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posted: 4/13/2012 1:52 AM

Super handyman: Get your deck ready for cookout season

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If your deck has seen better days, you'd better put it on your to-do list quickly. It's time to party in the great outdoors again.

Here are some things you should do each season to ready your deck for family get-togethers.

A thorough cleaning is Step 1. Power washers are great at quickly removing years of dirt and grime, and even mold and mildew. If it was painted, any loose or peeling paint also usually will come off.

Whatever stains and spots are left behind can be handled with other cleaners and some good, old-fashioned elbow grease. TSP (trisodium phosphate) is a great cleaner, as is bleach and water. A scrub brush also is helpful. Let the deck dry completely before moving on.

Now you can access other damage that needs to be repaired. Look for loose or missing screws and nails and other hardware that needs to be replaced. Examine wood for cracks, splits, warping and rot. These will need to be removed and replaced. Note loose stairs or railing that need to be reworked. Make these repairs.

Once you have everything in good shape again, apply a protective finish. If the deck is painted, apply primer to the areas that have no paint or primer. Then paint with a good-quality exterior paint that is UV- and mildew-resistant. If you want to stain it, use a penetrating stain that will soak into the wood and protect it. This usually is longer-lasting and more protective than a paint finish. If you want to leave it natural, use a clear water seal to protect the wood. This will allow it to "age" but will keep moisture from damaging it. It will need to be reapplied every year, in most cases.

Once you have finished all that, give us a call and let us know when the party starts!

Quick tip

If you are using extension cords for shop tools or lawn equipment, you'll love this Super Handy Tip. When using more than one cord, you want to avoid the cords coming unplugged from each other while you are working. This can slow down your work schedule, cost you time and money and cause aggravation. Tie the cords together, loosely, to prevent crimping or damaging the cord. Just grab the ends to be connected, tie them together then plug them into each other. The knot will take the strain off the plugs and keep the power running to your tools.

Paint drips

Whether you are using a brush or a roller to paint your ceiling, you can count on a few drips. They will land on your head, back, face and the floor, so make sure you cover up everything you can. Don't forget to wear a sweatband around your arm, too. This will catch the drips that want to run down your arm, which is annoying. You'll be surprised at what a simple little thing like this will do for your patience.

Super hints

• Keys come in all sorts of colors these days, even leopard print. This makes them easier to spot when you are looking for a specific key. But you can customize your older, plain keys by just adding a spot of colored paint to them. It will make it much easier to find the key you are looking for when you have a ring with lots of keys on it.

• A great way to secure shop tools from thieves or kids is to put them in a lock box, and an inexpensive file cabinet is a great choice. Pick one up at a garage sale or at a used-office-supply store. Lock up your tools and hide the key.

• If you store hardware in glass jars, like so many of us do, try adding a little baking soda to each jar before closing it up. The soda helps absorb moisture and prevents rust from forming on the hardware.

Q. I am seeing excess-moisture problems in my attic but can't figure out where it might be coming from. Maybe I just need more vents. What would you do?

A. Before adding more ventilation, check to make sure your soffit vents are not blocked or covered with insulation. Then check your roof vents to make sure they are still spinning or powered. If you don't find any problems with these, then you can add more. Good luck!

Q. Years ago we used epoxy appliance paint to paint our shower. The shower was blue, and we wanted it to be white. It has lasted for six or seven years but is starting to peel off now. What's going to be the best way to remove all of this paint so we can do it again?

A. Paint-and-varnish remover should take off the old epoxy paint. Make sure you read the directions for the new epoxy paint, as things may have changed since you used it last.

Q. My family's kitchen table is mine now, and I want to try to keep it for my family to use. It's Formica, and has dulled throughout the years. What can I do to bring back the finish and help protect it as it continues to age?

A. Remove grease and dirt with mineral spirits paint thinner. Paste wax is a good finish that will protect it and give it a good shine. This will need to be done periodically in order to keep it protected. You may want to apply a clear polyurethane finish. That will last longer and won't have to be touched up as often. Another thing you might consider is to get it looking good, and then buy a clear-glass top for it. That would keep it in good shape from now on. Just make sure the legs can handle the extra weight!

Reader tips

• The wife and I are trying to get into better shape, and we bought bikes to start riding around the neighborhood. We already have replaced the tires. I decided to reuse the old ones, so I used them to secure trash bags in the large cans where we keep leaves, grass clippings and other yard debris. They act like extra-large rubber bands, and keep the bags from falling down into the can with the heavy trash.

• I bought a small brad nailer to use on some projects around the house. It has come in really handy, and I like using it. One thing I did to prevent it from making a mark on some of the more delicate surfaces was put a small felt pad on the bottom of the gun where the brads come out. It's very thin, so it doesn't interfere with the operation.

• I finally decided to go ahead and remove the old caulk around our bathtub and install new caulk. It took a while to get the old caulk out of the joint around the tub, but it was quick to refill. One thing I did, on the advice of my father, was fill the tub with water before putting the new caulk in the joints. Supposedly this adds weight to the tub and pulls it down and opens the joints to their widest point to make your caulking job fill better and last longer.

• Our daughters have always needed more storage in their bathroom, so I finally added a couple of new, in-the-wall medicine cabinets. This will provide individual storage for their items. I installed framed prints on the front over the plain, wooden-paneled doors. They each picked the one they wanted, so it's more personalized for them. It was fairly easy to do, too, and much appreciated.

• We love the new wood floors that we installed in our dining room. It really adds some class to the room. To prevent the old chairs from scratching up the new floors, I added felt pads to the bottom of each leg. It only cost me a dollar to buy enough for all the chairs, and I had enough left over to put some under the table legs, too. My husband grabbed the leftovers to use in his shop. He said they will come in handy for something.


• The latest way to fertilize your yard makes this a really fun chore to do. The Snap Lawn Care System from Scotts is so easy to use and completely eliminates any messy spills. The base unit is a wheeled broadcast spreader, and the bag of fertilizer simply snaps into place and is ready to go. It automatically sets itself for the proper application rate, and you have a full line of products to pick from, including lawn fertilizer, weed and feed, and crabgrass preventer. When you are finished using the spreader, it folds up neatly for storage in a small spot in your garage or garden shed. Check it out at your local garden center or online at You can view the video and see for yourself just how easy it is to use.

• Doorbells sure have changed throughout the years. A new wireless model from Swann is customizable and super easy to install. The simple system is made up of a speaker and push-button doorbell unit. The push-button unit installs with double-sided adhesive tape, and the speaker can be mounted on the wall or set on a shelf. You load the SD card with your favorite MP3 tunes and plug it into the speaker, and the system will play your music when a visitor comes to call. To find out more, 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

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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