How to Read a Ruler

How to Read a Ruler

Author’s Note: This consists of a Video Tutorial and a Textual Explanation. If pressed for time, you are encouraged to bookmark this page and come back to take in both.

Note 2: You can skip this intro, if you wish and scroll right down to the “Let’s Get Into It” Header for the ‘meat and potatoes’ portion of the discussion. Continue reading How to Read a Ruler

Installation of Drywall Wall Anchors


Drywall is called different things in different places around the country.  Gyp board, gypsum wall board, drywall or sheetrock are all pretty much synonymous.  The term ‘drywall’ was originally a distinction made between it and plaster -which is applied wet.


Plaster is found in older homes -roughly pre-1950s and some more expensive homes after that.  Plaster is pretty much phased out as being too expensive.  The high cost of plaster installation is driven almost entirely by the labor intensity of the construction/application  process.  Plastering is a trowel trade and in addition, the skills of the lathers are required as part of the construction of a plaster wall.  The wire lath must be installed for the plaster to adhere to.  The first (rough) coat of plaster is then applied, followed by the finish coat.

The plaster is mixed in a mixing machine, not unlike the cement mixers used to mix mortar (for brick and CMU*), and needs to be transported by wheelbarrow to the location.  As you can see, a whole gang of people are required to effect the construction of plaster walls.  *What we once called ‘cement blocks’ are termed CMU by architects, meaning ‘concrete masonry unit.’

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I worked on a new wing of a nursing home in 1967 that was designed with plaster walls.  That’s the last plaster job I saw.  One of our own homes, a brick ranch-style house, built around 1954 had plaster walls.  Someone had some money to spend there, apparently, and opted for plaster.  Prior to that we had a home built in 1898 and one built in 1902, which had plaster walls.  There was no drywall back then.  Most houses built in the 1950s, and since then, are built using drywall because it is cheaper/quicker and seems to be the defacto standard.


These anchors provide a strong point to hang something from.  Please note that as the name would imply, these drywall anchors are made for walls -generally 3/8″, 1/2″ or 5/8″  sheetrock thickness.

Self-drilling Drywall Anchors
Self-drilling Drywall Anchors

 The ‘self-drilling’ type are the most convenient, in my estimation.  Other types are the ‘molly’ (expanding or, mushrooming type) and the toggle bolt.  All accomplish the same task -to attach something to a hollow sheet rock wall where no stud is available.  These sheetrock wall anchors (depending, of course, on the load) are not considered safe for use in ceilings, although I have used them for attaching lightweight fluorescent lighting to ceilings.  


The drywall anchors described above are removed as easily as they went in.  Hollow wall anchors (Molly or Toggle bolts) are removable -but, doing so will leave the ‘back-piece’ inside the wall -which is OK but, you will not be able to re-use it.  

Molly Drywall Anchor
Molly Drywall Anchor

All types of anchors will leave a hole that will need to be filled. Not that it’s a big deal.  A little spackle and a broadknife will fix it up in no time.  Holes or gouges in drywall or plaster are easily repaired in that manner and is one of those Home Maintenance activities that you can easily accomplish yourself, if you like to do-it-yourself.

You have any thoughts on this or experience (good, bad, or funny)?  If so, why not share your experiences by commenting below.

Do you have any thoughts or experience on this (good, bad, or funny)? If so, why not share your experiences by commenting below. 

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Additional Info:

Drywall Information Center

Dangers of Imported Drywall

Drywall How-To Manual



Pumpkin Cross Pollinated with Cantaloupe

I saw something I haven’t seen among the pumpkins JoAnne brought home this year.  They looked like (and were) cross-pollinated with cantaloupe melons (aka muskmelon or maybe even something else in other parts of the country).

These pumpkins had a dull orange color, not bright shiny orange as most do.  And, they has tan bumps and a texture like that of the cantaloupe melon.  The skin texture is quite obviously that of a cantaloupe -although I have read that that cross-pollination combination is rare.  I really don’t know how rare it is.

What I have also read is that when two plants cross pollinate, it does not affect the current year crop.  It affects the seeds in this years crop.  So, unless you are saving seeds for next year, it need not matter to you. 

