Don't strain yourself: do-it-yourself tips


March 25, 1995|By Karol V. Menzie and Randy Johnson

If there's one area in which life always seems to get easier, it may be in the do-it-yourself field, where manufacturers and publishers are constantly coming up with new ways to make things easier for those who engage in home repair or improvement projects. Here are some recent discoveries of ours:

*Did you know that if you're working with vinyl, you should try to do the project in warm weather, when the vinyl is pliable? Equal parts of vinegar and baking soda may work as well as commercial drain uncloggers, without the harsh chemicals? (Dump in the baking soda first, then the vinegar, let the mixture fizz, flush with boiling water.) Installing water shut-off valves on all fixtures can make your life easier by removing the need to turn off the water supply to the whole house when one device breaks?

These hints and how-to's are among hundreds of household projects that can be found in a new series of do-it-yourself books called Sunset Basics.

You can find out how to draw a circuit map, learn to tell slip-joint from rib-joint pliers, and find out how to install a brick driveway, among other things.

There are six books in the series, dealing with wiring, masonry, plumbing, repairs, woodworking and carpentry. Each costs $9.99. All are amply illustrated and each project has a "tool kit" to tell what tools are needed for the job. The books were due out this past week, at bookstores, hardware, building supply and home-improvement centers.

*The edges of roofs with a shallow pitch need extra protection from the elements and Randy's found a product that makes installing the extra barrier simple. He's been putting on a roof with a pitch of less than 4 in 12 (that is, it rises less than 4 inches for each 12 inches of length). Roofing manufacturers recommend installing a layer of self-adhesive roof coating that is 36 inches wide, directly over the plywood at the low end of the roof. The product, called Nordshield, is billed as a "self-adhering waterproofing membrane." It extends over the inside wall to seal the roof against wind-blown rain and to prevent ice damming.

Nordshield comes with a peel-off backing and the top side, the roof-coating side, is covered with plastic so you can work over it. The self-stick backing really adheres to the plywood. (Before you start shingling, you install tar paper over its top edge.) Nordshield isn't expensive and it's a good idea to include it in job specifications if you're installing a new roof with a shallow pitch. It can be used in reroofing, but that would require stripping shingles and tar paper off the bottom edge, to install Nordshield on the plywood.

Look for Nordshield at roofing supply outlets, not at home-improvement centers.

*If you work in constant fear of back strain -- and let's face it, weekend and spare-time do-it-yourselfers are prime candidates -- there is a new product out just in time for warm weather that can help you take care of your back. The new Ergodyne Proflex 1051 back support has a breathable mesh outer shell with a contoured, ventilated lumbar pad that fits the natural curve of the back. It comes in sizes from small to extra large, and it's machine washable. Suggested retail price is $18.75; actual prices will vary. Available at Home Depot. Randy thinks this product is such a good idea he's already heading to the store to get one.

Mr. Johnson is a Baltimore construction manager. Ms. Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N.

Calvert St. Baltimore, 21278.

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