How To Prepare Your Boat For Winter

If you love all the water activities your boat allows you to enjoy, then you’re probably not looking forward to the winter. You’ve taken care of your boat all summer to keep it running it’s best, now you have to take some special steps to make sure it’s ready to go when you are when spring arrives.

Not taking the proper steps to protect your boat and motor from the cold weather could mean costly repairs. And, in extremely cold weather it could even mean having to replace your motor before you can use your boat again. The little extra effort spent on winter protection, will be well worth the time.

Many gas stations now have gas that contains 10% ethanol. This gas is fine to use in your boat as long as it’s not allowed to sit in the tank and lines for long periods of time. If it just stands in your fuel system, it separates into gas and water and can cause a lot of damage.

The best way to make sure there’s no damage to your boat from the gasoline, is to completely drain the tank and lines. Drain as much as you can out of the tank and then run the motor long enough to empty the carburetor and the fuel lines.

If you have an idea of when you’re going to be using your boat for the last time of the season, it’s a good idea not to put more gas in the tank than you’ll be using for the day. But, you don’t want to go to the trouble of draining the tank, then make sure that you top the gas tank off.

It’s much better for it to sit all winter with a full tank of gas than one that is half empty. Just remember to leave a little extra room so that the gas will be able to expand. A tank that is completely full won’t allow for air flow through the vent and will result in condensation and the fuel separating.

I always helped my Dad when he’d get ready to prepare his boat for the winter. He always emptied his tank, he never left any gas in it during the winter in all the years he owned his boat. It really didn’t take that long to get all of the gas out of gas out of the boat.

Aside from the fuel separating and causing damage, the ethanol can chemically react with many of the tanks that are made out of fiberglass. It will cause the entire tank to deteriorate and you’ll have to replace the fuel tank.

Some fiberglass is especially made to withstand the chemicals that ethanol contains. But, unless your owners manual states that your tank is made of these materials, or you can talk to the manufacture, it’s not worth taking the chance of damaging the tank.

Next you will want to drain the water from the motor and then refill it with antifreeze. Take the fog cylinders and spark plugs out and use an clean rag to wipe the engine with a good lubricant to help prevent rusting from the winter moisture. You can add some extra protection to your boat motor by changing the oil and oil filter.

Once you’ve gotten your motor ready for winter, make sure to keep your boat well covered to protect the boat itself. This was one problem I had with my Dad. He always wanted to use the cheap blue tarps, they will not hold up to the weather and unless you want to replace them several times before spring, invest the money in a good quality boat covering.

Protecting your boat and motor from damage is very important, but your trailer should get a little extra attention to. It’s best if you can put it up on blocks and get it off the ground. Make sure you oil the trailer jack, the winch and the rollers really well and take the time to grease the wheel bearings.

Last of all, remove the battery and store it in a dry place such as a garage or storage shed. This will help it maintain a charge and also help to keep it conditioned. And, you should check on your boat now and then just to make sure that the wind hasn’t blown the tarp or covering loose.

How To Hook Up a High Definition Television

The television viewing experience is quickly heading toward HD. High Definition is becoming the new standard for televisions. Many of the networks are now offering a lot of their programs with digital sound and HD. If you’re not tech savvy, hooking an HD television up can be a little daunting.

There are a complex group of inputs and outputs on the back of HDTV’s. Getting everything hooked up properly into these small ports can mean the difference between loving your new television and wanting to take it back for a refund!

Most HD televisions will have these small ports color coded. The white, yellow and red ports are your audio video ports. Almost all new televisions will have several of these ports to allow you to connect other electronics such as a DVD player and a gaming console.

The S-Video Line-in will be a round port that has a slit and multiple holes. It’s generally used to provide the video for a DVD player. It will give you a clearer picture than the normal yellow plug. The DVI port supplies a digital picture, but it won’t provide any sound. HDMI provides  both digital sound and picture.

The Digital Audio Optical Input/Output also provides digital sound. Using these ports will give you a crisp, clear sound that is much better than the basic red and white ports. The CB, CR and Y input and output can be used for better picture quality. They’re generally red, blue and green and can be used in place of the yellow port.

The Cable Satellite input port is where you get the input to the television from the cable. You’ll only need to use this port if you don’t have a digital converter box. Now that you know what everything does, you can figure out the best way to hook up your HDTV.

