Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Garage Door Insulation Kit Installation


After we replaced the wood stove in our Northern Michigan cabin's garage, insulating the garage door was next. It faced the cold north winds, and really reflected the cold right into the garage.

My wife had been "suggesting" that the door should be insulated before winter came. Winter came, and her "suggestion" became stronger. I couldn't put it off any longer.

We bought a DuraCore HP garage door insulation kit on sale for around $30.00 at our friendly Menard's Home Store.

The door was ten feet wide. Each insulation panel was 24 by 48 inches wide, just a few inches wider than individual door panels between the vertical rails. I took a straight edge and marked the correct width. I then did a scoring cut with a utility knife after lining up my mark on the edge of the work table, and snapped the panel on the line.

The insulation panel was 24 inches wide from top to bottom, and was the size of the inside of the opening, but there was a lip on the top and bottom of each door panel that made the opening slightly smaller than the panel size. So, I had to place the top of the insulation panel into the slotted lip, and bent the panel, bowing and flexing it into the opening.

This was a fast, cheap fix that really helps keep the cold out.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tape Measure Shortcut


There finally comes a time when you are on a ladder taking measurements, and you have dropped your tape measure, pencil, or notepad that you are writing the measurements on one time too many.

I got tired of having to fumble for the paper to write measurements on. I took a two inch strip of masking tape and wrote the measurements I needed on that. It was handy to have the measurements right on the tape measure to refer to as I made wood sawcuts. And, it was one less thing to drop off the ladder or misplace.

After dropping a tape measure one too many times, the lip on the end gets bent and loosens. If I use a tape measure with a bent lip, and need a precise measurement, I just measure from the one inch mark and add an inch to the final measurement.

Wood Stove Replacement

I needed to replace the wood stove that was in garage on my Northern Michigan cabin property. We bought a small one several years ago, and it just sat there until cold weather came here. It was very small. It just wouldn't hold enough wood to heat the 30 X 30 Garage.

I took out the old stove and I bought a Vogelzang 96,000 BTU Cast Iron Boxwood Stove, Model# BX26E BTU Output: 96,000. It has a decent size 19X26 firebox and takes 23 inch wood. This stove had to have a 36 inch clearance on all sides. No problem I could set it sideways in the back of the garage and still be able to park my pickup truck inside.
Its dimensions are L x W x H (in.): 32 x 19 x 26. It was assembled except I had to bolt the legs on.

After making a new length of stovepipe, I fired it up. There was smoke coming from under the top of the stove where it meets the sides, there was smoke coming from the two cooking burners, and there was smoke coming from where the top of the stove was bolted to the stove sides. When the smoke cleared inside the building, it was time for a fixup.

Wow..What a deal for $149.00. I guess you get what you pay for. I knew that the stovepipe was clear all the way to the top. I went to Home Depot and bought a big can of stove cement and some stove gasket. I used a tongue depressor to fill the open area where the top of the stove
was supposed to meet the sides of the stove with the stove cement...all around the stove.

I got gasket cement for the stove gasket. I took the two burners off, and carefully cemented a circle of stove gasket around the bottom of the burners. I made sure that I wiped off the excess gasket cement. After allowing the gasket to dry, I placed the burners back on the stove, with the gasket face down on the circumference of the holes, and put 3 firebricks on both of them to weigh the burners down to help the unglued side of the gasket form to the sides of the holes where the burners went in.

Then I painted it with Rustoleum high temperature paint. Time to fire it up again... It worked...no smoke anywhere.... The fix cost about $10.00. This sure cuts down on the kerosene for the portable heater in the garage.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dogs Versus Alligators


DOGS -03

Florida has sunny skies, beaches, and women in thongs. But it also has alligators. Our townhouse in Pembroke Pines was on a no name lake about 8 miles from Hollywood beach and two miles as a gator swims in from the Everglades from the west.

We had three dogs in a townhouse with a Florida patio screen room, and practically no yard. The only thing between the dogs and the deceptively tranquil and beautiful alligator infested waters was a metal framed screened wall. One of the dogs was a husky cross that would tackle any adversary. The other two dogs were Pomeranians weighing one and three pounds. Obviously, tasty hors d'oeuvres morsels for the swampy critters. The dogs liked to sun themselves on the patio, so we needed something to keep them from running through the screen into a waiting gator's lunch pail.

To complicate matters, the townhouse association had strict rules on modifications to the property. Not being one for the rules, I needed an invisible barrier. I decided to paint hardware cloth flat black to match the screen, and then screw it to the screen's frame. It would be practically invisible. I used 1/2 inch square hardware cloth on this and 3/4 inch screws through washers to secure the hardware cloth as I stretched it tight over the frame. This probably wouldn't stop a gator from coming into the patio through the screen, but it would keep the dogs in. Maybe a gator wouldn't like to bump his nose against it.

While I was doing this, my wife decided that we needed planter boxes so we could grow tomatoes almost year round. As long as I had the tools out, I went to the Home Depot and bought six inch fence boards to make the boxes. I waterproofed them, painted the backs of them flat black and hung them on the horizontal frames of the screen wall. None of the condo commandos on the board ever noticed.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Air Conditioner Fan Blade

Air Conditioner Fan Blade Replacement


Before we moved to Dallas, we lived in a townhouse in Pembroke Pines Florida when Hurricane Andrew hit with full force about 15 miles south of us. We had over 100 MPH winds constantly for about eight hours straight. The wind sounded horrible, and you could hear things popping and snapping outside all night long. Several palm trees blew over beside of us, but we were relatively unscathed. The back of the house faced a lake and was glass from ceiling to floor. The glass shimmed in and out like a bowl of jello. But, It didn't break.
We did see St. Elmo's fire dancing like a first time New Year's Eve drunk across the surface of the lake and across the power lines across the lake behind us.


No damage, except where the flying palm frond went through the wire cover on the top of the central air conditioner on the roof and into the fan blade. It stopped the blade in its tracks. It mangled the blade. Since residential air conditioner repairs were low on the priority list of contractors after the storm, I climbed up and took the old fan and motor assembly out. I bought a replacement fan from an air conditioning supply house.

After getting back inside the townhouse, I removed the lock nut off of the motor shaft. Easy enough. But after years of sitting and spinning, the blade was stuck tight on the motor shaft. I didn't have a gear puller, which would have made short work of taking the mangled blade off, so I used a an automotive ball joint separator and some muscle to get it off. I reconnected the motor wires to the unit and straightened out the wire cover as best as I could.

You can see the old, torn up blade and the new one installed on the motor in the pictures.

Floor Tiles (Adhesive Type)


The home that we inherited in Dallas in the early 90's had all of the warmth and comfort that anyone could ever want to raise a family in. The neighborhood was built in the late 1940's and the remaining residents from then were either elderly, retired in Florida, or no longer with us. The neighborhood of fine older homes was undergoing a rebirth as new families moved in and modernizes their new homes. This home was the place where the extended family always met for holidays when I was a kid growing up.
Part of the process of bringing this old home back to life included re-doing the family room floor. The room had been dark fifty years, with thick, dark stained wood 5 inch wide overlapping pine. The ceiling was stained 3 inch wide tongue and groove pine. The floor was the original dark brown patterned linoleum. The room was gloomy.There had been years of cigarette and cigar smokers to make matters worse.
We decided that the easiest way to brighten up the room was to replace the floor covering with white adhesive tiles. It was a 12 by 24 foot room rectangle, so no cutting or trimming of tiles was needed.



Self Adhesive Tiles
Box Cutter
Rolling Pin
Tape Measure

This is for a floor that is not too damaged to cover over. Measure the room and get the right amount of tiles. Each tile is 12 inches by 12 inches, which makes determining the amount to get easier.

Clean the floor of all dirt and accumulated grime. This took some time for us because the floor was the original old one and had seen lots of use and abuse. We finished the floor cleaning job by using Windex and paper towels. You may be amazed at what Windex will clean. It may be necessary to use a putty knife to scrape down any high spots you find. Use a filler to fill holes or cracks that might remain in the old floor to make them level and flush with the rest of the floor.