JoAnne bought the pumpkins from a farm nearby.  We don’t know if they purchased the seeds or saved them from last year.

According to what I have found, cross-pollination can occur whenever an ‘open pollinated’ bloom accepts pollen that might drift in from another plant of the same species but having genes that differ.  Plants that do not rely on insects or the wind to pollinate (self-fertile plants) can sometimes cross-pollinate, although it is considered rare.

cross pollination
(Wink Wink) "You're a cute one. Want to Cross Pollinate?"


The pumpkins and the cantaloupes are open pollinated and can easily cross if within close proximity.  That doesn’t mean the bloom will necessarily accept the pollen.  Some say it is sometimes difficult to get the pumpkins to pollinate at all. 

So, if your pumpkin gets pollinated with cantaloupe pollen, you get the prize -the booby prize.  Again, you won’t know if it happens unless you save your seeds.  It is said that to avoid crossing squash you might need to separate them by as much as 500 feet.  Which is clearly not practical to the home gardener.  Best bet is to buy fresh seeds every year and don’t worry about it.

I am curious to know if our local farmer bought those seeds or grew them last year.  Somebody’s pumpkins got buggered -whether it was the local farmer’s plants or the seed company (who probably buys them from someone else on a farm).  Who knows.  They are interesting to look at nonetheless.

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Additional info:

Cross Pollination of Squash

 Squash Family

How to Install Wall Anchors in Masonry

In maintaining your home, there are many reasons you might need to know how to install a wall anchor in a masonry, or block wall. You might want to hang something, like a piece of artwork or a poster. There are certain tools you will need. They are not hard to find. Nor, are they hard to use.

How to Install Wall Anchors in Masonry

A battery powered drill will work on lightweight block or brick. If you have good masonry bit, you will have to lean into it pretty good but it’ll go in. The best choice is a ‘hammer drill.’  As the name would imply, a hammer drill ‘hammers’ as it turns and makes the job that much easier.


The masonry bit is good for block, brick or concrete. Of course, the hardness of concrete will wear the bit out faster than on block or brick but it will do the job.  In a residential setting, the masonry blocks are typically ‘lightweight’ blocks. They are ‘lightweight’ -not to make them easier to work with, but are lighter duty block. Accordingly the lightweights are easier to penetrate, as they are less dense.

A star drill is a holdover from the days when they didn’t have electric rotating tools to use. They come in different sizes and are sometimes useful when you just need one or two holes and your hammer drill is too far away to fetch it conveniently. That’s why I have it. About 30 years ago I was on a large job and didn’t feel like running across the jobsite to get a drill motor, bit and a set of electric extension cords. (This was long before battery powered tools were common). With the star drill I could bang a couple of 1/4″ holes in a block wall in about ten minutes. It would have taken that long or longer to fetch the other equipment. It saved a lot of shoe leather.

To use a star drill, just tap it lightly with a hammer and turn it with every -or every other tap. Protect your eyesight with your safety glasses when using a star drill. Masonry chips and dust do not mix well with your eyes. They feel like chunks of coal in there.

The most common lightweight wall anchors are 1/4″, made of plastic these days. Years ago they were made of some kind of fiber. You will sometimes here them referred to as rawls (no relation to Lou).  Rawl was a brand name of the fiber wall anchor. When I was an apprentice the older guys were still calling the plastic anchors ‘Rawls.’ You still hear it once in a while.

When we say they are 1/4″ we are referring to the size hole required to accommodate the anchor. The anchor itself will accommodate a #10 or #12 screw. A pan-head (what we call) sheet metal or, tapping screw is typically used.

The use of hammer drills or any loud percussive tool should be accompanied by the use of eye and hearing protection. The cumulative effects of not using ear plugs contributes to Tinnitus -the constant ringing in your ear(s). Ask me, I’ll tell you. We never had ear plugs available on the job 30 years ago. Being young and foolish, I probably wouldn’t have worn them anyway.

A properly installed 1/4″ wall anchor in masonry will hold quite a load. I can’t think of anything you might have around the house that would overload it.  Knowing how to install wall anchors in masonry, as you can see is not difficult if you have the right tools.  Now you can go make Swiss Cheese out of your walls. :)

You have any thoughts on this or experience? If so, share your experiences by commenting below.

