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iStock_000003145965XSmallMoving into a new (or new-to-you) house can be exciting. But it can also mean needing some basic DIY skills that you may not have ever learned.

We asked some experienced new homeowners and renters about what DIY and home maintenance tips they think are most important. What do new homeowners or young people living their first house need to know? We asked Twitter and got these responses:

  • Basic plumbing: know how to unstop a toilet, unclog a drain, fix a basic leak.
  • How to (and when to) change the air filter in a house with central air and heat.
  • Hone your stud-finding abilities and be able to find a stud in the wall to hang hooks, pictures and shelves.
  • A clean caulk can keep out significant water damage. Knowing how to seal joints in the kitchen and bath is a top skill.
  • Grow some basic landscaping skills: know what the tools are for, figure out what plants to plant and gauge how much to water to use.
  • Build your toolkit and put together a great go-to box of tools with all the basics. But what should go it?
  • Know when to bring in a professional: some DIY is not amateur-friendly, know when to fold ’em

Having some basic home maintenance and DIY skills can save you a lot of money. In fact, the most common statistic we found is that, for every $1 that is spent on maintenance, up to $100 of repairs are avoided.

We’ll cover some of these skills in more detail in the next few posts, but in the meantime, here are some terrific resources so you can get started building your DIY skills.

If you have a skill that you’d add to the list, please feel free! We’ll see if we can address it in a future post.

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BBQ Season by Dominic via Flickr

BBQ Season by Dominic via Flickr

In the category of “random holidays,” we learn that July is not just National Hot Dog Month, but it’s also the National Month for baked beans, blueberries and ice cream. Sounds like a BBQ to us!

As we are wont to do, we scoured the Internet to find the best of the best tips for prepping for and hosting a delightful backyard soiree.

Prepping

Check the backyard for any safety issues such as filling holes that may cause people to fall when walking, or fixing a loose board on a deck or stones in a patio. Clean up a cluttered yard by putting away all unnecessary items such as toys and outdoor maintenance equipment.

You may have noticed that wobbly leg on the deck chair at the Memorial Day get together. It’s time to repair it! Make quick and easy repairs using Amazing GOOP Lawn & Garden or EcoGlue Extreme.

Keep your party bug free by setting up insect repellent devices around the yard. Make sure your repellent is EPA-registered or recognized as safe for kids, pets, and the environment. Repellent devices include Allethrin Lamps, Geraniol Candles and Diffusers, and Metofluthrin Diffusers.

Next, clean the stuff.

Good Housekeeping recommends the following top patio-furniture cleaners:

Decorating

Liven up the party with decorations:

  • Pick a theme and place decorations around the patio, yard, and house.
  • Spruce up picnic tables with fresh-picked flowers.
  • Cover tables with vibrant plastic or cloth tablecloths.
  • Place votive candles on tables to add ambiance and additional lighting to the party.

Party Time!

Whether your cooking simple hot dogs and hamburgers or lamb shish kabobs, prepare everything ahead of time to avoid a hassle during the party. Food and Wine Magazine recommends four simple steps to a great barbecue: slather, rub, mop, and barbecue sauce. Tasty food is a key component to a successful barbecue.

Prepare a buffet table and set out a cooler with cold beverages just before your guests arrive. Arrange the buffet table in a logical order so guests can easily maneuver through the delicious grub you prepared. Place condiments and extras in a central location for easy mid-meal maneuvering. Replace perishable items with fresh food to avoid potential spoiling.

Prepare games such as badminton, horseshoes, and volleyball. Make sure you have the appropriate game equipment for your guests and encourage some friendly competition by offering fun prizes.

Keep the party groovin’ with a killer music selection or playlist. Who knows, maybe the music will provoke an impromptu dance party.

And voila… you now have a successful barbecue!

DIY PaintingIt’s summer and that means it’s time to start some home improvement projects. Lucky for you, there are abundant resources available for doable DIY projects. Avoid a DIY disaster with tips we found that help you choose your projects wisely and plan carefully.

Step one: Do your research!

Interior designers suggest searching the Internet for step-by-step videos for a particular project. A video will help you visualize the project and decide if the project is doable. Research also will give you a realistic idea of how long a project will take.

Research the necessary tools for the job. Many tools may only be needed once for a specific cost. Research tool rental costs to reduce DIY expenses.

Step two: Time to get started!

Outdoor projects

There are many doable outdoor DIY projects for the inexperienced. Staining a deck or laying a stone walkway are both simple outdoor projects that experts suggest for home-improvement novices. The DIY Network suggests building an outdoor patio as a simple addition to a yard.

