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Paint Your House Green

Posted: 09 Nov 2010 07:27 AM PST

Paints add beauty and elegance to your house. However paints have negative impact to air quality because of presence of chemicals called Volatile Organic Compunds (VOCs) and other toxic components that evaporate into air at room temperature anc can cause a variety of health problems like nausea, dizziness, irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract and more serious illnesses like heart, lung or kidney damage and even cause cancer. 

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are the fumes that you smell while you paint, and sometimes several days after. A VOC is an organic chemical that becomes a breathable gas at room temperature. Some examples are benzene, ethylene glycol, vinyl chloride and mercury. VOCs in paint usually come from additives to the paint, such as fungicides, biocides, color, and spreadability agents. High levels of VOCs in paints can cause headaches, allergic reactions, and health problems in the very old, very young and in those with chronic illnesses.
Concerns about air pollution and hazardous waste have greatly reduced the use of oil-based paints, which can release high amounts of VOCs and contain toxic solvents. Alkyd-based paints and latex paints are much safer, but some still have high levels of VOCs.
Because of health and safety concerns, paint manufacturers around the country have made great strides in formulating paints that have no or low-VOCs and that provide excellent results.
Some older buildings, particularly if they are pre-1960, many have been painted in the past with a paint made with lead pigments. Special care is needed in the safe preparation and removal of these coatings.

The paints have to follow guidelines to get an EcoMark certification provided by BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) .

Low VOC or environment friendly paints are the solution for this problem. Low and zero VOC paints have little or no smog forming emissions. Selecting low VOC paints can bring a major improvement in home air quality compared to high VOC paints.
Since low VOC paints have lesser impact on air quality they are apt for schools,hospitals, workplaces and other buildings also.
They contribute to positive environment and economic effects.
The low VOC paints are also known as Eco-Paints and are produced from fewer than 250 chemical components and more than 98 % of these chemicals are naturally derived from plant sources and minerals.

Sometimes simply washing walls and/or using little touch up can make them appear new. When it is necessary to paint use low VOC or no toxic products and water based paints. This will eliminate the need of toxic elements for cleanup.
A more durable paint is less expensive in the long run. A 10-year durable paint may cost more than a 5 year-durable paint but there are other costs for repainting like labour which should be considered while selecting a paint.
Proper preparation is also critical for durable paint application. All surfaces must be clean and dust free, with any visible cracks, peelings or blisters removed.
If there is an existing paint, determine what it is and appropriately prepare the next coat. Make sure to use primers and top coats that are compatible.


Natural Paints and Finishes
These are paints made from natural ingrdients like water, plant oils, resins, plant dyes, essential oils, natural minerals like clay, chalk and talcum , milk casein, natural latex, bees, wax, earth and natural dyes. Water based paints give almost no smell. These paints are not known to have any allergies and are considered to be safest.

Zero VOC
Paints with 5gm/l or less VOC are called zero VOC paints.

Low VOC paints, finishes and varnishes use water as a carrier unlike petroleum based solvents. So the harmful emissions are less. Low VOC paints emit an order till dry and if you are sensitive then you should not choose any point with VOC greater than 25 gm/l.

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You Can Be A Contractor Yourself

Posted: 09 Nov 2010 07:14 AM PST

In a lifetime, there are not many projects that equal the enormity of building a new home. It is a tremendous investment of time, funds and for many, the realization of a long awaited dream. One way to ensure that your dream house becomes a reality is to be your own contractor.
                 Acting as your own general contractor means that you manage the project yourself. You do everything from dealing with subcontractors, costing the jobs, checking the work, obtaining the permits, to setting up a construction schedule. Doing your own contracting means that you maintain more control over the project. Overseeing the work reduces costly mistakes and misunderstandings.

It follows that you are likely to be satisfied, as the end result will be much closer to your personal vision. This route is also an obvious cost-saver since you eliminate the percentage a general contractor would take.The above paragraph lists attractive reasons for taking on this task. Yet, there are some pitfalls to "being your own contractor". If you haven't done your homework, you can make costly mistakes. We offer the following information to help you avoid those pitfalls.

The above paragraph lists attractive reasons for taking on this task. Yet, there are some pitfalls to "being your own contractor". If you haven't done your homework, you can make costly mistakes. We offer the following information to help you avoid those pitfalls.

Get at least three estimates for each job. Give each bidder the same set of plans & specifications and make sure when comparing estimates that each is based on the same material list and the same size and complexity of work. Bids must be made in writing and in sufficient detail so that you understand what you are getting. Watch for hidden fees like "supervising fees".

