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Handyman Letter - August 2004

In This Issue:

1) When good websites go bad... a message from the Natural Handyman

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

“Installing And Hanging Doors” by Gary Katz


1) When good websites go bad... a message from the Natural Handyman

The one thing I've learned from my 30+ years in the home repair biz, is “measure twice... cut once”. Another favorite motivator is “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

Who would think these two reliable tomes would come into conflict? Well, let me tell you from firsthand experience... sometimes, an ounce of prevention can lead to more pain than gain! Apparently, computers have not evolved enough to fall under these human, tried-and-true safeguards.

In order to handle the rising volume of visitors to our website (thank you!), we had been preparing to move some of the load to a larger, faster server... our website's home-sweet-home. There were no serious problems yet, but they were looming on the horizon... hence my reference to the “ounce of prevention”.

We not only “measured twice” but innumerable times using test websites and other tricks for a clean-cut transition.

Famous last words. When we attempted to move our main website to that server, including our mail and our handyman network, a 5 day horror story unfolded that would make “28 Days Later” look like Sesame Street. The debacle continued... we were totally offline for more than two days and partially offline for another two days, and much of our correspondence was delivered to E-mail hell.

Being the brave webmaster I am, I tucked my tail up between my legs and told our IT guys to move everything back... PRONTO!! Thankfully, within 24 hours all services were restored and the sun again rose over Natural Handyman's Basement Annex!

So my apologies to any of you who may have had difficulty contacting our site, or sending us a comment, or entering a contest. And, of course, that this newsletter is about a week late.

Hopefully the next time I attempt a “pound of cure”, it won't turn into a Shakespearian “pound of flesh”. See you in a short month!




PAINTING 101: Selecting the right sheen for your paint project can balance beauty and cleanability!

COLOR AND LIGHT for HOME DECORATING... The sun and the orientation of your home affects how colors look in your rooms... read more!

HAVE A NOISY CONDO? Or apartment? Though your choices are not as wide as a private home, you can quiet things down a bit. Read more...


5) Q&A with our readers...

Dear NH,

I have a finished basement. I noticed in my furnace room and my laundry room which have open ceilings that there is lots of condensation on the pipes (even small puddles). What if anything can I do about it now? I do have a humidifier that was installed with my air conditioner. It is already on the low setting. I am very worried about my home (basement) as it is still very new. What can I do? What can you suggest that I do?
Thank you for your time.

JK from Bradford, Ontario, Canada


The first thing is to turn off the dehumidifier for the summer. Turning it off is more than just lowering the humidity control... the “humidistat”. You should also turn off the water supply to the humidifier, for a few reasons. First, the small saddle valves that typically feed humidifiers become inoperable after years of non-use. Turning them on and off twice a year can actually extend their useful life! Also, this would be a good time to clean the inside of the humidifier's water tank and element, which will add to it's useful life and decrease the potential for dangerous bacterial growth.  And if you need to order parts, you'll have plenty of time before the next heating season.

Though a freestanding dehumidifier is the most thorough choice for drying out the basement, if the pipes are your immediate concern simply wrap them with foam pipe insulation. The insulation will keep the moisture from condensing on the pipes and totally eliminate the dripping. Be sure to use duct tape on all loose-fitting butt-joints and seams to give the most protection.

If your home is very new, chances are your foundation and basement slab are still loaded with moisture. This will evaporate over time and, provided your foundation and slab have been installed properly, you'll find your dehumidifier will do a better job and work less.

Dear NH,

All the bathroom fan motors I buy to replace the simple 50 cfm bath fan blows the air in, not out. Seems they rotate the wrong way. Where can I find fan motors that blow the other way?

BS from Anchorage, AK


Most vent fan motors turn CCW (counterclockwise) but a few turn CW (clockwise). All motors are designated either CCW or CW. Determine the rotation you need by looking at the vent fan enclosure. The fan blades should turn so they are pushing the air towards the exhaust hose opening. Visualize the fan enclosure as a small roulette wheel. The direction that would cause the ball to roll straight out the vent is the direction of rotation.

If you have had bad luck purchasing “generic” motors, perhaps you should find an authorized dealer for your brand of fan (either online or in your area) to get the correct motor. Most of the major brands (for example Nutone or Broan) have websites that can direct you to a local dealer in AK.

Before you rush out to buy another motor, though, there is another possibility. Maybe the vent is blocked or the vent flap is stuck closed! This could be at the fan itself or, in the case of an external vent, the flap outside the house. This would result in the same effect... the air would not blow out and the fault could be incorrectly blamed on the fan. Check it out!



7) PASS THE HAMMER, WOULD YA? ... NH'S readers speak out!

Dear NH,

You goofed in the July newsletter. The links to the light bulb articles were incorrect.

BB from Boston, MA


Muchas gracias, BB! (And everyone else who took the time to drop me a line.) You're correct... I was a little over-enthusiastic and typed a few extra letters into the url for the pages. Many of our readers tried to reach the pages and received the dreaded “404 Page Not Found” error. Sorry about that. The correct links are:

The History of the Light Bulb

How Light Bulbs Work


Dear NH,

I found your information on Armstrong Vinyl Flooring very helpful. The one thing I did not find is if you can use any of the products like a wet Swiffer pad on this type of flooring. I have purchased "once and done" and sprayed the floor and then mopped it up with a wet mop. Also --- is the product "once and done" safe for pets? Thanks for your assistance.

PP from New Castle, DE


According to Procter and Gamble,

"Swiffer Wet is safe to use on linoleum, vinyl, finished wood floors, and laminate floors (Formica and Pergo). It's also safe for ceramic floors with sealed grout, and some natural stone floors like granite, terrazzo, and travertine, as long as they're sealed. If you still have concerns, you may want to test in a hidden area of the floor first. And, be sure to check your warranty. Using something other than the recommended cleaner could void all guarantees."

P&G also does not consider the cleaning liquid in Swiffer to be dangerous to pets, though the perfumes in it don't taste very good and large amounts might cause stomach upset in some animals.

Regarding Armstrong's "Once N' Done" no rinse floor cleaner, they didn't have anything specific to pets on their site, so I sent them a note. Here's their prompt reply:

“Dear Natural Handyman,

Thank you for contacting Armstrong World Industries, Inc.
If the Once 'n Done is wet, it could be an irritant, but it is not harmful. If Once 'n Done is dry, there is no problem. “

Hope this helps!


Dear NH,

I've noticed that you're missing (#7) “Pass The Hammer” section in your last newsletter. Is this a test?



No, but if it a test was you passed with flying colors! Yep... #7 somehow ended up on the cutting room floor. Even my lovely editor missed this one... overworked and underpaid is an acceptable excuse for most anything around here!

If I ever need a replacement copy editor I'll give you a buzz!


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