Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fluffy Popcorn

Q: What is the best way to get the popcorn texture off the ceiling? The guestroom bath ceiling has water stains. I need to paint it with Kilz? - J

A: Really, there are a couple methods to remove popcorn ceiling texture.The method you choose will depend on what you want for a finished product and if the ceiling has been painted or not. 

IF you want to have a little texture left, and just want to remove most of the popcorn to make painting easier, scrapingit with a putty knife or a more rigid floor scrape will do the trick. You will want to do this and try to leave some of the texture on the ceiling. 

If you are wanting to remove all texture (and the ceiling as not been painted) you will want to wet the texture first. If you lightly spray the ceiling with water and let it sit for about five minutes. It should scrape off relatively easily with a putty knife or floor scraper. Be careful not to use too much water though, because it can soften the paper on the drywall and make it easier to gouge. If the ceiling has been painted, you will need to dry scrape it first before spraying it with water and scraping. The paint seals the texture and will not allow the moisture to soak in. 

With both methods, be careful to keep the scraper flat against the ceiling to prevent digging in or gouging. You may need to fill any imperfections with spackle or drywall joint compound. 

Hope it helps!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Nice and Shiny

Q: Brasso does not clean my outdoor brass. Any Suggestions?

A: Another good brass polish is Wright's Bass Polish. You may also see this as Brass Cream. An 8oz bottle can be found for less than $10 and I have seen good results from it.

If that doesn't work, or if you want something more natural, you can try a homemade brass polish that is not harsh but does a good job of removing any tarnish or discoloration.
  • Dissolve 1 tsp salt in 1 cup of vinegar
  • Add flour until it becomes a paste
  • Rub paste onto the brass then let sit for 10 minutes
  • Rinse or wipe off with wet cloth then wipe dry
If the brass has a lacquer coating, it cannot be polished due to this coating. You can remove the lacquer finish with fingernail polish remover, then try a polishing compound.

Hope that helps!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Buzzing Dryer

Q: "My dryer stopped working! We push the start and nothing, well sometimes a buzzing noise but that's it. We have pulled and pushed buttons and checked the lint trap. What could it be? I don't want to have to buy a new dryer!" -J

A: There are several things that can cause the dryer not to turn on. First, start with the electrical supply. Make sure the breaker has not tripped, which I don't think it has since it is buzzing. Next, unplug the dryer and check the plug for any charring or marks indicating its not making a good connection. You will also want to check where the cord attaches to the dryer. All dryer cords are removable and sometimes the screws may loosen up causing a bad connection. If it is only getting power from one wire, 110 Volts, then it can buzz as it doesn't have the proper 220 volts to start up. Make sure these connections are tight, and again check the general condition when looking at these terminals for any obvious signs of trouble.

If all the electrical supply looks fine, check the dryer vent. You will want to disconnect it from the dryer to inspect this. Make sure it is not clogged or any excessive build up. It is best to clean the entire vent line at least once a year to remove lint buildup which can cause the dryer to work harder. Also look into the vent on the back of the dryer, make sure this is clear too.

Can you turn the drum by hand? This is a simple way to check if anything has seized up. If you cannot turn it, the motor may have burned up, the blower may be jammed with lint, or a bearing has gone out. Most commonly it will be the motor or a jammed blower. You will need to partially disassemble the dryer to get the the blower wheel. This will depend on the make and model of the dryer for where this is located. For dryers that have the lint trap in the front at the bottom of the door opening, the blower is close to that and the front of the dryer will be removed to get to it. For dryers with the lint trap at the top, the blower is at the back, close to the vent. If the motor is bad, it is replaceable with the parts found online or at an appliance parts distributor.

For more visual reference, here are a couple videos that can help explain how to disassemble the dryer to get to the parts. While all models may be different, this is a good general overview.

Lets hope it just needs a good cleaning! Additionally, while it is apart, it would be a good time to inspect the drum belt for replacement and the drum rollers to see if they need to be greased.

Hope it helps!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No More Video

Q: "How do you replace a computer's video card on a desktop computer?" - J

A: When working on any electronics, be very careful about static discharge. It is best to work on a hard surface and handle the cards and other components by their edges. Do not directly touch the components, and do touch the metal case frequently to keep any charge difference to a minimum. 

Replacing the card is usually pretty simple. First disconnect all the cables from the computer including the power cable. Now you can open the case of the computer. There are usually two screws on the back that hold one side on. Take these out and the side of the case will slip backwards to release. The video card is usually held in with one safety screw that you will need to remove. This is on the metal plate at the back of the card where it has the output ports. Some video cards have power supply cables plugged into them that need to be disconnected. Now you can remove the card. There is usually a release on the slot for the card that needs to be bent out of the way as you pull up on the card to take it out.

When replacing the card, make sure everything lines up and press the card in the slot. This should not require much pressure. Once the card is in place do not forget the screw or the power supply cable. After everything is back together and hooked up, you can power on your computer to test it out. Most video cards come with either a driver disk or a web address to download the drivers. This will need to be done for the card to work properly. I usually suggest downloading the drivers no matter what so you know you have the most up to date versions as the DVD may be out of date.

