Friday, November 28, 2014

How To Clean And Polish Marble Floors

Tips On Cleaning And Polishing Your Marble Floors
In my opinion, marble is one of the most beautiful materials you can ever have incorporated into your home decor - with proper care and maintenance, it will maintain its pristine condition throughout the life of the home. It will always add value both in visual appeal and in financial worth.

In order to know the "how and why" that upkeep of marble is so important, you need to know a little about its origin. No. It's not decayed jungle flora a hundred-million years ago, changed by pressure and heat into some lovely expensive, light refracting gemstone!

Marble is rock that is actually formed by sea shell deposits billions of years ago. In the areas or regions where marble is now mined, the miners also find fossils of sea creatures along with chunks of limestone which is also a by-product of sea shells. More evidence that the oceans once covered the earth? I think so!

In early civilization, marble was sought after for it's durability and beauty, plus the added bonus that it was more amenable to carve into shapes for bricks and statues!

How To Clean Marble

Because marble basically is made of sea shells (calcium carbonate) cleaning compounds that contain acid will destroy it. The acid will find its way under the highly buffed polish or finish, get into the cracks the porous rock, and you'll eventually wind up with a big pile of white sand. A common household cleaning agent that contains acid is .... Vinegar! NEVER CLEAN MARBLE WITH VINEGAR!

A good way to perk up a marble counter or coffee table is to start by washing it with a clean soft cloth dipped in a special solution. Use 3 tablespoons of baking soda to 1 quart of warm water. Dip the cloth into the solution, wet thoroughly, then wring out and wipe all over the marble. You may use a little elbow grease on stubborn spots but do not use an abrasive cleaner (such as Comet, or a scrubber). Allow it to air dry for at least a couple of hours, then wipe with clear water to rinse. Grab a clean soft absorbent cloth and dry it off.

To give marble a quick shine, try crushing a child's stick of common white chalk into a fine powder. Dampen a clean white wash rag and dip it into the chalk powder. Rub it on the marble with smooth, overlapping back and forth strokes. Allow to dry for a moment, then rinse with fresh water on a damp rag, and dry thoroughly.

Taking Care Of Polished Marble Floors

As with most highly polished stones (excluding diamond), marble will scratch. You don't want that to happen so take a few precautions with your other furniture and - the other residents of your home.

Keep furniture from scratching the marble surface by placing them on rugs or carpets. If that's not feasible, be sure to use pads or furniture protectors under the feet of the tables, chairs, or china cabinets. These products are available in various sizes and dimensions at most hardware stores. It's also possible to cut felt pads and glue that onto the bottom of the furniture. That way, if you need to move a heavy chair, it will not scratch the surface of the marble, and you'll be able to easily push it to its new position.

Use dust mops - not brooms - to sweep up surface dirt or dust from marble. Spay with dust mops with anti-static spray so they will more easily attract and hold the dust particles.

When the marble needs a "mopping", use a clean, new sponge mop dipped in fresh clean water. Squeeze out as much water as possible and lightly damp mop the whole surface of the marble floor. You'll need to dip your mop frequently into the clean water and rinse out the dirt. Don't use this sponge mop for any other floors, except the marble floors.

Don't leave water on the surface of the marble when you are through damp mopping. Use either clean terrycloth towels or soft paper towels to wipe up the moisture from the whole surface of the floor. After the floor is completely dry, you may buff it with dry paper towels to restore the shine.

Spot Cleaning Marble Floors

Occasionally, there will be small stains either on your marble counter top or on your floor. You may not have the time to do a thorough cleaning or mopping but, if you use caution, you may make short work of stains before they are set in.

For sugar based stains, moisten a household sponge in warm water that has a few drops of liquid dish detergent added. Scrub the spot, rinse well with clean water, and dry with a paper towel.
For dropped on food stains (tomato sauces, sauces with oil) , get to it quickly with a household sponge dipped in warm, soapy water, with a little hydrogen peroxide added. Rub first, then flood the stain, and immediately wipe up excess water. Repeat.
As with all stains, we recommend quick action before the stain is absorbed and dries on your marble floor.

Polishing Marble Floors

If you're a stubborn, died-in-the-wool, do-it-yourselfer, and want to tackle the refinishing job on an older marble floor, there are a number of great products available to help you out.


Natural Stone Flooring Types

Stone floors are natural, beautiful, and always stylish. The naturally cool, hard surface is ideal for warm climates and does not harbor dust or allergens. Before choosing a specific type of stone, arm yourself with knowledge to find the best fit.
The amount and size of pores in a stone, referred to as porosity, affects its strength and stain resistance. If you plan to install stone in a high-traffic area, such as a kitchen, mudroom, or family bath, you'll want to choose a hard, dense stone that is nonporous, such as granite or slate. Softer, more porous stones, such as marble, limestone, and travertine, require regular applications of sealants and frequent cleaning to prevent staining and pitting.

First, remember that typical natural stone floor tile sizes are 12”x12”, 13”x13”, 16”x16”, and 18”x18.”
Next, you should be aware that there are two types of edges for natural stone floor tile: a polished bull nose edge that has a rounded or curved appearance, or a polished straight 90 degree edge that gives a more modern and clean look to your space.

For your information, a glossary.
To help you understand the types of natural stone, we’ve put this glossary together. Always with the goal of making you a smarter shopper.
There are two basic types of stone used in the building industry:
* Natural stone such as marble, granite, or limestone.
* Agglomerates (Manufactured stones) that consist of natural stone chips suspended in a bonding, manufactured material.

Igneous rock is formed when molten rock (called lava or magma) cools and hardens. Granite is an example of an igneous rock.

Sedimentary rock is formed from biological deposits that have undergone consolidation and crystallization. Limestone and sandstone fall into this category.

Metamorphic rock is created when other kinds of rocks are changed by great heat and pressure inside the earth. Marble, slate and quartzite are examples of metamorphic rocks.

