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Doing projects around the house
Old 03-08-2008, 11:16 AM   #1
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Doing projects around the house

I will readily admit that I am horrible at handymen jobs or even attempting to fix anything on my vehicle. More often than not, I will research how to do something, start it, fail miserably and then call someone in to do it at $50 an hour (it's hard to find handymen where I"m at). Conversely, I'll take a small task, research it to death and convince myself that I'll buy the wrong supplies/take the wrong approach and I'll just call someone to do it. I definitely would not be able to make a living as a tradesmen (and yes I'm a man).

Right now in my bathroom I have a small bit of grout that has come off between one of the tiles. I've left this unattended for maybe a couple of months because of my work schedule. I bought all the regrouting supplies and I"m confident I could regrout. However, before I do that I'm thinking I should take off the tile that is there to make sure there is nothing nasty like mold on the drywall or cement board. I've pushed hard on the tile and in my mind it does not seem as hard as the other tiles so it might be wet, but I'm probably just being paranoid. This probably is not a monumental task, but in researching this, I need to know what kind of surface is back there to determine what kind of adhesive I need. I have no idea what is behind the tile, so I'd end up just buying the wrong supplies I'm sure. Also, it's possible I'll crack some good tiles in doing this (I do have alot of spare tiles though). Also, if there is a problem back there, it would definitely be way over my head to tackle that. Is this something I should even attempt, or should I just call someone in and fork over my money?
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Old 03-08-2008, 01:29 PM   #2
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Please. Vacuum well, remove ONLY the loose grout. Regrout using a tablespoon or so of grout. Stop paying attention to that one little spot. It really bothers me seeing people making huge ugly projects out of tiny ones. Go feed the homeless or watch a movie or chase your wife around - DON'T waste your time making a mountain out of this. If the tile wasn't sound the grout will come out again and you might have to do something more in a year or so - or maybe you will die or move before then.....
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Old 03-08-2008, 01:38 PM   #3
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Calmloki is right. I am about as capable as you but I have done a lot of half-assed little repairs that lasted quite a while. Nothing ever turned around and took a bite out of me -- yet. On the other hand, I am about to open up a wall socket that started smoking when DW put a hair dryer on it. We will see how that goes
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Old 03-08-2008, 03:31 PM   #4
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However, before I do that I'm thinking I should take off the tile that is there to make sure there is nothing nasty like mold on the drywall or cement board. I've pushed hard on the tile and in my mind it does not seem as hard as the other tiles so it might be wet, but I'm probably just being paranoid. This probably is not a monumental task...
We used to do this in the submarine force-- it's called preventive maintenance!

Take, for example, a seawater pump. You have one small problem with the pump but instead of just fixing that minor annoyance, you take the entire pump apart (destroying another 25% of it in the process) because it's been two years since you've torn it apart looking for trouble. If there's one little problem then by golly it must be worth the time & effort & money to find all the other hidden problems too. Of course rebuilding it (and getting it to work the way it's supposed to work) will occupy most of the next two weeks for two supervisors, three laborers, $50K in parts, and a safety investigation.

That all stopped when the Navy actually began to run out of money. Now the pump doesn't get taken apart until it screeches horribly or abruptly locks up and catches fire. Even then you might hear "Well, you have two pumps in that system, right? Call us again in 12 months."

What Calmloki said-- chill. Spoon the grout into the hole and stop worrying about it for a few months. If it doesn't fall out then you fixed the "problem". If it falls out again then the problem will be that much easier to find, and it won't have caused enough damage to make a difference.

Another way to worry constructively about handyman jobs is through a discount magazine subscription to "Family Handyman". I enjoy reading about the new products and the improved repair methods, but most of all it helps me recognize the signs of a growing problem and do some troubleshooting.
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Old 03-08-2008, 09:47 PM   #5
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Also, being aware of 'acceptable standards' can help.

I'm somewhat of a perfectionist. Once we fenced in the rear of our lot (sides were done by the owners on each side, and everyone else on the street had done back fencing).

When we finished, I looked down the fence - and was horrified at the unevenness - was about to tear the whole thing down (seriously!) - when I let my gaze travel down to the rest of the back fences - ours was the straightest (and many of the others had been done by professional fencing contractors)! I then decided I was being unreasonable, and left the fence as it was.

