This year KOHLER announced a couple of “toilet technology” features that we are pleased to see available for home bathrooms.
They pushed the limit with their NUMI toilet, but introduced an ambient LED Toilet Nightlight at this years Builders Show.
But now they’ve gone a step further by announcing KOHLER Touchless Flush Toilet Technology. It’s currently available in two toilet models—including Cimarron, as well as a Toilet Flush Kit that retrofits most single-flush toilets with a canister or flapper style flush.
The new technology means fewer germs to pick up or leave behind. To flush, simply hold your hand over the tank.
The KOHLER Touchless Kit is $99 and installs in minutes.]]>
Milwaukee Tool continues to provide solutions that maximize jobsite productivity with the introduction of the new 13” Jobsite Work Box. Designed with versatility in mind, the new storage solution features a 16” seat height for repetitive tasks that are close to ground level, such as wiring an outlet, and innovative organization options like vertical tool storage dividers.
Milwaukee Tool knows that the trades people who use their tools and equipment each day, are always on the go and spend much of their time crouched or seated while working on breaker boxes, outlets and other areas of the home.
With an ergonomic mindset, Milwaukee has just released details on the 13″ Jobsite Work Box that is a perfect bucket for transporting tools but also the perfect height for seated work and extremely portable.
Built for extreme durability, the 13” Jobsite Work Box is made with a proprietary high impact resistant polymer, and features reinforced corners for impact resistance, allowing it to survive over 1,000 drops with a 25lb load. An Integrated Drip Ledge Lid also protects the user’s tools from water, debris and contamination.
More than a tool box, the new storage solution also delivers innovative features that will increase productivity including a box divider, floating tray and large capacity interior to securely organize tools. An innovative vertical tool storage tray is also included, allowing users to hang an entire tray of tools near their work area for easy, organized on-task tool access. For maximum user versatility, the 13” Work Box also features a wide grip locking handle, indexing squares for secure stacking, and a cut groove on the lid for cutting small diameter material.
Made in the USA, the new 13” Jobsite Work Box (48-22-8010) is the second in a growing line of storage solutions from Milwaukee, and will be available at select retailers in August of 2014. Dedicated to delivering advanced solutions to increase productivity, Milwaukee’s line of storage solutions will continue to grow and offer innovative solutions for the trades.]]>
This is my first summer in our new house with an in-ground pool. While I took on the task of mastering pool chemicals I decided to outsource the time sink that is cleaning to iRobot’s Mirra. Here’s what I think.
Hits: Simple to use and a great cleaner. iRobot Mirra is self-contained with a pump and filter, so no additional booster pump or complicated hook up is required. Its built-in navigation covers the entire pool.
Misses: While easy to remove, cleaning both filter canisters completely can be difficult because debris tends to hide in nooks and crannies. The robot wasn’t as successful cleaning sand from textured pool steps.
Uses: Clean any in-ground pool that can be reached with its 60-foot, floating cord.
Hits: Out of the box Mirra is easy to set up, though you should plan ahead to buy a special set of rubber wheels for textured pool surface like gunite. I slid the four PVA wheels on and soaked the bot on a shallow step for 15 minutes before the first run for better grip on the vinyl liner. Meanwhile I plugged the transformer (which has the robot’s only button) into an outlet. The cable attached to Mirra plugs into the transformer. Here is my one gripe about the set up: the connection between the transformer and robot requires lining up a plug and its four pins precisely in a push and twist-to-lock movement—it’s not very intuitive. After that, there is no scheduling or programming. Push the power button and the robot is off and crawling along the pool bottom. Mirra has what iRobot calls iAdapt Nautiq Responsive Cleaning Technology, which means the robot learns the size of the pool, where it is in the pool and what spots it still has to clean. The bot filters 70 gallons of water per minute and has a rotating PVC brush underneath to clean the pool’s liner. It covers the bottom and side of the pool and the waterline where algae tends to gather.
