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Miscellaneous Basement Q's and A's

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How to be a Handyman

This may be a dumb question but do you need some type of a degree to be a handyman. My fiance knows a little of everything about work about the house. He even worked as an apartment maintenance guy for a while. Now he's considering doing things on his own and we wondered if he could. I don't think he can do the big things but he can install ceiling fans and sockets. So we were wondering if it is legal for him to call himself a handyman.

No there is no degree requirement. And I doubt if there are any laws against calling yourself one.

BUT, in many states in order to do work for others you need a license (well you do in Connecticut) The license makes sure you have insurance and you are registered with them in case there are complaints. For certain jobs like wiring, the requirements are even more stringent.
But check in your area and state. I am sure there is a wide variety of requirements state to state


Drilling glass

I want to put small holes in glass bottles. I have a Dremel and also a regular drill. I know that I need a diamond head bit. What are the bits available and what process do I use to use them?

You can go to the following company to buy the "diamond drill bits for glass".
Their price is very good.They open to the public.
Any order over $75.00, they do free shipping.

California Glazing Supply Co.
Toll Free 1-888-522-6566


Redwood awning

We are going to be building a redwood awning over our patio. We would like to make it with
slats not lattice. What would be the best way to build a strong frame?????

Not sure what you have in mind, really, but if you build a frame, remember the wood will dry out and weaken some, so mechanical fasteners (bolts) that can be tightened up later is a good idea. Also, on the corners, if your design can incorporate a diagonal brace (even a short one) cutting across the corner, will do wonders to sturdy up a square frame.
Hope this helps, if not, perhaps give me a little more idea of your design and what you are looking for and we can go from there.


Spring Box Construction

My home receives its water from a spring and I am planning on building a new spring box. I was wondering what would be the best way to lay the foundation for the box with concrete or gravel?

I think gravel will work fine. It will allow the water to flow up through and yet provide a base for the box.


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Insects in the walls

Early this summer, we had an ant infestation problem at our house. Using ant traps and other means, I was able to eliminate most of the ants. The next step I took was to find where they were getting in. I live in a split level home in the Seattle area. After pacing around my foundation outside, I decided to pull off the bottom piece of horizontal wood siding. This piece of siding overlapped the concrete foundation (the first piece of siding is about 8" up from ground level against the concrete). Behind the siding are rigid foam panels. It was in these that I saw the problem. I saw many ant-chewed pathways up through the foam and into the interior walls. The ants could simply walk up the foundation until they hit the foam panel under the siding and begin chewing their way inside. Once through the panel and into the interior wall, the ants had free run of our house.
My question is, how do I cover the bottom edge of the foam panels under the bottom row of siding. The gap is too large for caulk and I'm not sure what material to use that will both attach to the wood siding and the concrete foundation. Help!

When building a house, in certain areas a termite shield is installed. This works pretty well for ants too. It is an aluminum shield places over the foundation and under the sill plate. It sticks out from the concrete and then bends down at a 45 degree angle. Well Ants can negotiate this.. but is a lot harder to do so, and they are more noticeable and easy to take care of at the source this way.
So.. this may be an option for you. Can you slide a piece of flashing under the sill plate or at least in a bit to hold it and caulk above it to hold it in place? Its an idea....


Drilling entry for satellite dish cable

I just purchased a satellite dish, and I am getting ready to install it. I want some more information about drilling through the outer wall for the cable. I am on the second story of a duplex. The dish has to be mounted on the back side of the house for a clear line of sight to the satellite. My TV room is on the front side of the house. I am leaning toward running the cable in through the attic, and back out the other side. Then, it would run down to the room where the TV is and back into the house.

Your idea is not bad, but if you do have access to your attic, you may want to try running it down through the wall to a connection box. You can buy one (like at Radio Shack) that has a cable connection on it, and using a remodeling type box inserted in the wall, you can run the cable down through the wall if you can drill a hole in the top plate above. If there is wiring up there running down to a outlet, it can help you locate where to drill, otherwise you have to some measuring...


Central vacuum systems

We would like to install a central vacuum system. Are you aware of any problems that occur in the pipes in the walls? Like, do they frequently get clogged or is there any chance that insects could get in the pipes and cause any problem?

No.. typically what goes in gets all the way to the bag. And bugs can't hold on.... so if one wanders in.. he is a goner.

We have had central vacuum in our home for nearly 10 years. If anything is going to get stuck anywhere, itusually gets stuck in the vacuum hose (like a cat's pet ball) since the hose is generally a more torturous path than the pipes. Also, you are not "supposed" to use the vacuum without an attachment connected. This should prevent getting anything into your system that cannot get all the way to the "bag".


Stripped bolt

I have a pushmower that needs the blade changed. However the bolt holding the blade on is old and stripped. I have raked my knuckles with robo-type grip pliers and it was a the friend who gave me the lawnmower that stripped the bolt with vice-grips. Any advice on actions or tool to use would be greatly appreciated.

Try using a pipe wrench. Also spray some WD40 around it. If this doesn't work your only alternative would be to get a metal drill bit the size of the bolt and start drilling into it till you drill it all out. Then you'll have to re thread it so you can put a new bolt in


Stair stringer

I've found a few threads on the board regarding cutting a stringer, but I'm still a bit confused. When starting the measurement for the first 11" tread/7" riser combination, do I need to start 7" from the button of the board to allow for the 90 degree end cut and the riser directly below the first tread. The project in question involves only three treads, and a 32" vertical rise.

You are already wrong. An overall rise of 32" requires at minimum 4 risers and 4 treads, not 3 treads.
Doing it your way gives you 3 risers that total 21" and a 11" riser difference you have to make up at the top or bottom. This violates building code. (IE 32" - 21" = 11")
You also cannot use 4 risers of 8" (32 divided by 4) because the maximum riser height by code is 7 1/4". You have to go back and divide 32" by 5 risers which gives you 5 equal risers of 6 3/8inches.

