Home Reviews

Wet wipes and baby wipes are NOT a replacement for toilet paper!

wipes are NOT a replacement for toilet paper

You’ve read my earlier warnings about using wet wipes and their damage to your plumbing and septic system, now listen to why a Surgeon Is Begging You to Stop Using them! Wet wipes were a go-to solution during the Covid-19 TP shortage and, from that experience, many have adopted them as the afficionado’s version of Toilet Paper. Some feel like wet wipes are fancier and more grown-up. In addition to the tush pampering factor, people who swear by them believe that the method is more thorough and leaves things cleaner than it would otherwise be.

Unfortunately, it appears those beliefs are misleading, and a rectal surgeon says it’s time to “can” those wet wipes for good.

“…wet wipes aren’t the best option for the health of your posterior.”

“People think if they can use a wet wipe on their baby, they can use it on themselves,” says Evan Goldstein, DO, colorectal surgeon and founder of Future Method. However, while wet wipes might make you think you’re getting your bum cleaner, they can actually cause myriad complications that you really don’t want to have to deal with in the long run. In addition to being a major environmental concern—which was discussed in our earlier article—wet wipes aren’t the best option for the health of your posterior.

Wiping away good bacteria

Just like the skin on your face, your anus and its surrounding skin is covered in good and bad bacteria. These work together to find homeostasis and keep your pooper in tip-top condition. “This is important, so when you start to augment that [microbiome] with wet wipes, what happens is that you’re wiping away the good bacteria and the imbalance becomes a problem,” says Dr. Goldstein. When there’s an imbalance, you can wind up with irritation, rashes, or fungal or bacterial infections. “With the homeostasis in the biome altered, bad bacteria starts to populate fungus or irritation, which I see all of the time,” he says, noting that a obvious signs of this are redness and overall discomfort. Even wet wipes that are “chemical-free” will do this.

Wet wipes can cause major problems for your home’s plumbing, the ecosystem as they can wind up in rivers and streams and now they are unhealthy to boot.

Another big risk with using wet wipes as a replacement for toilet paper is excessive moisture. “People tend to use wet wipes and then pull up their pants, so what happens is that the moisture sits there,” says Dr. Goldstein. “The moisture just festers, and it causes a change in bacteria and leads to irritation.” If this continually happens, he notes that people can feel as though they have fissures or hemorrhoids when really it’s just a buildup of irritation and bad bacteria. If you experience something like this, make an appointment with your doctor to see what’s going on.

Double danger

Wet wipes can cause major problems for your home’s plumbing, the ecosystem. They can wind up in rivers and streams and now they are unhealthy to boot. “This a major issue,” says Dr. Goldstein (a major Toto washlette and bidet fan) — so wet wipes should never, ever be used.

At this time, I think we have got to the bottom of this issue!

Taking quality real estate photos of your home or project is easier than ever.

Here are some pro tips to help you capture beautiful images.

Planning ahead

Make a site visit to inspect the property before the shoot. Be sure you have access to all the important areas. Try to identify lighting and composition challenges ahead of time.

Turn on the lights and open the blinds. Lighting is your most important tool. If the lighting is poor or the wrong color, bring some portable lighting equipment to properly set off the scenes. If there is a good view, take advantage of it.

Choose flattering elevations and compositions. Like people, every home or project has its best side. It could be an exquisite design, or an interesting shape or color. It could even be something with a dramatic backdrop. Get in close with a macro lens to highlight intricate details and workmanship.


Don’t spend much time or money worrying about equipment. The model and type of camera you use is of little concern. Any average digital camera will do. Much more important than the equipment is your knowing how to use it properly. In fact, really awesome project images can be captured using a cell phone. I especially like the iPhone 11 pro max because it is small, easy to use and it has an ultrawide (13mm) lens built in. It also compensates for poor lighting situations automatically and produces awesome colors.

Another great camera for this type of work is the six year-old Nikon D7000. See a full review including settings and use of this camera at my friend Ken Rockwell’s website. Mate this camera with a 18-300MM for outdoors and consider a 12-24MM lens for indoors. The 18-300MM zoom makes it possible to easily see flashing and roof details without a ladder.