Here are the names and definitions of some of the more popular natural stones:

Granite is an igneous stone that is extremely hard, dense and resistant to scratches and acid etching. It is an ideal stone for use in flooring and in food preparation areas. Hundreds of varieties of granite exist.

Sandstone is a sedimentary stone that is primarily composed of loose grains of quartz sand that are rough in texture. A number of varieties are available.

Limestone is another sedimentary stone, it’s formed from calcite and sediment and comes in many earthen colors.

Marble is a derivative of limestone. It is a metamorphic stone that can be polished. Marble is characteristically soft and easily scratched or etched by acids. There are countless types of marble from around the world.

Travertine is a crystallized, partially metamorphosed limestone, which because of its structure, can be filled and honed and is dense enough to be a type of marble.

Slate is a metamorphic stone that has a sheet-like structure. It is composed of clay, quartz and shale, and comes in a multitude of colors including reds and greens.

Agglomerate Stone is a manufactured stone made from natural stone chips suspended in a binder such as cement, epoxy resins or polyester.
The most well known agglomerated stone is poured-in-place terrazzo, used in building for thousands of years.
Today, some of the most popular manufactured stone products are quartz products.
These products offer the look of natural stone but are stain and scratch resistant, offer consistency and strength, and are virtually maintenance free.
Now, let’s take an even closer look at some of the most popular natural stone types available today,

When it comes to durability, granite is grand.
Of all natural stone, granite is one of the hardest and densest, second only to diamond.
Made up mostly of quartz and feldspar, it resists staining and scratching better than any other natural stone, making it an ideal choice for your kitchen floor.
In fact, granite is durable and wearable enough for almost any application you can think of.
It’s also beautiful in foyers, bathrooms, libraries, or as an accent with other natural stones.
Mother Nature produces granite in a variety of rich colors such as “Black Galaxy”, which is a luxurious black stone with small white or gold crystals.
“Tropical Brown” is another very popular choice made up of tan, gold, brown and black flecks, while “Gallo Veneziano” is comprised of more vibrant golds, browns and blacks.

For timeless elegance, marble is ageless.
Marble has a legendary elegance. It was used throughout the ancient world because it was soft enough to be worked with tools but hard enough to last through the ages.
Once considered the domain of the rich and famous, marble can be used in many flooring applications throughout your home.
Just what is marble you may ask?
It’s a crystallized limestone that is not as hard as granite.
Marble comes in many different color variations and usually displays a prominent veining pattern with luxurious swirls and patches of contrasting color that make marble famous. Can you imagine it in your home?
Some popular marbles today are Crema Marfil, a light tan color with rich, creamy veins, and Dark Emperador, a popular dark brown marble which has dramatic veins of white.
Carrera marbles, also very popular, come in varying shades of white.

Long ago, living things helped create today’s limestone.
Limestone has a more subtle look and is actually a “young” marble.
It is created by the accumulation of organic materials such as shells and coral that gives it a unique, natural look.
This more porous stone comes in a diverse range of neutral colors from ivory to golden brown.
This range of colors makes limestone a versatile design option for flooring.

Travertine: for a hole different look.
A member of the limestone family, Travertine shares some similar characteristics such as being soft and porous.
Travertine is formed with many small cavities and holes that can be filled in with cement or resin, or left unfilled for a textured surface.
The surface is then polished to a rough or highly polished finish.
The filled-in areas remain dull which creates an interesting contrast.
Like limestone, travertine can be used in flooring in numerous rooms in your home.

Slate delivers texture, inside and outside.
Slate is a highly versatile stone that gives a natural, rustic appearance to any room.
Slate can be used for interiors as well as exteriors, making it the perfect product to bring the outdoors inside your home.
All slate has a natural “clefting” along the surface that gives this stone its unique textural, layered look.
This stone is made up of clay and shale, which is very dense.
Slate is water resistant, which also makes it ideal for exterior applications, such as patios and pool surrounds.
Slate colors range from rich reds, oranges and golds to mauve, lavender, green, blue, black, rust and brown.
If your style is about texture, no other natural stone has the dramatic texture and color of slate.

To finish this section, information on finishes.
All natural stone is fabricated with a particular type of surface finish.
Some common types of surface finishes we see today are: polished, honed, acid-washed, saw-cut refined, flamed, split-faced, tumbled and brushed.

A polished surface creates a beautiful glossy shine from the natural reflection of the stone’s crystals.
The mirror-like shine is accomplished by using progressively finer polishing heads during the polishing process, similar to the way that sandpaper smoothes hardwood furniture.
The finer the sandpaper, the smoother the surface. Make sense?
The polish may last a long time or may be unstable depending on the type of stone.
Granite, marble and limestone are frequently polished, and require varying degrees of maintenance to preserve the shine.

A honed surface provides a flat, matte or satin finish creating a more informal and softer look.
This finish is created by stopping short of the last stage of polishing.
A honed finish shows fewer scratches, and requires less maintenance.
Marble, limestone, travertine and slate would be your best choices for a honed finish.

An acid-washed finish is shiny with small etching marks (pits in the surface). This finish shows fewer scratches and is much more rustic in appearance than a honed finish.
Most stones can be acid-washed but the most common are marble and limestone. Acid washing is also a way to soften the shine on granite.

Saw-cut refined offers you a matte finish. After initial cutting, the stone is processed to remove the heaviest saw marks but not enough to achieve a honed finish.
You can purchase granite, marble and limestone this way, typically on a special order basis. Please consult with us.

A flamed finish is achieved by heating the surface of the stone to extreme temperatures, followed by rapid cooling.
The surface of the stone pops and chips leaving a rough, unrefined texture.
This process is usually done with granite. Flamed granite has a highly textured surface, making it ideal for areas where slip resistance might be a concern. Like in your shower areas.

