How to Clean Burners on a Glass Flat-Top Stove

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Carbon build-up around burners on a flat-top stove is a common problem.  There are many products on the market that can help, but they all seem to leave something behind.  A method that I recently stumbled upon is to use a razor blade to gently remove the carbon.

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To clean up the mess, I pre-soaked the build-up with isopropyl alcohol, then scraped gently with a razor blade scraper.  I kept the razor at a low angle and held steady pressure to prevent scratching the surface of the stove.  Overall, I was very pleased with the results and it took much less work than I have previously put in with compounds and abrasive pads.

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Finished Edge for Fireplace Hearth

Hearth Tile Border Schluter RONDEC brass

This homeowner had done the work of installing a tile hearth for their antique fireplace but needed help with the finished edge.  Wood transitions, thresholds and other low-profile, “rabbited” trim came to mind, but the homeowner wanted something brass and flush to the tile. The product we used is more often seen in commercial tile applications, but it made a nice, low-profile edge for this hearth.


Finishing the exposed edges of a tile installation can be a subtle process.  To clean this up, we used an “edge profile” from Schluter Systems.  The specific profile used was 1/4″ RONDEC in a brushed brass finish (Model #:RO60AMGB).  A few extra pieces from Schluter for the outside corners and baseboard terminations were also used (Model #:IV/RO60AMGB and Model #:EV/RO60AMGB).

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The edge profiles were cut and fit with a diamond blade.  They were then glued to teh floor with construction adhesive.  The placement of the RONDEC allowed enough space for the homeowner to border the hearth with an uncut tile.  The result was a nice improvement.

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Posted in Project Archive

Custom Chalkboard Paint


  • Flat-finish Latex Paint (any color)
  • Tile Grout (unsanded)
  • Primer
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Sponge Roller or Sponge Brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Dust Cloth


  • Paint/Grout ratio = 8:1   (Example: Mix 1 tablespoon of grout with 1 cup of paint)
  • Sift the grout into the paint to remove any large clumps.  Stir until homogeneous.
  • Clean and dry the area to be painted.
  • Prime the area to be painted and allow to dry.
  • Tape off the area and then apply chalkboard paint with a sponge roller or sponge brush to achieve a smooth finish.  (Apply in several thin coats for best finish)
  • Lightly sand the painted area to remove any high spots or inconsistency.
  • Wipe clean with a damp dust cloth.
  • Pre-condition the new chalkboard by turning a piece of chalk on edge and rubbing the entire surface of the board.  Wipe away the residue with a damp sponge.  By doing this it will reduce permanent “ghosting” of the first few things you write on the board.  Using less-dense “artist’s” chalk will also make erasing much easier.

Posted in How-To

Contain Dust when Drilling Holes

post-it dust collector drill drywall

This isn’t a game-changing tip, but it can be a good way to save on clean-up when in a pinch.  I found this somewhere on the net, but can’t remember who so source for the credit.

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Bicycle Hoisting System – Weatherly

It is starting to get cold here in North Carolina!  Growing up in Mobile, Alabama I saw snow only twice in 18 years…I have already seen it twice this year in Franklinton!  We have been biking less, as a consequence, and have been wanting to stow our bikes somewhere, out of the way.  Now that we are in our own house, there is no excuse for not storing our mountain bikes in style.  I wanted the bikes in the garage, but our vehicles fit rather snugly into the garage, as it was. Having room to walk between vehicles is a “must” for a comfortable garage!

I went through several designs, in my mind, after searching the internet for a few days on the topic.   I tossed out the idea of a wall mounted set-up because the bikes would protrude from the wall too far.  The ceiling seemed the ideal place so, I measured the bicycles thoroughly and found that they would fit nicely behind my truck.

The Perfect Spot!  (Luckily the garage is unpainted so I could easily locate the joists...)

I designed a simple system which utilized Campbell® pulleys and other parts which I ordered at my local hardware store.   To add strength to the installation, I decided to mount the pulleys and eye-screw to a painted 2X4.  I cleaned up the appearance by mounting the pulleys with 4½ lag screws, which penetrated the ceiling joists and cinched the 2X4 to the ceiling.  I started by taking careful measurements to center the bicycles over my truck and then marked the 2X4s.  I then pre-drilled, sanded, primed, and painted the 2X4s.  (I painted them black to tie in with the shelving which I will add soon)… Smilie: :D

After the third coat of paint, I used the finished 2X4s to mark and pre-drill the ceiling joists.  Using an impact driver, I drove the lag screws through the 2X4 and into the ceiling joist (which also mounted the pulleys).  Where the rope terminated, at the end of the pulley system, I used a rope-clamp and thimble to create a loop. This allowed me to easily attach the rope to the eye-screw on the end of the 2X4.  Once the rope was threaded through the pulleys it started looking like a proper hoist!

Now to attach the bicycles to the hoist… For this, I used 1/8 braided steel cable coated with plastic.  The plastic casing helps prevent scratching the bike frame, but had to be stripped away where any ferrules were added.  I assembled two wire rigs using wire ferrules, thimbles, and a swagging tool and then attached them to the lower pulleys using a stainless steel quick-link.