A written contract with each individual subcontractor is recommended establishing a work schedule with time penalties written in. Contractors have been known to disappear to another job for weeks, holding up your project. The penalty clause offers incentive to stay on the job. Hiring individual contractors on a "time & materials" basis is dangerous to your schedule, as without guidelines, there is no incentive to finish the project.

"Make frequent visits to the site to check on progress"

If you decide along the way that you'd like to make a change, draw up a "change order" specifying what was in the original contract and the update. Include any change in the budget or scheduling. You (the owner) & the subcontractor should initial the order. On a further note, be sure that each subcontractor carries worker's compensation insurance for his workers and ask for a copy of the certificate.

Understanding the sequence of construction and keeping the individual subcontractors scheduled in order is very important to the success of your project. In addition, you must know what inspections are required during the different construction phases and be prepared to let the appropriate building officials know when you are ready for each one. For example, there may be Footing, Framing, Plumbing rough-in, Electrical rough-in, Plumbing final, and Electrical final inspections - all leading up to the final building inspection and the occupancy permit.

Tips To Make Your Job Easier:

1. Always contact subcontractors to thank them for their bid even if you are not giving them the project. It's important not to burn bridges because a lot of time and effort goes into an estimate and if you have to replace a contractor due to problems, you may want to freely call on your next choice.

2. Make sure that when a work crew arrives to do a job, you have the necessary materials on the site and in proper quantities.

3. It is always better to directly communicate with the subcontractor and not with his work crew. This will prevent misunderstandings.

4. It must be said that construction is still mainly a man's world and being a female general contractor is difficult. How often does a woman have to mention that her "husband" is not happy with the progress, before action is taken? It can take a bit more work to gain the respect of the team players, but know your business and all will go well.

5. Before construction begins, notify your electrical contractor to install temporary electrical power and your plumbing contractor to install a temporary water hookup.

6. Prepare for soil erosion by installing silt fences or hay bales.

7. Keep a daily log of construction progress. Include notes from your meetings with contractors and an inventory of materials delivered to the site. This will help with organization and planning.

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Understanding The Area Of House

Posted: 09 Nov 2010 01:01 AM PST

Buyers of real estate should be very aware of what the builder or seller implies when he talks about area. What area is inclusive of and what it is not is the first clarification a buyer should seek.
                            For instance, a builder may tell a potential buyer that his quote is based on an area covering 3,000 sq ft. And, it may seem like a bargain. But what the builder may be referring to is super built-up area while the unfortunate buyer is under the assumption that it is the amount of area he will get in his apartment.


Carpet Area
Carpet area is the least inclusive. It will tell you exactly how much of space you will have in your home. It is literally defined as the exact area within the walls of your home. To illustrate, if you had to lay out a wall-to-wall carpet, how much area would it require? That's carpet area.

Built-up Area
Built-up area goes one step ahead and includes carpet area and the area being occupied by the walls of your home. Hence, the total area of your home including the area of the walls.

Super Built-up Area
Super built-up area is what builders often talk about. It is inclusive of carpet and built-up area. It also includes all the area under common spaces - the apartment's proportionate share of the lobby, staircase, elevator and corridor outside the apartment.

The confusion arises over the fact that what is exactly included under this definition is left to the discretion of the builders. Some may even include the terrace, security room, electrical room or pump room.

The total area of these "extras" is taken into account and divided by the number of apartments in proportion to their size.

What you must be aware of
Old buildings generally have a higher percentage of carpet area (around 80%) to total area as compared to new buildings, where it could be as low as 65% to 70%. So when you compare quotes, compare carpet area to carpet area, not carpet area to super built-up area.

Speak the same language as your builder. There is no fixed ratio of super built-up to built-up or carpet area. The market practice is that the ratios are on the super built-up area and are marked down. That means, if the super built-up area is 100 and the carpet area 80, the latter is 80% of the super built-up area. Generally, the ratios in the market are 70:30 (super built-up to carpet). But, builders have been known to go as low as 60%. So a quote on a 3,000 sq ft apartment could mean a carpet area of anywhere from 1,800 sq ft to 2,400 sq ft.

Always ask the seller exactly how much the super built-up area and the carpetarea amount to. And then ensure that this break-up appears in the Agreement of Sale.

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Window Frame Tips

Posted: 09 Nov 2010 12:49 AM PST

Window frames are an important part of a window's overall energy efficiency.
Maintenance is a critical issue. Some window frames are maintenance free, while others need annual attention. Lifestyle and tolerance for repair and restoration should determine the window frame you choose, along with energy efficiency and budget.

