.

Change your water usage behavior.

While a lot of water can be saved with the use of water-efficient fixtures like shower heads and toilet flushes – a lot more can be saved if you would change your water usage behavior. Simple things like turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth can save up to 4.5 gallons of water. Bigger volume of water can be saved if you will use a broom to drive away the dirt and sand particles on your driveway. This act alone is estimated to save up to 80 gallons of water.

Choose bamboo over wood.

If you are into replacing your floor for a greener feel, the use of bamboo is better than using hardwood. By using bamboo, you are actually contributing to hardwood resources conservation. You are also directly contributing towards lessening operating energy used when cutting the hardwood into standard dimensions. Although bamboo comes from nature, it is a fast-replenishing resource that just takes a maximum of six years to mature as compared to hardwood which normally takes 5 to 10 decades to grow mature enough.

Use compost instead of synthetic fertilizers.

Tune up your garden greener with the use of compost rather the commercially available synthetic fertilizers. Compost supplies your plants with all of the essential microorganisms needed to help the plants absorb the rich nutrients within the soil. Compost will not damage the soil’s pH as compared to the synthetic counterparts which have been proven to degrade the soil’s nutrient content through repeated use. Also, the use of compost as natural fertilizer can be your way to garden-to-table produces which are healthy options for your daily cooking.

Being green doesn’t mean you always have to go to the streets and bring a placard to join demonstrations. Action is greater than speaking loudly without actions at all. Be green now and start it right in your doorstep!

Why Hire Professional Cleaners?

Today, a large number of women deal with busy work lives, domestic obligations and family. And, expecting her to take care of the cleanliness of the house after such a hectic schedule is something impractical. How would you like it if you could leave the task of cleaning your house on professional cleaners? It would certainly relieve you from a lot of anxieties and will help keep your house clean and healthy all the time.

Professional cleaning services offer a great variety of services to clean your house from top to bottom. They make sure that every corner of your house looks neat and clean. Basic house cleaning services include floor cleaning, carpet cleaning, dusting, bathroom cleaning, plumbing works, etc. Since the team of professional cleaners is available all the time, you can take its services on a weekly, monthly or daily basis suiting your requirements.

Here are some advantages of appointing professional House cleaners.

Free form Anxieties

Cleaning is stressful, especially since so many of us are occupied with jobs, today. Well, hiring a professional team can relieve us from all these anxieties because there’s a lot more to do than cleaning your house. You do not have to waste your time in thinking about the ways of cleaning the obstinate dust from your fans or your carpets. The experts can handle all these tasks easily and can bring better outputs.

Save time

Do you remember when did you recently sit back and read your favorite novel or watched a movie? I am sure you don’t, because you spend your essential time in cleaning your house. However, hiring professional cleaners can save a lot of time and that time can be used in some useful activity.

Efficient Service

Being the professionals, the cleaners are aware of the latest techniques and equipment used for cleaning. Therefore, they manage to perform the cleaning tasks more efficiently and in a short period of time.

Adequate Guidance

Professional cleaning services offer expert advice to keep your premises clean using several technologies that are really useful. They tell you the best cleaning methods and also give useful tips helping you keep your property tidy.

Eco – friendly cleaning services

People often wonder and doubt that using chemicals for cleaning may cause damage as the toxins are harmful. However, the majority of the cleaning companies use eco-friendly products to clean the property. So, spending a little currency on professional cleaning services can protect and help maintain the hygienic level in the house which will produce a safe and healthy environment for your dear ones.

Insulated Earthbag Houses

Energy performance on most buildings can be improved with insulation, including those made of earth such as adobe and earthbag structures. Although most earth structures are located in hot, dry climates, there is increasing demand for low-cost, eco-friendly earth building techniques in cold climates. This article explores three innovative methods for insulating earthbag buildings, which extends their building range to cold regions.

Most earthbag buildings use polypropylene grain bags filled with soil. The bags are filled, stacked in level courses and then tamped solid. One or two strands of barbed wire between courses bond the bags to each other and add tensile strength. The building process using earthbags filled with insulation as described here would be nearly the same, although the bags would weigh significantly less and speed construction considerably.

