How a Bidet Cleans You and Protects the Environment

How a Bidet Cleans You and Protects the Environment

In the 17th century, French furniture makers invented the bidet, a common bathroom fixture in the Arab World, southern Europe and West Africa. Though North Americans have resisted the innovation, more U.S. residents have embraced it, particularly during nationwide toilet paper shortages.

Now, bidets have evolved from emergency personal hygiene alternatives to just one more feature in a luxurious bathroom. 

Man holds Fluidmaster Soft Spa remote control
Some bidets — such as Fluidmaster’s Soft Spa 9500 — come with remote controls, providing easy access to personal hygiene. 

What is a Bidet? 

A bidet’s primary purpose is personal hygiene. While most people use dry toilet paper, a bidet offers a wet alternative. 

Bidets can be freestanding, separate fixtures; toilet seat replacements with jets; or handheld attachments that spray water. 

Regardless of the type of fixture, each has the same function: to provide the best personal cleansing experience. 

Bidets also have environmental benefits, reducing the need for toilet paper and stress on forests. In fact, North Americans annually use 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper, so switching from dry to wet cleaning methods could save 15 million trees, according to Scientific American.   

Fluidmaster Soft Spa box, unopened, in a bathroom
Retrofitting a toilet with a bidet seat is a space-saving alternative to installing a separate, freestanding fixture.

About Fluidmaster’s Soft Spa 

If you’re looking to give your bathroom a spa-like makeover without renovating your entire space, you might consider the Fluidmaster Soft Spa Electronic Bidet Toilet Seat

It offers more luxury than a traditional bidet, without the hassle of replacing your toilet. 

The Soft Spa features adjustable water pressure, wand positioning and temperature, as well as a heated seat and warm air-dryer. It even includes a remote control and easy-to-follow instructions. 

Fluidmaster Soft Spa, still in the box, parts visible
Fluidmaster’s Soft Spa 9500 comes with everything to replace your toilet seat with one that doubles as a bidet. 

If you’re new to bidets, no problem. Soft Spa’s Gentle mode is perfect for even the most sensitive users. 

And if you’re worried about the maintenance involved, a self-cleaning wand saves you from extra work and guarantees a superior clean.

So, you can lounge in luxury, and save on elbow grease! 

“Today’s Homeowner” host Danny Lipford, pictured with the Fluidmaster Everything Kit
Fluidmaster developed the Everything Toilet Tank Repair Kitfor the most complete solution to quickly repair your toilet. 

The Importance of Maintenance

You would think that something you use every day would get regular maintenance to ensure its optimal performance.

But in the case of the toilet, most of the time, you’d be wrong. 

People take toilets for granted. But our friends at Fluidmaster want to help you transform this lowly fixture by upgrading your toilet technology.

Because you spend a lot of time there, you need the toilet to work properly. So Fluidmaster developed the Everything Toilet Tank Repair Kit for the most complete solution to quickly repair your toilet. 

Whether your toilet leaks, makes noises or constantly runs, you can solve the problem with this kit. It includes a fill valve, adjustable flush valve, tank-to-bowl gasket, adjustable flapper dial, color-coded tools and stainless steel hardware. 

The kit is designed to work with every toilet type; it comes with step-by-step instructions and installation tools. 

That way, your toilet is ready whenever you need it! 

Tools You Need to Work with Concrete

Tools You Need to Work with Concrete

So, you’ve decided to pour a concrete pathway, patio or slab — that’s the first step toward improving your home. But do you have the right tools to work with concrete? 

I don’t mean the materials to make a form and fill it. For instance, you’d need lumber, gravel base, a level, concrete mix and a tamp, along with other stuff to make a slab. But rather, the basic gear and tools to complete just about any concrete job. 

Before you start a concrete project, check this list. Chances are, you’ll need these tools.


Chelsea Lipford Wolf wears safety glasses before starting a concrete project

Protective Gear 

Remember, safety first! Exposure to concrete mix can irritate your skin, so always wear rubber boots, pants, a long-sleeve shirt and rubber gloves. 

