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posted: 2/18/2012 12:30 PM

Tips for properly thawing frozen pipes

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We take for granted that when a faucet is turned on, water will come out. But in the wintertime, freezing pipes can keep that from happening. It's not only inconvenient, but it can cause a lot of damage to your home.

When thawing the pipes, accidents happen, so here are some tips to help you thaw your pipes carefully, avoiding damage.

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Obviously, if you can avoid frozen pipes, you can avoid these problems. Heat tape can be wrapped around pipes to prevent freezing. Insulation also can help. If pipes freeze inside your home, keep these areas -- like kitchen or bathroom cabinets on an exterior wall -- open so household heat can keep them warm on freezing days. In some cases, shutting off the water, with pipes empty, can prevent the damage. The old let-the-water-drip-from-a-faucet method works, too.

If pipes do freeze, a slow thaw is better than a fast one. Open a couple of faucets near the frozen area of the pipe. This will allow steam, which can occur during a thaw, to be released from the pipe. This pressure, which can build up if you don't release it, is what can cause the pipe to burst.

A heat lamp placed near the frozen pipe can help warm it back up. It might take a while, but the extra heat eventually will thaw the pipe.

Pouring hot or warm water over the pipe at the frozen point can help thaw it, too.

You can try wrapping the frozen pipe with a heating pad. Make sure you are careful when using electricity around water.

A hair dryer also can be used. Put the temperature on "warm" so you don't thaw the pipe too quickly. Again, be careful with the electricity.

Be patient and be careful, and the water will flow again. Try a little prevention to avoid the problem in the future. Good luck!

Two for one

When you move from the country to the city, a lot of things change. A large piece of property requires an extra-long extension cord, but the average city lot is much smaller. Why not turn that single, extra-long extension cord into a pair of perfect-size cords? Now you can operate two power tools at once -- with a little help, of course! To do this, just cut the cord in half and install a new male and female end on each section of cord. It's an easy, inexpensive way to make something more useful to you.

Try this trellis

PVC pipe is so easy to work with, and inexpensive, too. When it came time to replace the old wooden trellis on the side of our house, we started shopping. The replacements were outrageous, so we decided to make our own. We bought several lengths of thin PVC pipe and some connectors, primer and glue, and created a work of art for our new trellis. It's really rather plain, but it will be much stronger than the old wooden model, will fit better in the space on the side of the house and will support the vines that grow there -- they get pretty heavy in the summer. Get creative and make your own.

Super hints

• When working with some building materials in cold weather, a hair dryer can be used to warm things up. Use it on vinyl, rubber, plastic and other items to make them more pliable. Use caution when working around water, of course.

• Our family room is where we all hang out together. It's also where we leave a lot of our personal belongings lying around. I bought a set of matching baskets and keep them under the coffee table, which is out of the way and out of sight. Each of us has his or her own basket, and we are keeping our stuff in these baskets instead of lying all over the room. It's been a lot easier to train everyone to use them than I thought it would be, and our family room actually looks neat most of the time. Great for kids and messy adults!

• Leftover cedar wood can be used to prevent moth damage in a closet. Just cut and sand scraps of cedar and place them in drawers, closets and plastic storage bins, and let the cedar oil do its thing to keep the pests away.

Q. I have several places around my bathtub where the old caulk is coming out and I need to replace it. How do I get the old stuff out? What's the best replacement to install?

A. If you can get hold of the end of the old caulk with some pliers, do so, and pull it out. You also can use a sharp utility knife to slice down the side of the caulk to separate it from the tile or tub wall. Make sure you completely clean the area and dry it thoroughly. Then you can put in new caulk. One little tip you might want to try is to fill the bathtub with water before you install the caulk. The extra weight will pull the tub down to its lowest point so that when you put in the new caulk, the widest gap will be filled. Make sure you follow the package directions, and don't use the tub for the required length of time.

Q. We used a stick-on sun shield on our back window, which faces west. I need to replace it, and am having trouble getting it off the glass. I was able to peel some of it off. How do I remove it all, and the adhesive it leaves behind? What would you suggest?

A. Check a store that sells the film, and see if it also sells a remover. If not, try denatured alcohol. WD-40 also might work. Consider a static-cling solar shield next time. Good luck!

Q. Should I paint my metal gutters when I paint my house?

A. That's a judgment call for you to make. If they are starting to fade and rust, remove the rust, prime and paint them. If they are a vastly different color than the trim, paint them. It's really up to you and your budget. It's a good idea to have them inspected and cleaned out every year.

Reader tips

• I love to paint, and have just about finished doing the entire interior of my home. I learned early on how important it is to keep the paint drips to a minimum. I don't mind cleaning up the occasional mess, but I'm not into cleaning big messes after a long session of painting. I use a dot of hot glue to glue a plastic plate to the bottom of the paint can I'm using. This catches the drips that go down the side of the can. It's quick and easy, and it works great.

• I'm pretty good about cleaning and tuning up my mower at the end of each season. I have a good mower, and I like to keep it running at peak performance. It does a better job when it's running well. I only replace the blade when it needs it. Instead, I have it sharpened each spring. I used to do it in the fall, until I saw how rusted it got during the winter. Now I wait for spring to get it done and, as long as you don't wait too late, the line won't be long.

• I haul a lot of stuff in my trunk. I keep a couple of bungee cords there in case I need to carry something so large that the trunk won't close all the way. Occasionally, I have trouble keeping the trunk lid from hitting the item. If this is a problem, I slide a scrap of foam pipe insulation over the edge of the trunk lid and then use the bungee to hold it all in place. This way, the foam acts as padding between the trunk lid and the material.

• My wife wants to keep a lot of her clothes under our bed. She bought some plastic boxes to store things in, but they are hard to get to, and I always end up having to slide under the bed to retrieve them for her. I attached some nylon rope to each box by drilling a hole in the side and running the rope through it and knotting it on the inside. I tied a knot on the end, also. Now she can just grab the rope and pull out the boxes. They stay out of the way, and she doesn't have to bother me to get them for her.

• I made some neat bells for my garden that I wanted to share with you. I got old wine bottles, then I cut off the bottoms with a glass cutter. Next I tied a shell to a string and ran this through the top of the bottle. I drilled a hole through the cork and threaded the string through it. Then I tied a knot in the string to keep the shell inside the bottle to "ring" the bell. I hung several on our large tree, and it is so nice to hear them when the wind blows.

Shoptalk

• Standard smoke detectors usually have an audible alarm, but that doesn't do much good if you are a heavy sleeper or are not at home. A new alarm, DirectConnect911 Smoke Detector, uses the cellular network to call a central monitoring center to alert them to call the proper authorities for you. There is a $10 monthly charge, but you can save up to 20 percent on most homeowner's insurance costs. It's also easy to move, so it's great for apartments, too. Your home will be protected if you are not there, and if you are, you can focus on getting you and your family out of the home, not spend valuable time on the phone. To find out more, visit www.directconnect911.com.

• Creating your own planters for your garden can be a lot of fun. "Concrete Garden Projects," by Malin Nilsson and Camilla Arvidssen, is a super book that shows you examples and instructions for making your own concrete garden decor. You'll find out what kind of "mold" you can use, and some decorative finishes for these objects. It even shows you how to create furniture for the garden. You can find out more about this book at www.timberpress.com.

• 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 thesuperhandyman.com.

2011, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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