Aug 122015
 

What does it mean to have great flooring? Is it all about the way it unifies the whole room? Is it a just matter of sturdiness and durability? When it comes to floors, as with every other part of the house, it’s all a matter of taste, preference and prioritisation. There is no “one style fits all” for floors. That’s why there are dozens of options to choose from. You might have some ugly or outdated flooring you wish to fix, but what direction should you take? You could always cover it with carpet or buy a lavish designer rug to cover it. Other choices for your upgrade include tiles, linoleum, wood, granite, and so much more.

For the more creative home-owners, there is a new wave of trends when it comes to flooring that open up a myriad of endless possibilities. Among these options include: bottle cap flooring, brown paper bag flooring, painted floors, penny floors and white cork floors. These are some of the DIY flooring possibilities we’re going to talk about today.

a floor built with capsBottle Cap Floor

Bottle cap floors involve the use of bottle caps and grout. Simply prepare the floor with a thin-set mortar then place the bottle caps in an arrangement of your choosing. After having arranged the caps, fill in the gaps with grout and let it dry. Finish it all up with a sealer. This kind of style requires a lot of bottle caps, but the end result looks great! If you are struggling to gather enough bottle caps to fill your room, ask friends and family for help. Local restaurants and schools might also like to get involved!

Brown Paper Bag Floor

This style would require a lot of paper bags and glue. You’ll have to soak the brown paper bags in the glue and then lay it all out on the floor. Once you have them all set and dry, cover the surface with some coats of polyurethane. This style can be tweaked to be an eco-friendly project by replacing the glue with wheat or rice glue and using no-VOC polyurethane.

Painted Floors

As the name implies, painted floors are simply floors that have a coat of paint on them. Before painting the floor, make sure that you have sanded it thoroughly to remove any varnish or rough patches. Sanding it would also even out the surface of any high spots which would be off putting once painted over. You may opt to have one solid coat or use paint tape to help create a pattern. Once you have painted the floor, cover it with a water-based polyurethane.

building a cork floorPenny Floors

The Penny Floors follows the same system as the Bottle Cap floors. The pennies would have to be glued down using construction adhesive (preferably low or no-VOC) or epoxy glue. The pennies can be in a pattern or of any style you so choose. Be careful with the amount of adhesive you use, the ideal amount is enough to hold the pennies down, without too much oozing out the sides.

Wine Cork Floors

Wine Corks are relatively hard to collect. In order for you to be able to use this type of style for your floor, you could ask a local wine shop to help you out or seek the help of friends. You’ll need around 775 corks per square meter. Simply align the corks on your floor, glue them down, nail or staple the corks together and then apply grout to fill up the gaps.

Any of these ideas are sure to make any living space come to life with their unique appeal!

Feb 032015
 
grass being aerated

Aeration is the term used to refer to the process where air is exchanged or circulated between the soil and atmosphere. The process of aerating soil mechanically is called “core aeration” where small plugs of thatch and soil are removed from the lawn to improve natural soil aeration. Core Aeration should ideally be done on a yearly basis but some lawns, especially those that grow on heavy clay or subsoil, may need it more than once each year.

Aside from improved air exchange, core aeration has a lot of other benefits. Core Aeration enhances water absorption, fertilizer absorption, prevents water puddles, reduces compaction of soil, and enhances heat and drought stress tolerance. There are numerous tools that can be used when it comes to aerating your lawn. Among the most common of them all would be the: Spiked Shoes, Fork, Hollowed Tiner, Scarifier, and Slitter.

Spiked Boots

Strap on spiked soles can be attached to the underside of shoe. This can then be used to aerate the lawn by simply walking through the lawn itself. These do not do a great job of aerating lawns, and can actually have a negative effect on grass if used incorrectly.

Fork

A pitch fork is a tool with a long handle and long, thick, widely separated tines or prongs. They are commonly used to lift and pitch agricultural materials such as hay, leaves, straw, etc.

