Author Archives: Thumb and Hammer

Episode 28: Mortality Sucks: Death, estates and letting go of stuff

Nothing is certain but death and taxes. But you can evade taxes. You can’t evade death. George Carlin pointed out that a house is nothing more than a pile of stuff with a cover on it. What happens to that stuff after we’re gone?

The death of a loved one is something we all face sooner or later. There are memories and emotions involved, and there is also the more business side of things, from handling the funeral to figuring out what happens to all the stuff that is left behind. This year marks the tenth anniversary of my father’s death and ten years since I became an orphan at 40. In this episode of the podcast, I share my personal experience surrounding his death and taking care of the estate.

Key takeaways

  1. Pre-planning a funeral benefits the survivors by removing uncertainty. At least discuss final wishes with loved ones.
  2. Give your parents’ neighbors a way to contact you in case of an emergency.
  3. Enlist the help of other family members to lessen the burden of contacting others in the family.
  4. Keep a physical list of important numbers that may not be accessible in a phone that requires a password. Print out “Contacts” from a smart phone.
  5. Digital photos are nice, but make sure important family photos can be accessed by other family members. Archive important family photos in real-world physical photo albums.
  6. Keep important papers, deeds, insurance policies, receipts together in a safe place that a loved one will be able to find.
  7. Avoid attaching too much meaning to “stuff.” You can let go of stuff while holding onto the memories. That said, recognize and respect legitimate family heirlooms.




Episode 027: Lies, deception and home ownership

The dream is to own your own home. But who is selling that dream and why? And should you listen to them? Is your house really an investment, or is it a liability?

I explore these and other questions in this episode of the Thumb and Hammer Home Improvement Podcast


Links and Resources

Lionel Hutz explains “The Truth” on The Simpsons Mortgage Amortization Calculator (US) Mortgage calculators (Canada)

Well intentioned acts that don’t actually make anything better


Episode 026: It ain’t easy being green

They tell us that the climate is changing. They tell us that the cause is man-made. They tell us that we have to make drastic changes if we are to have any hope of slowing, stopping or reversing the course we are on. Others say that climate change is a hoax, or a conspiracy. Whichever side of the argument you believe, I think we can all agree that clean air and clean water are good things, and our dependence on fossil fuels is not.

As homeowners, we make decisions that impact the environment. We look for ways to be more energy efficient in hope of saving some money and even saving the planet. But are we as “green” as we think we are?


Topics covered

  • A history of global climate change, heating and cooling cycles.
  • Why you should take both sides of the climate change debate with a grain of salt.
  • Examples of how climate change is continuous. The climate is not static.
  • Improving the energy efficiency of our houses (and the negative environmental impact of making those improvements that we also need to consider)
    • Insulation
    • Building materials
    • Appliances
    • Lighting


A Disclaimer

I am not a climate change scientist. I am not claiming expert knowledge in the area of climate change. I look at both sides of the debate with a critical eye and some common sense, and I present some points that offer (I think) fresh perspective. Some of my comments are meant to be somewhat snarky.  No disrespect of climate change scientists, or anyone else, is intended.


Resources and Links

Melting Yukon ices reveals 5,000-year-old archaeological treasures: So, that ice wasn’t always there….

History of Earth in 24-hour clock: Putting human history in perspective.

The Crying Indian


Woodsy Owl: “Give a hoot, don’t pollute”























Episode 025: Information Overload

Thinking about buying a new tool?  How much have you researched your choices?  It’s the information age and there is no shortage of information.  The problem is that too much information complicates the decision-making process.  My wife says I overthink stuff.  I can’t argue with that.  I recently spent way too much time online trying to decide between a Kreg pocket hole jig and the Porter-Cable Quik Jig.

The same information overload applies to home improvement advice.  So many competing voices only adds to the confusion.  Ask three experts how to do something, you’ll likely get three different answers.  Complicating things further is the abundance of bad information online.  These are tricky waters to navigate.



Here are what I consider to be the most important videos in my decision-making process for purchasing a pocket hole jig.

Jay Bates Tool Talk:  Pocket Hole Jigs

Rock n H Woodshop: Kreg K4 Cabinet

WorkshopAddict: K5 Jig 1 Year follow-up

WorkshopAddict: Porter-Cable Quik Jig Review

Episode 024: Year in Review 2017

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I tweet out links to news articles that I curate on various topics related to home improvements, construction, real estate and other related subjects.  Since it is the end of the year, I have taken a look back at some of the more interesting topics that I came across in 2017.


  • Tiny houses
  • Housing crisis
  • Resurgence of timber construction for mid-rise buildings
  • Tesla’s solar roof tiles
  • Shortages in construction and the trades
  • Makerspaces and tool libraries
  • Shakeups in the tool industry.

