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Did you feel that? I think oxygen returned to the air when the humidity broke. We might just be able to go back outside to enjoy the patio again!

What? Your porch is in shambles? Your patio is a pass? With the cooler temperatures that have moved into Southwestern Ontario and swept away the heat wave that gripped much of the Eastern US and Canada last week, we can all look forward to breathing a little easier again. Perhaps it’s high-time that you get a little work done outside the house now.

Porch Problems 

A porch is only as good as its support system

If you have stayed away from the porch due to rotten boards, peeling paint or just a general state of ill-repair, take the bull by the horns and move this outdoor project to the top of the list. Take a good hard look at what you’ve got and assess whether this is a job for Superman You or whether you need to call in a professional. If construction is more than you can normally shake a stick at, then don’t add to your pocket book’s woes by taking on a project that might cost you far more when a contractor has to come dig you out of a mess farther down the road. Look at the extent of your project and estimate what it would cost to tackle the job yourself. Is it just a matter of slapping on a fresh coat of paint or stain? Then go for it! Does it look like you might have to rebuild stairs, railings or support structures? Perhaps an estimate from the pros might be in order.

Wondering what to look for? Check for loose or punky boards. Watch out for nails that are ready to cause a trip hazard. Assess the shape of your surface (is it peeling, fading, streaked, rough?). How solid is your porch as a whole (are you in need of new support columns to keep it level)? Is mold, rot or animal infestation an issue? Is it too hot to sit on (solution – thinks shades or umbrellas)? Are your railings to code (you need a guard railing if your deck is 60 cm or 24″ above the ground and they should be a maximum of 100 mm or 4″ apart)? Is this all more than you can wrap your head around? Call in the professionals when in doubt. If you are feeling brave, ask the folks at your local hardware store for some pointers. And remember that the internet is a great place for how-to articles and videos to make any DIY project a breeze.

Party on the Patio?

Watch your step on this weedy patio

Watch your step on this weedy patio

If you can’t remember the last time you partied on your patio, why is that? Is there insufficient seating? Are you lacking in lighting? Does your patio’s surface look like Great Aunt Elsa’s spider veins? It’s time to tackle the patio repairs.

Patios may equate to more or less effort in the home repair department. If you don’t go out to your patio due to overbearing sun, than a simple umbrella might be the solution to your woes. Of course an awning, pergola, or some sort of permanent roof structure would offer shade on a larger scale too. Seating is often as simple as picking up chairs at a local department store, but have you thought of built-in benches, or adding a swing to the mix? You could light the night with anything from citronella candles, to solar lights, to custom lanterns that offer a cozy glow after dark. The choice is yours! Maybe you crave some heat after dark. Does a fire pit fill you with wonder or would a gas heater in the corner do? Sadly, the patio’s actual surface is often the biggest culprit to a lack of time spent on it. Patio bricks are only as good as the prep work done before they are installed. Sinking stones make for an uneven surface and trip hazard. Weeds, molds, or moss make for an unattractive finish. Can you fix that yourself, or is it worth the money to call in contractor?

If you aren’t using your patio, isn’t it worth it to add the extra space to your real estate?

There are a wide variety of tools out there available to the homeowner. There are drills, hammers, saws, screwdrivers, clamps and more, but there is one tool that is indispensable to almost anyone’s workshop. Ask Red Green what his favourite tool to work with is and you’ll get only one response – the mighty Duct Tape!

While duck tape has a history going back to the early 1900s, in uses such as bridge construction, insulating power cables and medical adhesives, these early tapes were made of cloth tape. During WWII, the US military, with the help of Johnson & Johnson, invented a new cloth adhesive that was coated in waterproof polyethylene to quickly repair military equipment, such as vehicles and weapons. It was easy to use and quickly developed a foothold in the household market after the war. Today, this sticky substance is used in millions of households wherever a strong, flexible tape is required. It really is a miraculous product, but I wonder if you have ever thought to use it for these uses?

