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Handyman Letter
 April 15, 2002

 

IN THIS ISSUE:

1) Knee deep and sinking fast... 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... win great home repair stuff!!

4) What's new at Naturalhandyman.com?

5) Q&A with our readers

6) LINKMEISTER's Corner...

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

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1) KNEE DEEP AND SINKING FAST ... A MESSAGE FROM THE NATURAL HANDYMAN

Knee deep and sinking fast... a message from the Natural Handyman

"Help. I'm drowning in spam!"

Twenty years ago someone hearing that refrain would think you fell off a catwalk at a Hormel "mystery meat" plant! But I am sure most of you are all too aware that spam... unwanted email... is no joke. It's like a disease. The longer you use email the more spam arrives at your Inbox. Period.

There is virtually no limit to how great this problem will become. Take me, for example. Mild mannered handyman. A year ago I was receiving about 40 spam emails per day. Reviewing them was wasting more and more of my time so I tried to fight back. I thought I could win, trying various anti-spam measures... email filters, programs that automatically sent "bounce" messages to spammers, and even programs that sent form letters to the ISP's of spammers.

The results have been discouraging. I am losing... to the tune of over 300 plus spam messages per day! Even some of NH's "internal" mailboxes that have never sent a letter to anyone are on the spam lists! I've heard that some spammers use software programs to scan websites for email addresses... a trick is known as "harvesting". We've instituted some retaliatory measures on the site to minimize this... but frankly I'm spending too much time "webmastering" and not enough "handymanning" these days!

Having read scores of articles on the spam dilemma, I surmise the answer will require all of us to unite our efforts against this epidemic. The solution is deceptively simple. We only have to do one thing. NEVER ever respond in any way to spam... except by hitting the delete button! No matter how interesting the product or service sounds. Here's a snapshot of what personal actions you can take to help end the spam crisis.

* Don't write back a nasty email! They don't care. Many use phony addresses, anyway, so your letter will be returned UNKNOWN.

* Don't try to retaliate and send them the entire contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica! ANY response will verify your address!

* Much of today's spam is delivered as "html mail"... they look like web pages with graphics, color and even sound! Once you "open" one of these, you may be letting the spammer know there is a live body at your email address. If you can summon up the will, delete the spam without reading it. I know this is a tough one, since the spammers now use "subject" lines that are very deceptive!

* Some spam actually gives you an "unsubscribe" option. Don't believe it... it is just another way to verify email addresses. If you fall for this one, expect your spam intake to increase ten-fold!

* Don't click on hyperlinks in a spam email! The smarter spammers can verify your email address this way by including codes in the hyperlink, opening the floodgates to choke your inbox with unwanted mail!

* Don't dial any "800", "888" or other telephone numbers listed in the spam. Sure, you won't give up your email address by calling, but you will give the spammer an indication that the spam was effective... expect more to be on the way, thank you!

* Receive a spam solicitation with an "offer you can't refuse"? A deal so seductive that your mouth has gone dry and your hands are trembling? Instead of using the link in the letter, do a web search for the product yourself. You are less likely to give up any personal information if you initiate the visit to their site. You can also "truncate" the address before entering it into your browser. That is, remove all text in the URL after the ".com" or ".net". This will often take you to the same site without passing on any information about who you are!

* Set up a "throw-away" email account with one of the free services, such as Hotmail. Whenever you subscribe to a newsletter or purchase anything online from a questionable site, use this account. Save your "real" account for important personal or business correspondence.

* There is anti-spam legislation in both the US House and the Senate. The bills each have some good and some bad parts. Educate yourself and contact your representative with your feelings. It is important that YOUR or your business' right to send legitimate email is not infringed.

Sometimes, I long for the days when I could complain about receiving five or ten "junk" letters in my mailbox or a handful of catalogues. Life was so simple then!

NH

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4) WHAT'S NEW AT NATURALHANDYMAN.COM??

LAWN CARE is a most timely topic, and we have just posted two very concise but imporant articles from Dan Eskelson of Clearwater Landscapes. The first is a good overview of "Basic Lawn Care". The second, "Alternatives to the Traditional Lawn" offers some sensible replacements for your resourse-hogging turf!
Find both in the landscaping section of our site at:
http://www.naturalhandyman.com/iip/inflandscaping/inflandscaping1.html

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5) Q&A WITH OUR READERS...

Dear NH,

We recently found out that a portion of our kitchen subflooring is rotting due to a leaky sliding glass door. This floor is over a walkout basement. You can actually push your finger up through the rotten flooring (from the basement) and touch the kitchen floor vinyl. Our question is, can we possibly replace this subflooring from below... or do we have to remove or pull back the vinyl, replace this subflooring and then somehow replace the vinyl? Is there a way to pull back the vinyl to do a repair underneath? My husband is very handy, but this is a new one on us! Thank you!