Besides the usual things that you’d find in a pool like leaves and bugs I have a French drain between my house and the pool. The pebbles covering the drain tend to migrate into the pool and stepping on one could damage the liner. To see if Mirra could sweep them up I tossed a dozen stones into different areas of the pool. After the three-hour long initial cleaning, all were caught in the filter canisters. The pool vacuum I inherited with the house required a booster pump to run and a complicated set up that required tying into one of the jets. Mirra was much easier to deal with and it caught everything from large evergreen leaves to sand.
While watching Mirra climb the pool stair treads I noticed the brush underneath wasn’t rotating. iRobot explained: Mirra’s wheels are sponges and have play in them. When they are fully soaked they compress, giving traction to the robot but also ensuring the scrub brush bristles contact the pool floor. However, this doesn’t mean that the scrub brush is contacting the pool floor 100 percent of the time. If the bot is driving over a strange curve (concave or convex), or navigating stairs or a filter, there may be times that, based on the wheel design, the scrub brush does not contact the floor, though this is the minority. For the majority of the time, when Mirra is driving in a normal manner with the sponge wheels fully soaked, the scrub brush will be contacting his pool floor to scrub that surface.
Misses: About the only place the bot couldn’t clean as well were the pockets of sand that gather in the corners of the pool stair treads, which have a bumpy, anti-slip texture. There are two canisters that pull up and out of the robot for cleaning. They’re easy to remove and spray out with a hose, but the design of the plastic case leaves crevices at the top where leaves hide, making it hard to flush them out with a hose.
Final word: Don’t let the ease of use fool you, this robot has a lot going on inside. Using it as easy and it saves from hours of scrubbing algae from the walls, skimming the pool surface or diving to pick up rocks. The robot never got caught up in the floating cord. Removing Mirra from the pool requires a little effort though rubber gaskets on the bottom open to drain quickly. Mirra is $1,000 from iRobot.
Here’s a great video of the iRobot Mirra in action.
I visited Sunaire located in Sherman Oaks, CA. They are my local residential and commercial daylighting experts and can install a Solatube Daylighting System in about two hours. Sunaire is a family-run business, and in addition to the Solatube Daylighting Systems, they offer the Solar Star® Attic Fans from Solatube.
Sami of Sunaire was kind enough to show me around their showroom, which had Solatube Daylighting Systems and Solatube Smart LED™ Systems on display. It was great to see the Smart LED System in action, so I could witness the day to night transition for myself.
The secret behind the Smart LED System is SunSense™ Technology, a patented control center that continually assesses daylight levels. When levels are low, the LED lights turn on automatically. When levels are too high, the LEDs turn themselves off. The result is a seamless blending of daylight and LED light, giving you effective lighting up to 24 hours a day.
Here’s a brief video showing how the Smart LED System works.
Also on display were a variety of Solatube Daylighting Decorative Fixtures. These fixtures will blend with any interior style and can be easily swapped out if needed. In addition to the variety of lighting fixtures, you can also select from four different Solatube Effect Lenses. These lenses can be paired with fixtures or diffusers to alter the light color, intensity or both.
*Not available for Australia or QuadraFrost
Sami demonstrated how the Solatube fixtures and lenses work to adjust the incoming light for a variety of effects. They can set the light to a customer’s exact preference and it’s easy to make changes if needed.
This Solatube display demonstrated how daylight is captured by the dome, then transferred by the Spectralight® Infinity Tubing, which delivers 99.7% specular reflectivity. This allows for tube lengths of over 30 feet to deliver sunlight to lower floors.
Solatube International has provided plenty of information on their website, but the best way to really connect with the product and see if it’s a good fit for your home is to visit a Solatube certified dealer/installer and see first-hand how the product performs and what the fixtures look like. A Solatube Premier Dealer like Sunaire has been working with the product for years and has seen every type of installation and answered almost every question about the product, which can give you the confidence in selecting the right model for your home.
