How to Kill and Prevent Bathroom Mold

522071-27331-8Got bathroom mold? Here’s how to get rid of it and prevent future infestations, too.

It’s one of the most common problems in any house; it’s also one of the easiest to prevent and cure — as long as you haven’t let it get out of hand.

“Bathroom mold occurs primarily because mold loves damp, dark, isolated spaces,” says Larry Vetter of Vetter Environmental Services in Smithtown, N.Y. “Typically, a bathtub, shower, or entire bathroom remains damp enough for mold growth just from showering or bathing.”

Common Causes of Bathroom Mold

  • Lingering moisture caused by lack of ventilation.
  • Leaky toilets, sinks, and plumbing pipes.
  • Damp cellulose materials such as rugs, paper products, wood, wallpaper, grout, drywall, and fabric.

So how do you know if you have a mold problem? Matt Cinelli, owner/operator of AERC Removals in North Attleboro, Mass., says, “If you can see it or smell it, you’ve got it.”

Finding the Mold in Your Bathroom

Bathroom mold isn’t always obvious. Check out hidden areas, such as under sinks, access doors to shower and bath fixtures, around exhaust fans, even in crawl spaces and basements underneath bathrooms.

“It could be starting in the bathroom but actually forming in another room,” says Cinelli, adding that lack of proper ventilation is the biggest culprit for mold growth.

Preventing Mold

The best defense is preventing mold from occurring in the first place. Yashira Feliciano, director of housekeeping for Conrad Conado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, offers the following tips for keeping mold out of your bathroom:

  • Use your bathroom ventilation fan when you shower or bathe, and leave it on for 30 minutes following the end of your bath; if you don’t have an exhaust fan, install one.
  • Keep household humidity levels below 50%; an air conditioner or dehumidifier can help.
  • Use a mildew-resistant shower curtain, and wash or replace it frequently.
  • Don’t keep bottles of shampoo or shower gel, toys, or loofahs in the shower, as they provide places for mold to grow and hide.
  • Wash your bathroom rugs frequently.

Getting Rid of Mold

What do you do if mold growth is already a problem? As long as the infestation isn’t large, you can take remedial measures yourself:

  • Strip away and replace any caulking or sealant that has mold growth.
  • Clean your bathroom with mold-killing products, such as bleach, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide.
  • Open windows and doors while cleaning to provide fresh air and help dry out the mold.

If you have a problem area bigger than 10 sq. ft., refer to guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or call in a professional.

“When you see it creeping into walls and insulation, you need a professional,” says Cinelli, who notes that tearing out walls (which may be necessary for a big problem) can release mold spores into the rest of the house and create an even bigger issue.

“The idea is to kill it and then remove it,” he says. “And the most important thing is to figure out why you have it before you clean it up.”

Home Maintenance 101: 7 Things Every Home Owner Should Know

It’s back-to-school time, and the perfect season to bone up on your home owner basics: standard DIY know-how that’ll keep your household running smoothly, day in and day out.

So here’s your course: Home Owner 101. Build a bookmark folder on your browser and add the web addresses of these videos so they’re only a click away when you need them. Review them when you can, and practice the techniques to ace the course.

1. Fix a leaky toilet.

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Running toilets not only rob sleep, they waste water and jack up your bill. Here’s how to change a flapper — the usual suspect — and solve other likely problems.

2. Repair drywall holes.

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The hardest part of drywall repair is making the patch flush with the existing wall. A “pumpkin patch” is an easy repair that cuts down on sanding.

3. Adjust cabinet doors.

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Changes in humidity can make cabinet doors rub, refuse to close, or just look cockeyed. Adjusting them is easy and generally requires only a screwdriver.

4. Open a stuck window.

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Windows stick when paint, dust, or moisture builds. Use a utility knife (or a pizza cutter) to remove old paint. Be careful not to gouge the wood sash. If high humidity is making windows hard to move, run a humidifier that sucks moisture out of air.

5. Stop a leaking faucet.

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A dripping faucet can waste 5 gallons of water per day. If you can’t replace the faulty part immediately, tie a string around the faucet and let it fall into the drain: Dripping water will silently flow down the string.

6. Silence door squeaks.

Take the squeak out of doors by lubricating top and bottom hinges with a little WD-40 or white lithium grease. If you don’t have any on hand, olive oil is a quick but temporary fix.

7. Turn off the main water line.

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Don’t wait until water gushes into your house to search for the main water line. When things are calm and dry, locate and practice turning it on and off.