You can be keenly aware of any imperfections in work you've done. Try taking a look at the grout in other folks' houses...
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Old 03-08-2008, 10:08 PM   #6
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At one time, we thought about refinishing the stained hardwood floors found under the carpet. We figured we could do it ourselves, but then decided to buy a video and see just how it is done.

A $10 video convinced us, nah...not gonna do it. Left it to the pros.
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Old 03-08-2008, 10:52 PM   #7
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So i've got this brother-in-law.... nice enough guy, kind to animals, ex park ranger... and he should not be allowed to do anything using tools harder than a marshmallow. My Sis had nice bamboo flooring from Costco installed while he was out of state - pretty sure that hard flooring had a good factory applied coating. BIL decided to put down a varathane finish - a nice thick coat in ultimate shiny sheen. Ya know how super shiny shows any imperfections? That floor is covered with craters of the moon and hairs - figure he shook up the can and put a coat down that was nothing but bubbles. Uhhhgleee! and betcha not as durable.
They had a toilet valve leak: first he broke the tank lid - replaced the white tank with a cream color one. Replaced the tank with the mis-match, then broke the bowl while bolting it down. Replaced the white bowl with -tada!- another mismatched white one!
In that house replacing a sink washer is liable to end up with a new faucet at least and could end up with sections of the wall removed and no water for a week.
In my experience fixing what is broke - and only what's broke - is the best plan. Knowing what's broke and if it is of concern is critical. In the OP's case I'm thinking there was a bubble in the original grout job, that the tile is rocking, or that the backer board is flexing at that one spot. Since he only reports a problem on one side of the tile the first option seemed most likely. In any case, unless he's filling that grout separation with water a bunch there's no danger in trying a grout only fix. Houses, unlike submarines, are not under tremendous stresses - a 1/2" hole that allows air -or rain- to leak into the house is not, i suspect, of the same concern as a hull breach at 500'. Takes awhile for a house problem to become critical, and in many cases if not most, a targeted limited repair of the problem area is cheaper and cleaner than the mass destruction many homeowners cause while doing exploratory surgery - and it will last as long as the surrounding area. No point having say, a roof patch, last much longer than the surrounding roof.
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Old 03-08-2008, 11:00 PM   #8
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re:your grout


a wise man once said "set it aaaaand forget it!!!
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Old 03-08-2008, 11:30 PM   #9
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You can be keenly aware of any imperfections in work you've done. Try taking a look at the grout in other folks' houses...
It's amazing how much imperfection exists in a perfectly adequate completion of a home project. Being unable to accept what (to me) appear to be huge mistakes and errors when working on these projects, has always been a big stumbling block for me, making a two day project last an eternity. When I can say to myself, "so what? at least I'll be done with it", and finish, then often I find that it really looks just fine. That's especially true if I squint. Sometimes I don't even need to squint.

I hung a bathroom towel bar that isn't quite level, on the other hand, and that bothers me to this day. (Never, ever actually attempt to use one of those tiny levels that you get as a freebie at a conference, by the way.) If I hang more towels on the end of the towel bar that looks lower, it looks a lot better. Sometimes I think about fixing it, but it is hung on wallpaper so maybe I'll just leave it alone.
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Old 03-09-2008, 07:08 PM   #10
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It's amazing how much imperfection exists in a perfectly adequate completion of a home project. Being unable to accept what (to me) appear to be huge mistakes and errors when working on these projects, has always been a big stumbling block for me, making a two day project last an eternity. When I can say to myself, "so what? at least I'll be done with it", and finish, then often I find that it really looks just fine. That's especially true if I squint. Sometimes I don't even need to squint.

I hung a bathroom towel bar that isn't quite level, on the other hand, and that bothers me to this day. (Never, ever actually attempt to use one of those tiny levels that you get as a freebie at a conference, by the way.) If I hang more towels on the end of the towel bar that looks lower, it looks a lot better. Sometimes I think about fixing it, but it is hung on wallpaper so maybe I'll just leave it alone.

