Q&A / 

May 19, 2011 AsktheBuilder Tips And Newsletter

What's in This Newsletter?

Black Flies
Solar Attic Fans
Washington DC Meet Up
Preventing Caulk Tube Clogs
Quick Stain Solver Tip
Gravel for Driveways and Roads

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Have you ever had to deal with black flies? I'm not talking about the large black flies that pester you during a cookout. I'm speaking of the little demons, about the size of a grain of uncooked rice, that are the bane of the Northeast, Canada, Alaska, Minnesota, etc. It seems any place that has an abundance of lakes or fresh water has these fiends.

Last week, they finally made their annual spring arrival here in New Hampshire. I found myself working outdoors up on my land fixing a washout of a gravel roadway. Even though I sprayed myself with Deep Woods Off, the little creatures bit me in several places on my arms. It's the periodic itching that drives me nuts.

Do you have an effective incantation or secret potion that works to prevent the biting? I've asked local workers up here who have to deal with it daily and they just say suck it up. Excuse me while I scratch the back of my upper arm again. Arrggggggghhhh.

Solar Attic Fans

Solar Attic FansEllen, the first employee at AsktheBuilder, handles all of the incoming email and questions we get at the website. She does a great job trying to help you. But occasionally you stump her and I need to jump in.

This morning she sent me an FYI email about a frustrated homeowner who had purchased several solar-powered attic fans. He had copied us on an email he sent to the manufacturer. Sadly he mentioned us in the email saying that I had nailed the fact the units were not effective. But this was AFTER he installed them and then went online to see WHY they were not working.

I mention this for several reasons. Try to resist the slick marketing claims made by new products. Slow down before you buy and try to go online and do some research to see if the products really do work.

Don't become a lab rat. These are the early adopters. You're first out of the chute so you'll not find anything online as to whether the new product works. It's too early.

Here's my past article that the man found after he had already wasted his money:


Remember, if you're on Facebook, PLEASE leave a comment at the bottom of the column telling others what you discovered when reading my column. You'll see the Facebook comment widget at the bottom of the column. Thanks in advance!

Washington DC Meet Up

I'll be in Washington DC next Monday and Tuesday. I'll have four hours to kill on Tuesday, May 24, 2011. We can get together late afternoon and early evening before I fly back to New Hampshire. Do you want to get some liquid courage and nutrition (some feel they are one in the same) with me?

We had a meet up in January in DC, and it was well attended. Email me immediately if you're interested and let's get together to chat it up. Meet ups are fun. You can ask any question you want about any topic. It doesn't have to be about home improvement.

Preventing Caulk Tube Clogs

When you use a new caulk tube for the first time and don't use it all, the caulk in the spout will harden and clog the tube if you don't cut off the air.

There are any number of ways to accomplish this, and I've had fantastic success blending two methods together.

I carefully cut the spout 99 percent of the time so that it matches the diameter of either a 4d or 6d finish nail. After I'm done caulking, I squirt out a dab on a scrap piece of wood that the size of green pea, maybe a little bigger.

Then I insert the correct nail making sure that it fits snugly in the tip of the tube as it slides in.

I leave at least 1/4 inch of the nail exposed and then take the excess caulk and pack it around the nail where the end of the tube is to act as a secondary air seal.

When it's time to use the caulk again, I just use a pliers to pull out the nail.

Quick Stain Solver Tip For Wendy in Colorado

Stain Solver SweepstakesI just got a question from Wendy who subscribes to this newsletter. She wanted to know if my Stain Solver could be used in modern front-loading washing machines. Her instructions say NOT to use powders. I've found this the case with many of the new washing machines.

My guess is that because the machines use such small amounts of water, they don't want you to put the powder on the clothes AFTER you have loaded the clothes into the machine. Doing this allows the concentrated powders to leave splotches of discoloring on your clothes because the powder couldn't dissolve and dissipate. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The solution to this problem is EASY. You can add powder, and my mighty Stain Solver, to the front loaders successfully.

All you need to do is add the powder FIRST and then pour in about a quart of warm water to get the powder to drop through the holes in the stainless steel drum. The warm water starts to dissolve the Stain Solver and gets it ready to work on your clothes once you load them and start the machine.

So Wendy, get out the Stain Solver and get your clothes really clean!


Gravel for Driveways and Roads

Gravel Driveway
If you're getting ready to repair a gravel driveway or possibly enlarge one, you need to make sure you use the right product. This is mission critical if your driveway is on a hill.

All too often I see rookie homeowners use a gravel that's rounded. Using that is like driving on marbles. The rounded surfaces of the gravel provide little friction to all the other pieces and they move. Your tires won't bite into round gravel. They most often sink and you can get stuck easily.

Gravel for roadways, walkways or any surface where you want traction should be angular. The more angular the pieces are the better. They interlock with one another and it takes much effort to move them. The gravel works even better if there are fines in it. Fines are small crushed rock particles. These create even more friction between the different pieces of gravel.

Here's a past column of mine that pretty much sums up some of the top tips when building a gravel drive:


Remember, if you're on Facebook, PLEASE leave a comment at the bottom of the column telling others what you discovered when reading my column. You'll see the Facebook comment widget at the bottom of the column. Thanks in advance!

Tim Carter 


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