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Handyman Letter
November 1, 2001


1) The trust we gained and gave...a message from the Natural Handyman

2) Our appreciation to sites and publications that have recently linked to, listed or featured NH!

3) Sweepstakes Central... winners and new contests!!

4) What's new at

5) Q&A with our readers


7) "Pass the hammer, would ya?"... NH's readers speak out!

8) Featured in the Natural Handyman Bookshop...
"Refacing Cabinets: Making an Old Kitchen New" by Herrick Kimball

9) Recommend our newsletter to a friend... or rate our newsletter!!



We float. Every day the sea which is our everyday world carries us onward... just bobbing above the sea froth towards some unknown place. Most of the time, we really don't pay much attention to that invisible-yet-real world. Our short-term goals, our plans and our dreams lay like the crust of the earth over a flowing, ever-changing reality. Like the earth's mantle, the reality that underlies all our perceptions rests quite quietly... till our breath is ripped from us in some earthquake-like undulation of life's true power! Are we then little more than window dressing to be cast off at the whim of the shopkeeper? Could it be that our everyday bobbing reality is... not real?

Of course, we don't analyze everything we do. But... if we peel away life's foibles and inequities, its prattling idiots and genius malcontents, the world's great lovers and great losers, all the joy and the pain... we are left with an innate need to... trust.

No business, club, marriage or friendship can exist without the trust that other people will keep their commitments. Without trust, laws, contracts and constitutions have no meaning. Trust is not just a human activity, though. Ask any pet owner how trust enhances... or lack thereof can destroy... the relationship they have with their favorite creature! Trust is fundamental to ALL relationships.

It has been often said, and rightfully so, that trusting others begins with trusting yourself. Trusting oneself does not come easily, though, because it takes not only self-knowledge but also force of will to accept your life's realities, accomplish your personal goals and vanquish your personal demons. In the simplest of terms, one half of gaining trust in oneself is KNOWING what you need to do to change your life for the better. The more difficult half is DOING what needs to be done!

Perhaps more than any other group, those who work the land know this irrefutable truth about life. Those involved in this ancient-yet-scientific art must be fiercely independent, self-reliant and confident to dodge the punches and kicks of an uncontrollable and unpredictable environment. They must trust themselves and their judgments... decisions made sometimes with little information and lots of faith. They must continue to trust in themselves... even when they fail.

Yet, with all their self-reliance they realize that they need other people to help them learn new skills and better methods. They need people whose knowledge and ability they trust. And they know that there are others who need to trust them, too. From this bond rises a community, born of common need but only as strong as its shared trust.

Trust is the essence of human freedom, both personal and social. Not a step can be taken or a breath enjoyed without trust of firm ground or sweet air. And we ALL need to keep our feet on the ground and our heads up high so we can see what's coming... and the inner trust to know we have the strength... to survive it!





That's right... be ready or be sorry! Read NH's view of what you should do to prepare yourself and your home for winter's worst! 


We support the "Change Your Clock, Change Your Batteries" campaign sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs. They recommend getting into "the habit" of changing your smoke alarm batteries when the time changes in the fall. I'm sure many of you don't even remember the last time you changed the batteries in YOUR smoke alarms... SO DO IT NOW and be safe!

If you want to brush up on your smoke alarm "savvy", read our article at:



Dear NH,

I have a drywall ceiling above my patio deck that had a plaster-like texture. The texture was all falling off, so I scraped it clean and painted it with a white outside paint.

I have found white texture paint and would like to put some texture back on the ceiling. The problem is that this paint is for interior use only.

Can you put interior paint outside if it is going over a coat of exterior paint? I can't find any ready-made ceiling texture paint for outdoors.

TD from California, MD


Most of the textured surfaces you see outdoors are stucco, a Portland cement-based texture coating that is suitable for inside or outside use. The plaster-like texture paints, though, are not rugged enough to withstand outside exposure. Exterior paints have certain qualities that allow them to stand the rigors of the weather... chemically-enhanced mildew resistance, moisture resistance and sunlight resistance. Texture paints tend to give a soft surface with some porosity and virtually no mildew resistance.