Floor molding will probably have to be removed. If you want to re-use it, then be careful not to break it as you pry loose the toe nailed molding. Start at a corner as you remove the molding, and mark on the back of the molding its position on the floor, i.e. 1,2,3,4 as you remove them. It makes replacing them easier.

Open a package of floor tiles. Be careful not to drop or bend the corners too hard because they are brittle enough to break the corners off if mishandled. Don't take the paper backing off yet. Visualize the way that the pattern will lay on the floor, and lay the first row up against your starting wall without adhering them. Leave about a 1/8 inch space between the tiles and the wall for expansion. The gap you leave will be covered by the molding. If you are using a tile with a pattern, make sure that all tiles are lined up in the right direction. When you are satisfied with the look of the row, it's time to begin the adhesive process.

If the room is wider than tiles will fit evenly in one foot increments, ( i.e. 12 X 18 ½ ) you will need to have a beginning and ending row on the 18 ½ foot side that is not a one foot wide tile, but a 3 inch wide tile row. In other words, you will have 18 full one foot wide rows and a 3 inch row in width on either end to make the tile floor 18 ½ feet in width to look balanced after installation. Make sure that the pattern matches on the ends if you have to cut tiles to a smaller size.
Carefully remove the cover from the adhesive and place the tile together in a row on the starting wall. Remember, be careful with the corners. Use a rolling pin to "iron down" the tiles for a good bond with the floor being covered. The rolling pin won't go all the way to the wall. Place a length of 1X4 against the tile that you can't roll, and step on it firmly.
Repeat the process of placing tile, rolling, and placing tile until the floor is covered.
Replace the molding and put back your furniture. It's a good idea to use floor coasters under any heavy furniture or couches that will be on the floor.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Toilet Installation


Tools needed:

crescent wrench
Supplies needed:
New Toilet
Wax Ring Seal
Plumber's Putty


My Uncle Joe was somewhat overweight. That's like calling an aircraft carrier a boat.
We had to replace the toilet in one of the bathrooms of the house we lived in thanks to him. Here's how my Uncle Joe entered the picture.
The house was built by my Uncle Bill in 1946. He was a prominent home builder in Dallas. He and my Aunt bought some land in town and decided to build their post war dream house. He and my Aunt built the garage first. It was huge. It was a two and a half car garage that was long enough to get four cars into.
They had a bathroom with a shower and a kitchen in the garage. All of the conveniences of home were there. The bathroom didn't even have a door. I guess the building code and a certificate of occupancy from the city were no big deal then. They lived there while they built the rest of the house.
None of the walls or the floor in the garage were finished, or the bathroom for that matter They had a real bathroom in the house. The shower stall in the garage was made from galvanized sheet metal, and it was big enough for two people to use. Not that my Aunt and Uncle ever did anything like that. Nothing fancy. It was a lot like camping out in the city.
The family room was built directly off of the garage. When I was a kid, all of the family would get together at the house on Sundays. My Aunt was the matriarch of the family, and everyone gravitated there for Sunday dinners. The men would be in the family room, playing dominoes, smoking cigars, and watching the football game of the day on the rabbit eared T.V.
The men always preferred going out into the garage and using the unfinished bathroom in the garage. It was closer, they could take their cigar with them too. It was a real guy thing.
My Aunt, Uncle, and my cousin eventually all passed away. We inherited the home and moved into it.
My Uncle Joe was one of the old timers who really liked the garage bathroom. He gave up cigars, but couldn't give up the garage bathroom. He loved that bathroom like a cat loved his favorite cushion. We had put saloon style swinging doors on it after moving in, so there was an appearance of privacy. My wife insisted on that much.
He came to visit with my aunt and had to make a trip to the garage facilities. He could have gone to the bathroom inside, but old habits are hard to break.
He wasn't gone long when we heard the sound of a loud crash and the un-mistakable sound of breaking ceramic. Knowing that he wasn't cooking in the kitchen out there, we knew that there had been a toilet tragedy of some kind.
Sure enough, when we arrived, uncle Ed was still spread eagled on the floor, awash in water from the broken toilet and spray from the broken water line and broken tank. He had turned while trying to get off the toilet, lost his balance, and tipped over the toilet and himself onto the floor.
Somehow, he tilted the toilet, or the toilet seat or toilet bowl had stuck to him. As he turned when he tried to get up, the whole toilet came along with him along with the lid and the five gallon tank.
The whole toilet, bowl, tank, and lid fell over, and broke into a million pieces.
The bolts holding the toilet to the floor at the floor flange had rusted out over the years, and the toilet's coming loose was just lying in wait for some unwary bathroom occupant. It was time for a new toilet after 50 years of faithful service. Except for his bruised pride, my Uncle was not seriously injured.


The demise of your toilet may not be so spectacular. It may be cracked, have a broken tank top, or die of old age from clogged internal water ducts from water mineral deposits.
Get a toilet that matches the rough in of the old toilet. That's the distance from the wall behind the toilet to the center of the floor flange. The standard rough ins are 12 inches.

1. Turn off the water supply first before you do anything else. If the supply line has a shut off valve, you can turn it off there. Most toilets have a shut off. Be sure to install a shutoff on the supply line when you replace the toilet. It will make life easier in the future. If it doesn't have the shut off at the toilet, then turn off the house supply.

2. Flush the toilet if you can. Drain or bail out the water from the holding tank. Bail out as much water as you can from the bowl. You can try a sponge and a can. Uncouple the water supply line leading from the wall or the floor.

3. Undo the bolts that hold the tank to he bowl. If they are rusted up beyond all recognition, (RUBAR for you military personnel) then saw them off with a hack saw or a hack saw blade it the area if too tight to use the saw. Remove any screws holding the tank to the wall. Be sure to keep the tank supported when you take it off.

4. Next, you pry off the caps that cover the bolts that hold the bowl to the floor, and undo the bolts. Rock the bowl from side to side, but in a more gentle way than Uncle Ed did. Then lift it off the floor while twisting it from side to side.

5. The new toilet bowl should be put upside down on thick newspaper or cardboard to prevent it being scratched up. If for some reason, you are just taking the old toilet off the floor for maintenance, such as replacing a leaking old wax seal, you have to clean off all of the old wax gasket seal material from around the floor flange of the toilet bowl. On a brand new toilet bowl, put a toilet bowl wax gasket around the floor flange of it. The flat surface goes against the toilet. Make sure it sticks, but do not deform it.

6. You then put plumber's putty in about a one inch ring all around the bowl's bottom rim. Put new floor flange bolts in the floor flange slots.

7. Carefully turn the toilet bowl over and gently, but accurately, lower it over floor flange hole. Accuracy in going into the center of the hole is the key. If you miss, you will deform and ruin the wax gasket seal. To be on the safe side, buy an extra one. They're only a couple of dollars, but it will save you a frustrating trip back to the store to buy another one.

8. Press down the bowl and twist it gently from side to side. Do not over twist it.This will compress the wax seal, and make the attachment to the floor waterproof. You don't want to go through the whole procedure only to have water seep out from around the toilet and rot out your wood floor. You will know you have done it right because the seal will feel good to you as you twist the toilet gently. Don't let the toilet raise up off of the floor once you get it down, or you will ruin the seal. But remember, you have an extra one if you happen to mess up.

9. You then attach the tank to he toilet bowl. Use the gasket and bolts that come with it. Don't forget it's gaskets.

10. Line up the tank with the wall by twisting it gently if you need to. You are now ready to re-attach the floor flange bolts. Connect the water supply line. Turn on the water. Flush the toilet and see if there are any leaks.
You can now be confident when your own Uncle Joe visits you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Attic Insulation


You can cut heating bills dramatically by installation of insulation. And, the best part is that it is easy to do in most instances.

We bought a house in East Lansing, Michigan. It was built in 1943 at the same time that a building the size of a 3 car garage was built next to it. It was at the height of WWII when this home was built, and it must have been very hard to get the building materials for the home builder. The living area of the house is about 1,500 square feet.

