Sunday, August 18, 2013

How to install a dishwasher

Installing a dishwasher is typically a straightforward process. Most mechanically inclined people with a basic understanding of the plumbing and electrical trades, will be able to install their own dishwasher. These days more and more people are purchasing their appliances online. There are both positive and negative aspects to purchasing an appliance online. Often the best deals can be found by purchasing a dishwasher online. However, there are some drawbacks to purchasing a dishwasher online. Such as: the delivery companies will usually only deliver to your front door, not to your kitchen. They provide little to no installation help. No help with the removal and disposal of your old dishwasher. This leaves you with two options, install the dishwasher yourself or hire a company that specializes in appliance installations like, Great Seneca Appliance in Frederick, MD.

Installing a dishwasher
People often ask me how to install a dishwasher. Here is a brief tutorial on the process.
Start by having a friend help you get the dishwasher to its location and unpack all parts provided.  Next remove the existing dishwasher by unscrewing two screws at the top attaching to the countertop. Then remove the bottom plates to access underneath the dishwasher. Now turn the water supply off to the machine and disconnect the water supply line. Often the supply line can be disconnected underneath the dishwasher in the front. Then disconnect the drain hose from the sink drain or disposal depending on your particular set up. Next, turn off power to the dishwasher from your circuit breaker box. Then disconnect the power supply. After everything is disconnected the dishwasher can be slid out from its opening.
Now you are ready to install your new dishwasher. Start by unpacking everything inside of the dishwasher and looking over the manufacture's supplied directions.
Connect the wasteline to the bottom of the dishwasher if not already installed and then to the bottom of your sink. Next slide the dishwasher half way into its permanent location and pull the drain hose under the sink avoiding kinks. Now push the dishwasher into its permanent location and install the 2 mounting screws into the countertop. Connect the water supply line and connect the electrical supply to the control box of the dishwasher. And remember black to black, white to white, and green to the bare ground wire. Make sure the drain hose has an air loop by arcing above the drain sink connection.
Now double check all connections and turn the water supply back on.

Finally, double check that you have removed all packing and loose parts from the inside of the dishwasher.  Then test the dishwasher for proper operation. Assuming everything is operating correctly, install the bottom cover plates according to the manufacture's supplied directions. If your new dishwasher is not operating correctly, contact Great Seneca Appliance, in Frederick, Maryland

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lowes vs Home Depot

Lowes or Home Depot which is better? Well, that is not such an easy question both stores have great advantages. Practically anything you need for a remodeling project can be purchased at Lowes or Home Depot. Both are equally as competitive in their quality and pricing. This is great news for the DIY’er and local contractors but not so great news for local hardware stores and lumber yard. 

I have spent countless hours in both stores over the years and this is what I found. Home Depot is slightly more geared towards contractors and tradesmen. Their floor space is utilized by mostly raw building materials and essentials for contractors. Whereas Lowe's, while also stocking many of the same items has a more homeowner friendly environment geared towards decor and outside living. 

Customer service, product availability, and store accessibility can vary greatly depending on your area of the country. With both companies some stores are better than others. For example in my area we have two Home Depots very close to each other. One is a great store, easy to navigate with excellent customer service. The other is the worst Home Depot I've ever been in. The parking can hardly accommodate a pick-up truck, the customer service is terrible, the store is small and poorly stocked, I could go on, but I won't. In fairness, this store is not typical in my dealings with Home Depot, an unfortunate one-of-a-kind in our area. Lowes can be the same way, some of their stores are great some not so great. It really depends on where you live as to which store is better. As a professional carpenter I tend to spend more of my time in Home Depot than in Lowe's simply because they seem to have what I need when I need it, more often than Lowes .

 Home Depot and Lowes are great when buying building materials, but for a cheaper and easier alternative when buying tools. consistently offers the lowest prices on name brand tools.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Top 3 Tool Manufacturers

I am often asked “What brand of tools should I buy?” Whenever possible I buy and use high-quality tools. It's quite frustrating when you buy an expensive tool (even cheap tools are expensive) and it breaks after only a few uses. 