Split-faced gives you a rough texture, but one not as abrasive as flamed.
This finish is typically achieved by hand cutting and chiseling at the quarry, exposing the natural cleft of the stone. This finish is primarily done on slate.

Tumbled delivers a smooth or slightly pitted surface, and broken, rounded edges and corners.
There are several methods used to achieve the tumbled look.
3/8” thick tiles can be tumbled in a machine to achieve the desired look, or 3cm tiles can be tumbled and then split, creating two tiles that are tumbled on one side.
Marble and limestone are your primary candidates for a tumbled finish.

Brushed features a worn-down look achieved by brushing the surface of the stone, simulating natural wear over time.

How to Renovate Your Wood Deck

Do you have a wood deck that hasn't felt the love in a long time? Is it peeling or a dull grey? Do you have a big social to-do planned at the house and want the deck to look its best? Then this is where you want to be!

In this series of tutorials I'll show you in step-by-step detail and in clear photos what is involved in a professional looking deck refinishing job that you will be able to complete yourself. In a weekend or two you can transform a drab tired old wood deck into a vibrant beautiful entertainment area.

1. Inspecting the Deck Surface
The first step in your deck restoration is to clean the deck of debris with a broom or power blower and  visually check for any severely cupped, split or any rotting wood deck boards. If you find any, then these boards need to be replaced before the deck is refinished. It’s important to have a good solid surface and replacing a damaged deck board is pretty easy as I show you in the tutorial below.


2. Light Cleaning of the Deck Surface
If your deck is not painted but has a clear finish or transparent / semi-transparent wood stain, then you just need to clean it with a wood deck cleaner. The best cleaners are oxygen based wood cleaners effective in removing mildew stains and ultra-violet caused bleaching of the wood deck. These cleaner / brighteners will also clean the wood of dirt and deposits. In the following tutorial I will show you how to use a wood deck cleaner for light duty cleaning.

3. Deep Cleaning by Power Washing
If your deck needs a deeper cleaning than a surface brightener, then the next step is using a power washer. These are great versatile tools that can be used for stripping loose paint to etching bricks. It all depends on the pressure and tip you use. For deck cleaning the pressure will vary depending on the deck board wood. You want to use as low a pressure as possible while still being effective. I recommend a fan-tip and pressure of about 500 psi to 600 psi for soft wood like cedar or pine. Harder woods may be able to handle higher pressure but no more that 1200-1500 psi. Even then be very careful. You can learn how to safely power-wash your wood deck in the tutorial below.


4. Sanding the Deck after Power Washing
Once the deck boards are power washed the wood fibers will raise as they expand with water. After drying, wood fibers can often remain raised and may cause splinters. For a professional job you need to plan on sanding your wood deck before staining and final finishing. I explain how to sand the deck in the following tutorial. In the tutorial I’ll describe what you need to know to properly sand your wood deck and rails after power washing including what grit of sandpaper to use for best results.


5. Selecting the Stain and Deck Finish
 With the deck cleaned and sanded the pores of the wood are ready to receive their protective finish coat. This can be a stain and separate water repellant finish or a combination product. I recommend use of a quality oil based penetrating exterior semi-transparent stain such as Sikkens. Make sure to confirm how the stain will look with your wood species before you buy since the actual color of the stain once applied may be different than the color product brochure or the can's label. In the following tutorial I’ll explain how to pick the right brush such as natural china bristle brushes for staining the small areas like handrails and trim boards. The wood deck boards are best stained with a flat paint pad applicator which I’ll discuss in the next step.


6. Deck Stain Application
At this step you have sweated through the preparation and now can enjoy the satisfaction of seeing the deck take on new life as you apply the stain and finish. Some tips I can summarize here include:

It is very important to make sure the deck is dry for about 2 days without any rain on it before you proceed to stain the deck. Water in the pores of the wood will prevent proper absorption of the oil stain into the wood.
Select a quality penetrating oil based semi-transparent stain if you want the grain of the wood to show through.
Buy a solid opaque stain if you want the finish to look like paint. Just don't use paint.
DO: Make sure the stain or sealer is water repellent
DO NOT: Use clear finishes such as polyurethane or varnish as they will degrade under the sun's UV rays.


7. Finished Deck
Now that your deck refinishing project is successfully complete, al that is left before the party is the clean up. One key area to responsibly manage is the disposal of flammable / oily rags used in the project. In the following tutorial I will explain an easy technique of how to handle this issue.


5 Things You Should Never Do to Your Carpet

Carpet isn’t as high-maintenance as most people tend to think. However, it still does require some care (like anything) and must not be mistreated.

To protect your carpet and ensure that it stays looking beautiful for a long time, here is a list of the things that should NOT be done to your carpet (and what to do instead).

Do Not Scrub

When you’ve had a spill on your carpet, I know it’s tempting to attack it with a vengeance. After all, for so many other tasks we’re told that a bit of elbow grease is necessary to get the job done. However, this is one instance in which fiercely scrubbing is not helpful, and in fact will likely be harmful to your carpet.

Carpet is made up of fibers that have been twisted together in order to increase their strength. The twist is then “locked in” with heat. By abrasively scrubbing at the fibers, you run the risk of undoing the lock and having the fibers come untwisted – something known as blooming. This will cause the appearance of a big fuzzy patch on your carpet, which could end up looking worse than the stain from the original spill.

So, when cleaning a spill from your carpet, it is best to be gentle, and blot at the area rather than scrub it.

