Category : DIY

10 PVC Pipe Gift Ideas for Mother’s Day

Every year, stores, television commercials, and internet ads are filled with Mother’s Day gift ideas like chocolates, flowers, and candles (not to mention the push to make your brunch reservations). But this Mother’s Day, our heating and cooling service company suggests taking a break from the norm and treating mom to something homemade. We’ve found some great PVC pipe crafts that are not only affordable, but easy to make!

Kitchen Organizer

Every mom loves an organized kitchen, right? With this tutorial by Ashbee Design, you can create a wall- or cabinet-mountable organizer for mom’s pots, pans, spoons, measuring tools, and more. All you need is PVC piping in several diameters and foam-backed mounting tape. You can even get creative and paint the pipes different colors!

Double Laundry Bin

Double laundry bins come in handy for separating large loads of lights and darks, but many times, they’re pretty pricey. Make mom her very own double laundry bin that’s customized to her favorite color or pattern. Better Homes and Gardens shows you how to do it using PVC piping, spray paint, and fabric.

Custom Lamp

Lamps can add a nice warm ambiance to any room, and PVC lamps are super-easy to make. Simply choose your desired PVC size and use a drill bit or small saw to carve a design into it. You can make it as classic or modern as you’d like. Then, fit a lightbulb into a cut (and empty) paper towel tube and slide the pipe over top. If your “lampshade” is larger than a paper towel tube, glue pieces of another tube on either side to make it fit snugly inside.

Bubble Wreath

Wreaths are great to hang on your front door year round, and what’s better than a wreath that’s great looking and durable? To make a wreath for mom, grab some PVC pipes in various sizes and cut them into 3-inch pieces. Then, use a hot glue gun to glue together into a “bubble” wreath. The best part is you can paint the pipes any color you want and even fill them with decorative bulbs for extra flair.

Wine Rack

PVC pipes come in a wide variety of diameters, which means you can easily find one that will fit a wine bottle. Follow these simple instructions by Daily Savings and you can make mom her very own stylish wine rack that can hold as many bottles as you’d like. Bonus: Use this same technique (but bigger pipes) to make her an organizing shoe rack.

Hair Styling Tool Holder

This awesome Mother’s Day gift is perhaps the easiest craft on our list. All you need is a Y-shaped (or double Y-shaped) PVC pipe piece that’s big enough to hold mom’s hair dryer, curling iron, straightener, or any other hair styling tools she has. To make it even more unique, coat the piece with some pretty paint before giving it to her.

Floating Planter

If your mom loves plants, why not make her a beautiful windowsill floating planter? This craft takes a little more time, but it’s something we know she’ll love. Grab a large PVC pipe, some rocks and soil, and a few of mom’s favorites plants or herbs and follow these instructions from A Beautiful Mess.

Jewelry Holder

Does mom wear a lot of bracelets and necklaces? Give her a great place to store it all with a DIY jewelry holder. We found a great video tutorial for making one (though the girl in the video uses paper towel tubes – we think PVC pipes would be better).

Sewing Organizer

Sewing accessories are small, and between bobbins, needles, spools of thread, and buttons, they can get easily lost or misplaced. Use several different sizes of PVC pipe and cut them into 2-inch or 3-inch pieces. Glue the pieces together and coat them with a crafty shade of paint and mom will have the perfect place to store her accessories.


Birdhouses always make great gifts – especially ones that are resistant to outdoor elements. With some PVC piping, a saw, and a piece of wood you can make this adorable birdhouse that mom can put anywhere in her yard. Like many of our other crafts, you can make it unique by painting it to match her garden or make it her favorite color.

*Photo courtesy of

Stop That Leaky Faucet

fix leaky faucet

We know a leaky faucet can be annoying, but it can also be wasteful. In fact, if you have a faucet that drips one drip per second, you’ll waste about five gallons of water every day. You can usually fix a leaky faucet on your own (though if you don’t feel like being a handyman, you can gladly call our plumbing repair service). Just follow these steps and your faucet should be as good as new:

First of all, determine what kind of sink you have. The four most common are: compression, ball, ceramic, and cartridge. After you figure it out, turn off the water underneath your sink. Then, close the sink drain by pulling the sink stopper rod up and use a rag or towel to cover the sink so that no parts accidentally fall down the drain.

Here’s how to fix your sink based on its type:

Compression Faucet

Compression faucets come with rubber washers called “seat washers,” and if your faucet is leaking, it’s most likely because of a worn or damaged washer. To begin, remove the faucet handle and unscrew the packing nut underneath it. Then, unscrew the stem (the piece that’s attached to the packing nut) and lift off the seat washer underneath. You can find a replacement seat washer at any local home improvement store. (We also recommend replacing the O-ring that sits around the washer.) After attaching a new washer and O-ring, you can put the faucet back together.

