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Handyman Letter -  May 15, 2002



1) I'm sorry, so sorry! ... 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) News from the Basement Annex!!

5) Q&A with our readers

6) LINKMEISTER's Corner...

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



Early last Sunday morning, I was driving to the Home Depot store in New Hartford, CT when I heard an interesting news feature on Connecticut Public Radio. The story concerned Mark Warner, the governor of Virginia, who had recently apologized for conducting eugenics experiments on the population. Shocking!

Well, not exactly. He was apologizing for "other" Virginia government officials and judges, who ordered the sterilization of around 8000 "undesirables" between 1920 and 1980. He was following the lead of the Virginia General Assembly, which in 2001 passed a resolution expressing "profound regret" for the poor judgment of... you guessed it... other Virginia General Assemblies. From the press reports, "profound regret" left many people cold since it was not a real apology. (I'll have to ask my lawyer to explain that semantic shuffle.)

This got me thinking. Almost every day it seems like some individual, government or organization is apologizing for something someone else did. Corporate leaders apologize for the misdeeds of their underlings, even if they too were bamboozled. Presidents apologize for government actions taken before they were even a gleam in their founding father's eye. And so on.

So I mused... who has ever apologized for the obvious misdeeds of the home repair continuum? To my knowledge, no one!!

So in the spirit of posturing and meaningless political claptrap, let me offer my sincere apologies for the following list of egregious acts by my contemporaries. When I'm done I'm sure you will all feel a lot better and more in touch with your do-it-yourself selves!

Therefore, please accept my apologies for...

* Toilet bowl cleaners advertise they don't damage your plumbing... but neglect to tell you they don't consider toilet seals, gaskets and rubber flappers part of your "plumbing". Sigh. I'm deeply sorry.

* All the dedicated people who translate instructions from (choose the language) into English and the editors who don't double-check their work. I'm really sorry.

* The other dedicated people who write frighteningly-complicated instructions with optical-illusion-like graphics for do-it-yourself furniture... but never really try them out. I am embarrassingly sorry.

* The penny pinching companies who pack poor quality screws and anchors with their wall hangings, such as towel bars, curtains, mirrors and bric-a-brac shelves. My personal favorite... screws that are too short to "spread" the supplied (albeit inadequate) anchors. My sorrow is as wide as the ocean, as deep as your wallet! (Be sure to install any mirrored ones over a nice, fluffy couch!)

* The inventor of silicone caulk who to this day can't figure out how to get the dang stuff completely off anything! I am most humbly sorry.

* The makers of so-called "super" glues that stick better to skin than broken widgets. My sorrow is endless.

* The marketing folks who pack spray polyurethane foam in such large containers that, in most jobs, 90% is thrown away... forgive me!

Finally, I offer my most sincere apology for all the self-styled home repair gurus... America's "handymen"... who sell "specialty" tools that are not only far inferior to traditional tools, but often do not work under "real life" conditions. You know... the place where "real" people such as you and I live!

I would like to say they know not what they do... but they should. And for that, most of all, I regretfully apologize.





If you are a connoisseur of backyard cooking and your tool of choice is a propane grill, take note.

On October 1, 1998, all new small propane tanks, including the common 20 lb size used for gas grills, were required to have "overfilling protection devices", or OPD's, installed in place of the standard shutoff valves. The reason? A tank filled more than 80% could potentially release propane (via the automatic pressure release valve) if the liquid gas expanded in the tank. This is especially hazardous if the release occurred in an enclosed space, such as an automobile trunk!

Now the bad news! As of April 1,2002, some states are requiring ALL OLD TANKS to be retrofitted with OPDs or replaced. Many weekend burger flippers are going to be in for a surprise when they try to get their tanks filled for Memorial Day weekend!

Even if your state has not adopted the new fire code, you may not be out of the woods. The new-found safety issues have raised liability concerns (e.g. lines of lawyers at every hardware store) so many propane refillers are refusing non-OPD tanks, even though they are not required by any law to do so. Store policies will vary widely and the longest lines will undoubtedly be at the most "liberal" refillers!

Though it is acceptable to upgrade an old tank valve with an OPD, you may find it impossible to find a kit... or a dealer willing to install one for you! Again, the dealers I have spoken to are all terrified of the liability issues. It's safer to sell you a new tank than to worry about the consequences of a badly installed or defective OPD.

It's easy to identify whether your tank has an OPD. Most OPD valves have a unique triangular shutoff handle, rather than the traditional round one. Also, all OPD tank valves have "OPD" stamped on them. If your valve does not have the stamp, it is not "OPD"!

Oh... and if you think you may need a new tank before Memorial Day get your sneakers on and make your move now. You may find your local hardware store "Sold Out"!



Dear NH,

I just received a chiminea as a gift. It was purchased in Mexico and did not come with any instructions. I sure am glad I did a search on the subject and found your web page. Thanks for all the good information. Wondered if you had any experience with people using the "Duraflame" logs in their unit? I thought I would use those as the fire will not get too intense and the mess of the ashes will be very easy to clean.



Duraflame logs are an easy, neat and admittedly lazy way to enjoy a fire. Regarding ceramic chimineas, using a Duraflame log is fine once your chiminea is broken in with a few short small fires per our article.

Artificial logs have a long burn so be sure you have enough "laid-back" time available to enjoy it! If you're short on time, consider cutting the log in half (length-wise) with a reciprocating saw or chain saw. Leave the paper on the log halves because it is needed for proper lighting.



Dear NH,

I removed linoleum from my bathroom floor. Some of the old paper backing is still stuck to the floor. I have really used a lot of 'elbow grease' in attempting to remove it but, it's tough. Since it seems to be on there really solid and, I am replacing the old linoleum with 1/4" x 12" x 12" tile, is it really necessary to remove that stuck on paper?

LW from Mt. Vernon, WA


With large ceramic tiles it is very important that the floor be level so that the tiles don't "rock". Otherwise they may eventually crack. You can easily tell if the residue left on the floor is a problem by simply placing a few tiles here and there and seeing if they are solid.

If you are intent not to waste more time on the old floor AND the amount of rocking is very slight, use "thinset" to glue the tiles down. Thinset is a Portland cement product that dries very hard, so it will support the tiles and resist cracking on a slight "lump" better than any premixed "mastic" tile adhesive or construction adhesive.



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