Spruce up dreary gray concrete surfaces with acid stains, acrylic stains, epoxy paints, and scoring techniques. Water based concrete stains are a popular eco-friendly solution for coloring concrete surfaces. These stains act like a dye and come in a wide array of colors. For example, SoyCrete is green building compliant, non-hazardous, and acid free concrete stain.

Painting

Painting is a simple, affordable way to improve your home. To make a paint-job look professional and clean, sand surfaces before painting. This doable DIY task gets tricky when attempting to paint the ceiling. Some designers suggest a laminate plank system for ceilings. The laminate planks can be affixed to any ceiling with hooks and screws, which gives your home a sleek, professional look.

Lighting

Upgrade your lighting fixtures by adding decorative trim to lamp shades. Plain drum shades and pendant light kits are available at home good stores. Avoid a DIY disaster by leaving technical electricity work to the experts!

Wallpaper and Upholstery

Experts advise starting small when it comes to wall covering. If you’re nervous about applying wallpaper, save money and time by prepping the walls. To prep the walls, start by sanding, remove the dust with a damp cloth, and then prime with wallpaper primer. If you work up the courage to apply the wallpaper, start small and take your time.

To read more about doable DIY projects see the full article: Want to fix up the house? Pick doable DIY tasks.

DIY InstructionsWe know you enjoy DIY – building, crafting, repairing – and sometimes finding interesting, useful and inspirational things online can be very time consuming.

Since we’ve been reading and sharing a variety of projects, innovative ideas and just cool stuff on Twitter, we thought compiling them for you here would be fun, too.  You can join us anytime on Twitter, by the way. @amazinggoop for DIY and craft tweets and @EPI_Industrial for builders and contractors.

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DIY Gardening: Build a Rain Barrel

It’s gardening season and your plants are thirsty. Make your own rain barrel with used plastic containers. Rain barrels are an efficient, cost effective way homeowners can collect and recycle a valuable resource.

33 Clever, Time-Saving, Money-Saving Reader Tips

Readers contributed bunches of tips that speed repairs and save money. You can find the best of the tips from This Old House. Our favorites were tip number 16, place a bag in a paint tray to decrease the mess, and number 30, unclog hairy drains with Nair hair remover. We’d also add #34: Use a good adhesive.

How to Build a Patio Planter

From our buddy, Danny Lipford, learn how to build a wood patio planter with simple instructions. Summer heat doesn’t mean boring entryways. Add simple late summer or fall plants for a lovely addition to your patio. You can make it even simpler, by using EcoGlue Green Solutions Premium Wood Adhesive.

50 Nifty Tricks for Big DIY Savings

Shrink household expenses with 50 simple ideas. Some of the tricks may help you save $500. Some of the tips include shortening your dryer-vent hose and making your own cleaning solutions. And… Of course, add a tube of GOOP to your toolbox for on-the-spot repairs to save some coin, too.

How to Make an Herb Garden from Recycled Plastic Bottles

Reuse plastic bottles and create a fresh herb garden. This clever project would be great to do with your kids and watch your garden grow. Of course, we recommend EcoGlue for the glue used in this project. The steps are easy and you can have fresh basil before you know it.

19 fresh ideas for outdoor rooms

It doesn’t take much to improve a porch, patio or garden. Here are some easy and inexpensive updates for outdoor spaces. One of our favorites is fresh idea number 8: Create a new outdoor room with a simple change in flooring.

How to Decorate a Table with Bamboo Veneer Flowers

Spruce up a coffee table with an organic, floral twist. This article will show you how to make your own pattern from photos of flowers and apply them with bamboo veneer.

Mosaic Birdhouses

Learn how to make stunning mosaic birdhouses that will brighten your yard and make a stylish home for the birds in your yard. This article provide seven easy construction steps and materials. We’ve provided several mosaic projects on An Eclectic Blog and know that EcoGlue or Amazing GOOP both work well.

071130-hurricanes-forecast_bigHurricane season is approaching and weather agencies anticipate several named hurricanes in 2009.

Many areas of the country are still rebuilding and repairing damaged buildings and properties from the recent ruthless hurricane seasons. Preparation, however, can make a tremendous difference in protecting your home.

Rooftops

Prepare your roof for hurricane-force winds, which can tear away roofing materials. Well-installed roofs also will prevent the damage from changing pressures caused by hurricanes.

Ray Rosewell, CEO of DaVinci Roofscapes says pressure that escapes into the home through the roof can cause walls and windows of a home to actually blow out. Hurricane winds also cause damage by lifting shingles from the roof and hurling various debris onto the roof. Experts recommend high wind roofing materials for hurricane inflicted areas.

