Me = Tom Hanks

Yes, this weekend I was Tom Hanks in Terminal. I was in Chicago on business and flew back on Saturday ... and ... Sunday. I checked the weather before leaving and nothing looked bad, but the airline neglected to tell me that they hadn't gotten a single flight into my final destination all day but let me get on the first plane anyway. I got stuck at my connection when they had cancelled all the flights due to visibility problems with the snow storm.

Questions for next column?

Now that Robert will be providing some interesting expert content we thought it would be a good idea to open the floor up to questions. Robert is an experienced HVAC technicain. He's the only person I know who tweaks his home air system as much as I tweak my computers - adding automatic baffels to control airflow to different zones of his house on timed thermostats, in-duct UV air purifiers and a whole-house humidity control system.
Drop in your comments with any questions you might have, and he will try to answer some of them in next week's column.

Lowering your home heating bills

This is the first post in a recurring 'column' by our resident HVAC and home repair expert (and my brother) Robert Maro.

Properly maintain your heating system.

Heating can account for almost half of the average family?s winter energy bill. Make sure your furnace or heat pump receives proper maintenance each year.

Install a programmable thermostat.

The energy savings will offset the cost of a basic unit in less than

a year. Programming your thermostat from 72 degrees to 65 degrees for eight hours a day while no one is home, or while everyone is tucked in bed, will cut your heating bill up to 10 percent.

Insulate heating ducts and keep them in good repair to prevent heat loss.

Your system can lose up to 60 percent of its warmed air before it reaches the register, if ducts are not properly insulated in unheated areas such as attics and crawlspaces.

The single most important thing you can do to keep your air conditioning and heating system working efficiently is to make sure the air filter is matched to the unit and is clean. Air filters can also provide other benefits such as cleaner air and reduced allergy symptoms.

Vote: What project next?

NOTE: The entertainment center and Porch are done. The dining room is under-way.
Keep in mind this house is a mixture of 1940 and 1980, so much needs done. I'm not ready to tackle the upstairs bathroom or kitchen yet, both of which will likely have to be done together due to plumbing issues.

Doing the details

I never thought trim would be so expensive. I had planned to use those manufactured particle board thingy trims. I needed 1x5 boards, and there was a trim at Lowes that was almost just that, with a little flair on the end that I thought I'd just cut off. Then I saw the price... so I ended up buying 1x6 spruce for the baseboards. My first thought was to rip it down to 1x5 but I finally decided that 1x6 looked good too, and the trim downstairs is 1x7 so it's not far off from that.

Refinishing hardwood floors tutorial

Well, now that I'm done with the floor I thought I'd write up a quick tutorial for those thinking of doing it themselves. Keep in mind, I'm no pro, just a do-it-yourselfer who has done this one time. Hopefully I can pass along some good tips, but certainly don't consider this for your only source of info.

Read on for the tutorial...

You must of course start with a hardwood floor, preferably one that needs to be refinished.

Remove all furniture, baseboards, etc from the room. I also recommend removing curtains and any other fabric as you will generate a lot of sanding dust. Empty the closet, even if you don't plan to refinish the closet floor.

You need to make sure you either have a subfloor underneath the hardwood, or a thick enough hardwood floor that it can handle being thinned a bit. Once a floor is too thin, you'll chance cracking boards in the future when you move heavy furniture around.

The first thing you'll need is a drum sander. Check with your local hardware and equipment rental stores. If you've never used one before, I'd highly recommend renting one from a smaller hardware store or rental shop, as the guy at Lowe's or Home Depot probably doesn't even know how to turn it on, much less instruct you in it's use. Make sure you get a sander that runs on 110 current, because they do make larger ones that require 220 volts and are much harder to use.

Here's a nice before picture that has the sander as well:

The tool I wish I never bought

I figured this little gadget would save me some hand-sanding between coats of poly on the floor. Boy was I wrong. I ended up holding it by hand and using it that way since I'd bought a pack of 25 180 grit papers to fit it:

I couldn't get it to work without gouging the finish because it would wobble so much. It's a good thing I tested it in the closet.

The brother calls... poly with no sanding?

I was woke up this morning by my brother. Okay, I was sleeping in - 2 guys and I unloaded around 800 boxes from a 53' truck yesterday, each weighed around 30 pounds. I hurt. Not as much as from sanding the floors however. Anyway he asked how the floors were coming since he doesn't have high-speed Internet he can't look himself. After I told him I still had two coats of poly to go, he said 'You should have called me - I just did my whole house and the poly I used didn't require sanding between coats. Just let it dry around 2 hours then apply another coat!'

Sanding floors... (part 3: Poly)

Polyurethane. Make sure you open a window. Goes on easy with the right tools. Before applying, I vacuumed the floor twice, and used a window washer 'mop', dry, to make sure I removed any left over dust. Then, just apply using a lambswool mop especially designed for it, going with the grain.
Here's the first coat, partially dry. I am amazed at how much darker the wood has turned, considering there is no stain at all, it's just natural oak. I didn't seal the floor first, so the poly soaked into the wood somewhat and tinted things it seems. I think it looks awesome:

The cat in the... gap

When I sanded the floor, I had to remove the floor vent that opens up to the living room beneath, allowing hot air to rise from the furnace downstairs. It sounds... useless, but actually the vent works very well. Between the floor upstairs and the drywall ceiling downstairs are 2x8 beams and a plaster ceiling that was covered over with sheetrock when the living room was redone years ago.
You can see the hole in the floor in this picture (read more:)

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Renovating our 1916 Craftsman style home, one room at a time.

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