Storm Water Drain Blocked? Effective Solutions to Clear Up Blocked Drains

Different elements can cause a blocked storm water drain in any household. Oil, antifreeze, and other pollutants can accumulate throughout the pipes causing blockage within the system. Prolonged blockage could lead to more problems like flooding. If this happens to your own storm water drain, what should be done to effectively eliminate the problem?

It is essential for any homeowner to be aware of what is happening in their drains. Pipes should be checked regularly to see if water is running and flowing smoothly through the pipes. It is also best to minimize accumulation of unwanted debris within the pipes by filtering out what goes inside the drains, such as falling hairs upon taking a bath or excess food while washing the dishes. Prevention is still best than repair.

To prevent a clogged drain from happening, it is recommendable to use a hair catcher. It is a device that looks like a colander that catches falling hair and refrains them from entering the bath drain. Without the hair catcher, it is also good to use bent wires to hook out hairs trapped on the drain.

But in the event when a household’s storm water drain gets blocked, there are now innovative solutions to clear up blockage. For those who wanted to save, they would usually fix the problem themselves. One handy plumbing first to clean and unclog the drains and pipes is the use of environment friendly and non-toxic cleaning agents. These agents have strong chemicals that break down unwanted particles inside the pipes. Other homeowners also use home plungers to loosen up the debris that are stuck inside their toilets and sinks.

Sometimes, when a blocked drain gets more complicated, and cannot be resolved with the usual handy home devices, it is still best to call your trusty plumber to check and finish the job for you. With their modern gadgets that can fix blocked storm water drains, pipes and sewers, they can finish the job in no time. Gadgets such as the hydro jet pressure machine that gushes out unwanted dirt inside the pipes and an electric eel that scrapes out the dirt are ways of ensuring that blocked storm water drains are repaired more effectively.

With several options available nowadays, be it DIY or seeking professional plumbing assistance, it has become easier for homeowners to clear up a blocked storm water drain. A visit to the grocery store, or simple search on the internet, usually does the trick.

Five Golf Putting Drills Used by Professional Golfers

The purpose of golf putting drills are to become consistent with your game in terms of getting the correct distance and accuracy with your putts. In order to achieve this you need to develop a high level of confidence and know that your putting fundamentals are sound. Ultimately this takes a great deal of practice and patience.

Professional golfers will practice with many different golf putting drills because each one concentrates on a different aspect of putting. If your putting game is in need of improvement I highly recommend these five golf putting drills that are the most popular drills used by professionals golfers. By practicing all of these drills together you will be improving on many aspects of your putting game.

(1) Circle Drill: Place six to eight balls around the hole in a circle about three feet from the hole. Repeat putting each one in one at a time. The main benefit of this drill is to gain confidence and consistency. Probably the number one drill to warm up before a game on the practice green if you only have a few minutes to spare.

(2) All in a Row Drill: The benefit of this drill is to work on your putting form. You should be primarily concentrating on keeping your club face square to the ball at impact and your body is properly aligned to the target line. To perform this drill line up eight balls in a row and begin by putting the closest ball first and continue outwards until all the balls have been putted.

( 3) Closed Eyes Drill: Now repeat both the circle and row drills with your eyes closed. This is an extremely beneficial drill for developing tempo and your feel for distance. Being able to visualize your putt will help you significantly develop trust in your abilities.

(4) Cage Drill: The main purpose of the cage drill is to work on the proper stroke length to use to achieve the correct distance. Simply place one club three feet behind the hole. Now place the other two clubs to both sides of the hole forming a cage. The hole will be centered in the opening and roughly a foot and a half away from the two clubs on the sides. Take six balls and practice from ten feet away, then twenty feet and finally thirty feet. The goal is to get the balls either in the hole or in the cage without touching any of the clubs. This is an excellent drill for practicing longer putts and developing the habit of getting to the hole or just past it.

(5) Wrist Control Drill: An important fundamental to putting is to keep your wrists from flexing during your putting stroke and that the wrists are flat at impact. A great drill for this is to swing two clubs at the same time with a club in each hand. Pretend your taking your normal putting stroke and your objective is to keep both clubs about for inches apart and parallel as you swing. This takes a great deal of eye and hand coordination. When you go back to your normal putting with one club you will find that your hands are working together better as one solid unit and any flexing of your wrists will go away.

The average golfer does not allocate nearly enough of his or her practice time to putting as professional golfers do. If you feel your putting game could be improved take an honest assessment of how much time you actually spend on golf putting drills.

The History of Timber Frame Houses

Timber has been used as a construction material in buildings in the UK since the Neolithic period. Some of the oldest timber houses in Europe are found in England and Scotland, and the earliest timber framed buildings existing in the UK today date back to the 13th century. This goes to show just how durable this construction method is.

Despite going out of fashion in recent centuries, timber has seen something of a revival in modern times despite advances in other forms of building techniques, demonstrating the enduring popularity of timber frame houses.

Early Timber Building Techniques

When timber framed houses were first constructed in the UK back in the 12th and 13th centuries, lap jointing was the most common technique, but this was soon followed by the far stronger mortise-and-tenon joint which created a solid and durable frame.

As the centuries went on, other timber construction methods became common, including box frame construction and cruck construction, with box frame construction more common in the UK.

Another technique which became very popular was jettying, where the floor space on upper floors was extended beyond the external walls. Sometimes more than one floor was added using jettying, leading to houses where the top floors reached right over into the street. A good place to see this is in The Shambles in York.

