Workbench Weekly eTip

Archive for July, 2010

Make Foundation Repairs That Last with Hydraulic Cement

Friday, July 30th, 2010

If you need to fix a crack in a basement wall, the best cement choice for this kind of repair is a mixture called hydraulic cement. It expands as it cures, so it will fill the void and keep water from pushing through (Illustration, below).

Fill the void

Another nice thing about hydraulic cement is that it can be applied to wet surfaces. That means you can fill the hole even as the leak is occurring.

Hydraulic cement comes as a powder and gets mixed with water (Photo, below). Only mix enough to do the job, as it has a very short working time. From the point you mix it, you’ll only have five to 15 minutes to get the cement in place before it hardens.

Hydraulic cement mix

To patch the void, wear rubber gloves and use your hands or a putty knife to pack the cement into the void.

Of course, once you’ve fixed the immediate problem, you should look outside to determine why water is getting against the foundation in the first place. Make sure there’s adequate slope and drainage to keep the water running away from the wall.

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

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Avoid Extremes When Setting a Thermostat

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

For years I thought that 10 degrees was the maximum variance you should have with a programmable thermostat. As it turns out, you can allow the temperature to change by 10 to even 15 degrees, if the thermostat can stay at that level for at least eight hours.


The logic is that if you can leave the house at a cooler or warmer temperature for at least eight hours, you’ll save more energy than is required to re-cool or reheat the house.

But if you need the temperature to come back to your “comfort” level in less than eight hours, you should leave the setting at 10 degrees or less.

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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Inexpensive, Eco-Friendly Cleaning Tips

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Getting the grime off windows and glass doors is one of those cleaning chores you just can’t avoid. And while there’s an endless array of glass-cleaning products on the market, it’s easy to make your own for just pennies. Besides saving money, it’s safer and more earth-friendly, too.

Cleaning Supplies

For a safe and effective home-mixed glass cleaner, mix one teaspoon of baby shampoo to one gallon of water or 1½ cups vinegar to one gallon of water.

Window manufacturer Jeld-Wen offers a simple recipe that only uses vinegar or baby shampoo to make glass sparkle (right). They also share these window washing tips:

  1. Always wait for an overcast day to wash glass — bright sunlight causes streaks because it makes the cleaning solution dry too quickly.
  2. Before you start, soak tough spots like dried paint splatters or label adhesive with a solution of warm water and baby shampoo. Then scrape with a plastic putty knife.
  3. Wash surfaces with the solution using a clean, soft cloth or sponge. We suggest a microfiber cloth made for washing cars.
  4. Rinse with clean water. Avoid using a pressurized sprayer because it can break the seals on windows.
  5. Promptly dry glass thoroughly with a soft cloth.
  6. Dry window and door frames with a separate cloth.

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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4 Simple Steps to a Green Lawn

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Water It Right. One of the biggest problems people make is watering their lawn too often, which leads to fungus. Instead, Tom Dieck of TRD Designs, a landscape design firm in New York, recommends less frequent but longer watering times to reach the deep roots of the grass. For example, instead of watering every three days, try watering once a week for a longer amount of time.

Choose the Proper Fertilizer. Another common mistake, says Dieck, is fertilizing too close to summer, which can yellow the grass and inhibit its ability to fight off insects. Instead, jump-start your lawn with a nitrogen-based fertilizer in early spring and then again in mid-spring.

Cut It Correctly. Sharp lawn mower blades are critical to the health of your lawn, so Dieck recommends having them sharpened at the beginning of every mowing season. And Lance Walheim, a gardening expert with Bayer, recommends cutting cool-season grasses (like fescues and Kentucky bluegrass) higher and warm-season grasses (like Bermuda and zoysia) lower.

Try the “No-Grass” Option. If your lawn has almost full shade in the spring and summer months, you might want to consider planting a ground cover instead of grass. “Turf needs around 60 percent light to establish and return next season,” says Dieck.

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)
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Update a Mirror with an Applied Frame

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

When it comes to instant maovers, it’s hard to get a quicker or more dramatic result than with this project. We created a simple but striking mirror frame out of ½" x 3½" poplar that was applied to a slab bathroom mirror with two-sided automotive tape. A miter-less construction method also helped the frame make a significant design impact with a very small investment of time and money.

Bathroom Mirror

Our homeowner had already made a number of stylish updates to this bath, and many would have said his work was done. But after so many improvements, that large, boring slab of mirror just seemed out of place. There was no need to replace the entire mirror since it was in perfect condition. It just needed a cosmetic facelift.

To make this a project that you could finish in a few hours, we used simple butt joints and a no-assembly method to create the frame. After measuring the mirror carefully, we cut the top and bottom rails to match the length of the mirror. The stiles equaled the height of the mirror minus 7″ (our poplar was 3½" wide).

Frame Details

To ease the sharp edges we routed 116" chamfers on the pieces, but you could also soften them by sanding. We then finished the pieces with a Java stain to mimic this bath’s dark framed slider doors. If your mirror is attached to the wall with clips, you will also need to rout notches for these (see Illustration, above).

Once the stain is dry, you can simply attach the rails and stiles to the mirror with the two-sided automotive tape. (Be sure to clean the mirror first.) You can find this tape at any auto-parts store. It provides a very strong, waterproof seal.

When you apply the strips of tape to the rails and stiles, align them very carefully (Photo below). Use caution when applying the tape to the frame pieces, and again when applying them to the mirror, because there are no “do-overs” with this adhesive. Then, just align the pieces on the mirror one at a time (bottom rail first), and apply them using firm hand pressure.

Apply Tape

The secret to this simple frame is using strips of automotive tape to hold it in place. Make sure one strip goes against each inside edge to hide the gap.

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

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