If you find some of this information useful, please Share it on Facebook or, with another social media so others can find it, too.  Buttons are at top and bottom of page.  Thanks for stopping by.

You may also like:

Masonry Wall Anchor

Wall Ties and Anchors for Masonry

How to Install a Receptacle

How to Install a Receptacle

Knowing how to replace a receptacle in your home is a handy thing to know.   We are sometimes tasked with replacing one of these as part of our Home Maintenance duties.  It is not to be taken lightly.  A healthy respect for electricity and a knowledge of proper wiring methods is essential.  Choosing the right device is also key.  Quality is important but also is the rating of the device.  You don’t want a device rated for 15 amps on a 20 amp circuit.


There are reasons why receptacles need to be replaced -the internal connection might be loose or sloppy, causing it to overheat slightly -or more than slightly (be aware of such things) or maybe it took a physical hit and broke How to install a receptacle(the body of the device is made of plastic).  Also, if you build an addition to your home or remodel a room, you will be buying some of these -or, your electrician will be.  You are encouraged to spring for the higher price model.

To arm yourself with the latest information it would be wise to obtain the latest (2011) edition of the National Electrical Code (in the U.S.).  The code,  the Code Handbook, as well as numerous ‘how-to’ tutorials may be obtained at Mike Holt Enterprises.  Holt is recognized in the electrical construction industry as an authority on the application of the National Electrical Code.  

Buy a code book nowNational Electrical Code

The Difference Between Higher and Lower Cost Devices

There is a difference between cheap and higher price receptacle devices.   Some of the cheaper devices have a “back-wired” arrangement, whereby the installer has a choice whether to solidly attach the conductor under the screw post (preferred method) or to put the conductor into a hole in the backside of the device where a spring clip will capture it and prevent the conductor from coming out.

Those spring clips make for a faster installation for builders who do hundreds of these every week.  The spring clips have been known to show fatigue with age. With fatigue comes a loose connection and the build-up of residual heat when placed under an electrical load.  In an electrical circuit, the build-up of residual heat is not a good thing.  To expand on that, a relatively heavy load on a receptacle will cause the build-up of heat within the receptacle as well as the lead cord connected to it.  Resistive loads such as electric heaters, toasters, hair dryers, and the like are a heavier load, measured in watts, than say, a lamp (with a 100 watt light bulb for example).

With that knowledge, if you notice a warm or hot electrical outlet (receptacle) with not much on it (in terms of watts) and it is heating up, it would be prudent to determine the cause.  If the internal connection in the receptacle device not as robust as it once was, it would cause it to heat up.  Likewise, if the wiring terminations are not as snug as they once were, same result.  In any event, it warrants further attention.   To ignore the situation or to procrastinate invites the possibility of disastrous consequences.  It is a Life-Safety Issue.  Take action.

See Signs of a Loose Connection for some images of receptacles that were damaged by residual heat build-up.

On the other hand, the more expensive devices do not have the back-wire arrangement. They are called “specification grade” (spec grade) devices because it is what architects call for on projects that they design.  The termination method is called ‘side-wired’ and is accomplished by fashioning a hook on the end of the solid copper conductor and placing it under the screw post and tightening it down, thereby clamping it solidly in place.

Technically, on a ‘side-wired’ arrangement there is much more surface area of the conductor in contact with the surface area of the device.  It simply is a better electrical, as well as, mechanical connection.  Electrician apprentices are trained to use the ‘side wired’ termination method when installing or replacing a receptacle.  That method results in a good solid mechanical connection that won’t fail because of fatigue as spring clips sometimes do.


Part Two –

I’ll now speak to you DIY types -those inclined to “do-it-yourself.”  How many times have I heard “What is there to know?  Black to black – White to white, right?”  I cannot count them all.  There is much to know, as we are talking about Life-Safety.  Complacency in this area may have grave consequences!

If you decide to attempt to replace an electrical outlet device -be it a receptacle or a switch, rather than calling in a “Qualified” electrician to perform the repair, it is imperative that you have a working knowledge of the appropriate articles of the National Electrical Code (in the U.S.) or the equal Canadian code -or wherever you may be located.  No doubt there is a code published by the authority having jurisdiction over electrical installations.  Attempting such tasks without knowledge of accepted wiring practices is to tempt fate in the form of house fire and the inherent risk to Life and Property.

