Asphalt driveway repairs - easy pothole fix!


Tamp Your Troubles Away: The empowering nature of potholes

If you’ve ever dreamed of working on a road crew, don’t be alarmed.  I have that dream too.  But why torment yourself with an unfulfilled fantasy?  You can make your dream come true. 

All you need to fix your own pothole is a bag of bitumen, usually called 'asphalt patch' in the hardware store. Bitumen is a conveniently cooled and packaged version of the hot, smoking asphalt that those lucky road workers use.  You can buy bags of room temperature bitumen for about five bucks at the hardware store, and I think the word “party” comes to mind right away, doesn’t it?  Because strutting around with a bag of bitumen gives you some kind of social advantage over those who don’t have bitumen, or even know what it is.

I learned about the joys of asphalt repair when I was growing up in small-town Ontario.  My Dad would call the town to report a pothole in front of our place.  Twenty minutes later, when the works department STILL hadn’t shown up, Dad would show the town a thing or two about promptness by hauling out the bitumen and filling that dang hole himself.  Then he’d stand out there beside his masterpiece, gloating, while the neighbours drifted over to admire the repair and ask bitumen-related questions.  Life was sweet in the Seventies.

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Wet It Be! A complete guide to fixing a damp basement


"We definitely have a mildewy smell in our basement, but I’m not sure where the moisture is coming from."

- Cliff, via e-mail

Here’s a trick for figuring out whether your dampness is caused by condensation or moisture seeping in through the foundation. 

Start by cutting a one-foot-square piece of foil or heavy plastic (like from a garbage bag).  Run duct tape along all four sides of the square and secure the patch to the basement wall, pressing the tape firmly to seal all edges.  Leave the patch on the wall for at least 24 hours.  When time’s up, inspect the patch to see which side is damp. 

If the side that was open to the basement air is damp, you have a condensation problem. 

If the side that was next to the wall is moist, you’re getting water seepage from the outside.  Proceed to next question.

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How to rewire an old lamp!

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Milk paint experiment; it smells great and boy, does it last

I've been experimenting with making my own interior and exterior non-VOC paint this week after reading about the durability of 9,000-year-old paintings found in Asia and Egypt.  

I didn't have room for all of my findings in my weekly column (recipes included), so this is a little addendum.  

Using concrete colourant, which is available at hardware stores, I tinted my first small batches of paint.  I got some nice golds and reds (one coat).

Bird Feeder

Then I added a little titanium dioxide (available at pottery supply places for less $ than art supply places) to some of my skim milk/Borax base and got a beautiful 'pickling' stain, which I rubbed into a rustic cricket bench.  The pigment built up in the rough texture (it's a little hard to see in the photo).  This formulation would look great on an urban fence or deck.

P1310046 - Version 2

Next, I used an exterior grade formulation made from cottage cheese and lime (which I learned about here) to coat this bench top (tinted with 'medium buff' concrete colourant).  On the buttermilk-coloured legs and base I used a two-layer cross-linking alkaline/acid formulation that I learned about from this very smart person. (To get the warm colour on the legs/base, I tinted the acidic topcoat with titanium dioxide and a tiny bit of 'lemon yellow' concrete colourant.)


I literally did NO PREP on this bench - no brushing, scraping, or even wiping with a rag. Okay, I removed one old coccoon, but that's it.  The bench had been outside for about 10 years and the original 5 coats of water-based urethane had flaked into oblivion.  Note to self: never use water-based urethane for exterior applications; it can't hack the Canadian climate.

This is the bench after a borate-laced coat of casein (milk) paint, which I made from skim millk and Borax laundry additive. 


After all of the experimenting, I think the milk/Borax formulation is the easiest to work with.  It produces a clear matte finish on bare wood (bye bye forever water-based urethane) and can be tinted easily by making a paste of water and concrete colourant and then mixing it into the milk/Borax base.  


You can make the milk/Borax stuff into an opaque white by adding lime and titanium dioxide till it's nice and thick.

Of course you can order milk paint powder from either of these two places if you don't want to go the wet 'n' wild route:

The Real Milk Paint Company (U.S.)

HomeStead House Milk Paint (Canada)

I'm aiming to paint 400 feet of fence with my own homemade milk paint later this fall. Anybody want to help?




The (Kreg) Jig is Up! How you can start building furniture now, even if you're a noob.

One Jig to Rule Them All

Hot tool helps newbies build fantastic furniture  


Stephanie Reavis' beautiful cabinet constructed with a Kreg Jig


As spring sneaks in, it’s fun to go through each room in your house and create a punch list of things you’d like to change, add or replace.  The list can hold all of the items that bug you, from minor to major, not including relatives.  

Don’t hold back; put everything down on that list, from faucet repairs to paint jobs to pictures that no longer give you a happy feeling.  If there’s anything you see that messes with your well being - ping! (magic wand sound effect) - it goes on the list.  

If your list reveals lots of holes in the furnishings department, don't be bummed.  It’s never been easier to build stuff.  And try not to feel overwhelmed if you've got a long list; here are a few of my must-builds for comparison:  

  • pine recycling center for the kitchen
  • wainscoting in basement
  • big framed whiteboard for the home office
  • computer hutch for the kitchen
  • matching nightstands for the master bedroom
  • built-in cabinets and shelves for the master bedroom
  • floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for the den
  • window bench in the guest room
  • bed frame and headboard for the guest room
  • storage benches in the mudroom 
  • storage shelves for dumbbells in the workout room
  • built-in storage for the laundry room
  • tool storage shelves and boxes in the workshop

So, what are the chances of any of these projects actually getting built, whether in your house or mine? 

Pretty darn good.  Even if your desire level is way higher than your budget.  

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My latest Sugru hacks

This is a food processor lid that snapped in half when I dropped it on the slate floor.  Sugru to the daring, orange rescue. (the food processor body is orange so it all looks absolutely intentional)


The plumbing pipes above the new water heater collect condensation, which then drips on the top of the water heater and wants to run into the electrical well on top of the water heater.  IX-NAY!  I made a nice white gasket around the electrical controls so no pesky water can find its way into the workings.  

Sugru water heater repair

Amanda Edwards and her penny-tiled floor


I know, I know, I'm obsessed with coin flooring this week!  Amanda Edwards' stunning kitchen floor is tiled with pennies using black sanded grout. Then Amanda sealed it with clear polyurethane.  And this is only a sliver of her skill.  Lift your spirits in under 5 seconds; visit her web site to see the breathtaking stained glass works she spins from her limitless imagination. The colours and movement in her pieces will make you feel like you just took a vacation.