Why have an ultrawide lens like the 12-24mm in your kit? Normal lenses that come with cameras usually only go wide enough to capture one part of a wall at a time. An ultrawide lens captures an entire room instead of part of a wall. As a bonus, an ultrawide-angle lens will make any room or structure look bigger. Realtors love this. Unfortunately, all but the most expensive ultra-wide lenses impart distortion. Distortion will show up in images with straight walls and flat horizontal roof lines that most homes have. The good news is that slight distortion isn’t a major problem unless you are trying to emphasize straightness or square mechanical aspects of the home.

Aerial images using drones equipped with cameras can provide access to exciting perspectives that would not normally be available. Drone images are well suited for showing off pools, landscapes and dramatic features.

©Steve Spratt 2019 All rights reserved.


Declutter the home and remove distracting flaws from your shots. Once you have decided on the composition and shot angles it’s time to scrub the area down. Remove any unsightly items or anything that distracts from the shot. Take a practice image and study it for things that do not belong, then remove them. Repeat till you get an undistracted image of the important subject material.

Choose good lighting for your shoot. Understanding how to properly light your subject is the most complex technical subject you will need to master. Most electric indoor lighting is terrible and difficult to work with. Be especially careful of bright light at the windows and dark shadows outdoors. Early mornings or evenings around sunset are best for the outdoor shots.

Focus on interesting subjects. A beautiful kitchen is just another beautiful kitchen so try to zero in on the things that make it beautiful. Is it color, texture, clever design, symmetry, fancy appliances or whatever?

Stage the shot

Take some practice snaps and look at the thumbnail images.  If the thumbnails of your practice images are lacking character or empty looking, your full size image will look bad too. If this happens, it’s time to refine the composition or maybe bring in the props. This is often necessary with new homes or additions that are still unoccupied. New landscapes and hardscapes can look much better with strategically placed outdoor furniture, teak tables, chaise lounges, BBQ’s etc. Even a couple of colorful floaties in an empty pool will help bring some life to the shot.

Use a tripod to take the final picture and get the composition just right. Avoid tilting the camera oddly or accentuating too much distortion. A tripod can help you get the best focus and can get the camera closer to the surfaces. This is especially useful around pools of water to get cool reflection shots. Use a tripod and set the ISO to its lowest setting. The tripod is stable and allows you take long exposures. Long exposures mean you can use small apertures for sharp focus and clean crisp images.

Before and after

Before and after images can tell very compelling stories. If you have an interesting project coming up, be sure to get great “before” shots. Take shots in good lighting from all directions and angles. That way at the end of the project you will likely have a decent image that will match up with some photo of your new work.

Make large prints  

Architectural images look their best in larger sizes. Images taken with the equipment described above will allow for truly huge enlargements.

Former SF Giants GM Bobby Evans named to lead innovative San Francisco Peninsula home services firm.

HPS Palo Alto, Inc (Home Preservation Services) has announced that Robert C. “Bobby” Evans has been named their new CEO. Bobby has a business degree from UNC at Chapel Hill and comes to HPS after a long, successful executive career in professional baseball. Home Preservation Founder Steve Spratt will remain as President.

After working for former commissioner Fay Vincent in MLB’s main office, Mr. Evans spent a quarter century with the San Francisco Giants before retiring in 2018 as General Manager. If you are a Giants fan, Bobby shares credit for some of the best baseball moments of your life. As director of player personnel and vice president of baseball operations, he had a significant impact on developing the players who would form the core of the Giants three  World Series wins in 2010, 2012, and 2014. In addition, Bobby was responsible for successfully recruiting, hiring and managing over 350 employees in the Giants organization and developing one of the most respected and loved baseball cultures ever produced.

Steve Spratt, Home Preservation Services founder and president comments that “HPS offers a unique home management service called Stewardship and is well positioned to be a disruptive growth agent in the home services and construction industry.Stewardship provides systemized, high quality and comprehensive preventive maintenance, repair and construction services that assist homeowners to better manage and care for their homes. Bobby Evans has been utilizing our services as an HPS client for many years and we are honored and excited to now have him as part of our executive management team. We look forward to Bobby’s help leading and expanding our culture of quality and high standards across the US. Bobby created feelings of great pride and accomplishment in our community that stick with us and will be passed down for many generations. We welcome Bobby to our HPS team and look forward to bringing meaningful and needed improvements to the home services world.”

HPS is an established and innovative home services company based in Los Altos CA, employing 45 people and currently serving nearly 300 homes and estates on the San Francisco Peninsula.

