Show Notes: Time To Tune Up – On the House

Show Notes: Time To Tune Up

By on August 19, 2018

Show Notes for On The House with the Carey Brothers recorded August 18, 2018

Time To Tune Up!

Fall is nearly here and that means, unfortunately, that summer is coming to an end. With the end of summer, so to ends the great outdoor weather. So with heavy hearts, and light jackets, we give you quick, tune ups for the end of summer.


Did you miss the live episode? Don’t worry, you can still check it out here!

Tune Up Your Door Latch 

Got doors that have changed over time? Misaligned latches that don’t close right? As a house settles, doorknob latches and strike plates sometimes no longer line up, and doors won’t latch shut without extra effort. Today you’ll learn how to perform a door latch tune-up so you don’t have to lift, push, or pull to get it shut! 

 door latch

If the change in the alignment is minor, you can correct this without moving the strike plate. All you need is a hand-held rotary tool with a carbide bit designed for metal work. You can judge what needs grinding by studying what it takes to make it catch. If you have to push down on the doorknob, the top of the strike plate hole needs grinding. Conversely, if you have to lift, grind the bottom… and if it has to be pushed in, grind the outside edge. 

 The most important thing is to remove only small amounts of strike plate at one time. Trim a little here and a little there until it crosses effortlessly… just like it did when it was new. When it closes again, it’ll be thanks to you! 





Shopping For An Attic Access Ladder?  

 An attic ladder is a retractable stairway that pulls down from the ceiling to provide access to attic space, then folds up into a ceiling frame out of the way when it is not needed. An attic ladder makes every trip up and down from the attic easier, faster, and safer. It can make the difference between an attic storage space that actually gets used and one that is quickly forgotten—along with its contents. 

 attic ladder

Installing an attic ladder or fold-down stairway is a very doable DIY project that can take just a few hours. Most ladders and stairs come as pre-assembled kits that you can order for shipment to your house or pick up at a local building supply store. Consider the following factors before you buy. 


Location, Location, Location 

Attic ladder kits are made to fit between existing framing in the ceiling (that is, the floor of the attic). Where possible, choose a size and location for your attic ladder that allows it to fit between existing ceiling joists or trusses. In some cases, the ladder may fit into an existing attic access hatch. In other cases, though, the access hatch may need to be enlarged, or an entirely new opening will need to be cut. When locating your attic ladder, make sure the bottom of the ladder will fall in a safe spot where there is room to maneuver.  

How you enlarge or install an attic hatchway opening will depend on the type of framing us 


Type of Framing  

Your attic floor and roof are probably framed with either trusses or with individual rafters and floor joists. Truss roofs function as an interlocking system and these components should not be cut.  Standard framing using rafters and floor joists, on the other hand, can usually be reorganized easily in order to frame a hatchway opening or install a new one. 

If you have trusses and discover that they are in the way of your planned attic ladder location, you will need to seek professional advice before proceeding. 

Joist (or Truss) Spacing and Orientation 

Standard-size attic ladder kits are designed to fit between floor joists (or trusses) that have a 24-inch spacing (on center). This means there is about 22 1/2 inches of open space between each joist pair. If the gap between your framing measures 22 1/2 inches and one of those gaps falls over where you’d like to install the ladder, you’re in luck. If not, additional framing will be required. 

It’s also possible that the joists are running in the wrong direction for your ladder installation. With standard framing, this can be overcome by simply cutting out sections of the joists and then framing the rough opening with doubled-up headers and joists. With trusses, however, you may be out of luck. Check with a professional about your options.  


Basic Space Requirements for an Attic Ladder 

Full-size attic ladders and stairs usually need an opening in the ceiling that is at least 22 1/2 x 54 inches. Looking for a space adequate to this opening is your first step.  Also, make sure there is a suitable landing space in the attic, so you can safely mount and dismount the ladder while carrying items. 


 Check for headroom, too, since want to bang your head against the roof framing every time you use the ladder. Finally, make sure there’s enough open space in the room and on the floor below the attic opening to accommodate the ladder when it is fully extended. These dimensions vary by ladder type and model, so check the manufacturer’s requirements for the exact model you’re considering.   

If space is tight, look for compact ladder models designed for closets and other small spaces. Some models need only an 18 x 24-inch opening and require less floor space than standard ladders.  


Length and Weight 

Attic ladders are sold in different lengths. Be sure to measure the distance from your ceiling to the floor and buy an appropriate size. Weight relates to the load capacity of the ladder itself. As a general rule, the more weight a ladder can hold, the sturdier it is. 

At the very least, buy a ladder that can handle the weight of the heaviest person who will be using it plus the heaviest load they will be hauling up and down. This may mean that a 250-pound capacity is sufficient, although 300 pounds may be a better choice, even if it requires some extra framing.  



You can find attic ladders made of aluminum, steel, or wood. Aluminum is generally the best all-around choice because it is lightweight and strong. Because aluminum is a  rust-resistant metal, it’s unlikely to be affected by humidity and temperature over the years. A wood ladder might very well last as long as the house, but it may be more prone to the effects of moisture and temperature change, as well as potential natural defects.  

