Author Archives: Eric Smith

How to Replace a Steam Radiator

Time: 4 hours

Cost: $100 and up

Skill Level: Moderate

Tools List for Replacing a Steam Radiator:
2 pipe wrenches
Pipe (for persuasion)
Spud wrench

Shopping List:
Replacement radiator
Hand valve
Pipe dope
Single strand wicking

1. Switch off the steam boiler to prevent risk of scalding.
2. Loosen the nut holding the radiator. Make sure the wrench is biting the nut in three different corners to prevent the nut from deforming.
3. Carefully remove the old radiator.
4. (Optional): To replace the hand valve, use one wrench to bite the pipe and one wrench to bite the valve. Move in opposite directions to loosen. This step may require a pipe for persuasion.
5. (Optional): To replace the spud, insert the spud wrench to loosen, then remove.
6. Make all the necessary connections with the wrench: floor to hand valve, hand valve to spud. Apply the pipe dope and the wicking to each thread to ensure a secure connection. The hand valve should be parallel to the floor in order to fit back into the radiator.
7. Carefully fit the new radiator into place and connect it with pipe dope and the wrench.
8. Open the hand valve and turn the boiler back on.

Richard used an existing radiator leftover in the homeowner’s house, but a replacement radiator could be bought at plumbing supply stores or salvage yards.

The other tools for this project, including the hand valve, pipe wrenches, and a spud wrench can be purchased from a plumbing supply store.

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How to Replace a Whole-House Plumbing Trap

Shopping List for Replacing a Whole-House Plumbing Trap:
– cast-iron pipe, fitting, and cleanout
– no-Hub couplings, used to join together cast-iron pipe and fittings

Tools for Replacing a Whole-House Plumbing Trap:
– soil-pipe cutter, used to cut cast-iron pipe
– 3-pound sledgehammer
– ball-peen hammer and 3/4-inch cold chisel
– torque wrench
– tape measure

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How to Replace a Kitchen Sink and Faucet

Shopping List for Replacing a Kitchen Sink and Faucet:
– 18-gauge stainless-steel sink
– Single-lever kitchen faucet
– Rubber cap with stainless-steel hose clamp, for sealing pipe end]
– Plumber’s putty, used to water-seal fittings
– PVC pipe and assorted fittings, for making up the drainpipe

Tools List for Replacing a Kitchen Sink and Faucet:
– Adjustable wrench, used to disconnect water-supply lines
– Pliers, for tightening threaded fittings
– Screwdriver
– Putty knife, for freeing sink from countertop
– PVC pipe handsaw, used to cut plastic pipe
– Nut driver, for tightening hex-head fasteners
– PVC cutter, used to cut plastic pipe

Steps for Replacing a Kitchen Sink and Faucet:
1. Close the hot- and cold-water shutoff valves under the sink.
2. Use an adjustable wrench to disconnect the water-supply lines from the valves.
3. Disconnect the trap from the sink’s drainpipe using pliers.
4. Loosen the screws that hold the sink to the underside of the countertop.
5. Slide a putty knife under the rim of the sink to break its bond with the countertop.
6. Unplug the garbage disposer, and pull the sink from the countertop.
7. Place the new faucet onto the new sink. Tighten the locking nut to secure the faucet to the sink deck.
8. Slip the counterweight onto the spray hose, then connect the spray hose to the faucet.
9. Cut out and remove the existing PVC standpipe and trap for the garbage disposer.
10. Seal the old drainpipe with a rubber cap. Tighten the cap’s stainless-steel hose clamp with a nut driver.
11. Set the new sink into place, then from below, use a screwdriver to tighten each mounting clip.
12. Connect the water-supply lines to the hot- and cold-water shutoff valves.
13. Put plumber’s putty around the flange on the garbage disposer’s throat fitting, then press the fitting down into one of the sink’s drain holes.
14. From below the sink, slip two adapters and a lock ring onto the throat fitting.
15. Use a screwdriver to tighten the three screws on the lock ring.
16. Install a gasket and basket strainer into the remaining drain hole. Tighten the lock nut from below with pliers.
17. Scrape away the excess putty that squeezes out from beneath the throat fitting and basket strainer, and save for reuse on another job.
18. Remove the knockout plug from the side of the disposer using a screwdriver.
19. Lift the disposer onto the lock ring and tighten with a screwdriver.
20. Run PVC pipe from the sink trap to the tailpiece that protrudes down from the sink’s basket strainer.
21. Install a T-fitting and PVC pipe to span from the drainpipe to the disposer. Trim the pipe to length, if necessary, with a PVC cutter.
22. Connect the drainpipe to the T-fitting with a compression fitting.
23. Tighten the two screws on the yoke to secure the opposite pipe end to the side of the disposer.
24. Connect the discharge hose from the dishwasher to the port protruding from the disposer.
25. Plug in the disposer’s power cord, then open the hot- and cold-water shutoff valves.

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The Very Best Ways To Coil an Extension Cord

Tips and tricks for keeping cords untangled and easy access from This Old House general contractor Tom Silva and host Kevin O’Connor.