Your Home is Both Refuge and InvestmentThis Pandemic reminds us that home is both refuge and investment.

At HPS, we have always promoted the home as serving two valuable functions for the family. First, your home is a refuge. A trouble-free, safe, comfortable place where you and your family can retreat, reconnect and reenergize. Second, your home is a financial investment, an asset that should be protected and kept at its highest marketable value at all times.

Since most of us have been confined at home to help control the spread of this pandemic, the last seven weeks have offered a good opportunity to assess how your home is serving you. Has your home been a comfortable refuge? Do you feel the home is in its top marketable condition?

Make your home both a refuge and investment

If the answer is no to either of those questions, it is time to allow HPS to provide some more help. Here’s how we do it:

Getting the home into top marketable condition is a matter of inspecting the home, preparing a list of defects, repairs and worn out items and creating a prioritized plan to get them fixed as quickly as your budget allows. Once the repair list is fixed, our quarterly Stewardship maintenance will help to keep the home in top condition.

To turn your home into more of a refuge for you and your family requires a more personal approach. Bottom line, you should love being in your home, even after seven weeks. If you don’t, the solution is to make a list of things that you don’t like or that irritate you or make you uncomfortable. Then let HPS help you create a strategy to change those things.

It’s amazingly easy to implement change once you have developed a plan to make your home is a refuge and investment.  Just let HPS follow through with quality planning, estimates and repairs!

The last several weeks have given us all an opportunity to learn more about our home. Let’s use what we’ve learned to better care for it. Contact HPS and let us help you create and implement a plan to take better care of this most valuable family refuge… and investment.

The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming

Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, who warned of pandemic in 2006, says we can beat the novel coronavirus—but first, we need lots more testing.

he doesn’t have a crystal ball. But 14 years ago, Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox, spoke to a TED audience and described what the next pandemic would look like. At the time, it sounded almost too horrible to take seriously. “A billion people would get sick,” he said. “As many as 165 million people would die. There would be a global recession and depression, and the cost to our economy of $1 to $3 trillion would be far worse for everyone than merely 100 million people dying, because so many more people would lose their jobs and their health care benefits, that the consequences are almost unthinkable.”

Read the full article at WIRED…

Originally published by Three Sixty HR – the HR experts, Menlo Park, CA

A Quick Guide for Employers Impacted by COVID-19 “Shelter-In-Place” Requirements

Note: this guide is California-centric. Check your local state rules for nationwide use.

Workplace disruptions and developments in response to COVID-19 are very fluid. There are some commonsense guidelines, augmented by modifications in government programs and requirements, that can help you and your employees. We have created this brief guide to help during this uncertain and unprecedented time.

  1. If you temporarily close and send employees home without work to do…
    • Your employees may use accrued vacation or PTO to continue their pay for as long as possible.
    • Employees may apply online for Unemployment Insurance (UI). CA has waived the seven-day waiting period, but it may take a few weeks for payments to start. You don’t have to terminate employment for employees to be eligible for UI. (edd.ca.gov/Unemployment)
    • Consider augmenting UI, if possible. Remember that UI will only provide partial pay replacement.
    • Continue employees’ medical insurance and other benefits during their absence.
    • Stay in touch with your employees. This is important!
  1. If you temporarily close and send employees home with work to do…
    • Be sure employees have the tools to work from home. If they do not have some or all the tools, you are responsible for providing them.
    • Reimburse employees for use of their personal services (e.g., cellphone, internet) needed to work from home.
    • If employees are in nonexempt (hourly) positions, be sure to reiterate in writing the requirements to take meal and rest breaks, and to accurately record their time worked.
      Be sure to state your policy regarding overtime and checking email and voice mail. Employees may use your automated timekeeping system if they can access it from home. If you don’t have an automated system, we have attached a manual form. Tell employees when and to whom time reports are due. Collect the signed time reports when employees return to work.
    • If employees are in exempt (salaried/management) positions, they will most likely need to be paid a full week’s pay if they do any work during the workweek, including checking email and voice mail. If they request in writing a full day off work, they may use accrued vacation, PTO or sick leave for that day. Otherwise, they need to be paid for a full workweek if they do any work during the workweek, including checking voice mail and email.
    • Continue employees’ medical insurance and other benefits during their absence.

