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updated: 4/20/2012 6:20 AM

Super handyman: Water conservation good for the world and your wallet

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More and more, we are being urged to conserve our water. In some parts of the country, it's because of drought, but everywhere water costs keep going up -- so it can save you money to do so, as well. Here are some tips to help you conserve water this summer.

Replace old rubber washers on ALL hoses, sprinklers and faucets. A dozen washers cost only about a dollar. Pass along your leftovers to your neighbor.

If your hoses leak, buy mending kits to patch them up or just replace them; same with your sprinklers.

If you use a manual sprinkler, install an automatic timer between the faucet and the sprinkler.

If you have an automatic sprinkler, adjust your watering schedules so that you water a little longer and less often. It's better for your plants. You also should have a rain sensor in place to avoid wasting water. If you're smart, you'll just leave it off, and water only when you know you need to.

To test both types of sprinklers, set out some empty cans around the yard and check them after watering to see how much water was dispensed. One inch is adequate in most cases.

Adjust sprinklers so that you are not watering the sidewalks, driveway and streets.

Drip irrigation is the best, new-and-improved method of watering, because there is practically no waste at all. Use it if you can. It might be in the form of a drip hose or in a new sprinkler head that can be installed on your automatic irrigation system.

The old rule is that if you wash your car, it will rain, so maybe this is another option. Have a super spring and summer!

Makeshift hand grip

Lugging around a bucket of water, sand or even tools can leave a mark on your hand, especially if the bucket has nothing more than a thin wire handle. We've come up with a great way to haul a heavy bucket that's a lot easier on your hands. Slip an open-end box wrench under the wire handle, and hold it so that the ends of the wrench fit around the handle. When you carry it by the wrench instead of the wire handle, you'll have a much more comfortable hike.

Cardboard cord holders

A neighbor loaned us a ladder for a project when we noticed he had a storage box with what we thought were a bunch of toilet paper center cores. We were puzzled and asked what he was keeping them for. Then he showed us. Each cardboard core had an extension cord folded inside. These cords were seldom used, he said, so storing them in a way that kept them neat and out of the way was brilliant. It's a great use of recycled material, and it solves a couple of common storage problems. Way to go, Jim!

Super hints

• A metal dolly is great for toting around heavy materials like appliances and furniture. To protect the nice finish on these items, wrap the metal bars of the dolly with foam insulating pipe wrap. It's easy to install on the dolly and even helps keep things from sliding off the standard bars, not to mention being scratched.

• I just finished caulking my shower again. I'm not great at getting a smooth bead of caulk around the edges, but I do have a super way to make it look like I know what I'm doing. I put the caulk on, then smooth it with the edge of an ice cube. The ice cube smoothes it out well and doesn't stick to the caulk.

• To easily mix small amounts of concrete or plaster, put the ingredients into a plastic jug with a tightfitting lid, and roll it around. This mixes everything up with no mess!

Q. Our bathtub will not hold water. The old pop-up-type stopper looks OK, but it doesn't seem to fit as tightly as it used to. Is there a way to fix this?

A: Make sure the stopper is clean where it is seated on the drain. If there is a rubber gasket, see if it's still in good shape; replace it if it isn't. The older stoppers could be adjusted by turning the stopper clockwise, so give that a try. Good luck.

Q. We had a small leak in our closet, and now have mold on the walls and floor. How can I remove the mold? Do I have to remove the whole wall?

A. You probably should remove the portion of the drywall that has mold on it. If it's showing on the front side of the wall, there's probably more behind it. Cut out the damaged drywall to the studs so you can put a new piece between two studs and tape, bed and paint the wall. Make sure that the studs behind the wall are all dry and mold-free before covering the area.

Q. I have a concrete porch that is flaking apart in several spots on the surface. It's on my front porch, so I would like to find a way to fix it or make it look better. What would you suggest?

A. It sounds like the surface is spalling. Remove all of the loose concrete that you can, and then clean the surface thoroughly, vacuuming up the dust. Then apply a concrete topper. It should have a bonding agent in the mix to help it "stick" to the old concrete. You'll use a trowel to smooth it out. This will level out the low spots and add a protective covering to the concrete to help it last longer. It eventually may need to be replaced, but if you follow the package directions, you should get a finish that will last several years.

Reader tips

• We had a small leak in our roof and put up with it longer than we should have. I just didn't have the time to get up on the roof to fix it. I finally decided to do so last weekend, which was, of course, over 80 degrees outside. I'll bet it was even hotter up on the roof! I carried my truck mat up there with me to kneel on. It was much more comfortable and less hot than the shingles were. The mat also kept some nails from rolling off when I accidentally dropped them while working. Just a little tip from me to whoever else might be having this sort of fun.

• Our garage is a tight fit. The cars aren't that large, but we do have a lot of stuff stored there. I installed some really large, heavy-duty shelves at the front of the garage that are up above the front of the cars and that hold everything we store in our garage. The front ends of the cars easily fit under the shelf, and we have ample room for all of it this way.

• Our wood floor has squeaked for years. We have learned to live with it. But in the past year, it has gotten a lot worse. I did a little research and found out that baby powder, when sprinkled onto the floor and swept into the cracks, would act as a lubricant. It actually works great. I'm not sure how to get rid of the some of the white that shows between the floorboards, but the floor no longer squeaks!

• We installed new tile in our shower. It looked great, but after we finished, we found a leak in one of the faucets. We had to remove the faucets and replace them. I was just sick and was worried about damaging the new tiles. I covered the wall behind the faucets with cardboard, taped in place. Then I covered the shower bottom with a tarp and started working. I finished and tore the cardboard off and found the tiles were still in perfect shape. The cardboard protected them from me!

• I recently replaced my old plastic food storage containers with new ones. My husband wanted the old ones for his shop. I found out he was using them to store paint and other things in them. He said they work great for keeping these items from getting clumpy or dried out. He just puts a label on the front of each one, and it keeps his shop looking semi-descent. He said they are especially good at keeping paint fresh.


• Does your chain-link fence give you enough privacy? Most don't, and that's why Fence Fabric was created. The vinyl fabric comes in a variety of coverage levels and other options. The neat thing about it is that it comes pre-printed with beautiful designs like ivy, morning glories, horsetail reed, stone walls, brick walls, rolling meadows, woodlands, tulip fields, wooden fencing and a lot more. It's easy to install on a variety of existing fences and can give you the privacy you want and the style your homeowner's association might require. Check it out at

• Now you can get four showerheads in one with the Flipside from Kohler. The showerhead flips in different directions for each shower spray pattern. Operation is simple and foolproof, and is even easy with soapy hands. The Flipside is available in polished chrome, polished nickel and brushed nickel finishes and can be installed on most standard shower arms. It comes with the standard lifetime limited warranty from Kohler and is available at select bath and hardware stores and home centers. For additional information, you can 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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