It was heated by a coal fired furnace originally, but thankfully, after several furnace replacements it had an efficient natural gas furnace. We still dig up burnable size pieces of coal in the garden area. I don't exactly think we are living over a coal deposit. The owner also thoughtfully installed an indoor bathroom sometime in the postwar period.

Even though the furnace was efficient, the house was not in keeping the heat inside.
The furnace frequently turned on and off and heating dollars went out the ceiling.

Research shows that cooling and heating make up 50 to 70 percent of your total energy used in the average home. Unless you planned ahead when you built your home, adding insulation will probably reduce your utility bills. Adding insulation can save you enough money in a short time to pay for itself and save you money in the long run.



Razor Knife
Ladder (If needed to enter the attic access)
Carpenter's pencil or a Sharpie
Non- Halogen work light for poorly lit attics


Rolls of R 25 attic insulation


This kind of insulation comes in long, one piece shrink wrapped rolls and is used mostly in large open areas like attics and in new construction. Select the width of these blankets that are the same size of the spaces between the ceiling joists. The joists are usually 16 inches center to center where you will be unrolling the blankets in the attic. Sometimes you will find the spaces 24 inches center to center.
Insulate the attic to the level recommended for your climate. Owens Corning makes a dandy pink kraft faced insulation which comes in both widths that's ideal for the attic area. The facing acts as a vapor barrier and should be installed face down.
There are two very important things to remember when you walk around in your attic. As you measure or unroll the insulation blankets, be sure to walk on the joists only. At the least, if you set foot on the area between the joists, your foot will go through your ceiling and make a big hole. At the worst, you may find yourself falling through the ceiling. Just a little care will prevent either of these things from happening. Just look where you are walking.
The other thing to avoid are the roofing nails that may stick down into the area where you are working. Hitting a sharp nail point can really ruin your day.
Make sure you wear a minimum of an N 95 face mask to keep from breathing fiberglass fibers. Fiberglass fibers will also adhere to your clothing.
Here is how to estimate the amount of attic insulation needed for a 32 by 40 foot house. . Open the attic access or lower the stairs. If your attic area is not well lit, then plug in and take up an old fashioned shielded automotive work light with a regular 60 watt lamp bulb in it up there with you. You can temporarily tack in a 16 penny nail into a rafter to hang it from. Do not under any circumstances use a halogen light bulb, because these can cause a fire.
The insulation blanket rolls usually come in 26 feet lengths Count the number of spaces that there are between the joists in the attic. In an attic where the joists run perpendicular to a 32 foot wall, there are 8 spaces between the joists or 8 runs that need insulation rolls.
In this example you will need 8 full rolls to cover a 26 by 32 foot area. But the attic is an additional 8 feet longer than the 26 foot rolls, since the total length to be covered is 40 feet. You need an additional 8 feet in each space between a to joist center to center insulation run to complete it to a 39 foot run.
Since each roll is 26 feet long, each blanket roll can be cut into two 13 foot lengths to make up the difference to 40 feet in this example. This means that to get 8 of the 13 foot lengths, you need 4 additional blanket rolls to complete a 39 foot insulation run. One more roll is needed to complete the additional one foot to make the run 40 feet.
Use your tape measure to measure the length of extra insulation that you need on the insulation roll. Mark the correct length where you will cut on each side of the faced side of the insulation. Put a straight edge, such as a long metal yardstick on the marks where the insulation is to be cut and mark a line across the insulation with a carpenter's pencil or a sharpie. Press down on the yardstick next to where you carefully cut the insulation with a razor knife. Pressing down on the yardstick and insulation will compress the insulation and make it easier to cut.
Unroll each blanket with the kraft paper or plastic facing side down on the area you are filling. Add additional lengths as necessary. You do not need to staple or otherwise attach the insulation to the joists.
Cover the attic access panel or the fold down door with insulation too.
You may not need the extra roll to make the insulation run 40 feet long. A proper roof installation has proper ventilation. This means good soffit and rooftop ventilation. Don't cover up the soffit vents with insulation. You need airflow into the attic. So, don't insulate completely all the way to the side of the ceiling where the roof meets the joists. You have leave enough space so that the soffit vents are not covered. Also, do not allow the insulation runs at the wall edges to touch the roof. This will allow continued roof ventilation.
If the soffit vents are covered up, you will create lots of problems.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quieting a squeaking floor


Here's how to quiet squeaky wood floors...and lose that eerie ghostly sound.

Wood floor squeaks are caused by boards that rub against each other. As wood ages, it shrinks, warps, and nails come loose. You know where they are, you don't have to look to hard for them.

The first sep is to see if the wood moves when you step on it. If it doesn't, then your problem is probably warped sub floor. It's probably separated from the joist.

You can try a temporary fix or repair it permanently. A temporary repair can be done by lubricating between the edges of the floor with lock graphite. Squirt some between the boards. This is some really dirty stuff, so make sure that you completely wipe up the excess with a wet rag or paper towel.

You have to fasten the loose boards that are making the noise for a permanent fix.

To fix finished floors, such as older oak floors, which are common, drill a small pilot hole and drive a small finish nail into the side of the squeaky wood at the edge of that board at an angle into the board next to it. Drive another nail at the other angle fro the other board back into the board you just nailed. The nails will form an "x" crossing each other. Nail them far enough in so they will penetrate the joists 3/8ths to ½ inch. Be careful not to hit the floor with the hammer. Finish the nailing with a nail set.

If you have a squeak in the sub floor, and can get under the floor to work on it, then do the work there. Cut a 3 inch piece off of a 2 X 4. Drill two small pilot holes in it so the wood on the 3 inch X 3/12 inch side so it will not split when you put screws through it. Coat the thin side that you cut with glue and place the side of the block against the joist under the squeak. Push the glued side up to touch the sub floor snugly, and screw or nail the block to the joist.

If you can't get under the floor to work, then this repair requires some creativity in wood filling. Use long screws at the squeaky joint. Drill pilot holes first and countersink where the heads will be. Screw in the screw through the floor into the sub floor. The countersunk holes will need to be filled with matching color wood filler or with wood plugs of the right color.

Unclogging a toilet


Tools Needed:

Closet Auger
Plumber's Helper
Coat Hanger

Nothing can ruin your day like a clogged toilet. It may be a simple clog of toilet paper and waste, of it can be anything else that could be put down the toilet like a diaper or a child's toy.

Unless your main sewer line is plugged up by roots or other obstructions, the clog is normally located at the passages in the bowl leading to the pipe where the toilet attaches to the sewer line at the floor.

Don't waste your time and money on chemical cleaners to dislodge a clog. Don't put Draino or any other product containing lye into the toilet. These are made for sinks only, and can be explosive when used in a toilet.

The first thing to try is a plunger. There are several kinds that you can choose from. One is the old fashioned one with a black or burnt orange cup on the bottom of a straight wood handle. The plunger goes into the bowl, and you push it up and down.

The better plunger is one that which looks like a black colored round accordion fold cylinder that is attached to a straight handle. This type of accordion action creates a lot more compressed pressure to force the obstruction free than the old fashioned cup type plunger. Be careful when you use either type of plunger when the bowl is full to the brim. You will create waves that will overflow onto the floor. Let the toilet drain to the normal water level first, if it will drain that far, and then plunge away.

If you can't get the clog free by the plunger, then its time to bring out a heavier weapon. Try a toilet auger (closet auger). This has a pipe with a sharp turn at its bottom. The bend at the end hepls to get the business end of the auger into the toilet trap. A flexible metal snake with a crank handle that you turn runs through the pipe.

Put the curved end of the auger into the bottom of the bowl, and turn the crank while you push the auger into the drain hole in the bottom of the toilet. Try not to push the obstruction further into the toilet. The goal is to try to hook the blockage or break it up.

You might want to try an improvised, but sometimes effective tool from a wire coat hanger. A thicker, stiff coat hanger works better than a flimsy one. Cut the hanger off on either side of the hanger hook. Straighten it out and make a small hook at the business end of it. Stick the hook end down the toilet and try to snag whatever obstruction may be there.