Special thanks to Sami and Sunaire for the tour of their showroom and to Solatube International for providing the graphics and product details.
Here are some things to consider when choosing a kitchen countertop.
The Right Price
Setting your price point up front and sticking with it will help you when it comes time to shop. There are so many exquisite countertops available that it’s easy to fall in love with something you can’t afford.
You should also know exactly what the quoted price covers. The countertop material may be advertised at $10 a square foot, but find out beforehand if that covers installation, sink cut-outs and edging. Also, don’t forget to consider the taxes that will be added at the checkout counter.
Lastly, consider the property value of your home when choosing countertops. While it’s true that a nice updated kitchen is a big selling factor, over-improving may just be throwing money away. By the same token, you wouldn’t want to put a laminate countertop in a million-dollar home. Even if you’re not thinking of selling today, buying materials that fit the sale value of your home is worth considering.
Ease of Maintenance
After setting a price point, consider how much time you’re willing to spend maintaining your kitchen countertops. If home improvement projects and honey-do lists are your idea of a fun weekend, it’s OK to choose a porous material that will need to be sealed every six months. Granite, marble and concrete are the most common types of countertops that require regular sealing.
If, however, your weekends are filled with fun and adventures, stainless steel, quartz and laminate are good choices for countertops. Their low maintenance will pay off in free time for other activities.
Water, heat, sharp knives, acidic foods—kitchen countertops have a lot to contend with, and unless you’re the king and queen of take-out, your countertops will be used. When considering the durability of kitchen countertops you want something that will not stain, crack, scratch or etch.
Solid surface countertops made of 100 percent acrylics, 100 percent polyester or a combination of both are built to withstand years of use. They are resistant to stains and scratches and are completely renewable or repairable.
The most popular choice in kitchen countertops, granite is also pretty tough, offering a near diamond-hard durability.
Though marble is good for baking and pastry, it scratches easily and is prone to etching. Because of this, some homeowners choose to have a marble surface on one counter for baking, and the rest of the kitchen countertops in another material.
The key is to consider how you use your kitchen and how much you use your kitchen when shopping for countertops. Most materials will have pros and cons, so choose the countertop that matches your lifestyle.
Lastly, you will want to choose something that works with surrounding materials. Stainless steel, concrete and quartz look great in modern kitchens, but probably won’t work with traditional styles.
Granite, soapstone and tile are classic choices. Perfect for bringing nature into the home or old-world style charm to the most used room in the house, these materials lend timeless appeal to mid-range homes as well as million dollar mansions.
Pros: Stands up well to wear and tear. Each piece is one of a kind. Natural colors and patterns.
Cons: Must be sealed periodically to avoid stains. Is heavy, so sturdy counter boxes are required.
Cost: $35 to $100 per square foot, installed
Made from acrylic and polyester
Pros: Virtually maintenance free. Can be susceptible to scratches and burns, but they can be sanded out. Seamless installation means no cracks and crevices for dirt to penetrate. Extensive color and pattern options.
Cons: Can look artificial. Hot pans and sharp knives can cause damage.
Cost: $35 to $100 per square foot
Pros: Virtually maintenance free. Available in large array of colors and patterns.
Cons: may be evident that it’s an engineered product.
Cost: $40 to $90 per square foot, installed
Pros: Elegant, very cool used a lot in pastry and baking stations
Cons: Susceptible to stains even when sealed. Can scratch and chip. Not generally used throughout the whole kitchen.
Cost: $40 to $100 per square foot, installed
Pros: Resists stains. Stands up to heat and sharp blades. Tiles can be replaced fairly easily if they break.
Cons: Uneven surface makes it difficult to balance a cutting board or roll out a pie. Unsealed grout is prone to staining and standing moisture can damage it and contribute to bacterial growth.
Cost: $10 to $80 per square foot, installed
Pros: Low maintenance and easy to clean. Lightweight.
