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Handyman Letter
March 2005

In This Issue:

1) Newsletters, choices and promises... 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!


Newsletters, choices and promises... a message from the Natural Handyman

Choices. Every day we make them. If we're lucky, our choices bring us hope, pleasure, security or even joy. Despite our best efforts, without lady luck blowing in our ear our choices can portend disappointment, chaos and even disaster.

Promises. Every day we make them... and break them! Sometimes, we make foolish promises... “I'll love you forever”, “I'll never smoke again” or “I'm losing 25 pounds before summer” are a few vying for the #1 spot. They're hardly foolish in their positive sentiments. It's just that we shouldn't promise anything lightly. The first broken promise makes breaking the second so much easier. NO promises should be made flippantly and without much consideration or all promises are cheapened.

Eight years ago, I made the choice to move my handyman expertise to the Internet and shortly thereafter began writing this newsletter. Over time, the tail has begun to wag the dog as this monthly (and, for a time bimonthly) exercise has become a stabilizing and motivating force for me to be true to a promise... to grow “Natural Handyman” into an important free home repair resource and to help as many people as possible find the “home repair help they need”.

This success has not been free, though, with many years of financially-unrewarded overtime (borderline workaholism) and significant expense while, somehow, maintaining a thriving full-time home repair business, keeping a marriage strong through stormy patches and raising three remarkable kids.

Yet I don't feel a minute has been wasted. Sure, I've made some choices that were real stinkers, and promises were made in good faith that could not be kept. But over all, where we are now is right where we should be... as the old Avis rental ads used to claim, “We're number two, but we try harder!” Or number three, or ten, or 10,362... whatever, you get the drift.

To the heart of today's matter, I offer my appreciation for you who responded to our mid-month one-question poll, “Did you receive our February newsletter?” I don't have much direct communication with most of you and I was heartened to receive so much unsolicited positive feedback about our newly-named “Handyman Letter”.

I also received insight into the spam problem from our reader's point of view as well as hundreds of useful suggestions on how to improve our newsletter. I will be implementing many of them in the upcoming months. Some will be obvious and others will be subtle.

To be honest, I was at first a little disappointed by the rather low response rate to our poll, with less than a third of subscribers responding at all. Nevertheless, I've found this to be a valuable learning experience for me and for that I thank you! There are many possible reasons why such a large number of readers did not respond, affirming my belief that changes are necessary if our newsletter is to survive the “Spam Wars”.




OUR APOLOGIES IN ADVANCE for any grammatical goofs or typos you might find in this newsletter! NH's lovely and gracious editor Pat, who mans the bilge pumps in the “Basement Annex”, was away and unable to lend a hand this month! So you don't need to send us a mercy-copy of the “Chicago Manual of Style”...

MOST CHILD POISONINGS result from common household products, warns the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Learn and protect...

HEATED DRIVEWAYS and walkways are an effortless way to keep slippery ice and snow under control, even during difficult winters! And best of all, this can be a do-it-yourself job for the motivated home handyman!

Rebecca Blain offers common sense pool safety advice for everyone! (My goodness... can you believe spring has almost sprung?)

INSTALLING TRANSLUCENT CORRUGATED PANELS over decks and in greenhouses gives lots of light with added protection from the elements. Read this informative brochure from the Kemlite Company on the basics of installing and caring for these useful and decorative panels.



Dear NH,

What is the proper placement of a bifold door knob pull? I've most often seen them in the middle of the panel by the opening. People who are supposed to know seem to lean towards a placement close to the hinge. And I've seen them close to the opening edge, especially when there is a pair of bifold doors. It seems to come down to aesthetics, but functionally, does it really matter?

TH from Shoreview, MN


I've seen the pull on a bifold door located in four different places, but there is only one correct placement, aesthetics aside. The four places (all vertically centered in the center panel) are:

1) Near the outside edge of the leading door.
2) Near the hinge edge of the leading door.
3) Near the hinge on the inner (following) door.
4) In the center of the panel on the leading door.

And the correct answer is... number (4)! The reason lies in the mechanics of a bifold door. The pull must do two things... open the door and close the door. If you visualize opening a bifold door, the outer edge of the leading door moves inwards while the center hinges move outwards, folding the doors together. The position of the pull when closing the door is less critical, and any of my examples will close the door... though some better than others.

The "ideal" position is a compromise between smooth opening and smooth closing, keeping friction at a minimum to avoid too much pressure on the track guides. The unusual force on bifolds with pulls in the wrong location is a common cause of door breakage at the somewhat fragile top corner where the guide pins are inserted.

Placing the pull near the outside edge of the leading door makes it very easy to close the door, but gives you no leverage to open the door, since it is too far from the hinge to pull it outwards to fold the doors. Thus, you have to twist and pull on the knob to get the door to open.

