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posted: 12/16/2011 1:30 AM

Super Handyman: Tile your backsplash for an inexpensive kitchen upgrade

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Want to give your kitchen an easy and inexpensive upgrade in a weekend? Who doesn't?

You can install tiles of your choice on the wall above your countertops to create a super backsplash very easily. Check it out:

Clean the walls with a degreaser to remove all grease splatters and other slop from the area. Lightly sand the area, then clean off any dust that's created.

Mask countertops, cabinets, range hoods and other adjoining areas to prevent the tile adhesive from getting on anything else. If you're sloppy, protect other areas as well.

Turn off the power to any receptacles and switches in this area, and remove the cover plates. You'll also need to add extenders to the electrical boxes on this wall to compensate for the added depth of the new tiles.

Take measurements of the area you want to tile, including the area behind your range, and purchase your tiles. Most folks will tile the entire area above the range as a focal point in the room. You may wish to get more creative in this area and use specialty tiles or a mosaic.

Bondera Tile Adhesive is a sheet material that you cut and fit on your wall. The tiles stick directly to it, so no other adhesive or drying time is required. You also avoid a lot of cleanup. You can use regular tile adhesive if you would rather.

Start in the range-backsplash area, again because it is a focal point in the room. Measure from top to bottom and from side to side to locate the center of the area, then make a mark. Use your level to draw a horizontal and a vertical line at this point. This will help you get your tiles on perfectly straight. You may want to shift this line in one direction or another to avoid extra cuts. This is a judgment call you'll have to make.

You'll need to cut some tiles, so make sure you have extra for practice, or have a tile supplier cut them for you.

After the tiles are up, you will need to grout within eight hours. Grout comes in a variety of colors. Apply it according to the package directions, and clean the excess from the tiles as soon as possible.

Caulk around the edges to give the walls a nice finish, then replace your switch and receptacle covers.

Your upgrade will give you a big bang for your buck, and it should be a lot of fun to do, too!

Use lattice panels

Pre-made lattice panels are widely available at larger hardware stores and home centers. In addition to wood, they also come in vinyl these days. The slim panels, in 2-by-8-foot sections, can be used to create extra shop and garage storage. Use them as-is or cut them in half and tack them to your wall between exposed studs. This gives you room behind them for garden tools, pipe, trim and other long materials, and good hanging space on the front side of the panel.

Handy holder

Pegboard walls offer tons of storage and organizing options for both the shop and the home. One way to utilize a standard hook to its fullest is to add a holder to the hook. Clean out any plastic bottle -- dishwashing liquid, auto oil, ketchup bottle -- and then cut off the top of the container. Now punch a hole near the top of the newly designed container and hang it on a pegboard hook. Now you have a place for several tools, all on one hook.

Super hints

• If you need to see behind the fridge, inside a small opening in a wall or under the house, stick your digital camera into the spot and snap a photo. Then you can see exactly what you're missing.

• I like to recycle plastic soda bottles for things like funnels for gardening or in the shop. They can be hard to cut, in some cases. I have found that I can fill them with hot water or submerge them in a sink of hot water to heat the plastic. This softens them up so they are much easier to cut with a good utility knife.

• If you have to remove a lot of rust from old drawer pulls, hinges, tools and other metal objects, let them soak in a pan of cola overnight. You might have to do a little scrubbing in the morning, but the cola will remove most of it while you sleep!

Q. I bought a great butcher block table for my kitchen. It's very old and worn, and it looks awesome. I don't want to destroy the patina of it but would like to clean and sanitize it. What should I do?

A. Lightly sand the surface to remove some of the stains. Wash it down with bleach and water (50 percent mix), and wipe off any excess. Give it plenty of time to dry. Then use food-grade oil. You can buy butcher block oil at your hardware store. Rub it into the surface, then wipe off the excess. Do this whenever you need to clean it again.

Q. Our fence is starting to deteriorate, and I'm trying to keep it intact as much as possible by making repairs as they are needed. Right now I have two fence posts that need to be replaced. I have to install them in concrete, but the weather has started to get cold here, and I'm not sure about it. Can you work with concrete when it cold?

A. Because of the water content of concrete, you shouldn't use it when it's below freezing. If you can do it when the weather won't be below freezing for a couple of days, you can get by. The warmer, the better. You can use a thermal blanket or a small heat lamp over the pour to protect it somewhat. Keep in mind that it will take a little longer to cure in colder temperatures as well.

Q. We have an area of our bedroom carpet that has a dark stain on it. I believe it is an ink stain from a set of papers that got wet and dripped on it. I have tried a carpet cleaner, but it didn't get the spot all the way out. Can you recommend any products for this stain?

A. Ink is removed with alcohol, so try a little rubbing alcohol on a rag and blot it up. It should do the trick!

Reader tips

• Since our patio furniture wasn't being used, I took it into my workshop and took it apart. I removed all of the old vinyl webbing. Then I painted all of the frames the same dark-bronze color. I found some matching vinyl webbing and installed it on the freshly painted frames. I am going to add rubber tips to the bases and legs of all of the pieces. They already look great, and I can't wait to show them off next spring.

• The sprayer hose from my kitchen sink kept getting hung up on the shut-off valve. I tried repositioning it several different ways, but it still would end up hanging on it eventually. I finally covered the valve with a section of foam pipe wrap. I taped over it to keep it in place, and it seems to have stopped the problem completely. I can always remove it if I need to turn off the water, too.

• Our house is Mediterranean-style, and we have clay tile floors throughout. They look great but require a lot of maintenance. I dust and mop them often, and a couple of times a year I have to apply a new coat of wax to them. This is very time-consuming, but I have found some shortcuts. I apply the wax with a paint roller on an extension pole: I pour the wax into a paint tray and spread it on with the roller. This is much easier than doing it by hand on your hands and knees. Then I use the floor buffer to finish it. It's hard work, but it really looks great.

• Our home is a pier-and-beam house, so most plumbing repairs are easy to get to underneath the house. Unfortunately, the crawl space is a little uncomfortable to work in. I have found that I can take a canvas pool float down there with me. It's slightly inflated, so I use it to lie on while I'm working. It's not too bad, and it keeps me off the sometimes-damp ground.

• I showed my husband a neat trick that you'll appreciate. I've used plate hangers in my dining room to hold decorative plates on the wall. They are lightweight metal hangers that are adjustable and hold the plates with hooks so they hang on a wall. Well, they make some that are the perfect size for holding circular-saw blades, even the small size. I bought him a variety of sizes to try, and he has them all mounted on his shop wall with blades in them. He says it's a better way to store them, and they don't get nicked or damaged in a box or drawer.


• The Might D Light Mini LED Work Light is so versatile, you'll wonder how you lived without it all this time. It has two super-bright LED lights on it as well as a three-way on/off switch, and it's super-tough to withstand standard DIY abuse. What we like most about it is the fact that it has three integrated magnets, which make it easy to mount on metal objects. It also has a couple of bungee hooks on board, which also make it easy to place where you need it most. The whole thing is hinged and adjusts to a full 270 degrees. It's really neat and is available at your Ace Hardware store.

• If you are looking for a staple gun with more power, check out the electric model R.E.D. staple gun from Arrow. It's tough, comfortable to use, precise, powerful and safe. It uses six sizes of staples and even has a built-in depth control. You'll also love the LED guide light. Check it out at your hardware store or home center, or 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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