how EERIE!! i just took down a towel bar my wife put up yesterday....she 'eyeballed it' from less than 1 ft away...had to be a 1/2" drop over 2 ft!! and i guess she doesn't think anchors were necessary. NOW, the thing is strong enough for her pregnant butt to sit on if she wants....lol...a few toggle bolts and ... GASP... a stud! i guess those 1/2" screws didnt quite make it thru to the wood...imagine that!!
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Old 03-09-2008, 07:13 PM   #11
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on another note, i finished my basement a few years ago....insulated walls, framed it w/ 2x4's, wired it, drywalled it, mudded it, painted it, drywalled and textured the ceiling, wood floors, carpet etc. I spent untold hours down there measuring,re-measuring,and apparently drinking...because some days i'd go down there and say "WHOA...WTF was i thinking?" so i'd rip whatever it was down and start over....

to this day, im bugged by the imperfect square i built around the steel beams, the way the texture looks in bright-light, the closet door gap that goes from 1/8" to 1/4" from top to bottom,etc.....but now i just dim the lights, drink up, and fuggedaboutit....6 months was enough. ive asked several friends and family to find flaws and nobody notices anything.
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Old 03-09-2008, 07:32 PM   #12
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Right now in my bathroom I have a small bit of grout that has come off between one of the tiles.
My wife does a wonderful job tiling and grouting. If you have any issues getting your job done, I'd be glad to tell her your scenario and get her opinion. I'd ask her now, but she's in the kitchen getting me a beer.........
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Old 03-09-2008, 08:20 PM   #13
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Accountingsucks - is the tile in a shower or bath area or just around a sink or wall area where it isnt exposed to water?

If its in a shower or tub, knock on the tile and the ones around it. If ones well away from the one with the loose grout sound "more solid" and the one/ones where the grout is coming loose sound more hollow, then you might have a little moisture behind those tiles and need more than just a minor regrouting.

If its just white grout, a little white caulk probably would fit the bill.

I've also reattached loose non-water-contact tiles just by squirting elmers glue on them and sticking them right back on. Lasted 8 years until I moved, so it seems like it was a good fix.

And dang it...I've got a cockamamie towel bar in my bathroom. But I didnt put it up. I sneer at it every morning when I put the towel on it, then forget about it until the next day. Its number 172 on my things to do list.

Today I replaced a bad solenoid on an irrigation valve, readjusted several sprinkers in time for spring, dug up a couple in preparation to replace with some taller ones since my groundcover is covering a lot of air along with the ground, and laid in about 20' of concrete edging where my driveway curves so people who havent been here before wont be able to back over my lawn when they're backing down the driveway and dont make the turn.

Tomorrow I have to patch a 12x12 hole in the floor of our spare bedroom, level it and refloor it with some faux hardwood linoleum planks...and then go to my inlaws for dinner.

Anyone have any home improvement projects they desperately need me to do around 4pm tomorrow?
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Old 03-09-2008, 08:21 PM   #14
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Not only do I have no mechanical ability but I always wound up hurting myself somehow when I tried to do a simple job around the house. As a result, I learned long ago to call in a professional. They often said to me "you could have done this yourself, its simple". My standard reply was "I won't ask you to develop and defend a $1.5 billion budget if you don't ask me to do what you are good at." My father was a mechanical engineer who could take anything apart and put it back together with no parts left over. I just didn't get that gene.

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Old 03-09-2008, 08:24 PM   #15
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Accountingsucks - is the tile in a shower or bath area or just around a sink or wall area where it isnt exposed to water?

If its in a shower or tub, knock on the tile and the ones around it. If ones well away from the one with the loose grout sound "more solid" and the one/ones where the grout is coming loose sound more hollow, then you might have a little moisture behind those tiles and need more than just a minor regrouting.

If its just white grout, a little white caulk probably would fit the bill.

I've also reattached loose non-water-contact tiles just by squirting elmers glue on them and sticking them right back on. Lasted 8 years until I moved, so it seems like it was a good fix.

And dang it...I've got a cockamamie towel bar in my bathroom. But I didnt put it up. I sneer at it every morning when I put the towel on it, then forget about it until the next day. Its number 172 on my things to do list.

Today I replaced a bad solenoid on an irrigation valve, readjusted several sprinkers in time for spring, dug up a couple in preparation to replace with some taller ones since my groundcover is covering a lot of air along with the ground, and laid in about 20' of concrete edging where my driveway curves so people who havent been here before wont be able to back over my lawn when they're backing down the driveway and dont make the turn.

Tomorrow I have to patch a 12x12 hole in the floor of our spare bedroom, level it and refloor it with some faux hardwood linoleum planks...and then go to my inlaws for dinner.

