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Handyman Letter
March - April 2006

In This Issue:

1) The Perils of a Hardworking Lion... a message from the Natural Handyman

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

3) News from the Basement Annex!!

4) Q&A with our readers

5) Linkmaster's Corner

6) Featured in the Natural Handyman Bookshop... "Switched On, Flushed Down, Tossed Out" by Trudee Romanek


The Perils of a Hardworking Lion... a message from the Natural Handyman

As some of you longtime readers might know, I've been a member of the Lions Club for almost 15 years. While working hard for the club with fund raisers and other activities, I had successfully managed to elude the responsibilities of leadership. Till this year, that is, when I finally succumbed to the siren song of power and assumed the presidency of the club. I knew there was a lot to the job, but who would have thought that being a Lion might require one to walk a high wire? Or across a crocodile infested river?

No, I'm not talking about the new project we discussed at our last board meeting! I'm talking about how we fit the demands of volunteerism into our “real” lives. Balancing is never easy. Every day, we each walk the delicate thread between work and play, between family and friends, between selfishness and our personal faiths. Whether you believe it's by design or just one of nature's cruelties, one of life's biggest tests is how we handle the tug between the things we “want” to do and the things we “have” to do.

Sometimes, we go over the top and let one aspect of our lives control us. This can be fine for a while, since such behavior helps us deal with crises more effectively. It's a gift to be able to block out the static when a project deadline looms.

But when that single task becomes our life's focus, when we can't disengage long enough to see we are damaging everything else we love and enjoy, we're entering a dangerous place. We must make time for both work and play, for charity and selfishness, and when possible pull them all onto the dance floor and tango the night away!

Balancing is hardly natural, but improves with practice. As in the acrobatic world, though, juggling life's demands is hardest when your eyes are closed! Pay attention to the little tugs coming from all around. People who get into trouble, be it work, marital or legal, often complain that they didn't see it coming. Usually, the truth is they weren't really paying attention as the storm closed in around them. It is the subtleties of life which make it rich, but these are easily missed unless we open our eyes.

Mike C. was a friend, past president of our Lions Club and very involved member till the early 90s. He was my sponsor, and in our early conversations made it clear that we must keep our priorities straight. As important as the Lions was, we should never forget that, without the strength we draw from our families and friends, we would be useless to the Lions.

The demands of volunteering are many, but they are yours alone. They are as great or as little as the time, energy and talents you wish to share. Our members are men and women who might never have met, whose personal and business lives would have never crossed but for our club. And yet, here we are... slinging pancakes, flipping burgers and hotdogs, parking cars and, most of all, making people smile while our friends and families hold the net.

Or course, we will forever struggle to keep balance in our lives. But as volunteers we are never, ever alone!

NH


3) News from the "Basement Annex"

How To Select Exterior Shutters is a short tutorial on choosing the right exterior shutters, with additional information on preparing and finishing wood shutters.

Burning firewood is a great way to cut home heating costs. Cutting Your Own Firewood will help with some practical information on gathering, cutting and storing nature's favorite fuel.

Pool maintenance is simple... keep the water circulating through a filter and sanitize the water using chemicals. The latter is the hardest to get right... our article on Maintaining And Understanding Pool Chemistry will keep you swimming in the right direction!

Ever notice how mirrors often discolor or chip along the edges? Dress up this ugly dilemma by reading our article on how Mirrors With Bad Edges Can Be Saved.


4) Q&A with our readers

Dear NH,

Is there a way to get the fog out of a double pane window? Or can you buy just the glass and replace it in the same frame. This is a casement window one of five in a row.

ES

ES,

Up until recently, there was no way to repair double insulated glass, the only option was to replace it. Because of the big aftermarket in failed insulated glass, all manufacturers (still in business, that is) supply replacement glass for their windows, though the length of time they are available for older styles varies. Some styles allow you to simply replace the glass. Others require you to replace an entire unit. For example, most replacement double-hung wood sash must be replaced completely (wood and glass).

Even if your manufacturer no longer offers glass, most competent glaziers can also order custom-sized double-insulated glass from a small number of fabricators nationwide. Now, if your window unit cannot be disassembled, you probably need to replace the entire window unit.

There is an up-and-coming company that offers repair services for insulated glass, Crystal Clear Window Works. Their patented service actually drains out the accumulated moisture and kills and cleans out the mildew. Sadly, their network does not yet stretch to every state so you might not have this option... unless you want to start your own service by becoming a franchisee. Note that one-piece wood sash with insulated glass aren't repairable by their methods since it would require damaging the sash as the glass is not easily accessible.