Over the years I've found there are a few brands you can trust. My top three brands for carpentry and woodworking tools are Makita, Milwaukee and porter cable. Now don't get me wrong, other toolmakers are capable of making good tools. And my big three have put out a few lemons over the years. However these three tool giants have served me well throughout my career as a carpenter.

All my routers are Porter Cable.  Porter Cable is legendary for their routers and router accessories. They are high quality, commercial grade, and built to run hard for long periods of time. So why mess with perfection?

Mikita Cordless drills have been a favorite of mine since I began woodworking many years ago. I own other manufacturers cordless drills but I always reach for the Mikita.
I prefer Milwaukee saws and electric drills for their power and versatility.  Milwaukee made their name with the Sawzall and has continued to produce great saws and specialty electric drills. 

Even though Milwaukee, Makita, and Porter Cable are my favorite tool manufacturers,
 I do use many other brands of tools for certain jobs. For example, I love my Bosch Laser Level.  I have owned many Bosch tools (and a couple of dishwashers) for the most part they have served me well. Dewalt tools are a division of Black & Decker tools (although I try not to hold back against them). Even with that being said, they have been truly innovative in the design and application of power tools over the last 20 years and have helped to push other tool manufacturers to think out of the box to redesign tools for the modern age.

It's amazing how accessible quality tools are these days, and for a good price. offers the most competitive pricing for name brand tools throughout the country. 

Great deals can also be found at your local pawn shop or on I can't even count how many tools I've bought and sold through and can't remember ever having a bad experience. For more about buying used tools check out “Should I Buy Used Tools”.

Whichever Tool Manufacturer you decide to go with, just remember, you get what you pay for.  Stick with the name brands and you will not be sorry.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How To Choose A Saw

Circular Saw, Reciprocating Saw, Jig Saw, drywall saw, hole saw, handsaw, and a hacksaw. These are just the saws that I carry with me everyday, not to mention all the specialty saws in my home and shop. Now, I can admit it “My name is Curtis and I am addicted to tools”. Luckily my chosen profession allows me to feed my addiction with little guilt, however for the average homeowner the basics will usually have to do. In this on going article I will list the saws needed for everything from basic household repairs to advanced home improvement projects, which models I prefer and why. Check back each month for the next saw in the series.

Battery vs. Electric
This will be brief don’t buy battery powered saws unless you will be consistently cutting far from a power source. They are underpowered, run out charges quickly, and not adequate for most building jobs. Don’t get me wrong I do own a set or two and use them occasionally for convenience but do not recommend them over electric tools
This Month's Featured Saw:

Circular Saws
 The most common type of power saw is the Circular Saw it is typically used for crosscuts (across the grain) and rips (cuts with the grain) in dimensional lumber or plywood. With a little practice most people can master cutting with a circular saw. This type of saw is very versatile and can handle most cutting tasks; in addition it is quite compact which makes it ideal for storing or transporting.

Circular Saws come in several varieties, the traditional style known, as a sidewinder in which the motor is located on the left side, is lightweight and compact. A left-handed version which is opposite of this type is also available not only for left-handed people. Many people find this version easier to operate and to see the cut line. A Worm Drive is another type of Circular Saw. This model has the motor on top instead of the side and is much heavier it also has considerably more power.  This model is more common on the west coast and was invented and used for framing houses during the 1950’s housing boom in California and has remained very popular by professionals.

My preference
I have and use both types sidewinder and worm drive and to be honest I love them both. I keep the Milwaukee sidewinder in my truck and use it all the time. Because its bigger and heavier I keep the Skill Saw Worm Drive in my shop. I would have to say the worm drive cuts smother, easier, and straighter on long cuts. But for cross cuts and general cutting I prefer and recommend the Sidewinder.

