Innovative solutions for creating healthy, efficient, eco-friendly homes

March 2002

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Trouble On the Line

The only tools you need to troubleshoot your home telephones are a screwdriver and an inexpensive telephone with a modular line cord. That's right - the best piece of electronic test gear for chasing down a dead-phone gremlin is a spare $10 discount-store phone. That's essentially what the phone company repairman uses. First, however, you need a few telephone wiring basics. The telephone plugs into a modular wall jack, either along a baseboard or in a wall coverplate. The line cord has a universal modular jack (plug) at both ends, so that it is replaceable.

The Mysteries of Surveying

When you bought your home, you almost certainly had the property surveyed. If you're like most people, though, you filed the survey away with the deed and the title insurance without really knowing what it was. After all, the idea was to buy the home, and the survey was just one of many requirements on the road to ownership. But a survey is much more important than that. It is your assurance that the property you're buying is what you think it is. Even so, many homeowners are confused about what surveyors do and how they do it.

Getting the Right Gutters

With his foundation cracked and moving at glacial speed inward, my neighbor called for help. Over the phone he said he also suspected the sill was rotten. Could I come over and take a look? Is this rotting sill and cracking foundation on the north side of the house, or on a side of the house with lots of shrubs close to the wall? I asked. Yes, he said. Both. And are there any gutters on that side of the house? No, he said, sounding increasingly puzzled. And did you remove the gutters because someone told you they were creating ice dams and making your roof leak? How do you know all that?

Foundations: An End to Dishpan Hands

If you ever watched Leave It to Beaver, you might think the dishwasher had yet to be invented in the halcyon days of the 1950s. Who can forget dutiful Wally and Beaver washing and drying dishes after dinner? It was a scene as common as dinner itself. In fact, though, the dishwasher had been around for more than a century by the time Beaver debuted in 1957. Credit for the first dishwasher goes to Joel Houghton, who in 1850 patented a wooden machine with a hand-cranked wheel that splashed water on dishes.

Windows That Work

Paying attention to details can save you energy, hassles and money. When it comes to buying windows, we can be awfully shallow. Whether for a new home or a remodeling project, we usually select our windows - casement, awning, double-hung or fixed glass - for their looks, not because they provide a tighter seal or the best natural ventilation. Convenience is important, too, as demonstrated by the fact that an entire industry has been built around the tilt-out window that allows us to clean the glass without climbing a ladder.

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