You’ll also need splash-proof, chemical-safe glasses to protect your eyes, and an N95 respirator to prevent inhaling concrete dust.

Finally, it’s a good idea to wear earplugs if you’re using a portable mixer. They can be noisy! 


Man pours a bucket of water into the Quikrete countertop concrete mix in a wheelbarrow

Wheelbarrow

If you need to haul bags of cement or concrete mix around your yard, load them up in a wheelbarrow. Your back will thank you! Wheelbarrows are also perfect for mixing small amounts of concrete mix and water.

Just empty the concrete mix into a wheelbarrow and form a depression at the center of the mix. Then pour two-thirds of the recommended water amount into the depression. (An 80-pound bag of Quikrete concrete mix requires about 3 quarts of water.)  

Finally, work the mix with a hoe and gradually add water until it has a uniform consistency and looks like thick oatmeal. 


Man loads portable concrete mixer from concrete in a wheelbarrow
(©kuchina – stock.adobe.com)

Portable Concrete Mixer

When it comes to mixing concrete, a wheelbarrow and hoe get the job done. But if you want to really speed up the process and save your energy, get a portable concrete mixer. 

Ready-to-assemble mixers come with a stand, mixer barrel, mixing tines, wheels and hardware. A decent concrete mixer with a 5-cubic-foot barrel could cost $300 to buy, or you could rent one for a few hours for about $35. 

Either way, this machine takes the guesswork — and elbow grease — out of mixing concrete. So you can focus on pouring a patio in record time! 


“Today’s Homeowner” co-host Chelsea Lipford Wolf mixes concrete in a bucket

Bucket, Drill and Mixing Paddle

Looking for a low-budget portable concrete mixer? Look no farther than a 5-gallon plastic bucket, a drill and a mixing paddle.

Just attach the mixing paddle to the drill, pour the concrete mix and water into the plastic bucket and start drilling! Or, really, mixing. 

If you’ve got a drill and a bucket on hand, you can buy a mixing paddle — compatible with a corded or cordless drill — for just $15. It’s the perfect DIY setup for small concrete projects!   


Danny Lipford looks at a wet concrete patio in production at the job site

Screed

A screed is a long straight edge that you run back and forth over concrete to level it. Reinforced aluminum screeds, ranging from $30 to $100, are available at the home center in different sizes for most needs. 

Or you can do what I do — save money and make your own! 

You’ll need two pieces of wood: one strip should be long enough to extend over the form’s edges while a 1-by-4 nailed underneath it should be short enough to fit inside the form. 

Just run the screed along the formwork edges to smooth the concrete surface, and remove any excess concrete mix.


Man mixes concrete mix in a wheelbarrow with a shovel

Shovel 

No matter how many concrete projects you’ve worked on, there’s no such thing as a clean pour. You’ll always have voids to fill, and a shovel comes in handy to move small amounts of concrete.

In addition, remember that excess concrete mix from screeding the surface? You’ll need a shovel to remove and relocate it to needed areas. 

Pro tip: A square shovel, as opposed to a rounded gardening shovel, is the best tool for this job. But in a pinch, any shovel will do. 


Using a concrete float on a freshly poured concrete steps

Float

Screeding poured concrete levels the surface, but you still have to deal with imperfections. That’s why you’ll need a float to help finish the job. 

Just after the surface has lost its sheen, and the concrete starts to harden but is still workable, run the float over it with an arching motion. 

Running a float over screeded concrete compacts the concrete — so it’s denser and stronger — and smooths the surface. It may cost $12 at the home center but the impact is priceless. 


Concrete edger tool
(Photo: The Home Depot)

Edger

A concrete slab with rounded edges has a finished look that’s attractive and functional. Use a concrete edger (just  $10 at the home center) to prevent chipping and spalling. 

Wait until the concrete is firm and has lost its sheen, but is still workable, and then start edging. 

This step isn’t necessary for a concrete subfloor that won’t be seen or directly walked on, but it’s a must for garbage can pads, patios and sidewalks. 