Cons: Prone to scratching, burns and staining. Weather and moisture leads to peeling. Cannot be used with under-mount sinks. Difficult to repair if damaged.
Cost: $10 to $30 per square foot, installed
Pros: Natural softness and depth. Starts out light and darkens over time acquiring a rich patina.
Cons: Should be polished with oil to stay in top shape. Can crack over time. May be damaged by sharp knives and nicks. Natural roughness of the stone can scuff glassware and china.
Cost: $70 to $100 per square foot, installed
Pros: Nearly indestructible. Resists heat and bacteria. Appropriate for contemporary and industrial-style kitchens.
Cons: Shows fingerprints and must be wiped off frequently. Chemicals can affect color and some cause unwanted etching. Can be very expensive due to custom build.
Cost: $65 to $125 per square foot, installed
Pros: Versatile. Can be customized to fit any shape and tinted to match any décor. Can add unique inlays such as glass, rocks and shells. Stands up well to heavy use.
Cons: Because it is porous, concrete will stain without frequent sealing. Small cracks can develop with time and settling. Very heavy, so a strong base is needed to support it.
Cost: $75 to $125 per square foot, installed
Pros: Warm, natural appearance. Does not hold up well to sharp knives, but scratches can easily be sanded down.
Cons: Swells and contracts with moisture exposure. Harbors bacteria and needs frequent disinfecting. Oiling is a must to fill in scratches and protect the surface.
Cost: $35 to $70 per square foot, installed
Pros: Looks like surfacing or laminate, but is warmer. Surprisingly hardy and withstands heat and water well. Lighter weight than natural stone or concrete.
Cons: Susceptible to scratches and chemical damage. Requires occasional oil treatment and sanding to refresh it.
Cost: $85 to $100 per square foot, installed
Sources: Laurie L. Dove, What Type of Countertop Needs the Least Amount of Maintenance?, http://home.howstuffworks.com; Marisa Villarreal, Bob Vila’s Guide to Kitchen Countertops, www.bobvila.com; Erin Eberlin, Before Choosing a Countertop, http://landlords.about.com; Lisa Frederick, Kitchen Countertops 101: Choosing a Surface Material, www.houzz.com]]>
Home Depot will begin selling MakerBot 3D printers this month from 12 of their retail stores across the country. This will serve as an early test before a full nationwide rollout. According to Bre Pettis the founder of MakerBot, online sales of MakerBot on the Home Depot website have been strong so the direct retail route makes sense. MakerBot will probably have a prominent end cap display like RYOBI and Milwaukee Tool, staffed by a MakerBot “expert”, showing the 3D printer in action which is really the selling point.
MakerBot 3D printers have been available in Microsoft stores for the past year but this is the first major big-box retailer to commit to this technology which will push it further into the psyche of the American consumer.
The real takeaway here is Home Depot betting on 3D printing and becoming the go-to resource as it already is for most home related products and materials. One area of 3D printing I’ve always been bullish on is the ability to print replacement parts for appliances and other home items. A cracked hinge on a dryer or a broken tab on a smoke detector, typically require a service call or product replacement, but with 3D printing you could conceivably visit the manufacturers website and download the 3D plan and print your own replacement part. This will provide customers with better customer service and retailers will no longer have to hold old inventory on out of production units.
I’m sure I’m overlooking a ton of other uses but it’s great to see a company get behind a technology that is still a few years from becoming a household must-have.
Home Depot will be selling the MakerBot Replicator at $2,899 and the Replicator Mini at $1,375.
Here’s a refresher on “What is 3D Printing”
Bean bag toss or cornhole. Regardless of what you call it, this lawn game is popular across the country. From tailgating to backyard BBQ’s, cornhole is a game anyone of any age or athletic ability can play.
We built these cornhole boards in honor of the 4th of July by adding some “Stars and Stripes” flair to them.