Anyone have any home improvement projects they desperately need me to do around 4pm tomorrow?
I need to replace all the gutters, one and two stories up.
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Old 03-09-2008, 08:26 PM   #16
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Not only do I have no mechanical ability but I always wound up hurting myself somehow when I tried to do a simple job around the house. As a result, I learned long ago to call in a professional. They often said to me "you could have done this yourself, its simple". My standard reply was "I won't ask you to develop and defend a $1.5 billion budget if you don't ask me to do what you are good at." My father was a mechanical engineer who could take anything apart and put it back together with no parts left over. I just didn't get that gene.

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Old 03-09-2008, 08:31 PM   #17
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I need to replace all the gutters, one and two stories up.
Do gutters really have an important function? Sometimes I wonder and I really don't know the answer to that question. If the lawn goes right up to the house, I could see that the water coming off the roof could make a groove in the lawn. But if there are foundation plantings or walkways around the house, I wonder if gutters are necessary.

Frank cleaned his out after several years and I really couldn't see that the results were worth the risk of standing on the ladder like that. Mine are covered so I don't have to clean them.
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Old 03-09-2008, 08:38 PM   #18
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Do gutters really have an important function? Sometimes I wonder and I really don't know the answer to that question. If the lawn goes right up to the house, I could see that the water coming off the roof could make a groove in the lawn. But if there are foundation plantings or walkways around the house, I wonder if gutters are necessary.
In Ohio, we have basements/cellars/large square wells.

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Frank cleaned his out after several years and I really couldn't see that the results were worth the risk of standing on the ladder like that. Mine are covered so I don't have to clean them.
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Old 03-09-2008, 08:39 PM   #19
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Anyone have any home improvement projects they desperately need me to do around 4pm tomorrow?
Sure demolish the old tile , Paint the banister a lighter color , replace the ceiling fan in the bedroom , take down the shelf in the bedroom ,replace the blinds in the guest bedroom and figure out why the new automatic pool cleaner is not working . Thanks CFB and since you are such a great cook how about fixing dinner ?
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Old 03-09-2008, 08:48 PM   #20
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Khan/Moemg - send me a first class airline ticket, and I'm on my way! My rates are low!

W2R - It depends. An awful lot of problems can be caused by excessive amounts of water around the foundation/crawlspace. It can take some time but some foundations can be damaged by the water or by shifting soils resulting from too much water. Molds, mildew, excess humidity, termites (and other bad bugs) and so forth foster in the presence of moist soil/standing water under and around a home.

This is often exacerbated by poor grading of the soil around a home. A lot of homes have soil that slopes towards the house within a 3-4' area around the house, or significant slopes of the lot towards the house without a drain or swale to divert water away from the home.

Gutters perform the function of removing water from the roof and ideally distributing it away from the home. Gutters that dump their water directly next to a foundation all in a couple of spots may be worse than no gutters at all. Plastic diverters, flexible extensions to the end of downspouts, or french drains connected to the ends of the downspouts can be essential to removing water.

The home we're living in now has french drains buried in the ground but I discovered last summer that they were all smashed flat, probably from some contractor driving heavy equipment over them at some point. I spent a lot of time last year digging those up and replacing them. Our crawlspace stayed dry all this past winter, where the concrete showed signs that previously it had held a few inches of standing water. Very no bueno.

My wifes old house had no gutters and poor grading. A good portion of the concrete slab her house was built on was starting to get crumbly, some of the bottom plates were rotted and needed replacing along with some studs, and we had some termite action in the kitchen. It took 40 years to do all that, but if the house had gutters and some landscaping to have all the soil around the house slope away, it may have escaped most of that damage.

The new house also has a fun minor problem. We're on a gently sloping lot, drops about 25' from the back left corner to the front right corner. The builder put in a swale running diagonally across the backyard and around the side of the house to the street. Then the former homeowner dropped a shed right in the middle of the swale next to the house.

The shed has since sunk around 6" into the ground and gets a couple of inches of water on the floor when it rains.

Had they put it a few feet to one side or the other, the shed might have stood for another 20 years. Right now I'd give it another 20 months.

When I watch home inspection/repair shows on hgtv, I'm almost bored at this point by the huge percentage of problems that were originally caused by water, with many of them being gutter/downspout related issues.
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