Ball Faucet

Because of the way ball faucets are designed, they’re more complicated than other faucets and it may be tough to pinpoint where the leak is coming from. Instead of attempting the job yourself, we advise having a professional do it so that you know it’s done right. Schedule an appointment with us today and we’ll get your faucet fixed as soon as possible.

Ceramic Disc Faucet

As with compression faucets, ceramic disk faucets often leak because of a worn or damaged seal. To fix it, push back the handle to reveal the screw. Unscrew the screw and lift the handle off. After that, you can remove the escutcheon cap and unscrew the mounting screws. Pull the cylinder out of its sleeve and you should see the faucet’s seals. Replace them with new seals and then reassemble the faucet.

Cartridge Faucet

The cause of a cartridge faucet leak is usually its O-rings, so the first thing to do is remove the cap on the handle and then remove the handle screw. Pull the handle off and use pliers (if you need them) to remove the retaining clip that is attached to the cartridge. After that, pull the cartridge up and remove the spout. You should see the O-rings, which you can then cut off. Replace the O-rings and put the faucet back together.

Air Conditioning Repairs: DIY or Call The Pros?

Happy Monday, and welcome back to our “DIY? Or Call A Pro?” series! We discussed some plumbing scenarios in the last installment, and today we’re going to look at some things homeowners can do when their air conditioning has stopped working. As always, be sure that you have the proper tools, and know how to use them safely before attempting any repairs yourself.

1 wrench

One Wrench Solutions: Things Anyone Can Do!

  1. Check your thermostat.

    • Is the display operating? If not, change the batteries.
    • Check to be sure that your setting is for “Cool.”
    • Lower the temperature by 5 degrees and listen for the system to come on.
    • Is the desired temperature realistic? Most air conditioners will cool 20 degrees below outdoor air temperature, and are rated for 95 degree days. So if the temperature outside is 98 degrees, and the thermostat is set for 67, the system will not reach the desired temperature and may be damaged in the attempt. Adjust your thermostat settings within the expected range and listen for the unit to cycle on and off properly.

2. Check the outdoor unit.

    • Is the condenser blocked by trees, shrubbery, tall grass, or other debris? This is especially important to check after a storm or after a long absence from home.
    • Is there an outdoor emergency switch that has been shut off by accident?

3. Check the indoor unit.

    • First, check the breaker in the circuit panel. Switch a tripped breaker back on and monitor the unit closely to be sure it is cycling correctly. If the breaker trips multiple times, be sure to call a pro.
    • Check the filter – is it clogged or dirty? If so, replace it immediately (or clean a washable filter). Standard filters should be changed every month – set a reminder on your calendar!
    • Is the blower door latched closed? The unit won’t run if this has been left open.
    • Check the drain pan (also called a condensate tray) for excess water. If you have a safety switch installed, the unit will shut off when an excessive amount of water collects in the pan – this saves you from expensive and inconvenient water damage, and is highly recommended particularly for customers with attic units. If the pan is full and the safety switch has been activated, call for a service appointment.

2 wrench

Two Wrench Solutions: Some Experience Necessary

1. Check your registers.

    • Check that the registers that supply each room are open. This is easiest to do while the system is running and feel with your hand the amount of air coming through. If you have a large home with many registers, or are not sure whether there is a blockage at one of the registers, you may want to call a pro for help.

2. Inspect your ducts.

    • You can do a visual inspection of your ductwork to look for kinks, tears, holes, or other problems. A thorough inspection follows the duct work from your system through to each register in the house, including through crawlspaces, attics, and basements. If you are not able to follow the line all the way through, or aren’t sure what you’re looking for, a pro can help.

3. Adjust your home’s humidification.

    • Some humidity issues are easy to diagnose and can be fixed with a stand alone room dehumidifier. Others may require a whole home solution. Check that any room with a particular humidity problem has windows and doors that close properly and aren’t leaking excessive amounts of air.

4. Clean your coils.

    • Your Oliver technician will inspect the coils on your unit during your annual maintenance visit, and clean them when needed. The outdoor coil may need cleaning or have damaged fins after a bad storm or once you’ve removed other debris. You should be sure that you know how to safely and properly clean a coil before attempting to do so. Please take particular care not to open any sealed casings or bend pipes, as this can damage your system and void any remaining warranty.

3 wrenchThree Wrench Solutions: Always Call Your Oliver Pro!