7 Tools Everyone Should Own

Whether you are a homeowner or just have a desire to build with these basic tools you will be able to accomplish most house hold repairs and endless small projects. Having the right tool for the job is very important when performing repairs of any type, this well-rounded set of tools will be enough for any homeowner to maintain their home or as the beginnings to a great tool collection. Buy quality tools, take good care of them, and they will last you a lifetime.

1. Measuring Tape
It’s very hard to be accurate with no or a low quality measuring tape and accuracy will defiantly make home repairs more pleasant. I prefer Stanley’s Fat Max Tape mostly because of its strength and durability.

2. Drill
A Cordless Drill is a must have these days. They can drill holes from a pinhole to 6” with the right bits and can drive any screw, nut or bolt. With the recent advancements in battery technology cordless drills have as much or more power than electric drills depending upon the models. For Drills I prefer Makita tools although there are many other good brands of drills. Drills and Impact Drivers is a previous post that provides a deeper look into this tool.

3. Hammer
Obviously everyone need a good hammer! I prefer a straight claw as a posed to a curved claw hammer. Not just because it looks cooler, but because it reaches under things easier. Pick on that matches your size and strength.

4. Speed Square
Shaped like a right triangle this very handy tool has many useful marking already on it for marking angles and roof pitch. But mostly it allows you to mark straight lines and can serve as a guide for cutting.

5. Multi-tip Screwdriver
Having an all-In-one screwdriver is very handy. For the times when you have 3 different types of screws in one table, plus it’s less to carry and less to keep track of. Kline Tools would be my choice for screwdrivers.

6. Channel Locks
This sliding jaw type of wrench that can grab up to 2” diameter pipe. This tool is very handy for turning nuts and bolts to plumbing repairs.

7. Circular Saw
This Saw is the workhorse of wood saws. It can be used for most cuts on most projects. From cutting 2x4’s in half or cutting a long thin strip of plywood this saw will be able to handle almost any thing you throw at it. For Circular saws I use Milwaukee Tools because of their quality and ergonomic design. For more information on saws please read How to Choose a Saw

Every item on this list is available at where you will find the best prices on new tools. Buying used tools is also an option, Should I Buy Used Tools? Will answer any questions you have when buying used tools.

Should I Buy Used Tools?

Buying used tools is a great way to save a little money without sacrificing quality. Although you do need to be cautious when buying used tools, if you follow a few simple steps you will be able to build a high quality tool collection for around half the cost of buying new tools. Some of the best places to buy used tools include local pawn shops,, EBay and of course, friends and family.

There are other options that are tempting but more risky. Places such as flea markets where there may be no power to test the tools (and usually no way to find the seller if you were taken advantage of) can be dicey. Buying used tools “off the street” is another bad idea. I have been lured in a couple of times when working in some areas of town that have numerous “street vendors” walking around from job site to job site with a handful of tools for sale. Buying tools like this is a bad idea. These tools are almost always stolen and it can be extremely risky dealing with some of these individuals. After they make the sale, you could very well be their next victim. Whether it’s that day or another day, once they see what you have they will remember and likely be back.

Inspect Carefully Before you Buy
Careful inspection is very important when buying used tools. Look each tool over thoroughly to make sure there are no cracks in the plastic or metal housings. Check that all moveable parts move freely and operate properly. Plug the used tool in and give it a hard test; not just a quick squeeze of the trigger. Bring a piece of scrap wood with you for a test cut or to drive a screw through. If the tool has a set of accessible brushes then remove them and inspect for damage. You can tell a lot about a tool’s condition by just looking at the brushes. Please read, “Why should I buy tools that have ‘Brushes’?” for more on inspecting the brushes. Damaged cords are not usually a big problem; cords can be easily replaced for around $10.00. A damaged cord could be used as a bargaining chip to get a lower price.