Since stucco is not designed to adhere to drywall, I wouldn't recommend using it for your application. However, all is not lost. Apply your interior texture paint... but once it is completely dry apply a coat or two of exterior paint right over the top of it! You will still have the attractive texture, but the exterior paint will act as a barrier to the limited exposure to the weather your ceiling will have. Then you have all bases covered... and the ceiling!


Dear NH,

I've just purchased a replacement garage door remote from Sears. Can I program it to open both of my garage doors?

BM from Pensacola, FL


It depends whether or not the remote you purchased has that feature! Some remotes do allow you to open two doors, but the remote would have two buttons dedicated to garage door opener frequencies. Others have multiple buttons but they will only operate other features of Sears openers, such as turning on lights.

If you didn't get instructions or lost them, has instructions for many currently available openers, as well as compatible remotes for virtually every garage door opener. Their url is


Dear NH,

I have mold coming through the exterior walls of my home. Is their anything short of wrapping and re-siding the exterior that can be done?

SM from Clarkston, Washington


In a quest for particular knowledge, it is sometimes as simple as asking the right question! In this case, the question to ask is "Where is the moisture coming from?"

If the exterior siding is wet much of the time because the moldy side of the house is very shady (or if the entire house is in a damp, wooded area), doing some outside work such as wrapping the house with Tyvek or a similar house wrap and re-siding will indeed be beneficial. Then again, it might be easier (and cheaper) to prune back any foliage near the house or cut down a few trees to allow Mother Nature to do the drying for you... naturally!

However, if the problem is originating inside your home from a damp basement or crawl space, exterior work will not help. Rather, moisture proofing the walls and/or floor may show greater results with less expense. Read our article on damp basements at

There is also some information about reducing moisture in crawlspaces in our article on mildew at


Dear NH,

I recently purchased a home with a walk-in closet. Since the small light in there was too dim, I had a repairman install a florescent light which is wired into the same wiring as the ceiling light. When the switch is turned on the ceiling light and the florescent light go on.

The problem is that the florescent fixture buzzes very loudly. Any idea how to eliminate the buzzing? Thanx.

MR from Pittston, PA


Not to my knowledge. Buzzing is characteristic "flaw" of fluorescent fixtures and is more pronounced in both inexpensive ones and old ones. The buzzing is often not noticed, especially during the day, because of other ambient noise.

I wish I had some encouraging news but unless one or our readers has a solution your choices are simple... either get used to it as a necessary annoyance OR replace it with one (or more) incandescent fixtures of higher wattage or even multiple recessed fixtures.



7) "PASS THE HAMMER, WOULD YA?"... NH's readers speak out!

Dear NH,

I read your article on ice dams, and while there are a number of preventions of ice dams agreed to by most, there are also disagreements.

You seem to be in a distinct minority with the view that gutters do not play a role in ice damming. The majority say: "It's the gutters, stupid!" and some recommend the use of deflectors instead. We live in a newly constructed condo and have had leaks twice from ice dams. An "ice and water shield" has been installed but I'm still nervous. We want both prevention of the dams as well as the barrier shield.



Honestly, you should be more nervous that a modern condominium in "snow country" would be built without an ice and water shield on the roof!! Makes you wonder what else the builder overlooked!

Assuming the shield has been installed correctly, your leak worries from ice dams should be over, so sleep well. Believe me... if there were a way to absolutely prevent ice dams, the ice and water shield would be unnecessary!

Regarding my "minority" position on the role of gutters, let me expound. If you take a moment to consider how ice dams form, it is obvious that gutters are the "victims" of ice dams, not the cause. Ice dams are caused by water which melts off the central part of a roof due to warmth in the attic but refreezes along the cooler edge of the roof causing a wall of ice, or dam, to grow. A pool of unfrozen water can form behind this dam and, if large enough, will leak under the shingles and into the house.