Changing Spaces in New Homes

blueprints_new_homeHow space is distributed in a new home is a frequently asked question. To collect information on this, NAHB (the National Association of Home Builders) recently surveyed its single-family builder members. The average percent distribution of finished space in the typical new home built by NAHB’s members is illustrated below.

In addition to an average breakdown of space in all new homes, NAHB looked at the breakdown for a small home (based on averages for home sunder 2,000 square feet) and a large home (based on homes with at least 3,000 square feet).


Findings include the following:

Bedroom space accounts for just under 29 percent of floor space in new homes, irrespective of the overall size of those homes.

Bathroom space is allotted 12.3 percent of total floor area on average, with more space allotted in larger homes, and less in smaller ones.

The share of space covered by the laundry room- which is present in the vast majority of homes, irrespective of their size- is 3.7 percent and varies only to a minor extenct with the size of the home.

Entry foyers account for 3.4 percent of the finished area on average.

Kitchens get about 11.9 percent of the space in small homes, versus 11.1 percent of the space in larger ones.

Dining areas account for 7.8 percent of the space in small homes and 7 percent of the space in larger ones.

The family room accounts for just over 11 percent of floor space in small, average, and large size homes, while the living room accounts for nearly 12 percent of the space in the small home and 7.5 percent in the large one.

Complete details, including tables showing how often builders include various types of rooms in new homes and the size of rooms in square feet, are available in the October 1 Special Study published by NAHB on



Before You Paint a Room, Here’s Some Must-Do Prep Work


Photo credit: Paint Quality Institute

Painting can dramatically change the look of a space, enhancing its aesthetics and possibly even making it look more spacious. Painting is one of the most popular do-it-yourself jobs of home owners, and while it’s one of the easiest too, there is an art to painting.

The Paint Quality Institute offers up some of the following tips in prepping the walls to make sure a home owner’s paint job doesn’t end up looking like an unprofessional DIY job:

–Repair surface imperfections. Use a spackling compound to fill any cracks or holes so that the surface is smooth before you start painting. You can use a stain-blocking primer to repair any areas that have water stains or discoloration, according to the Paint Quality Institute.

–Clean the walls. Before you start painting, wash the walls and woodwork with a detergent-water solution. Rinse the surfaces and let them dry completely.

–Choose your paint carefully. “Top quality 100 percent acrylic latex paints resist spattering, tend to conceal brush marks, and do a better job of hiding the color underneath,” according to the Paint Quality Institute. “They also are tougher and more durable, with better long-term resistance to fading, yellowing, and staining.”

Also, home owners will want to carefully choose the sheen and gloss level of their paint. In general, the higher the gloss on a paint, the easier the paint will be to clean. High-gloss finishes, therefore, tend to be a popular choice in bathrooms and high-traffic areas. The highest gloss paints may be best reserved for entry doors and a home’s trim.

The downside to high gloss paint is that it can highlight imperfections in a wall. It’s highly reflective so it can makes any flaws much more noticeable.

On the opposite side of the spectrum from gloss are flat paints. These are non-reflective so it can make minor imperfections in walls less noticeable and make walls appear more smooth. They are often popular choices for ceilings or surfaces that a home owner may want to downplay. The big negative to flat paints: They’re not easy to clean and any dirt can easily become trapped in it.

These are the most popular sheen level choices on paint — from highest sheen to lowest: Gloss, semigloss, satin, eggshell, and then flat or matte.

–Use high-quality brushes and rollers. Not all paint brushes are the same. The best brushes tend to have tightly packed bristles, which will help them hold more paint on it. The Paint Quality Institute recommends using brushes and rollers with synthetic bristles and covers when applying latex, water-based paints. These types of brushes and rollers are more likely to maintain their shape, regardless of how much water they get on them.

–Get straight edges. Using “painters tape” may be a good idea in order to make sure you stay inside the lines. You can use tape to mask off areas to also ensure you get a straight line when painting. Take your time taping, however. Also, be sure to press the tape down firmly so no paint can creep in underneath the tape. Once the paint is dried, peel the tape away immediately.