1There is a state notice requirement concerning mass layoffs of 50 or more people during a 30-day period in a facility that employs 75 or more people within the preceding 12 months. An employer who meets this threshold should consult with counsel.

— Stay in touch with your employees. This is important! —

  1. If your business is open but you send an employee home, or s/he self-quarantines, due to exposure to the virus…
    • Will they work from home? follow #2. 
    • They will not work from home, or will reduce their hours while working from home, follow #1 except the employee may apply for State Disability Insurance (SDI). CA has waived the seven-day waiting period. It may take a few weeks for payments to start, but SDI will provide partial pay replacement. Then follow the rest of #1. (edd.ca.gov/Disability/Disability_Insurance.htm
    • If exposure to the virus occurred in the workplace, an employee may file a Workers’ Compensation claim instead of SDI. Employers are responsible for providing the paperwork to employees who need to file a Workers’ Compensation claim.
    • Do not require a doctor’s note confirming the beginning/end of a temporary disability.
  1. If your business is open but your otherwise healthy employee can’t work due to caring for a family member who is ill, or for a child whose school has closed…
    • Your employee may use accrued sick leave, vacation and/or PTO to continue pay for as long as possible.
    • If they do not work from home or work reduced hours while working from home, follow #1 except the employee may apply for Paid Family Leave (PFL) for partial pay replacement. (edd.ca.gov/Disability/Paid_Family_Leave.htm)
    • Follow the rest of #1.

Delivery Services: If your business is such that your employees can be converted to delivery drivers or are delivery drivers (e.g., drivers for restaurant take-out orders), ensure employees have a current driver’s license and proof of insurance. Make sure your company liability policy will cover them as drivers for the business. Have a clear written policy regarding distracted (cell phone, text, email, GPS) driving. Contact us if you don’t have a policy. Track and reimburse mileage, tolls, etc. Ensure employees follow CDC safety guidelines when interacting with customers.

Retaining Staff: Business will resume and employees will go back to work. Your ability to retain valued staff may hinge on how well you communicate with employees and mitigate their financial hardships. If employees sense that you are trying to do everything you can for them and the business, you are more likely to retain staff.

Employees: are concerned about pay, benefits and keeping their jobs. Encourage employees to use all their accrued benefits as well as take advantage of state income replacement programs. Jobs should be held open for employees who held them before the mandatory shelter-in-place and before they missed work due to COVID-19. Keep employees’ benefits in force for as long as possible. (This may be mandated.)

Government: Intervention. Federal, state and local governments are working hard to find ways to lessen the financial impact of COVID-19 on employers and employees. These ideas include everything from cash payments to payroll tax credits to prohibiting evictions. Stay alert to legislation, announcements and news stories. Coordinating multiple relief/benefit programs will be another issue entirely. It is going to take a while to sort all this out.

There may be additional forms of relief offered to individuals and businesses through CA’s Work Sharing Program. It is designed to address a temporary reduction in hours where regular pay is augmented by UI. (edd.ca.gov/unemployment/Work_Sharing_Program.htm)

Bottom line. Be careful, patient and thoughtful. We must do the things we can to help each other. Please understand that things are changing rapidly and that some of this information could be outdated by the end of the day. We hope this information helps.


CDC’s Guidance for Businesses: 

cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

DLSE FAQs on Sick Leave and Time Off: 


EDD FAQs and Wage Replacement Assistance: 

edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/faqs.htm www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm 

i4cp Resource Center: 


Leadership in Uncertainty 


How to Prepare for the Coronavirus

Face masks? Gloves? Hand washing? What is the best way to protect yourself from the growing threats of  the new coronavirus? At HPM we’re committed to keeping our team and clients healthy and safe. To do this, adopted the a number of practices and precautions within our organization for the duration of the problem.

From the eminent pathologist Dr James Robb:

I, as many others do, hope that this pandemic will be reasonably contained, BUT I personally do not think it will be. Humans have never seen this snake-associated virus before and have no internal defense against it. Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus. Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved. BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available.

How to Protect Yourself:

  1. NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.
  2. Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.
  3. Open doors with your closed fist or hip – do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.
  4. Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.
  5. Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.
  6. Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands.
  7. If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!

What to stock in preparation for the pandemic spread to the US:

  1. Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas. Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average – everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs) The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.
  2. Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you – it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth – it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.
  3. Stock up now with hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves (get the appropriate sizes for your family). The hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.
  4. Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available.


