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posted: 2/3/2012 12:30 AM

Super Handyman: Tips for getting more bang for your buck with paint

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Paint is one of the least-expensive ways to jazz up any room in your home. But you can get even more bang for your buck by using it in a strategic way. Try one or all of these ideas.

• A stencil is a great way to add an accent with paint. Stencils are inexpensive and easy to use. Most are plastic and are taped in place on a wall. You just paint over them, and the paint will show off the design of the stencil. The stencil is then moved along the wall and reused to create a really great look.

• Choose an accent wall and paint it a bold and different color from the rest of the room. It will allow you to have a lot of color in the place without painting the whole room.

• Paint all of the furniture in one room the same color. This will allow you to turn a bunch of mismatched pieces into a matching collection of pieces. It's a whole lot less expensive than buying a new set of furniture.

• Paint "trim" on your walls. Use masking tape to outline some picture frame molding, crown molding or shoe molding in a plain room. Then paint it a contrasting color from the rest of the walls. It will give the illusion of expensive molding at a fraction of the cost.

• Add a stripe around your room. It can be horizontal or vertical, and you can do more than one if you want. You even can use more than one color. The masking tape will make it easy to get a clean, sharp line, and a little paint goes a long way for a project like this.

• Use a sponge, wadded-up cloth or plastic bag, or specially designed paint roller to add another color to existing walls. The new color can be a slightly different shade of the existing color, or something completely different. Your new decorative finish will add some dimension and depth to your plain walls.

All of these ideas are really quick, easy and inexpensive, and will add a new look to a tired room. Have a little fun!

Old credit card makes good sandpaper backer

Power sanding is great for some projects, but sometimes hand-sanding is the best way to finish the job. Your sandpaper will wear better if you have a backer on the paper. An old credit card makes a good backer. It's a good size for smaller projects, is flexible enough to provide backing without preventing you from dealing with irregular surfaces and is a good use for an old card. You can sand off the numbers if you want to protect your identity further.

Shop vac helps you 'handle' uncooperative ceiling panels

Suspended ceilings are good to have when you need to check or make repairs under them. All you need to do to access the hidden area is push the panel up and slide it to the side. Then you can get to the area to do the work you need to do. Putting the panels back into place is just a matter of holding the panel over the grid where it belongs and setting it back in place. Sometimes, however, the panels are a tight fit and don't want to drop all the way back down. You don't have a handle, so getting them to seat properly can be a little difficult. That's when you need to break out the shop vac. Turn it on and place the nozzle on the panel. Now you will have a "handle" that you can use to pull the panel back into place.

Super hints

• Canned air, used to clean dust from electronic equipment, does a great job of removing dust from a bathroom vent, too. It's inexpensive and easy to use, so give it a try and give your bathroom vents, and other vents, a break. Vents will run a lot more efficiently when clean.

• The little tube that comes with the spray lubricant I like always gets lost in my workshop. I used to try to keep it in the nozzle all the time so it wouldn't get lost, but when you just need to spray and you remove it, you run the risk of misplacing it or having it roll off the bench and onto the ground behind the bench. I have started putting a rubber band around the can, and I use it to hold the tube when I'm not using it. Now it is always right where I need it.

• Caulking is a really effective way to seal gaps around the inside and outside of your home to increase energy efficiency. Cut off the tip of the caulking tube, and don't forget to pierce the inner seal with a long wire, nail or thin screwdriver.

Q. My patio is starting to break up. The concrete surface is peeling off in thin layers. Is there any way to stop this? How can I repair it?

A. It sounds like what is happening is "spalling." What you need to do is remove all of the loose material. Sweep and vacuum up every bit of it. Then apply a concrete topper that has a bonding agent in the formula. The topper is a thin layer of concrete mix that you can spread over the damaged area. Smooth it out with a trowel or concrete float. Make sure it has time to cure. That should take care of the problem.

Q. We have some small flies that plague us every winter. They are mostly in the kitchen. They are very annoying but don't seem to cause any other problems. How do we get rid of them?

