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Handyman Letter - April 1, 2002


1) Back into the sun... 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... Contest winners and NEW CONTEST!!!!

4) What's new at



My beloved oil furnace, a noisy and inefficient beast of some 30+ years had finally reached the point of no return (or repair). The clock was ticking so it was time to bite the proverbial bullet and move a step closer to debtor's prison.

My timing was great... the heating company made me an offer I couldn't refuse. No interest for one year and no payments for six months! Give me the pen...

As usual, I keep my hands thoroughly wrapped around these projects. In other words, I'm always looking for trouble (as if you would expect any less from me). My little contribution was to disconnect the remnants of a late 70's vintage solar water heater, which by all accounts hadn't worked since the mid-80's. It once offered assistance to the furnace by preheating the water. Now it's a hiding place for field mice and a dust magnet!

After I received the quote for the furnace replacement, I coaxed the salesman into adding removal of the holding tank from the basement to the deal. He did so without objection... and for no additional charge (oh joy!). Perhaps he hadn't looked too closely at the 120-gallon monster, two-feet wide and nearly six feet tall!

Detaching the tank from the furnace was fairly easy. Thankfully the shutoffs worked, though it took hours to drain through its sediment-clogged faucet. The tank trickled and burped in displeasure. I think it knew where it was going, like my cats always know to hide on "trip-to-the-vet day". Patience ruled, and like a trooper the feeble monolith bled every last drop of its rusty-looking excretions into a nearby sump hole.

When I bought this home I thought I could "save" the solar system. I quickly realized "resurrection" was a more fitting description. Once I took stock of the repair costs, burning the money in my wood stove to warm the water bucket-by-bucket made more sense.

On furnace day, a single plumber arrived. He saw the tank, looked at me, looked again at the tank and asked to use the phone. "Help" was the operative word. Then he returned to the basement and began draining the heating system and disconnecting the old furnace.

Within an hour two other young men arrived. They looked at the tank and asked to use the phone. The word "Help!" was again heard amidst nervous laughing. They returned to the basement, had a few words with the plumber and left for a few hours. When they returned they were four strong, with one fellow who (had I not known better) could have been a shaved bear of Soviet Olympic lore. He would be needed.

The only outside exit from our basement is up a set of builder's-special stairs up through a set of Bilco doors. The stairs are so steep (bless those old building codes) that the lift was almost vertical. They installed a harness onto the hand truck bearing the massive tank and began the lifting process. Smoky (the bear) was at the bottom with two of the cubs. The supervisor (the one with the clipboard) was joined by the plumber at the top of the stairs, to help and be out of harm's way... just in case someone had to dial 911.

One step at a time, the tank rose into the sun. Each step brought gasps of relief and a few minutes of rest. Eight steps and thirty-five minutes later, light again shown through the hatchway as the tank moved silently across the back lawn. The three brave souls who did most of the work lay on the lawn, neither laughing nor crying but seemingly dazed. Bless those guys!

And to think... all of this wonderful youth and strength sponsored by the "other white-meat" of modern life... deferred payments! Seriously, I can't imagine how companies can afford to do this! Not that I haven't taken advantage of similar "deals" before. Sears for one gave us nearly a year dispensation on a new range. (In the last year NH went through an appliance meltdown! I won't even go into the garbage disposal nightmare... the refrigerator debacle... the microwave fiasco... or the garage door opener implosion... all gone on to the great appliance store in the sky. And then there were the cars... Eegads!)

Wow... I just realized that next year is going to be expensive! Ouch! Perhaps I can raise some additional moola by running the same type of promotion in my real-life handyman business. "Get your home repaired today... no payments for six months."

Hmmm. Followed by, "Lose home, lose marriage, lose mind!" I suppose I could find some joy in making license plates.




First, a brief apology... Our letter is a little late due to a number of teeth-gnashing computer-related issues in the last few weeks. In THIS issue only, we have not included the usual Q&A or feedback sections. Again, for just this issue.

However, we were able to get a larger than usual number of articles and reader submissions posted onto the website. They are listed below. Thanks for your understanding. We hope to have everything back in shape by April 15th.


NH and the US CPSC bring you timely, common-sense ladder safety tips. Especially useful for the ladder novice, but also valuable for anyone who doesn't want to become famous for "high diving" into the proverbial empty pool!


NH's article on faucet replacement is now online. Featuring a common Delta faucet, learn some of the ins-and-outs of faucet replacement! As NH says, removing the old faucet is often the hardest part!


A unique and thorough article on carpet maintenance and cleaning... everything from vacuuming to stain removal. Thanks to author Marie S. Hammer of the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service!


REMOVING MINERAL DEPOSITS on various surfaces can be really tricky!! Let Dr. Sandra A. Zaslow of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service help you find the right methods for you!


SELLING YOUR HOME? BUYING A HOME? You might want to read about the New York State Property Disclosure law. Even if you don't live in New York, you will find this an enlightening look the "cutting edge" of real estate protection for buyers.


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