AS of January 1, 2020, all General Service Lamps (home light bulbs) are subject to the 45 LUMENS PER WATT (“LPW”) requirements and any product that does not meet this standard is subject to “stop sell” restrictions prohibiting the sale within the State of California.  This means that any light bulb that does not provide at least 45 lumens per watt may no longer be sold in California.

The lamp groups below had been exempt but are now included:

  • Many decorative lamps (Torpedo and Flame tip)
  • Globes (G16.5, G25, and G30)
  • Three-way or multi-watt lamps (any)
  • Reflectors – R20, BR30, BR40 and Halogen PAR20, PAR30 and PAR38

Previously labeled as “stop sell”

  • PAR16 and MR16

What this means is that replacements for the above bulbs will only be available in LED versions.  Sometimes the color renditions of the new replacement LED’s do not match that of the existing bulbs. If you would like a uniform appearance we recommend replacing all non-conforming bulbs at once with replacement LED versions.

Carbon Study Determines Remodeling Is Better Than Building New

Architects, designers, magazines, websites and builders all present good arguments for homeowners to build new houses. Unfortunately lowering your carbon footprint is NOT one of them. A new study compares the difference between building new vs remodel carbon footprint.

New vs Remodel Carbon Footprint
New vs Remodeling

While true that a new house can require far less energy to run than an older home, tearing down an old structure and building a new one generates tons of CO2. 80 tons or so actually, and all for just a 1400 sft cottage according to one study. A relatively small home by US standards.

New homes are far costlier to the environment than renovating and maintaining older properties.

Carbon footprint is a horribly abused phrase, so it’s worth spelling out exactly what it means.

When talking about climate change ie global warming,  footprint is a metaphor for the total impact that something has. And carbon is shorthand for all the different greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

The term carbon footprint, therefore, is a shorthand to describe the best estimate that we can get of the full climate change impact of something. That something could be anything – an activity, an item, a lifestyle, a company, a country or even the whole world.

Human caused global warming is a result of the release of certain types of gas into the atmosphere. The largest man-made greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2). This gas is emitted whenever we burn fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, wood or natural gas) in homes, factories or power stations. But other greenhouse gases are also important. Methane (CH4), for example, which is emitted mainly by agriculture and landfill sites, is 25 times more potent per kilogram than CO2. Even more potent but emitted in smaller quantities are nitrous oxide (N2O), which is about 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide and released mainly from industrial processes and farming, and refrigerant gases, which are typically several thousand times more potent than CO2.

True footprints are heavy

To give an example, the true carbon footprint of driving a car includes not only the emissions that come out of the exhaust pipe, but also all the emissions that take place when oil is extracted, shipped, refined into fuel and transported to the petrol station, not to mention the substantial emissions caused by producing and maintaining the car.

New vs remodel carbon footprint
Typical Scottish cottage

New house footprint

The carbon footprint of building a house also depends on all kinds of things – including, of course, the size of the house and the types of materials chosen. Be sure to see my article on How Many Trees to Build a Home. For this article, the subject homes were based on a study for Historic Scotland.

The estimate of 80 tons calculated above was for the tearing down and reconstruction of simple but energy efficient, brand-new, 1400sft cottages. The homes had two bedrooms upstairs, with two reception rooms and a kitchen downstairs.

The study looked at the climate change implications of various options for these traditional cottages in Dumfries. The options were: leave as it is, refurbish, or knock it down and build a new one. The study looked at the climate change impact for each option over a 100-year period, taking into account the embodied emissions in the construction and maintenance as well as the energy used and generated by those living in the building. 

The results of the study

The worst option by far was to do nothing and leave the old house leaking energy.

The second worst option was knocking down the old structure and building new. This produced about 80 tons CO2e. Eighty tons is a lot of course, but a house may last for a century or more (hopefully). If so the “annual” carbon cost is much less – and for all the new-build options, the up-front emissions from construction work will be paid back by savings from better energy efficiency in 20 years.

The winning option was to refurbish the old house, because the carbon investment of doing this was just eight tons CO2e. Even the highest-specification, highest-cost newbuild option could not catch up this advantage over even a 100-year period. Once the actual cost was taken into account, refurbishment became dramatically the most practical and attractive option. This makes sense because saving the existing structure also saves all the embodied footprint of the original materials that do not have to be mined or manufactured or shipped.