For the very best sound and picture, hook your cable to the digital converter box. Use the HDMI or DVI ports to connect the converter box to the A/V input. Now connect the A/V receiver up to the input ports located
on the back of the television. When using the DVI port, remember that it’s only for the video. So make sure you also connect the digital/audio on the converter box to the A/V port that’s on the television.

If you’re happy to just have better sight and sound than ordinary television connect your CB, CR and Y outputs into the converter box to the same coded inputs that are on the A/V receiver. And, connect them to the matching ports on the back of the television.

The fastest and easiest way to hook up your HDTV is by connecting your converter box to the receiver using the S-Video cable. Then use another S-Video cable to hook the box to the television. To have audio you’ll need to connect the red and white cables into the television.

While using the S-Video cables will let you watch your favorite programs, it won’t be of the best quality. In fact, the sound and picture quality will be very similar to what you got from your ordinary television. If you’re going to invest the money in the latest technology, then why not spend the extra time hooking it up to get the quality that you paid for?

How To Install Foundation Vents

Water is one of the most destructive things to your home. While most homes are built and protected to deal with water on the outside of the home, water and moisture inside the home can become trapped. Most older homes have air holes and cracks that allow some of the moisture to evaporate. But, many newer homes are so well insulated that they’re pretty much air tight and there’s no air circulating to dry up moisture or water.

One way to help keep moisture out of your home is by installing vents in the foundation. Your home needs to be able to breather to stay healthy! Around seven to ten gallons of moisture is generated each day inside your home. While moisture can cause rotting and mildew, trapped moisture becomes laden with vapors that can be harmful to your health.

A lot of emphasis is being placed on insulating homes to reduce energy costs. It is true that adding vents to your homes foundation will slightly increase your heating bills. But, it can help prevent costly repairs for moisture damaged wood and also keep your family healthy by reducing mold and mildew.

Moisture gathers inside the home from numerous sources including taking showers, washing clothes and cooking. It can create odors, condensation that forms on windows during cold weather and stale unhealthy air in general.

If your home has a block foundation, you might think that it’s too late to install vents. But, you can easily install vents even into an existing foundation. The general rule for installing vents is to add a one foot square vent for each 150 square feet of your homes floor space. But, if the crawl space has a dirt floor, or if you live in an area that is shaded by lot’s of trees, you might want to add a few extra for more aeration.

Once you’ve purchased your vents, measure and mark each place on the foundation that you want to add a vent. With a drill and a masonry bit, drill holes close together all along the outline. Be sure to wear safety goggles, the drill will throw bits of masonry into the air.

Take a cold chisel and a hammer and go along the drilled holes to break up and remove the masonry. You want the hole to be as smooth as possible, so once all of the block is removed, use the chisel to chip off any rough edges that remain sticking up. It may take awhile to get it smooth enough for the vent to easily slide into the opening.

You can test the edges by sliding the vent into place to make sure it has a good fit. After you’ve got the hole ready for the vent, use a small trowel and place cement all the way around the inside of the opening. Place the vent into the cement bed and finish up the seal with a coating of cement on the outside surface around the edges.

When you apply cement around the outside of the vent, be careful to not fill the fins on the vent and clog them up. The best type of vents to use are the ones that have adjustable fins. With adjustable fins you can have the option of opening the vents more or less depending on the weather. Open them more if you’re experiencing a rainy spring and then adjust them if you’re having a dry summer.

How To Build A Wheelchair Ramp

If you have a disabled family member, a wheel chair ramp is a necessity. But, Wheelchair ramps aren’t just for wheelchairs. While some elderly people don’t have any trouble walking, climbing steps can prove to be a challenge. A wheelchair ramp can make it much easier for them to leave or return to their home.

If you have rental properties, you must follow certain codes and guidelines, but whether it’s your home or one you rent to someone, you need to follow building codes. Not only is it the law, it will make a much safer ramp for anyone that is disabled or elderly to use.

A wheelchair ramp should always have a level landing area at the bottom and top of the ramp. There should also be a level area anywhere that the ramp changes to another direction. If the ramp is going to be over 20 feet in length, you should add another level section in the middle. This will give them a flat place to stop and rest a minute if they need to.