Fiberglass and Composite Frames
Fiberglass frames can be glass-fiber-reinforced polyester or other Fiberglasscomposites. Choose an insulated Fiberglass frame to achieve or surpass the thermal efficiency of wood - not all Fiberglass frames are insulated. Choose aFiberglass frame without metal spacers and rubber gaskets. Instead, inquire about silicone foam or polymer, and butyl-wrapped materials. BecauseFiberglass composite frames are new to the marketplace, it's uncertain how color choices will stand up to long-term weathering. Darker colors may fade. When purchasing, look for uniform color throughout the frame.

Fiberglass is not the only composite frame. Composites of wood particleboard, wood polymers and a mix of resins (similar to the natural resins used in plastics) are being used to make hybrid frames. Window frame technology is moving at lightening speed and composites promise many new choices in the future.

  • Insulated Fiberglass is highly energy efficient
  • Structurally strong
  • Virtually maintenance free, if not painted
  • Will not swell, warp, or rot
  • Priced between vinyl and wood, but affordable
  • Smaller profile, fits directly to brick or stonework

  • A relatively new option - availability may be an issue
  • More expensive than vinyl
  • May be available only in limited colors
  • Can be almost as expensive as the most expensive hardwoods
  • Due to fragile joints, frames must be handled carefully at installation
  • Perhaps difficult to repair

Vinyl-Clad Wood Frames
Vinyl-clad wood frames are considered an equal insulator to wood frames.

The strongest of all residential windows Highly energy efficient Exterior is wood covered with a thin vinyl coating The interior frame is natural wood Virtually maintenance-free

More expensive than wood - the most expensive of all the options

Wood Frames
Wood, while undeniably the most aesthetically attractive choice, needs attention to detail, and annual maintenance will appreciably extend the life span. Rotting wood or debris in cracks should be removed with a pointed object (like a screwdriver), and then filled with epoxy putty. When purchasing new wood windows, ask the manufacturer or vendor if you can expect tight-fitting joints, unblemished surfaces and invisible finger joints. If the answer is yes, check them when they are delivered and reject all that do not meet your standards.

  • Highly energy efficient if properly treated for the life of the window
  • Durable and strong
  • Readily available and easily customized
  • Any color or stain is possible
  • Most hardwoods can be used
  • Still considered the gold-standard - the classic window

  • Expensive, but not as expensive as vinyl-clad wood
  • High maintenance - annual maintenance required for long-life
  • Stain or paint required every 3 to 5 years
  • Lower life expectancy due to wear from sun, wind and moisture
  • If not properly protected from moisture, can swell, rot, warp and stick

Vinyl PVC
Vinyl PVC means poly-vinyl chloride. Shop for vinyl windows that are manufactured with a thermal break. The thermal break is usually an internal metal network that strengthens the window, as well as improving its energy efficiency. Look for joints that are heat-welded rather than joined with screws or otherfasteners, and a uniform color throughout the frame.

  • Lower cost than wood or aluminum
  • Low maintenance - never needs painting
  • Impervious to the elements
  • Frames can be built to fit any size opening
  • Many frame styles to choose from
  • Can be cleaned with a natural bristle brush
  • Superior insulation - an interior honeycomb structure boosts insulation capability
  • Vinyl window sales are growing rapidly due to energy efficient performance

  • Not very rigid - needs internal hollow chambers; the more chambers the better

Aluminum Frames
Thermally improved frames are the best of aluminum frames. A "thermally-improved" frame decreases heat loss and improves energy efficiency by the addition of a non-conductive material between the aluminums on the interior and exterior of the window. This addition is known as a "thermal break." Thermally improved aluminum frames are superior to standard aluminum frames.

Aluminum framed windows should be considered only with a thermal break. The thermal break in aluminum windows is usually a strip of rubber or plastic, placed between the inner and outer frame. The thermal break lowers the ability of air to pass through the aluminum. Without the thermal break, the window will not be energy efficient.

  • Light-weight, durable and strong
  • Low maintenance
  • Do not absorb water
  • Do not rust or rot
  • Resistant to warping and sticking
  • Fits directly to brick or stonework
  • Works well in warmer climates
  • Can be cleaned with a natural bristle brush
  • Less expensive than wood or composites but more expensive than vinyl
  • Considered the most secure of all window frames


  • Lose heat easily, reducing the energy efficiency of the entire window
  • Susceptible to condensation
  • Can feel cold to the touch
  • Fewer suppliers - may be difficult to order

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