Q&A / 

November 16, 2008 AsktheBuilder News

What’s in This Issue



The last issue of this newsletter was published on Veteran's Day. I forgot to honor all of our veterans. I'm deeply sorry for that oversight. The sacrifices of our veterans are what make this newsletter possible. I've had the distinct honor to meet several distinguished veterans who subscribe to my newsletter. One of them is Dick Daniels, a former Captain in the US Navy who is a tailhooker. He was a pilot who landed on aircraft carriers and put his life on the line each day for us. There are hundreds of thousands, actually millions, of Dick Daniels out there. You know them. Another one is my best friend Richard Anderson. Both served in Vietnam, Richard volunteering for two tours of duty in the Marine Corps.

Do me a huge favor and call or contact any veteran you know. Thank them. Reach out and do them a favor if you can. The freedom we enjoy here in the USA is because of them. The same can be said no matter where you live. Just about every country has been involved in a conflict. If you're free, you owe that to the sacrifice of many. If you're a veteran, my family and I are deeply indebted to you for your sacrifice. Thank you so very much.


Several days ago, I installed the new video chat feature in Gmail. I'm a big fan of Gmail, the free web-based email provided by Google. I use Gmail each day for all of my email needs. It's amazing. The download of the video-chat software was painless and within minutes it was up and working. I use a MacBookPro laptop, so I have a camera built into my computer. If you don't have a built-in camera, after-market video cameras that connect to a computer are now very affordable.

I tested the video connection with a friend of mine who lives in Los Angeles, 3,000 miles away from me in New Hampshire. It was like we were in the same room. The video quality was fantastic, and the audio was just as good. Video chat is not new by any means. It's been around for a while with different providers. What I like about this is that the video chat seamlessly integrates with my email. Oh, and it's free. I can talk and see my friends and soon possibly you for free. Once again, I'm sure there are similar video chat systems out there, some attached to email. But there's a reason why I'm excited about this. Here's why.

If you're a new subscriber in the past month or so, you have no idea of the new website I'm working on. In the early part of 2009, this new website will be live. This video chat feature will be part of it. I plan to set aside two hours per week in this new website to do something akin to the talk radio show I did for over 12 years. On that radio show I would get calls from someone just like you that had a problem with their house. In ten minutes or less, I almost always solved the problem. But it was all done with voice only and me having to visualize what the situation looked like. That can be hard to do if the person on the other end of the phone can't describe things well.

Part of my plan for this new website is that you'll be able to sign up for time slots each week where I either call you on the phone or video chat with you about your problem. We'll talk for ten minutes or less so that I'll be able to help at least 12 people in two hours.

If you decide to do the video chat with me and can set your camera up near the problem, you'll have the ability to show me what's wrong while we talk about it! That will allow me to give you the best advice possible.

If this is of any interest to you, I suggest that you sign up now for a free Gmail account and start to use it. You can still keep your existing email address and use that as you do now. This new Gmail account can be used when you and I video chat or you decide to video chat with other friends and relatives. But I'll warn you now. When you see all the features of Gmail, you may start using it as I do. When I use Gmail, my emails show that the email came from my @askthebuilder.com address, not my @gmail.com address. That allows you to keep your current address but use a different email platform.

You can go here now to read about the Video Chat and get the account activated. If you have a Gmail account now, download the software and start practicing. I can't wait to see you!


While we are on the subject of video cameras, you may be interested in a wireless video camera that allows you to monitor remotely a room in your house, an exterior door or some other thing you want to watch. In the past, these video cameras almost always required a cable to be extended to a monitor, digital video recorder or a hard drive that stored the video footage.

I just started testing the Swann ADW-300 and it's pretty slick. One of the neatest things about this camera is that it has a remote control that allows you to zoom the camera in and out and make the camera pan left, right, up and down. This wireless camera boasts a 160-foot wireless range, so you can have considerable distance between the camera and the receiver. It's rated for outdoor use and has infrared sensors so things that come close to the camera in the dark are visible.

I just started to test this camera and am really impressed with it. In the past, I always felt that running the cable was tough, especially in a finished home. With this device you can be up and running in about five minutes or less - the time it takes you to screw the camera mounting base to the wall.


Earlier this week, I got an email from a CEO of a company that wanted to know about how to install a toilet and especially about plumbing vents. I was a little flummoxed by his email as that information is at my website. I get similar emails within minutes each time I send out a newsletter.

Six weeks ago when I asked for input about the new website, one of the most-important things you told me you wanted was a superb search engine. Well, unless I'm mistaken, I think I have the best now on my AsktheBuilder.com website. If there's a better one, I sure would love to know about it.

Here are some tips that may really help you discover what you're looking for when you come to my website. Let's say you were that CEO. If he would have typed "toilet installation" and then done a separate search for "plumbing vent", he would have had, in seconds, exactly what he was looking for.