The Waning Popularity of Timber

During the 16th century timber became harder to find in the UK as it was used increasingly for ships and fuel. Up until the 18th century, most buildings remained timber framed, but it became less fashionable over the following centuries, and often the timber was covered up with plaster.

The Modern Timber Revival

Timber framed houses saw something of a revival in the 1970s in the UK as well as in the USA and Canada where more affordable mass-produced techniques became common. However, in the UK at least, the techniques were initially lacking in quality.

The timber was usually a poor quality softwood with minimal structural integrity, the frame was erected quickly with an external brick skin and overall the final product was poor and had a low quality feel to it. This differed from some other countries where timber framed buildings were still popular, one of which was Sweden.

Swedish Superiority

Timber framed buildings remained popular in Sweden over the centuries, and over the past 50 years Swedish craftsmen honed their skills in constructing timber houses. One of the reasons for the higher quality was down to the significant differences between how the Swedes and Scandinavians delivered timber buildings compared to the British process.

First and foremost, they used a high-quality lumber. In Sweden, the timber used was slow grown for over 50 years compared to the UK where timber was fast grown over 25 years. This had a considerable impact upon the structural integrity of the base product.

In Sweden craftsmen also tended to build wall panels, starting with the window and building a frame around it, as opposed to walls with openings for windows. This meant that each panel had full thermal integrity with a factory finish.

In contrast, in the UK it was more common to find lightweight frames with openings for windows which were then erected on site and the windows were fitted retrospectively. This made the junction between the windows and the frame a weak part of the overall building.

Improvements in UK Timber Buildings

Whilst the 70s trend towards timber framed structures in the UK caused considerable damage to its reputation, we are now seeing something of a renaissance in the market place. Timber framing is now regularly used for the construction of care homes, hotels and other buildings. In some cases it is also used in housing and generally provides a better level of environmental performance because it is an eco-friendly technique which is known for its energy efficiency.

Several UK companies have now chosen to adopt many of the skills of the Scandinavians and are developing timber houses with exceptional environmental performance and sustainability. These buildings can last for over 50 years provided they are well maintained during their lifetime. As long as the right techniques are used, timber is likely to remain a popular and highly-effective building material in the UK for many years to come.

Leading the Board: Qualities of an Effective Chair

What makes an active board effective? In this case, the old adage “a whole is greater than the sum of the parts” clearly applies. Well-qualified directors with the skills, experience, time and motivation to dedicate to the job are crucial. But, while necessary, the right people are not sufficient to ensure board effectiveness.

Board effectiveness, defined as the successful fulfillment of the dual roles of providing strategic insight and management oversight, requires appropriate information, an agenda focused on key strategic issues, healthy discussion and debate, and a commitment to doing the job well. All of these elements are the responsibility of the board chair.

To better understand the chair’s role and responsibility, we need to look at two models of board leadership – the combined Chair/CEO structure and the split structure (where these positions are filled by two distinct individuals).

In the combined model, which was the structure reported by 63 percent of respondents to the board survey conducted for our book, the key to success is ensuring the CEO understands that the Chair role is an important and separate job. Too often, CEOs are so busy running the company that chair responsibilities slide.

Chair responsibilities, regardless of who fills the role, include:

  • Ensuring information board members need to hold an effective conversation is sent in advance of the meeting;
  • Setting the appropriate agenda, focused on strategic issues and oversight, with the right amount of time allotted to each issue;
  • Ensuring appropriate reporting of board activities in the meeting minutes;
  • Ensuring shareholders are kept adequately informed of affairs of the company and have confidence in the oversight provided by the board;
  • Developing and maintaining a shareholder relations program for the company;
  • Ensuring appropriate committee structure, membership and responsibilities;
  • Actively facilitating board members, promoting a culture of discussion and debate and balanced participation of all members;
  • Maintaining top-level contact with members of the community to ensure that company is properly recognized, dealt with and appropriately represented in community affairs;
  • Identifying ethical dilemmas in the company and reporting on those annually to the board;
  • Ensuring accountability of management for setting and achieving budgets and plans.

This final responsibility, ensuring accountability, is the most difficult to fulfill in the combined structure. In effect, the CEO is responsible for holding himself accountable. To make this structure work, the CEO/Chair must be willing to take feedback from other directors and admit mistakes. He or she must also be willing to let other directors meet in executive session without him or her to discuss issues they may have with respect to the CEO’s performance, as well as any other management issue that may be best handled without management in the room.

In the split structure, the Chair is tasked with the same responsibilities. One concern with this model is it creates a lack of clarity concerning who is in charge. Yet, note that most Chair responsibilities begin with the word “ensure” rather than “do.” The Chair’s job is more to make sure that things happen than to actually do them him or herself. So, his job is not to lead the organization but rather to lead the board. And, leading the board essentially means ensuring that it is fulfilling its designated role and responsibilities.

That said, the split structure does require strong coordination between the Chair and CEO. In this model, the CEO will often take the lead in setting the agenda and preparing advance and in-meeting materials. While the board’s role is to oversee the CEO, it is also to support the management team and provide expertise and insight. To effectively focus the board’s attention on the appropriate issues, the CEO must have a strong hand in setting the agenda, but not so strong that accountability is compromised.

Beyond preparing agendas and materials, some CEOs even take the lead in facilitating board meetings. Whoever leads the meeting, however, the Chair must take responsibility for ensuring the meeting is well run and should step in if things get off track.