Giving concrete resurfacer a broom finish

Stiff-Bristle Broom

Whether you’re pouring a new concrete slab or resurfacing an old one, you need to texture the surface with a stiff-bristle broom. This gives the concrete a non-slip surface that’s uniform in appearance. 

Applying the texture follows leveling the surface with a screed and smoothing it with a float. Wait until the concrete starts to turn solid, but while it’s still soft. 

Stiff-bristle brooms range from $20 to $50 at the home center. Whichever option you choose, it’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes from making the slab safer to walk on. 


Closeup of a stained concrete patio with a new control joint scored into the structure

Groover or Saw

Concrete, like most building materials, expands and contracts as seasons change. It’s important to minimize the cracks in a slab to preserve its look and function. 

One way to do that is to make straight-line control joints just after the concrete starts to harden and the surface has lost its sheen. 

You can cut control joints using a groover and any straight board. Just hold the groover parallel to the board at predetermined locations and run it vertically down the slab. 

Control joints should be cut to at least 1/4 the slab’s depth and at equal intervals. For instance, add grooves every 10 feet for a long driveaway and every 4 feet for a sidewalk. 

Use a bronze or heavy-gauge stainless steel groover (approximately $25) to score freshly poured concrete. Or you can just saw cured concrete.

These are the basic tools needed to create and finish most concrete projects. What project are you working on? Let us know in the comments below! 

Elastomeric Sealants: King of All Caulks

Elastomeric Sealants: King of All Caulks

Titebond DuraMaster High Performance Sealant, seen sticking between a brick and a piece of molding
Elastomeric sealant is ideal for filling cracks and gaps indoors and out. While your home naturally expands and contracts, elastomeric sealant moves with it.

The once-simple act of buying a tube of caulk has become a frustrating challenge for DIYers and professional contractors alike.

Walk into any home center or hardware store and you’ll find a dizzying array of caulks, sealants, adhesives, cements and mastics designed to seal gaps, fill cracks, plug holes and bond to various building materials.

The result of all these options is that it’s often difficult to find the most appropriate caulk for your specific project.

But, within the sea of caulking tubes lining the store shelves is a family of superior products known as elastomeric sealants.


About Elastomeric Sealants

Elastomeric sealants have a well-earned reputation for being extremely durable, tenaciously strong, and easy to apply. And, once fully cured, they’re resilient, yet flexible to accommodate any expansion and contraction, a phenomenon known as dynamic joint movement.

These sealants can be used indoors or out and will bond to virtually any building material, including wood, steel, stone, tile, brick, glass, plastics and vinyl.

Most importantly, elastomeric sealants are highly resistant to seasonal movement and long-term exposure to the elements, which are the top two reasons why most caulks fail.

And they’re especially effective when bridging a gap between two dissimilar materials, such as vinyl siding and wood trim, which tend to expand and contract at different rates based on temperature and humidity.

When you’re sealing a joint that must stay sealed, you need an elastomeric sealant.


Choosing the Right Sealant for the Job

Several types of elastomerics—including both polymer and acrylic-based—are formulated to meet the needs of specific tasks.

Here’s a brief look at the six most popular types:

  • To stop cold drafts from blowing into your home, use a window-and-door elastomeric sealant, which will provide a weatherproof seal against wind and rain. Apply a continuous bead of sealant around window and door frames and between any house trim and siding. This specially formulated elastomeric will bond to all types of siding and trim boards, including wood, composites and cellular PVC.
    Be sure the window-and-door elastomeric sealant you buy can be applied in low temperatures, has zero shrinkage, and is either paintable or available in a wide range of colors. For example, Titebond WeatherMaster Sealant comes in over 200 colors!
  • Rain gutters and downspouts typically have several joints and seams that can—and often do—eventually spring a leak. Fortunately, there are elastomerics designed to plug leaks in any gutter system, including those made of aluminum, vinyl, galvanized metal, wood or copper.
    Titebond WeatherMaster Gutter & Seam Sealant is a long-lasting, extreme-weather polymer elastomeric that can be applied in temperatures as low as 0° F, and once cured, can withstand temperatures ranging from -75° to 300° F. And unlike many other caulks, Titebond WeatherMaster Gutter & Seam Sealant will adhere to Kynar, which is a fluoropolymer resin coating applied to many types of metal gutters.
  • And for all other jobs, use a multi-purpose elastomeric, such as Titebond DuraMaster Sealant. This sealant can be used for a wide variety of caulking tasks, both inside and out. It forms a durable bond to virtually any clean surface, and can span gaps up to 2 inches wide. Plus, it’s crack-proof, mold and mildew resistant, paintable, cleans up with water, and comes in 13 colors.