RM from Lawrence, KS

RM,

Every homeowner will eventually run into something rotten! Every repair is unique and few have painless fixes. First, the pain. No, you cannot make a repair from underneath. Also, the vinyl cannot be reclaimed so a repair of the finished floor will have to be made.

If the rot is primarily in the subfloor and has not extended to the supporting floor beams or "joists", the repair is simply to cut out the rotten area and replace it with a plywood of similar thickness. You will most likely have to install additional framing or cleats to support the edges of the smaller piece. This of course varies job by job.

If the rot has extended into the joists, you will need to determine the correct repair... too extensive an issue for this forum. Simply, if the rot is very minor (you might need a pro to determine this for you), you might not have to do anything. Once the source of moisture is gone the rot will likewise stop growing. Extensive rot could require anything from reinforcing the affected beam to some major structural carpentry.

Implicit in your question is the repair of the finished floor. If the rest of the vinyl floor is in good shape, you can save a little money by being creative. Instead of using vinyl in front of the slider, consider using slate or another durable flooring product in this area. If done properly, you can make it look like planning, not repair... a cool place to leave those dirty shoes and boots.

It's worth considering!

NH

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Dear NH,

I have a full-wall mirror glued to the wall above the vanity in my powder room. The mirror has several scratches - almost gouges - on it. I would like to glue a smaller, arched mirror on top of the existing mirror so that the scratches are covered up. The effect should look like the old mirror is framing the arched mirror. Is there a way to glue one mirror on top of another without worrying about it falling off and breaking?

SS from Vernon Hills, IL

SS,

Sounds like a fabulous idea! Yes, you can glue one mirror atop another. A common oil-based construction adhesive such as "Liquid Nails" will work fine. I would suggest using a caulking tube rather than a can of glue... it's much easier to apply and neater to use. Have some paint thinner handy for cleanup, though.

The big problem is keeping the new mirror in place on the wall until the glue dries! While the glue is wet, some sort of support will need to be improvised to keep the mirror from sliding out of position.

I'll make a suggestion as to how I might do this, but don't feel constrained by it. Most home repair problems have many solutions. So look at the situation "first hand" and use your imagination to improve on it! Make a strip of plywood or other wood that will sit on the vanity top and support the bottom edge of the new mirror. One continuous piece would be best, but two pieces (one at either end) would also work. You might have to use two pieces (or notch out a single-piece) if the sink is in the way!

Test-fit the mirror and the piece of wood. If you are satisfied with the position of the mirror, tape the wood to the wall to hold it in place. A light-tack tape such as "painter's tape" should work fine, but you will have to be careful that the mirror does not sneak behind the wood or it will slide down!

Now to the gluing technique. Since neither mirror is porous, you can't just put the adhesive on, press the mirrors together and expect a great initial "tack" or holding power. Instead, you must use the same technique that is used when installing wall paneling. First, apply the glue to the mirror on the wall at least within an inch of the imaginary border of the new mirror. Apply a 1/4" bead at least 2 inches from the perimeter (you don't want any squeezing out) and a few vertical beads 4 to 6 inches apart. Then press the new mirror in place exactly where you want it to be, resting on your wood base. Immediately pull the new mirror an inch or two off the wall from the top and allow the adhesive to air dry for about a minute. Then press the mirror back in place. Now the new mirror should really grip to the old one.

I wouldn't trust the glue 100% for at least 24 hours. Use whatever you have available to keep it against the wall. Since it will be on the mirrors, not a finished wall surface, a stronger tape such as duct tape can be used. Don't seal the entire edge of the mirror (you'll slow down the drying of the glue)... just a few strips along the top and sides. You could also lean something heavy against the mirror. Use your imagination! Again, the mirror will tend to stay in place but you want to be absolutely sure it doesn't move! Once the glue dries, the mirror will be in place forever.

Now, there is one potential problem. Though unlikely it might happen that the supporting wood will not dislodge easily if it is wedged between the mirror and the vanity top! If you think this might happen, just insert a �" wood shim or strip underneath the support (take the thickness into account when measuring or your mirror will be too high). You can even tape it to the support if you want. Then, if the support is difficult to remove, it can be separated from the shim and should then pull out easily!

NH

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Dear NH,

I have a repair problem that I have not been able to find a solution to (although I have spent many hours researching on the web and talking to local tile repair people). The ceramic tile on my floor, installed in 1986, has one tile that is badly cracked. I was told it is impossible to replace because the entire floor may crack.