TOP TEN USES FOR DUCT TAPE

    1. Making Wallets – I’ve seen them in flea markets and made by a kid or two in my day. A waste of duct tape? That depends upon who’s asking. Not to the little girl who know has someplace to store her quarters! And not to these guys who pride themselves on their duct tape wallet-making skills.
  1. Fixing holes in Pools – I know of a certain someone who ran out of the supplied patch kit with their Fast-Set Pool this past season. It was late in the season and instead of going to the store to pick up another (expensive) patch kit, they turned to good ole duct tape to do the job. No more leaks!
  2. Waterproofing Shoes – I know of someone else that wrapped their runners in the silver stuff back in high school. I suppose its cheaper than a new pair of shoes and it harkens back to the early days of duck tape! What will they think of next?
  3. Car Repairs – While it has been used in Motorsports for years to repair fibreglass body work, I have seen many another vehicle sporting duct tape around town that doesn’t look like it would survive the 401, let alone the Indy 500. Maybe you should leave auto body repairs to the professional?
  4. Furniture Repair – Who needs glue, when duct tape will do? It is highly adhesive and comes in a variety of colours, so why not reach for the duct tape the next time you need to repair your furniture?! Heck, you can even make brand new pieces to decorate your room with, like
  5. the prototype ipod duct tape case

    the prototype ipod duct tape case (Photo credit: indigotimbre)

    Making an iPod Case– What is this world coming to when we feel the need to wrap duct tape around our expensive gadgets? I suppose it has been used for stranger things…

  6. Securing Wires – Now we have a use that is handy! Instead of getting tangled in the spaghetti pile of wires that run all over our wired-in worlds, collect them all into nice bundles with duct tape. You can even tape them to the floor, to prevent tripping over them. Goodbye zip ties!
  7. Prom Styles of William Beacon & partner

    Making Dresses/Clothes – Thank the folks at Duck Brands for this one! They sponsor an annual scholarship competition for the best prom dress made with Duck Tape. Not sure my daughter will be sold on this money-saving idea, but it does come in a wide variety of colours, so why not?!

  8. Wart Removal – Forget the Compound W, get out your duct tape! Cover it up and watch it disappear. (Don’t quote me on this one folks! I am FAR from a Dr, but I don’t suppose it would hurt you any.)
  9. Give Your Sweetie a Rose – Now this is an idea that anyone would love. Real flowers just die, but a duct tape rose lasts forever – just like your love! Make sure to duck just in case though, as that frying pan that you fixed last week with duct tape might come flying at your head, with a comment about being a cheap so and so following!

What other uses for duct tape do you know of? What works and what doesn’t? Share your stories here!

While we don’t all aspire to be the next Holmes on Homes or Bryan Baeumler, most of us want to be able to handle at least   a few simple DIY projects by ourselves. That might involve hanging a picture, putting up a shelf or tightening a loose screw or two. Where do you start though? It doesn’t always have to be the Yellow Pages.

Don’t let the experts scare you. With the right tools, many DIY projects can be handled by yourself with ease. The trick is to have the right tool for the right job though. And what tools are those?


10 Essential Tools For A DIY Tool Kit

  • Hammer:

    Forget your high heel shoe, the end of the tool box or the heel of your hand. You need a hammer in that tool box for almost every project you can think of. From hammering nails to removing them, a hammer is one of those tools that every good handyman or woman must have.
  • Screwdriver:

    Close-up of Robertson drivers

    A screwdriver is almost as important as a hammer when it comes to essential tools. The thing with screwdrivers though, is that you must have the right one for the right job. My suggestion to you is to pick up one of every kind; slotted (flat head), Robertson (square head) and Phillips (star head). Remember that screws come in different sizes too, so spend a bit more to invest in different sizes of screwdrivers. The wrong size might find you spinning your wheels with nothing to show for it (or stripping the screw and creating a bigger problem to deal with)!

  • Level:

    If you are hanging a picture or adjusting the height of a table, you will need a level to ensure that you are on an even keel. Eyeballs might seem to do the trick at times, but I wouldn’t be too sure.  Just wait until the pencil you place on your “flat” surface refuses to stay put and then tell me how “level” your surface really is.