The most difficult part of replacing a video card is finding the correct replacement. You want to make sure you are getting one to fit the slot type on the motherboard. The most common are AGP, PCI Express(x16) and PCI Express 2.0 (x16). 

 AGP is very old and most computers do not use this anymore. PCI Express has two versions with the 2.0 being faster. If you have a slot rated for that, then you can use both regular PCI Express or PCI Express 2.0 cards and it will adjust. You can run a 2.0 card in the earlier slot but it will run slower and can cause issues. Some cards are longer than others and some take up two slot spaces for the fans. You will need to make sure you have clearance for a card before you buy it. Last, make sure your power supply can handle the card. Some cards did not use an extra connector from the power supply for card power while others do. You need to be sure your power supply can handle the card you are purchasing.

Email me if you need help!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Super Secure Digital Card

Q: My school's Nikon D60 SD memory card got broken today. Somehow the grey slider got stuck on "lock" before getting broken off. Now we can't upload the pictures to the computer. What do we do? - V

A: Getting the data off will depend on the card reader. In this case the camera was incorrectly detecting the position of the lock slide and not allowing access to the card. Some card readers that are built into computers do not look for this lock on the card and can access the information regardless of the lock slide position or if it is even present. There is not a way of detecting what kind a reader you have so there has to be a little bit of trial and error. What was unique in this situation was also physical damage to the card casing which can prevent the card from being inserted into a card reader. In this case, careful modification (read: breaking) of the card's casing is - ehem - was necessary to retrieve the data and trick the lock reader.

Got more questions? Just email me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Drip Drip Drip

Q: My bathtub faucet is leaking a lot. Usually, I just take off the faucet head and clean out the buildup of calcium and it takes care of the problem. I have done this so much the screw has dissolved and I can't get it out. How do I remove it? I'll have to replace the whole faucet. How do I do it? I probably should shut off the water right? It is a single handle. It slides straight out to turn on and twists for temperature. There is also an access panel in the wall. -B

A: At this point you have a couple options. 1) try to rebuild the faucet or 2) replace the entire faucet. Either way, it may be a little challenging and you will definitely need to shut off the water and release the pressure in the water lines by opening up another tap or two.

1)  To rebuild the faucet you will need to the handle off somehow. You could either break it off, which would require you to buy a replacement handle, or drill out the screw to get the handle off. This handle will probably need to be removed regardless, of if you are replacing/rebuilding the valve. If you can drill out the screw, you can get the cartridge out of the faucet. If you can get that removed, take it to your local hardware store or home center to match it up with a replacement. Most common faucet brands and styles can be rebuilt with parts that are easily found. If you cannot find matching parts or get the cartridge out, you will need to replace the faucet. Rebuilding will likely be the least expensive and simplest fix for this.

2) To replace the valve, you will need to remove the handle and trim pieces on the shower wall side. This will allow access to the mounting screws that hold the valve in place. This is usually done by removing a couple Phillips screws. You are lucky to have an access panel to the back of the faucet. You will have 4 pipes connected to the faucet valve, one for the hot supply, one for cold supply, one for the tub spout, and one for the shower head. This is where things can get tricky. Getting the pipes off the valve may be difficult depending on how they were attached. Hopefully, most are attached with unions that allow the union to be disconnected without needing to turn the valve or the pipe. Sometimes, the pipes are soldered to the valve. If this is the case then you will need to cut the pipes and solder in couplers and unions to attach the new valve.

If you have further questions, let me know. It can be helpful to see a picture of what you have if you get a chance.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Now Streaming

Q: I am tired of paying so much to watch TV. I have 2 old TV's 10+ years old. Purchasing a new TV is not an option at this point. I would like to know what my other options might be to get rid of my cable but still be able to watch my favorite shows. -S

A: With older TVs the only option is to get a set top box or internet capable Blue-Ray player. The Blue-Ray player may not be worth it unless a new TV purchase is next on the list. You won't be getting any benefit from the HD content and some won't even output to the older TVs. Set top boxes are nice since they offer several sources for content and are often compatible with may older televisions. One popular one is Roku and specifically for you the Roku 2 HD and it runs about $60. You can use this with Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and Pandora Internet Radio. Many of these services are subscription based and run about $8 -$10 a month (or yearly subscriptions of around $80 as the case with Amazon). Others allow you to purchase single episodes, whole seasons, or rent movies. Roku also has some free content available (a movie channel, news, weather, and access to online pictures and social networking sites). Here is some of whats available on Roku's Channel List.

One big drawback to these is selection. Not every show on every network is available. Some networks allow you to watch their shows online, but only on their website. It's best to do a little digging to find out if what you want to watch is available streaming and where it is available.

Another option (that is more complicated for setup), is a converter box hooked to a media PC or a laptop. This would be like turning your TV into a monitor so you can watch web content on the larger screen. This may not look the best, or be the simplest to just sit down and watch, but is another options.

As with all streaming, a good internet connection is a must. You will probably want a minimum of 3Mbps or higher to stream video.

Local channels are not provided with streaming, so you'll need an antenna and a converter box if your TV does not have a digital tuner.

Happy Streaming. We've got all sorts of suggestions for great TV shows if you need them!