I had bought a product to repair ceramic tile which is like a paint. However, the color doesn't match and it has a shiny finish while my tile has a matt finish. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

JW

JW,

I can't imagine who you have been talking to... no tile guy I know, for sure! Ceramic tiles are the easiest type of floor to repair. Not effortless (since it can require some strength and patience), but rather easy in the "aesthetic" sense. If you have a matching tile and can get a close-enough grout color, the repair will over time become absolutely invisible as the grout ages. The hardest part in my experience is getting a color match for the tile... unless you are lucky enough to have a box hidden somewhere in the basement!

Having worked on many tile repair jobs, the only situation that I can recall where a "small" tile repair cannot be done is if ALL the tiles were installed poorly. Occasionally, I will encounter a floor that was installed using "thinset", a Portland cement-based tile adhesive. It is a powder and must be mixed on-site with cool water. Sometimes if too dry of a mix is used, too much moisture will be drawn off into the subfloor (plywood or cement slab) and a very weak bond will form. Then during repair, the entire floor will begin to loosen up when one tile is removed! Even trying to loosen the grout will sometimes cause adjacent tiles to dislodge. This "Rube Goldberg" scenario can cause a single tile repair to grow to an entire floor replacement! Other than that, I can't imagine a tile job where a single tile cannot be extracted successfully.

Here's a link to our article on tile replacement techniques...

http://www.naturalhandyman.com/iip/infxtra/inftil.html

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Dear NH,

Is there an easier way to clean brass light fixtures? I bought a few commercial products but my outdoor fixtures are so badly tarnished it takes a lot of scrubbing and they still don't come clean. Help!!

EM from Tuckerton, NJ

EM,

The reason brass fixtures don't clean easily is because the corrosion is occurring underneath a protective film which is "supposed to" protect the brass from corrosion. The coating obviously didn't do a great job protecting the brass, but it sure does a good job keeping you from removing the corrosion!

Coated brass corrodes in the same way as painted iron. For a while, the protective coating is effective. Then, over time, small cracks and pinholes will appear in the coating... invisible to the eye but large enough to allow water vapor to make contact with the metal and corrosion begins. The corrosion loosens the coating causing still more corrosion... until the brass has widespread, uncleanable staining.

The only possible way to restore the brass is to remove the coating first, then strip the corrosion away chemically and finally recoat the brass with a clear spray lacquer sealer. The most efficient way to strip the lacquer is to use a methylene chloride-based (MC) paint and lacquer stripper. Less efficient are the non-methylene chloride strippers. Due to health concerns, it is unwise to use any MC stripper indoors without strong ventilation. If you are interested, I have an article at the site on the dangers of methylene chloride... http://www.naturalhandyman.com/iip/infpai/infprdanger.html

I didn't publish the article to be a scare-monger... especially since in some circumstances MC is the only sensible option. I just want folks to be aware that this is a potent chemical to be used with great care!

Before applying the stripper, disassemble the fixture as much as possible, removing glass and any screwed-on parts. Remove the lamp socket and wiring, too.

I don't recommend using any harsh abrasives on the brass unless absolutely necessary, since you will scratch the finish. Instead, be patient and let the stripper do it's work. Use very fine steel wool to do the final cleaning.

Once you're satisfied that the old finish is completely removed use a chemical (not abrasive) brass cleaner to remove all tarnish. Assuming your brass is really brass, it should now be shiny and new-looking. If the fixture is brass-plated, it should still look good UNLESS the corrosion has penetrated through the plating... then you will have discolored areas that cannot be restored. Hello, dumpster!

Spray the fixture with a few coats of clear lacquer to protect it from further corrosion. Krylon is one popular brand. Follow the label instructions regarding lacquer application. Be careful not to overspray, especially the first coat. Unlike wood, metals do not absorb any of the lacquer and even slight overspraying will produce immediate runs and drips! Apply "very light" coats spaced by five minutes or so.

Don't be concerned about missing spots in the first few coats... after you have applied four or five coats you should have hit everything. You can also brush on a little of the lacquer into difficult areas by spraying some into a clean coffee can or plastic tub till you have enough to brush on. Work fast, because it dries quickly! Keep the brush in lacquer thinner between coats and wipe off with a clean cloth before using.

A final note. Many companies are now offering guarantees on their brass finishes. Baldwin, for example, offers a lifetime finish guarantee on most of their brass products. However, since it is not transferable to a new owner its value is somewhat diminished in my view. The fact that they any guarantee at all shows that they have taken care to apply an adequate finish to their products... as opposed to most of the run-of-the-mill "throw-away" brass sold by many discounters and home stores.

NH

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