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Dear NH,

I have a multi family home that uses steam pressure. There is one radiator pipe that goes through the 2nd floor to the 3rd floor that makes a very hammering noise, the tenant keeps complaining about the noise. It seems that this problem has just occurred within the last few months and I have owned this home for many years. I was told that I might need to add a cleaner or drain the furnace and then refill it. Any suggestions?

DP

DP,

Hammering in a steam system is typically caused by water accumulating in the pipes and not draining back. Normally, hot steam rises to the radiators, giving off heat. As the steam cools, it condenses back into liquid water and drains back to the furnace to be reheated. Settling of the house (and plumbing) over the years can cause pipes to lose their slope so the condensed water collects at low points, no longer fully draining back. The hammer sound is actually the sudden rush of steam past the blockage caused by the water... sort of a noisy bubble.

I don't know what could have caused this to happen suddenly, so you might need a plumber to look more closely at the entire system. I can't see how draining the furnace will help this specific problem, though it might improve efficiency a little. Sorry I can't be of more help.

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Dear NH,

When I apply drywall tape, sometimes I get a bubble under the tape. This requires me to lift up the tape and apply more joint compound under the tape. What am I doing wrong?

JB from Canon City, CO

JB,

There is a technique issue and a materials issue. If you apply too little compound, there is a greater tendency for there to be dry spots which will leave a loose area under the tape. The tape should be pressed into the compound evenly and a light coat put over the top to slow down the drying time so the tape sticks properly.

Also, if the compound itself is too dry, it may not sufficiently adhere to the tape. The tape will draw water from the compound, so overly dry compound OR very hot conditions can both lead to loose areas of the tape. Many drywall pros will add small amounts of liquid to the compound, even as it comes out of a fresh bucket. Thinner compound usually makes for easier taping. However, thinner compound can also "slump" or sag if applied too thickly and drying time will be somewhat longer.

Not surprisingly, most people who install lots of drywall tape find that the more jobs they do, the fewer problems they have with lifting, bubbling, etc. Most homeowners don't usually do many repairs unless they get involved with a huge project, so they don't have enough hours to get the skill down.

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Dear NH,

I am installing curtain "rods", but they are wire cable strung between 2 metal posts with screws built in (that goes into the wall). They included drywall anchors, but they did not work. Now the hole is BIG and I need to install mounting hardware in the same location. I can't use a toggle bolt because the mounting "screw" is an integral part of the post.

SR from Houston, TX

SR,

I can see how the use of a plastic or metal expanding drywall anchor would not work well due to leverage issues. And since you can't use a toggle, the strongest type of anchor for drywall, we have to be creative.

Since the base of the bracket is somewhat wider than the hole in the wall, one solution would be to install a piece of wood within the wall. Then you'll have a sturdy surface to screw into! The piece of wood will be sized so it fits through the wall, small enough in diameter that is it hidden behind the bracket and is long enough to be glued to the opposite wall, giving you a firm base to screw into.

First, put the wide base of each bracket on the wall in the EXACT location and lightly draw around the circumference with a pencil, which will leave you two nice circles on the wall.

Enlarge the hole so it is as large as possible but within the circle, leaving at least 1/4" around the edge to support the bracket on the drywall. You can do this with a sharp knife or drywall saw. Be careful not to break the wallboard so your work remains invisible behind the bracket.

Once you have made a larger hole, you need to get a piece of wood as large as possible into the hole. The easiest way is to use a piece or 2x4 or 2x3 cut down so it fits into the hole and reaches all the way to the opposite wall and is slightly below the level of the wall when inserted in the hole... about 1/4 inch. For example, a typical 2x4 wall has a 3 1/2" space in the wall, plus 1/2" for the thickness of the drywall. So you would need to cut the wood to approximately 3 3/4" long. If you don't have the ability to do all the cutting, you could use a stair baluster or other square stock and just cut it to length.

Make sure all insulation and/or paper is pushed aside and the opposite wall is clean of dust so glue will stick to it. Now, slather a generous amount of construction adhesive on one end of the wood and press it into the hole so it is firmly against the opposite wall. If you measured correctly, even with the additional thickness of the construction adhesive the wood should be slightly below the level of the wall.

Let dry for at least 24 hours, longer if it is very cold outside. (If it is below freezing, better to wait till you have a warm day.) Once the glue is completely dry, you can mark the screw location onto the wood, predrill a hole slightly smaller than the bracket's screw and twist it into the wood.

NH

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