  • A typical tape measure with both metric and US...Measuring Tape:

    The standard rule of thumb is to always measure twice and cut once. If you need to measure three or four times though, a measuring tape will be your best friend. It ultimately save you time, materials and money, when you don’t have to keep running back to the store to pick up a little more lumber after cutting it too short. Again.

  • Pliers:

    I am not talking tweezers here, ladies (kidding!). You should probably invest in needle-nose pliers (for small spaces, wiring and more), as well as vise-grip pliers (to hold something in place or just as easily used as an adjustable wrench, pipe wrench or ratchet) . Pliers are your go-to tool for tightening and/or loosening that which you wish was otherwise.

  • Makita Impact Screwdriver 14,4V 3.0 Ah Li-ion ...Cordless Drill:

    I am including the cordless drill here, as I use it all the time. Don’t just think of it as a souped up screwdriver. You can use it on 2x4s, drywall or to scare away the cat when she is wondering what new fool project you are starting. It can drill in a screw a heck of a lot faster and tighter than with your hand-powered model, thus making it worth its weight in gold. You won’t regret getting one. I promise you.

  • Utility Knife:

    They might not seem like the most glamorous tool to purchase, but the humble utility knife comes in pretty handy when you need to cut up cardboard, open stubborn packaging or scrape some pesky thing. It is a tool that just can’t be replaced when you need it!
  • Hand Saw:

    Paul Bunyan, you may not be, but a hand saw still comes in handy around the house. Whether you need to trim down a piece of wood in a small carpentry project, or cut some limbs off the old apple tree, a simple handsaw will come in handy more often than not.
  • Safety Glasses:

    Regardless of anything else, safety is the name of the game. With all those tools you have amassed, don’t forget to pick up a set of safety glasses to slide onto your nose. Your eyes will thank you and so will any future DIY projects that you might have in store.
  • Tool Box:

    Now that you have all those tools, you need somewhere to store them! If you have bothered to spend the money on the tools, don’t throw them in an old shoe box or leave them out on the counter. You will never find the exact tool that you are looking for when you need it most. Plus, that’s a sure-fire way to lose bits, dull edges and damage just about any tool you care to have around.
  •  

    You also might want to invest in work gloves, WD-40, clamps, a wire cutter/stripper, a set of wrenches, a socket set and a Do-It-Yourself Guide to help you through some of the DIY projects that require a little more know-how. Heck, why not throw a plunger in there while you are at it. You never know when you are going to need the right tool for the right job, but these essential tools will be with you every step of the way.

     

    Preparing for Fireplace Season (And Santa!)

    After all the rain that fell last week, it was pleasant to have a bit of sunshine on the weekend. One  thing that the cool, wet weather had me in mind of though was sitting beside a toasty, warm fire on long winter nights. That thought reminded me that there are a few tasks I have to accomplish before I can make hot toddies beside a blazing hearth a reality. One is to obtain some fire wood. More importantly, it is also time to clean the chimney.

    While the easiest way to clean the chimney is by grabbing the yellow pages and dialing 1-800-chimneysweep, I know a few of you who refuse to pay someone to do something that you figure you can do yourself. If that sounds like you, then go get your safety goggles and let’s have a chat. Cleaning a chimney yourself might save you a few dollars, but it is important that you have the right equipment for the job, as well as having an inkling of what you are doing before you tackle the task at hand. So give me five minutes of time to share some advice my DIY friends. It just might save you some time and headache in the end.

    If you are determined to clean your chimney yourself, the first thing you should do is measure your chimney to determine what size of brush you will require. There are a few on the market, so a quick measurement will save you a trip back to the store to grab the correct sized brush after the project is begun. The next step is to decide how you would like to go about cleaning your chimney. If the thought of climbing up to the roof has you shaking in your chimney sweep boots, then perhaps the bottom-up method is best for you. If you have been up there already cleaning your gutters and checking your flashing, then add a ladder to your list of tools for the job and get climbing. You still have a few options, depending upon whether this is a one or two person job, but the main thing is that you want to do a good job,  to remove all the dust, dirt and built up creosote (unburned wood particles & condensed flue gases) from your chimney walls. Let’s look at our options, shall we?