The levels areas that you place in the ramp should be the same width of the ramp itself and they’re suppose to be at least five feet long to allow lot’s of room for the wheelchair. The length is to provide enough room for someone to turn the wheelchair around and to keep it away from the edge of the level area.

The best width for a wheelchair ramp is three feet and handrails should be installed on each side of the ramp. The ideal height for handrails is three feet, but it’s preferable to have a rail also located at 18″ for anyone that has trouble reaching up to the higher rail. The handrails need to be along the entire length of the ramp.

The perfect sloping angle should be one foot for each twelve feet of ramp. For instance if the ramp is twelve feet long, the highest part should not be more than one foot off of the ground. For porches that are higher than one foot off the ground, the ramp should have levels. One twelve foot length of ramp, a flat section and then a turn to go up another section of ramp.

Having a wheelchair ramp with several sections and landings is much better than having one with a really steep incline that someone disabled won’t be able to climb. Another option would be to place the ramp at which ever porch is the lowest to the ground. Some homes have a higher porch in the front than they do at the back of the home.

As an added safety feature, a 3″ curb should be added to the bottom of the ramp. This curb will prevent the wheels of a wheelchair from slipping off of the ramp. The curb can either be placed on the ramp floor or incorporated in with the bottom handrail. But, if you’re going to use the bottom rail as a curb, it shouldn’t be any more than 3″ above the floor of the ramp.

Wheelchair ramps can be made from any material, wood, steel and concrete all make excellent ramps. Just make sure that the entire surface is slip resistant. The level areas of the ramp should be checked to make sure that puddles of water don’t form that can be slick or even freeze during the winter.

How To Keep Your Wood Burning Fireplace Safe

If you have a wood burning fireplace, then you already know how important it is to keep them well maintained. After all, you’re literally setting a fire inside your home, a fire that can quickly get out of control if your fireplace isn’t properly cared for.

The most important step in fireplace safety is to never, ever leave a burning fireplace unattended. whether you are going to bed, just going outside or down to the corner grocery to make a pick quick up, make sure that you totally extinguish the fire before leaving the house.

You should always keep a fire extinguisher somewhere close to the fireplace and make sure it’s easy to get to quickly. And, you should always replace it if it’s expired. Although, a fire extinguisher can still work even after the expiration date, it’s much better to be safe than sorry.

A spark arrester screen can help keep sparks from flying out into the room and starting a fire. And, you should never overload the fireplace with logs. The higher you stack the logs, the less stable they become and can easily roll out of the fireplace into the room. All it takes is a small piece of wood to start an enormous fire.

Soft wood, pine or other items like bundles of newspaper should never be burned in a fireplace. And, never use any type of chemical to start the fire or to get it burning larger. Large fires increase the build of of creosote in the chimney which can catch fire quickly. And, fuels like gas or lighter fluids can cause a sudden burst of flames that can shoot out of the fireplace.

Any type of flammable liquids such as kerosene fuel, lamp oil and even alcoholic beverages should be kept within a safe distance of a fireplace. Even items like drapes, carpet and furniture should be at least four feet away from the fireplace to be safe.

It is highly recommended that you have your fireplace and chimney inspected on a yearly basis, especially if it’s several years old. And, you should also have it inspected if you’ve just purchased the home. Unless you have some way of knowing when it was last inspected, the former owners might not have had any inspections at all!

During an inspection, the fireplace should be checked for any cracks in the bricks or mortar. The flue should be carefully checked and there shouldn’t be any of the flue tiles cracked or missing. The flue should also be checked for clogs or to see if it’s covered in creosote. If there are any cracks in the chimney, you or a contractor can cover the inside with a special concrete that is light weight and can withstand high temperatures.

The height of your chimney must follow a code, regulations state that the chimney should be at least two feet higher than the highest part of your homes roof. The chimney should also be equipped with a spark arrestor cap, the cap will also keep birds, bats and other animals such as squirrels out of the chimney.

Your fireplace hearth should extend out into the room at least 16″ and it should extend past the firebox at least 8″ on each side. It needs to be at least three inches in thickness and be made out of a fireproof material such as brick or stone.

The best way to stay safe while using your fireplace is to just make sure that anything that can burn is kept away from the fire. Take extra pre-cautions when even standing in front of the fireplace in your warm winter robe or long nightgowns. And, never use it for an incinerator for trash!

