Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Bad Toilet Wax Ring will Cause Leaks

The last thing you want to see involving your bathroom plumbing is questionable water leaking out under your toilet after you flush it. If you find yourself riding it like a rocking horse you also have a problem. Both situations are caused by a bad wax ring.

Replacing a toilet wax ring is an easy DIY task in most cases but it can be a bit odoriferous. The easiest way to go about this job is to take the toilet apart; these things are bulky and awkward.

Some folks prefer to use a handyman to make this repair; they're cheaper than plumbers and this is usually not a job that requires a permit. To find one, I always recommend Angie’s List - Ratings, reviews and sometimes revenge. See what local homeowners say about the service companies they hire. Join now.

It's also helpful to have a helper to line up the floor flange bolts when you go to set the bowl back on the floor with the new wax ring.

This is also a good opportunity to replace the bolts that hold the tank to the bowl and the gasket that's between them. Go for a complete commode overhaul. It's the right thing to do.

If you're having any other toilet problems, you can generally take care of them with the installation of a new float cup fill valve. I'm a big fan of the Fluidmaster brand. For less than $10 at Home Depot, you can't go wrong.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Good Weather and New Running Shoes

This is the time of year that we runners and triathletes in South Texas live for. Cool in the morning and tolerable in the afternoon.

So being as motivated as I was, the other day I meandered over to the new Sports Authority store to buy a new pair of running shoes. I felt prosperous having recently filed my taxes and came out of the process only mildly bloodied.

As luck would have it, they were offering a $99 model of shoes, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS, for 40% off. Needless to say, I snapped up a pair. Nothing avoids plantar fasciitis like a good pair of shoes. I like both Brooks and low priced New Balance shoes. Sizes 4-20 and widths 2A to 6E available. Free 2 way shipping every day!

I might wear my shorts until the elastic gives up the ghost, but I respect the good footwear.

Been there, done that. Over the years I have worked a plantar fasciitis cure, pulled muscles, and suffered sciatica. None of it was any fun but it's the hallmark of the weekend warrior that pushes the limit. Strive for success. Yo.

Oddly enough, I've never crashed my bike. Even when a hapless blond ran into me and did a face plant herself, I maintained my equilibrium. But I had best shut the pie-hole on that topic of I'll end up jinxing myself. Karma, doncha' know.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Running Improvement with Quality Workouts

With the spring weather getting better, more runners are getting off the treadmills and hitting the roads and trails. There are more 5K and 10K races every weekend and we've got at least 4 or 5 months before getting serious about fall marathon training.

But be honest; are you satisfied with your performance? You're a year older this season, and we slow as we age. Do you want to jump start your speed, strength, and endurance? Then it's time to get scientific about training.

Hillwork Builds Strength and Stamina

It's easy to incorporate hillwork workouts into your training plan. Nothing else will boost your stamina and strength like it.

For some runners, like me, hills are few and far between. So what do I do? I rely on bridges, usually the Kemah Bridge. It's just a few minutes from my house so it's very accessible. It's also where I like to put in for a day of kayak fishing.

Since this bridge is steep but short (about a quarter mile from approach to peak) there are 2 workouts that I rely on. The first is easy, just over and back. How hard I attack it varies.

The second workout is running up hard for 60 seconds, then turning and jogging down for half that time. Then, turn and hit it hard uphill again. I keep repeating this until I hit the peak, then jog down easy and do it all over again.

Not surprisingly, I call this the "leapfrog" workout.

Speedwork Builds... Speed!

To get faster, speedwork workouts are essential. I'm lucky to have two local high school tracks available. The one thing I have to remember is to really pay attention to my body. It's easy to get injured. Stretching is key.

Fartlek (speedplay) is also a great option if a track is not available. It doesn't seem to be as trendy as it used to be, but it's fun! And for those who just think the track is boring, it might be just what the doctor ordered. Give it a try.

The bottom line? To have a better running year than last, I'm going to have to focus on target workouts more than ever. After all, I'm not getting any younger!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Yet More Bathroom Remodeling

Not long ago, I posted an article on my site on the Perpetual Remodeling Project. The basic idea is to keep adding to the article, photos and text, as I go about completing all the DIY projects that just won't quit comin'.

You can follow along and see when I post new home improvement articles by bookmarking my RSS Feed.
RSS Feed

The last bit I added is about trimming the door. This turned out to be fun to do. I'm not much on interior design but I know what looks good. I may be eclectic but make up for it by being clever. That's a good thing, right?

Corner Block Door Casing Anyhow, I used square corner rosette blocks on the trim. Want to see it? Click on that tall thumbnail over on the left. The color isn't right though. The door and trim are really gloss white.

I've got a lot of remodeling projects planned after I finish the bathroom renovation. All that's left is building and installing a built-in medicine cabinet. That one will have some good detail because of the design.

The hole is already cut in the drywall but because of a stud and a plumbing pipe, I'm going to offset the back of the cabinet so as to take advantage of all the available real estate.

The end result is that the right three quarter of the cabinet will gain about 3/4" of additional depth over the shallow one the previous owner installed.

I'm also going to drill a series of holes on the inside so I can put shelf support pegs at a variety of locations. Sharing bathrooms with a wife and a daughter has given me an education in the odd size containers that stuff can come in.

I'm still debating on the design of the cabinet door. That's half the fun of doing it myself rather than hiring a contractor. But hey, that's just me...

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Lace Up Your Running Shoes!

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The weather is getting right to dig out the running shorts and go running. Well, it's been like that for me anyhow; it might be "not yet" for y'all up north.