Windows and doors

Broken windows and doors can also allow hurricane winds to rip through your home. Similar to roof leaks, the high winds that come through doors and windows cause a build-up of pressure, which can blow out the roof and walls of a home.

Impact resistant windows will help prevent these blow-outs. Many impact resistant windows are built with reinforced glass and are designed to withstand flying debris. Storm shutters and shades also offer protection against hurricane winds.

Companies such as Wayne-Dalton introduced Fabric Shield storm panels. Hurricane fabrics are durable and can be used several times without replacement.

Protecting valuables

Protect valuable items in the home with watertight products. Products such as Pelican Cases are polycarbonate cases designed to resist weights up to 5,000 pounds. Protect electronic documents by backing them up on external hard drives and other data storage devices and storing them outside the home.

General Repairs

If you’re in hurricane-prone areas, arm yourself with a tube of EcoGlue Extreme, to make on-the-spot fixes of damaged or broken fixtures around the exterior or interior of your home. Check for loose siding, tiles, window or door jambs, for example, and glue them in place.

For more information about hurricane preparation, please visit:

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557840620_12701c1225_bChoosing a good contractor is a topic we’ve discussed before. With a majority of Internet users searching for information online to help make decisions about everything from shoes to medical care to home improvement products and professionals, referral websites can substitute or complement personal referrals.

You’ll find two types of referral Web sites: homeowner-to-homeowner and professional-to-homeowner.

The Queen of the homeowner-to-homeowner sites is Angie’s List. Members of Angie’s List pay a fee of about $50 a year to have access to reviews and ratings from fellow homeowners. Since 1995, when it launched, the site has grown to more than 300 categories. Providers are “graded” with letter grades on areas such as price, quality of work and professionalism.

As a member, you can search for a professional by zip code and check out ratings from other homeowners and read about their experiences. Angie’s List users take the responsibility of their contributions seriously. Everyone understands that the community depends on each member reviewing their experiences.

Angie’s list does not allow contractors to buy a place on the site or be featured above another.

A professional-to-homeowner site like Contractors.com provides a more traditi0nal referral service, but really serve a complementary role to a site like Angie’s List. On Contractors.com you submit a project and a team of former contractors reviews it for accuracy. The team then submits to licensed and insured contractors in your area.

Within about 24 hours, you’ll hear from up to three contractors interested in bidding on your project. This service is free to homeowners, it’s the contractors that pay the fees. Contractors pay for leads and can also pay for premium listings. Contractors.com also includes homeowner-generated reviews.

Regardless of which site you use to help make decisions about your home, we have a few general tips to consider.

  • A legitimate contractor will want to see a larger project in person before giving you a quote.
  • The best sites will offer support over the phone. Contractors.com will help keep contractors communicating with homeowners and Angie’s List will even step in to resolve disputes.

This Old House has a terrific article on the topic of using contractor referral sites. If you have experience with one of these services (or another), please let us know!

Before throwing out that scrap wood, worn out piece of furniture or leftover DIY project materials, consider reusing them. We found some clever projects that do just that.

Give Old Furniture an Inexpensive Facelift

Bring an old table or chair back to life by refinishing it. Home improvement guru Danny Lipford gives directions on how to refinish.*

  • Apply liquid stripper according to the directions, allowing it to stay on the surface for the recommended amount of time.
  • Use a putty knife with rounded edges to remove the bulk of the old finish.
  • Take off the remaining finish and stripper using steel wool or a plastic scouring pad dipped in the recommended solvent.
  • Fill cracks, holes or damage with a wood filler like Famowood.
  • Sand the surface thoroughly; start with coarse sandpaper (80-100 grit) and work up to fine (180-220 grit). Sand with the grain when possible.
  • Stain the piece, applying with a rag, and allow to dry.
  • Finish with several coats of a clear finish such as Glaze Coat.

Picture 1

Piece it Together with a Mosaic

In the same vein as refinishing, you can also save furniture by creating a mosaic table top. Using recycled glass, beads or tiles, you can create a work of art. E-How has great directions for making mosaics.

Deep Fried Kudzu has directions for creating this cool swirly marble mosaic table top (left). Simple, yet stunning. A great way to make a generic or tired table your own.

We’ve found EcoGlue works well for mosaic projects.

Get Crazy Creative with Vintage

You can do lots of amazing things with old suitcases from creating anything from filing cabinets to end tables. You might have some old hard-side suitcases in your garage; if not, it’s likely your local thrift store does.

I thought these suitcase cat beds were pretty clever. Maybe if I had one, my cat wouldn’t sleep on my laundry.