You will never know what the obstruction is until you ave tried all possibilities in trying to loosen it. If you can't get the clog free, then the next step is to disconnect the water supply, drain the toilet as much as possible, and take the toilet off of the floor so you can work on the obstruction from the bottom.

Toilets that keep runnng


How the toilet is supposed to work:

When you press the handle down on a flush tank, it raises the tank's flapper flush ball off of the seat on the bottom of the water storage tank. The tank's ball is a floating valve at the end of a heavy wire that is attached to he flush handle lever inside the water holding tank. This raising up lets water rush down into the bowl. As the water holding tank's level goes down, the flapper flush ball falls back onto the hole in the seat on the bottom of the water holding tank, and the flushing handle returns to its original position outside of the water holding tank. No more water can go into the toilet bowl then.
The bigger round float ball drops with the level of the water and an arm it is connected to opens the ballcock valve, which in turn refills the tank with water. As the tank's level rises, the bigger float ball rises with it. When the tank is full, the float ball stops rising, and it shuts off the flow of water coming into the tank from the ballcock. .


1. When the water keeps running into the bowl:

Take the cover of the tank off. (Be careful not to drop it or place it in an area where it can fall from It will break if it hits the floor.) See if the tank is full. If it isn't full and is still letting water run, then the tank ball isn't seating right into the bottom of the tank because of improper alignment of the rod or chain that lifts it when it lets water flush the toilet. It could also be that the tank flapper ball is just tired and worn out. If that is the case, then take the flapper ball and the lift chain that it is attached to and replace the whole thing with a new flapper valve kit that can be bought at you favorite home improvement store.

2. If the tank is overfilling:

If the tank seems to be full, check to see if it is trying to overfill by letting water run over the top of, and into the overflow valve. If that is happening, then lift up the arm that is attached to the float ball which regulates the tank water level, and see if that makes the water flow stop. If the water flow stops, then the arm holding the float ball needs to be bent down somewhat to stop the water flow. This will turn off the water flow quicker. If this doesn't do the trick, then unscrew the float ball and shake it to see if there is water inside it. If you hear water sloshin around, buy a new float ball.

3. When the ballcock water regulator needs replaced.:

If the float arm fix does not work, then the water ballcock need to be replaced. This is easy to replace. Turn off the water supply to the tank. The turn off is located under the tank. Flush the tank to empty it. You may want to use a sponge or paper towels to get the water level low enough to keep excess water from running out of the tank. Disconnect the water line to the toilet. Loosen the locknut that holds the ballcock to the holding tank. Lift the old ballcock out and install the new one in the reverse order of the disconnection. Problem solved.

Installing a suspended ceiling


Tools needed:
ceiling kit
soft wire
wire cutters
pliers (booth needle nose and regular just in case)
drill and bits for the wall angles
tape measure
chalk line
utility knife (for cutting ceiling panels if necessary)
roll of string
push pins or small nails

Parts needed:
t shaped main runners
t shaped crosspieces
wall angle strips
soft wire hangers for the ceiling


Nothing improves the look of a garage ceiling, basement ceiling, or other room with a plain or unfinished ceiling like a bright suspended ceiling. Installing one is not hard to do, even if you have no experience with one or haven't even seen one being installed.
We inherited a home in Dallas, Texas. It needed a lot of work, which is shown in many of the accompanying pages. It had a 2 ½ car attached garage with bare stud walls and bare ceiling joists exposed. It was un-insulated and uninviting.
We first insulated and dry walled the walls. We decided to finish off the garage by installing a suspended ceiling with suspended lighting.
Suspended ceilings are made of acoustic fiber panels, or sometimes, panels made of fiberglass. They are put into a grid framework of metal runners that are hung from ceiling joists or from the ceiling. Ours was hung from the existing ceiling joists.


The frame is constructed by creating 2 foot by 4 foot spaces between t-shaped main runners that run perpendicular to the walls across the ceiling and t-shaped crosspieces that intersect the main runners at ninety degree angles. This forms a grid across the ceiling in which you will put these 2 by 4 panels as you finish the project. The outside of the grid frame is held to each of the side walls by screwing right angle strips in a straight line along the side of the wall. These right angle strips form a lip on which the outside of the 2 by 4 fiber panels will rest against the wall.
The panel size that I prefer are 2 by 4 panels. The t-shaped main runners usually come in 8 or 12 foot lengths. These are cut to length with tinsnips. These are installed by hanging them in a perpendicular direction to the ceiling joists and running them to the angle strips on the walls. The 2 foot or 4 foot long t-shaped crosspieces snap into slots in the main runners and at to finish off at the walls into 10 foot long wall angle strips that you have already screwed into the walls.

The goal is to have the 2 by 4 foot open rectangles to later insert the panels into. When you but the materials, take the ceiling measurements to your home supply store, and they will tell you exactly what ceiling supplies to buy.

When you start measuring where the ceiling will hang, first mark a line in each corner of the wall at the height you want to install the ceiling. Be sure you have purchased a chalk line at your home supply store, because you will not have a straight ceiling without using one. Make sure that the chalk line container is full of chalk.

Have a helper hold one end of the chalk line at a corner mark, and let the chalk line container unwind until you have reached the line at the corner at the other end of the same wall. Stretch it tightly between the wall's corners, and pull it away at the center, like you would a bowstring, (several inches will do because you're not shooting at an apple) and let it snap back to mark a chalk line.

You will then mark the wall stud positions that are along the chalk line's mark. Next, cut the wall angle strips to the right length and screw or nail them to the walls at the marks. I prefer screws You need to line up the bottom edge of each strip with the chalk line you have made. If you are not working with bare joists, then find the joists and mark where they are on the ceiling with chalk lines.

You then need to find the places where the long main runners will go with other chalk lines across the joists. You will then stretch strings across the room just under those lines to mark the main runners positions. Use a push-pin or a small nail (whatever works best for you) to run the string from at one wall to the other, and attach the end of the string to a push pin or a nail at the other wall. You will need to run perpendicular strings across the runner marking strings to mark where the crosspieces will go.

Now, its time to align the runners to the crosspieces. Cut the runners to the right length so that the slots in the runners line up with the crosspiece strings. The room may be longer than the runners. If it is, then cut more runner sections to make up the extra length needed, and join them up to the ends of the uncut, factory runners. Place the runners on the wall angles right beneath the chalked lines.

Screw eyes are usually included if you get a ceiling kit. You then screw in the screw eyes into the joists along your chalk lines every 5 feet. Next, wrap a one foot piece of soft wire around itself into each screw eye hanging from the ceiling. Run the other end through a round hole in the runner. Make sure that you use soft wire, or you will have a hard time working with it. Your home improvement store can recommend the right wire for the job.You then adjust the wire until it supports the runner at the same height you attached your wall angles. Wrap the end of this wire around itself, and it's secured. Keep installing wires and fastening them to runners at the right height.

You are nearly at the finish line. When you have put the runners in position, you will need to measure, cut, and fit each crosspiece into place between them and snap their ends in place into the slots in the runners.

Make sure that everything is level. Take off the strings. Have your kids make a string ball with what's left or give it to the cat.

Now, insert the panels at an angle through the grid, and they will drop into place with a little help. If you want to install ceiling lights, there are translucent 2 by 4 foot acrylic panels available for recessed light fixtures.

Freeing doors that stick or bind


The first step you should take if a door binds or sticks is to check to see if the hinge screws are loose. Loose screws allow the door to sag and rub against the door frame or the lock's striker plate. Open the door all the way and tighten every screw.

If the screw spins and refuses to tighten, then unscrew it, break a wooden match stick head off, and stick the remaining wood flush into the screw hole. Safely discard the match head.

If you don't find loose screws or the door continues to stick after all screws are tight, then check to see if one or more of the hinges are set too deeply into the door frame.

Find where the door binds by sliding a piece of paper around the edge where the door binds. If it sticks at either top corner, then move the bottom hinge out. You can do this by unscrewing the hinge and slipping a shim behind it. The shim can be cut the size of the hinge back from the thin backing cardboard of a legal pad or something similar. If the door sticks at the bottom corner, then shim behind the upper hinge as described.