Am I causing you to think twice about it?  That is my goal.  Your decision to do this electrical work is not to be taken lightly.  You and your Family have to Sleep in that House.  Will you be able to sleep?

Anyone attempting to perform electrical work must understand that their work should be inspected by the authority having jurisdiction.  In a municipality, it is usually the Building Dept.  If outside of a municipality, I’d check the local listings for an electrical inspector.

To arm yourself with the latest information it would be wise to obtain the latest (2011) edition of the National Electrical Code (in the U.S.).  The code,  the Code Handbook, as well as numerous ‘how-to’ tutorials may be obtained at Mike Holt Enterprises.  Holt is recognized in the electrical construction industry as an authority on the application of the National Electrical Code.  

Buy a code book nowNational Electrical Code. 

Important points pertaining to attaching circuit wiring to the receptacle device:

  •  Strip length is important to get right.  If you are not well practiced at this, use the “strip gauge” found molded into the back of the plastic device as a guide.  The proper strip length is about 5/8″
  • Use a wire stripper. Strippers typically have holes for different size wire. Know the size wire you are working with and use the proper portion of the tool. It is possible to ‘nick’ the wire if using the portion of the tool designed for smaller wire and that should be avoided.  If a solid copper conductor is ‘nicked’ -depending upon the severity, it creates the possibility of the wire breaking at that point when bent, formed or fashioned.
  • The black conductor is the energized one and should be terminated under the ‘brass colored’ screw post.
  •  The white conductor is the neutral and is terminated under the silver colored screw post.
  •  The bare copper conductor is the grounding conductor and is terminated on the green screw post.
  • When done, perform an inspection of your terminations.  No insulation should be lodged under the terminating screw posts.  If too much insulation was removed, too much copper conductor will be visible beyond the post.  Proper strip length avoids these two scenarios.


See Part Three: a tutorial on how to actually install one of these devices in an electrical outlet box (in a wall). 

After installing your receptacle, you’ll want to test it for correct wiring.  In fact, it’s a great idea to test all your receptacles if you haven’t done so.  Additionally, test the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) in your home every month.  It is advisable to test the GFCIs for proper function and to test for correct wiring, as well.  To do that, buy a simple and inexpensive gadget called a GFCI Tester and keep it around the house.



As a special incentive to buy your GFCI Tester here now, I’ve decided to include as a special bonus a tutorial report entitled “How to use a GFCI Tester.”  Included in the report are written instructions and insight, as well as, two (2) videos with practical demonstrations on the best practices regarding the use of all of the functionality of the GFCI Tester -which includes how to check if the receptacle is correctly wired. 

How to Use a GFCI Tester for Correct Wiring

Reserve Your Home and Garden 911 Bonus Offer “How to Use Your Ideal GFCI Tester” by first Clearing Your Cookies.



After you have cleared your cookies, buy your tester (And receive the Bonus Offer) From This Affiliate Link. After you have purchased your GFCI Tester, please email your Amazon receipt to: Please allow up to 48 hours for your bonus item to be delivered.


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 What’s on your mind?  You have any thoughts on this or experience? If so, why not share them by commenting below.

Additional Resources:

Mike Holt’s Code Resources

Code Forum


Chimneys, Bats and Bat Houses

Here’s a common Home Maintenance challenge to ponder.  Keeping bats out of your attic is as easy as closing up all the access points -which should be done anyway. If there is access to your attic, the odds are you will eventually (if not already) have bats, mice, squirrels -if the opening is big enough, raccoon (surprisingly, they can fit into some small openings).

We had some bats living between the roof framing and chimney structure in our attic. They were sneaking in behind the chimney flashing and didn’t go any further than that.  I had been seeing their droppings for as long as we lived here -thinking is was mouse droppings. Chimneys, Bats and Bat HousesI couldn’t catch the mice, which was frustrating, of course, because I’d vacuum up the droppings one day and the next day there would be a little more.  It wouldn’t take long and it would be all over the place.