Do Not Use a Non-Carpet Cleaner

True story: shortly after my husband and I moved into our first apartment, I came home one day and discovered he had attempted to clean a spill on the carpet with Spray Nine. Needless to say, the remedy was worse than the evil. It occurred to me then that for someone who didn’t grow up in the carpet industry as I did, it may not be obvious that an “all-purpose” cleaner should not be used on carpet. So let me say it clearly now: the only type of cleaning product you should be using on your carpet is a cleaner that is specifically designed for carpet!
Ah, but there’s always an exception to the rule. Clear liquid dishwashing soap may be used to treat a stain on carpet, but only when extremely diluted. For more information on creating your own home-made carpet cleaner

Do Not Wear Your Shoes

I am continually surprised by how often this simple piece of advice goes unheeded. Taking your shoes off at the door – every time – is one of the easiest and most effective things you can do for your carpet. Not only will you avoid tracking in dirt and soil from the outside world, you will avoid also tracking in chemical residue (think driveway sealant).
If you have pets that go outside, consider wiping their paws when they come back in, before they can roam past the entrance.

Do Not Drag Furniture

Dragging your furniture across the carpet may be the easiest way to get a heavy item from point A to point B, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to cause ripples in your carpet. Always lift the item off the carpet before moving it. If the item is too heavy to be lifted, place a sheet of plywood on the carpet in front of the item and “walk” the item onto the plywood. Then, place a second sheet of plywood in front of the first, and maneuver the piece of furniture onto the second sheet from the first. When the item is fully on the second sheet, use the first piece of plywood again in front of the second, and continue in this manner until the piece of furniture has been relocated.

Do Not Use Beater Bar on Berber

A vacuum beater bar, or power head, is designed to brush carpet fibers as it vacuums. It helps to improve the appearance of many cut-pile carpets such as saxonies and friezes, but can be harmful to looped styles of carpet such as berber.
Generally, the beater bar itself will not cause a snag in a berber. The problem occurs when there is a small snag existing in the carpet, that may even have gone unnoticed. The beater bar could grab hold of the loose strand, which could then become wrapped around the rotating bar. The beater bar is powerful enough to continue to pull the strand, which can then unravel from the carpet backing, causing a run in the carpet. Not good.
To avoid this possibility, simply switch off the beater bar on your vacuum head if you have the option, or switch out the head and replace it with a suction-only vacuum head.

Bonus Tip: Do Not Expose to Excessive Sunlight

Most indoor residential carpets are not colorfast, meaning that they can and will fade due to age, wear, and most of all, strong direct sunlight. If you have a high amount of afternoon sunlight in your room (in North America, this typically occurs with a southern or western exposure) you will want to take some minor precautions against carpet fading. Generally, this can be accomplished simply by closing your blinds or curtains during the peak sunlight hours.
Another option if you are buying carpet for a space with extensive direct sunlight is to choose a carpet that is fade resistant. Nylon has relatively poor colorfast properties, so it would likely not be your best option. Triexta has very high colorfast properties – in fact, Mohawk SmartStrand carries a 25 year warranty against fading, one of the longest in the industry. Choosing the right fiber type can help to keep your carpet looking its best for years to come.

How to Clean Natural Stone Flooring ?

Natural stone is a beautiful and impressive flooring feature which can dramatically elevate the sophistication of an environment. A porous material, it requires a certain amount of regular maintenance in order to preserve its look and function. At the same time you have to use caution with some cleaning procedures when dealing with various types of stone. However, if properly cared for an installation can last for decades.

Liquids: The toughest challenge facing natural stone flooring is the fact that this material is porous, and contains thousands of tiny invisible holes in its surface. These can be an immediate pathway for liquids and water based staining agents to seep down into the tile, discoloring it dimensionally, or causing the growth of mold and mildew.

The solution is to use two types of chemical sealant to protect your floors against water and stains. The first is a below surface treatment that will seep down into the pores of the stone, clogging them so that moisture can’t get in. The second is an above surface barrier application that will create an invisible layer over the installation. However these will wear and fade over time, requiring them to be re-applied every 6-12 months depending on the level of use.

Stains: All natural stone materials are a chemical base on the alkalinity scale. That means that when they come in contact with an acid, a reaction will occur in the form of a nasty, permanent stain. Unfortunately acidic sauces and juices are very common in kitchens, bathrooms, and public eating areas such as restaurants. The regular application of a barrier sealer can help with this problem to some extent.

Scratches: Born in the belly of mountains, natural stone flooring materials are tough, durable, and resistant to damage. However the surface can be prone to scratches when direct physical pressure is applied. This is particularly true of polished tiles such as marble and onyx, and is less noticeable and pervasive in natural cleft stone finishes. Multicolored stones also tend to hide damage marks better. 

 Natural Stone Tile Cleaning Instructions

Cleansers: It is important to avoid acid based cleansers or substances when washing a natural stone tile floor of any kind. These will cause a chemical reaction which will result in permanent discoloration. The best options are certified stone cleaning products, and PH neutral substances which are cut with a percentage of water. Avoid vinegar, bleach, ammonia, lemon, or any citrus based solutions. The use of regular soap can also lead to the buildup of soap scum over time.

Brushes: The fact that stone can scratch means that you can not use any harsh, abrasive tools to clean its surface. Steel wool, brillo pads, and mops with rigid threads can all do damage to the floor’s surface.

Regular Cleaning: It’s important to sweep, dry mop, or vacuum a stone tile floor regularly to remove any loose dirt and debris that may start to accumulate. These small particles can do damage to the surface of the materials over time, and can also wear down the protective sealant layer.


How To Clean Bamboo Flooring

Cleaning bamboo flooring is relatively easy, as this material is naturally quite hard, and is more resistant to water damage than similar hardwood floors. However there are regular maintenance tasks that have to be performed periodically if you want to keep the bamboo looking its best.
The following tips are general guidelines. However you always want to follow any manufacturer provided instructions when caring for a bamboo floor. You should also be familiar with the warranty, if any, that was provided with the floor so that you do not take actions that can void it.