You install shims by opening the door to 90 degrees. The door needs to be held up when you loosen a hinge. Prop open the door with a home repair magazine or two underneath it and take the screws off he back of the hinge at the door frame. Allow the door to rest on the magazine(s). Put the shim in and replace the hinge screws. If the door still sticks, try a second cardboard shim on the proper hinge.

Cutting and soldering copper pipe



The last time I had to do his was to repair a supply line going to a bathroom sink. This is an easy task. Once you have done it, you never forget the technique.


Propane Torch and fuel cannister
Tube cutter
Solder flux
Emery Cloth, sandpaper, or steel wool
Wire fitting brush
Tape Measure
Leather Work Gloves
a "Sharpie" for marking the pipe


Here's how to connect a length of copper pipe to an elbow, a "T" or any other copper fitting. Thee are two types of tube cutters. Both have two rotating cutting wheels between an adjustable jaw. The larger cutter has a handle and a de-burring blade behind the adjustable jaw. The smaller cutter doesn't have a handle, and it spins around the pipe to cut by turning it with your finger tips. The smaller cutter is perfect when removing old pipe in close quarters.

Step 1: Measure to length and mark the spot where the pipe is to be cut. If you are cutting near the end of a pipe, you generally need at least one inch of pipe sticking out from your mark on the shortest side of the pipe.
Open the tube cutter until it fits around the pipe. Put the cutting edges of the cutter around the pipe, and screw the knob on the cutter closed until the cutting wheels touch the pipe on the line you have marked. Do not over tighten. It just needs to be tight enough to lightly score the pipe as you turn the cutter on the first couple of passes.

Don't over tighten the cutter as you readjust the cutting wheels and tighten them to make the cuts deeper because you will deform and flare in the ends of the pipe to a smaller size.

There will be some burrs inside of the pipe left from the cutting action. If you have the bigger tube cutter with the handle, put the point of the de-burring blade into the pipe and turn it. The edges of the blade will take off the burrs. If you have the smaller cutter without the de-burring blade, use a file or a reamer.

Step 2: Sand the outside end of the pipe to be soldered with an emery cloth. Building supply stores sell small rolls of emery cloth that are designed for this use. You can also use sandpaper or steel wool. Buff the end until the dull finish of the pipe is brightened. Sand an area that is about one half inch linger than the fitting it will go into.

Hold the fitting that the pipe will be soldered into in one hand, and with the other hand, use a wire fitting brush, emery cloth, or fine sandpaper and buff the inside of the fitting where the pipe slips in until you have sanded the copper inside the fitting to a bright copper color.

Open the flux can and use the small brush that came with it to brush on an even coating of flux to both the inside of the fitting and the outside end of the pipe. Soldering without flux use is impossible.

Put your gloves on and push the pipe to be soldered into the fitting. Twisting it slightly will spread the flux evenly.

Put the propane flame on the pipe and fitting and apply heat as evenly as possible.
Don't try to apply solder yet. When the pipe and fitting are hot enough to solder, the flux will start to bubble up.

People make the mistake of touching the flame to the solder. This is not the way to melt the solder. Unroll a manageable length of solder from the roll and touch it to the edge of the joint that you are heating. The solder will melt and begin to run into the fitting by convection action. It will be drawn into the joint and seal the joint.

Continue to feed the solder into the joint until a beadlike ring appears around the entire fitting. If solder drips or beads at he joint's bottom, this means that you have applied too much solder.

If you wipe the hot solder on on the joint with a dry cloth immediately after applying it, it will give a professionally done appearance. Wear thick leather gloves when you do this. Unprotected skin will be burned.

Soffit and Fascia Repair


Tools needed

Sabre Saw
Treated Lumber
Wood Screws


When the elements start coming inside the house, things go downhill fast. Our house in Dallas had a wonderful front porch with wrought iron trim. Unfortunately, the right front fascia and soffit has started rotting away under the roof of the house in a five foot section. The fascia on the porch was rotting away in about a 1 foot by 1 ½ foot area.
It was a war with the squirrels on the left rear side of the porch, where they had eaten away part of the soffit so they could come inside to the attic and rear their families. I cut a piece of hardware cloth a little bigger than the squirrel hole and screwed it to the soffit until I could get to that to fix.
Those rats with fancy tails couldn't get in. I then let our cat spend a couple of nights in the attic with cat food, water, and any remaining squirrels up there. No more squirrels. The cat and I were both happy.


Step one: I used a saber saw and made a cut square on the remaining good wood side of the damaged soffit and fascia. I then used a screwdriver and pry bar to remove the damaged wood.

I was careful to miss the rafters where the fascia and soffit were attached. These are called lookouts and these boards anchor the rafter ends to the house. Fortunately, the rafters were undamaged.

If they had been damaged, I would have cut pieces of new treated 2 X 6 lumber to match the shape of each damaged rafter and fasten it far enough back to good remaining wood. All damaged wood must be removed.

Step two I cut new fascia and soffit lumber to the correct dimensions from treated wood and attached it where it belonged. Step three I then sealed each joint at each end with exterior grade paintable caulk to keep future water out.

Step four Paint and cleanup.

The squirrel war was won by doing the same soffit repair where they ate it away. I also temporarily screwed a square of hardware cloth over where I did that repair to prevent future incursions. Being creatures of habit, they tried to gnaw another hole in the soffit. I found scratch marks on the new wood where they tried to re-enter. But they finally gave up, so I took off the hardware cloth and repainted.

Getting a smoking fireplace to work


There are basically three problems that will cause a fireplace to smoke. They are Downdrafts, Lack of Air, and a cold chimney.

1. The lack of air for the wood's combustion is a common cause of a smoky fireplace. A simple fix is to slightly open a window to allow airflow.

2. A cold chimney can cause smoking. This usually happens when you first light the fire. There can be a lack of good draft due to the chimney being cold.
To stop this problem, light a sheet or a couple of rolled up newspaper pages before you start the main fire and hold it up to the damper in the chimney at the top of the fireplace. Drop he paper before you burn yourself, and start the fire in the fireplace. Burning the paper can heat the air. This could help create a good updraft.

3. If you light the fire and the fireplace smokes after the fire is burning, then downdrafts could be a problem. Downdrafts are caused by cold air coming down the chimney from outside. This forces smoke into the room.

Your chimney may not be high enough above the house to prevent back drafts. It has to stand at least 3 feet above the highest point of the roof or other structure that's withing 10 feet of it. Don't let tree branches overhang it within that distance.

Your fireplace opening may be too large for the flue to handle. Here is a simple way to find out. Cut a piece of plywood that is wider than the opening across the top of the fireplace.
Wet the plywood and hold it across the top of the opening of the fireplace. Lower it slowly over the opening until the smoke stops. Be sure to cut it wide enough to hold it without being burned or uncomfortable. To make the fireplace opening smaller, stack one or more layers of firebrick on the bottom of the fireplace. This will reduce the size of the opening.

Repairing concrete and stucco



Caulking Gun
Cloth rags


These can be patched with concrete patch. This comes in tubes that are used in a caulking gun. Larger cracks can be filled with concrete patch that comes in a container that looks like a big round Elmer's Glue bottle. You cut the end off of the pointed cap. You apply the fill through that hole by squeezing the container. Clean the crack out as well as you can with a small screwdriver or something similar. Clean out the dust & debris, and apply the concrete patch by caulking gun or squeezing the patch into the crack from the container.


Patching cement is needed here. You can use a regular sand and cement mix, or buy something easy to use like Redi Lok. That company distributes gallon containers of cement, or for wetter applications, hydraulic cement. I use hydraulic cement for outside applications where the concrete is exposed to rain and dampness. These can be bought at your home supply store.

To get the best cement bond, use a chisel to chip out and widen the crack to at least a half inch wide. Undercut the crack so that it's wider on the inside than it is at the surface. This dovetail type undercut will help the cement bond and not fall out.

