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posted: 7/1/2011 12:30 AM

Super Handyman: Here are some tips for making a tough job a little easier

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Changing out the wallpaper in a room is as easy as pulling down the old stuff and putting up the new wallpaper. The problem is, it sounds a lot easier than it usually is.

Here are a few tried-and-true methods for tackling this chore.

You can always try pulling off the paper. Loosen a corner and start pulling it down. If a so-called strippable wallpaper was used, you might get lucky and it might actually work.

Once you have pulled down what you can, it's time to get serious. You can score the wall with a utility knife or a professional scoring tool like a Paper Tiger, too. This allows the water to penetrate the paper and loosen the glue.

Apply a mixture of warm water and fabric softener with a pump-up sprayer. Given a little time, this will work to soften the adhesive used to hang the paper and will allow you to start removing it.

Another way to get water onto the glue is to wet newspapers and put them up over the wallpaper. The papers stay wet longer and give the water more time to work.

There are some great store-bought strippers available, too. Just read and follow the instructions.

Steam is another way to get moisture to the wallpaper adhesive. You can buy or rent wallpaper steamers. You hold them against the wallpaper and let the steam do its thing. Then you can start scraping it off the wall.

When you start using a scraper, keep in mind that you want to loosen the paper, not gouge the walls behind it. Wide plastic putty knives work pretty well and are less likely to ruin the wall underneath.

When you put up the new paper, make sure your walls are primed and that you use strippable paper. This will make it so much easier to switch the paper when you want to make another change.

Score first, make clean cuts

Plywood is a strong building material because of the way it's manufactured. Layers of wood are laminated together to create a great product that can be used for a wide variety of projects. Of course, this also means that it can splinter when you are cutting it. The best way to avoid this is to use a sharp utility knife along a straight edge to score your cutting line. If you do this before getting out the saw, your edges are much less likely to splinter, and you should get smooth, clean cuts. Give it a shot.

It hinges on this

Pegboard panels make super shop storage. They can be hung on just about any wall and, with the use of a variety of pre-made hangers, can hold just about anything. If you have open stud walls like some garages and sheds do, then you might want to try our method of doubling that storage area. Just use strong hinges to attach the pegboard to the walls. This allows you to swing the loaded panel to the side and store things behind it.

Super hints

• You'll need a torch for copper plumbing repairs. A great tool for starting your torch is a "dead" lighter. Just save one or two that have run out of fuel to use to spark and light your propane torch, and you won't need a striker anymore.

• I love to have garage sales but hate to get ready for one. I have found that as long as the items are cleaned and priced to sell, they go quickly most of the time. To save time on the pricing of the items, I buy a bunch of different-colored dots at the office-supply store. Each color corresponds to a different price, listed on a large poster that I hang near the garage door. Then I just put a colored dot on each item as a pricing tool, and I'm done. There's no writing on each tag, and no matter who is working the sale, the pricing is made easy for him or her too. I use bright colors so the price dots are really easy to see.

• If your grass shears are dull, cut through a sheet of sandpaper a few times. It will sharpen the blade, and you can get the whole yard manicured to perfection.

Q. I have an older oven. It doesn't look great, but it still works fine. The glass door is a double glass panel that has years of baked-on grease, and I would love to see if I can get it clean again. I've already tried oven cleaner and glass cleaner, and neither of them did very much. What would you suggest I try next?

A. Try ammonia and water mixed at about a 50 percent ratio. Let the ammonia soak into the grease a little while. If you have trouble getting it to stay on the grease, you can lay a few paper towels on the glass and soak them with the ammonia/water mixture. Then use a razor scraper to scrape the grease off. Make sure you have plenty of ventilation while working.

Q. I have an asphalt driveway and noticed that my neighbor, who also has one, was putting a sealer on his every few years. Nobody has ever told me to do this, but his driveway seems to look good all the time, and I've had mine resurfaced a couple of times. Should I be using a sealer too?

A. Sealers do work well to help prevent the surface from deteriorating. It's pretty inexpensive and easy enough to apply. It is supposed to help your driveway last longer and look a little better, too. You probably don't have to apply it every year, but at least every couple of years. If it's working for your neighbor, it might work for you, too. It's worth a shot.

Q. I leave my air conditioner's blower running in the summer all the time to keep the air moving in the house. I heard a radio program that said it should be left on the "auto" setting and not run all the time. What gives?

A. Running it will help keep you more comfortable, but it might also keep the humidity level up in your home. Is this a problem in your area of the country? Some of the newer units actually have a setting between these two so that it runs longer but does shut off some of the time. Also, ceiling fans might be used to move the air more efficiently and perhaps at a lesser cost.

Reader tips

• I've always used steel-wool pads for stripping old furniture in the past, but I found a new, improved tool that works even better. The plastic scrubbers that you can buy to use on pots and pans work great on furniture. They are plastic, so they won't rust or fall apart, and they are very inexpensive. They last longer, too.

• I work on cars for a living, and my hands get greasy at work. I clean them, but they usually still smell like grease, so I rinse them in mouthwash. It works great. I use it at home, too, when I have to wash a bad smell off my hands. Keep some mouthwash on the workbench to always have fresh-smelling hands and breath!

• I thought I would have to replace my patio roof. We had a bad hailstorm, and several places on the plastic roof were chipped and torn. My brother suggested I try to patch it up, so we went to an auto-parts store and bought a fiberglass-repair kit. It worked! It isn't pretty, but it's patched and super strong. Hopefully it will last through another summer.

• My son is now an official local firefighter. He came over last weekend, and we went out in the garage and he assessed my risk. I had solvent and rags lying on my workbench, and he told me I should move the rags to a metal container with a lid on it and keep the solvent in a cool area away from other combustibles to avoid spontaneous combustion. He even put up a smoke detector out there for me, just in case I forget to store things properly. I should be able to hear it inside the house just fine.

• I painted my dining room last weekend and still had not put everything away when I dropped my front door key in the kitchen. I tried to pick it up and kicked it under the refrigerator by mistake. I tried to fish it out with a coat hanger but missed it. Then I grabbed a paint roller, removed the old roller pad and was able to fish out the key with the roller and longer extension handle. It's a funny story now, but I was a little scared at the time.


• The DeWalt Compact Router Combo Kit is a really neat tool for DIY'ers because it can do just about everything that the big tools do but is so much easier to use. The 1.25-horsepower variable-speed soft-start motor gives you plenty of power, and it has a 12-position spindle lock as well as an adjustable turret stop. It even has LED lights for better visibility while you work. It's built to last by DeWalt and is widely available both in stores and online. For additional information, visit

• Lots of us have plastic, stackable chairs for our patios and backyards. They are pretty good and inexpensive, and are widely available. But if you want them to match your existing furniture or just spruce them up a little bit, you need Krylon Fusion Paint to do it. It's a spray paint made just for plastic. There's no sanding or priming required. It dries fast and comes in more than 25 different colors. It also can be used on resin, glass, wood, metal, wicker and many other surfaces. Check it out at your discount or hardware store, or online at

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

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