At the highest level, the Chair is responsible for enforcing management accountability and the overall effectiveness of board process. An annual board evaluation is a useful tool to ensure the board is operating effectively.

Typically, corporate by-laws state that the board elects its Chair. In practice, owners have a strong influence in the choice of Chair by stating their preference for a family vs. a non-family chair and their desire for a combined or split model. Regardless of who fills the Chair seat-an independent director, retired CEO or acting CEO-the Chair must remember the important responsibility of shareholder relations. We recommend that the chair write a periodic letter to shareholders summarizing the activities of the board (without disclosing confidential information of course), present it at shareholder meetings and find opportunity to interact with shareholders on a more informal basis. The Chair should also welcome and respond to inquiries from shareholders.

How do family businesses ensure they have a strong Chair? First, the family must clarify its vision concerning how the role should be structured. The family should also insist that a job description for the Chair be developed. Ideally, if the family desires that a family member fill the chair role, it should ensure a development program is in place to build the skills needed in a good Chair. This development plan should encourage leadership opportunities for potential candidates, including participation in other for-profit or non-profit boards. The family should also develop strong ownership education programs and create opportunities for candidates to attend education programs on family business governance.

With a clear vision and a long-term plan for developing capable board leadership, the family can provide strong direction and support which will go a long way to ensuring a highly functioning board.

A Legal Terminology Cheat Sheet

Some common legal terms and their meanings include:

  • Lawsuit – A lawsuit is any proceeding that must take place in a court of law. This may be a civil or criminal matter.
  • Civil Lawsuit – A civil lawsuit is when one individual sues another person or a company for damages caused by them which may be health related, injury or other means. This type of lawsuit does not determine criminal liability or whether any laws were broken, but rather whether a person’s rights were violated by causing them harm or injury.
  • Criminal Lawsuit – A criminal lawsuit typically involves a prosecuting attorney acting on behalf of a given jurisdiction such as a city, county or a state brings someone who has broken a law in some way to trial for breaking this law. If a person is found guilty when brought to trial this way they may be sentenced according to the severity of their crime and may or may not get jail or prison time sentenced to them.
  • Class Action Lawsuit – A class action lawsuit is similar to a civil lawsuit, except that there are generally a number of different people who are the plaintiffs in a class action case. This number can total into the thousands or it can be just a few.
  • Judgment – A judgment is usually a monetary amount set by the court that a losing party in a civil case is liable to pay to the party who won the case. Most typically, if a judgment is entered, then the plaintiff won his or her lawsuit and the defendant must pay the judgment. In some cases, a defendant may file a counter suit, and the same thing occurs if they win their counter suit. There have been cases know such as this where one offsets the other and no judgment will be entered. A judgment is important because it becomes part of a legal record, and is typically entered onto your credit report and will show whether or not it has been paid, and it could prevent the person from receiving a loan, mortgage or any other type of financing.
  • Damages – When a civil suit is entered, the plaintiff will seek damages for the harm or other inconvenience that was brought to him because of the negligence of others. If the plaintiff wins his case, then the court will award him damages based on the perceived losses.
  • Appeal – When a person is convicted in criminal court of any crime, he is typically permitted under the US Constitution to file an appeal in an effort to get his case overturned in a higher court. Appeals are not always granted and depend on whether there has been some sort of technical issue such as poor representation, or evidence was withheld that may have caused a jury to vote another way or something like that. In a civil lawsuit, things can be dragged out for some time when a losing party appeals the case to the next higher court. This can go on all the way through to the Supreme Court, and the actual time it takes depends on court schedules.
  • Product Recalls – Product recalls unfortunately in many cases do not occur until someone has already been injured or otherwise affected by a problem with a product. When a problem is found, most companies will voluntarily recall a product and either pay for the fix that is necessary to correct the issue, or they will refund the full amount paid for a product.
  • Subpoena – A subpoena is a court order which compels a person to appear in court to testify for one reason or another. The subpoena may be issued in the case of a criminal or civil proceeding and failure to obey the subpoena could result in a person being charged with contempt and a warrant being issued for their arrest.

What Do Rats Eat?

Rats eat a wide variety of food. They have voracious appetites and will eat almost anything. They are true omnivorous scavengers, but mostly prefer grain, livestock feed, and meat. Rats have also been known to eat soap, leather, furs, candy, milk, meat, vegetables, poultry, eggs, grain, seeds, fruit, nuts, snails and other rodents. A rat can eat a third of its body weight each day. The rat’s main important consumption is water, as it cannot survive long without it. Rats need 1/2 to 1 ounce of water daily.

Two main types of rats, brown rats and black rats eat about the same things. But there are slight differences in preferences between the two. Brown rats or Norway rats eat nearly any type of food, but they prefer high-quality foods such as meat and fresh grain. These rats require 1/2 to 1 fluid ounce of water daily when feeding on dry food. Rats have keen taste, hearing, and sense of smell.

Roof rats or black rats generally prefer vegetables, fruits and grain, and consume 1/2 to 1 ounce food per day from various sources. They do not readily accept meat or fish. They like cereal grains, chopped apples, sweet potatoes, melons, prunes, pineapple, cookies, doughnuts, sweet chocolate candy, peanut butter, and tomatoes. They also consume an ounce of water per day.

Rats are nutritionally a little better than mice. Unlike the mouse that nibbles a little at a time, rats eat much more food in one sitting. Like mice, rats can live in freezers and they love to eat frozen food.