A stiff brush will clean out dirt, dust, and other debris. If you mix the cement, empty some on a piece of plywood and mix it up according to the bag's directions. If you use a canned mix like Redi Lok, just follow the directions on the can and dip the cement out of the can. The mix you use should be stiff enough to hold its shape when applied, but not too dry so it crumbles when you spread it.

Wet the crack with water before applying cement. Trowel the patching cement on to the crack. It needs to be packed in firmly. Feather the edges of the patch with the trowel, or with a wet cloth, being careful not to make streaks or grooves in the patch. It starts to somewhat stiffen.

Smooth of any excess after it starts to set a bit. To get maximum strength from the repair, keep it somewhat damp for about 24 hours by occasionally spraying it with a fine water mist.

Painting over painted wood



When we bought a cabin up north in Michigan, we discovered that the previous owners were heavy smokers. The goo left over from years of smoking left a brownish grease on every wall, door, and window. The walls were made of very good quality thick 4X8 wood veneer paneling. The problem was that the wood was dark and gloomy in every room. We decided that a repaint was in order.


Some refinish preparation is often needed when you paint over painted or stained wood with enamel. The surface to be repainted has to be clean and grease free. In this case, the wood on the walls was good, but here was the smoke residue to contend with.

Scrub the area with a good orange cleaner. You can finish the cleanup by spraying an abundance of Windex and wiping the area down. We bought several gallons of Windex at Sam's Club, along with a case of paper towels.
Some wood may have heavy coats of paint that require some scraping to remove old paint or to smooth around bare spots. Don't press too hard with your wood scraper to keep from gouging the wood.

There may be some areas that ae damaged and have to be filled with wood filler. Sand any area that you have scraped or filled. Glossy areas should be sanded so that the primer and paint will adhere better. Be sure to wipe off any sanding residue.


Some previously painted wood surfaces need a primer. This is the case where the old color either seems to bleed through the new paint coat, or the surface absorbs so much new paint that you seem to be going nowhere.

The best primer that I have found is "KILZ" This primer covers and eliminates any mildew residue that may be present, covers dark spots, and gives a great painting base for new paint. It comes as a white base, but color tint can be added to it by your home improvement center.

We had no choice except to use a couple of gallons of primer to put a base coat over the dark colored paneling that we wanted to cover up.

After removing wall electrical face plates, We used a roller and did a base coat of "KILZ." The white from the primer was an immediate improvement. It made the rooms come alive. Kilz must have a regular paint overcoat applied to it. Otherwise, the "KILZ" alone will turn a dingy white if it is not painted over.
Four gallons of rolled on interior latex enamel later, and we had brought the cabin back to life.
Dingy acoustical tile ceilings can also be rejuvenated by a coat of "KILZ" and a fresh paint coat. And, That's how we finished off the job.

Replacing a table lamp light socket



Wire stripper
Inexpensive 6 foot extension cord

Let's put some light on the subject of repairing a table lamp that won't work.
First, check the bulb. Then check the fuse box or circuit breaker box. If there is still a problem after that, then the issue is the wall plug, the wire to the socket, or the socket.
When I encounter a problem like this, I replace all three. You can use an inexpensive extension cord to replace the plug and the wire to the socket for about 3 dollars on sale. You can get a new lamp socket for new socket for several dollars.

When the older lamp that you want to keep won't work, and you want to keep it, rather that chance old shorted out wiring or a lamp socket with a probable limited future life span, replace these things and worry no more.
This repair begins with the removal of the old lamp socket. If you are replacing a 3 way lamp socket, be sure to get another three way lamp socket.
Step one:

1. Unplug the lamp, take the shade off, and remove the light bulb. There's will be a spot on the socket housing that has the word "press" stamped on it. You will find it slightly above the bottom metal socket holder.

2. Press the "press" spot , squeeze, and lift the top half of the socket from the bottom half. The top half should pop right out. If it doesn't, use a small flat screwdriver, while still squeezing with the other hand, to apply upward pressure in the slot where the on/off switch is. Slide off the round fiber liner that was around the inside of the socket. . unscrew the wires on the terminal and disconnect them. The bottom of the old socket must come off too. It unscrews from the pipe that the wire runs through, but it may be secured by a set screw.

3. Turn the lamp over and see where the present lamp cord goes into the lamp. Pull the entire disconnected old wire out of the pipe that leads to the lamp socket above and out of the lamp body. Cut the receptacle end of the extension cord off with your wire cutters, leaving the end with the wall plug still attached. Put that end through the same hole that the old lamp cord came out of and feed it up through the pipe to where the socket will be put back on.

4. Run the wire through the bottom of the socket base. Use your wire stripper, or with a sharp pocket knife, strip the two wires that will go to the socket back to the same length that the old wires were stripped.

5. Twist each bare wire end to the right separately, and attach the ground wire to the silver setscrew on the socket side. Attach the positive wire to the brass colored remaining terminal. If you are using a white extension cord, the wire that goes on he brass colored screw usually has a black stripe on it.

6. Slide the new fiber liner and top metal housing part of the socket down and snap the socket housing into place. Do not leave the fiber liner off. Replace the bulb and the shade.

Insulating a hot water heater

Insulating a Hot Water Heater
Flexible metal tape measure
a "Sharpie" for marking
Good Utility Scissors
A straight edge for marking cutting lines


Our cabin in the Michigan North woods is a nice place on a good fishing lake and wildlife all around. It was built in 1967, when cheap energy and heat was not a problem. We decided to make it more energy efficient in the least expensive manner. So, we started with the easiest to do, the hot water heater. This project can be done for less than $20.00.It won't take long to recover that and be saving heating dollars.

1. Go to a home improvement store and buy a hot water heater blanket. It's made of fiberglass batting. It is several inches thick, has a white plastic facing, and includes tape to secure it to the heater. You can cut it to size to fit every standard size hot water heater.

2. Installation is a snap. First, turn off the power or fuel source to the heater. Open the blanket's bag and lay out the blanket on a flat surface. Measure the diameter of the heater. Measure the diameter around the entire heater like you would measure your waist. Then measure the heater's height. Do not include the legs of the heater. Measure from the top to the bottom of the heater body.
3. Cut the blanket to the height of the water heater body. Then cut the width of blanket to the water heater's circumference, leaving a little extra for overlapping where it joins to itself when you wrap it around the heater.

4. Do not cover the control panel of an electric water heater under any circumstances. Covering the control panel(s) will result in overheating ans possibly, a fire. It may have one on both the front or side upper portion and the lower portion of the body. It is secured to the heater body with screws.

5. With the power off, open both boxes' covers and look to see if there are wires connected. Replace the cover(s). Wrap the blanket around the heater with the white plastic facing the outside, and secure it together vertically with the tape that came with it. Stop the insulation at the bottom of the tank. Focus now on the control panel where you found the electric wires that are connected. With the control panel cover on, cut a hole in the blanket the same shape as the control panel. Be careful not to cut any electrical power lines. Remove the cut out piece and discard it.

6. Do not cover the thermostat area or the air intake burner area of a gas water heater. This area of the gas burner must be left open so air can reach the burner.
An electric heater can have a piece of insulation cut out and placed on top of it, and be taped securely. Do not insulate the top of a gas water heater.
Do not go below the bottom of the body of the water heater with the wrapped insulation blanket.

7. Both types of water heaters also have a pressure relief valve at the end of a pipe. This must not be covered, and must be allowed to operate freely.

8. Re-light or turn the electric power back on, and you are finished.

How to install a hot water heater

Parts Needed:
New Hot Water Heater
Tools Needed:
Pipe Wrench
Plumber's Putty
Unions (possibly if needed)
Hack Saw (possibly if installing new pipe unions)
Pressure Relief Valve ( Possibly if the old one is hard to operate manually after trying)


There comes a time when every water heater reaches the end of it's life. Our present water heater was installed ten years ago. It still works.
The usual cause for failure of a hot water heater is when the tank develops a pinhole leak. When you see drips or a puddle of water under the heater, its time for a new heater. You can replace the heater with a bigger capacity heater if you want to. This may be required if you find yourself running out of hot water when several people shower or take baths.
Its always easier to do this replacement if you have a friend there to help you move around the bulky heater. But, it can easily be a one person job. Either way, don't be afraid of this job. Its not as hard as you might think.

