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Handyman Letter
Dec 2004 - Jan 2005

In This Issue:

1) The Never-Ending Christmas Party... a message from the Natural Handyman

2) Back at ya'... in appreciation for media citations or web links!

3) Sweepstakes Central... Win great home repair stuff!!

4) News from the Basement Annex!!

5) Q&A with our readers

6) Linkmaster's Corner

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

8) Featured in the Natural Handyman Bookshop...
“Tile Your World” by John Bridge


The Never-Ending Christmas party... a message from the Natural Handyman

Ebenezer Scrooge, the hated and beloved miser of Charles Dickens's “A Christmas Carol”, was heard whispering at his first Christmas party to Bob Cratchet, “The problem with Christmas parties is that they eventually end and everyone goes home!”

This year, my wife and I had the honor of hosting our church choir's Christmas party. Though we'd like other members to host the party on alternate years, no one seems to pick up the gauntlet. And such a gauntlet it is! Having a party is a lot of work! For example, it forces you to clean... really clean. How embarrassing would it be to have a choir member disappear amidst the clutter!

I'm not complaining. My wife and I both agree that house cleaning renews the spirit... plus it provides a nudge to get the house decorated earlier than the “night before Christmas”! I also enjoy parties and being the host for these many years has helped me understanding a little more about the real secret to a happy life. The secret is simply to stop expecting returns on investments; spiritual investments, that is!

If there is any time of year loaded with opportunities to be let down, when expectations can be unrealistic, the Christmas season is surely at the pinnacle! Giving is a huge part of the season, but also is “receiving”... the surprise gifts, the hopefully huge bonus at work, the office parties, the stolen kisses under the mistletoe. You could even say that a “gracious receiver” is also a giver.

And though we would like to think ourselves generous, there is always a return on giving. It is the nature of the return we desire that defines us, not the gift. Spiritual returns are more highly regarded than barter. Spiritual gifts are more enduring and hence more valuable to heal souls.

Before his Christmas Eve epiphany, Scrooge was a wicked, grasping money-grubber who only saw people for what they could give him... or what he could take from them! But once faced with his maker via the metaphorical spirits who gave him insight into the evils of money worship, he realized that it was not what he got from people that made for happiness. It is the things you give that make you happy. And one of his first gifts was... a Christmas party!

Scrooge knew there was no “thing” that anyone could give him, 'cause he really had it all. But love and compassion cannot be extracted from others, they must be freely given. Those who give are also those who get the most important gifts.

A few thousand years ago, a carpenter wanted and needed to give the gift of his insights and beliefs. Like a soft, healing mist his philosophy spread to those who were willing to listen. From all accounts, he never became wealthy, never collected a tax or fee for his services and was loved by those who knew him. He's been gone these many years, but his party goes on.

Perhaps next year, at your house?




NH IS GOING ON VACATION so we will not be sending a January, 2005 newsletter. However, we hope to post loads of new articles for the New Year as we rev up for the spring home repair onslaught! Have a safe and Happy New Year and see you in February!!

Why not take a few minutes and make sure you are providing a safe holiday for your family. Here's a timely article on decorating safety from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

This may seem like an odd article with winter snows settling in many parts of the country. But hey... some of our readers are hiding under umbrellas and sipping Pina Coladas! So lighten up! Spring will be here before you know it, and ANY gardener will tell you that you can't have too much knowledge, or too many earthworms!

POWDERPOST BEETLES is from one of our newest contributors, Jack DeAngelis, an expert in insect control and extermination! As one of the most destructive wood-eating pests, these beetles can destroy your home... or even your furniture! This bug needs a close look, for sure!

The newest craze in wall d�cor is now finding its way in to the handcrafted furniture industry by providing a simple and inexpensive way to create raised designs in styles ranging from simplistic to highly ornate.

Nothing's nicer than a warm bathroom floor on a cold morning. But what system is the best for your home? Here is a primer on selecting a radiant system to suit your home and your budget.



Dear NH,

I read your article on Boiled Linseed Oil & found it very helpful, but it don't mention using it on metal. I believe my father used to use it to prevent rust on tools, garden implements, etc. Any insight? Thanks much for your time.

RS from Broadview Heights, OH


Linseed oil would not be my first choice, since it would gum up any tool moving parts as it dried. My father always coated his tools with a very thin layer of 3-in-1 oil (from an oily rag) to both prevent corrosion and lubricate them. Linseed oil has no significant lubricating properties once dry.

If you don't like 3-in-1 oil (it can be messy, for sure), the “BullFrog” line of metal protectants are one of the best ways to stop rust on bare metals without actually painting them. You can probably get their products locally, but here is a link to their website in case you want to purchase online:


Dear NH,

Do I need to have the inside door open in order to install a storm door?