Rats have a habit of gnawing when they eat. Their chewing ability helps them to chew and gnaw through almost anything. They gnaw anything softer than their teeth. They gnaw papers, clothes, wood, plastics, water pipes, electric cables and other building materials. Their habit of gnawing causes immense damage to mankind such as fires, power shortages and flooding.

How to Tear Out Your Old Flooring

Tearing out old flooring in order to install new may sound as a quick and easy project but sometimes it is a real chore. I will cover a few types of removals and hopefully one of these hints will help you out with your job. Flooring materials can consist of vinyl tile, linoleum, carpet and wood as well as many others. Lets take a look at some of the most popular. Wood removals such as hardwood floors can be done fairly easily with a large crow bar or shingle removal tool. The shingle removal tool has a long handle and a wide flat end piece that can slide under the flooring and with a little downward pressure on the handle, the wood flooring will pop right up. The long handle will save your back as well. Remove all the remaining nails as you proceed if they do not pop up with the flooring itself. Kneeling on a protruding nail can cause an injury and is painful at best. Sweep the floor areas as you go to assure you have left nothing behind in the way of nails, splinters, etc.

VCT or vinyl tile flooring presents a much harder removal project. Vinyl tile after years of use can become very difficult to remove if almost not impossible. Some of the tiles will pop up if struck with a hammer as air pockets develop under tile leaving a small space. Aged vinyl tile is quite brittle therefore when struck will actually shatter and pop loose. That is the best case scenario. Using a hammer and flat cold chisels it is a slow process. There are tile removal machines but they seldom work very well. If the tile is really hard to remove, a tile floor grinder may be used but the dust generated pretty much makes this an empty room only alternative. A typical classroom getting new tile would have to be completely emptied and be professionally cleaned before it could be re-occupied. I found over the years that the use of dry ice worked very well in aiding the removal of the tile. It has to be handled very carefully of course to avoid injuries but if available in your area, large blocks can be slid across the floor freezing the tile almost instantly and by quickly striking the tile with hammer, the tile shatters and can be removed. Safety glasses should always be worn during all demo removals and good, heavy work gloves are a must when handling dry ice. Never, ever touch it with bare hands.

Carpeting if laid in a wall to wall installation is quite easy to remove. The carpet is fastened only at the rooms perimeter edges by a tack strip nailed to the floor. Grip the carpet at any corner with a large pair of pliers and yank. The carpet will pull loose of the tack strip and you can then proceed around the room rolling the carpet as you go. If you have a good aluminum knife, get a couple of carpet blades and cut the carpet into four foot strips making it much easier to roll up and cart away. Fully adhered carpet (glue down) removal is a different story. You may with enough manpower be able to cut the carpet into narrow strips and tear it out using brute manpower. Rolling a two by four into the beginning of the strip for a handle helps to provide a grip but a large amount of manpower is still required. There are machines available for rent for carpet removals which are OK for a room or two but if you are removing a carpet from a large home or commercial building you are better off hiring a professional carpet remover. Their machines are typically hydraulically driven allowing their use inside without fumes and are ride-on machines making the removal faster and the end results much better.

Linoleum after years of wear and tear can almost be impossible to remove. The glues used last forever and every square inch of the linoleum has to be scraped and removed. Sharpening the edge on a four inch wide spackle knife helps getting under the material to lift it somewhat easier but it is an uphill battle. Many times if the floor and door clearances allow it, the installer will simply install a new quarter inch under layment over the linoleum and start new. You can try dry ice to freeze the adhesive as with VCT removals but in any case removal of linoleum is a chore.

Making the Stairs a Safe Place For Seniors

As a way to improve safety and reduce the risk of falls among seniors, most experts recommend finding ways to make the stairs safer. Of course all areas of the home should be addressed, but the stairs frequently present the biggest danger to a senior. Falls on the stairs can be quite serious, so finding ways to prevent them, while still allowing full access to a home is imperative.

One of the first steps to making the stairs safe is to fully check and evaluate the overall state of the stairs. Many falls are caused by staircases that are not safe, so determining the safety of the actual staircase is very important.

One of the most important things to consider is the evenness of the stairs. Many older staircases might have slight differences between the height of the individual steps. There may also be differences in the surface area of the different steps. You generally want the steps to be at least 11 inches deep, and again check if the steps depth is even.

As well as the dimensions of the steps, it is important to consider their condition. If the steps are slanted or loose, this can increase the risk of a fall. Also extremely slippery steps can be dangerous, which is made even more dangerous if they are in an area where they might become wet. For outdoor steps, you want to make certain you have a good gutter system in place, so water from the roof does not drain directly onto the staircase.

A proper handrail system is also very important. These not only allow extra support as an individual is climbing the stairs, but they also provide a place that can be grabbed as a senior is falling, to hopefully stop them from falling. Loose banisters or banisters that are too big to be easily grabbed can also make using the stairs much more dangerous.

A good rule of thumb is that the banister should be no more than 6.25 inches around. This allows it to be easily grabbed by most individuals. You also want to avoid rough or sharp banisters, which might be painful to use. If possible a two banister system is the best choice.

The safety of the stairs is one major consideration and fixing problem areas can greatly reduce the risk of a fall. It is also very important to evaluate the senior’s ability to use the stairs. Many times, due to arthritis or some other mobility related disease, using the stairs might not be possible. It could be painful, or in the case of those affected by cognitive disorders, it might not be possible for the senior to retain their balance as the ascend or descend the stairs.

