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Handyman Letter - July, 2000


1) You just can't have enough honesty! ... a message from the Natural Handyman

2) Hello and thank you to Websites and publications that have recently linked with or featured The Natural Handyman

3) What's new at

4) Q&A with our readers


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




A few months ago my oldest daughter cornered me to get my opinion on a purchase she wanted to make. She was taking a summer course in public speaking at a local college and needed to make a presentation. She decided that she could make more impact by using a video projector that she could attach to her computer.

I gave her a number of mail order catalogues and, after a few minutes of searching, she found one that seemed to be what she wanted. When she showed it to me I was staggered by the price... the least expensive was thousands of dollars! I warily asked how she planned on paying for it and she exclaimed that she would use her charge card.

A poor college kid spending that kind of cash to get a grade might be acceptable in some social circles, but for me it seemed a little excessive. She told me not to worry... she would just use the projector for her presentation and then return it to the store for a refund. What?!

I was taken aback! It just wasn't right... and I told her so. She couldn't quite understand how it hurt anyone saying she would be very careful with it and return it in perfect shape! How could that be wrong?

It was wrong, I said, because it is stealing. Strong word... stealing. It did not roll easily off my lips. I was telling my daughter that she was about to do something that was essentially evil... taking something that didn't belong to her. Her calm argument... that no one would be hurt... seemed to dull the sharpness of this crime, but it WAS a crime nonetheless. She didn't recognize that fact until I explained that, although she could, indeed, return the item... she was stealing the "USE" of the item... essentially stealing service. That's why they have rental stores, dear daughter!

Realizing, albeit sadly, that it would take more than a moral stand to make this issue heel, I suggested she talk to a few of her teachers or counselors and see if she could borrow one... the accounting department surely should own at least one projector. Sure enough, after a few phone calls she was able to find a more-than-suitable projector for her presentation.

I walked away from this little morality play feeling uneasy. What was it that made her feel that she could feel so innocent while stealing? Even afterward I wonder if, when this situation arises again... will she REMEMBER how easy it was to find a way to get what she wanted by taking the high ground... using a little effort instead of taking the "easy way"?

Many stores and even service-oriented businesses make this sort of thievery very easy. They are gamblers... they are betting that most people will do the right thing and not take unusual advantage of their liberal return policies. The contractor adjusts all his prices to cover the costs of customer cancellations and phony quotations... people getting a work quotation without any intent of hiring the contractor. Of course, they are also businesspeople, not charitable institutions! And the "costs" of this type of dishonesty are being paid by the rest of us through higher everyday prices.

Honesty is a coin with two sides. On the one side is the dishonesty that affects "us". We are hurt when we find out a friend lied to us. We may be angered when a politician goes back on a promise. When a job promotion we deserved goes to another person, we feel slighted and used. But on the other side, we feel that we have enough justification to not be honest ourselves. That contractor, after all, makes so much money he won't care if he spends two or three hours on a quote so that we know how much Cousin Harry should be paid to trim our trees! Or, it's really OK to take advantage of the "system"... no one will be hurt... THAT much...

The fact is that dishonesty hurts everyone. Financially, of course, there is no doubt the distrust business people must cope with everyday is reflected in higher prices and less time for true customer service. Most contractors are not scared of legitimate lawsuits because they stand behind their work... but they are terrified of frivolous actions by well-lawyered customers to avoid or delay deserved payments! But there is a personal, moral component. True, being battered by dishonesty leaves one scarred; the scars may be obvious and reflected in negative behaviors towards oneself and others. But that is not the most dangerous effect of this insensitivity to the rights of others. The most profound danger lies in the moral dullness that pervades society... that immature, self-absorbed sense that the only "wrong" is one that hurts "me" and that all other hurt can be explained away.

As that unknown sage once said, "What goes around, comes around!" We can only briefly escape the boomeranging effect of our negative actions. Taking the high road... exerting a little effort instead of taking the "easy" way... that is where we can absorb the security and trust that smoothes our relationships and lubricates the wheels of society.




Dear NH,

I have a 90 year old house that has no original storms or screens and only half have old aluminum storm screens installed. I haven't been able to find vinyl storms/screens that would allow me to use the top window. Since my goal is to be able to fully use the double hung windows I thought that it would be easier to just make the wood storms and screens. Or if you could point me in the right direction would be thankful. Also, do you have any plans for wood storm windows?



There is no info in Terry's book about making or repairing wooden storms or screens. Maybe his next book...

I assume that you want to have a "full length" storm and screen which you would alternate with the changing seasons. If that is indeed the case, the easiest thing to do is have a glass company make up custom aluminum-framed storms and matching screens. You can purchase special clips at most any hardware store (or even at the glazier's) that will hold them firmly in place, so you need not purchase an entire triple-track storm window assembly.

Making wood screens might be the thing to do IF you love woodworking and would thoroughly enjoy making them yourself. Or if your house was in a "historical" district... some neighborhoods have zoning rules requiring homes to meet certain requirements to retain a certain historical look. Otherwise, my first suggestion is by far the quickest, easiest and overall least expensive solution to your problem.

I don't have any plans for wood storms on hand. If I can find any I will let everyone know via the newsletter.

And should any of our readers have storm window plans, I would be glad to share them and give you a few moments of fame and glory!



Dear NH,

We built a new home last year & have ants in our house this house was built very tight with everything caulked, plastic, & taped. How are they coming in?