How To Make Your Outdoor Furniture Last Longer

Your outdoor furniture can be a large investment and most people can’t or don’t want to have to replace it every spring. Outdoor furniture can last for many years if you take care of it properly. Patio furniture comes in several types of materials and each needs to be cleaned in the correct way.

If you store your patio furniture out of the weather during the winter months, it’s the perfect time to clean it before putting it away. But, to keep it looking it’s best, most manufacturers recommend that you clean it once a month or so.

Most outdoor furniture can easily be cleaned with a little warm water and soap. You can get the furniture much cleaner if you use a pressure washer, but only use PSI from 1200 to 1350 so that you don’t wash the paint right off. The lower pressure you use the better, of course using a pressure washer depends on the materials that your outdoor furniture is made of.

Wicker is very popular for outdoor furniture, but it can get really dirty. Dust and grime flying through the air can get trapped inside all the little holes and be very hard to get out. If the wicker isn’t excessively dirty, you can usually just clean it with a water hose.

If you need more than just water to get it clean, use a mild soap in cold water and a sponge or soft brush. Once you’ve gotten it cleaned, allow it to completely dry then apply a coat of paste wax to retain the shine and help it resist water. Wicker should at least be well covered during the winter months, but it’s best if you can store it in a shed or garage.

If you have wood furniture that has been varnished, soapy water will generally clean away all the summers dirt. Make sure that you rinse all of the soap off of the furniture and let it thoroughly dry. Wooden furniture also needs to be stored inside through the winter, the damp, cold weather can cause it to start rotting pretty quickly.

Hammocks and other items made of fabric such as chairs, can almost always be washed in the washing machine. Make sure that you use cold water to minimize shrinking. You can also place the fabric back on the furniture frame to dry to keep it from shrinking. Wash fabric items on the gentle cycle, with a mild detergent and you can add a little bleach to white items. Clean the frames depending on the material and store fabric items indoors.

The umbrellas on your patio table can be cleaned with a soft brush and mild soap in cold water. Umbrellas require a little extra care as their joints will also need oiled. You can use a spray lubricant, but you have to be extra careful to not spray any on the fabric. Just use enough oil as needed for the shape that the joints are in, if they’re really stiff and looking like they’re starting to rust, apply several coats of oil over a few days.

Always remove acrylic furniture cushions before cleaning them. And, only spot clean them if you can. Some soapy water and a soft brush or sponge usually will be sufficient to remove the dirt. When you store your cushions for the winter, never place them in plastic bags, it will cause them to mildew and rot.

Some newer patio sets and outdoor furniture pieces are made of resin. Resin requires less maintenance than any of the other materials. You can usually just spray the piece with a water hose, but if you have any scuff marks, use a soft cloth with a gentle abrasive to remove them. If there’s any mildew, add about one cup of bleach to a gallon of water and two cups of soap.

If you have wither iron, steel or aluminum outdoor furniture you can generally clean it with just soap and water. Most newer metal furniture is treated to be rust resistant. But, if the set or pieces you have weren’t treated or their older pieces, you can apply some paste wax to restore the shine and protect them form moisture.

How To Test And Change a Circuit Breaker

Circuit breakers trip as a safety feature, sometimes for one reason or another they just get over-loaded and the breaker will kick off. All you need to do is to go to the breaker box and turn it back on. But, what do you do when you turn it back on and there’s still no electricity?

I’m going to explain how you can test the circuit breaker to see if it’s the actual breaker that’s bad, or if it’s the wiring that has became faulty. To check the breaker you’ll need to turn off all of the power by throwing the main breaker to the home.

You will need to have easy access to the breaker to test it. Remove the screws in the breaker box panel and remove the entire front panel so that you can see the breakers. It’s very important to remember that even though you’ve turned off the main breaker to the home, there will still be electricity on the wire running to the main breaker. Keep your hands and tools away from the area where the main breaker is located at all times!

To check the breaker you’ll need a test meter called a ammeter. It will have two test leads attached to it, place one on the metal screw that is in the circuit breaker itself and the other one on the neutral bar that is inside the panel. To identify the neutral bar, make sure that it’s the one that has all white wires going into it.