Dust, Dirt, and Grit: Regular Cleaning Procedures

The main culprit in the deterioration of a bamboo floor is going to be tiny particles of dirt and sand that are tracked into the room from people’s shoes. When these tiny particles are walked on, they can dig down into the finish of the floor causing dents, divots, or even scratches, giving the bamboo a faded look.

This can be prevented by regularly mopping, sweeping, or vacuuming the floor. In some cases you may need to do this on a daily basis, depending on how much traffic the room gets.


  • Do not use a vacuum that has a beater bar to clean a vacuum floor
  • Make sure that any broom you use on this floor has soft bristles
  • Never immerse the floor in water. Only a damp, almost dry mop should be used.


Heavy Bamboo Floor Cleaning

While most hardwood floor cleaners can be used on a bamboo floor, you want to make sure that anything you use is non-alkaline, non-abrasive, and is not a floor wax. You should also avoid using oil soap or scouring powder. If you are unsure of what cleaning product to use you should consult with the flooring retailer that you purchased the material from.
Bamboo is slightly more resistant to water damage than regular hardwood floors; however it is still susceptible to warping if excessive moisture is present. When using a cleaning agent that needs to be mixed with water follow the directions carefully.

Avoid using steel wool when cleaning a bamboo floor. A sponge or clean rag can be dipped in the solution, then wrung dry so that the material is only slightly damp. Make sure that the cleanser is applied to all parts of the floor evenly. Do not allow it to pool or puddle. When you are done a dry towel can be used to wipe up any excess moisture that may be present.

Natural Bamboo Cleaning Solution

You may not know this, but an effective, all natural bamboo floor cleaning agent might already be sitting in your home. If you mix ¼ of a cup of white vinegar, into a quart of water, you will create a solution that will allow you to safely clean the surface of your bamboo floors. This cleanser should be applied as directed above, using a damp sponge or rag wrung dry before application.

Cleaning Scuff Marks

Scuff marks most often appear when the rubber heel of a shoe drags across the surface of your floor. The best way to handle this is to pour a little bit of wood floor cleaner onto a rag, and gently rub it into the bamboo planks where the scuff mark appeared.

Bamboo Flooring Durability?

Is bamboo flooring durable? How does bamboo flooring durability stack up against other types of so-called wood flooring?

Answer:

It's easy to see why bamboo flooring might not be thought of as durable: it's not a wood. And it's mainly not the material itself that carries any of the qualities of hardness (or softness); it's the additives you use when producing bamboo flooring.

So, bamboo flooring can be as soft as you want (900 Janka scale) to as hard as you want (5000 Janka). Confused? Good. Read on:

Durability of Woods Vs. Grasses

When you floor with hardwoods--hickory or walnut, for example, both high on the Janka hardness scale --you don't need to do anything to make the flooring harder. While sealing the wood does increase its durability, my estimate is that that the wood fiber itself is already carrying well over 95% of the durability.
But bamboo is a grass. How does this work with flooring?

Bamboo Flooring Durability: It's Not In the Plant

The durability of bamboo flooring hinges on three factors: stalk placement, added materials, and quality of bamboo.

  • Stalks/Construction: Most off-the-shelf bamboo flooring is made by laying the bamboo grass stalks cross-direction. Strand bamboo flooring is often called woven strand bamboo flooring for a good reason: strands of the bamboo stalks are pulled apart and more tightly integrated with the adhesives.
  • Adhesives: But the thing that truly makes a bamboo floor hard? Adhesives. Bamboo flooring is stuck together by man-made adhesives. More adhesives made a bamboo floor harder.
  • Bamboo Type: Unfortunately, this factor is difficult, if not impossible, to determine when shopping for bamboo floors. Better-quality, later-harvested bamboo is more durable than younger bamboo that is rushed to harvest.

Janka Hardness For Bamboo Flooring

So, the hardness of bamboo flooring depends:
Traditional Construction Bamboo: 900-1300. This is in the red oak area.
Strand-Woven Bamboo: 2000-3200. This definitely peaks the Janka scale, with some bamboo floors rating as hard as Brazilian cherry and teak.


Is It Better To Buy Fiberglass, Vinyl, or Wood Windows?

Within the entire history of windows, fiberglass frame windows are relatively new. Fiberglass windows are in many ways an improvement on wood and vinyl framed windows (and in some ways worse).

Fiberglass' Advantages Over Vinyl or Wood


  • Stronger than wood or vinyl. Less chances of warping.
  • Fiberglass framed windows can be painted, unlike vinyl.
  • "Greener" than vinyl or wood because fiberglass windows are made with about 60% glass, and glass can be recycled.
  • Closer to the appearance of wood windows than vinyl windows.
  • Unlike vinyl, fiberglass frame windows can be painted--if you want.
  • Yet, unlike wood windows, it is not necessary to paint fiberglass windows.
  • Considered more upscale than vinyl windows--better resale value.
Not all fiberglass windows are made with recycled glass. We are only saying that fiberglass can potentially be made with recycled glass.


Strength Is Biggest Selling Point

You might think that strength is not a big issue. After all, once the windows are nailed in place, they receive reciprocal strength from the surrounding building materials.

But the issue here is expansion and contraction. Wood windows especially expand and contract with climate changes. Fiberglass windows, by contrast, do not change and they do stay very "square" within their window frames, meaning that stuck or difficult windows are less of a problem.

High Price

Surprisingly, fiberglass costs more than vinyl. Higher than wood? Not in most cases, but everything is relative.
You may pay a healthy 15-30% more for your fiberglass framed windows than you 

Janka Wood Flooring Hardness Rating Chart

The hardness of wood flooring is measured by something call the Janka test. A .444 inch steel ball is driven into the wood in question to half of the ball's diameter.

Kids and Dogs?