     

    HOW TO CLEAN A CHIMNEY

    OPTION 1: Bottom-Up

    If climbing a ladder is not something you have any interest in, then purchase a flexible rod for a bottom-up cleaning. This means that you will be inside (perk), but it is also probably your dirtiest option (drawback), so make sure you have plenty of tarps handy to cover all your furniture before you start. As you are working from the fireplace, when you scrub out the chimney, all of that dirt and debris is going to fall down. With the fireplace doors open, that dirt is going to escape into the room and cover everything in sight. You might want to invest in a high-powered flashlight, as well as some goggles to inspect the chimney to make sure that you have done a good job. Chimney fires are a very real danger, so scrub that chimney well!

     

    OPTION 2: Top-Down

    This method is infinitely cleaner, but requires you to be on the roof. Any time you have to head up to the roof, make sure that you are aware of your surroundings and always be cautious of the danger of slipping and falling. A fall from the roof can lead to serious injuries and/or death, so please be safe and secure. That being said, if you are working from the roof, you can seal the fireplace doors inside the house and your cleanup will be dramatically reduced. So after the fireplace doors are sealed and your eye protection is on, then insert your brush and move it up and down to dislodge any debris in your chimney. Shine your flashlight down to make sure that Santa will be squeaky clean heading down your chimney this Christmas.

     

    OPTION 3: Weight Method

    This method is similar to the top-down method, but a 20lb weighted line with a ring on the end is used instead of a flexible rod. The weight is lowered and lifted, brushing the sides of the chimney until it is clean. You are up on the roof again using this method, but again you can seal the fireplace doors at the bottom to limit the amount of dust and dirt that enters the house. If you skipped your workout this week, this is the method for you! Goggles and a dust mask are still handy for this method.

     

    OPTION 4: Dual-Line Method

    The last method involves two people. The brush has a line attached to it and on either end of the line there is a ring to hold onto. In this method one person is on the roof, and the other person in the house. Both parties take turns pulling the brush up and down scrubbing the chimney until it is clean of soot and grime. In case you missed it, that flashlight is used in all these methods. Another handy tool is a mirror if you are looking up the chimney though. SAves you trying to contort yourself too much to inspect all the nooks and crannies. The perk of this method is that two people get to help with this project, but the drawback is that you cannot seal the fireplace at the bottom again. I guess you then have two people to clean up the resulting mess afterwards though.

     

    For any method of chimney cleaning, you want to make sure that you sweep and vacuum your house after you are done with the chimney scrubbing. Don’t forget to brush any dirt from behind the damper as well. In between chimney cleaning you can also use creosote remover products to reduce the amount of creosote buildup. This will help to make your chimney cleaning job easier as well. Another suggestion is to burn dry, hard wood to prevent creosote in the first place. Having a really good hot fire can also help to limit the amount of creosote that builds up. Once your chimney is spic and span, then all you have to do is order some wood from a respectable source that carries good quality wood. Or put on your lumberjack hat and grab your axe to fall some trees yourself. Unless you did that last year and now have a stack of nice dry wood you might have to actually buy some wood this year though. It is worth it though when you get to relax beside a hot crackling fire on a cold night this winter. I am looking forward to it already! Good luck cleaning, my chimney sweeping friends!

    Keeping Warm In Your Neighbourhood

    It’s raining. It was raining yesterday and it is supposed to rain tomorrow. BUT, the weekend just might hold some sunshine. I am thinking to hold the weather man to that forecast, as a little sunshine would be a nice thing after a soggy week. Being trapped inside all week means that for sure I will be heading outside to enjoy some of that sunshine. If you do too, don’t forget to pack a sweater, as temperatures will be decidedly cool. If we get those rays, it will be worthwhile though.

