Home Tips

Polishing Scratches

posted Jul 8, 2012, 2:43 AM by Jackson Luk

Many people have asked me over the years what they can do to remove or minimize scratches on metal surfaces.  There are cleaners and polishers you can buy, but before you do, try something you already have - Toothpaste.  This is something I've done for worn faucets and shower fixtures to bring that shine back.  

As always, try on a small less visible area first.  Use a soft sponge or a old toothbrush and apply toothpaste and brush the area in a circular motion as if you are cleaning your teeth.  The toothpaste acts like a fine abrasive that can remove grime and polish at the same time.  The finish will not be as professional as a buffing machine or Dremal tool, but it can help smooth out a scratch or polish up a old faucet.

Leak Detectors ranging from CO to H2O

posted Apr 19, 2010, 11:25 PM by Jackson Luk   [ updated May 16, 2010, 10:29 PM ]

Today we installed several smoke detectors that came with carbon monoxide (CO) detection for a home owner.  The home owner asked a good question of why we opted for the slightly more expensive smoke detector that also detects Carbon Monoxide.

Well, I explained that we usually install smoke detectors with CO detection when ever we install a gas stove since unburned CO can be very dangerous.

Sine most people know about smoke detectors but very little about Carbon Monoxide, this is some information from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission: 

  • What is carbon monoxide (CO) and how is it produced?

    Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. Products and equipment powered by internal combustion engine-powered equipment such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers, and power washers also produce CO.
  • You can read more information at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/466.html

  • In short, Spend a extra few dollars on your smoke detectors and get one with CO detection this gives you an extra piece of mind.
    And always check your alarm and detectors' battery, they only work if they have power.
    Always check the smoke detectors of a new home. The previous homeowner may have removed the battery, the device may be malfunctioning, or the battery may be dead.

    Now for Natural Gas Detectors
    And if you have a Large gas range you can also pickup a Natural/Propane gas detector.  I found you can easily pick one up from Amazon.com.   Look for  Safe T Alert brand.  Here is their website http://www.mtiindustries.com/co1.htm for more info.

    And finally Water Detectors
    I have done many repairs for customers who had a broken water line from their refrigerator.  I highly recommend getting a water alarm such as ones like Zircon Leak Alert Electronic Water Detector which can also be easily found on Amazon for around $10 bucks.  This will sound
    an alarm when it detects 1/32 of an inch of water.  Many water leaks start out small and undetected from appliances such as dishwashers and refrigerators and can usually stopped before it gets bad.  I think they also have something similar at Home Depot or Lowes for about $30 that looks like a toy Frog.

    I know many people will say, it doesn't do any good when your on vacation or not at home, but as with most alarms, it gives you an extra measure of prevention when you are home.  And the reason I refer to buying on Amazon.com is that 1. you don't need to go to the store 2. it usually has very good prices. 

    Best leak prevention is checking your installation.  With most gas pipes, good old soapy water is still the easiest.  I have a hand held gas detector for professional use and hard to reach places, but most cases, soap water does a great job in finding leaks. 

    I also recommend using the braided stainless steel compression tubing when possible for dishwashers and refrigerators.  The compression heads that come built into the threaded tubing are much more easier to install and have less chances of leaking compared to the old style copper tube with compression rings that can leak when the appliance is being moved or put back into place.  Most hardware stores sells only about 6' lone pieces and are very expensive.  Check online stores like Amazon, I have ordered 12' tubing online for less than the cost of 3' tubing in stores.

    I hope this information was helpful. 
    Most of these detectors are $10 to $20, but can save you hundreds.


    SugarSync Online Backup

    posted Mar 9, 2010, 11:47 PM by Jackson Luk

    This tip is not a do-it-yourself tip, but rather computer related. 

    I was recently told by one of my customers that they saw me in a user interview on SugarSync's website at www.sugarsync.com.  I've been using their excellent online backup service for several years now and have been very happy with what they offer.

    SugarSync is a file synchronization service that also acts as a backup service.  I backup all my designs and pictures so I have access to it wherever I go.  I can access my files on my phone and on my laptop.  As I make changes to a file on my laptop, it automatically syncs up with the online backup and when I turn on my office or home computer, the file is synchronized and updated.  What I like is that they also keep 5 recent copies of changes, so if you made a mistake, you got 5 more chances to fix it.

    This service has helped me in my business a lot since I can edit designs from anywhere. I can save and share documents with co-workers, designers, and customers without having to copy a file to a disk, a usb key, or even attaching it as an email.  Since everything is backed up online, I can email blueprints in 20 to 30MB PDFs without waiting for it to upload or send.  I can send a link and share a specific file with anyone I choose to. 

    Best of all, everything is automatic.  No clicking on some button to tell it to sync.  No timer software or hardware like the old backup drives. And no more carrying around portable hard drives that can fail if you drop it, get it wet, or worst lost/stolen.