Before buying and installing your wood floor, it really is necessary to look at the Janka test. Wood floor does get scratched and dented through normal use. On top of that, if you have kids or pets, you will have increased concerns about dents and scratches.
For instance, Douglas Fir, has a Janka hardness rating of 660 and proves to be the softest wood on the list--terrible for hard use.
At the top of the scale is Brazilian cherry with a rating of 2350. One wood that's off the charts is Brazilian Walnut, with a hardness rating of 3800.

Problems With Hard Wood vs. Soft Wood

While it may seem logical to pick the very hardest wood, keep these points in mind:

  • Soft wood can be hardened to some degree by the application of polyurethene finishes.
  • Hard wood is always much more expensive than the softer and medium-grade woods.
  • Hard wood is more difficult to saw, drill, and nail than other woods, requiring more time and labor and, again, more money.

Janka Hardness Rating Chart

Check out the hardness rating for wood flooring in the chart below. Higher numbers indicate harder wood; lower numbers indicate softer wood.

WOOD SPECIESRATING - SOFT TO HARD
Douglas Fir660
S. Yellow Pine, Shortleaf690
S. Yellow Pine, Longleaf890
Black Cherry950
Teak1000
Black Walnut1010
Heartpine1225
Yellow Birch1260
Red Oak, Northern1290
American Beech1300
Bamboo* - Teragren Craftsman II1307
Ash1320
White Oak1360
Australian Cypress1375
Hard Maple1450
Wenge1620
African Pedauk1725
Hickory1820
Pecan1820
Purpleheart1860
Jarrah1910
Merbau1925
Santos Mahogany2200
Mesquite2345
Brazilian Cherry2350
Brazilian Walnut3800
Bamboo* - Cali Bamboo Fossilized5000
* = Bamboo is not a wood, but in the flooring industry it is often classified in this area and can be subjected to a Janka test, too.


5 Rules For Choosing Granite Countertops for Kitchen or Bathroom

In recent years, natural stone has become a popular tiling design choice for bathrooms and kitchens. Once limited to high-end houses, natural stone has become much more affordable for even ordinary houses.

In fact, it is easy to go to your local Home Depot or Lowe’s and find a big slab of granite and out front as an inducement to purchase granite countertops in your kitchen.

1.  It's Not As Resilient As You Think

Most people, when they think of granite, believe that it is the ideal surface material. It is true that granite does a fairly good job of resisting staining, but still it is porous and does require frequent sealing. Granite is as dense as vitreous tile, so both have the same properties with respect to heat and water.

2.  Surface Appearance Can Vary Dramatically

Because granite is a natural material, it does have a variegated surface appearance. It can be speckled or mottled, and even different granite tiles from the same box can differ substantially. Even though tile packers do try to maintain consistency, it is still smart for you to inspect each granite tile individually to ensure that consistency.

3.  Watch For Granite Strength Ratings

One thing to note about purchasing granite for kitchen or bathroom is that natural stone does not receive strength ratings like manufactured ceramic tiles do. So granite does vary in strength. That is why you will typically find thicker granite tiles then you will find with ceramic tiles—usually 3/8 inch thick or even thicker.

4.  Choose Your Grout Carefully

One other difference between granite and ceramic tile is that ceramic tile can employ a grout as a design tool. Wider or thinner grout with ceramic tiles can emphasize or de-emphasize the appearance of the ceramic. But with granite typically you want to emphasize the beauty of the stone, so that is why grout lines are very thin—1/8 inch—and the color of the grout typically attempts to mimic the color of the granite.

5.  Install Granite In Smaller Slabs and Save

One nice thing about granite installation is that’s possible to install a granite countertop using 12 inch square tiles, rather than single slabs of granite. It does not look as good as the continuous slab, at least in this writer’s opinion, but you save tremendous sums of money on the professional installation.

Another positive about granite countertop installation is that you don’t have to use thinset mortar or grout. Simply lay the tile close together on clear silicone caulk. When finished, apply sealer across the entire surface (you may need to apply several coats to fill all cracks).

Lactuca sativa

Common Names: lettuce, cos, romaine
Family: Asteraceae/Compositae (aster/daisy Family)

Description

Lettuce is a cool season annual with milky sap and glabrous (hairless) leaves that grow in a basal rosette at first, then either in a loose or a tightly rolled head, and eventually along an upright stem that supports the flowers. The dandelion-like flowerheads are pale yellow, less than 0.5 in (1.3 cm) across, and borne in dense clusters above the leaves on an erect branching stem. Lettuce is a composite, but it has only ray flowers.
There are five main classes of lettuce. The crisp head or cabbage lettuces are the most popular lettuces in American supermarkets and restaurants. There are hundreds of cultivars, some of which form heads no larger than a tennis ball ('Tom Thumb', 'Mini Green') and are well suited for the home garden. Some are red ('Rosa', 'Rosy'). Typical "iceberg" type heading lettuces are 'Ithaca', the most widely grown commercial lettuce in the eastern US; 'New York', an old standard; and 'Great Lakes', a very dependable and adaptable variety that was named an All American Selection in 1944.
The butterhead or bibb lettuces have small, roundish heads with loosely packed leaves that are thick and succulent. Among hundreds of cultivars are 'Buttercrunch', an All American Selection, and an excellent lettuce for the home garden; 'Bibb', an early season type often grown in greenhouses for market; and 'Perella Red', one of the hardiest lettuces, tolerating temperatures to at least 4ºF (-15.6ºC).
The cos or romaine lettuces have long, broad, upright leaves that form loose heads. They take longer to mature and are more heat tolerant than other kinds of lettuce. The many cultivars include 'Parris Island', developed for the SE US, which is a very uniform lettuce now widely grown commercially and in the home garden; and 'Valmaine', which is larger, more heat tolerant, and has a slightly more open head than 'Parris Island'.
The curled or loose leaf lettuces are non-heading types with loose rosettes of crinkled leaves. These are the easiest to grow and the most popular with the home gardener. Popular cultivars include 'Black Seeded Simpson', introduced prior to 1888, and still the most popular cultivar for the fresh market and the home garden. It is a large upright lettuce, tolerant of hot weather, and very adaptable. 'Ibis' is a beautiful loose leaf lettuce with broad, upright burgundy leaves and a tolerance for cold and heat. 'Red Oak Leaf' has lobed leaves, variegated with red, purple and green depending on growing conditions. 'Red Sails' has fringed leaves variegated with green and maroon. It is non-bitter and has much more vitamin A and vitamin C than other lettuces and was an All American Selection in 1985.
Celtuce (a.k.a. stem lettuce, asparagus lettuce, and Chinese lettuce) is very popular in China but rarely seen in the US. Celtuce has leaves about 6-10 in (15.2-25.4 cm) long and 3-7 in (7.6-17.8 cm) wide that look like and are used like leaf lettuce. But as the plant matures, it develops a thick, to 2 in (5.1 cm) in diameter, elongate stem that is juicy and crisp. When peeled and eaten raw, the stem tastes like the heart of lettuce or, as some claim, a combination of artichoke, asparagus and yellow squash. Cornucopia II lists only four cultivars of celtuce available in the US. (The name, celtuce, was coined by an American seed company in 1942 to convey the image of a lettuce and celery combination.)