This of course is just one study. But I believe the concept is representative. If so, the bottom line for the new home building industry is clear. Even at the very highest levels of energy-efficiency, newly constructed homes are a step backward as far as saving carbon vs remodeling.  Better is to default to remodeling and save new construction for when there is no other alternative.

Investing in improvements to existing homes is dramatically more cost-effective CO2-wise than building new. Can the same be said of new or electric cars?


This article draws on text from How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee Get it at Amazon Here.

Pacific Coast Builders Conference 2019

I spent last Friday checking out the exhibit hall of this years Pacific Coast Builder Conference for the newest cool building products for 2019. This year the show was held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Here are a few of the highlights for me:

A welcome sight at the entrance to the exhibit hall was a well patina’d old Ford pick-up.


No, it is not a hot tub.  A cutting-edge builder conference needs to display the latest kitchen technology and PCBC did not disappoint. Here is the latest offering from KitchenAid for really BIG families.

cool building products for 2019
Bix mixer

Job Protection

The next thing to catch my eye were these job protection products. Successful builders and remodelers know that nothing exemplifies professionalism more than  showing respect for the clients existing property. At HPS we do this by installing a heavy layer of protection to any area of the home that might be in the path of the work.  Included in this manufacturers line-up was a waterproof, dust-catching protective floor mat. We have already been using the foam corner protectors and they are great. I like them because they install quickly and are tough and reusable. Use these during your next bath or kitchen remodel to both improve your image and save yourself a lot of damage repair expense at the end of the project.


Dog Products

The PCBC show did not leave out Man’s best friend. For those of you contemplating a serious renovation, you might consider adding this dog-washing station to your wish list. It is available on Amazon here. It is free standing and comes ready to be plumbed into your home with your choice of stainless sprayers and a loading ramp for easy in and out. These look great if not a little hospital-like.  I would use them in a garage or outside area or even inside if the area is water-proofed properly and has a floor drain.

cool building products for 2019
Dog washing system

Modular Plumbing

Modular concepts are becoming more mainstream with production builders. Here is a modular lavatory system that bolts between wall studs on a standard stud layout. The module holds are the mountings and piping for attaching choice of faucets and bowls. Currently only offered for commercial applications, I can see this moving into the spec or manufactured home arena next. A neat idea for humans needing to wash up.

Modular vanity system

Schluter Systems

Schluter innovation continues to kick butt in the industry with some of the best systems for waterproofing showers. They also make the best base materials for stone and tile systems, including edge trims and anti-crack mats with integral floor heating. These systems have become extremely popular for curb-less shower systems. I installed two in my home. One in the master bath and the other for my moms bathroom shower. You can order a full range of Schluter products at Amazon.

cool building products for 2019
Shower waterproofing system



One of my favorite new devices is this secure mail and parcel system designed for the “delivered” world we are heading into. This mailbox on steroids is built into the wall fitting neatly between the studs. The outside is accessible via a code to drop off parcels. While the homeowner has access from inside the home. This mailbox is secure. If you own a home and want one, contact me through this website I can arrange the manufacturer to provide one to you.

cool building products for 2019
Secure mailbox
Cool building products for 2019
Contact me if you’re interested in this secure mailbox


Outdoor Kitchens

At the show I found this new line of outdoor kitchen cabinets that are made for the outdoors. All stainless steel, including the hinges. For folks living on the coast, this company will even make these for you out of the fantastic 316 marine grade stainless. Unfortunately the makers of the cabinet drawer slides do not offer them in 316 stainless steel just yet. Too bad as there is definitely a market for them, especially in marine environments. If you are contemplating a new outdoor kitchen be sure to read my post on “outdoor kitchen mistakes to avoid.




That about wraps up the cool building products for 2019 that were present at the PCBC show. It’s good to see that the industry continues to innovate and put out useful new products.


Who killed American Recycling? It’s not who you think.

Homeowners are consuming more stuff than ever and with recycling dead, it’s all ending up in the trash.  

Who killed recycling in America?
recycling dumpster

Almost weekly I read where another US community has stopped recycling. So who killed recycling in America?

I grew up in the late 50’s and all us kids were natural recyclers. We went hunting for that elusive coke bottle along the side of the road because it was worth five cents.  I even remember collecting the little rubber liners from under the Pepsi caps because they were worth a penny each. Our scout troop collected tons of newspaper for recycling too. Very little got wasted.