Keep in mind that a hot water heater is always full of water. FEMA suggests keeping a gallon of water per person per day on hand. If you have a 40 gallon tank, then you have a built in 40 gallon supply of drinking water for use in an emergency.

1. Before you take out the old water heater, you must turn off the water and turn off the fuel or electric power supply. Disconnect the gas line or electric lines. Your old heater probably has unions which connect the individual hot and cold pipes to the heater. If you aren't lucky enough to have unions, then saw the supply pipes, remove the pipe stubs, and replace with new threaded pipes connecting to the unions when you reconnect the water supply.

2. The heater has a temperature pressure relief valve on the top. It looks like a metal flip switch. If that valve still works, the reuse it. If it doesn't easily flip open and closed, then replace it with another one. Just flip it once or twice to make sure the old one still works.
You need to drain the heater tank then. The heater tank has a drain valve spigot at the bottom. Connect a water hose to the spigot and drain the tank into a bucket or a drain. Control the flow as needed by the spigot.

3. Disconnect and lift the exhaust vent flue pipe, if there is one, off of the heater. Electric heaters don't have one.

4. Tilt the empty tank over and carry it outside with a friend's assistance.
Place the new heater in position where the old heater was located. If you have decided to replace the old heater with a bigger capacity one, now is the time to make whatever length adjustments are needed in the water supply lines.

5. Coat the inside of the union joints lightly with plumber's putty and attach the water lines to the unions and to the heater.

6. The heater then needs to be connected to the exhaust gas vent flue pipe if it is a gas heater. A draft regulator is placed on the top of the heater next. It comes with the new heater. It's a cap with open bottom sides and an open top that you will place on the top of the heater. You then reset and attach the exhaust pipe snugly on the exhaust vent flue pipe. This exhaust gas pipe must be held in place to the draft regulator with sheet metal screws.

7. The new water heater must be filled completely with water before it is lit. Do not under any circumstances light the heater or switch on electricity to he heater if it is not full of water.

8. Fill the tank in the following manner. Open a hot water faucet at a sink, turn on the water supply to the heater, and wait until cold water comes out of the hot water faucet. When cold water comes out in a good flowing steady stream, then the tank is full. Close the faucet, and power up the heater.

9. Folow the instructions that come with the water heater to light the pilot light on a gas model or power up an electric water heater.

10. Once you have initially filled the new heater, then the tank automatically refills through a tube and goes to the bottom of the tank for the water to be heated.

10. The heater has a thermostat to control the temperature of the hot water. It has a range of about 120 degrees to 180 degrees, which is enough to scald at the higher settings. Start with the temperature on the low side, which is no higher than 130-140 degrees. You can always adjust slightly upward if the water isn't warm enough for you. Don't adjust the water heater heat too high.

Winterizing A Home And Preventing Freezing Pipes


The only 100% way to keep pipes from freezing is to drain the entire plumbing system.

The procedure to do this is as follows:

1. Turn off the main water supply at the main shutoff valve,

2. Turn off the gas or electric that supplies the hot water heater.

3. Siphon out the water from the washing machine. You can buy a siphon hose with a squeeze bulb from stores like Harbor Freight.

At this point, if you have an air compressor, Screw a Recreational Vehicle air purging valve onto a faucet that you have opened and drained. This small valve is use to drain R.V. water systems for winterization. Apply no more than 40 pounds of air pressure to the valve. This will pressurize the system, and speed up the drain out. If you do not have an air compressor, the drain can still be done without one. If you have a well pump, drain the system at the well pump and attach this valve to a faucet at the well pump and apply pressure there.

4. For a home heated with hot water heat, open the drain and let the water flow out into a bucket or a floor drain. All of the radiator valves must be opened. Take the air vent off of a radiator on a top floor to allow the water will be displaced by air as it drains.

5. Start at the top floor and work your way down. Open all cold and hot water faucets. Do this to the outside faucets too.

6. Drain the hot water heater. Make sure that the power remains off during the period of non-use. Do the same for water softeners or other water treatment devices.

7. Open the faucet on the main supply line to get rid of any remaining water.

8. Pour about one gallon of R.V. antifreeze into the toilet bowl and a half gallon into the empty holding tank. Pour enough R.V. antifreeze into the p-traps of all sinks if it is impractical to remove and drain them. Put about a quart into the drains of every bathroom tub, sinks, and shower stall to displace remaining fresh water in the p-traps.

If you can't do the above, then take at least these steps:

A. Plug in a heat lamp or hang a 100 watt bulb in areas that might be prone to freezing. Keep all heat sources such as the light bulb away from all wood and other flammable surfaces.

B. A well pump house can be warmed by a 400 to 500 watt heating element. This can be purchased at farm supply stores. It has a short electrical cord. So, you need to use a good 12 gauge appliance extension cord and plug it into a receptacle in the well house. Make sure that the power cord and extension cord are kept off of the heating element. Make sure that the heating element is not placed against anything that will burn. We insulated our well house all around and on top with dense 2" foam board. Our well house is a 48 " X 48" box with a roof. It's insulated with two dense foam layers to R20.
The storage tank, pump and pipes stay toasty warm with a 450 watt heating element on the floor in extremely cold Northern Michigan weather.

B. Make sure that a door is cracked open between a room that's heated and a room that has unprotected pipes.

C. Exposed pipes must be insulated. Insulation wrap and tape is available for about $3.00 per roll.

D. Use electric heating tape that is designed and sold for this purpose. Wrap the pipes according to package instructions and cover with no more than 1/3 of an inch of pipe insulation wrap.

E. Use foam insulation pipe tubes. Just open the slit on the side and slid the tube over the pipe. It comes in various diameters. Specially cut pipe tubes are available for t joints and corners. These are inexpensive.

F. Leave all faucets, including hot water faucets open to a trickle to help prevent freezing

Clearing A Clogged Drain


Tools Needed:

Channel Lock Pliers
Rags or paper towels


There aren't many things that I hate to hear more than, " The sink is clogged up." This possibly means some dirty work under the sink.


Every sink has a P-trap underneath it, This is a "U" shaped pipe which holds a small amount of water at the bottom of the "U". This keep sewer fumes from entering the home coming up through the drain. When things are dropped into the drain, they are sometimes caught by this P-trap. (Yes, even wedding rings sometimes stop here.) Objects and obstructions can be removed from the line by removing the P-trap.

Before you remove any of the drain pipes try a plunger. There has to be enough water in the sink to cover the mouth of the plunger. We keep a small plunger under the sink to use on the sink only. I don't like the idea of using a plunger in the kitchen sink when it has been used before in a dirty toilet.

If a plunger doesn't work, then try a commercial cleaner product such
as Drano. This pipe cleaning product is lye based and can cause burns if used incorrectly. Follow the instructions on the can exactly as they are written. If you put too much Drano down the drain, it will solidify like a rock.

If the Drano or the plunger don't work, then it's time to take off the P-trap. Put a bucket under the P-trap to catch the water that will come out. Be ready with a rag or paper towels to mop up any water that misses the bucket. If your P-trap has a drain plug on the bottom, take the plug off, and try to remove the obstruction from the hole. You probably won't be lucky enough to have one.

Loosen the top and bottom threaded collars that connect the P-trap to the tail piece and the drain. Be careful not to lose the vinyl washers that act as gaskets for the connection. Sometimes, the connecting collars are hard to get loose by hand. If this is the case, use a pair of Channel Lock pliers and gently turn the collars with them.

If you have an old metal P-trap and can't get it loose, then you might have to use enough twisting force on the collars that the corroded collars disintegrate, and the whole P-trap will have to be replaced. If you have to replace the P-trap, take the old one with you so you will get the right diameter replacement.

