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Handyman Letter -  May 1, 2002



1) Patience is really a virtue ... 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... win great home repair stuff!!

4) What's new at

5) Q&A with our readers

6) LINKMEISTER's Corner...

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



RUSH!! It seems to be modern life's clarion call. Maybe I am out of step, but I'm a little tired of the hurried pace that has been thrust on us, and willingly accepted by too many of us.

Being a practical sort (most of the time) and ever-curious, I wonder what the result of this adrenaline-rush mentality is? Does more work/play really get done? Or are we fooling ourselves?

From my own experience, my guess is that all the rushing makes us less productive. Let me cite some anecdotal evidence. In the trades, the biggest time wasters are not the line at the Home Depot, waiting in traffic or being stood up at the "altar"... they are mistakes! Being a do-it-yourself reader, I'm sure you've assembled a confusing thousand-part kit, such as a desk, toy, computer table or even a set of tall metal shelves. And I bet that you probably did not thoroughly read the "hieroglyphic" instructions.

There you are, with the thing half-assembled and suddenly you realize one of the pieces is reversed. It was an easy mistake to make. Alas, you are forced to disassemble most of your work to remove the backwards piece. Not only do you feel foolish, but an hour project just morphed into a double-espresso moment!

Speed is good. Efficiency is great. Wanton rushing is both wasteful and destructive. In my last message I bemoaned the deluge of "spam" email... surely a time-waster by any measure. Yet in our hurry to delete these unwanted ads, we must also take care to slow down, breathe and give consideration to worthy inquiries and important people.

There is a time to rush and a time to stop and smell the flowers. There are events that justify heart-pounding, white-knuckle speed... and times when speed kills!

Though I have never fished, I admire the mythic slow pace and laid-back attitude of the stereotypical fisherman. A friend who fished once told me that catching fish was important but not the reason he fished.

He loved fishing for one reason... when you fish, you can't do anything else!





With all the rain here in the Northeast in the past few weeks, it's easy to forget that we are in the midst of the worst drought in over 10,000 years!! OK... maybe I'm exaggerating a little... but with the warmth of summer looming ahead it pays to be prepared! We have found a fine article from the CONNECTICUT GREEN INDUSTRIES website that presents a wide range of ways to save water and protect your plants!



Dear NH,

I am looking for anything good or bad about vinyl windows vs. wood frame windows. I am looking at replacing all the windows in my home and vinyl seems to be the mode for what I have seen thus far.



Great question, especially since I am considering the very same project on my home! My old wood windows need miles of window glazing and the sun has destroyed the stain/polyurethane on the inner surfaces. (And, frankly, I will do whatever I can to escape from doing the repairs!) Fortunately, the window glass is not falling out yet.

Not too many years ago, I would have been a little hesitant recommending 100% vinyl windows. However, recent chemical advances and design improvements have brought vinyl up to the same quality as wood, aluminum or vinyl-clad wood windows.

There are three primary concerns to be dealt with. The first is aesthetic. The second is quality of the window. The third is the contractor's expertise and reliability.

Windows can come in a number of configurations... 100% wood, wood inside and vinyl-clad wood outside, 100% vinyl inside and outside, and of course anodized coated aluminum. If the interior trim in your home is stained, not painted, you may want to consider wood inside / vinyl outside to maintain the appearance of your woodwork. If your interior trim is painted, though, vinyl or aluminum would be the top choices for minimal maintenance. However, be aware that you should not paint vinyl windows!

Aluminum is perhaps the toughest of all the available options and modern aluminum windows do not have the heat-transfer problems that plagued older windows... excessive condensation and even freezing in the winter! They may over time need repainting if the finish deteriorates. This is a strictly aesthetic issue... aluminum does not rot or rust. Vinyl or vinyl-clad are the most maintenance free, never needing anything other than occasional cleaning. Wood, on the other hand, is a maintenance hog needing regular repainting to prevent deterioration and rot!

Comparing quality among manufacturer's is almost impossible. Over the years, even the major manufacturer's have produced some "dogs". The only rule of thumb I can give is to never purchase a window that you can't first look at, touch and operate. Have a salesman show you how they work and then try to work them yourself. If they have special features such as "tilt-in" or easy removal, be sure to test this feature, too. Some folks find these mechanisms very difficult to operate
You should inquire about the warranty, the availability of replacement parts, how long the manufacturer has been in business and (if you are really motivated) do some Web searching to find out what other people say about their products! With major manufacturers such as Andersen and Pella, parts are available for 20 years or longer.

Concerning the contractor, it is important to do a little investigation unless you have found them from a very strong referral. We have an article on our site about how to choose a contractor... this should get you started and help you miss the big traps! ( Visit our "Articles" area and look in the drop-down menu for "Contractors, hiring tips")

Ideally, the installer should have some experience with replacement windows. If not, you should expect a much lower labor quote than the more experienced competition. Otherwise I wouldn't take the chance. You can save some money working with a newer installer but you must be willing to accept the added risk! Installing replacement windows is not brain surgery, and any experienced carpenter can do a fine job if he (or she) takes the time to do it right.




Dear NH,

I had a rug stain my white vinyl floor a yellowish color. It was near a patio door. I removed the rug and a few weeks later the stain had disappeared. I believe the direct sunlight shining on the floor caused the stain to disappear.

Maybe you want to amend your article using this information.

JW from Milwaukee, WI


Interesting... and I guess it makes sense, too! Sunlight is known for its power to fade colors. Just ask anyone who had a couch that is now "two-toned" because of strong sunlight! You are fortunate to have your floor stain so conveniently close to a window.  Maybe this could be used as a marketing tool for skylights?



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