The legs can even be glued on (no fancy power tools necessary) with something like EcoGlue Extreme or Amazing GOOP.

Scrap Convention with Cool Wood Projects

If you’re a woodworker of any manner, you have piles of scrap wood. You can create a country chic wall decoration that doubles as a place to hang bags, coats and keys. You can glue the “tree branches” together with EcoGlue Premium Wood and then nail it to the wall in just a few places (rather than peppering your wall with nails for each piece).

Be Inspired by the Pros

You can also see how professional designers are doing amazing things with furniture and style with reused and repurposed items at Design Blog.

What have you done to turn trash to treasure? Leave your tips in the comments.

*Note that product recommendations are our own, and not from the original directions. But we’re still sure they’ll work.

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Spring Storm via Flickr from Angelrays

Spring Storm via Flickr from Angelrays

In Eugene, Oregon (where Eclectic Products Inc. is based), we’re enjoying one of the first beautiful weekends of the year. The weather is absolutely stunning. With the gorgeous blue skies and cherry blossoms in bloom, we come to the stark realization that our patio spaces aren’t as ready for spring to arrive as we are.

However, with a little attention, you can be ready for outdoor entertaining season. Here are our favorite tips:

  • Repair patio furniture umbrellas, retractable awnings and upholstery right away. Of course we like Amazing GOOP for these tasks because it dries flexibly – perfect for cloth repairs.
  • No deck, but you want an outdoor entertaining space? Try a “paver patio.” It’s a weekend warrior type project, but totally doable. Add a fire pit, and your yard will be the place to be on warm summer nights.
  • Seal your concrete surfaces like driveways. Spring is an ideal time, according to HGTV‘s spring maintenance checklistThis video will give you the step-by-step.
  • Like it or not, we’re still in for some more rain, so check the rain gutters in case they are loose or leaky. Make sure, too, that the downspouts point away from the foundation.

Happy Spring! If you have any other tips (or questions), please leave them in the comments.

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42-17590253Going green doesn’t have to cost a lot of green. We’ve done some research and found plenty of ways that you can go green around the house and not spend a lot. In fact, going green will often save you money, primarily in energy costs.

Lower your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Even a 10 degree reduction can save you 5 percent in energy costs and there’s no reason to have your hot water any higher.

Replace your incandescent bulbs with compact florescents2777441779_56d64f504a1According to the US Department of Energy:

“If every American home replaced one light bulb with an Energy Star qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than three million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.”

Seal the gaps. Doors and windows give away their air leaks and drafts because you can feel them. Two simple steps can help seal the leaks, lower your energy bills and keep you more comfortable. The first is weather stripping.

From ACME How-to:

Weather stripping should be installed along the sides and top of the door and a door sweep or similar device should be installed on the bottom of the door. Old weather stripping should be periodically replaced.

An all-purpose sealant will close the leaks around the outside of the doors and windows (the jambs, sills and moldings, particularly). This method works well for sealing around door and window frames, around plumbing fixtures and for small gaps. Using a low VOC adhesive like EcoGlue Extreme gives you instant grab and its completely water-based. It bonds to most any substrate instantly and can be painted after 24 hours.

Make sure your attic, basement and crawl spaces are well-insulated. These areas are notorious for letting heat and cooling escape.

Plant more trees on your property. Evergreen trees on the north and west sides of the house protect against winter winds and leafy trees on the south and west shade from the summer sun.

For more info:

Tips to Increase Your Home’s Energy Efficiency (Easy tips that anyone can do)

Green Home Tips (particularly helpful for historic homes, but lots of relevant tips)

Five Ways to Build Affordable, Energy Star Rated Houses (from BUILDER Magazine)

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427626636_3268de8bac_b In well-appointed homes, tile is a popular choice from earthenware tiles in the foyer to porcelain in the bathroom and ceramics in the kitchen. A cracked or broken tile, even when it appears to be nothing more than a hairline, can cause thousands of dollars in water damage. Don’t delay making this repair.

  1. Use a hammer and chisel to completely remove the broken tile, taking care not to damage surrounding tile or to break the adhesive seal.
  2. Clean out the broken tile completely, including all the old grout and adhesive.
  3. Apply new adhesive. You can use tile adhesive, or for simpler application, try Amazing GOOP. GOOP is also a waterproof sealant and at about $5 a tube, can save even more money than specialty adhesives. Be sure to read the directions for the best results with the adhesive you choose.
  4. Replace the tile, regrout and leave to dry overnight.
  5. A quick clean up in the morning and your tile is as good as new.

Bottom line: A standard four-inch tile, plus the supplies will cost you less than $10.

Photo via Flickr by Abmatic

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