Actually, during the cold, rainy weather I train indoors on the treadmill at my local 24-Hr Fitness gym. So what prompts this particular post? First, like I said, the weather is perfect, but also because I'm happy to say that I was selected to be the Houston Running Fitness Examiner over at

So go check it out. I've only posted one article so far, yesterday as a matter of fact, but I'll be putting up a minimum of four running and fitness articles each week.

I think the personalized parts of the page are still being tweaked, so if you don't see my
my ugly mug
there right now, you'll have to check back ;-)

One reason I'll hyped about the opportunity is that it's a topic I really enjoy writing about. I used to be the newsletter editor for the Bay Area Triathlete Club (BAT) and that was a hoot. Uh, that's the Bay Area here in Texas, not the one in California.

Sadly, that club folded some time back and I've missed writing on the topic. Over the years, I've done everything from the 5K to half-Ironman triathlons to ultramarathon trail runs. My intention is to share all the sports nutrition, training, and injury prevention information that that varied experience has provided me.

So check it out, bookmark it (if you're a runner or wannabe), and feel free to suggest a topic you would like to see posted. Cheaper than buying a magazine, yes? Reach me at any time.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Titebond Glue Goes Green

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I've always been an advocate. This company has always kept ahead of the curve on many issues. Getting more water resistant is a great example. They've also got an ample line-up of woodworking glue.

Now Titebond has developed their GREENchoice Adhesives line. And just in time. Green building is gaining in popularity. Glue is one of the best building materials to make the green jump to since it's so VOC intense.

GREENchoice come in eight types: heavy duty construction adhesive, premium polyurethane, projects and repair, drywall adhesive, and more.

The one that caught my eye was professional radon sealer. I had to look. Turns out it's used, as expected, as a caulk in places where radon gas might enter the home, unsealed basements, for example.

It's mold and mildew resistant, but I don't see how it's more effective for radon than a regular foundation caulk. At least they don't say.

Nevertheless, they're sure to sell this stuff if they don't overprice it. Just like cars; Hummers may be prestigious, but Toyota sure sells the volume business.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Basement Remodeling and HVAC

No, I don't have a basement myself. They don't work when your home is only about one foot above sea level. But if I did have one, you can bet it would be an awesome space.

The truth is, basement ventilation and climate control is are important issues. Too much stale air and humidity can cause toxic mold which is a big health risk. In many cases (depending on where you live) simple exhaust fans will do the trick.

In other places, a proper HVAC system is needed to take care of business. And you're going to want one anyhow if you want to remodel your basement and turn that valuable real estate into extra living area while boosting your home equity.

Remodeling your basement begins, like all home improvement projects, with the planning phase. As far as the air conditioning and heating goes, you'll have to decide whether to go ahead and replace the system that you already have or to simply install a dedicated basement HVAC system.

The upside of changing it all out if your old system is outdated is that the federal income tax credits have gone up, and with the SEER ratings on Energy Star equipment going up all the time, you'll be money ahead every month.

After you decide exactly what you want to do with that space, it's time to frame your basement. You can either use conventional stick framing or go with metal studs and track.

In any event, spring is the time to think about delving into this type of project.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Troubleshoot and Fix Your Electric Range

One of the things I really hate is having to call an appliance repair company to check out and repair a malfunction. Fortunately, many problems are easier to diagnose than you might think.

Troubleshooting and fixing an electric range and oven is a prime example. This handy device is not complicated at all in most cases. In fact, all you generally need is a couple of screwdrivers, an analog or digital multimeter, and maybe a pair of pliers.

When the heating elements go out, it's generally just an electrical continuity issue. This kind of fix is a simple plug and play operation.

Even when the fix is easy, locating the correct replacement part can be tricky because there are so many kitchen appliance manufacturers and models.

Sometimes, they won't even sell you the part; they want to send their repair guy out to charge you a fortune. So, now I don't even bother driving around searching. A-1 Appliance Parts always has just what I need and shipping is quick, fast, and in a hurry.

Other common problems are when the elements only heat partially or not at all. Again, heating element diagnosis is simple.

Generally, the only real mechanical issues are items like door hinges and springs. Also an easy repair. So, check it out yourself first. But if you want to have someone do the work for you, try using Angie's List.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Plumbing With PEX

Even though I haven't worked with PEX, It's pretty fascinating stuff. It's just another success story of the capitalist system that we enjoy. Profit motive + highly-educated research scientists + investment cash = innovative products that can adapt to many facets of life.

In this case, chemical engineers in the 50s were looking for a material to modify the polymer chains in polyethylene so that it wouldn't soften as the temperature rises.

They found it and as a result we can now install plumbing with PEX. It's got many things to recommend it:
  • It's totally flexible, so it can go right around corners. No more having to deal with rigid 45 and 90 degree connectors.
  • It uses a variety of connectors. Since it doesn't expand or contract with temperature changes, the connectors don't leak, and no more sweating copper pipe or gluing up PVC.
  • Manifolds are available for splitting off water distribution. Some even have shutoff valves that allow you to be flexible (no pun intended).
PEX is great for kitchen and bathroom remodel projects. The work goes fast and inexpensive. Some of the connectors do not require a plumbing license. I know this is important since all of you DIYers pull building permits, right?

Wink, wink, nod, nod...

But if rather have a contractor handle it for you, the smart money calls Angie's List.

One cool thing is that you can buy the tubing in blue and red for color-coding cold and hot lines. Takes the guesswork out of it. Now if they would just put braille on it...

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