Stair lifts are usually used in cases where the senior is unable to use the stairs. Stair lifts are medical devices that can be installed directly to the stairs and are used to carry the senior up or down the stairs. This eliminates for the senior to actually climb the stairs on their own and can tremendously reduce the risk of a fall.

It is also very important to consider other areas of the home that might be dangerous. Loose rugs, wet floors, and improper lighting are all factors that can increase the risk of a fall.

How To Work With Scaffolding System For Home Use

Home projects like painting the ceiling or cleaning the cupboard tops and roofs require the use of a scaffolding system. In comparison to the one used in construction sites, the scaffold tower for home use is much smaller in size. Nonetheless, their main function is the same. They help people work easily and safely off the ground.

Some dispose the idea of using scaffolds especially when they have ladders available. While ladders can really help you go for the hard to reach places inside their house, they can fall short on making you finish tasks quickly. For one, ladders do not include platforms. Some ladders may have wide steps which allow users to stand conveniently. Platforms are more useful in providing enough space where you can step on and where you can place all the materials and tools needed for the accomplishment of certain tasks. Henceforth, you need not go up and down just to fetch the things you need.

When you rent scaffolding, ensure that its size and parts suit the scope of the task you would be dealing with. Scout for the best providers in your area. Do research on the standard renting fees so that you can avoid overpaying. Also, research about the parts an entire system includes. The good thing about keeping in touch with a reliable provider is the assurance of acquiring parts which have passed the quality assurance standards. Needless to stay, thorough check-up of the parts must be made before paying for anything. The metal parts have to be free dent and rust. The wooden parts, on the other hand, should not have cracks.

As soon as you have all the parts for your scaffolding system, learn how they are to be fixed one by one to a complete set-up. Perhaps, you are clueless on how to go about it. Ask from the manufacturers for guidelines. Here are general insights which might help. Firstly, look for a stable spot on the ground where you will build the foundation. If ever your chosen spot is soft, position the base plates or casters on top of piece of wood to avoid sinking. Then, assemble the base and the frames. Makes sure they are screwed tightly so that they would not shake and fall off.

Thirdly, install the platforms. Never fall into the trap of renting substandard wood planks just to make some savings. Doing so can get you encounter unwanted accidents. As soon as the platforms are positioned, attach the guardrails by the frames. Lastly, establish a workstation up there. This workstation may be filled with all the tools you need. If your workstation is complete, you can stay off the ground as long as you need to finish tasks.

There is no doubt about the benefits of using scaffolding system for home projects. And by following a number of safety guidelines, there is no way you can get hurt while working off the ground. Consider buying a portable type if there are many off the ground repairs to be done in your home yearly.

Tips to Laminate Paper at Home

For those who want to protect important paper from any spills, tears, or any dirt that can cause damage, using laminating machine is the right solution. By laminating your paper, you will also make the paper looks more attractive. Some of the important things that people commonly want to laminate are certificates, awards, special drawings, and also paintings. Today, you can easily laminate your paper at home. Just follow some tips below and so will find that it is easier than what you think.

The first step that you have to do is to buy a roll of clear contact paper. It can be found in almost all craft stores and department stores.

The second step is to measure the size of the paper you are going to laminate. After that, you need to place it on the top of the contact paper.

The third step is to add one inch around all the sides of the paper you are going to laminate. After that, you have to mark the contact paper in a way to reflect this size. Then, you can make a draw that peels off on the side.

The fourth step is to cut out the contact paper on the lines that you have made before. Then, get a second sheet out of it. After that, you can cut the other piece with the same exact size just like the first.

The fifth step is to peel off the paper from the contact paper in order to reveal the sticky side. You have to be very careful to place the paper when you are going to laminate in the middle of sticky contact paper.

The last step is to smooth the paper out using your hand, moving from left to right. Finally, you need to trim the edges by using scissors so that your paper looks neat.

Russian Lacquer Boxes – Fighting to Survive Among Fakes

Those looking for genuine Russian gifts on the internet are sure to come across a thousand sites that advertise their products as genuine and charge exorbitant prices. They deal in fakes and even produce fake ‘place of produce’ certificates to customers. Sites that sell genuine Russian art pieces are few and far between. Until a few decades ago, production of these handicrafts was controlled by the government, that differentiated between mass-produced and unique Russian gifts made by individual artists’ of acclaim. But with the advent of a semi-capitalist economy these lines have blurred.

These fake handicrafts have permeated all levels including the online market. In spite of the Russian government’s attempt to regulate the market, there has not been a significant decrease in the number of fakes that are being produced.

Russian lacquered boxes are a good case in point. There are several artists’ who after graduation from any one of the four art schools (that specialize in making these boxes) do not work in factories but are desirous of creative space. And even if they’ve joined they often quit the factory to open their own art houses that cater to the ever-increasing demand for unique and reproduced Russian lacquered boxes. The individual work of these artisans is considered legal as long as they hold a ‘Lacquer box Artist’ certificate from any of the four schools. While some of the independent artists have flourished and earned international glory, some others produce substandard art.

With the original method, it takes anywhere from six to ten months to produce a single box. The younger breed of artisans looking to sell fake handicrafts often resort to questionable techniques that reduce the turnaround time.

Use of materials like soft wood, Argillite, and lesser substitutes also plague the industry. Russian lacquer boxes made of papier-mâché weigh less and last longer than their fake counterparts.

Original Russian lacquered boxes are coated with layers and layers of lacquer and polished painstakingly. As multiple layers of painting is done between one layer of lacquer and the other, it creates a sense of 3D imagery and has larger depth of field. This allows to separates the foreground from the background. But in a fake or an inferior Russian lacquer box, the art appears flat as if it had been stuck on to the box with glue and coated with lacquer.