Further Reading

Metal Roofing Types: Stylish Options with Exceptional Performance

Metal Roofing Types: Stylish Options with Exceptional Performance

Metal roof as seen in Cut Off, Louisiana
Metal roofing is more popular than ever thanks to its durability and design.

Homeowners’ increasing interest in metal roofing isn’t surprising. Metal is one of the most durable and attractive roofing materials.

However, despite its growing popularity, there are still plenty of misconceptions and confusion about modern metal roofs.

So, let’s take a detailed look at the many styles and key benefits of quality metal roofing, including why it just might be the perfect roof for your home.


Red metal roof, as seen on white house
Today’s metal roofs come in many colors and styles to match any home.

Stylish Options

You may be surprised to learn that metal roofing is available in dozens a wide variety of colors and several styles to complement the architectural design of virtually any home.

Here are the five most common styles of metal roofing:

  • Standing Seam: Features clean lines, is available in several widths and profiles, has waterproof seams that lock together, and is quick and easy to install. In some regions, standing seam is known as vertical seam roofing.
  • Metal Shingles: Stone-coated Stamped metal shingles mimic the look of traditional asphalt shingles, but are much more durable and weather-resistant.
  • Metal Shake: Stamped metal shakes have a thick profile and wood-grain texture that resembles wood shakes. However, unlike wood, metal shakes have a Class A fire rating  and won’t swell, rot, crack or curl.
  • Metal Slate: Stamped metal slate looks very much like natural slate tiles, but at a fraction of the cost. Plus, metal slate is much lighter, easier to install, and more resilient than real slate.
  • Metal Tile: Traditional clay tile roofs are beautiful, yet extremely heavy. It’s easy to capture the architectural charm of clay tiles with metal roofing that mimics the same styles and colors, and is strong and durable, but yet weighs significantly less. lighter weight.s.

Metal roofing is made from a variety of different materials, including hot-dipped galvanized steel, zinc, aluminum, copper, and aluminum-zinc alloy-coated steel, commonly known as Galvalume. In addition, several of these styles can be made with stone-coated metal, which offers a granular coating to mimic those of asphalt shingles but with the more environmentally friendly base material of metal.


Denver and Alexis Damron's Southern Alabama home, newly renovated with a new metal roof
Metal doesn’t crack, delaminate or curl like other roofing materials.

Unparalleled Performance

Here’s a brief look at the top 10 benefits of metal roofing:

  • Durability: Metal roofs are highly resistant to rot, mold, mildew and termites. They are also extremely resilient to severe weather conditions including snow, hail, high winds, heavy rains and high heat.
  • Long Life: Quality metal roofs can last up to 50-plus years, depending on the material. Asphalt roofing, on the other hand, typically needs to be replaced every 15-20 years or less, depending on the quality of the material.
  • Fire Resistance: Every year, raging wildfires burn thousands of homes. Most quality Mmetal roofs offer strong protection since they carry a Class A fire rating.
  • Wind Resistance: A properly installed quality metal roof system can withstand winds up to 140 MPH, which is equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane. And that’s why metal roofing is popular in hurricane- and tornado-prone regions.
  • Energy Efficiency: Quality metal roofs reflect solar ultravioletultra-violet and infrared rays, which can help cut home cooling costs by as much as 25 percent.
  • Noise: Despite a common misconception, metal roofs aren’t noisier than any other type of roofing during a heavy rainstorm or hailstorm, especially when the roof deck and attic are properly insulated.
  • Increased Value: Homes with metal roofs typically sell for more money than homes with traditional roofing. 
  • Recyclable: Metal roofs are 100 percent recyclable at the end of their lifespan.