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Love Your Home

love-your-homeOk, ok, Valentine’s Day is meant for people, not inanimate objects. But if home is where your heart is, shouldn’t you feel the love? As with any relationship, there are times when the romance wanes a little. Put a spark back in your relationship with your home with these 20 tips from

1. Choose 10 things. And donate them, throw them away or repurpose them. It’s easy for stuff to pile up but if you grab a bag and walk through the house it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be able to find 10 things that you either don’t love, don’t use, or is broken (and not worth fixing). Get these things out.
2. Rearrange. You choose big or small. Rearrange the living room or rearrange the bottles you have out on the counter in the bathroom. When we rearrange our homes they look new and fresh.
3. Take some advice from Benita. She rotates her accessories so that she can change the palette of each room. She cleverly stores the accessories she’s not using and is able to refresh her home without buying anything.
4. Add some yellow. Yellow is bright, fun and full of cheer. It’s modern and there are a lot of ways to incporporate it into your home.
5. Add a plant or flowers. Fresh flowers might be too expensive an indulgence to do all the time, but a nice little mint plant growing in the kitchen or some beautiful succulents out on the porch can breath some life into your abode. Check out some foolproof house plants.
6. Clean. Choose a room and really clean it: mop the floors, dust the shelves, the doorjambs and everyhing in between. See how different you feel afterwards.
7. Light it up. Do you have three points of light in the living room or just a torch lamp in the corner. Rooms feel bigger, more grown up and have better ambience if you use at least 3 light sources in a room.
8. Eat Meals at home. We’ve talked about it often, but eating meals at home instantly makes home feel like a place you want to be (in fact, sometimes for us it’s just knowing the fridge is full of food).
9. Privacy. Do your curtains give you privacy at night? Could they do a better job? You want to feel comfortable at home and having privacy is a big part of that. On our list is replacing the vertical blinds that came with the rental with some nice sheers (we’re on the 3rd floor so don’t need to worry about peeping toms).
10.Zone your space. Now is a good time to reevaluate how you’re using your space. Do you often have people over to watch movies and yet your desk takes up half the living room? Or the opposite: do you rarely have people over and you work from home and your desk is shoved into a tight little corner? Make sure your home is supporting the activities you do inside of it.
11.Good Rest. Is it time to change the sheets or clean off the nightstands? The bedroom is uber important for helping us get good rest so we feel good in our lives. Do you have ratty old sheets or just a color you can’t stand? Start saving up for some sheets that are amazing. If we ever get our gumption up, we’re buying linen sheets.
12. Frequent a local thrift store. You never know what you’ll find and when you find something you love, it’s normally pretty affordable. We stop at the Salvation Army once a week and look for paintings, pottery, lamps and small accessories. We’ve started to build a collection and when we make a mistake, we just donate it right back.
13. Put that collection on display. Do you love cake stands? Have a closet full of vintage scarves? break your collection out and put it on display. A friend of ours tied vintage scarves to her headboard, we use cake stands for plants and catch alls by the door.
14. Add Art. If you’ve been afraid to hang art, now’s the time. A space becomes a home when there is stuff on the walls. We love pairing family photos with vintage postcards and funny paintings. You can also rearrange your artwork to create a new feeling in the house.
15. Get a good book. Let yourself read in bed (in your cleaned out bedroom). This helps slow down your day and let’s you drift off into sleep. Quality of life skyrockets.
16. Scents. Is the only smell in the apartment the smell of the litter box or the dishes that haven’t been done yet? Use nice smelling cleaners like Methos Lavender all purpose spray and burn candles or diffuser sticks in smells that you like (and that aren’t overpowering). Ever tried a linen spray on your sheets? It’s nice, trust us. Pay attention to what you smell when you walk in the door. Is it stuffy? Do you need a fan? Doe the garbage need to be taken out every morning instead of once a week?
17. Indulge. Is there a bathsoap you really like? Flowers you really like? Love having fresh raspberries in the fridge? Choose something you love having around and, if you can afford it, splurge. If you can’t afford it, find something you can afford to splurge on and get it.
18. Invite people over. Sometimes just looking at our home with the perspective of what others see when they come in helps us to edit, rearrange or finally get to the project that’s laid out in the living room. And when people come over, you better believe we’ve spent some time cleaning, and that’s never a bad thing.
19. Slow Down. We’ve had moments when we’re so busy we’ve barely even been at home, let alone enjoyed it. So when we can we try to make a point of slowing down and just being at home. Drinking our coffee while sitting on the couch instead of multitasking. Taking the time to take a bath instead of checking our email again. Spending time with the family when everyone is home instead of just putting a video on.
20. Make Decisions. 90% of clutter is the result of delayed decisions. You can’t decide about that old sweater so you keep it. You don’t know if it’s worth it to keep that broken chair because some day you might be able to fix it, etc. Make some decisions, move forward in your home and get the energy moving in there again. When we get our home in order, it empowers us in every other part of our lives.

How do you love your home?

Erase Ugly Scratches from Your Wood Floors

hardwoodRepair wood floors and scratches that make rooms look worn out. We’ll show you easy ways to put the luster back into your floors.