Usability Features 

Attic ladders and stairs come in a variety of styles and designs that incorporate various features that improve convenience, safety, and general usability. Much of this comes down to personal preference. Here are some of the features to consider, keeping in mind that you may be limited by your available space (not to mention budget): 

  • Rungs vs. steps: Attic stairs have shallow steps, while ladders may have steps or ladder-style rungs. The steps aren’t like those of a regular staircase, and, in most cases, you should climb up and down as though you’re on a ladder, holding a higher step while you climb.
  • Folding vs. telescoping: Some ladders fold out, while others telescope like an extension ladder. There are also stairs that extend on scissor-like mechanisms (picture an old-fashioned shaving mirror), sometimes called “concertina.”
  • Angle: Attic ladders and stair are almost always steeper than regular staircases, but you may prefer less or more angle. Ladders typically have the same angle you’d use when painting your house or cleaning windows. Stairs usually have an angle that’s less steep.
  • Handrail: Both ladders and stairs can include a Keep in mind that climbing attic ladders usually means you’re carrying items in one hand while climbing with the other. Would you prefer to climb with a handrail or just use the ladder rungs?


Attic access panels can be a significant source of energy loss in a home. Look for attic ladder and stairway models with tight-fitting doors and, if possible, insulation. Some models come with insulation covers that fit over the hatchway from above. Or, you can add weatherstripping around the door opening to stop air leakage, and cover the door panel with a rigid foam insulation board to slow heat loss.  





5 Minutes and a Screwdriver 

An Easy 5-Minute Upgrade for Lazy Home Improvers


Good design is in the details—no matter how small. Today we’re here to shine the light (pun intended) on those white plastic light switch plates that are so commonplace; they’re often overlooked as permanent fixtures. No matter what your style, we promise there’s a wall plate that complements your home design better than the existing smudge-prone standard. All you need is a screwdriver and a few bucks, so start swapping those little devils out!




How High Should I Hang That?

The Decorating Rules of Thumb You Always Wondered About


wall hanging art

A common mistake when it comes to art installation is hanging pieces neck-craningly high. Do what museums do—keep artwork at eye level.



Hang art so that its midpoint is between 57 and 60 inches from the floor. Go for the lower end of the range if most members of your household are on the short side; in rooms with ceilings higher than eight feet, artwork can be hung a little higher than 60 inches. Once you pick the midpoint, stick with it for consistency. For a grouping of works, simply envision the collection as one piece of art.



art over sofa

Hang art over a sofa or headboard so that the bottom of the frame is 8 to 10 inches above the furniture piece; the art should be visually connected to it, not floating high above it. If you’re hanging a smaller work over a large unit, try adding sconces or other art to fill out the composition. For art that’s taller than 120 inches, forget the midpoint rule; just make sure the bottom edge is about a foot from the floor.

Art over a sofa or bed should span roughly two-thirds the width of the furniture piece. The bottom of a lampshade should be at about eye level when you’re seated. “A rug sized to allow your furniture to sit fully or largely on top of it gives the illusion of a bigger room,” says MSL decorating director Kevin Sharkey.



Wall and ceiling lights are often installed too high, while lamps are generally placed too low. Here’s how to get it right:


table lamps

Make sure the bottom edges of the shades in the living room are at eye level or just above when you’re seated. This allows you and your guests to have an unobstructed view of one another. For a lamp on your bedside table, the bottom of the shade should be at chin level when you’re sitting up in bed. “For the sake of visual unity—especially when you’re decorating with different lamps in the same room—keep the tops of the lampshades at the same height,” says Kevin.


pendant lights

If you’re installing a pendant over a kitchen island or bar, or a chandelier over a dining table, hang it so that the bottom hovers 30 to 34 inches from the surface. Pendants over areas people walk underneath should be hung to allow for a clearance of at least seven feet. If your ceilings are higher than eight feet, the pendant can float a few inches higher.



This type of light should be at or above eye level. If you’re installing multiple sconces in a row (say, in a hallway), space them 8 to 10 feet apart for a seamless glow. If you’re hanging them on either side of a bathroom mirror, follow the same rule of thumb for height, and position them so they’re 36 to 40 inches apart: This produces an even and flattering light. If you’re using them at the sides of your bed, hang each so that they’re at eye level when you’re sitting in bed. You want the light to be low enough to cast proper reading light but high enough that you don’t see the lightbulb.




Luxury Homes Abandon The Microwave


Designers are replacing this kitchen staple with steam and speed ovens, or hiding microwaves behind doors or in drawers.

For some high-income homeowners, microwaves are one of the first things they look to replace in their kitchens. Steam and speed ovens are two alternatives that provide many of the same functions as microwaves at a higher quality. There also is a growing preference for the appliance to be hidden.