Bat House Update: Scroll to near bottom of page

I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out it was not mice, but bats.  Once I thought of that, I peered up between the roof framing and the chimney structure with a bright flashlight -and saw a bat staring back at me.

Bats: endangered, White Nose Syndrome, WNSLast spring we had our chimney rebuilt (from the roof line up) and in the process the bats lost their home. They are gone now, from that roost.  We still see a couple of bats doing aerobatic maneuvers in our backyard but we don’t know where they are roosting.  We know where they are not roosting -and that is in our chimney.

Our old chimney looked like a shoemaker built it.  Being the son of a bricklayer, I can spot a chimney that was built by a shoemaker at 100 yards.   Over the past couple of years we had done extensive work to the house and the chimney was the last item on the list.  Chimneys can be repaired if they have loose mortar joints or need a new cap, for example.  Ours was just plain ugly.  Not to mention it needed to be re-flashed because the shoemaker hadn’t flashed it right in the first place.  If he had, bats wouldn’t be able to sneak in.  So we hired a bonafide Bricklayer to replace the structure.  Someone I knew had served an apprenticeship in masonry (not shoemaking).

Bats are in jeopardy these days, if you haven’t heard.  The disease commonly referred to as ‘White-Nose Syndrome‘ (WNS) is killing hibernating bats -it is estimated that upwards to a million bats have been lost -mainly in the northeastern U.S. (fifteen states), but also two NE provinces of Canada and -in France.  It is unknown if the fungus was transported from France or if it migrated from the U.S.

The bats with WNS seem to be dying in hibernation (in caves, etc.) because they’ve used up all their fat reserves.  Researchers seem to think they are waking every three or four days or so, rather than the normal ten to twenty.  The Bats may be effectively dying of starvation.


No more Chimney Bats – We Bought Them a Bat House

We bat housethought we’d try to do something for them and purchased a ‘Bat House.’  We have it mounted on a pole way back in the backyard.  It will accommodate as many as 300 bats. It might take a year or two for it to become occupied, according to the Organization for Bat Conservation , from whom we bought the bat house.  We erected it late in the season so it’s unlikely it would become occupied this year.

It is a well built unit, of cedar, designed in accordance with the research done on Bats and conforms with the habitat they prefer.  All Bat Houses and Bat House Kits are not created equal, we found.

So, next spring we’ll see what happens. I think it will be cool to see them come and go.  The more the better, I say. 

Most bats in North America eat insects. It is reported that one bat can consume as many as 2,000 to 6,000 insects each night.  Many of the insects they eat are crop pests and many types of beetles.  Bats also eat insects like flies, mosquitoes, and gnats. We don’t have many crops in the vicinity.  We do have a small home garden plot.  I would wager that most of what the bats eat around here are mosquitoes. 

We live adjacent to a wetland area that is, of course,  a big mosquito breeding ground.  So, you see, the purchase of the Bat House was not totally altruistic.  The mosquitoes will carry you away if you don’t apply your repellant liberally (heavy on the DEET).

Check back in the Spring.  I will hopefully be able to report the presence of a breeding population of Little Brown Bats.

You have any thoughts on this or experience (good, bad, or funny)? If so, why not share your experiences by commenting below.
If you like this, please share it on Facebook or another social media -buttons are at top and bottom of page. We do appreciate it. As always, thanks for ‘ambling’ by. 😉

Bat House Update

From the Chimney to the Bat House | First Bat inMid-June, 2012:  I looked up into the bat house with a powerful flashlight and saw a small brown fuzzy creature wondering who turned on the lights.  Hopefully, he’ll invite his buddies and we’ll increase the occupancy.  This model house will provide shelter for up to 300 bats.  When we get a few more bats, I’m hoping they’ll balance the mosquitos around here.


For additional information on Bat Houses:

Why Bat Houses are Important

Garden Snakes in a Bush

JoAnne was inspecting a small lilac bush in our backyard today.  The hummingbirds have left for the season and we noticed all summer they seemed to be hanging around that bush.  JoAnne thought she might be able to find a nest left behind that was used this year.
Pictures of Snakes: Common Garter Snake
She discovered what at first looked like it might be a nest and moved around to the other side of the bush to have a closer look.  What she found was not a nest.  It was a common Garter Snake (I think it’s a Garter) almost in a knot about four feet from the ground in the bush.