It is a fact that attics with maximum ventilation AND a temperature approaching the outside temperature will have minimal damming. This is because there is minimal melting and runoff when the outside temperature is below freezing. The critical factor is the "speed" at which the snow melts when outside temperatures are below freezing. The greater the difference between the attic and the outside temperature, the greater the potential for dam-caused leakage due to the quickly melting snow.

Gutters are involved in ice dams only as far as they are in the path of ice that forms on the roof. A gutter may cause an ice dam to become larger, but the reality is that roofs without gutters also form ice dams! Therefore you cannot blame the gutters... at most they are innocent bystanders.

Another thought, but an important one. Gutters have a purpose... to direct water away from the house's foundation. Without them, year-round moisture problems or even basement flooding can occur. So the choice of whether or not to have gutters is a moot one for many homeowners with basements.

Roof water deflectors, or "diverters", are useful in redirecting the flow of water on a roof, but they cannot take the place of a good gutter/leader system in controlling rainwater. I have known some condominiums that do not use gutters, but the reason is not to control ice dams but to lower the maintenance cost associated with regular gutter cleaning and maintenance.

Join the minority... it's not very crowded here and there's always room for one more thoughtful person!



Dear NH,

Thanks for the information about the proper way to display our flag. I am curious about the wearing of the flag, on T-shirts and sweatshirts etc? I always understood it to not be acceptable. Do you know the answer or where I can find it?



I'll start with the US Code and then give a few thoughts on the "gray areas". Note that my use of the word "flag" in this essay refers to the US flag only.

According to "Title 4, Section 8-j." of the US Code, the wearing of the flag in the form of a pin is acceptable. In fact, for civilians it is the ONLY sanctioned use of the flag for adornment. The pin should be worn on the left side of the chest, over the heart.

Flag decals or patches, though, can only be used on the UNIFORMS of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The code makes no exceptions concerning flag patches. Is a screen-printed or embroidered flag on a garment a flag patch?? Maybe or maybe not. Read on!

There is a difference between a flag and an image, replica or reproduction of a flag. A printed or silk-screened flag on a piece of clothing would be considered a replica, not a true flag since it is a part of a garment and hence cannot be flown on a mast... except perhaps your clothesline!

Commonly used replicas or stylized "pseudo-flags" which mimic parts of the flag and its colors (often used to indicate made-in-America products or Memorial Day car sales) are not mentioned specifically in the code. There are no restrictions per se on the use of replicas since they are not US flags.

(An aside... Another flag issue you don't mention is that of tattoos... either permanent or temporary. The code is also silent on this, except concerning the "flag as decoration" issue. A flag proudly displayed on the arm or chest where it can be visible to the public can be arguably said to be proper display. However, the use of a flag on a normally private part of the body would be difficult to justify as anything but a decoration since the display of the flag is traditionally a public act, not a private one. For example, if one displays a flag in a window that can be seen from inside and outside the building, the flag should be hung with the union of stars on the upper left AS VIEWED by the public. )

So if you are concerned about showing respect for the flag, I would suggest judging your use by the "spirit" of the code. That "spirit" is simply that the flag is a living thing and a representation of our young, vibrant and ever-changing country. And since the US flag is not supposed to be used as a decoration, my opinion is that the intent of the wearer should be taken into account. If a person wearing a flag T-shirt is doing so in a respectful way to show patriotism and unity or during a patriotic event, it would be (in my humble opinion) an acceptable use.

However, if you are wearing the flag to demean or deface it, or as some sort of advertising "gimmick", then that use would be unacceptable. (And if you think you might spill ketchup or Coke it, perhaps you should choose a different shirt and save the flag-adorned T for special occasions!)

Since repeated washings can damage printing on sweatshirts and T-shirts, the article of clothing should be respectfully "retired" from service when it begins to appear raggedy! You would retire it yourself, of course, since it is a replica of a flag, not a true flag. A formal flag retirement ceremony for a T-shirt would not be necessary.

In the end, these hazy flag issues boil down to this... your display of the flag is a symbol of your respect for the United States. And how YOU display it reflects not only on the flag... but on you!