For most other homeowners, microwaves remain an essential element of the kitchen. Over 344.7 million microwaves were sold in 2017 and 92% households own microwave ovens. Price is one reason why: Currently, speed and steam ovens range from $1,700 to $8,000, while microwave units cost in the hundreds, and even a microwave in a drawer can be had for less than $1,200.

Designers and remodelers across the country are finding new ways to integrate the appliance into kitchens. Karinne Heal, a design consultant in Florida, said homeowners with design in mind will opt for microwaves out of sight in either drawers, kitchen islands, or pantries.


Microwave Alternatives


Steam Oven

Modifications like the microwave drawer are one of many options for homeowners who don’t want their microwave as a stand-alone appliance. The drawer microwave can be integrated in open floor plans, which typically don’t have much wall space in their designs. While microwave drawers are more expensive than a typical microwave, they are currently less expensive than wholesale substitutes like steam or speed ovens.

A deterrent for the drawer microwave, however, is that the installations are often close to the floor making them both accessible to children and tough on the knees and backs of homeowners.


Another alternative to the traditional microwave that is gaining popularity with homeowners, especially on the west coast, is the speed oven, architect Michael Hennessey said. The speed oven is a smaller appliance with convection cooking and microwaving capabilities. Hennessey said the speed oven seamlessly fits into open design plans and can be more favorable to homeowners than microwave drawers because of the ability to place the speed oven at eye level. Hennessey said in many of the custom residential designs his company oversees, customers are opting for speed ovens rather than traditional microwaves.




Cleaning and Preserving Wood Decks

Alternative decking

According to reports by most major home improvement magazines, a deck is one of the ten best ways to improve the value of one’s home. And, the value continues to appreciate provided the deck is well maintained. On the contrary, a poorly maintained deck will not only detract from the beauty of the home, but also may be structurally unsound and be cause for injury. Therefore, regular deck maintenance should be a part of the home improve­ment agenda for anyone with a deck.


Most decks are constructed of redwood, cedar, pine, or fir. While each of these will react differently to weathering, the maintenance techniques that follow will apply to each.

Studies by wood technologists with the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory show that ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight and water are the two primary forces that attack the integrity of wood decks. UV rays deplete the natu­ral resins contained in the wood fibers of the deck causing it to turn gray and look washed-out. In addition, water is absorbed into the wood fibers causing the material to swell and contract when dry which results in twist­ing and cracking. Mildew and other surface residue will also hold water-causing rot to occur.

The secret to keeping a deck looking good is by restoring the natural oils that the UV rays have robbed the deck of, by protecting the deck from further damage from UV rays, and by minimizing the amount of water absorbed by the deck. Sound like a tough task? Not really thanks to modern technol­ogy and a assortment of fine deck stains and wood preservatives.

Before applying a deck stain or wood preservative the deck should be thor­oughly cleaned to remove any existing discoloration or surface debris. The goal is to bring out the natural color and luster of the wood and, at the same time, open the pores of the wool to aid in the penetration of the forthcoming dressing.

There are two popular methods used to clean decks. They can be used sepa­rately or in combination with one another. The first and least expensive method is sanding. Use 80-grit to 120-grit sandpaper and a sanding block. An electric sander will make this task significantly easier. This method may be required for a deck where the wood grain has raised or where splin­tering has occurred.

The second and most popular method involves using a deck cleaning/brighten­ing product. These products are simply wood bleaches that come in con­centrated form. Look for a deck brightener that contains oxalic acid. We have found this ingredient to be the most effective in removing dark stains and restoring the natural color of the wood. Dilute the concentrate with water in accordance with the manufacturers directions and apply with a garden-type sprayer. A second application and some scrubbing with a nylon brush may be required for badly discolored decks. A note of caution: Deck brightening products can irritate eyes and skin. Be sure to wear protective clothing, rubber gloves, and safety goggles.

Once the deck has completely dried, (at least a couple of days), apply a thin coat of deck stain or a clear wood preservative. Whether you use a stain or clear preservative depends entirely upon the finish that you desire since they both offer superior protection. If the natural grain and color of the wood appeals to you than a clear wood preservative is what you need. These products contain water repellents, UV inhibitors and chemicals that prevent fungus and mildew. Clear wood preservatives that contain linseed oil are more environmental-friendly and offer an excellent finish.

If you wish to enhance or slightly change the color of the deck, use a light-bodied oil-base stain. The oil helps to restore the natural resins to the wood fiber and the pigment offers some color that can be coordinated with other surrounding finishes.

The clear wood preservative and the oil-base stain are both applied in much the same way. Use a brush, soft cloth, or paint roller. The lighter the coat the better since heavy coats cause puddled sticky spots and an uneven finish. Moreover, be sure to apply the product in strict accordance with the manufacturers instructions. Applying the product when the weather is either too hot or too cold could end up being a disaster.

Chances are that a light touch-up at least once annually will keep that deck looking great and will be a splendid spot for some great weekend entertaining!




That’s it for this week’s show. Catch up with us next week, and thanks for listening!

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