In my experience, once you begin seeing lots of ants in your home, they are not coming in... they ARE in! Carpenter ants do not eat wood for food as do termites... they just tunnel within it to make their home. And they have little reason to enter your home just for food... there's plenty outside! Visible ants within the home is a sure sign that there is a nest in the house... somewhere.

Carpenter ants usually start their nests in water-softened wood produced by leaks in roofs or siding, around windows or in unflashed areas adjacent to cement or concrete. I have even seen ants nesting in countertops where there has been a long-term leak around or behind a sink or faucet. In a new home, though, the culprit is often the use of lumber in construction that may have already been populated with ants. Depending on the time of year your house was built, it is possible that a small nest formed inside a piece of stacked lumber but was dormant or too small to notice. Then the ants would become active in the warmth of the summer and begin doing their ant thing... eating, tunneling and reproducing.

Though modern houses are sealed fairly tight, I would venture to say that there is no home immune to infestation from ants or various other pests. Mice, for example, can find the smallest chink in your home's armor and make a cozy nest. Remember... they have nothing but time and lots of motivation!



Dear NH,

You mentioned in one of your articles that TSP was not just a cleaner but also a deglosser. Would you recommend using it to degloss paint prior to repainting? Isn't TSP dangerous to use? Finally, you also mention a product called Wilbond for deglossing. Could you explain a little further?

KD from San Diego, CA


TSP is a powerful cleaner that can remove the gloss from not only paints but other sensitive surfaces. However, its primary function is cleaning, not deglossing. The deglossing effect is why TSP should never be used as a cleaner on a painted surface UNLESS you plan on repainting... it will make the paint more porous and consequently it will become dirty and actually grow mildew more quickly! There are some siding cleaners available now that actually inhibit the growth of mildew for a time after cleaning. Check at your hardware or home store for available brands.

As for Wilbond, it is a chemical that essentially "attacks" the surface of paints, softening and slightly roughening them so that new paint coats will stick better. It also removes oils and grease from surfaces making them more paintable. Wilbond works best on latex paints.

Wilbond is very easy to use... just wet a lint-free cloth with it and rub the cloth on the painted surface until the surface gloss diminishes. Latex paint surfaces will become tacky... oil paint surfaces will not. The effect is good for up to a half hour, depending on the temperature. Careful... avoid getting Wilbond on any other surfaces or you risk damage, especially plastics.

Both of these products are potentially dangerous, but for different reasons. TSP is banned in some places because of its phosphate content. Years ago it was determined that phosphates in detergents can cause havoc with the ecosystems of rivers and lakes. The phosphates promote the growth of algae, which in turn grow wildly and can actually kill off other life by removing the oxygen in the water.

Wilbond is a strong solvent and, when used without adequate ventilation, can potentially cause various brain and nervous system problems. This, of course, is true of many solvents and they all should be treated with respect and the manufacturer's warnings ALWAYS heeded.



Dear NH,

I just purchased a new home and we had to buy a washer & dryer. When putting in the dryer where the old one was originally installed (in the basement), I noticed there is no vent to the outside. Is it dangerous to just let it vent out the back of the machine or should I cut a hole to vent it outside ?

JG from East Bridgewater, MA


There are a few potential problems in letting your dryer vent into a room, be it a basement or anywhere else. The two problems are excessive moisture and lint. Clothes dryers can add enormous amounts of moisture to the air. This may be somewhat desirable if the inside air is very dry, as in the winter months in colder climes. However, in a basement this is rarely the case. Even in well-constructed basements there is a constant struggle with moisture. Adding more is not beneficial and can increase mildew growth and the likelihood of other moisture related problems such as paint lifting in outside walls. Basement moisture can have wide ranging effects!

The second problem... lint... is as insidious. These particles of wool, cotton and other clothing materials that are shed in the drying process are never completely caught by the lint filters in clothes dryers and escape in the dryer exhaust. Allowing this lint to become airborne in your home not only adds to the amount of unattractive dust on your furniture and floors but could lead to or exacerbate sensitivities of any allergy prone people in your home. Add to this the scents and chemicals released into the air through the detergents left in the clothes and the use of fabric softeners in the dryer, and you can see why I don't suggest leaving a clothes dryer unvented!

There are special lint catching devices that can trap most of the lint. They work by routing the warm moist air from the dryer over a container of water. As long as you remember to keep adding water they work fairly well. You can purchase one of these at many hardware and home stores.

IF you were in the market for a new dryer and washer (and for the benefit of our other readers), there are combination clothes washers/dryers that are designed to be unvented. They have sophisticated lint catching systems plus higher intensity spin cycles so that the laundry is as dry as mechanically possible before the actual air drying begins.

In your case, though, installation of a vent is probably the way to go. The hardest part of the job is boring the 4 1/8" diameter hole through to the outside. Since most folks won't want to purchase an expensive hole saw for a one-time project, I suggest renting one if possible from your local rental store.

If you have a convenient window, you might be able to get around a "boring" job by fabricating a vent. Replace a pane of glass with a galvanized metal sheet with a 4 1/8" hole precut into it. Because of the extra stress of the dryer hose, glue the sheet metal in place with caulk instead of using window glazing putty. Then attach a standard dryer vent cover to the sheetmetal and your ready to go!



Copyright 2018 G George Ventures Inc.