Unlike other earth building methods, earthbag building has the unique advantage of providing either thermal mass or insulation, and therefore can be adapted for cold climates with an insulated fill material. Scoria, pumice, perlite, vermiculite or rice hulls are all suitable insulating materials. These materials are natural, lightweight, easy to work with and non-toxic. They will not burn or rot and do not attract insects or vermin. In addition, scoria, pumice, perlite, vermiculite are not adversely affected by moisture and can be used as part of earth-bermed structures.

The table below compares the approximate R-values of three sustainable insulating materials that could be used in earthbags. (The first column in the table is the insulative value per inch; the second column shows the R-value for a typical 15″ thick earthbag wall.)

Material — R-value/inch — R-value/15″

Rice hulls — R-3 — R-45

Perlite — R-2.7 — R-40

Vermiculite — R-2.13 — R-32 to 36

(Source: Wikipedia Encyclopedia.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R-value_(insulation)

1) The first method for insulating earthbag buildings uses bags filled entirely with insulation. The main advantage of this method over the other methods described below is ease of construction. Walls are one bag wide and filled entirely with insulation. Thick earth or lime plaster on the interior provides thermal mass to help stabilize indoor temperatures.

A demonstration home using this method was built in Crestone, Colorado with scoria-filled earthbags. Scoria also is known as volcanic rock or lava rock. Due to its volcanic origin, scoria is filled with tiny air spaces, making it a good insulator. Although the R-value of scoria is debatable, the owner claims these earthbag walls are comparable to straw bale walls of around R-26 to R-30. This estimate includes 5″ of papercrete at approximately R-2/inch.

2) Another method for insulating earthbag buildings uses tube sandbags, also called traction tube sand bags, typically used to improve automobile traction on snowy/icy roads. (The bags are sold to add weight for vehicle traction.) This method involves stacking tube sandbags filled with insulation on the exterior of earthbag walls, thereby creating a double wall.

Filled tube sandbags provide about 10″ of insulation, which is perfect for many climates – not too much, not too little. Again, scoria, pumice, perlite, vermiculite or rice hulls could all be used for insulation. Perlite would be my first choice due to its high R-value (R-2.7×10″=R-27) and resistance to moisture damage, although the final decision needs to be weighed against other locally available and inexpensive natural materials.

3) A third possibility is to add a seam lengthwise down earthbags to divide them into two compartments. The outer part could be filled with insulation; the inner part with soil. Like the other systems described here, this would create an insulated wall with thermal mass on the interior. For many situations, especially structures in moderately cold regions, this is an ideal wall system.

The placement of the seam could vary, depending on the climate. In a mild climate like New Mexico, about 4″-5″ of insulation on the outside would suffice. This would provide about R-10 insulation. In a slightly colder climate the seam could go down the middle (50% insulation / 50% soil). In extremely cold or extremely hot climates I would fill the bags with 100% insulation (or all earth in a hot climate if insulation is not available).

Aluminium Windows and Doors – Beautifying the House

The proper placement of doors and windows is essential in a house for the good light and ventilation. So, what would be better than having the option of aluminium doors and windows? The correct ventilation not only provides you with fresh air but keeps the house cool and cuts down the electricity bills, to a certain extent. There are many other green and eco friendly materials for this purpose, but they don’t give a good appealing view. Aluminium, on the other hand, has all these qualities and looks appealing to the eye also. They are super efficient, strong, light weight and cheap too. It also has other qualities like it can withstand many harsh factors like the chemicals, heat, corrosion, etc.

The other advantage of the aluminium doors and windows is that they are available in a huge range of shapes, designs, sizes and with different color finishes. The finishes include matte, solid, shiny, etc. You can also get it personalized paint finishes or faux finishes of your own choice. There is an option of the danmer customized doors windows and shutters. They are available in the form of the sliding doors, fixed windows, and many more. These would improve the indoor of your house.

These doors and windows consume far less space than the traditional ones made of iron or wood. This can be a boon in case you have less space at your place. Therefore, you can fit more and more things in a small area with the help of the aluminium doors and windows.

The other factor that makes it different from others is that these windows and doors are very easy to install and only require a bit of information. They are eco friendly and can be recycled. If combined with fiberglass or the plastic glass, then it could be the most intelligent thing one can do. It is the best combination which is attractive and low maintenance for the long run.