Set the ammeter to voltage and position it on 250 volts to test the breaker. You should not see any reading on the meter when testing the breaker. Regular breakers are single width, if the breaker has a double width it’s a 220 volt breaker. In this case, you’ll need to place both test leads on the breaker. Attach one lead to each of the metal screws on the bottom of the circuit breaker. Again, there shouldn’t be any reading.

If the ammeter hasn’t shown a reading, it’s safe to remove the circuit breaker. You will need a flat screwdriver to loosen the screws to remove the wires from the breaker. The hot wire will usually be either black or red and located on the left side. Once you’ve got the wire loose, pull it to the out side of the panel just enough to keep it from falling down inside the wall.

Use the screwdriver to gently pry out the breaker. Just insert the screwdrivers end about 1/8″ behind the breaker. Don’t pry to hard or you will crack or damage the breaker next to the one your removing. You just need to pry it up enough so that you can get hold of it with your fingers and pull it out. Pull the breaker towards you and slightly tilt it to the left.

Once you’ve removed the breaker, push the switch all the way to the off position then all the way to the on position. If the switch remains in the on position without kicking off, the circuit breaker is good. If it kicks off, you’ll need to replace it with a new one.

You should take the breaker with you if you need to purchase a new one to make sure that you get the right size. Repeat the above steps in reverse to install the new breaker. Make sure that the breaker will slide back into place and the push firmly until it fits flush with the rest of the breakers in the box.

How To Stain A Concrete Driveway

A paved driveway is a great convenience, it allows you to get in and out of your car without having to trudge through mud. But, plain old concrete isn’t very attractive and when you’ve spent lot’s of time and money on making the outside of your home beautiful, concrete just looks so plain!

You can easily transform that cold, hard concrete into a driveway that looks like warm, inviting stone. You can stain concrete in many different ways, you can just give it some color or you can actually make it look like stone. Todays products make it much easier to give your concrete driveway a finished desirable look that will compliment your homes exterior.

When you shop for stains, try to avoid acid based stains, they’re much harder to apply than other types. But, they usually provide a much deeper, richer color. Water based stains aren’t just easier to use, they’re also much safer. But, water based stains can also come out looking opaque sometimes.

You can simply measure the length and width of your driveway and take the measurements with you when purchasing stain to make sure you buy enough. The very first thing you’ll need to do is to make sure that your concrete is as clean as possible. Any grease, dirt or grime on the concrete will keep the stain from adhering and it will quickly peel or flake off.

A good quality degreasing product is usually sufficient enough to clean the concrete properly. The best way to clean it is with a pressure washer, if you don’t own one, many home imporvement stores rent them. Once you’ve cleaned the entire driveway, let it dry throughly and then sweep it to get off any remaining dirt.

You should never try to stain concrete that hasn’t been poured for at least 28 days, it will need time to cure. Cover all of the items surrounding the driveway with a plastic sheet or even large drop cloths. If your concrete has powdery, white stains it’s a sign that salt is seeping up through the concrete from the soil. A efflorescence blocker should be applied before applying the stain to prevent the salt from coming back through.

You can apply the stain by hand, but it’s much faster and easier if you use a paint sprayer. If you want to achieve the look of stone, you’ll need to apply several coats of the stain. Start in one of the corners of the driveway and spray the first coat in a nice even layer. Follow the directions for drying time, usually about an hour, but it could be as much as 24 hours.

Continue spraying the stain on the driveway in the same way. But, to get the appearance of stone, skip some areas with each coat. You want the layers to have a mottled look to give it shading. Make sure that you let the stain dry good between each coat and just keep applying the stain until you achieve the look you want.

When you’ve finally got all the layers looking just the way you want, let it dry for at least 24 hours. You’ll need to try to block the driveway off to keep any animals or visitors from walking on your newly stained surface.

Now you’re ready to apply a sealant with a low napped roller. Just like there are different types of stains, there are different types of sealers. Some sealants will give the concrete a wet, shiny finish, it looks good, but will be very slick when it’s raining. There are slip resistant and non-skid sealants available that can help prevent falls.

How To Choose a Big Screen Television

More and more people are creating their own home theaters these days. While they might seem like a luxury, a home theater is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a stressful day. And, as the prices are coming down on big screen televisions more people are purchasing them.

