Homeowner Helper
with HGTV’s Jim Parks

My house is nearly 100 years old.

jim parks

There is a wealth of character in its architectural details and the way it sags slightly to the north, but these aged details require constant attention in the Repair-And-Replace department.  Keeping up my house’s “character” (read “old stuff”) has built my character significantly (read “driven me crazy.”)  Fortunately for my sanity, my father was an accomplished tinkerer-putterer from way back, and at his knee I learned a number of helpful hints in the world of Repair-And-Replace.  Many of these hints have to do with the metal fasteners that hold this ol’ house together — like the screw that’s all gunked up with paint, the screw that won’t go into the wood, the crack that appears in new trim, or the nail that’s too long to remove without causing a hernia — and I’m pleased to pass them on to you, no matter how old your home is.

Does your house have those screw heads where the slots are gobbed up with paint dating back to the Roosevelt era?  You need to remove them, but the layers of paint prevent your screwdriver from getting deep enough into the slot to get a grip.  (Frustrating!)

There’s a fast cure for this condition that uses the screwdriver that’s already in your hand.  Place the tip of the screwdriver into the slot (as best you can) and whack at the other end of the screwdriver with the hammer so that you drive the tip into the paint.  Put some oomph into it.

You’ll crack the accumulated paint into little pieces and send ‘em flying.  If your screwdriver still can’t get a grip, whack again.  Now your screwdriver can reach deep enough into the slot to get a hold of it.  (I find it deeply satisfying to bare my teeth and make ape-like grunting sounds as I whack, but only if I’m alone in the house.) ...Works like a charm on Phillips screws too, but be careful to line up the screwdriver head with the X on the screw head.

Have you ever come across wood screws that have been screwed in and out of their holes so often that they’ve lost their “bite” — they just turn and turn in the hole without tightening?  My delightfully vintage home had several doorknob plates with screws just like that, but now they’re nice ‘n’ tight because of...toothpicks.

Yes, toothpicks. The round hardwood ones are the best. Push the toothpick into the hole and break it off so that it doesn’t project out beyond the surface of the wood. Then poke another one in there and break it off, then another — until you can’t fit any more. If the broken ends project beyond the surface of the wood, use a utility knife to trim them down. Now you’ve got enough wood stuck into that hole so the screw will be met with that satisfying bite. ...Problem solved for the cost of few toothpicks!

You’re oh-so-carefully hammering a finishing nail into a piece of new trim, and crack! — the wood splits. Yes, it’s even happened to me once or twice. (Hear the sarcasm there?) Cracks usually form because two nails are driven into the board in line with each other, or a nail is driven in too close to the end of the board. Whether the board will crack depends on the hardness and dryness of the wood and the width of the nail. Cracked wood not only makes the attachment much weaker, it causes your spouse to make unpleasant complaining sounds, so it must be avoided.

Avoiding a crack is easy: Keep a nail at least an inch away from the end of the board, and offset a second nail so it isn’t running in the same “line of grain” as the first nail. Just moving it over as little as an inch is sufficient. If a nail MUST be in line with another, or if the nail MUST be placed near the end of the board, drill a hole there first. Just make sure the drill bit you use is slightly thinner than the width of the nail. By the way, the rule of thumb (yes, I’m using the word “thumb” in an article about hammering nails) is that the nail should be long enough so that two-thirds of it should be sunk into the lower board.

Let’s say you’re using a hammer to remove long nails from old boards. (Please remove nails from loose boards as soon as possible — this from a guy who stepped on a rusty nail as a child and who cringes every time the thought enters his mind.) You’ve got the hammer turned upside down and you’ve wedged the nailhead into the hammer’s claw. You rock the hammer to pull the nail out, but the nail is a big one, and the range of motion in that rock is too short; the nail is too long to get any leverage on it, and it’s still stuck in the wood.

Here’s what you do: Grab another block of wood, or a piece of metal, or a pair of pliers, or anything solid that’s 1/2-inch to 2-inches thick. Place that block of whatever-it-is under the hammerhead so that the hammer is raised up off the board. This extra height should now give you enough range of motion when you rock the hammer to get the nail all the way out. If the nail is STILL too long, you need a thicker block. If you’ve got a big nail-pulling job staring at you, that little block of whatever-it-is will save you from a lot of “cussing time” — and for heaven’s sake there is enough to cuss about in the world without getting bent out of shape over a few stupid nails!

Happy fastening.

GV’s Heating & Air Conditioning

GV’s Heating & Cooling Inc. of Glenview, Illinois was established in June of 1990 by Gregory Vickers. It began as a one-man operation based out of the Glenview residence of Vickers and his wife. As a family-owned company, GV’s is able to make quick decisions in order to provide its customers with personal attention and prompt service. The company’s knowledgeable staff works to form close relationships with its customers and offers the latest products to fit their needs. Vickers attributes the company’s success to a long-term plan that makes customer service a priority, before and after the sale.

Air Conditioning

GV’s offers a full line of heating and air conditioning equipment such as: Trane- Furnaces, Air Conditioners, Heat Pumps, Commercial Roof Top Units and The Revolutionary Clean Effects Air Cleaner (rated at 99.98% efficiency), Weil McLain Boilers, A.O. Smith hot water heaters, Unico Air Conditioning for homes with hot water heating, and Wirsbo Radiant in floor heating. The dedicated employees at GV’s have always prided themselves on quality installations at competitive prices.

The service department at GV’s services all brands of equipment and offers a Comprehensive Preventative Maintenance program for its customers’ peace of mind. Their service and installation department obtains 100 hours of training annually to keep up with the latest technology.

GV’s primary focus specializes in the residential and light commercial marketplace, satisfying one customer at a time with exceptional service and installation. As energy costs continue to rise, GV’s counters by looking at alternative heating and air conditioning systems, based on customer needs.

“We, as a company, feel our greatest strength is our relationships with our customers,” said Vickers. “Not just satisfying their needs, but going the extra mile to build customer confidence above and beyond any other company.”

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