The trick is to use common keywords and just one or two. Let's say you want to know what I've written about ventilation. Well, I have a category named that. If you type in "ventilation", that category page pops right up to the top in the search results. All my columns about ventilation are listed on that category page.

I urge you to really play with the search engine when you need help. Oh, here's a really cool tip. Let's say you want to see if I have a video about a topic. Always include the word video in the search phrase. Examples would be crown molding video, gutter guard video, etc. If I have a video, it will show up right at the top of the search results. Try it and see!


Katrina Demilo from Massachusetts emailed me and asked: "We are going to paint recycling bins as a project for a school auction. What kind of paint/sealer should we use? We want them to last as long as possible."

My response was pretty simple. Plastic is somewhat challenging because it often has a slick surface. I suggested that she try liquid deglossing solvent on the bins followed with a bonding primer that says on the label it adheres to plastic. Traditional oil paints usually have fantastic adhesives in them that allow them to stick to just about anything. But they can be difficult to work with. The oil paints tend to cure faster getting harder quicker than great latex paints.


I want to thank you for sending me your recipe. I got some that made my mouth water as I read them. Right after Thanksgiving I intend to try all of them. By the way, the pork chops and wild rice came out great. I simmered the chops in some pork gravy for about 35 minutes and they were so tender I couldn't believe it. Oh, and I made another apple pie yesterday! My next dessert is banana bread followed by avocado cream pie. That was one of the recipes sent in by Sharon.


Several newsletters ago, I made reference to the technology in the protective heat tiles on the Space Shuttles. As always happens, I get emails from subscribers like you who share inside information or fill in the blanks. I really appreciate that feedback. Dana was so interested, she told me she was going to try to locate that past issue of National Geographic magazine that had the article I referenced. Well, that motivated me to go to the Meredith Public Library after I went online to discover the exact issue of the magazine. My library had a copy and it was fascinating to read the article that was published in March 1981 - over 27 years ago! You have to read it if you can get it. You can't believe the reference the author made about cell phones. It was hilarious.

I decided to scan the two pages of the magazine that had the photo I remembered as well as a page I forgot about. Those tiles are 90 percent air! Can you believe that? The only thing I couldn't verify was the R-value of the tiles. One thing's for sure - it's incredibly high as it takes an enormous amount of time for the heat to move into or out of the tiles.

If you want to be the next billionaire and do the planet a huge favor, figure out a way to copy that technology and make sheets of the product that are one-half-inch thick. If we had that material, we could heat our homes for 1/100th of what we spend now. You just need ultra-pure silica. Silica is the most abundant element on the planet. Here's the link to those two pages I scanned.


Months ago, I announced that I had completed ten years of testing of gutter guards. Since then there are literally thousands and thousands of new subscribers who get the same newsletter you're reading now. In many areas of the nation we just got through another leaf season. So I thought I would share the link to the page where I have posted the two videos and the story behind which one I finally decided to have installed on my house.

The important thing to realize is that there appears to be a subtle reason why the one gutter guard - the one I chose to use - performed better. The manufacturer determined themselves long ago that the guard must be installed so it's at the same slope as the roof. Of all the gutter guards I had installed over time or had professionally installed by the manufacturer, this is the ONLY one that required that.

You need to understand that making sure the gutter guard is sloped with the roof requires additional work that might be more than the average do-it-yourselfer can handle. Lowering the actual gutter so its front top surface is in the same plane as the roof is what needs to be done. If you have long gutters, this might be problematic and is a good reason to have it done by a professional.

The company that installed my gutter guards was MasterShield. If you contact them, make sure you tell them I said Hello. It's always nice that they know where you heard all about them.

Go watch the videos at this page and remember that in my testing, gutter guards fail miserably in the Spring. Well, just about all of them except MasterShield!

Several Months Into the Test

The video below is what my garage roof looked like after months of testing. It's very obvious that the way the gutter guard is installed makes a very big difference:

The one gutter guard performed better than the other. You can clearly see that.

You can't dispute the findings in the above video.


As you might imagine, I get a constant stream of products to test. One of them arrived about three weeks ago. It's a spray can of spackling compound. Yes, spray spackling. I was as inquisitive as you might be right now. It's called Jig-a-Patch.

I tested it today, and it's very unusual. By that I mean it's as unique as the delivery system. Spackling compounds have come a long way in the past few years, and this may be the one product that pushes the envelope.

My first impression moments after I pushed the tip on the aerosol can is why did I spray shaving cream on the wall? The spackling was as fluffy as that! It spread easily and readily filled the hole. I think you should try it and tell me what you think. The manufacturer has a 100 percent rebate offer open for the next three weeks. Check out their web site for the details and get your free spray spackle.

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