An added feature of the location, is the ease of lowering the bikes into my truck for trail riding! I mounted two rope-cleats on the wall below each bicycle to store the excess rope.  I love having the bikes out of the house and they look right at home above my truck bed.

Posted in Project Archive

Re-grout Tile Shower Floor – Sadler Property

Joel and Jessica Sadler are two of the nicest clients a contractor could ask for.  Jessica, a real estate agent for Fonville Morisey in the Durham, NC area, emailed me concerning the stains and crumbling grout in her master-bathroom shower.  The home is a great, craftsman style bungalow with contemporary furnishings and open floor-plan.  The shower was not constructed using current building science…i.e. no waterproofing/decoupling membrane, latex-modified grout or proper expansion joints.  I could tell from the photos she emailed me, there had been some water infiltration behind the shower seat.  The perimeter grout joints (especially around the shower seat) had recently been re-sealed with some sort of sanded-silicone grout and were peeling and showing discoloration.

Removing grout can be quite telling in respect to underlying problems.  I began removing grout, with a particular interest in the area of the shower seat.  On the floor, I used a grout-saw (pictured below) to carefully grind the level of the existing grout down past the edges of the tile.  I wanted to see the edges of the tile before using a rotary bit on them to prevent chipping.

Unfortunately, as I began removing grout on the shower seat, tile began to come loose.  It was immediately apparent that the shower seat framing was completely rotten.  There was no choice, I had to remove the seat and inspect the tile behind it. The previous contractor simply glued the seat-framing to the tile wall! The seat-framing should have been incorporated into the waterproofing-membrane of the shower (not present here) or constructed from masonry board and then be screwed into the wall-framing.  Surprisingly, the tile behind the seat were in excellent condition!  The seat however, was completely deteriorated and covered with mold.  The shower pan was sloped extremely well and I am sure that is what kept the water from leeching into the wall behind the seat.  The grout under the seat was pretty stubborn to remove, which is a good sign that it was keeping out water.  I cleaned the area and removed as much of the staining as possible.  The tannins from the wood in the seat framing left a faint line, but with repeated scrubbing I am sure it will become less noticeable.

After cleaning the shower thoroughly, I began “gouging” the joints.  I used a DeWalt® DW660 with DREMEL® grout-removal bits, set to a  ¼ in. depth.  The grout was sturdy in most places with only a few cracks, which were probably caused by shifting during the foundation work.  I was able to get very clean lines with the rotary tool especially having removed the top layer of the joint previously.  I cleaned any loose debris from the joints with an ice pick and double checked for adequate depth.  I cleaned up my work area and got ready to grout.

Outside, I met Joel and Jessica’s dogs.  They are cool little dudes and they kept me company while I mixed the grout.  I used Polyblend® non-sanded grout because the joints were less than an eighth of an inch wide.  I misted the tile and began grouting.  It looked much better, even before I wiped it down.

Posted in Project Archive

Curtain Drain Installation – Hickory Woods

My wife and I have been renting this property from Alice Henderson Realty for three years. Alice is an excellent Realtor and a great neighbor as well. The house is located in a very interesting neighborhood, in terms of architecture. While not overdone, the house contains some points-of-interest like a screen porch and an open floor plan. However, due to various contributing factors, including a poorly designed foundation-drainage system, it was experiencing water entry against the east wall.

The eastern wall is 24 inches below grade and had been originally constructed with a black, waterproofing membrane and four-inch corrugated pipe for the drain. It did not take long to tell that the original membrane had failed and the drain was no longer working properly. A friend of mine, Zac Laborde, was eager to gain experience in construction and offered his help with the project. How could I refuse! We started out by drilling the pipe to allow water to infiltrate the drain sections. We marked out a pattern for our holes and started drilling…

After placing an order for the wall sealant, Zac and I got to work digging down to the foundation. It was a bit awkward being pinned between the driveway and the wall, but we managed to move quickly. We were forced to dig underneath a questionably secured brick column in the middle of the wall. It seems that the column was an anchor for a gate which was original to the neighboring house.

The original drain was doomed to fail the very day it was installed. It was installed only to the midpoint of the wall and was not capped on the buried end. In addition to the pathetic design, plants and soil had been added to the top of the gravel-fill, causing silt buildup in the pipe. After excavating the trench completely, we applied a proper membrane to the wall. We then constructed the drain sections and wrapped them with weed-control fabric. I designed the drain with two vertical sections for peroidoc cleaning and maintenance.

Now came the light task of shoveling ten tons of gravel into the trench! We were definitely tired after working so hard, but managed to find the energy to clean up the site for the “reveal”. We tested the drain several times, during and after the installation, and it worked well.

To add aesthetic appeal, I camouflaged the exit for the drain by incorporating it into the stone boarder for the plant-bed, in front of the house. I placed screen at the end of the pipe to deter chipmunks, squirrels, or any other such varmints from taking up residence. Throughout the entire project we were kept company by a garden spider, which had built a web near the floodlight on the side of the house. We fed it bugs when we could find them, but it disappeared a few days later. Overall, I was very pleased with the speed and quality of this project and enjoyed building a drain system that will protect this house for many years to come.

Posted in Project Archive