A. It would be good to have more information to help identify the flies. They sound like the type of flies that live and breed in overly moist conditions. They could be living in your kitchen drains, or in the soil of nearby houseplants. If that seems like the case, cut back on watering, and keep drain trays free of excess water. If you can catch one, take it to your garden center and have them identify it for you. Then you will know how to get rid of them. Good luck!

Q. We have old terrazzo floors under the carpet and pad. We removed the carpeting and want to restore the tiles but are wondering how to repair the holes where the tack strips were put in. How do we plug or patch these?

A. Check with a terrazzo dealer to see if he sells a patching kit. It might be hard to find, but it will give you the best results. Epoxy also can be used, and if the holes are small, perhaps a tub-and-sink repair kit would work. The key is getting a good match. If you can do that, it shouldn't be very obvious to most people and should look OK. You're going to love having the tile floors again. Good luck!

Reader tips

• I finished making a nice bar for my game room. It was hard, but also a lot of fun. I had trouble cutting the round bars. I clamped them into my vise, but they didn't hold well because they were round. I found that by wrapping them with a scrap of rubber left over from another project, they would stay more stable in the vise for cutting and drilling. Just thought I'd pass this idea on to you and your readers in case they ever have the same issue.

• My patio has an old screen door on it. It's very old but looks really neat. It was starting to stick, but we couldn't really figure out where, and my wife wanted me to fix it. I got a piece of sidewalk chalk and made a mark around the edge of the screen door where it was contacting the door frame. When I closed and opened it a few times, it was really easy to see where it was rubbing. I just tightened the hinge opposite this spot on the screen door, and the problem was solved.

• I cleaned out my shop drawers the easy way: I vacuumed them out. I know it probably sounds crazy, but it worked. I covered the end of the vacuum hose with some leftover window screen. This prevented the vacuum from sucking up everything in the drawer, but it did get all of the dust and debris that had collected in there. It was so fast and did such a good job that I did the same thing in my toolbox. My wife tried it in the kitchen drawer, too.

• I like my standard shaving cream, but my wife complains about the rusty ring the can leaves on the counter. I found a plastic potato-chip-can lid that fits the bottom of the shaving cream can perfectly. Now the rust ring won't get on the counter. I just remove the plastic lid from the old can when it's time to replace it, and put it on the new can. It's easy enough to do, and although the rust isn't very hard to clean, I wouldn't want to cause any permanent damage to the countertops, so it does make sense.

• I always try to keep paint, putty and other shop and home products as long as I can in case I need them again. One thing I do is put these cans, bottles and bags into sealable plastic bags. This way, they don't dry out and go bad. It seems to work pretty well.


• If you have done a good job of weatherproofing your home, it will be sealed up tightly. This will save energy but may, in some cases, create a mildew problem. Mildew not only looks and smells bad, but it can ruin walls, carpeting and just about any surface it gets on. Learn how to rid your home of this problem once and for all. We've put together a pamphlet called "Mildew Around Your House," and it is full of tips for how to get rid of mildew and how to keep it from coming back.

• Masking for a paint project is, many times, more important than the paint itself. If it's not done correctly, it can be a disaster. FrogTape is treated with PaintBlock Technology, which is a super-absorbent polymer that reacts with latex paint and instantly gels to form a micro-barrier that seals the edges of the tape and prevents bleed-through. In other words, when you use this tape, you will get the best results. It's available in a wide variety of lengths and widths. Check it out at and see why we think it's the best product to use for masking. It's available at most hardware stores, paint dealers and home centers.

• Rust-Oleum Truck Bed Coating is a spray-on coating that turns your plain, painted truck bed into a nonskid, textured, super-tough finish. It protects the truck bed from rust, scratches and fading. It's available in several forms, including a spray can. You can get it in a light-beige color or a dark-black shade, your choice, and it can add value to your investment for years. Two coats will give you the best wear, and you can do it yourself and save a bundle. Look for it at your paint or automotive store. For additional information, visit

• 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

2011, Cowles Syndicate Inc.