    I've tried many so call online backup and "cloud computing" software ranging from no named FTP online backup to Microsofts online backup service.  They either lack the options and robust innovations that SugarSync had or are too invasive and slows down your computer.

    Give SugarSync a try, they have a free 2GB fully functional account.  And sign up under my referal link to help me get some extra storage if you like it.

    SugarSync Referal

    You can also see the video interview of me at their website

    or directly on youtube

    Sugar Sync Interview

    Picking the Right Faucet

    posted Mar 9, 2010, 8:38 PM by Jackson Luk

    I get asked by many home owners how to pick out faucets or what brands are good?

    There are several factors to consider. As with all construction and remodeling choices, you want a good balance between, looks, functionality and cost. In this case I rank functionality, then looks, then cost.

    Functionality is very important in choosing a faucet because it is something you most likely use at least one time if not very often each day. You want one that suites your daily use. For kitchens, consider how you use your current faucet and look at what you like or dislike about it. New faucets often come with a single swivel control instead of the traditional separate hot and cold knobs. There are also ones with built-in spray nozzles vs. traditional a separate spray nozzles.

    Here is a list of features to think about.
    1. Height of faucet. Will the water spout be too low to fit your pots and pans fit? Will the spout be too high or bad angle where it can splash every where.
    2. Features. Do you need a spray feature, pullout spout/nozzle?
    3. Durability. Is a reputable brand? Are there any online reviews on the model you are thinking to purchase.

    I would say, stick with a good traditional brand and spend the extra money to get something durable. You almost never change a good working faucet. So avoid knock-off brands and low end models because those will usually end up costing you more in repairs and damages in the long run.

    Looks is also important because you want a style that matches your home, kitchen or bath. Take some time to look around. It is best to see actual displays to get a feel for the size and finish. The finishes usually come in Chrome, bronze, brushed nickle, stainless steel, satin, and some specialty metals such as gold plated. ( Yes, real gold, and we’ve installed quite a few. )

    As a general rule for remodeling material, the more functions and better looking, the higher the price.

    I would say, expect to spend about $200 for a good faucets set. And $400 and up for ones with more function and brushed nickle finish. A good brand that many home owners have been very happy with is the Grohe and Hansgrohe lines. They are very well designed and durable.

    I know there are some in-expensive models/brands out in home improvement stores, just be careful since many of them are cheap imports that may not have the same durability as their designer counter parts.

    So here are some things to consider before you decide to buy a low end unit.
    1. Lower cost parts usually fail faster, causing leaks. Cost of damage repair.
    2. Replacing a faucet by a plumber can cost about $65 to $95 labor.
    3. Cost of a replacement faucet.
    4. Time and frustration due to leaky or broken faucet.

    I hope this tip is helpful. If you have any questions about ordering faucets for your project, feel free to contact me. We often get special contractor pricing for many plumbing fixture brands and will pass on the discount to you. Let me know if we can help.

    Uncloging a drain pipe

    posted Jan 27, 2010, 10:51 PM by Jackson Luk   [ updated Mar 9, 2010, 8:37 PM ]

    It has been a while since my last post. I have been caught up in supervising the addition of a second story for a project we are working on in Palo Alto. I will post pictures of the progress now that we finished the first stage of foundations.

    Recently, a customer emailed me regarding slow drainage in the kitchen sink after using the dishwasher. Often times the winter months can cause blockage in drain pipes because of the cold. Oily gunk can build up and slowly clog your kitchen drain.

    There are chemical solutions out there, but often times they can be harmful to the environment and not to mention the homeowner. These harsh chemicals are also dangerous around pets and children. So I want to share a age-old remedy that I have used and works in helping unclog slow drains.

    Please note This only works for slow drains. If you have a standing pool of water in your sink, time to call a professional and/or resort to chemical solutions.

    All you need is baking soda and vinegar.
    Step 1 – Pour 3/4 of a cup of dry baking soda into the drain.
    Step 2 – Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar down the drain after the baking soda. Be sure to cover the drain immediately with a rag or plug, filling the hole completely so nothing can escape. If you have a double sink, cover both sides. This is because the interaction of the two will cause a bubbling/fizzing effect that will want to come up and out of the drain..you want to keep it down there. NOTE if you have a double sink, pour down the side that is not attached to the garbage disposal for better results, and cover both drains.
    Step 3 – Let the mixture fizz for a while in the drain for about 30 minutes. While you are waiting, boil a tea kettle full of water.
    Step 4 – After 30 minutes, remove the plug and slowly pour the HOT water down the drain. Be careful when pouring to avoid splashing your self with the hot water.

    All done! Your drain should flow smoothly now. If not, just do it again. If after 3 tries this doesn’t trick doesn’t improve drain flow, the clog may be more serious.

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