Metal roof, as seen on a beautiful two-story home
Metal comes at a higher cost than other roofing materials, but it also provides better performance.

Final Considerations

For more details and to find answers to all your metal-roofing questions, get the free buyer’s guide from the Metal Roofing Alliance (MRA).

It includes tons of useful information to help you understand the best metal-roofing options for your region. You can even upload a photo of your home and see how different metal roofing designs will look with MRA’s visualizer.

Plus, the “Find a Professional” tool can help you find quality metal roofing contractors in your area.

So, dig into the resources here to help you put a great roof over your family’s head that will last for decades to come—and get ready to love your new metal roof.

How to Build Planter Posts for String Lights

How to Build Planter Posts for String Lights

Cafe lights in Chelsea's backyard for her concrete planter project
Cafe lights add atmosphere to any outdoor living space! Pairing them with floral arrangements makes this patio look inviting and luxurious.

How to Build Planter Posts for String Lights

Our family loves to relax on the patio, and now it has some serious ambiance thanks to my latest DIY project: planter posts for string lights!

They’re super-easy to make. You just need Quikrete Fast-Setting Concrete Mix, in the red bag, a couple of planters and string lights, and small tools.

Ready to create something special? Let’s go!


Supplies for creating concrete planters

What You’ll Need:

  • Bags of Quikrete Fast-Setting Concrete Mix (per post) 
  • 2-4 Planters (enough to support the café lights)
  • 4-by-4 Posts (enough to support the lights)
  • Steel Screw Hooks
  • Café lights
  • Drill
  • How to Build Planter Posts for String Lights
sealing planters

Seal the insides. You won’t want potting soil or concrete mix to spill from your planters (I used wood), so apply Advanced Polymer Non-Sag Sealant or Advanced Polymer Construction Adhesiveto close any gaps or cracks inside them.

Find a location. Place the planter where it will be used. Make sure it’s where you’ll spend a lot of time and could use a little light. (I just want to stress: This is a permanent placement. You won’t want to move the planter after it has concrete in it!)

Chelsea placing post

Place the post. Add a 4-by-4 post at the center of the planter. (I kept mine the full length of 8 feet.) You can eyeball it or check that each side-to-side measurement is the same.

Chelsea pouring concrete

Pour the concrete. Slowly pour two bags of Quikrete Fast-Setting Concrete Mix around your post so that it’s evenly distributed.

wetting the concrete

Slowly add water. You’ll need approximately one gallon of water per 50-pound bag of concrete. The great thing about Fast-Setting Concrete is you don’t need to mix it around. Just pour in the concrete and add the water — easy peasy!

chelsea leveling

Level it. While the concrete is setting but still loose, use a level to check that each planter post for string lights is perfectly plumb. It shouldn’t be leaning in either direction.

Repeat steps 1-6. If you need a second planter to support your string lights, repeat these steps while the first one dries. By the time the second one is drying, the first one will be ready for the next step: hooks!

inserting hook to post

Add hooks. So far, we’ve got planters with posts secured in concrete. Now we need to create the support system for our string lights. Use a tiny drill bit to start a pilot hole on the corner of your post. Then attach a steel screw hook.

inserting hook into side of house

You can create four planter posts (arranged in a square or rectangle) to support the string lights, or drill two pilot holes into your home’s facia to connect the lights from the planters.

drilling holes into planter

Create drainage. While you have your drill bit in your drill, add a small drainage hole on the backside of your planter, above the concrete.

adding mulch to planter

Insert plants. Add potting soil and plant some pretty plants. You can keep it simple with one plant per planter or, for eye-catching results, go ‘extra’ and create a ‘thriller, filler, spiller’ arrangement. (Google it!)

hanging string lights

Add lights. Finally, drape your string lights over the hooks and plug them in.

That’s all it takes to make planter posts for string lights! Now, family gatherings on the patio have just a bit more atmosphere so you can make more memories together.