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Look into a new mirror

Did you know that there are different grades and qualities of mirrors? Or that having a mirror professionally installed can double, even triple its cost?

In the average-size bathroom, you can have a high-quality quarter-inch thick plate glass mirror for only about $20 more than you would pay for a thinner, standard track grade 3/1 6 inch thick mirror. And, if you install the thicker mirror yourself, the bottom-line cost will be less than what you would pay to have someone install the cheaper one.

So, what's the difference? Quality. A sharper, brighter, less distorted image. And, a mirror that doesn't remind you of the fun house at the carnival. Remember: a thinner mirror will be prone to distortion.

Before 1968, most mirrors were polished on both sides to achieve a smooth, wave-free surface. Since that time, manufacturing technology has improved and mirror costs have been held down.

A mirror made from polished glass is better than one that hasn't been ground smooth first. The new mirror manufacturing process is called floating. And the resultant product is called float glass, as opposed to polished glass.

A good grade of float glass is just the beginning. Believe it or not, silver is still used by better manufacturers as the reflective surface. The thicker the silver, the more reflective the mirror is. Finally, a coat of copper is applied to protect the silver.

Because of modern mirror manufacturing technology, all of us can afford to have a mirror of a quality that was once available only to the wealthy.

We don't suggest that you try installing 8-foot long by 4-foot high mirrors yourself. When you decide to install your next mirror make sure it is one that you can handle without straining. Remember, with a mirror installation you have to deal with weight about 3.5 pounds per square foot and bulk. Not just one or the other.

Also, hardware stores and home improvement centers are not the best places to purchase mirrors. Usually, glass companies offer the widest selection at the most competitive prices.

If the mirror you want in your home appears to be a size that you can handle, you probably can put it up yourself.

Here's how:

First, you'll need four mounting clips. These can be found at the glass company from which you purchase the mirror. Expect to spend about $6.

If you are installing the mirror over a counter or a backsplash, place the bottoms of the bottom clips onto the countertop or the top of the splash and screw them in place with lag or molly screws. Use a regular screw if you are lucky enough to be aligned with a stud. The clips should be placed to support the mirror three to four inches in from each corner.

If the mirror is to be hung in a place where no reference exists, a pencil line should be made about one inch above the lowest point of the mirror. The line becomes the reference point for installing the mounting clip screws.

If you can find a set of four clips where two are slotted, the installation will be easier. The slotted clips are used to hold the top of the mirror. With the slotted type, all four clips are installed before the mirror is installed. This makes the installation safer and easier. Install all four clips, move the slotted clips to their up position, set the mirror onto the bottom clips, push the mirror in place against the wall or door and slide the upper clips down to hold the mirror permanently in place. Take a step back and admire the installer.

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James Carey and Morris Carey are nationally recognized experts on home building and renovation.

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