Make sure you look for the images carefully when you buy these boxes.

Samurai or Sledgehammer

Samurai or sledgehammer? this is the question when in comes to choosing to hurt someone. It is but a metaphor when it comes to choosing a car. Cars such as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo and the Subaru Wrx Sti.

Lets start off with the Evo, this car is such a sensational experience to drive. It handles like a real sports car despite being a family sedan. Dont for one second think that this is an ordinary sedan (coupe) because underneath that docile look hides a ferocious monster. Under the bonnet, it has a 2.0 liter turbocharged engine coupled that with a AWD drivetrain. Not just any all wheel drive system, this has a AYC which stands for active yaw control. Its job is to move the power from side to side; therefore, when cornering from tight corners the power in sent from right wheel or left wheel. This car is astonishing, mind you that this car is an all rounder. The Evo is fast in the corners and straight line speed. Take a look at the specs:

Price: $25,000 – $34,000

Engine: 2.0 turbocharged inline

BHP: 289

Curb weight: approximately 3,217 pounds

0-60: 4.9 seconds

1/4: 13.5 seconds

The specs are merely part of the equation, because when you drive this car. It just redefines what a car should be. The handling can make a hamfisted person thinks he is Juan Manuel Fangio or Ayrton Senna. Braking, steering, acceleration is just stupendous… This car is a canyon carver, an F 16, and also your family car all in one package.

If the Evo is a samurai, light and agile. Then the Subaru Impreza WRX STI is the sledghammer. Subaru has always been the nemesis of Mitsubishi in rallying. The Sti has a bit more power than the Evo because of it’s engine. The Sti sports a robust 2.5 liter boxer turbocharge engine. When it comes to performance, this car can almost match the Evo in almost every performance category. Straight line can be the Sti one dominant portion, but cornering is quite less than the Evo. The Sti specs can may be clear some difference between the two rivals.

Price: $26,000 – $ 33,000

Engine: 2.5 flat 4 turbocharged

BHP: 300

0 – 60: 5.0 seconds

Curb weight: 3,350

1/4: 13.8 seconds

This car is your ticket to rallying only your driving in a tarmac. With the tuner world exploding unto the scene. You can make this car fly, or make it corner faster. You’ll probably spend on the dampers and suspension to keep up in the corners against the Evo, which is a good to invest it on.

Choosing between this two cars has never been easy. With cars that closely match each other in performance. Only you can consider which one is best suited for you, whether you want to use it as a commute car or a auto crossing car. Just Know that you cant go wrong with either of those two.

Old Slate Tiles – Roof Replacement Vs Roof Repair

When it comes to roofing, slate shingles are often billed as 100-year investments, leading many homeowners to believe that once installed, their roofs can continue to perform with little or no maintenance for the next century. This assumption is false. All roofs require regular upkeep. Failure to inspect your roof every year could lead to costly repairs or even costlier replacements down the road.

Perhaps you have already let a year or two go by without proper maintenance. Maybe you have loose, missing, cracked, or broken slate tiles that require immediate attention. Should you repair your roof or replace it?

Which Is Better: Roof Replacement or Roof Repair?

Roof replacement is not cheap, and if your slate shingles still have life in them, it is cheaper to make minor repairs than a full-scale replacement. However, knowing the difference between a roof that needs renovating and one that needs replacing is key.

Roof Replacement Indicator 1

First, determine if any of your slate shingles need replacing. Flaking and powdering are two good indicators, as is the “knuckle test”–tap each slate shingle in multiple areas and listen for any dull thuds. Hollow sounds indicate a slate shingle needs replacing soon.

Roof Replacement Indicator 2

If more than 20 percent of your slate shingles require replacement because they are missing, flaking, or fail the knuckle test, roof replacement may be more economical long-term than individual repairs. The up-front cost for a full replacement may be higher, but if properly maintained your new roof is not likely to need any further repairs for several decades.

Lastly, whether you replace or repair your roof, always hire an experienced slate worker. You want a dedicated professional with plenty of experience working with slate. Researching your local roofing contractors will save you time and money in the end.

How to Tea Dye

If you’re looking for a little help on how to tea dye, you’ve come to the right place. But first – why tea dye?

Sometimes I wake up way before dawn and I want to make a doll or a Christmas ornament right NOW! I live at least 40 minutes from the closest fabric store and they’re not even open yet. While I might not always have commercially tea dyed muslin on hand to make my bunnies and reindeers, I always have yards and yards of the regular bleached and unbleached muslin that I can convert to the perfect color with tea dye.

Other Reasons to Tea Dye:

1. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to mute down fabrics that look too bright or too new.

2. It’s a way of bringing together unrelated fabrics.

3. It’s a way to make any fabric look older or more antique.

4. It can mask minor stains.

5. The tea dye process is more forgiving than mordant dying, although not as predictable.

6. The tea dye is non-toxic.

7. It doesn’t irritate skin.

8. It can be done in stages: dye it, dry it and if you’re not happy with the result, dye it again or bleach it out.

Tea Dye Quirks:

1. Tea dye only works on natural fibers such as cotton, silk, linen, wool. It should also work on satin (woven from silk) and rayon. I have never tried it on rayon, but in general, rayon takes dyes very well.

2. It can be difficult to get large pieces of fabric to tea dye evenly. But personally, I like the subtle mottled look and sometimes the uneven coloration is perfect for the project at hand.