Any television, whether it’s big screen or not is a considerable purchase and you want to make sure that you’re going to be happy with the one you choose. There are some simple tips to help you in shopping for a big screen television.

While it might seem the bigger the screen the better, size is the main issue that you need to really think about. Having a television that is way too big for the room will make watching it pretty uncomfortable. Decide where you want the television to be, then measure the approximate distance from there to where you’ll normally be sitting.

When you shop for a television, measure off the distance and stand there to see how the picture looks. The largest screen you can find might be nice, but if your room only allows you to be six feet from the screen, you might not enjoy the gigantic movie! A good rule to follow on screen size is to be three times the size away from the screen. For example, if the screen is 3 feet in height, you’ll want to be nine feet away from it.

While flat panel televisions will fit into almost any room and look really great, they’re much more expensive than a big screen television. So, unless you’re willing to pay a lot more for the convenience, you might want to avoid them.

You’ll also need to decide what format you want. There’s widescreen and letterbox. Most television shows are still in letterbox format, but almost all of the new movies are being done in widescreen now. Eventually, widescreen might be the standard format for all television shows and movies. But, the format choice is just a matter of personal preference.

Now we move on to all of the technical jargon, CRT, LCD, DLP and of course HD. Most people already know that HD is high definition, but few people are familiar with the other terms. Purchasing a television that doesn’t have HD can save quite a bit of money and the picture will still look good. Again, it’s a matter of preference and affordability.

Your old television set is most likely CRT. The first big screens were CRT, if you ever saw one you probably noticed that if you were sitting to the side the picture quality was fairly bad. With CRT’s unless you’re sitting pretty much in front of the screen, you may just see dark! But, again it’s the difference in prices that you’ll have to consider.

The same goes for LCD and DLP, when viewing at odd angles. The picture  quality with DLP is excellent, unless you’re sitting off to one side and then it will be slightly dim. And, in both types, the bulbs can burn out and be really expensive to fix.

How To Install A Surround Sound System

Adding a surround sound system can really make a big difference in the quality of your television and entertainment systems sound. It can actually make it seem like the sounds are surrounding you! But, knowing the right way to set the speakers up, can increase the sound quality even more.

Most 5.1 surround sound systems have five speakers and one subwoofer. Your main speakers will be the right and left front speakers. Around 70% of the sound will be coming from these speakers, so the correct placement is crucial. These speakers should be placed in front of you and at the center of the television.

The center channel needs to be placed in the exact center of your room and as close to your television as you can get it. The center channel speaker is where all of the voices will come from, so the closer it is placed to the television set the clearer and more vivid the voices will be.

You can place your rear speakers on either side or behind you. They should also be placed an equal distance from the rooms center. These speakers actually provide the special effect sounds, you’ll almost think that those bullets are really blazing right by your head!

However, as nice as they are, rear speakers are the most difficult to position. If you’re not lucky enough to have a home theater room that was designed for rear speakers, it can be really frustrating to install them. It’s very hard to keep them sounding good, while keeping them hidden from plain sight.

If you’re creating your home theater room and haven’t installed carpeting yet, you can run all of the speaker wires before laying carpet. You can purchase special wire that is thin enough to not even be noticeable underneath the carpeting. Decide where you want all of the speakers to be, run the wires, lay the carpet and then use speaker stands to mount your speakers.

If you’re installing a surround sound system in an upstairs room and have access to an attic, you can run the wires up in the attic and through small holes in the ceiling. You can even install the speakers into recessed areas of the ceiling so that they’re flush with the ceilings surface. You can also purchase universal mounts to attach the speakers to the ceiling.

If you’re willing to invest an extra $100 or so to get the sound quality that you want, you can opt to go wireless. The speakers aren’t actually wireless, but you can buy a kit that will create a link from your receiver to the back of the room so that you don’t have to run wires across the entire length of the room.

The kit contains a unit that connects into the rear terminals of your receiver, a second unit is then connected to the rear speakers and plugs into an electrical outlet. You can use speaker stands or towers to place the speakers where ever you want them, or hang them on the wall.

The last speaker you’ll need to install is your subwoofer. Luckily it doesn’t matter where you put this one. The subwoofer supplies all of the bass and can be positioned anywhere that’s convenient. But, to get the best quality sound, don’t block or cover the subwoofer.