A pitch fork can easily be used to aerate one’s lawn. Simply push the tines of the fork into the lawn till it has reached a depth of 3 inches and then gently move the fork sideways to widen the holes. Lift the fork out of the aerated area and move another four inches from the said space. Push the tines of the fork into the soil and repeat the process until the entirety of the lawn has been covered. This is an effective way to aerate grass, however it is extremely slow and time consuming.

Hollow Tiner

aeratedgrassA hollow tiner is a specialized kind of tool which looks very much like a pitch fork except the tiner has hollow tubes rather than spikes. It is a very useful tool for aeration and relieving soil compaction. This tool is used on lawns with highly compacted surface areas.

There are two kinds of hollow tiners. The regular hand held variety is the one used where you manually dig it into the soil much like the process discussed with pitch forks. There are also petrol powered hollow tine aerators that have several rotating drums which total to 30 or more corers. They only go as far as 2 inches deep but are still be able to sufficiently aerate the lawn.

Petrol powered hollow tine aerators are expensive but can be rented. Many people also choose to hire a professional lawn aerator such as Oz Aeration to aerate their lawns for them. A “sports turf” variety offers a more advanced option where a cam action ensures that the spikes penetrate deeper into the lawn. This variety, however, is hard to drive or manipulate and is usually only safe to use on ornamental or stone free lawns.

Scarifier

A wheeled lawn scarifier is used to rake out moss and dead grass or remove thatch from the lawn. There are manually operated scarifiers and there are those that rely on an engine to operate. The price range for an engine operated scarifiers is $1500 to $5000, depending on the make and model.

Slitter

A slitter is used by running it over the grass and it immediately penetrates through the turf using its sharp blades. The grass roots are then trimmed which enables air pass through.

These tools each have their own specific advantage when it comes to aerating lawns. In order to maximize the use of any or all of these tools, the lawns composition must first be identified in order to match it with the strengths of the tools available. If you want advice on how to aerate your grass, get in contact with a local lawn aerator company and see what they would recommend in your particular circumstance.

If you’d like to know more about the mechanics behind soil aeration and how it all works take a look at this really informative article on how to maintain a pristine lawn.

Jun 302014
 

If there were Seven Wonders in the 17th century, electricity would likely be one of them. Discovered by an Englishman William Gilbert in 1600, it has become of increasing importance each century, and today our standard of living is completely dependant on it. So integral in electricity to modern society, some may even consider it the fifth element of life; an addition to to classical earth, water, air, and fire.

Electricity has rapidly spread in its uses since 19th century with the invention of derivative technologies like fibre optic cable, telephones, computers, televisions and of course, the light bulb.

elements

Figure 1. The four ancient elements (from Wikipedia)

The following graph shows data from US Department of Energy (US-DoE). In 2011, the world consumed around 20,000 billion kWh (kilo watt hours) of electricity. The US DoE predicts that this number will not decrease anytime soon, with population expansion and the development of electrical-thirsty industrial sector being the main reasons.

Global electricity usage grew nearly 18% from its 2007 level at 17,000 billion kWh. The United States alone consumed nearly 4000 billion kWh that same year. Here in Australia we consumed 200 to 220 billion kWh of electricity each year during the years between 2007 to 2011. The rising population rate is regarded as the major driving factor to such high energy consumption.

Figure 2. Total global electricity consumption

Figure 2. Total global electricity consumption

According to the US Dept of Energy, about 461 billion kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity were used for lighting by the residential and commercial sectors in US in 2012. This is about 12% of total U.S. electricity consumption. In Australia, the average household’s spending on energy was $99 per week in 2012, according to the Australia Bureau of Statistics. About $40 of this was spent on electricity and/or gas. However households with energy sourced only from electricity spent less, at around $30 per week.

A survey on residential lighting conducted by Australian Government in 2013 found that kitchen and living room had the highest average usage in hours per weekday. The lowest lighting usage was in garage at 0.7 hours per weekday. Based on the surveyed homes, the peak usage hours were between 7.00 to 8.00 o’clock in the morning and 6.00 to 9.00 p.m. in the evening.