I came out with the camera to snap a few pictures of a Garter Snake.  We had never heard of garden snakes in bushes before.  When we got the photos downloaded we discovered we were looking at images of not one, but two garter snakes wrapped up with each other.

The temperature at the time was about 70 degrees and overcast, not long before dusk.  It was rather dark inside the bush where they were hanging out.

Has anyone ever seen such a thing?  I might think they were trying to keep warm, but it wasn’t chilly out, although it dipped to 62 last night and probably will again.  Wouldn’t it be warmer on the ground?

Look closely -you will see two heads looking back at you.

Quite likely, it was warmer in the bush than on the ground. The sun hadn’t shown much lately and it has been rainy and wet.  Today was relatively warm for this time of year, here in east central New York State.

More information:

About Garter Snakes

According to this article, what we saw is not uncommon: Climbing Garter Snakes

Garden Snakes in a Bush: Garter SankesIn the photo below, if you look closely, there are two sets of snake eyes on me as I snapped the image.  I didn’t realize there were two sets at the time, but they were getting pretty edgy, as the camera flashed them about seven times.  About an hour later, I came by the bush with the lawnmower and that made them nervous, too.  I noticed they began to move about the bush.  I didn’t linger there and JoAnne noticed they were still in the bush a little while later, just before dusk.

Do you have any thoughts on this or experience with it? If so, why not share them by commenting below.  Thanks for stopping by.  If you like this, please share it on Facebook or another social media -buttons are at top and bottom of page. 

Unrelated to my garden snakes in a bush is this video of a cat vs. a snake. Guess who wins.

Home Inspection Checklist and Electrical Safety

Electrical System – Early Detection of Heat Build-up

In terms of Home Maintenance, electrical safety is one area that is paramount.  The following discussion should be an item on your ‘Home Inspection Checklist’ to be addressed at least every six months.  What follows is a simple and effective means for early detection of a potential electrical problem that is not uncommon.

Heat build-up in your house or home wiring (we will call it the electrical distribution system) may be indicative of a couple of things that warrant scrutiny in the name of electrical safety.  If you detect heat at your electrical panel or meter enclosure, it should be questioned.

First, let’s define what I mean by heat -or, heat build-up.  If your meter enclosure is sitting in the hot sun it will naturally be hot to touch.  If that’s the case, you should check it in the morning or later at night when the sun is not a factor.  Place the back of your hand against the meter enclosure (meter can).  If the enclosure is hot to touch, it needs to be checked.

Loose Connections

Loose connections inside your electrical equipment (meter enclosure or electrical panel) will cause, over time, a build-up of heat -slight at first, but becoming warmer going forward.  It is not uncommon for copper and aluminum conductors to become slightly loose due to

Heat Damaged Loose Connection
Heat Damaged (Loose) Connection

corrosion between dissimilar metals (galvanic corrosion) in the case of aluminum wiring, or the physical properties of copper conductors under compression.  When a loose connection is under a significant electrical load, it may heat up, ever so slightly, at first.  The thermal cycling (heating up and subsequent cooling down) will cause the connection (again, over time) to become more loose.  Put another way, thermal expansion and contraction cause connections to loosen.  The thermal expansion occurs as electrical loads cycle between high and low demand.  There is a point, if a connection becomes loose enough, that arching occurs, causing small carbon deposits to build-up and pitting of the metal -increasing the resistance of the connection.  As time advances, you can see how the problem gets progressively worse.  The more the connection deteriorates, the less the connection is able to conduct current due to the increased resistance -which causes heat.

circuit breaker heat damage from loose connection
Circuit Breaker Heat Damage From Loose Connection

The resulting build-up of heat at the connection, increased arching, carbon deposits, pitting, and increased heating is the snowball rolling down the hill effect.  Hence, the recommendation to place your hand on a meter enclosure and the back of your fingers against the Main breaker (especially) and the branch breakers, as well.