3. Tea-dying will NOT take a white fabric to off white, eggshell or ecru. It is a color all its own — a shade of rusty brown – although it can be very light.

4. One lovely trait of tea dying is that if you’re not happy with the color, you can let it sit longer (for darker and more intense results) or you can mix a little bleach in the rinse water to lighten or remove the color.

5. Once the tea dye is set, it is semi permanent. That means that the color won’t wash out easily, but it may come out when washed with a bit of bleach or an “oxy-clean” type product. While I wouldn’t use tea dye for t-shirts or other clothing that will get washed frequently, it’s perfect for the tenderly treated items like dolls and quilts.

6. Don’t confuse tea-dying with tea staining. Tea dying is when an item will be submersed in a tea dye bath. Tea staining is done by applying the tea dye with a rag or paint brush.

7. Tea dyed fabric will dry lighter than it appears when wet.

8.Matching one batch of tea dyed muslin to another is almost impossible. Make sure you do enough yardage to complete your project.

Tea Dying Instructions:

First, gather the materials needed.

o Natural fibered fabric or items (gloves, lace, floss)

o Tea bags (orange pekoe or black pekoe. Use the cheapest bag tea that you can find)

o Boiling water

o Glass or stainless steel container

It’s a good habit to start any dying project by washing the item/yardage with a mild detergent and rinsing it in cool water. This ensures that the sizing is washed out and won’t inhibit the item from taking on the dye as evenly as possible. Let it sit in the cool water as you make the tea dying mixture.

Start by boiling water. A general rule of thumb is 4 cups of water for 1 yard of fabric. When the water boils, remove from the heat.

Add 2 tea bags for every 8 ounces of water. So for 4 cups of water, you’ll need eight tea bags. That will make enough tea dye to tint one yard of fabric.

Let the tea bags soak for 5 minutes. DO NOT ADD THE FABRIC YET.

After the steeping, your tea dye concoction should be a very dark reddish brown. Pull out the tea bags. Depending on the quality of the bag, you can gently squeeze it to get out the last bit of tea, but be careful the bag doesn’t break and drop bits of soggy leaves into your tea bath.

Take the wet yardage and gently squeeze out the excess. You don’t want to add so much water that it dilutes the tea dye. Submerge it into the tea. For a more even dying, gently swish and swirl your fabric periodically. However, if you want your fabric to take the dye unevenly for a more interesting look, just leave it creased and wadded.

When you think your fabric is dark enough, remove it from the tea dye mixture and rinse in cool water. During the rinsing process, a lot of the color will flush out. The lovely thing about tea dying is that you can go ahead and drop it back in to the dye if you want it darker.

There are two ways to set the color.

1. Fill another container with fresh water. Make sure the container is big enough to hold your tea dyed fabric. For every gallon of water, add ½ cup of white vinegar. Let your fabric sit in this mix for about 15 minutes. Then rinse the fabric and press it dry.

2. When you achieve the color you want, toss the fabric in the dryer set on its highest setting. When it’s almost dry, remove it and smooth it out with an iron set at the hottest temperature the fabric can handle.

There is only one caveat that I’ve ever heard about tea dying: The pronounced amount of tannin in the tea dye can compromise the fibers of the fabric and it will rot away. The tannin will supposedly cut the longevity of the fabric to 30-40 years.

Paint, Stain, Alkyd, and Acrylic? Help!

If you have ventured into a hardware or paint store lately, you may have noticed that there are a million different paints and stains available. As with any project, homeowners are often inundated with material choices and conflicting advice. Sometimes, advertising can be misleading, and there are definite no-nos to be wary of when choosing materials for any given project. Which product is best for a particular job can be difficult to sort out. Let me give you a few pointers which should help you choose the right product for your job.

Lets talk only about exterior painting. On the Outer Banks, there are a large number of homes in varying degrees of upkeep, the worst of which have been neglected, improperly coated, or treated with the wrong materials, causing premature failure. Don’t let this be you! A good coating job here should last at least five years. If you are not getting that, you may not be using the correct material for your substrate.

Even the best coating will not perform properly if applied incorrectly. 95% of all coatings failures result from improper application of the coating! You must ensure that your substrate is clean, dry, and sound (not rotted). With these issues are covered, lets choose the right coating for your job, starting at the beginning, with primers.

The substrate that most commonly has coating failure is wood, both siding and trim. This is mainly due to the number of types of wood and varying degrees of soundness of the wood.

First, I would suggest that you check the wood for any signs of rot that might be present. Poke around with a pencil in some of the areas that stay moist longest. If your pencil goes through then the wood, or even partially through, it needs to be replaced.

Next, determine which type of wood you are dealing with. For the purpose of our discussion, you will only need to know if the wood is pressure treated or Cedar. Cedar is the most commonly used type of wood for siding and trim here on the Outer Banks. This is because Cedar has the highest concentration of natural oils, or tannin in the wood. This tannin resists rot more so than woods with little or no tannins at all, but when coated, this attribute can pose problems of its own.

If you are coating Cedar you will need an oil based primer that dries slowly and has tannin block ability. If untreated, the tannin in the wood will seep out over time, causing discoloration and staining of your newly coated surface.

I specify oil primers because the molecules of oil (or alkyd) primers are much smaller than those of comparable latex (water based) primers, which allow the material to penetrate deeper into the wood providing you with superior adhesion. Before applying this primer, however, you will need to evaluate the product to determine its viscosity. Many of the best products in this category are very thick and will need to be thinned down so that penetration can occur.