Estimated Project Time: 3 Hours
Challenge Level: Medium
Tools & Supplies:
4 – 48” 2×4 pieces
4 – 21” 2×4 pieces
4 – 12” 2×4 pieces
2 – 48”x24” birch covered ½” plywood sheets
Box of 2” deck screws
4 – 3/8” carriage bolts with washers and wingnuts.
Sandpaper 180, 220 grit
Drill/Driver with Phillips bit or screwdriver
¼” drill bit
Circular Saw or jig saw
Red, White and Blue Paint
1. Assemble all tools and materials in a clean and clear work area.
2. Measure and cut all wood pieces using your jigsaw or circular saw.
3. Sand the edges of each cut piece and sand the birch plywood sheet.
4. After sanding the edges of all of your cut plywood and 2x4s you are ready to cut the holes into the boards. The hole in the board should be six inches in diameter and be centered nine inches from the top and 12 inches from each side of the corn hole platform edges.
5. Find your center and use a compass to draw your circle. We simply took a string measured at 3” and pinned one end to the center and tied a pencil to the other end to draw our circle.
6. Drill a starting hole for your jigsaw then cut along the circle line.
7. Sand the inside and outside edges of the hole.
8. Build your corn hole board frames by aligning the sides and ends and pre-drill holes
9. Attach sides by driving your deck screws into pre-drilled holes.
10. Your corners need to be perfectly square so the platform fits exactly over the frame.
11.Attach the platform placing it onto the frame and align each edge so it sits evenly over the frame.
12. Pre-drill holes in each corner
13. Drive your screws to secure each corner and drive additional screws along the sides, top and bottom to ensure the platform is firmly attached to the frame.
14. Before attaching the legs you need to round one end off so you can loosen and fold the leg for storage.
15. Measure the center point of the board and take that measurement and mark it from the end down. Place your compass here and mark your half circle.
16. Use your jigsaw and cut the end and sand it. Drill a hole through the center point of your board using a 3/8” bit.
17. Hold the leg against the outside of the top part of your corn hole board (the end with the hole) and using a pencil mark the center point through the leg onto the frame.
18. Then drill your hole through the frame and attach your leg to the inside of the frame using your carriage bolt. Use a wingnut so you can easily loosen and fold down the legs for storage.
19. Print a star pattern and use that as your template for your stencil kit and cut out star stencil.
20. Paint one board Red and the other board blue.
21. Tape the red board and paint the open areas white
22. Use your stencil and paint white stars on the blue board.
23. Wait for the paint to dry and grab your bean bags and have fun!!!]]>
An issue with selecting new countertops is the cost and time involved with installation and in many instances you just want to change the color or texture and maybe hide various stains or slight damage and abnormalities in your countertop.
Rust-Oleum has introduced a cheap kitchen countertop design product that can give old laminate countertops a premium designer finish without the expense, mess or downtime associated with replacement.
The Rust-Oleum Countertop Transformations Do-It-Yourself Countertop Coating System comes in a complete kit and has been created with the DIYer in mind.
“Homeowners today are looking for countertop surfaces that are durable and functional, yet appeal to their sense of style,” says Rust-Oleum senior brand manager Ashley Lehrmann. “Countertop Transformations is a highly durable alternative to expensive new countertops that’s guaranteed to last for years.”
Rust-Oleum is hoping their new countertop treatment will replicate the look of natural stone but to the discerning eye it is still a bit off and once you touch it you know it’s not the real thing. But with the variety of countertop materials out there we don’t get the feeling that it’s trying to replicate stone but rather introduce us to a whole new surface which it is.
Countertop Transformations gives you the ability to transform your countertops, providing a durable new finish at a fraction of the cost of replacement. The coating system eliminates the need to hire a contractor and the mess associated with countertop replacement. It’s also possible to use on bathroom vanities, bar tops and tabletops.
We went through all of the steps to install this countertop transformation with Rust-Oleum that included:
Step 1: Prepare the surface with the Diamond Embedded Sanding Tool (included).