I was involved with the replacement of a meter enclosure that came very close to burning down the structure to which it was attached.  The root cause was overheated bolted mechanical power connections inside the meter enclosure that went unnoticed until visual signs were manifested.  The connection to one phase was lost (half the panel was dead) and the employees who worked there wondered why the lights wouldn’t come on.  The electrical repairs to that building (a former house being used for a seasonal office) consisted of an entire new electrical service including the lateral feeder from the street, service drop, meter equipment, and panel inside the building.  In dismantling the existing electrical equipment it was apparent the the wooden structure had suffered heat damage and was close to igniting.

Since that day, I am in the habit of touching the meter enclosure on my house on a regular basis -usually when I happen to be walking by.  The long-term reliability of electrical power connections -whether compression or bolted (mechanical) type, cannot be taken for granted.

It should be noted that warm to touch does not necessarily indicate a problem.  Very warm or hot to the touch should be scrutinized by a qualified licensed journeyman electrician who can first measure the load on the system, and investigate further as necessary.

Infrared Thermography (thermal imaging) is useful in detecting ‘hot spots’ before they become a problem.

Infrared Detection of Heat Build Up from Loose Connection
Infrared Detection: Bright yellow is indication of higher heat from Loose Connection

The intent here is not to alarm anyone. The conditions described above took a long time to get that bad.  My purpose is to raise awareness of possible problems that can be easily and effectively monitored and detected early -before the situation becomes a life-safety issue.

If you think the information here is interesting and/or useful, kindly click on the “LIKE’ button or Share it with someone (top or bottom of page).  We do appreciate you stopping by. Thank you.



Additional Resources for Information:

Should You Be Doing Electrical Preventive Maintenance?

Electrical Connections for Power Circuits

Performance of Utility Power Connectors

Corrosion and Current Testing of Copper and Aluminum Power Connectors

Heating Oil Fuel Tanks: Preventive Maintenance

When we moved into this house about 8 years ago it was pointed out to me by a fuel oil supplier that the pipe legs supporting the heating oil fuel tank were rotted.  I got down to look at the legs with a flashlight and found that ‘rotted’ was a good description.  There were pieces of the once heavy wall pipe that were missing.  There were cracks along the length of the pipe that appeared to have no structural  integrity at all.  I couldn’t understand why the tank wasn’t collapsed on the floor. In New York State the reporting of fuel oil spills is highly regulated.  Your state may have similar laws.  Clean-up of toxic spills is highly regulated and very expensive.  Even if it wasn’t regulated, the release of 250 gallons of home fuel oil from a ruptured tank is not something you want to have happen in your basement. It is about as messy a spill as you could think of.  In the eyes of governing bodies, spilled fuel oil is a Hazardous Material.  Spilled fuel oil in your basement is a horror show.  For the homeowner, it is a Home Maintenance item that should not be overlooked. Call it Preventive Maintenance. The fuel supplier that inspected the tank opted out of delivering oil to that tank.  Fuel oil suppliers typically become defendants when a basement is full of their oil.  I didn’t blame him for doing so.  I took care of the problem by taking the weight off the tank legs and supporting it with hardwood blocks (cribbing or dunnage).  The entire weight of the tank is supported on the dunnage and is probably supported better than it ever was.  We used the tank for another seven years after that without concern. The tank is no longer in use.  Last year we installed a propane fired high efficiency heating unit.  The tank is not leaking and I’m keeping my eye on it.  At the first sign of a leak it’ll have to go.  It’ll be an expensive proposition to get it up and out of the basement and for that reason, I’m not in a hurry. Our basement is not wet but is damp at certain times of the year. If your basement is wet -or, wet during parts of the year it might be a factor in expediting the deterioration process.   The legs holding your tank upright may be as bad or worse than mine were.  I would encourage everyone (both home owners and renters) to inspect the legs of their oil storage tank and take remedial action as necessary.  If the legs on your fuel oil tank fail there will be a big toxic environmental and regulatory mess and you will regret not having taken action sooner.

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 Heating Oil Fuel Tanks: Structural Integrity

If the legs on your oil storage tank are in danger of structural failure -the potential risk is not just of being inconvenienced by a massive clean-up effort.   There is a risk of a potential health hazard to you and your family.  Inspect your tank today.  If unsure how to evaluate the condition of the tank legs (supports), call upon your fuel oil supplier.  Heating Oil Fuel TanksHe has a vested interest in the matter and would be happy to take a look. Avoid assuming the ‘out-of-sight, out- of-mind mentality with important items such as your home fuel oil storage tank.  It is an integral part of your Home Maintenance regimen.  If the tank is found to require attention, it fits well into the Home Improvement sector. 

