Removing constructed items is trickier than it seems

The Associated Press
Friday October 13, 2000

Hidden Nail Trick 

Pulling a cracked, warped or badly stained wood shingle without disturbing others isn’t too tough. But because shingles are nailed on in successive courses (the nails are covered by the shingles above), installing a replacement shingle is a little tricky. 

Here’s how to do it: Slip the new shingle underneath the course above it, stopping when its butt (lower) edge is three-quarters of an inch below the shingles on either side. Next, drive two nails up at an angle through the new shingle and into the wall so the heads are flush. Place the nails just beneath the shingle butt of the course above. Then, use a 2x4 block and hammer to drive the shingle up the last three-quarters of an inch. The nailheads will slide up and disappear under the shingles above. 

Removing Damaged Nuts 

Eventually you’ll come across an impossible-to-loosen hex nut. It might be encrusted with rust or rounded off so badly that no wrench or locking pliers will help. Before reaching for the hacksaw to cut through the bolt, try this last-ditch remedy. Squirt a little penetrating oil (such as Liquid Wrench) onto the threads of the bolt near the nut; allow it to soak in for about five minutes. Then, hold a cold chisel nearly perpendicular on the nut and tap it several times with a hammer to cut a deep groove. Now tilt the chisel to about 20 or 25 degrees and strike it several more times. The idea isn’t to cut through the nut but to break its bond so you can then spin it off by hand or with pliers. Just be sure that you’re driving the nut in a counterclockwise direction. 

Caulking Deep Cracks 

You wouldn’t think there could possibly be a wrong way to caulk a crack if you just fill it up, but there is. You’re fine using a high-quality caulk on a crack that’s about one-eighth-inch wide by one-half-inch deep. But caulk alone should never be used to fill larger gaps. Wide, deep crevices must first be lined with a foam backer rod. Use a putty knife or wood shim to force the flexible backer rod down into the crack. Be sure that it’s about one-quarter inch below the surface. Then fill the crack with caulk. The backer rod will help support the bead and prevent the caulk from sinking down into the crack. This technique is especially useful when caulking around windows, doors and brick walls. Foam backer rod is sold in various diameters and lengths at hardware stores and home centers. 

Loosening Tough Knots 

To loosen a tough, tight knot in a rope, cable or twine, reach for your nailset. That’s right, an ordinary nailset – with its rigid shaft and narrow, tapering tip – is perfect for persuading stubborn knots apart. Start by forcing the tip into the heart of the knot. Wiggle it around a little, then force it in a little deeper. Continue in this manner until the entire tapered tip has passed through the knot. Now use your fingers or the tip of the nailset to “hook” one of the rope strands and pull straight back. At this point there’s usually enough slack so that you can easily untie the rope.  

Misting Mortar Joints 

Repairing a brick or concrete-block wall usually includes repointing the mortar joints – removing the worn or crumbling mortar and refilling the joints with new mortar. It’s a rather straightforward repair, but one critical step is often skipped. Before packing the new mortar into the cleaned-out joints, mist the area with a plant sprayer. The water will prevent the brick or block from sucking all the moisture out of the wet mortar. That will retard the curing process, strengthen the bond and help stop premature cracking