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Handyman Letter - June 2004

In This Issue:

1) Forget the rich guy- marry the handyman!... a message from the Natural Handyman

2) Back at ya'... in appreciation for media citations or reciprocal links!

3) Sweepstakes Central... win great home repair stuff!!

4) News from the Basement Annex!!

5) Q&A with our readers

6) Linkmaster's Corner

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


1) Forget the rich guy – marry the handyman! ... a message from the Natural Handyman

This is a hustle-bustle time of year for contractors here in New England. The winter chill is nearly gone (hey, this isn't Phoenix!), the forests are again bright green and home projects are sprouting like daffodils. It looks like another rainy summer, so sunny days are all the more valuable. Like honey bees, the handymen are always busy when the sun's out!

As the saying goes, a good handyman is hard to find! And when you find one who clicks, you wish you could lock him in the basement to have around when needed, like a fine wine. For many of my customers, were their pockets deep enough they'd have me on retainer... or set up spare room for me in kid's wing. There is a certain excitement in having a man around who can do things beyond bringing home a six-figure paycheck, programming the TIVO or hand-washing the Beamer. Though many of my clients live in homes that some might call castles, for want of a handyman life is less sweet.

Even though my three daughters all have a discerning eye, fatherly concern makes me wonder just what type of man should they marry? They are all independent young women who are not going to take any guff from some mumbling, knuckle-dragging endomorph. They will demand sensitivity, concern, attentiveness and the desire to please from their mates . After all, they're worth it!

Like a bolt from heaven, it struck me! As did their mother and grandmother, they should take the high road... and marry the handyman!

Stop laughing! There are as many well-to-do wives who go through the day drowning their sorrow in alcohol, Valium or Botox as there are wives of handymen who go shelf-less, toilet-less and paint-less. And, occasionally, cash-less!

One advantage to marrying the handyman is that you don't have to invite strange men into your home to fix things... you already have a strange man living with you! And why pay someone to embalm an antique table or spatter paint on the rug when your faithful spouse will do it for no more than a beer, a pat on the head or a chance to use the remote control! That is, when he has the time between upgrading his computer, visiting Natural Handyman online, lawn mowing and helping the neighbors build their new party deck for a six-pack paycheck.

Of course, life with a handyman is not all straight pictures and tiled floors. He occasionally may need some attention... and I don't mean leaving more lists around the house signed, “Love, The Boss”. Handymen can get depressed. Typically overwhelmed with work, they can retreat into themselves. You might find him fixing the same door knob over and over. Or playing computer games. Or straining the kitty litter with your favorite colander to save every last precious grain!

There is another side to this story. As the saying goes, you don't always have to marry the chicken to get the eggs. Handymen can play the role of surrogate spouse for single or divorced person (with the purest of motives, of course). For example, one of my “previously married” ladies once told me that a handyman is like having a husband without the baggage! Another said that the best thing about having a handyman is that he'll do what you want, then you pay him and he'll go away! Her eye's glimmered unmercifully when she softly repeated, “Go away.” And then there was the lady who called me her “honey-do man”. You know... “Honey, do this!” or “Honey, do that!”

Perhaps the most embarrassing was the customer who referred to me as her “house husband”. Needless to say it was an uncomfortable moment for both me and her real husband when she made this declaration in a room full of visiting relatives. Some introduction to the family. Gulp!

Marry the handyman? Why not! If nothing else, you hopefully won't have to patiently wait for him to call you back.... 'cause you'll be at the top of his list!


(P.S. My wife, soul mate and editor suggested I add “For Women Only!” to the title of this message. I did consider it, since the piece is from my male perspective. But with growing the number of women joining the handyman profession, it would be unfair to dash some guy's dream of marrying a loving, devoted and fully accredited handywoman!)



HOW DOES YOUR HOME LOOK TO VISITORS? You may not care... unless you're trying to sell it! Here are some tips from Gail McCauley of the Paint Quality Institute on using paint and color to prepare your home for sale!

No... we aren't going to lecture you on the nutritional evils of hot dogs, hamburgers and fat-laden sausages! NH isn't that hypocritical. Rather, this article from the Propane Council offers cooking tips and safety concerns that both novice and pro barbequers should take to heart!

A lighthearted, interesting article on those tricky doors we (and our cars) take for granted... till they stop working!

You can make the most God-awful grout look brand new with the latest epoxy grout colorants. And getting professional results is easier than you might think! (Though, alas, not easier on the knees!)



Dear NH,

I have an old vent hood that could use a fresh coat of paint. It has been cleaned many times with strong cleaners and is bare metal in parts. I have looked up heat resistant paints and they all are black. I need white. Any suggestions?

MB in Atlanta, GA


So... you're not trying for a “Goth” look in your kitchen! Okay, clored high-temp paints do exist... you're just looking in the wrong place!

Most hardware store heat-resistant paints are meant for wood stoves and stove pipe, hence the domination of black. The place to look is an automotive parts store. Engine block paints are very heat resistant... more than anything your stovetop can produce outside of a full-blown grease fire!

One company that manufactures high heat spray paints is Dupli-Color. Their spray paints can take up to 500 degrees F. and are available in 36 colors, including white and.... black! Here's a link to their site:

These paints do not require a prime coat, so you don't have to worry about the bare metal. Just have the surface squeaky-clean and lightly sanded for the best paint adhesion.