One of my favorite news stories can be found here:  Nursery that swaps tots plastic toys for power tools crowned best in Britain 



Episode 023: Trendy is so last year

It’s that time of year.  As 2017 winds down and we look forward to 2018, we are seeing a lot of articles and blog posts about what is going to be trendy in the coming year and what trends are going to be “so last year.”

Topics covered

Paint companies announce their “Color of the Year.”

How my master bedroom in my first house was “on trend” without really trying.

Olive Green and Harvest Gold, anybody?

No kitchens were harmed in this episode of House Hunters (?)  Old vs timeless kitchen design.

The backlash against “open concept” kitchens

Is it old?  Or is it original?  Defending dated bathrooms.

A brief history of bathroom tile colors.

The problem with designing around technology.


Links and Resources

Google is your friend if you want to find information about the “Color of the Year.”  Just search for “color of the year” plus the name of your favorite paint company.

Bob Vila has a pretty good overview of trending paint colors, including some of the Colors mentioned in this podcast.

Take a trip down memory lane and and revisit some past trends in the pages of some old Sears catalogs on

If you want to check out our “dream kitchen” remodel, click here.


Episode022: Measure Twice, Cut Thrice

We’ve all heard the expression, “Measure twice, cut once.”  We all know what that means: double check your measurements before you make the cut.  Mistakes can cost you time and material.  In this episode of the podcast I share some of the measuring mistakes that I have made and the reasons for them.  Maybe it will help you avoid making the same mistakes.

Topics covered

  • The tape measure:  all those hash marks start to look the same at the end of a long day.
  • Keeping track of measurements: memory vs. keeping a cut list
  • What do The Temptations have to do with this?
  • Standard measurements:  whose standards?
  • How important is accuracy anyway?
  • One door for the price of two, one door frame for the price of three
  • Two ways to avoid measurement errors (one is to avoid measuring)
As they say on the tube in London: “Mind the gap”  This is what it looks like when you trim something that doesn’t need to be trimmed.



Tom Silva explains how to divide any measurement in half without math.


Tom Silva shares some cool measuring tricks in this video, including the elastic band technique for evenly spaced balusters.


Story sticks:  Article from Canadian Woodworking magazine.

Add Trim Without the Tape Measure (Our Home from Scratch)


Episode Partner  Shop a selection of high quality tile from the comfort of your own home.   Use the coupon code HAMMER at checkout to save 20% off your order.

021: Permits, legal stuff and DIY (podcast)

Just because you can “Do It Yourself” doesn’t necessarily mean you can do it yourself.

Before you start that home improvement project, do you know what permits are required?  Are you even qualified to legally do the work yourself?

In this episode of the podcast, I share some of my own experiences, some legal and some perhaps not so much.



  • Electrical work without permits, both DIY and “professional”
  • Unethical (and possibly illegal) advice from the building centre.
  • Undoing bad electrical work by previous owner.
  • Why we downgraded a panel upgrade (a 2×4 was involved).
  • A completely legal electrical panel replacement.
  • The strange law in Ontario regarding doing your own electrical work.
  • The strict law in Quebec regarding any electrical work.
  • What I learned from my interaction with the building department (spoiler alert:  permits aren’t the money-grab we accuse them of being).


Links, resources

Electrical Safety Authority (Ontario):  Regulator and advocate of public electrical safety in the province of Ontario, Canada

Legality of DIY Electrical and Plumbing Work (Jon Eakes)


Episode Partner

Paintzen takes the pain out of painting by providing a seamless process from start to finish.  Be sure to use the coupon code “HAMMER” to save $50 on your project.

020: What I did during my summer vacation (Podcast)

I had some ambitious plans this summer.  Stuff was going to get done.  In this episode of the podcast, I explore some of the reasons why I did not accomplish what I planned to accomplish during my summer vacation.

Topics covered in this podcast

Can’t be in two places at the same time:  It’s impossible to work on a project at the same time as running to the home center for supplies.

Project Creep:  Where does one project end and another one begin?

Time estimates and reality:  Television and videos can distort how long a project will actually take.  Whether it’s large crews working behind the scenes or simply fancy editing, you never really get a realistic picture of how long it will take you to complete a project.  I show my age here by referring to the “makeover in a weekend” shows like Trading Spaces and While You Were Out from back in the 2000’s.  Time flies.  It’s hard to believe those shows have been off the air for more than a decade.   Trading Spaces is coming back in 2018.

The boring stuff takes time too:  There are plenty of tasks that don’t make for exciting TV or video that aren’t shown.  But those tasks still need to be done.

Links and Resources

BluWood:  wood coating system that resists moisture and mould growth

Trading Spaces :  Wikipedia entry for the television show.

John Heisz :  Chainsaw Art – Spalted Maple Foot Stool Cut From A Log


John Heisz:  Talking About Subscribers And Other Stuff While Oiling My Stool


Episode Partner

Paintzen takes the pain out of painting by providing a seamless process from start to finish.  Be sure to use the coupon code “HAMMER” to save $50 on your project.