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posted: 4/6/2012 5:51 AM

Super handyman: Get your lawn into shape for the start of spring

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If spring hasn't come to your town yet, it's not too far off. How does your lawn look? Any bare spots? Here are our tips for fixing that for the DIY'er without a green thumb.

First take a close look at the areas. Do you see any pests? Does the spot get any sun? You may want to take the damaged grass to a garden center to see if there is anything they can spot that would give you a clue about what happened.

Remove any damaged grass or pests. Turn over the soil with a fork to loosen it. Add a little compost and mix this into the soil. Rake it flat and tamp it down smooth.

Check with your county agriculture agent or garden professional to see which grasses do best in your area and climate.

If you are planting seed, sprinkle it over the top of the soil, then put a thin layer of soil over the top. Tamp this down. A little mulch on top of this can help retain moisture in the soil and keep delicate seeds from being blown away or picked up by birds.

If you are planting sod, make sure the level of the soil is a little lower than the surrounding area. Place the sod on top and press it firmly into place.

Water the area thoroughly. Water it twice a day until it has started to grow. Don't overdo it, but don't let it dry out either.

A little organic fertilizer once in a while also is a great way to keep your yard looking good.

Soda-bottle sticks keep speaker wire in place

Running speaker wire is a lot easier than running electrical wiring. Although you need to be careful not to damage the wiring while running it, it can be placed along a baseboard or around a doorframe, as long it is held in place. You'll hardly be able to see it. You can use strips of plastic cut from a clear plastic soda bottle. The strips need to be cut about 2 inches long. Hold the wire in place and fold the plastic around the wire with both ends sticking out on the same side. These ends will get shoved between the trim and the wall. You may need to cut a slit in the caulk with a sharp utility knife. Place them every few feet to hold the wire in place.

Super hints

• A good workbench is a must for a lot of projects. But if you don't have one, an old door will do the trick. For just a couple of bucks, you can have a very sturdy workbench top!

• Cleaning the patio furniture every year is not something I look forward to. But I do have a secret method to clean it all: I load it up into my friend's truck, and we take it to the car wash and spray it clean. I don't even have to take it out of the truck to do so. Now, that's easy enough!

Q. The vegetable sprayer on my kitchen sink has stopped working. It lets out only a small stream of water, and it won't spray any longer. What can I do to fix it?

A. Check under the sink to make sure the hose isn't kinked. If all is well there, then remove the face of the sprayer that has the holes in it -- it will just unscrew. Point it into the sink and spray it. If water comes out freely, then the problem is just in the face; you can soak it in a bowl of vinegar. If it doesn't spray, then the problem probably is located in the diverter, which can be taken apart and cleaned or replaced.

Q. Our bathroom countertops are all in pretty good shape but are made of marble. It looks dull, and we would like to see if we can get them to look better and get back a little more of the shine that it once had. What would you recommend that we use for this?

A. Check a hardware store or home center that sells marble. It probably will have a cleaner/polish that will work just fine for this. Most are easy to use and should give you the results you are looking for. If you want to try using something you probably have on hand, a little automobile wax can be used. Just rub it in and buff it out, and you'll get a nice shine as well as protection on the surface. You'll have to repeat it occasionally, but it will look pretty good.

Q. I have given up on cleaning the grout in my bathtub. I plan to scrape it out and apply new grout. The problem area is only on the bottom half of the wall, so can I just do that part, or do I need to do the whole thing?

A. Matching the grout color can be tough, so if it's tinted, you may want to do the whole wall. If it's just plain white, you probably can get away with doing only the part you need to redo. Use a mildew-resistant mix and a sealer over the whole wall.

Reader tips

• I had to put a fence around our backyard. I used a manual posthole digger to do the job, and although it was tough, it worked out well. One thing my neighbor showed me was to put a mark on the handle of the digger at the correct depth -- 18 inches for me -- and you can tell when you are deep enough, and you don't have to get out a tape to actually measure it. This saved me a lot of time.

• We have a trailer that we use occasionally. Since we use it so rarely, the lights are always a little iffy, and I never know if they will work. The problem is that the wiring is left exposed to the weather, and that usually causes problems. I have remedied that, though. I bought a large magnetic key holder and bent the side out a little so that I can put the ends of the wires into the box and store it on the inside of my bumper, out of the rain and snow. I've not had any problems with them since I started doing this.


• Summer is almost here, and with it can come mildew, especially if your house gets humid during these months. Mildew is not only smelly and ugly, 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.

• SnapStone makes putting in a stone floor a snap! The product is made to snap together, eliminating the need for tile adhesive. The floating system couldn't be easier to install. Once it's in place, all you need to do is grout it. That means you can put down a beautiful floor in just one day. It comes in 6-inch and 12-inch tiles, and 11 colors. The flexible grout also helps you get a durable finish, and it is available in different colors as well. To find out more about the product and where you can purchase it, go to

• 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

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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