When a very thick primer is applied over wood, very little penetration occurs, leaving most of the product on the surface with very poor adhesion as the substrate expands and contracts.

If this is the case with your chosen product, use some clean paint thinner (mineral spirits) to get your primer to the point where it will penetrate deeply, do not worry about complete coverage yet. Thin is good in this instance, contrary to popular belief.

Also, as tempting as they can be, do not use fast drying primers for this application because they dry much too brittle and will crack and fail within one year as the hot/cold cycle works its magic. Many people find the quick drying materials attractive because they can be finish coated the same day, but for our environment, the substrate expands and contracts too much for a brittle primer.

The second most common type of wood you may be dealing with is Pressure Treated lumber. This can be identified by a green hue, and a stamp on the wood itself. Most commonly used for railings, decking, and support posts, PT lumber is sometimes used for window and door trim too. If your PT lumber is brand new, I strongly recommend leaving it untreated for at least six months so that it cures properly.

When PT lumber is manufactured, it is permeated with arsenic and stacked for drying. As soon as it stops dripping, it is on the shelves of your lumber yard for sale. While this lumber may appear dry and read under 15% moisture on a moisture meter, it is certainly not cured and will continue to leach the arsenic from within for up to 18 months as it cures.

When painted prior to this curing, frequently the paint will peel as the chemicals try to work their way out of the wood. This has been the topic of many a debate on the Outer Banks and painters have bared the brunt of the responsibility for this peeling, but now you too can consider yourselves educated.

The one exception to this rule is PT that is marked KDAT, or Kiln Dried AFTER Treatment. Very few contractors use this lumber as it is more expensive, but if you are one of the lucky ones, you may successfully paint this immediately.

For PT lumber, the best primers are latex, and very often do dry quickly. Make sure that the primer is for exterior use. PT lumber does not have nearly as much tannin to be concerned about, as pine is used most often, but you do need a primer that has stain killing abilities for the knots, and offers good adhesion. Look for those two attributes on the labeling.

Sometimes you will need to use two coats on the knots to prevent tannin bleed. PT lumber differs from Cedar in that PT lumber is much smoother and sometimes has a mill glaze that these latex primers address much better than the alkyd alternatives.

Penetration is diminished by the mill glaze and the chemical content of the wood, so go with the latex alternative. Mill Glaze is a condition that is brought on by the milling process whereby the wood can have a shiny appearance which prevents any coating from penetrating the surface.

If you notice this condition, a light sanding will pay off for you in the long run. Just sand enough to rough up the surface a bit, nothing too strenuous.

Some of the other substrates used commonly for the exterior of homes are HardiPlank cementatious siding, vinyl, and aluminum.

In most instances, these substrates do not require a primer and can be coated with a good quality 100% acrylic paint. Of course, you will need to ensure that all surfaces are clean, dry, and free of organisms first.

While that probably covers all of the pertinent exterior substrates, you may be dealing with an existing home that is peeling. I often find that homeowners with this problem are ill advised on the proper methods to repair this condition. Unfortunately, most painting contractors will not completely address this issue with the owner, if at all, and the result is a never ending cycle of touch-up and repainting due to continual peeling.

Peeling paint can be repaired so that this does not recur, although in most cases it is not cheap. If you have a peeling problem, the peeling areas should be stripped to remove all of the old coating, even if it does not appear to be peeling now. This is especially true in the case of shake shingles. Often a contractor will specify a scope of work which includes pressure washing first then painting. Pressure washing alone will not remove enough of the defective coating to ensure that the remaining areas will not peel in the future. Any coating left will usually continue to peel for years to come ruining any new paint work.

I have personally spent many hours on this problem trying to educate my fellow painters and my customers on this issue and I can say with great authority that there is only one way to permanently fix this problem.

On to finishes… Finish coat products also come in many forms. By understanding the factors involved in the deterioration of each finish, you can easily make the appropriate selection.

Generally speaking, as long as you have properly prepared and primed the substrate, the biggest factor that will cause a finish coating to fail prematurely is UV light.

The sun will dry out a coating and over time will cause a condition called chalking. You may notice this on your home if you rub your hand on the surface and the coloring appears on your hand. At this point, the coating will actually retain moisture instead of repelling it and will deteriorate more rapidly as time goes on.

When choosing a finish coat for any surface, use quality material, which will pay for itself in the long run. I recommend using a product that has a sheen, which will reflect UV light better that flat paint or stain and will last longer.

These sheens come in varying degrees of reflectivity and price, of course. Latex stains are best on wood siding and should provide you with the longest lasting jobs.

Most exterior latex stains available today come in a flat finish. There are latex exterior stain products that have a sheen, but you will have to do your homework and ask for them.

For pressure treated lumber, as well as the other substrates that I mentioned, paint will serve you best. Use latex paints that are labeled 100% acrylic, as they are the best product available today and easily found at any paint store. Latex paints and stains also resist UV light deterioration much better than oil based comparables.

The biggest difference between paint and stain is the consistency and the solid content of the material. Paints are usually much thicker than stains and have a higher solid content. The higher the solid content, the longer the material will last.

Finally, consider using the new generation ceramic coatings. These products usually offer superior warranties which cover defects in labor and materials, but usually can only be applied by certified contractors. These products offer the best in protection for all substrates but will cost more initially.

Material choices can be confusing, but stick to these guidelines and you will make better informed decisions. I always recommend that if you are not sure what to do, call a pro. Good luck!