Frankly, I don't know if there is really any advantage to using high temperature paint over regular solvent-based spray paints for range hoods, since the temperatures never get any hotter than boiling water, which normal spray paints can easily handle. However, there is no reason not to, either!


Dear NH,

What is the difference between a “left hand” and “right hand” entry lockset? We bought a fancy Schlage lockset (with a lever on the inside instead of a knob) for our front door. After my husband opened the box, he saw that the instructions had the fancy pull handle on the inside and the lever on the outside... backwards! THEN he read the box and saw that it was the wrong lock for our door! Men! Anyway, can he still install it, or do we have to return it? Please bail us out... I hate making extra trips to the “home store”!

BE from Tampa, FL


You should be able to use the lock on your door. Most locks today are user-friendly and most are also “ambidextrous”. However, with lever-style handles there is a “right” and “left” way to install them. Each manufacturer has it's own “curve” to the levers.

Though the position of the curve is not really important from a functional standpoint, if a number of the lever locks are near each other, it's aesthetically important that the curve be the same for all the locks. Thus, you would typically purchase locks matching the “hand” of your door. (I posted an article on door hand a few months ago in our articles area).

In your particular case, if the front door is NOT near any other locksets, you can decide yourself whether you care about the “curve” of the lever. If not, install away!!


Dear NH,

I just had a whole house exhaust fan installed in the attic of my new home. The fan has louvers on the outside but no screening on the inside. What will stop bats or birds from entering my attic? The louvers don't seem to shut tightly when the fan is off. Can I install screening any way to stop bats or birds from coming into my attic?

AD from Corinth, NY


You probably have nothing to worry about. Bats and birds are not going to try and open the louvers to get in. I have yet to hear of any vermin entering through attic fan louvers provided they fully close when the fan is off. Granted, fan louvers don't always close air-tight... but they would have to be seriously agape to entice a flying animal or adventurous squirrel to enter.

And NOTHING is going to be able to fly into the attic when the fan is on... the wind velocity is too high! However, if the louvers stick in the open position, you might find helicopters landing in your attic! So it's not a bad idea to check them occasionally (from the outside, if it's more convenient).

You could probably install screening, but there are potential problems (which is why no standard installation includes screening). First, installing a screen would probably require you to remove the fan. Not too hard, but a job nonetheless. Depending on the mount, you might have to move the fan further inwards so that the fan and the louvers don't touch the screen. This might require some framing work.

Secondly, the screen would become blocked fairly quickly with debris (those attic fans move lots of dust and other airborne stuff! This would dramatically lower the efficiency of your fan. Also, cleaning the screen might require removing the fan again. No fun.




Dear NH,

Nice Mother's Day letter! I, too, was adopted. My adoptive father was raised by the nuns out in Port Jefferson when his parents died when he was 3 yrs. old. Nobody seemed to want to adopt my dad, being he had polio.

Anyway, he was taken in by a foster family at 11 after he recovered from the polio. He later served in Korea. Then in the 60's, I came around. My adoptive mom couldn't have kids. After that, in the latter part of '66, my parents got a phone call that there were twin girls available through the “normal” adoption method in Florida. I was what you'd call an "under the table/black market" baby... totally legal (I think) but circumventing the normal adoption route. But my parents had little money, so they could not afford for me to have siblings. I was raised an only child.

I look back sometimes and wonder why my mother gave me up? I am sure that you do, too. I've signed on to all those adoption sites for a possible reunion, but no avail. I do know her name, where and when I was born. I believe she was a military "brat".....(from either the USVI or Panama Canal Zone) but so far no contact. However, every Mother's Day as we all sit down to dinner and my adopted mom is at my side, I salute my birth mother for her brave decision years ago, and more importantly, for providing me LIFE.


Dear J,

Perhaps the best gift a parent can give their adoptive child is to never tell them they are adopted. There is a certain stress on the child (and then the adult) that can't quite be understood by children living with their natural parents. I'm not one of those people who thinks that we should know all... some secrets are best left secret!

However, with today's adoptions regularly occurring across racial and national lines, such secrecy is impossible. Personally, I found out from my bratty big-mouth cousin, who overheard the adults talking and blurted out the secret... to be cruel in the midst of a typical cousinly argument. I played it cool (what else could I do... I was only 12 years old) but to the day they died my parents and I never discussed any of the details of the adoption or what they knew about my birth parents.

Did I ever want to know who they were? Honestly, only once. I was emotionally stressed at the time. In 20/20 hindsight, I think my quest for knowledge was a crutch... or a quest for a fantasy family.

Financial, not emotional, issues stopped my search. Now, even with the relatively inexpensive resources available via the Internet, I have decided to not pursue my adoption any further. My life is happy, full and I don't need the complications that such a reunion might bring.

However, I (as you) salute my mother (and the nuns at St. Agnes' Home) for letting me live.

And giving me the chance to make something of that life.



Dear NH,

Your webpage at:

shows a picture of a gable mounted belt driven whole house fan. Can you tell me the manufacturer of the one pictured? And or tell me where to find gable mounted belt driven whole house fans.

PS from S. Burlington, VT


The fan pictured unfortunately did not have any manufacturer information on it. Interestingly enough, it was originally mounted on the attic floor, but produced so much noise in the hallway that the owner wanted it moved to an outside wall. I was initially skeptical about the improvement in noise, but the results were excellent! Very little noise is heard except for the whoosh of air and some muffled low-frequency noise in the bedroom directly beneath the fan.

Good luck with your quest!


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