Category Archives: Home & Garden

Painting Furniture a Dicey Proposition


Every day, numerous people attempt to transform the appearance of drab chairs, dressers and shelves by adding a coat of paint. Unfortunately, all too often, these do-it-yourselfers end up with significant finish failure in the form of chipping and peeling. Before you attempt this type of home improvement project, learn why painting furniture can be a dicey proposition.

Adhesion Problems

Many people end up with finish failure, because they don’t know how to encourage adhesion. According to do-it-yourself expert and professional contractor RJ Lawrence, proper preparation is the key to a beautiful, lasting painted finish.

“It doesn’t matter if the furniture is made of wood, plastic or metal; if you want the new finish to last, you have to properly prepare the surface,” he said. “This means cleaning it thoroughly to eliminate dust, dirt and unseen oils. Depending on the surface composition, it may mean abrading with sandpaper. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it means adding a base coat of primer to promote good coverage and better adhesion.”

Lawrence, who authored the eBook “Painting Furniture, Professional Tutorials,” says many people get too excited about the application process and fail to roll up their sleeves and do the less glamorous prep work.

“No one likes prep work,” he said. “But it really is the key to everything. It may be unpleasant, but preparation is the fundamental key to beautiful paint jobs.”

Promoting Adhesion

According to Lawrence, do-it-yourselfers should use the following prep strategy based on the composition of the furniture they are working on.

  • Varnished wood furniture: Sand the varnished topcoat until it appears dull; wipe down the wood using a rag, which has been moistened with mineral spirits; add a coat of water-based primer.
  • Bare wood furniture: No need to sand this; however, you do need to wipe down and prime the wood.
  • Metal furniture: Clean this using a water-based degreaser; then add a coat of metal-etching primer.
  • Plastic furniture: Scour the plastic using 180-grit sandpaper; keep sanding until the plastic is slightly rough; wash the furniture; add a coat of water-based primer.

How to Make Your Home Cooler


Every year, it seems new record highs are going on the books. Unfortunately, the relentless heat can send utility bills soaring, leaving many people forced to cut back on other necessities just so they can afford to pay their monthly cooling bills. If you’re interested in learning how to make your home cooler, our home improvement expert has some good advice.

Paint Your Home

According to our in-house home improvement expert, Jim Dugan, paint color can really make a difference in home energy efficiency.

“Most people tend to choose paint colors based on personal taste,” he said. “This may be alright for people who live in mild climates; however, it shouldn’t be your only consideration if you live in one of the hotter regions of the country.”

Dugan says light colors of paint tend to be the best choice for people who want to reduce their energy costs, because these colors reflect more sunlight.

“If your home is painted a dark color, it’s going to soak up a lot of heat,” he said. “This will make the interior much hotter, and your air conditioner is always going to be running. Invariably, lighter colors make your home cooler, while darker ones make it warmer.”

Cover Your Windows

When light invades your home, the temperature will rise. By keeping your glass doors and windows covered, you can drastically reduce your energy costs. That said, according to Dugan, curtains and window shades typically don’t prove as effective as reflective covers.

“Reflective solar shades send a lot of sunlight in the opposite direction, which can really help to make your home cooler,” he said. “Solar privacy shades have been proven to lower utility bills by as much as 30 percent in homes that have a lot of windows. Although they are a bit more expensive, in the end, they can save homeowners a considerable amount of cash.”

Is your Organic Garden Toxic? Maybe, says Study


These days, more and more consumers are turning to their backyards for natural fruits and vegetables free from potentially harmful pesticides. Unfortunately, according to a recent report, that organic garden you’re so proud of may actually be filled with toxic metals and chemicals.

Disturbing Report

The Washington Toxics Coalition and the Ecology Center recently issued a report detailing some disturbing test results centered on popular gardening products sold at numerous popular chain stores. According to analysts, water hoses, gloves, common hand tools and knee pads all tested positive for dangerous metals and chemicals, including phthalates, BPA, cadmium and lead.

In the case of gloves and hand tools, the plastic grips were found to contain phthalates, which are known to disrupt hormones in human beings. Many metallic tools were found to contain cadmium, which has been shown to cause learning delays, birth defects and other significant health issues.

Perhaps most troubling was the fact that testers found high levels of lead inside water hoses. According to researchers, this toxic metal can easily leech out into your so-called organic garden. It can also mix into the soil, causing you to track the harmful particles into your home, where it could be breathed in or ingested by small children, who are especially sensitive to the effects of toxic metals.

Keeping your Organic Garden Natural

According to researchers, consumers should look for gardening products that are free from lead and PVC. More often than not, American-made products do not contain as many of these toxins, thanks to federal regulations. On the other hand, imported products – especially from China – often contain harmful chemicals and metals, thanks to poor overseas regulations and lax U.S. policies associated with imports.

If you’re not sure whether your tools contain toxins, experts say you should follow some basic gardening safety practices. Wear cloth gloves that don’t have rubber grips and keep your tools and water hose out of the sun, which has a tendency to promote leeching. Additionally, experts recommend that you flush your hose in a restricted area prior to watering your garden to eliminate any lead that may have leeched out and pooled within. You should also remove your shoes before entering your home to minimize the chances of transferring harmful particles inside.