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How To Rebuild a Toilet Tank

Shopping List for Rebuilding a Toilet Tank:
– toilet repair kit

Tools for Rebuilding a Toilet Tank:
– turkey baster or wet/dry vacuum, for removing water from tank
– large slotted screwdriver
– rag or bucket
– open-end wrench
– pliers

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How Electrical Circuit Breakers and GFCIs Protect a Home

Master electrician Scott Caron shares tips for preventing shocks and electrocution.

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Step By Step: How To Build a Holiday Toy Box

Time: 4 hours

Cost: $100

Skill Level: Moderate

Tools List for Building a Holiday Toy Box:
Miter saw
Table saw
Router and rabbeting bit
Pocket screw jig
Palm sander
Brad nailer and compressor

Shopping List:
1×4” pine boards
1×8” pine boards
½” plywood birch panels
Pocket screws
Wood glue
80-100 grit sandpaper
Brad nails

1. Cut the 1×4” boards to a desired rough length using a miter saw.
2. Lay out the boards for the front, back, and bottom of one side. Use the fourth piece to determine the angle for the top of the box. Mark the boards at a desired angle and cut it using the miter saw.
3. Repeat this process for the other side of the box.
4. Cut the stiles and rails for the front of the box at the desired length.
5. Using the table saw, cut dados along the perimeters of the side of the stiles receiving the panel and cut rabbets into the ½” plywood for the sides and front of the box. Keep the panel flush with the backs of the stiles and rails. Be careful to not cut the dados all the way through each board.
6. Cut the panels to size. The ones on the side should be at the same angle as the stiles.
7. Use the router to cut the rabbet on all the panels.
8. Assemble the sides using pocket screws and wood glue. Slide the panels in before securing the fourth stile.
9. Fill the pocket holes using plugs and the wood glue.
10. Sand all the pieces of the toy box.
11. Cut a rabbet using the table saw on the back of the two sides of the toy box.
12. Use the router to add a curve to the front edge of both sides of the box. Sand the sides.
13. Add a curve to the front of the box. Do this by putting a nail at the center of the desired arch, hold a scrap piece of wood tight to the bottom front corners, and trace the curve with a pencil. Cut it out using a jigsaw.
14. Add a cleat to the bottom of the front and sides of the box to hold the bottom of the box in place.
15. Cut a dado in the front, back, and bottom of the box to accept a divider.
16. Assemble the rest of the box using more pocket screws and wood glue.
17. Glue the bottom panel for the box onto the cleat, then secure it with brad nails.
18. Repeat the process for the back of the box.
19. Cut the center divider to width.
20. Slide the center divider into the dados in the front and back of the box.
21. Transfer measurements from the sides of the box to the center divider and cut it parallel to the sides using the jigsaw. The height should be slightly shorter than the side panels by about an inch.
22. Nail the center divider to the back of the box.
23. Cut a top shelf for the box to width and length. Round it with the router and sand. Screw it to the top of the box using pocket screws.

All the materials Tom and Kevin used to build the toy box, including the birch panels, the pine boards, wood glue, and pocket screws can all be purchased at home centers and lumber supply stores.

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How to Prevent Holiday Fires

1. Always blow out candles when you leave the room.

2. If a decorative candle starts a fire, there may be time to put it out with a fire extinguisher. If the room catches fire, get out and call 9-1-1.

3. If you have a real Christmas tree, keep it watered and away from heat sources. It will only last for about 4-6 weeks and needs to be removed after that.

4. Before purchasing an artificial tree, check to see if it’s been UL tested to withstand fire. Keep it away from heat sources.

5. If your Christmas tree catches fire, do not attempt to put it out. Get out immediately and call 9-1-1.

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Step By Step: Safe Tree Removal

1. Removing a large tree with a dangerous lean is only recommended for a certified arborist with the correct tools and safety equipment.
2. Put on all safety gear and use a bucket truck to reach the highest point in the tree.
3. Use the chainsaw to cut off the smaller branches.
4. Put the smaller branches into a wood chipper.
5. Once the small branches are out of the way, wrap a rope around the tree, and then tie off sections of the large branches one at a time. Cut the large branches and use the rope to safely guide them towards the ground.
6. Once all the branches have been removed, cut the trunk in small sections and push them safely to the ground. Towards the top of the tree, the sections can be 3’-4’, but as you get closer to the ground, cut the sections about 16”-18”.
7. Once the tree has been cut down to a manageable size, tie the rope from the top of the tree to the base of something else in the direction the tree should fall.
8. Cut a wedge section out of about ⅓ of the base of the tree in the direction the tree should fall.
9. Cut straight back into the tree from the other side of the wedge and the tree should fall.
10. Buck the trunk into 16”-18” pieces that can be used for firewood. Only cut about ⅔” down, then rotate the trunk and cut from the other side to avoid damaging the chainsaw.

For a tree this large that’s leaning, hiring a certified arborist to remove it is recommended.

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How To Tile a Bathroom Floor

Shopping List for Tiling a Bathroom Floor:
– mosaic floor tile
– fortified thin-set mortar
– tile grout

Tools List Tiling a Bathroom Floor:
– drill/driver with mixing paddle and bucket
– notched trowel
– rubber float
– utility knife
– wet saw, used to cut tile
– margin trowel, for mixing grout
– grout sponge
– clean rag

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