Step 2: Apply the Countertop Transformations Adhesive Base Coat.
Step 3: Spread the Decorative Color Chips.
Step 4: Sand and smooth.
Step 5: Apply the Countertop Transformations Protective Top Coat.
All it took was five steps to a new countertop. There is definitely some labor involved with sanding the countertop to a smooth surface and currently they only provide a sponge size hand sander which they claim contains tiny diamonds which are used as an abrasive.
We suspect some people might take the sanding process into their own hands and use a 120-180 grit paper with their palm sander or oscillating attachment but double check the instructions before trying that, in fact Rust-Oleum doesn’t recommend it.
There are a variety of finishes including Pebbled Ivory, Desert Sand, Java Stone, Onyx and Charcoal – the most sought after “neutrals” in kitchen design. It stands up to daily wear and tear and features HomeShield Antimicrobial Protection to protect the painted surface by inhibiting the growth of mold, mildew, and other odor or stain-causing microbes.
The Countertop Transformations kit comes with almost everything needed for a countertop refinishing project including an Adhesive Base Coat, Wetting Agent, Decorative Color Chips, a Diamond-Embedded Sanding Tool, Sanding Block, Decorative Chip Dispenser, Decorative Chip Scraper, Texture Sample and Stir Sticks. It also includes step-by-step instructions (in both English and Spanish) and an instructional DVD to make the project even easier.
Countertop Transformations is backed by a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. A dedicated Product Support line is also available for assistance with projects, if needed.
If you’re seeking a cheap alternative to your countertop design then you may want to give this kit from Rust-Oleum a try. It should be available at your local home center and costs $250 which covers 50 sqft so a fraction of the investment of new countertops.]]>
My sister Jackie and her friend Becky recently built an awesome cooler stand from pallets that they gave to my other sister as a gift. I was amazed by the craftsmanship and detail they put into this stand and I can imagine the possibilities of painting the stand based on a team color which would make it the ultimate weekend football accessory.
Becky and Jackie have taken some step-by-step photos which are fairly easy to follow along but it will take some engineering on your part to work out the dimensions in regards to your individual cooler and the pallet lumber that you are working with.
Everything depends on the size of the ice cooler. The ice cooler that is a straight up rectangle works the best because the chest is built around the cooler rather than the ice cooler fitting the chest.
Follow this project from the photos and you’ll be on your way to cool brews from your own cooler stand.
Project credit: Becky Fajardo and Jackie Fortier]]>
It takes time to find truly unique products and although we may wish to build our homes using reclaimed materials that tell a story, limits in costs and time don’t always make this possible.
Maine Heritage Timber recently reached out to us about their reclaimed wainscoting that we found fascinating. All of Maine Heritage Timber’s products are made with perfectly preserved old growth timber that’s been reclaimed from the bottom of the Penobscot River – the vital byway that once made Bangor, Maine known as “the lumber capital of the world”. Products from Maine Heritage Timber are cut from 100% river reclaimed logs and they do not repurpose old wood that’s already been used in buildings. The wood was fell at the height of the logging boom in the 1800’s. This allows them to produce a product that has the characteristics of old growth wood but with none of the chemicals or contaminants that repurposed wood can contain. In addition to bar tops, flooring and custom furniture, Maine Heritage Timber provides an exemplary wainscoting product.
Maine Heritage Timber’s Wainscoting product is made from a mixture of spruce and fir that was destined for Maine’s pulp and paper mills before it sank. The kit comes in 8 linear feet sets with planks are ½” thick, 42” in length and random widths of 3”, 4” and 5”. Combined with a 5 ½” baseboard and a top cap molding, gives an overall wall coverage of 48’’. The kit is available in two different baseboard and cap options to complete your kit, or you can make it yourself. These kits are easy to install and are reminiscent of channel rustic siding and delivers a clean contemporary look. Click here to check out the wainscoting kit and check out the photos below of the wainscoting installed.