Location
Lettuce is not known in the wild. The progenitor of the many forms of garden lettuce was probably Lactuca serriola, a common weed that grows in waste places, fields and clearings in Europe, northern Asia and North Africa. The Europeans have developed a great many lettuces of the romaine and loose leaf types. Most of the crisp head lettuces were developed in the US to withstand transport from fields in California to markets in the east. In China, the stem lettuces are the most popular, grown and sold everywhere.

Culture
Light: Lettuce does best in full sun to partial shade. The red forms will attain the deepest colors in full sun. As temperatures rise, shade becomes more important. 
Moisture: Regular garden watering will keep lettuce growing happily. 
Propagation: Seeds are sown in rows or strips and hardly buried at all. Lettuce seed generally will not germinate with soil temperatures above 75 or 80F.

Usage
Many of the red and purple lettuces make excellent borders around cool season flower beds. These are also effective in cool weather live container arrangements along with pansies, petunias and snapdragons.
Celtuce deserves to be grown in more home vegetable gardens. The leaves can be used in salads and sandwiches in place of other lettuces. The peeled stems have a refreshing crunchy texture and can be added to salads, eaten out of hand, stir fried, or baked or boiled quickly and served with a cream or cheese sauce. The Chinese also pickle celtuce and use it in soups.


Honeymooners usually request their own salad: lettuce alone.

Features

Most lettuces are relatively low in nutrients. Modern plant breeders are developing varieties that have more vitamins and minerals, but in general, we eat lettuce for its crisp clean sweetness and crunchy texture.
It is claimed that lettuce is an excellent remedy for acid indigestion and "heartburn." The bitter, milky latex sap is a mild narcotic and sleep inducer. The early Romans ate lettuce at the end of meals to aid digestion and induce sleep. Later, with the development of lettuce varieties containing less of the bitter, soporific sap, they ate lettuce at the beginning of the meal to whet the appetite. The European prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola) contains considerably more of the milky, narcotic juice and has several medicinal and herbal uses. The sap is sometimes dried and used to adulterate opium. American wild lettuce (L. canadensis), a common weed throughout much of North America, is usually too bitter to eat, but was used extensively by Native Americans as a sedative and for pain relief.



Alternatives to Repair Concrete Floors

Concrete Floors: Alternatives to Repair Concrete Floors

Concrete floors could be repaired using one of three alternatives. From textured concrete to micro toppings, concrete floors could be altered with minimums alterations and no or reduced demolitions. These alternatives will present ideas on when to apply, and might take you to think outside of common solutions such as carpets, hardwood or any other cover over concrete floors. These alternatives shall be used either inside or over exterior concrete floors.

Concrete Floors: When to Repair

Concrete floors could be repaired when cracks are only on the surface, or it contains light cracks, commonly referred as hairline cracks. It is important to recognized whether concrete has settle or not, to determine the correct repair alternative. Some small contraction cracks could be covered by applying prime coats over the concrete floor. If the concrete floor to be repaired is heaving, has large wide cracks, or is damage due to freeze damage, then other alternatives should be considered instead of resurfacing.

Concrete Floors: Stamped Concrete

Stamped concrete floors have been widely used over exterior surfaces; however, in recent years the tendency to apply stamped concrete over interior surface has increased. Stamped concrete provides a low cost, durable solution, offering an ample range of colors and patterns to choose from. Stamped concrete gives the appearance of real stone, tile or brick without the higher installation costs and maintenance. Stamped concrete floors are similar to micro topping, but they differ because they have more sand and provide a rougher concrete surface finish. A coat of concrete sealer is applied after the pattern has been created. Concrete that's too dry or made with aggregate that's too large makes it difficult to maintain a consistent stamping depth.

Concrete Floors: Micro toppings

Micro toppings are a thin layer, no thicker than 1/8 inch, applied with trowels or brushes depending on the final look. Micro toppings do not have the flow characteristics or sufficient mass of material to flow and so are not considered self-leveling. These materials are so thin that they dry very fast, so the final texture is limited to how the micro topping is applied over the concrete floor. This alternative cure in a day, and usually could be walk over within 36 to 42 hours of being applied. . It is important to seal micro topping finishes, as they are micro porous and will tend to collect dirt that is difficult to remove once embedded into the material. Micro-toppings can be used on interior and exterior surfaces, residential and office and floors, lobbies, retail walls and floors, decks, patios, ceilings, countertops, showers, masonry, bleachers, food concession areas, waterparks, sidewalks and driveways.