Master sorters

During the seventies and eighties recycling became more mainstream, and by the nineties, after decades of public-information campaigns, Americans were finally recycling in earnest. All of us knew how to interpret the various recycling symbols at the bottom of product containers.

Architects designed kitchens with recycling centers. Mom’s had separate bins at home for plastic, metal, cardboard and glass. Cans and milk jugs got washed out before being placed in the bins and even the little plastic ring around the necks of bottles had to come off.

Airports, malls, schools, and office buildings across the country had separate bins for plastic bottles and aluminum cans and newspapers. In some cities, you could be fined if inspectors discovered that you hadn’t recycled appropriately.

Who killed recycling in America
Soting recycling properly

Quality products sell, junk does not

As a result of the care put into sorting and collection, the bulk of our recycling product was fairly clean. Clean product in the recycling world means quality. Throughout the 1990’s, the USA produced a high-quality recycle product. The rest of the world wanted it enough to buy it.

Our recycling habit in the US was a good one and old habits are hard to break. To this day many people are still going through the motions of cleaning, sorting and setting out. But now most of that carefully sorted recycling is ending up in the trash. It is enough to make an environmentalist cry!

Recycle right container

What happened?

Ever heard of co-mingled recycling? I bet you have.  Fully comingled or single-stream recycling refers to a system in which all paper, fibers, plastics, metals and other containers are mixed in a collection bin or truck instead of being sorted at the source. Instead the sort takes place at a central collection area where it can (in theory) be sorted more quickly and efficiently. This made so much sense that the idea spread fast from a few test communities in California to nationwide by 2012. By 2013 over 100 million Americans were serviced by comingled recycling. The devilish, time consuming business of sorting glass, plastic and paper waste was now abandoned. Life was simple and easy again. How clever. Not so fast.

Co-mingling is confusing

Turns out that “co-mingling” is mostly confusing. Americans faced with a trash container and a comingled recycling container have no idea the difference.  The result is as you can imagine…a mess!

Who killed recycling in America?
Commingling Advertisement

Because of mass confusion at the source in the collection system, by the time the “co-mingled” material gets to the plant for sorting, it is essentially not much more than pure garbage. The plants are not set up to sort pure garbage and so the system grinds to a halt or puts out filthy product or both. The result is a terrible recycling product and no one, not even China wants to buy it.

Commingled recycling center

So, in ten years the “innovation” of co-mingled recycling has instead murdered the system. Not only are Americans now confused about how and what to recycle but even when they do, the quality is so bad, there is no market for it.

Politicians and the main stream media want you to think that China is to blame. It is not.  Delivering a poor recycling product is our problem. Not China.  If you want to answer the question “who killed recycling in America?” just look for those who introduced and promoted co-mingled waste to the market.

The end of recycling

Waste-management companies across the country are telling towns, cities, and counties that there is no longer a market for their recycling. This is true, but I ask you who really killed the market?

This end of recycling comes at a time when the United States is creating more waste than ever. In 2015, America generated 262.4 million tons of waste, up 4.5 percent from 2010 and 60 percent from 1985. That amounts to nearly five pounds per person a day.

For a long time, Americans have had little incentive to consume less. We love to buy cheap products and then throw them away at the end of their short lives. But the cost of all this garbage is growing, especially now that bottles and papers that were once recycled are now ending up in the trash. It is time to change our thinking.

Companies don’t bear the costs of disposal so they have no incentive to manufacture products out of material that will be easier to recycle. This needs to stop.

The best way to fix recycling is to persuade people to buy less stuff and take better care of the stuff they buy. This would also have the benefit of reducing some of the upstream waste created when products are made. But that’s a hard sell in the United States, where we have a disposable mentality and where consumer spending accounts for 68 percent of the GDP.

Meantime, many municipalities are desperately trying to retrain consumers to recycle properly again. I fully support them and wish them luck, they will need it.  And please no more brilliant shortcuts like co-mingling thank you!


One of my readers, Kerry has asked:  

“Interesting and frustrating article. Frustrating to know that recycling is diminishing. It would be nice to know if persons, cities, HOAs, POAs, townships, etc are being charged by for-profit waste companies for recycling services when their collected material is actually going to the landfills. I call that theft and fraud that needs to be exposed.”

