Great projects abound for whiling away the winter

Posted Oct. 31, 2008, at 6:38 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 5:59 a.m.

Autumn is the time that I start to think about finishing up outdoor projects and get my head into working indoors.

Now that we are starting to use heat, I always start by tearing into my heating system. It just doesn’t seem like as much fun if we can’t have that urgency of freezing to death because the heat is off.

I find it hard to think about redoing the heating system in the summer. Maybe it is because the lawn always needs to be mowed and replumbing goes beyond some invisible threshold of homework.

If you have the opportunity to listen to our radio program on WVOM, you probably know that we are manufacturing water tanks for a New England wood boiler company.

The idea behind heat storage for wood boilers is that a hot, fast fire can be more efficient and clean-burning than one that is damped down. This usually requires some way of buffering that heat through an insulated storage tank. I seem to do a lot with insulated boxes.

So, as one of my indoor projects, we will rework the heating system through a tank, in anticipation of a solar heating system and a small wood boiler.

There are a lot of great projects that we have done in the past that are made for winter. I am a big fan of tiling with natural stone. Whether it is granite, marble or slate, we have a wealth of these materials available to us at bargain prices.

What makes these simple do-it-yourself projects so much fun is the access to inexpensive water-cooled tile-cutting saws. These are diamond-tipped saws that cost under $100 and are the best deal in the store. You should own one if you ever need to cut any kind of tile. They are that good and valuable. The diamond circular blade is wetted with water from a water tray. It throws water all over the place, so if I am doing this project in the winter, inside, I try to set up in the basement.

Using this tool is almost therapeutic. If you have done tiling in the past and used the old-fashioned glass-cutter type tile cutter or the plierlike tile nippers, you deserve to indulge yourself with an inexpensive tile saw.

A favorite project for me is a tiled countertop and back-splash. The next one is any kind of tiled floor. The tile saw removes all the drudgery from the whole project.

Another fun wintertime project is installing floating hardwood or laminate flooring. Since most of these floors now click together without any use of glue, you can usually execute a new floor for the average room in an afternoon, with minimal tools. A small cordless circular saw and a shop vacuum are all I usually use when doing over a room.

A couple things to remember: Always buy a little extra. There is at least 10 percent waste in most of these types of projects. Do not return the leftovers. Save them for repairs, unless you overbought a whole lot.

Always have a couple of hammers kicking around (see previous columns) and a couple of tape measures, pencils and tape. I always seem to need some sort of tape. When did that get so indispensable?

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Q: For some time my bath water has had a lime-green tint to it. [It tints] the sides of the tub — and my washcloth. I am also getting green stains in a couple of the sinks. I have copper pipes. What is causing this and is there a way of fixing this that won’t break the bank, as I am on heating assistance? It is really a backbreaking effort to clean the tub and is embarrassing when I have houseguests. Thank you.

Alice

A: Green water color is usually due to the copper tubing corroding. The color is more of a blue-green and will stain fixtures. This can occur in older systems if there is a mixture of different types of tubing, such as copper and galvanized tubing. In this case, the galvanized should be replaced with plastic or copper.

If you are on a well, you should have the water tested. If the color is truly lime-green, it might be algae, but I doubt that, unless you are on a dug well. If you are on town water, I would check with the water district.

Tom

Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at www.bangornews.com/thehomepage.html

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