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Additional Resources:

Maintaining Your Fuel Oil Tank

Get To Know Your Oil Tank

FAQ: Home Heating Oil Tanks

How to Find Your Main Water Valve

For the homeowner, in terms of Home Maintenance, there are few things more disconcerting than to have a water line rupture somewhere in the house or otherwise break and start spewing pressurized water everywhere. If and when that happens (it probably will someday) you will find it comforting if you know where to go to find the shut off valve for the water supply to your building. It is common to find isolation valves below a sink or toilet.

If those local isolation valves are old they may not be easy to operate -mainly because they are seldom used. It is best to be prepared in case you need the main water valve for the building. My advice is to take the time and find it. This is good advice whether you own the home or rent it. If water is spewing all over the place, it’s your belongings you will saving if you can quickly shut off the water.

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How To Find Your Main Water Valve

In a municipal area (where you have public water piped in from the street) the main water line is most likely on the street How to Find your main water valveside of the house. There is usually one main ‘trunk’ line with smaller lines branching of to the bathroom(s) and kitchen, as well as the outside faucets.

Follow the Main water line back and you’ll find it as it emerges through the foundation.

If your house is on a well, the Main Water Supply could be on any side of the house. If you know where the well is located, that’s the side of the house to look for it. If not, again, follow the main water line across the basement and you’ll find it.

Of course, if the water pump is in the basement, you’ll find the water line there. (Some pumps are submersed in the well).

Bear in mind, as above, this valve is rarely used and, if it is fairly old, it might begin leaking if the seal is dried out. If it is old and ‘drippy’ it’s a good idea to have an experienced plumber replace it with a new valve. To do so will require the valve in the street be closed.  As the valve is below grade, it requires a special long-shafted tool to operate it.  A Qualified Plumber will have the necessary tool to do that.


How to Recognize Types of Common Valves Found in a House

Gate Valves have round handles that turn clockwise and counter-clockwise. Always remember “Righty -Tighty” (CLOSED or, OFF) and “Lefty -Loosey” (OPEN or, ON).

Ball Valves have a Lever or, stem type handle. OFF or, CLOSED position is when the handle is at a right angle to the supply line. ON or, OPEN position is when the handle is parallel to the supple line.


 Provide Positive Valve Identification for Unusual Events

In my house I have now “tagged’ or ‘labelled’ all the valves, identifying what they supply. It is a good policy to show everyone in the household where the Main Water Valve is. It is good to be familiar with its location and have it tagged to confirm, at a glance, that you are at the right valve.


 Case in Point: Learning the Hard Way

I remember waking up one Saturday morning years ago and listening to what I thought was the sound of rain.  As I opened my eyes and squinted toward the window, what I saw was a bright sunny day.  That took a moment to register.  I was looking at blue sky and hearing, quite distinctly, the sounds of a moderately heavy rain.  I rolled that around my half asleep brain for a moment and decided the sounds must be coming from down in the basement.

Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs I saw about four inches of water over the entire cellar floor and a ruptured pipe spewing pressurized water up against the underside of the floor above and then falling down on the floor making the raining sound.

Yikes! What to do?  I raced upstairs to get something on my feet.  Our cellar floor was concrete but kind of primitive, as the house was built in 1898.  I didn’t want to wade through with my bare feet.  Next I wondered where the heck the shut-off was.  We had lived there for about a year and it never occurred to me to locate the Main Water Supply Shut-Off Valve.

 In the ensuing minutes, quite a number of gallons spewed into the basement before I was able to locate and shut off the water supply. 


Lesson Learned

When your basement is flooding or your kitchen is getting sprayed down under pressure, it’s not the time to go exploring the location of the Main Water Supply Valve.

Though not a 911 event, that was one of my first unusual events in the continuing saga of maintaining our Home and Garden.

You have any thoughts on this or experience? If so, why not share them by commenting below.

 If you like this, please share it on Facebook or another social media -buttons are in the left margin of the page.  We do appreciate it.  As always, thanks for coming by.