You must now determine how many actual treads you want because there are 2 ways to lay out the steps. One way is to use the height of the top deck or floor as the last riser height. (Saves materials but is harder to fasten and less stable), or you can have the top riser and tread extend out at the same level as the deck or top floor. In the first case you end up with 4 risers and 4 treads, in the second, you end up with 5 risers and 5 treads.
I'll walk you through the first example because it is easier.

Take your framing square with the long end on you left and the short end on your right and with the point away from you.
Take a pencil and pencil a mark on the left at 11 and do the same at the 6 3/8 mark on the right. You will markthe side NEAREST you.
Lay the square on the 2x12 about a foot from the left side of the board. Set the 11" mark along the edge of the board nearest you and do the same for the 6 3/8 mark.
Now, draw a pencil line on the inside of the square along the edge nearest you.
Now slide the square to the right, placing the 11" mark right where the 6 3/8" mark was previously, and the 6 3/8" mark along the edge of the board. Mark the inside with a pencil. Then slide the square to the right and repeat.
Now, using the square at the right most pencil mark, draw a line at a 90deg angle 11" long. What you should be looking at are 4 11" long lines (left) and 3 6 3/8" lines (right).
Next draw a 90deg line from the end of the last 11" mark to the left. You have just drawn your top tread. Now before you finish, go back down to the left most line and it gets a bit tricky here.

What you will do is draw a 6 3/8" line at a 90deg angle. We are finishing the bottom riser. After you draw the line, draw a 90deg line at the end of the 6 3/8" line going away from you to the far edge of the board. At this point you should have what looks like a finished stringer but we are not done yet.

We have to remove from the bottom riser the thickness of the treads we are going to use. If you are going to use1 1/2" treads, you remove 1 1/2". If 5/4" treads remove 5/4". If 3/4" treads remove 3/4.
Assuming you want 1 1/2" treads, you have to subtract 1 1/2" from 6 3/8". This gives you 4 7/8".
Now measure away from you along the left most line and mark 4 7/8". At this point draw a 90deg line parallel to the bottom line you had before. You will cut your stringer off at this 4 7/8" mark.
You should end up with the first riser being 4 7/8" followed by 3 additional risers. Your stringer is now
complete and can be cut. (Remember with this example the stringer should be set at 6 3/8" BELOW the top of the deck or floor, since the deck or floor is acting as the last riser)
To cut your other two stringers simply lay this pattern on your other boards and pencil the pattern and cut them out.
If this doesn't make a lick of sense, call a carpenter or buy a book on general carpentry with lots of pictures and diagrams

Home Construction

Wood damage

Our builders stopped construction on our new house to complete other homes in the neighborhood that will close before us. That's fine, except we have no roof. Every time it rains, a huge puddle of water collects in a low area of our second floor. It takes weeks for it to dry and it is starting to drip down and collect on our first floor as well. How much damage will this cause to our wood subflooring and interior framing? How can we convince our builders to go ahead and at least put the roof on?

I do not know how you can convince them. But I do believe that the water will cause a problem with your subflooring at the least. Most of the structures framing will not rot, but some likely problems from this will be..floors that squeak bad from the water damaged plywood. Floors and walls that move and crack sheetrock and flooring, as the studs and joists dry.
Ask now what sort of guarantee they are willing to give you that these problems won't occur, or if they do they will be repaired promptly. Talk to your lawyer that is handling your closing


Smelly wood

Because of a leak from the toilet drain from the apartment above, we have joists etc that are saturated with the smell from the same. They are drying out so we can put a new ceiling in. Is there something we should treat the wood with before covering it? Will the smell go away?

I think after they dry out they will be ok, but if not, just paint them. Paint any affected wood with 2 coats of paint. That should do it.

Sloping floor & door frame

I own a 67 year old house in the southwest. Here recently I noticed my backdoor not closing right, I looked closer and the door frame is sagging. I also looked at the floor and it looks like its doing the same thing. I went outside and looked and the roof line and it also looks like its sagging. I asked a friend of mine who works in construction and he suggested using a "housejack" and trying to level up the house. Is there any other alternatives?

Well short of living with it, I would say no. If your house is sagging, the only way to correct the sag would be to raise it back up. If you do it, you want to go real slow. Don't try to raise it all the way back up the first day. It didn't sag in one day, and it will help to ease it back into place.

When you have it leveled, correct the foundation problem so it doesn't sag again.

Repair Wood Railing Post

I have a wood railing guarding the Dining room from the stairs. One end is connected to the wall, the other is secured by a Wood Post. The Wood Post is now very loose and the secure is now damaged. I can't seem to get to it from the basement and I can't seem to see how to repair the wood post or the structure that made it secure. How do I fix this?

First, tell the kids to stop swinging on the post.

If I understand, the post with a railing attached is now loose and the post does not go all the way to the ceiling. How is it secured to the floor? Tyically, nailed down using long (16 penny) finishing nails toe nailed in at several places around the base.

If the base is still sound, but the nails are now loose from being pulled this way and that, the best you can do it nail it down again. Using 16 penny finishing nails (may need to use smaller ones if the base is small) toe nail it to the floor again. Use at least one per side. If there is a joist below, try to use 2 nails into it at different angles. Contersink the nails and fill the holes and refinish the area in the same manner as before.


Sound travel in HVAC ducts

How can I reduce sound traveling though ducts from one room to another

You can insulate the ducts. Better than that would be replacing them with the flexible insulated non-metalic ducts. But you will always have some sound travel through them.

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