Concrete Floors: Self Leveling Underlayments

Self-leveling concrete could be choose as the latest trend to cover deteriorated concrete floors. Self-leveling concrete could now be combined with dyes or tints to create wonderful finished colors. These products could be applied over most concrete floors, and will correct uneven surfaces, damaged floors and others. One of the most important characteristic of self-leveling concrete is that it could provide a very dense and durable concrete floor. Most self-levelers can go down 1/4 inch to 1 inch, with the ability to go to a feather edge. Self-leveling concrete could be a very expensive solution, but the results are far better than other alternatives. Self-leveling concrete could be divided into two main groups: self-leveling concrete there are two main groups of materials: underlayments and toppings. Underlayments are installed over an existing subfloor to smooth it out and correct any surface irregularities prior to the installation of all types of floor coverings; while toppings act as the actual finished floor without the need for a floor covering

Taraxacum officinale

Common Names: dandelion, blowballs, pissabed

Family: Asteraceae/Compositae (aster/daisy Family)

Description
The common dandelion is known to most as a lawn weed, belligerently blooming on manicured lawns throughout the growing season. A single flowerhead consisting only of ray flowers sits atop an unbranched, leafless stem that may be anywhere from 2 in (5 cm) to 18 in (45 cm) high. The yellow flowerheads are nearly 2 in (5 cm) across. The stem is hollow and its juice is milky and bitter to the taste. The only leaves are basal, 2-15 in (5-38 cm) long and usually (but not always) irregularly and deeply lobed; apparently they reminded someone of the teeth of a lion. The fruits are tiny one-seeded brown achenes bearing long white silky feathery bristles. When ripe, the fluffy mass of fruits sets sail on the wind like a downy white puffball. Hold one by the stem and blow on it to separate the individual parachutes and send the seeds to your neighbor's lawn. As anyone who has tried to pull them up knows, dandelion is a perennial with a long taproot.

Botanists have named hundred of species of Taraxacum, most from Europe, and most difficult to distinguish. Red-seeded dandelion T. erythrospermum is another common cosmopolitan lawn weed; it has slightly smaller flowerheads and the achenes are red. There are several other little weedy yellow flowers that are similar to common dandelion. Dwarf dandelion (Krigia virginica) is much smaller, less than 1 ft (30 cm) tall with a small flowerhead only a half inch (1.25 cm) across. Potato dandelion (K. dandelion) is larger and has a 1" (2.5 cm) tuber just beneath the soil surface. Two-flowered cynthia (K. biflora) has orange-yellow flowerheads on a forking stem. Cat's ear (Hypochoeris radiata) has very hairy leaves and a yellow flowerhead about an inch (2.5 cm) across.

Location
The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a common weed in lawns, fields and roadsides throughout the world's temperate regions. In fact, it is one of the most widespread wild plants in the world. In North America it occurs commonly almost everywhere except the southeast, where it is rare. Common dandelion originated in Europe, and got to the New World about the same time as the first European settlers.

Culture
Go ahead, TRY to kill off this one!
Light: Dandelion grows best in full sun, but also grows in part shade.
Moisture: Dandelions love well maintained lawns.
Propagation: The seeds spread themselves. Cultivated dandelions are usually planted in early spring and grown as annuals, not allowed to go to seed, lest they become weedy pests.

Usage
Dandelion greens, gathered in the spring when young and tender, are delicious raw in salads or pot-boiled or steamed like spinach. They are very nutritious, being high in vitamins C, D and A, and in potassium, calcium and iron. Older leaves are too bitter unless boiled in a change or two of water. However, there are improved dandelion cultivars available, with larger and more tender leaves developed for spring and autumn greens. These are not as bitter as the wild plants and can be eaten when large and mature. They are often blanched to reduce bitterness by heaping mulch or soil over them, as you would asparagus. One of the most popular ways to prepare fresh dandelion leaves is to wilt them by dousing with hot vinegar and sugar, spiced up with bacon bits. The Europeans hold the roots in dark cellars for forcing blanched shoots, like Belgian endive. The roots and flowers are also edible. Pull young roots in early spring, peel and cook as you would potatoes. Dried roots are roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute. Cramaillotte is a yellow-orange jelly made from dandelion flowers with sugar and citrus. Fry the baby unopened flower buds in butter - they taste like mushrooms. Extracts of the milky juice make a powerful diuretic that reduces high blood pressure. Modern research has shown the roots to have a detoxifying effect in the liver and kidneys. A synthetic rubber is made from the milky latex of the roots.
Features
The genus for common dandelion was formerly Leontodon, which means lion tooth. In parts of France, dandelion is called "pissenlit", and in England, "pissabed", in reference to its diuretic properties. You gotta love the colorful language of those Europeans!




Wedelia trilobata

Common Names: wedelia, Z Herbe a Femme

Family: Asteraceae/Compositae (aster/daisy Family)

Description
Wedelia forms a low-growing mat mat of foliage with deeply lobed leaves that grows to a height of about 10in( cm). Blooms profusely with 1" yellow-orange flowers resembling marigolds or zinnias, which are borne singly on the end of each stem. Plant creeps and roots at nodes, making a dense ground cover.

Location
West Indies, Hawaii, south Florida, Central America, West Africa, especially at low elevations.

Culture
Grows best in moist, well-drained, fertile soil, but does fine in poor soil as well. Quite adaptable in tropical climates.
Light: Sun to part shade.
Moisture: Moist to average.
Propagation: Division.

Usage
Excellent ground cover in warm climates in its native range. Wedelia is especially good for soil retention and erosion control. Plantings are very attractive with nearly constant and prolific blooming. Wedelia may be mowed to keep low and manicured. The plant is no longer considered appropriate for any of these usages in Florida (and similar frostfree climates) where it has proven to be an invasive nuisance.

Features
The plant has use in traditional medicine: crushed leaves are used as a poultice; tea is given to alleviate symptoms of colds and flu; and it is used in combination with other herbs to clear the placenta after birth.