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April 25, 2012 AsktheBuilder Newsletter & Tips

I'm pretty excited. Yesterday I picked up the building permit for a new large shed I'm building here at my house. This is not going to be just any shed. It's going to have special new concrete piers, 10-foot-high walls for lots of storage, an attic, skylights, sun tubes and sun tunnels, a turbine vent, a regular staircase to the attic, a ramp to drive tractors up into the shed, an overhead door, a regular door, interior shelving, etc.

Each and every step of the building process will be documented along the way with who-knows-how-many videos and photos. I estimate there will be no less than 100 videos that come out of this process. If you were to watch every video, you should be able to build a similar shed just like mine knowing what to do each step of the way.

The videos, photos and text will all be put in short documents that you can consume in just minutes. They'll become part of a new category I'm debuting today here in the newsletter: AsktheBuilder Answers. You'll read more about that below.

I'm also turning this shed enterprise into a fun event where you can become part of the project if you want. I intend to even put up a webcam. You'll have the option to gain access to the live camera feed over the Internet. You'll also have an opportunity to become a partial underwriter of the shed project. That will get you all sorts of goodies. I'll be announcing that next week. If the response is positive, then you and I might be doing all sorts of cool projects together as the year progresses!

Tip of the Week - Patching Spalled Concrete

This past winter was really pretty mild for most parts of the USA. You may have some concrete where the top surface has come off revealing the ugly stone core of the concrete.

You can repair this pretty easily with either a patch of cement stucco, or you can do a thin overlay over the entire surface to make it look like you've poured a brand new slab.

There is a secret step you must do to ensure the new stucco or thin concrete bonds to the old concrete. Discover that magic by reading this short past column at the AsktheBuilder website!

Cool Tee Shirts - I Mean Keep-You-Cool Tee Shirts

Last week I began testing some newer technology tee shirts designed for hot weather. We did have a few warm days last week here in New Hampshire, and they were a dream to wear. They are so soft, much softer than cotton.

Last year I switched from wearing 100-percent cotton tee shirts to ones that are 100-percent polyester or a blend of cotton and polyester. I have to tell you that I'm now a huge fan of the polyester or polyester/cotton blends.

This fabric technology does keep me cooler, and when they get wet, they sure seem to dry faster. What's more, the CoolMax tee shirts I tested last week from Duluth Trading Company also have built-in sun-blocking technology with a SPF of 40+.

I love the longer tail as well. If you tuck in your tee shirt, the longer tail keeps you from sharing too much information when you bend over, if you know what I mean.

These shirts come for both women and men. The folks at Duluth Trading Company told me there's a limited supply of these CoolMax tee shirts, so don't put it off if you want to try one.

I don't get a penny from Duluth Trading Company for this write up. I just tested the tee shirts and wanted to let you know what I thought. I'm not a paid shill for them.

Fun Video - Steam Whistle of the Steamboat Natchez

I made a quick trip to New Orleans this past weekend. It's a long story as to why I was there, but I did see lots of the French Quarter, and on Sunday morning I shot this video of the steamboat Natchez paddle-wheeler pulling away from the dock. Each time she does that, she tells everyone at river's edge that she's leaving. Listen for yourself. Turn your speakers UP!

Oh, and I had way too many beignets at the Café Du Monde. One more serving and I'd been in a diabetic coma for sure. If you live in NOLA, I'm sorry but there was absolutely no time for me to schedule a meet up. Next time I'm there, I promise we'll do one.

Another Update on the Washing Machine Valves

Celia S. wrote to me last week after I briefly mentioned the Watts Automatic Shut-Off valve. Please keep in mind I did not test this valve, I just did a quick web search for auto shut-off valves. What I failed to mention was a great point brought up by Celia:

"The Watts valve got bad reviews on Amazon. Even the guy with the good review had a terrible experience with this product, and later updated his review."

Excellent advice Celia! Be sure you take the time to read reviews on Amazon about all products before you buy. Throw out the best and always the worst review and look at the others. Remember, there are always haters and competitors that leave bad reviews. If you see lots and lots of bad reviews, that's a warning flag indeed.

Do You Need a New Roof? Maybe Not!

Do I Need A New Roof?Installing a new asphalt shingle roof on your home can be expensive. But, do you *really* need a new roof, or can it just be repaired buying you time and saving you money right now?

You may be stunned to discover that you can get by with repairs. An unscrupulous roofer may try to take advantage of you telling you that you need a new roof, when a repair could be all that's required to keep you and your possessions dry.

I created a short document titled, Do I Need a New Roof, that has three videos in it that help show you examples of asphalt shingle roofs that may or may not need to be replaced. This document will give you the confidence you need to make an informed decision. At just under $3, you can't go wrong! Please buy a copy now and tell me what you think.

If you want this document on your Kindle Fire or your iPad that has the Kindle software on it, click here.

This document is part of a new series of electronic products that I'm starting to create. It's called the AsktheBuilder Answers series. They're short, they're to the point and they answer very specific questions. My goal is to create hundreds of these answers about different aspects of projects. I know you frequently get to a fork in the road at times on a project and just need to be pointed in the right direction.

Here's a link to the other AsktheBuilder Answers I've completed.

Many, many more documents are being developed. I hope to have one up about How to Prevent Gravel Drive Washouts completed tomorrow. Later in the week, I hope to be working on - Crown Molding in 60 Minutes - or Less! Oh my gosh, wait till you see the videos in that one!

Video of the Week - French Cleats

Have you ever wondered how to hang a heavy item in such a way that you can just lift up on it and it comes off the wall? The best part is when the object is on the wall, there's virtually no way it can fall or tilt forward by using a method I discovered years ago. Watch this video to see how to improve your home improvement skills and magic! Oui Oui!!

Cleaning Tip of the Week - Horrible Grease-Covered Oven Racks

New oven racks are often nice shiny chrome. Caustic oven cleaners can dull this chrome. What if I told you that you can soak the oven racks in a special solution and a few hours later the caked-on grease comes off with mild rubbing using a Dobie pad? The best part is this special solution is just Stain Solver and water!

I place our oven racks in our utility sink and fill it with about five gallons of hot water. Then I add in one cup (8 oz) of Stain Solver. I let the racks soak for about three hours before I scrub and rinse. You can see a side-by-side photo of my oven rack right here.

Do you need more proof that Stain Solver is the miracle cleaner? Here's an email that Sal sent me last week:

"It really does work on beige floor grout. Stain Solver even removes black hair dye after it was dry!"

Sal carefully and wisely avoided the topic of who was using the hair dye!

Q & A of the Week - Chimney Top Construction Tips

DEAR TIM: My chimney needs some tender loving care. I had a few contractors come to assess the repairs, but none of them made me feel very comfortable. They all talked about how my chimney top, some called it a crown, was in bad shape. What they disagreed on was the method to repair it. Each contractor has a different solution. If you were going to repair or rebuild the top of your chimney, what would you do? Wanda M., Gig Harbor, WA

DEAR WANDA: I sympathize with you. The reason you're getting back all the different types of quotes for the work is because you let each contractor drive the bus. If you want really great quotes, you have to ......

Need to read the rest of this column? Click here.

Sincerely,
Tim Carter

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