Should I Buy Used Cordless Tools?
 Buying used cordless tools is generally not a good idea unless they appear to be brand-new or at least have a brand-new battery. A cordless tool’s battery can appear to have full strength and power but quickly drain out. This is especially true with older model cordless tools. New cordless batteries cost around $60.00 and up, so to buy new batteries for used tools may end up costing more than new tools.

Conclusion – YES….. IF you have done your homework
 When buying used tools you should expect to pay anywhere from 30% to 50% off retail pricing, depending upon the condition of the tool, the type of tool, and where you are buying the tool. Your best bet for getting a good deal and knowing what you are getting is Craigslist. With this option, you should be able to give it a good test and you will have the most negotiating room. This is also the most labor-intensive method; mostly because of the potential travel involved. Whichever sellers you use for buying your used tools, inspect them carefully, test thoroughly, and negotiate fiercely.

Remember, when buying used tools you should have a thorough understanding of the tool and the retail pricing before you begin shopping.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

How To Water Proof Your Home

Water Proofing Your Home

Water proofing your home is very important! From the roof to the basement (or crawl space) interior spaces must be kept dry. Water infiltration of any sort can lead to major problems such as mold, insect infestations, rotted wood, damaged masonry, or in extreme cases, even building failures. Water Proof your home now to prevent damage later. Because of their proximity to a home’s failing gutter system, rotted exterior trim boards are very common. Gutters and downspouts must be maintained; they are the number one cause of water into a home. Other common causes of water infiltration are poor drainage around your home, clogged splash blocks and underground drains, or even a leaky hose bib. Detecting water leaks can be very tricky but if you take a logical and methodical approach most homeowners should be able to detect their own leaks.

The first step is to fully understand how your home’s water shed system works, and the general principals of water flow. Gutter backups are the most common cause of water coming into a home. However many people will insist that their basement gets wet because the water table rises during wet weather. This is almost never the case! I have run across this problem before but it is very rare and usually only in extreme conditions or very low lying areas. The best procedure for water proofing your home would be to start at the top with a roof and gutter inspection and “Follow the Water”. Inspect down spouts and splash blocks, and make sure the grade is sloping away from your house.

Roof and Gutters

-Inspect roof for obvious signs of damage or missing pieces. (This can sometimes be done with binoculars)
-Inspect and clean out gutters, as needed (this should be done a minimum of two times a year for most homes)
-In springtime check that all gutters and fasteners are firmly attached (heavy snow or ice can pull them away from your home)
-Also make sure your gutters are not bent down in the middle (from snow or ice) and they flow properly.

If water is heaping over the edge or running down the side of your house because of a gutter problem then damage will occur and your basement may get wet.

Down Spouts, Splash Blocks, and Under Ground Drains

-Inspect all downspouts to make sure they are attached to the gutters properly and are connected to your house.
-Also confirm that any elbows, bends, or connections are properly attached and clear of debris.
-Make sure your splash blocks (the concrete or plastic blocks at the bottom of your downspouts) are in place and sloping away from your house.
-Some homes have under ground drains instead of splash blocks, these drains can be very prone to clogs.
-Try to confirm that under ground drains are flowing properly by using a garden hose to flush them out.

Grading and Drainage

-All dirt, mulch, grass, side walks, patios or whatever surrounds your house must slope away from the house and continue sloping for at least 8 feet.
-Make sure all splash blocks and downspouts slope with the grade.

Methods For Water Proofing Your Home
Keeping water away from the house is very important when water proofing your home. However, with some homes this is not enough or not an option at all.  Installing a Drain Curtain and waterproofing membrane to your foundation walls is very effective for most conditions. But, because it requires complete excavation around all foundation walls, it is very costly. This is messy and expensive and should be done only as a last resort.

Installing a sump pump is an effective method for keeping a basement dry. When positioned in the low spot (or trouble spot) of a basement it should pump away all water under the slab before it creeps up into your home. (This water would likely be coming from poor exterior drainage NOT a rising water table)

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