HPM: Thanks for the thoughtful message Kerry.  You have a very good point. A ton of money has been spent on separate trucks, collection bins, sorting centers etc. Who paid for all that, and who is paying for it now?

Who killed recycling in America?
Too little, too late! Recycle properly poster

Spring Cleaning and Oily Rag Fires

Now that Spring is starting to make an appearance, many folks will be getting ready to refinish weathered outdoor decks, wood trim and furniture to look beautiful again. Be careful!  You need to know about some very real fire risks when with working oil finishes.

Fires from oily rags
Gorgeous refinished teak outdoor furniture

A while back we had a fire break out on one of our jobs in the middle of the night. Fortunately, it was confined to an exterior area where it could not affect the main property. Even so, it destroyed some tools and a wood fence and brought out the fire department. We were very lucky. If it had happened adjacent to the main structure, or if it had occurred during the dry summer months, things could have been much, much worse.

We were shocked and disturbed that such a thing could happen on one of our jobsites. We are meticulous about keeping safe working areas. Everyone on the crew is safety conscious and we have regular safety meetings. We clean-up at the end of every day.

How does this happen?

My project manager and the fire department explained to me what happened.  A painting station had been set up on the grounds outside in order to pre-finish a large quantity of IPE deck material. We had been using the station to hand apply a widely used material called IPE Oil to all sides of the deck boards. We would clean and coat the boards in the station, then transfer them to racks for drying.

Before transferring the treated boards to the drying rack, we would wipe off any excess oil with clean cotton rags. Our safety protocol was to place all used rags into a water-filled five-gallon bucket at the end of the day and seal the top before leaving. Although protocol had been followed that day, one rag apparently got left out. Turns out the questionable rag had only been used once and our employee thought it looked clean enough for continued use the next day. Wrong!

Preventive Maintenance-spontaneous combustion dangers
IPE finishing and drying racks

The rag was left on a bench next to the plastic paint station and sometime during the night it had caught fire. Once the rag was in flames it quickly spread to the plastic and that in turn caught the fence and tool box on fire. What a mess.

Spontaneous fires

The most common type of Spontaneous Combustion Fires are caused by improperly disposed of oil and stain soaked rags. As we have learned, the rags do not have to be “soaked”.

The products to be careful with are any oil-based paints, stains, teak and especially linseed oils. Varnishes, polyurethane and paint thinners are also problematic.

As I have learned the hard way, spontaneous combustion is not some interesting but freaky theory like ancient aliens. It is a real and predictable phenomenon. It WILL happen very predictably when cloth with any of the above oils on it is slowly heated to its ignition point through oxidation. This occurs over the course of only 3-6 hours.

Oxidation and heat

Oils and stains are designed to “oxidize” (interact with the oxygen in air) in order to dry properly. Apparently, any substance will begin to release heat as it oxidizes. When the material is spread out thinly on a board, the heat build-up is miniscule and not a problem.  But, if this heat has no way to escape, as happens inside a wadded or piled-up stack of rags, the temperature will raise high enough to ignite the oil and the cloth. Once a fire actually catches, look out. It can spread quickly to any other combustibles in the area and as you might imagine cause great damage to your home or property.

Prevention of spontaneous combustion fires begins with education about the risk. You and your employees need to understand how this works and take it seriously. Next, you must require really good housekeeping around the work area and strictly follow an oily rag protocol. A clean work area can prevent a fire from spreading and getting bigger by not allowing the fire fuel to burn.

Fully understanding the potential risk is the key step in eliminating these preventable fires.

Oily Rag Disposal Protocol

According to our local Los Altos Hills Fire Department you must take the following steps:

  • Use a container with a tight-fitting lid. A metal can is preferable, but a plastic can or even a zip lock bag can work if nothing else is available.
  • Place soiled and used rags inside and then fill the rest the way with water, seal the top and do not open it. This will prevent the oils from oxidizing, and thus keep the rags from heating up and igniting.
  • Contact your local garbage disposal company for their policy on disposal of both the can/bag etc., and its contents. Some companies will actually permit disposal in the regular household trash, but you need to check first.

I would emphatically also add to the list above, that if you are working with any of these volatile oil materials, only do so in areas free of combustibles, that would be safe even if a fire happened to develop.

Thinking “fail-safe” will let you sleep better at night.

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