Camouflage scratches

Take some artistic license to hide minor scratches in wood floors by rubbing on stain-matching crayons and Sharpie pens. Wax sticks, such as Minwax Stain Markers, are great scratch busters because they include stain and urethane, which protects the floor’s finish.

Don’t be afraid to mix a couple of colors together to get a good match. And don’t sweat if the color is a little off. Real hardwoods mix several hues and tones. So long as you cover the contrasting “white” scratches, color imperfections will match perfectly.

Homemade polish

Mix equal parts olive oil and vinegar, which work together to remove dirt, moisturize, and shine wood. Pour a little directly onto the scratch. Let the polish soak in for 24 hours, then wipe off. Repeat until the scratch disappears.

Spot-sand deep scratches

It takes time to repair wood gouges: Sand, fill, sand again, stain, and seal. Here are some tips to make the job go faster.

  • Sand with fine-gauge steel wool or lightweight sandpaper.
  • Always sand with the grain.
  • Use wood filler, which takes stain better than wood putty.
  • Use a plastic putty knife to avoid more scratches.
  • Seal the area with polyurethane, or whatever product was used on the floor originally.
  • Apply the polyurethane coat with a lambs wool applicator, which avoids air bubbles in the finish.

Fix gaps in floor

Old floorboards can separate over time. Fill the gaps with colored wood putty. Or, if you have some leftover planks, rip a narrow band and glue it into the gap.

How Long Does it Take to Build a House?

time_to_buildThinking about building a new home, weighing the pros and cons of building versus buying, or simply curious about the building process? The survey 2012 Survey of Construction (SOC) form the Census Bureau shows that on average it takes about 7 months from obtaining a building permit to complete a new single-family home. Looking at the houses completed in 2012, houses built for short sale, on average, register the shortest time from permits to completion- between 5 and 6 months. Houses built on owner’s land take longer – about 8 months if built by a contractor and more than 11 months if they are owner-built (i.e., where the owner of the land serves as general contractor). Single-family homes built for rent take, on average, between 8 and 9 months from permits to completion.

In most cases, no time is waster from the moment a permit is obtained and construction is started. Most homes built for sale and on owner’s land are started prior or within the same month as construction is started.

The time from permits to completion varies across the nine Census divisions. New England and Middle Atlantic register longer times between 9 and 10 months. Pacific and East North Central division also show above average time of 8 months to completion. Builders in the East South Central Division manage to complete a home in 7 months, on average. The rest of the country register times between 5 and 6 months.

For houses built for sale, the SOC also gathers information on sales, registered at the time when a buyer signs a sale agreement or makes a deposit on the home, not the final closing. For new single-family homes sold in 2012, the average time from completion to sale is under one month. However, this average is highly skewed by a relatively small number of homes that are not sold prior or while under construction.

Looking at new single-family homes completed in 2012, more than three quarters of these properties were sold before or during the completion month, including 30 percent that were pre-sold (i.e., sold before being started). Only 6 percent of homes completed in 2012 remain unsold as of the first quarter in 2013. So, for most new single-family homes there is no additional lag form completion to sale.


Source: To view the original post on the NAHB blog, Eye on Housing, click here.


Design Options Abound for Driveways

489153_t160The driveway that came with the 1921 Craftsman-style house that David Ulick bought five years ago was the original concrete one, marred by cracks and with tree roots starting to break through.

“I didn’t like the driveway,” said Ulick, of Pasadena, Calif. “I wanted something a little bit nicer.”

He looked through books and drove through the Craftsman-rich neighborhoods of Pasadena to get ideas before deciding on a concrete drive with an antique finish, accented with reclaimed red bricks from the 1920s.

“I wanted this to look like the original driveway, an original, nice driveway, and using used bricks gives it a nice old-fashioned look,” Ulick said.

“It really makes it a grand entrance for the house,” he added, noting the brick walkway up one side. “I figured I’d treat the Craftsman the way it deserves to be treated, and maintain its design style and heritage.”

While a driveway may still be a utilitarian afterthought for many homeowners, others like Ulick are adding some serious curb appeal to their homes by moving beyond basic options like grass or gravel, asphalt or concrete.

“The driveway is commonly overlooked,” conceded Michael Keenan, an adjunct assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Minnesota. “Driveways are not cheap necessarily, but they are completely functional and necessary if you have a car and a garage.”

Doing up the driveway, Keenan said, is a chance to “celebrate the function because it is a piece of the property you do use every day.”

The design options have grown in the last decade or so, he said, as pavers — made from precast concrete, clay and natural stone like granite — are being turned out in a range of colors and sizes. Some have rounded edges for an older look; others are mottled to add color variation to the driveway.