The doors and windows made of aluminium are extremely useful and can be recycled. It has many advantages over the wooden or the iron windows. So, the best option for your house is to have the proper symmetry and matching of the windows and doors which would make your house beautiful.

6 Green House Considerations

Because of the many environmental concerns, threats and considerations, many buyers, as well as homeowners, today, have become more – and – more concerned with various factors, often referred to as green real estate. There are many considerations, and variations, as well as degrees of greening individuals are interested in. Some (however a minority) are real environmentalists, and want their home, to exhibit their concern and attention, to this very important issue. Others merely want to proceed in a somewhat balanced manner, and want to include reasonable green characteristics. This article will be a basic one, and discuss, in general terms, 6 considerations, regarding making your home, a greener one.

1. Windows and doors: Obviously, energy conservation is a major environmental concern. We often speak about a business’ carbon footprint, but, obviously, certain houses are far more energy – efficient than others. When were your windows replaced and/ or upgraded, and are they efficient? Do they keep out most of the cold, in the winter, and minimize the amount of heat, which enters in the hottest weather? What materials are your windows and doors, made of? Do your doors leak? Begin by having someone do an energy inspection, and see if you are losing much heat, because of inefficiencies. Doors can often be made more efficient, by having them re – hung, and putting a properly installed, sweep, on the bottom of the door. How much money, and energy are you wasting?

2. Solar, geo – thermal, etc: Some houses are candidates for solar panels, while others are not! What direction does your roof face? Are there any large trees blocking your roof? How many hours a day, of sun, does your roof, experience? Have you had your home examined, to discover whether you might be a good candidate for geo – thermal? This often requires a combination and evaluation of your property, pitch, location, and layout.

3. Energy – efficient burners/ boilers, and air conditioners: When was the last energy efficiency evaluation, you had performed? How old is your burner/ boiler, and is it efficient? What type of air conditioning do you use, and what it the Energy Efficiency Rating?

4. Roof: Light – colored roofs reflect heat, while darker ones, absorb it. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense, that warmer climates should use lighter ones, and colder ones, darker? What is the material being used? Is it efficient, effective and safe? How old is the roof?

5. Insulation: What is the rating of your insulation, and how well insulated, is the house? Have the walls (especially outside ones) checked, for efficiency? Older houses tend not to have updated insulation, or may contain less than the safest materials. An ounce of prevention, makes lots of sense!

6. Materials: Are you using safe, sustainable materials, in your house? This is generally more relevant, in newer houses, or extensions, but if you are concerned with the environment, you should consider the sustainability, safety and impacts of your home!

There are numerous environmental considerations. Whether you are truly committed to the environment, or merely want to be responsible, and save money (and be safer), it makes sense to think green!

Building a Dog House? – The Type of Wood to Use

Despite the fact that many families provide their dog with a wooden dog house in their backyard, only a few people realize there happens to be quite a few various kinds of wood offered on the market.

Cedar is definitely the most popular kind of wood used nowadays. It is a very common choice for wooden dog house simply because of its resistance to corrosion, rotting and insect devastation.

This type of wood is simple and easy to work with as well as being resilient, reputable, and low maintenance.

Pine and hemlock are among other kinds of wood that are chosen in constructing a dog house although they do not tend to be as popular. It is attributed to the fact that they are lacking resistance to decay, rotting and destruction by insects as opposed to cedar wood. Whenever in contact with the yard, these two types of wood will get rotten rather fast so they are hardly ever used to construct the frame work of a dog house as well.

If you decide to build your own dog house, be weary of utilizing pressure-treated timber. Even though they resist rotting and damage from bugs, they carry dangerous chemical substances that may possibly present a threat to your dog.

Also, you should decide on a wooden house over a plastic one simply because they keep a lot warmer throughout the winter season. Additionally, a wooden dog house will help to dissipate warmth the natural way during the summer time.

Furthermore, wood is less of a challenge to work with when compared to plastic material. All you need to have is a hammer, a saw, and a good quality woodworking plan to construct your dog house. In case you are eco-conscious, then making a wooden house is actually much more environmentally friendly in addition to being conveniently recycled for various other uses.