    So do you have plans for your weekend yet? I have been reading about The Lost Soul Stroll in Downtown London and am thinking about checking it out. Not sure what I am talking about? How tolerant is your fear factor? Are you interested in a little local history? Well, if you’ve a mind to learn more about some of London’s “true tales of murder, disaster and mystery”, then this is an event for you. Begun in 2005 by Chris Doty (historian/documentary filmmaker)  and Jason Rip (playwright), participants have been taken through the streets of London with a host of creepy characters to illuminate some of the Forest City’s seedy past. The Stroll this year starts at St Paul’s Cathedral at 8pm sharp and winds along a dark route for 90 scary minutes. For stalwart souls who are game for the spooky spectacular, the Stroll is held this weekend on October 20, 21, 22, as well as next week from October 25th thru 29th, with a rain date to be held on October 30th. Tickets are a steal at $20, but sell out fast, so contact the website or find them on Facebook for more details.

    Sad state of electrical on Charlotte St.

    Speaking of scary, I know that you are dying to hear how FOLLOW THE FLIP is going on Charlotte Street this week. Thankfully, we have been keeping dry inside working on the electrical. The fear factor is pretty high though! BWAA-HA-HA! Well, not really that scary, but there is a lot of work involved in upgrading the electrical system of this century home. When we pulled back the walls and ceiling, what do you think we found, but knob and tube wiring. Not surprising for a 1901-built bungalow, but it does require moving into this century’s safety standards. Once the electrical has been done, we might even be able to start working on warming the house up with some insulation as well. That was another thing that was conspicuously missing when we blasted through our demo, but it won’t be a problem for long. It can’t come too soon in my books either, as sweaters are now a must when I am working away on this Flip.

    If sweaters are a must in your home too, do you know what the problem is at your house? Have you had your furnace checked by a licensed HVAC technician yet this year? I know you changed the filter recently, but having your furnace inspected is always a good idea too. A technician will check for carbon monoxide leaks, test your thermostat, look at your blower operation, motor, fan and gas pilot safety systems, as well as inspect your chimney and flue for debris and damage. Some of these things you just cannot do by yourself, unless you happen to be an HVAC technician. If you are an avid DIY-er though, there are a few things that even you can do. If you are so inclined, you can do a little cleaning of your furnace. Make sure to ALWAYS turn off the furnace’s gas line and electrical source before doing ANY home maintenance projects. Once that has been done, then remove the furnace door and vacuum out any dirt, dust and debris from the base of your furnace, as well as the gas burners. The fan belt on your furnace should also be checked for cracks or fraying and replaced and tightened if necessary. A little maintenance goes a long way in extending the life of your heating system. I cannot stress enough though, that if you are at all uncertain about how to proceed with a furnace inspection yourself, then PLEASE leave it to a professional. They have the skills and knowledge to handle anything that they might come across and that just might save you money at the end of the day.

    If you need something else to warm you up by the end of the weekend, how about a nice hot pot of soup to take the chill from your bones? This recipe will make enough for dinner, plus lunch next week. Yum!

    CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

    Ingredients:

    6 cups chicken stock
    8 skinless chicken thighs,(1-1/2 lb/750 g)
    1 onion, chopped
    2 celery stalks, chopped
    2 carrots, chopped
    1/2 tsp dried thyme
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp pepper
    1 cup frozen peas or cut green beans
    1 cup frozen corn kernels
    3 cups egg noodles
    1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

    Directions:

    In large saucepan, bring chicken stock and 3 cups (750 mL) water to boil. Add chicken, onion, celery, carrots, thyme, salt and pepper; reduce heat, cover and simmer until juices run clear when chicken is pierced, about 30 minutes. Skim off any foam. Let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate until cold.

    Remove chicken and separate meat from bones; cube meat and return to broth. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate in airtight containers for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in refrigerator, about 36 hours. Return soup to saucepan.)

    Bring to simmer over medium-low heat. Add peas, corn and noodles; cover and cook until noodles are tender but firm, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.

    Welcome to In Your Neighbourhood!

    Allow me to introduce myself. The name is Jim. You want to know more? Well, check out my "About Me" page! Don't forget to take a peek at my "Local London Listings" while you are here too! I update it regularly. Enjoy your visit and drop me a line to let me know you were in the neighbourhood!

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