  1. Frequently tripping breakers can indicate a problem with a compressor or an electrical malfunction. Do not attempt to make repairs yourself.
  2. “Short cycling” unit – this is when the unit turns on and off frequently without reaching the desired temperature. Call a pro to diagnose and repair the problem.
  3. Running constantly – if you’ve ruled out a thermostat problem, and the unit continues to run without reaching temperature, give us a call to identify the problem.
  4. Refrigeration leak – our cooling professionals are trained to handle this material safely. There are requirements and regulations in place for personal and environmental safety, and refrigeration related repairs should not be attempted by homeowners.

We understand how frustrating a no cooling situation can be, and hope that these tips empower you to handle problems with your air conditioner with confidence. As always, our professionals are here to help, just give us a call or request an appointment online!

FriDIY: Taking Better Smart Phone Pictures

Whether you snap hundreds of candids of your kids, or meticulously document every meal on Instagram, chances are good that at least some of your photos will be taken with a smart phone. We do this here at Oliver too, when we notice a good opportunity to share some of our behind-the-scenes news with customers on our Facebook page or when our technicians encounter a problem that would make a good discussion for a training class.

I’m skeptical of whether smart phone photos can ever totally match what you can do with a DSLR, but they have clearly come a long way and there are some great apps and tutorials that will help you make the most of your phone’s camera capabilities. And whether you’re using a smart phone or a DSLR, you should always pay attention to the basics that make or break a good photo:

Framing The Image

Look at your subject’s surroundings – what do you want to see in the final picture? Sometimes, you can’t avoid taking the picture and cropping out an undesirable element later. But there are lots of times when you can reposition the subject or yourself to get an image that makes the most of your surroundings. This isn’t a smart phone photo, but look at the difference between cropping this original image and framing the same scene from a different angle:

Original photo – the porch is too prominent in the scene.

Same image, cropped. The subjects are now the focus, but the angle and lighting are awkward.

Same subjects and background re-framed – now you can see their expressions!


Good lighting isn’t just for studio photography. With your smart phone, natural light is your most important source. Pay attention to where it’s coming from, and how it’s landing on your subject. You don’t have as many options for playing with lighting in editing smart phone photos, so it’s important to get it right in the original image. If you are taking smart phone pictures of food, or taking a portrait of someone who is able to hold it for you (or have an assistant to hold it when photographing a baby), you can DIY a reflector like this to distribute the light:

Using the Right Camera Mode

It’s so disappointing when you think you have a great picture, and it turns out blurry. Or you can barely see a brightly lit building that looked great on the display. Leaving your camera on Auto will get you a lot of good shots, but you should be familiar with all of the modes available so that you can toggle between them quickly and get your best shot.

One of my personal favorites is Sports mode, which is great for kids and pets who are rarely completely still! In this image, Velma’s ears were twitching while she was taking her sunbath – in Auto, one or both of them probably would have blurred, but in Sports mode I was able to capture how calm and relaxed she was.

Happy snapping, and have a great weekend everybody!

Here are some of my favorite tutorials for taking great smart phone pictures:

To Get You Started: 10 Tips To Make Your Phone Photos Amazing (via Photojojo)

For the Artsy Phone Photographer: Tips for Water Reflections, Abstracts, Splashes, Puddles, and More (via Picture Correct)

For the Mamarazzi: Easy Ways For Mom To Get In The Photo (via Modern Parents Messy Kids)

30 Best Photography Apps for iPhone (via The Next Web)


Christmas Lighting: The Merry & the Scary

We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving break and enjoyed time with family and friends! I started my Christmas decorating over the weekend, which is always one of my favorite things to do (taking them down is another story). Our Electrical Services manager, Rodney, has some tips to share today about the Merry and the Scary of Christmas decorating:

– Extension cords that are inspected before use, and have the newer style, thicker wire.
– Timers that save electricity by shutting your decorations off automatically during the day and late at night.
– Outdoor lights plugged into GFCI receptacles. Those are the ones with the little emergency button at the top, like you see in bathrooms or kitchens.


– Old extension cords with thin wire, loose prongs, or other signs of overuse and damage -replace them!
– Overloaded receptacles and breakers. Use surge protectors if multiple cords will be going to a receptacle, and redistribute your lights if the breakers keep tripping. If redistribution doesn’t solve the problem, call the Oliver experts at 484-477-0461 for additional help.
– Outdoor timers that are exposed to the elements. Wrap plastic bags around them to prevent them tripping your GFCI receptacles when the weather gets wet!

We’re signing off today with one of my all-time favorite Christmas movie clips, chock-full of the Scary – the infamous Christmas house lighting from National Lampoon!