The type of lights chosen by a household affects the amount of electricity used.

Fluorescent lights, compact fluorescents (CFLs), and now LED lights, use considerably less energy and last longer than tungsteen-wired traditional lightbulbs. According to the above-mentioned survey, over 50% of all homes in Australia have turned to using fluorescent lighting. This means that Australians are open to new ways to save on their energy bills.

Most of the surveyed households agreed that they try to reduce more on lighting than with other electrical appliances, since they couldn’t as easily avoid turning on their heaters during cold winter days, or airconditioners during summer etc. Because of this they are always looking for other ways they can reduce their consumption.

LED’s Savings

LED or light–emitting diodes, are basically semiconductors that produce visible light when an electrical charge is passed through them. Used often for indicator lamps for electronic devices, replacing small conventional bulbs in the 60’s, LED applications continue to increase. It seems like only yesterday when LED were introduced as a component of the common television remote control. Since then LED usage has rapidly expanded across all forms of electronics which emit a low intensity visible-light wave. These days they are even used for car brake and tail lights and at traffic stop lights.

As LED semiconductor technology continues to improve, cost have begun to decline. LED lights and panels now come in smaller dimensions but thousand times more output power than when they first entered the market.

These days we have access to a wide variety of LED lighting options. The website of Top Frog Energy, an Australian LED retailer, gives a good example of the many indoor and outdoor LED lighting options available.  As LEDs become more popular and factories are increasing their production capacity and reducing or even stopping completely their production of conventional bulbs. Because of this, end customers like us get to have more choices about the technology that offers some of the following benefits:

  • Lower operating temperatures to reduce fire hazards
  • Longer lifespan (up to 50,000 operating hours) which makes them more cost effective
  • Mercury-free (unlike CFLs) which more they are more environmental-friendly and safer for your health
  • No ultra violet ligth and and no flicker which is better for our eyes
  • Bright and clean light which increase visibility

Because of all these benefits many adapters of new technologies are switching from conventional light bulbs and CFLs to using LEDs in there home. The benefits of making the change don’t stop here however. Because of the almost unlimited potential of LED lighting, many companies are still working on newer and even better technologies that use LEDs.

One small company based in Brisbane, LED Arts have developed a series of LED downlights that have replaceable chip technology. This development is being hailed as the next big improvement in LEDs, because when the diodes eventually wear out (if they don’t outlast you) you can keep the entire unit and just replace the chip containing the diode. This saves money because you don’t need to buy a whole new unit, and it’s also a great way to cut down on waste as well. Currently all lightbulbs are disposed of in entirety any time the lighting component of it wears out.

Hopefully this LED downlight technology will be adapted to work across other forms of lighting once it has proven to be a success in the marketplace. Many other companies are also working on various new technological advancements for future LED designs. All of which points to a very bright future for LEDs. So next time you’re out looking for a replacement lightbulb, consider getting an LED and next time you’ll have more money in your wallet and you probably won’t even need to make that trip.

Jun 242014
 

If you’re planning on doing kitchen renovations then something you’re likely to come across is the need to fit a sink into a bench top. Many people will hire carpenters to handymen to do this for them, but the job really isn’t that difficult if you’re half-smart and willing to have a go. You do need to be careful however because if you mess things up and accidentally cut too far into your bench top, you’ll need to replace the entire thing, which can end up being quite expensive.

Step 1. Draw Around the Area you need to Remove

Brand new kitchen sinks will come with a template on the box to guide you on where to make the markings. If this is not the case carefully measure your sink and make your line markings slightly smaller than necessary to ensure you don’t cut out too much. It’s much better to cut things slightly too small and then adjust them outwards than to make them too big.

If you have a template, make sure you mark the sink in the correct position aligned with the front edge. Make the job easier for yourself by ensuring there is nothing around you that might get in your way when doing the line markings and cutting.