DM from Kittery, ME


It's not "absolutely" necessary to have the inside door open, but for the sake of a quality installation I always required the owners to have the door open for me.

Though you can install the door frame without any inside access, there are certain parts of the installation that run more smoothly with the inner door open, such as leveling the door closer(s) and installing the latch. Since you would have to lean through the storm door with the glass removed, the chance for alignment errors is greater. There is also the chance you could scratch or bend the door leaning through it.

Furthermore, some installation instructions require the latch and closers be installed with the glass installed, making the door more rigid. Obviously, with the glass in you can't possibly align the latch or install the closers with any accuracy.


Dear NH,

I live in a ranch house that is on a concrete slab. My laundry room is situated so that I cannot vent my dryer outside without going up into the attic and over to the louver. The problem is that condensation keeps filling up my hose right where I turn up into the attic. Is there any indoor vent system that works?

DH from New Castle, DE


There are a couple of indoor vent types. One incorporates a filter to catch the lint that would otherwise send you on a sneezing fit every time you tumbled a load! There is another type that blows the exhaust into a container filled with water, ostensibly to catch the lint. I like the filter-type best, since it's too easy to forget to refill the water in the reservoir. Also, the water-type seems to miss a lot of lint.

Whichever type you choose, you must contend with the damp air they blow back into your home, as well as the odors from detergents, fabric softeners, etc. Though I haven't shopped for one in a while, I'm sure you can probably get one at any home store and some hardware stores. Your local hardware store could also order one for you, I'm sure!

Regarding your problem with condensation within the hose, I have two suggestions that might make the problem go away. First, cover the exposed vent hose in the attic with insulation. This will keep the temperature in the hose a little higher and reduce condensation.

Second, run the dryer for about 5 minutes on high temperature before putting in the first load of wet clothes. This will preheat the hose and eliminate that initial condensation that occurs when damp air meets cold hose. This will also help to evaporate any existing condensation in the hose.



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

Dear NH,

The first time I looked at your site I was in total awe. I have never given a donation to a web site before, but I had to give one to you. The help you put out there for anyone to take for free is really an old fashioned thing to do.

I also put all my heart and soul into doing best I can do for my clients. But you can't win for losing. If you give them a good rate, the next time you do a job and it cost a little more they complain.

My dad taught me that if you do your best you will never be out of work. I think your web site is great and I thank you. I have learned a lot from you. Thanks again



Here's a toast to you and your dad. The world of business seems to hold a different morality than that of personal relations. It makes me think of the pickpocket who works the streets Saturday night and goes to church on Sunday. Principles and morals cannot be turned on and off depending on the situation. Otherwise, they are not principles... they are “optionals”.

How can a person expect to be trusted when they stand for nothing? Regardless the business, our clients may desire perfection, but they demand trust. Without its delicate lubrication, all relations squeak to a dismal halt!


Dear NH,

Please relay to D.S that many people (like my family and me) do appreciate and are impressed by quality work. There is nothing better when I'm trying to fix something, than to see forethought in design and quality of work. And the converse is certainly true, too. I live in the Portland, OR area, and D.S. sounds like the kind of contractor I would like to have doing my projects. Would you be able to pass this email to D.S. or forward a name & number?



I soooo understand your sentiments! However, I can't begin passing personal notes in class! If you're out there, DS, join our “Handyman Network” and make yourself available to all our Portland area readers!


Dear NH,

Regarding the comments from a reader, "Does it really eat up that much profit to add some shut-off valves here and there or to make some access panels where you know full well someone will need to get into someday?"

The answer is Yes!, considering that in national averages, net profit varies from only 5% to 7%.

As a remodeling contractor for over 30 years, now semi-retired doing small repairs and mentoring my peers, there is absolutely no reason to sacrifice any part of one's "net" profit to do 1st class workmanship. One only needs to include said 1st class workmanship time and material in his/her estimate or T&M work.

Thank you for a great site for home owners.



Well said! Both quality contractors and their potential clients have to somehow agree on a “language of quality”. Despite the nightmare stories each year of poor quality work, homeowners still insist on the “low bid”. Contractors have no choice... if their survival depends on that 1%, what can they do? Go out of business?

Some homeowners don't realize that quality costs money. They also think that hard price bargaining doesn't affect quality. Hello... it surely does! I always charged top dollar for my work, and my clients appreciated my quest for perfection. If they couldn't afford what I offered, there were always lower priced contractors to do the work.

Often hired to redo the repairs of other “professionals”, I know firsthand how easy it is to blame the other contractor. Unfortunately, a system which depresses prices without rewarding quality forces good contractors to sometimes make poor cost-cutting decisions.


COPYRIGHT 2005 G. George Ventures, Inc., All rights reserved.