DIY: Halloween Trick Or Treat Bags

We hope you enjoy this Halloween craft! From our friends at


These clever trick-or-treat bags are simple to construct and help keep children safe because they glow in the dark.

Tools and Materials
Templates (bat, ghost, ghost window, spider, spider web)
Brown paper bag (approximately 13 by 10 inches long and 5 inches deep)
Glow tape, 1/2 inch in width
Craft knife
Mini Slinkies
White duct tape
Martha Stewart screw hole punch
Reflective fabric
Black fun foam
Black duct tape
Chip board

Bat Trick-or-Treat Bag How-To
1. Cut a circle out of reflective fabric. Glue circle to bag.

2. Download and print bat template. Trace bat template onto black fun foam. Cut out bat from fun foam using craft knife.

3. Take a mini Slinky and cut off a section of approximately 6 coils. Stretch the Slinky so it pops out. Attach Slinky to back of bat with black duct tape. Placing chip board inside of bag for protection, take the Martha Stewart screw hole punch and punch through the center of the yellow moon. Feed other end of Slinky through hole and tape with duct tape inside.

Ghost Trick-or-Treat Bag How-To
1. Download and print ghost and ghost window templates. Take brown paper bag. First, make the ghost window by cutting one black rectangle, about 8 1/2 by 4 inches. Place rectangle on a piece of wax paper.

2. Start peeling strips of 1/2-inch glow tape and stick around window to make frame. Then, using scissors, cut the 1/2-inch glow-tape strips into 1/4-inch glow-tape strips. To make the window sill, cut a 1/4-inch strip of glow tape about 5 inches in length and apply to window frame. Then peel and stick 1/4-inch strips of glow tape horizontally and vertically to form window. Using rubber cement, paint back of completed window and paint brown bag where window will be placed. Let rubber cement dry for approximately 3 minutes. Stick window onto bag.

3. Take sheet of white fun foam; trace ghost template. Cut out ghost using craft knife.

4. Take a mini Slinky and cut off a section of approximately 6 coils. Stretch the Slinky so it pops out. Attach Slinky to back of ghost with white duct tape. Placing chip board inside of bag for protection, take Martha Stewart screw hole punch and punch where you want the pop out to be. Feed other end of Slinky through hole and tape with duct tape inside.

Spider Trick-or-Treat Bag How-To
1. Download and print spider and spider web templates. To make the spider web, cut 1/2-inch pieces of glow tape into strips that are a 1/4 inch wide and measured to the length and width of the bag. Peel and stick glow tape in an X shape; peel and stick glow tape in a cross shape to create the foundation of the web. Cut small pieces of glow tape to fit in between cross and X spaces. Repeat the process until your bag is completely covered.

2. Take sheet of black fun foam, trace spider template. Cut out spider using craft knife.

3. Take a mini Slinky and cut off a section of approximately 6 coils. Stretch the Slinky so it pops out. Attach slinky to back of spider with black duct tape. Placing chip board inside of bag for protection, take the Martha Stewart screw hole punch and punch through the center of the web. Feed other end of Slinky through hole and tape with duct tape inside.

The Martha Stewart screw hole punch is available at Martha Stewart Crafts. Glow tape can be found at Reflective fabric is from Mini Slinkies are available at most toy stores, for about $1.59.

Easy, elegant centerpieces: A Pinterest project review

We’re having a lot of fun here at Oliver trying out new recipes and projects from Pinterest! Today I’m sharing one that I tested this past weekend for a family dinner party. I give the starting point a thumbs up and the finished product two thumbs up.

I usually like to give credit to the original sources and compare their instructions with the actual experience. In this case, either this has been repinned too many times and the link is no good anymore or the original link went to a blog’s main page and the post has been lost in the shuffle, so today you get what I got: the picture and the description which is basically a materials list. (Clicking on the picture will take you to my own Pinterest board in case you want to repin it.)

What the materials list doesn’t tell you is the size and quantity of what you need, or how to put it together which is trickier than it looks. So I’ll help you out and save you the couple of “trials by error” that I did – because, trust me, it is no fun fishing lemon slices out of the mouth of a Mason jar, especially if you nicked your finger when slicing them in the first place!

I used the large size Mason jars and two lemons per jar. One grocery store bunch of white carnations was enough to fill two jars, although next time I would add some other flowers to make it a little more robust. The lemon slices that ended up being flexible enough to squeeze through the mouth of the jar but still stand up were about a quarter to a half inch thick – one of two reasons I ended up fishing lemon slices out of the jar!