StainlessteelsinkStep 2. Drill Holes in Concession to Mark a Starting Point for your Jigsaw Blade

Drilling multiple holes next to each other will give us a place to insert our jigsaw blade to start cutting. Make sure the holes are on the inside of your line markings so you don’t accidentally remove too much of the laminate. It may be necessary of easier to drill through several sets of holes for your jigsaw to slot into depending on the angles and size of the sink.

Step 3. Cut Out the Laminate

Follow along your line markings with your jigsaw, being careful not to venture far off the path. You may wish to line the bench top on the outside of the template markings with scotch tape to ensure you don’t scratch the kitchen bench top in the process. Once you have cut all the way around, remove the piece of laminate to make room for the sink.

Step 4. Place the Sink in the Hole in the Bench Top

Put the sink in the hole you just cut and make sure it fits nicely. Remove any excess laminate to get it to fit perfectly if it is not sliding in all the way. Once the sink fits into the bench top, clamp it together and use some sealing tape to ensure water doesn’t leak down around the edges of the sink into the cupboards below.

For our kitchen installation we used:

  • A custom Stainless Steel Kitchen Sink from 3monkeez
  • 400 Series Open Cell Urethane Tape from Husky Tape
  • Our clamps were included in the kit with the sink.
Jun 242014
 

Using colourful lights throughout your home is a great way to turn any space into a cool feature and with the decreasing price of reliable LED lights, it’s now even cheaper than ever. If this is your first light renovation job, it is a little more technical than simply running some LED strip lights in the recess of your skirting boards but the end result is outstanding and definitely worth the effort.

Obviously the size of the job is going to depend on the construction of your house and how easy (or impossible) it is to gain access to certain points on your staircase. So before you start make sure you have access to a power supply and are able to drill in key points along your stairwell.

What you will need

  • LED Strip lights 3528 in your choice of colour
  • Electrical wire
  • 2 motion detectors
  • Control circuit
  • Hot glue gun
  • Soldering iron
  1. Measure and Cut

Cut the LED Strips to the appropriate length to fit the width of your stairs. Make sure you measure every section that you wish to place the LEDs. Most LED strip lights come with double sided tape backing however if you are unsure about the resilience of the tape, a hot glue gun may come in handy. We chose LED strip lights over LED downlights as we felt the lighting angle was more suitable.

  1. Solder the LEDs

Next up you are going to want to solder the wires to your led strips. It will pay to do this in a logical manner so you use less wire. Be sure to text all the LED light strips at this point to make sure you have soldered them correctly.

  1. Setting up the Control Circuit

If you want all the lights to go on and off at the same time, the diagram below highlighting the required features of the circuit will be sufficient. It may also be handy to add in some extra features including an override switch so you can keep the lights on if needed and a daylight regulator so the lights do not come on during the day. Our microcontroller used was a Piccolo brand, and had all the functionality we required for our circuit.

LED Circuit

  1. System Block

Put simply our setup was constructed in this format:

Motion detector/daylight detector/override switch > Control Circuit > LEDS

Our experience was somewhat minimal when it came to circuit board layouts so we ended up using some free layout software available here. It was a massive timesaver and made the job of laying out the circuit much easier. To protect our circuit we bought a plastic electronics housing from masters for a couple dollars. Once you’ve wired up the circuit, it’s time to test!

  1. Installing the Lights

Measure and cut any cable cover you are planning on using and stick it in the required areas. Next you will need to lay out your LED strips one at a time, we suggest starting at the top. Use the double sided tape on the back of the light strips or secure with the hot glue gun if required. Then stand back and admire your work!

Additional Improvements

  • Don’t skimp on the LED drivers. Use constant current LED drivers for better effect.
  • Add a second override switch at the top of the stairs (duh!)

End Result

We were quite happy with the way our new automated LED lighting setup turned out. We would like to thank LED arts for their amazing service and supplying our LED lights. Visit their blog for more ideas on how to best use LED lighting in your home.

LEDendresult