Placing the pull near the hinge on the leading door is just the opposite. It works well for opening, but the door may bind at the upper track when closing unless it's very well adjusted, lubricated... and not completely open. When completely open, bifolds tend to bend as a unit inwards when the knob is on the leading door because the guide in the upper track gets behind the hinge, locking up the whole shebang!

Placing the pull on the hinge edge of the inner (following) door also makes opening the doors easy, but it is even more difficult to close them due to a worsening of the leverage issue in the previous example.

The ideal position is in the center of the middle panel on the leading door. It gives the best leverage compromise for both opening and closing the doors.


Dear NH,

I am replacing my shower bottom. It is a pre-cast fiberglass unit. How do I detach it from the drain for removal?

HM from Denville, NJ


Some types can be disconnected from within the pan. They use a compression system to clamp a neoprene sleeve tightly onto the drain pipe. Look underneath the drain cover, if you have one. There might be a large nut that compresses against the pipe. The nut has "cutout" notches on the inside edge that are used to turn it (as opposed to a typical nut that you would put a pipe wrench on). You can improvise a tool by cutting a piece of metal and inserting it across the cutouts of the nut... then use a pipe wrench or other tool to twist the nut counterclockwise to loosen it.

If there is no way to loosen the pipe from above (and you don't have easy access from below), you can use a reciprocating or jigsaw to cut around the drain through the plastic to allow removal of the base. Once the old pan is removed you have access to the pipes to do whatever magic you may need to!



Dear NH,

I have a problem with my Genie Intellicode garage door opener with chain glide. It will open with the transmitter but will not close with transmitter. It will close by holding wall button, but if I let go of the button the door stops moving

MV from Springfield, IL


It sounds like the infrared safety lights near the bottom of the garage door are either (1) blocked or (2) not facing directly at each other.

The purpose of the safety lights is to prevent the garage door from closing if there is a "perceived" obstruction blocking the clear path between the sensors, typically mounted within a foot of the floor on either side of the door. Automatic opener's have a built-in override to allow you to close the door anyway. Holding the wall button in activates the override. This override feature doesn't work with the transmitter, only the wall button.

Perhaps some day garage door openers will be “smart” enough to know the difference between the cat or a bag of groceries and bad aim!



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

Dear NH,

Hi - just took a look through the February newsletter, and I saw this blurb:

"IS THERE AN AQUARIUM IN YOUR FUTURE?" If so, you might be interested in this fun article by Jeanine Hughes on choosing a tank and its occupants for your own “fish tale”."

Following the link to the story I see that it's got quite a few might want to contact that author and have them update the article. Problems being anything from a Genus name being mis-spelled, to lack of correct information. Things like this always catch my eye - I spent seven and a half years working with animals, specializing in reptiles and amphibians, also fish. Both retail and wholesale, and habitat design. If people depend on that article, I'd expect some disappointing feedback. Besides, I like animals and would rather not have them go through something like that, if it's avoidable. Way too much mortality in the pet trade as it is anyway.

GT from Vista, CA

Dear GT,

Thanks for sharing your obvious expertise. There is a new type of virus going around, but it only affects websites so you probably haven't heard of it. I have named it the "term paper virus". As you might imagine, I get requests to publish do-it-yourself articles every day. Within the last year, the number has skyrocketed to the point that I knew something was amiss. Most of the articles, you see, have nothing to do with home repair whatsoever. I get articles on travel, money, hair styling, keeping children safe, sports... so many that I pulled our newsletter from a couple of ezine libraries that I had indications were providing my address to these article mills.

Even the names of the authors seemed odd. Just today, for example, I received articles from Pendio Chussig, Liz Studebaker, Seena Fichen, Vol Brastoff, Gocchi Pionn and (my personal favorite) Mary Anaheime! I figured anyone who tries to get articles posted must have their name somewhere on the web. So the articles poured in, I did a web search for the authors. Not surprisingly, it turns out most of the names are totally made up!

Okay, we have websites trying to get traffic by burying webmasters with articles and praying to get published. But even with this knowledge, the nagging question was, “Who is writing all these darn articles?” This seemed like too much of a scam for these folks to be paying people for them. Oddly, there was a familiarity in the style that bothered me. It's as if they were written by someone who didn't know much about the subject... maybe didn't even want to write it in the first place. Suddenly the little light in my head went on... they must be high school or college level creative writing! With three high school grads, I've seen enough non-motivated papers to last a lifetime! Perhaps they are even from one of those rent-a-report services where students can purchase articles on most any topic.

So it seems that the scam is to flood website and newsletter publishers with articles cheap or free articles on every conceivable topic. Like with viruses, it's all in the numbers. Eventually an article of interest, such as the fish article, will meet the correct website and get published.

I attempted to contact the author numerous times but, not surprisingly, the email address is a “black hole” from which nothing exits. So I've pulled the article and, armed with this new knowledge, will not get “scammed” again!


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