Installing a customized driveway is a way to put your own stamp on the hardscape and set your house apart from the rest. Depending on the neighborhood, the materials and the quality of the craftsmanship, Keenan said, a driveway also could increase a home’s resale value.

“It does become a point of distinction,” he said. “It is something people notice. It is elegant.”

The least expensive paved driveways are made of asphalt, which cost about $12 to $15 a square foot, and concrete, costing about $14 to $18 a square foot, Keenan said. Though concrete is more resilient and lasts longer, both materials will crack over time, he said.

Pavers, which start at about $20 to $25 a square foot, should last a lifetime, Keenan said. “The key is the fact that the pavement acts as flexible fabric and it can move with the earth, and isn’t a rigid system and isn’t prone to cracking,” he said.

Pavers can be used to make traditional patterns like basket-weave or herringbone, or be fashioned into a custom look.

For a less traditional look, use a paver that comes in three or four sizes and lay them out at random, Keenan said. Or get a custom design without breaking the bank by using concrete pavers accented with more expensive natural stone pavers.

Keenan is also the co-founder and design director of reGEN Land Design in Minneapolis. He works with homeowners to find the best driveway for their home. People are most concerned with the color, which might be chosen by looking at the home’s roof, siding or trim color.

“I don’t think you can make a value judgment on which one is the best,” Keenan said of driveway designs. “It’s got to fit the building that you’re paving next to.”

He might recommend, for example, a traditional red-brick driveway to go with a light blue Colonial home. For a contemporary, environmentally “green” home, he might choose light-colored, permeable pavers — a more environmentally sound choice because they let water back through to the earth under the driveway, rather than forcing it to run off and collect debris on the way to bodies of water.

In Naples, Fla., landscape architect W. Christian Busk installs “living driveways” that feature real grass interspersed among pavers. That reduces heat and glare and provides some drainage.

“We blur the lines between where driveway ends and where landscape begins,” says Busk, president of Busk & Associates. “It always looks beautiful.”

Back in Pasadena, the concrete-and-brick option that Ulick chose is popular among the many Craftsman and other historical homes in the area, said Mark Peters, the chief estimator for Boston Brick & Stone, which helped create Ulick’s driveway.

“It’s a very rich feel and it’s understated,” Peters said.

Since he got his driveway in 2009, Ulick said, he has received many compliments, and people sometimes stop to ask if his driveway is the original.

“That’s a bigger compliment,” he said, “that it looks like it’s been done years and years and years ago.”


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New Homeowner Checklist

textimagecomp.img.image.pngMoving is stressful for everybody. It’s like taxes. The mere mention of it makes even complete strangers groan in sympathy. offers a helpful checklist for new homeowners. Yeah, we know moving also means lots of paper and lists, but this one just could save your sanity!

• Packing Inventory: Always make a list of the boxes and items you’ve packed, and where they need to go in your new home. Simply marking “bedroom” or “kitchen” on each box or item will be enough for your movers to know where to put your stuff. For added ease, download our writable packing list.
• Utilities: When you move in, you’ll want water, gas and electricity as soon as possible. Find out which utilities providers cater to your area—oftentimes there are multiple competitors—and inquire about their packages. Choose the one that works best for you, and make sure to start your contract on the day before or the day of your move. Some realtors provide a homeowner checklist for clients with a map of the home and a list of important points, such as the gas and water meters, so don’t forget to ask for this when you sign the sales contract.

• Garbage: Call your city to find out which day garbage is collected, what types of receptacles or containers are required and what types of recycling programs exist in your new community.

• Water and Gas Meters: Locate where your water and gas meters are, as well as your breaker box. If you can’t find them, call your realtor and ask him. Usually, realtors have this on file with the home’s information.

• Smoke Detectors and Fire Extinguishers: Even if your home is already equipped with smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, double check to see if they’re in good working order. If there are none, make it a priority to install them within your first week and remember to check them regularly.

• Evacuation Route: Gather everybody in your household and plan an evacuation route in case of a fire or other emergency. Agree on a safe place to gather in the event that evacuation is necessary. Also, if you live in an area that is prone to earthquakes, hurricanes or tornadoes, draw up a disaster plan.

• First-Aid Kit: Purchase a good first-aid kit and keep it somewhere that is easily accessible, such as the kitchen.

• Change of Address: If you haven’t already, change your address online. This is easy to do, efficient, costs one dollar and makes sure your mail is sent to your new address from the date specified.

• Internet, Television and Telephone: Find out with providers cater to your area and choose the plan that is right for you.