You may be able to remove the obstruction when the P-trap is off and in your hand. If the drain pipe is still obstructed, then it is time to use a plumber's snake. You may be able to feel the obstruction when you put the snake into the drain pipe. Use the snake to pull the obstruction out. If this doesn't work, then use the snake to try to break up he clog. When the obstrucion is vleared, reconnect the P-trap and flush the pipe with water.

Circular Saw Use


The circular saw is a great wood cutting saw, but it has the potential to be dangerous if operated carelessly or inattentively. The material that you will saw has to be supported firmly on a sawhorse or work table. If you are working by yourself, then make sure that the wood being cut is either clamped down to the sawhorse, or screwed tight to the worktable, if unsightly screw holes that will be seen do not matter. I use a deck screw or two or a clamp as shown in the top picture to hold down the wood to be cut when cutting bulky lumber. Don't let the wood move as you saw.

When you are ready to cut, but before you start the saw, make sure that the power cord is out of the way. As simple as this seems, many people cut their power cord in two when sawing or accidentally allow the power cord to touch the blade when they set the saw down.

Always start the saw in a ready to cut position before you begin the cut. You can align the blade with the cut mark you made in front of the line or at the guide slot on the base plate. Cut as slowly and carefully as needed to keep the saw from veering off of the line. If you veer too much and try to straighten the cut as you go, then the blade can bing and possibly cause a kick back or damage the saw.

You may also find that treated wood you are using has a tendency for the wood to close up on itself as you saw on the cut line due to the wet treatment chemical. This can mean stopping the saw and beginning a re-cut on the closed up wood.

You have to have a good grip on the saw when you run it. Always grip the knob handle on the saw with your other hand to help control the saw. Its there for a reason.

This is basic, but keep you hands and fingers away from the blade until it stops completely. When adjustments need to be made, make sure you have unplugged the power first. This is especially true when you change the blade.

Repairing carpet burn marks

Tools needed depending on type of repair:

Double sided tape
Carpet cutting utility knife and sharp blade
Waterproof clear drying glue


After years of smoking and having smokong friends over, I became proficient at handling carpet burns. I finally quit smoking.


Tools needed depending on type of repair:
Double sided tape
Carpet cutting utility knife and sharp blade
Waterproof clear drying glue

1. For small surface burns, where the tips of the carpet are the only thing that's burned, you may be able to get rid of the scorch by using a good pair of sharp scissors. You hold the scissors flat against the carpet and snip off the burned carpet fiber ends with the end tip of the scissors.

2. When the burn is too deep to use the scissors method, try carefully cutting out the fibers that are damaged. You may be left with a bald spot or a hole that you will fill. Get some carpet tufts from an area that is not conspicuous, such as from carpet under wall to floor molding in a closet.
Roll the carpet tuft fibers into a small bundle between your fingers or the palm of your hand, or both. Then gently coat the bottom of the fiber bundle with waterproof glue that dries clear. If you use non-waterproof glue and use a steam cleaner or carpet shampooer, then the carpet repair patch will come right off with the dirt and carpet dust. Push the home made carpet plug into the hole where you cut out the damage, and let it dry overnight. Once it is dry and set, then use scissors placed flatly on the floor and trim any excess fibers that stick up.

3. If it is a large burn, like the one my son left in the carpet when he started the Honda Spree motor scooter that was under the Christmas tree, and tried to drive it around the family room, surgery is required.

It was too big a burn for any small improvised fix. I didn't have a scrap piece of carpet, and we were going to eventually replace the whole carpet. But, replacement wasn't in the budget yet.

So, I marked and cut diamond shaped piece that was larger than the burn mark from the same carpet that was under a sofa sleeper in the same room. I used a carpet utility knife with a new blade. That sofa wasn't going to be moved anywhere until the whole carpet was replaced anyway

I then put the diamond replacement carpet piece on top of the burn mark and used the utility knife to cut the damaged carpet exactly around the diamond. When you do this, try to make the cut on each side in one pass. Avoid multiple "sawing cuts" along the same line.

I then took out the resulting diamond shaped damaged area, and held down the new carpet diamond and carpet pad with strips of heavy double sided tape. I then put the diamond with the burn in the hole left under the sofa sleeper. No one ever knew the difference.

Repairing scratched wood




When we bought our house, the kitchen had nice, but faded maple kitchen cabinets. Since maple is a wood that is susceptible to dents and scratches, they had both and showed wear from use. We used the methods described below to bring them back to life without a complete refinishing.


These are two easy repairs for small scratches. Olde English has a liquid furniture polish that practically makes scratches invisible. It is available in light and dark color for corresponding light and dark woods. I keep a bottle of each at my home.
Use a cloth or paper towel to dab on and rub in several drops of this product as needed. Be sure to wear rubber or latex gloves when you handle this product because it will stain your hands. It can put spots on wood floors and carpet to if mishandled. Olde English will not stain anything once it has dried on the scratch.
Color crayon type touch up sticks are also available to rub on scratches.

Sometimes a fix for a dent in the wood that has compressed the wood down, but not scratched or gouged it, can be done with a clothes iron. The steam in the iron can moisturize the wood fibers and cause them to swell back to their original shape.
Put a moist paper towel or a moist cloth over the dent. Put a hot iron on the cloth or paper towel for a few seconds until steam is created from the moisture in the cloth or paper towel. Take the iron off as the steam diminishes. You are likely to dry out the moisture. Take care not to burn the area. You can repeat this until the wood expands.


Deep Scratches take more work and some ingenuity in refinishing. Use a putty knife to apply a small amount of wood putty into the scratch. Wood putty for repairs comes in small cans at your home improvement store. You may check to see if there is a matching color there, or blend a new finish to match the old one after you have allowed the putty to dry and sanded it smooth.

Asphalt shingle repair



Flat Pry Bar
Roofing Nails
Roofing cement or roofing patch in a tube


We had a very hard (90 mph) wind that tore some old asphalt shingles on a 16 by 20 foot outbuilding. The former owner was a packrat, and left some left over shingles in a cool spot in the garage. We were several years away from a re-roof...So, here we go.


Shingles are installed row by row from the bottom up to the top of the roof. This means that hopefully, good shingles are above the bad ones. Several good shingles directly above the damaged shingles will need to be gently lifted up to get to the damaged shingles. You will slip a new shingle in under a good one to continue the existing pattern and make the repair.
The safety issues in roof repair are:
1. Your shoes should be soft soled. Laced running shoes are a good choice.
2. Don't try this in wet or windy weather
3. The ladder must be secure. You can tear knee ligaments in landing on your feet wrong in as little as a three foot fall.
4. Have someone hold the ladder for you on a steep roof repair.
5. Make sure that the roof is not too hot from the summer sun to be uncomfortable.

You may encounter dog eared shingles that need repair, blown away ones, heat warped ones, and wind torn ones. Shingle repair works best on a warm day. Normally stiff shingles are more pliable then.
Step one: Gently raise up as many shingles over the damaged one(s) as you need. Be very careful not to crack or break remaining good shingles. I prefer to use a short, flat pry bar to take out the nails from the damaged shingle.
Step two: Slip the new, undamaged shingle under the shingle(s) you have raised. The old shingles have adhesive alonge the bottom of the shiingles. Sometimes, the good shingle will stick and not want to come loose. If so, carefully sliding a putty knife under the stick point will probably free it. Make sure that the replacement shingle follows the existing pattern of the other roof shingles.
Step three: Hold up the good shingle while you nail down the replacement shingle. The area to nail down is at the top of the replacement shingle and underneath the good shingle above it. Dont nail through the good shingle above the one you are replacing. Put just a touch of roof cement on the head of the roofing nails after you have nailed them in to help the replacement to stick.


If the roof hip (the rounded area on top where one side of the roof meets the other) are just cracked, you can use roof cement or roof patch. This comes in tubes and is applied by a caulking gun.
If the roof hip shingles must be replaced, then make sure they overlap at least 3 inches. Coat the bottom of the replacement shingle with roof cement before you nail it down. All four corners of the hip or ridge shingles have to be nailed down. Put roof cement or a dab of roof patch on each nail head to cover it.