The other was in figuring out the right order to fill the jars. This turned out to be: flowers, then lemons, then water. If the lemons go in first, they will fight you to the death about being seperated. I didn’t even try water first because of the splash factor. But when the flowers go in first, you can press them to the side with your thumb and slide the lemon slices in around them. Rotate the jar as you go and try to pack the slices in pretty tightly so they don’t float away when you add the water.

Once I figured out the order and the thickness of the lemons, the second jar only took me about five minutes to put together. And everyone loved them, so it was well worth the effort. I’ve definitely added this one to my go-to quick decorations repertoire – I plan to do variations with oranges and limes too!

Have a great weekend everyone!


Fun DIY: Chalkboard Coasters

The Pinterest bug has been going around Oliver for awhile now. Every few days, an exotic new dish shows up on the kitchen table for everyone to test, or we’re all smacking our heads over a “why didn’t I think of that?!” or there’s some crafty little thing to add to our ever-growing lists. So I thought it might be fun to start showcasing some of the projects and recipes here and give you our take on what was quick and fun, what was worth the blood, sweat, and tears, and what you should just leave as a pretty picture on the boards.

For our first venture, I’m presenting my very first Pinterest Project Success Story – chalkboard coasters! Here is the link to the original inspiration.

I made these last Christmas and they were a lot of fun! The hardest part was getting a full box of ceramic tiles (heavy, heavy, heavy) up to my third floor craft room. Instead of the chalkboard spray paint, I actually mixed my own chalkboard paint and used that – also super simple, and one cup was plenty to do two coats on all of the tiles. If I did it again, I would probably mix up a little bit more paint and do a third coat. I found that it was best to erase the chalk with a soft cloth because a paper towel sometimes scratched through the chalkboard coating. I tied them up in sets of four and attached a piece of chalk and gave them away in beverage-themed gift bags.

This project gets two thumbs up from me – it was fun, easy, and people really seemed to like them! I’ve seen them used at a couple of parties, and it’s fun to see how people decorate their coasters and make them unique.

Do you have a favorite Pinterest project? Tell us about it in the comments!

If Our Walls Could Talk, I Bet They’d Just Start Screaming

Only two Mondays left until Memorial Day! It’s time to start thinking about trips down the shore, working in gardens for those of you who are better than me at keeping green things alive, and reminding the dog that there are more fun things to do in the backyard than fertilizing it.

This year, our summer plans are all about The House. We say this in capitals at home because, like a lot of first-time homeowners, my husband and I bought a place that was budget-friendly and project intensive. Sometimes we have to watch “The Money Pit” with Tom Hanks to remind ourselves that it could be worse! We have a project wish list a mile long, and we spend a lot of time looking at it and discussing what is worth putting our time and money into, especially since we know that we will be selling the house within a year or so. Do we put our blood, sweat, tears, and cash into things that the next family will get to enjoy more than we do? I’m all for charity and love-thy-neighbor and all that jazz, but not that much!

So, what are we going to do with The House? What improvements are worth making now, and what will we leave for the next owners? Most of what we want to do involves staging the house, which is a weird real estate way of saying “make total strangers want to live they way they think you live.” Since we’re both pretty genuine people, we decided to do this by (now here’s an idea) living the way we actually live, and making it look good. So I’m having fun trawling flea markets and auctions to get just the right pieces of furniture and accessories to show off the details that the house already has going for it, like my beloved built-in bookcases and old-school hardwood floors. These will come with us when we sell, or go back to the auctions, so the investment carries over.

And what about the things we can’t take? Well, that’s a tougher discussion. The easy part was ripping down the amazingly ugly pink and blue gold-leafed paisley wallpaper and giving the place a fresh coat of paint. (I hear my husband face-palming now at the use of the word “easy” in reference to ripping down, I kid you not, 55 year old wallpaper, but sometimes you have to lie to yourself to be able to start the next project, right?) Now that that’s done, we have to decide about bringing this 1910 house into 2012, and installing an air conditioning system.

I know what you’re thinking now – “Hey, you work for an HVAC company, isn’t that the easiest thing to get done?” Well, yes and no. Yes, because I know I can count on Oliver to give me great options and to do a great job once we make a decision. No, because there are a lot of great options out there to consider. Do we keep our oil boiler and add a straight A/C unit? Or maybe put in a heat pump and keep the oil as a backup system? Or, do we go along with our next-door neighbors and convert both houses to natural gas and then decide about the A/C or heat pump issue? So many options! I’m lucky to have such great advisors on tap here at Oliver, I know they’re going to help us decide what’s best for us and The House. And because I’m such a sweetheart (stop laughing, husband!), I’ll even share them with you!