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posted: 5/26/2012 3:51 PM

Super handyman: Get your grill ready for all those backyard cookouts

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Springtime is a great time to entertain in the backyard with cookouts and other family gatherings. A clean grill is a must, so let's get busy with that.

If you "forgot" to do it at the end of last season, you'll need to spend a little time scrubbing it now. The best time to clean the grill is right after you use it, not several months afterward.

Start by moving it away from the patio or deck so you won't get grease and other debris on the floor where you are cleaning. If you can't move it, try to put down a dropcloth.

Remove grates and other equipment that comes off easily. A steel brush is a good way to scrape the grate clean. If it's a plain cast-iron grate, put a thin layer of oil on it to protect it. Smooth, shiny grates just need to be cleaned and dried before replacing them.

Tighten handles and other hardware, and replace anything that has been damaged or broken. This is especially important for gas grills to protect yourself from gas leaks. A lot of the time, these parts are readily available at a grill dealer or at your hardware store. You also might be able to track down some of them through an online source.

Coat any bare metal with high-heat metal primer and paint. They make special paint just for grills, so ask a paint dealer if you don't see it on the shelf.

If you use lava rock or briquettes, you can clean them, too. If they are too dirty or are starting to thin out, replace them.

Try to cover your grill after you use it -- just give it a little time to cool off. Most covers are inexpensive and will last a couple of seasons. They will help your grill stay clean and last longer, too.

One more thing: Keep a fire extinguisher handy while cooking. We're not saying you're clumsy, but accidents can happen!

Be safe, and have a super summer!

Dowels add strength when screwing into wood

There are times when you need to add a screw to the end of a piece of wood or a section of wood that is weak. To get a good hold with the screw, drill into the area where the screw is to be installed from the side and insert a wooden dowel. Now you can drill and install the screw and know that it will hold firmly. The dowel is strong and will keep the screw in place for a long time. This little tip is just one of the things we've learned throughout a lifetime of repairs. If you don't need it now, you probably will in the future!

Storage springs from tension rod

A tension rod is a spring-loaded rod used to hang a curtain -- it's the type most of us have for our shower curtains. These are inexpensive and easy to install in lots of places. One place you can use one of these, that you might not have thought of, is between wall studs in your shop. Depending on where you install it, you can use it as a thin shelf to hold items, or as a guard to slip items behind so they stay in the recessed area. If you have some "S" hooks, you can hang things from the rod.

Super hints

• A couple of pipe straps and some scrap pipe of any kind can be used to create a makeshift storage closet in your attic. Enclose your coats and suits in bags to protect them from dust, and they'll be ready next season when you need them.

• My friend, who will remain nameless, chose a very bright green for her dining-room walls. We all tried to tell her it was not going to look right, and we were right. She put an antiquing glaze over the bright-green walls to tone them down. This really turned out great. The walls look aged and have lost that very bright blast of green that made you cringe when you saw it. Maybe the antiquing method would work on other bright colors, and even wallpaper, too.

• Tar from streets and driveways can make a real mess in your car and in your home. Our favorite safe tar remover is mayonnaise. Smear it on and let it dissolve the tar, then wipe it away. It works great!

Q. Our home is older, and sometime in the past, a layer of contact paper was used as wallpaper in a couple of the rooms. I'd like to remove it, but I don't want to ruin the drywall behind it. What will work?

A. The gel wallpaper removers work well and are less likely to ruin the drywall than steam or hot water. You need to make sure to remove all of the adhesive that might be left behind as well. Good luck!

Q. My apartment has the older, metal radiators to heat it during the winter. They work pretty well most of the time, although they do make a racket when they first come on. I'd like to know how to paint them. What type of paint can I use?

A. You need to sand off any loose or peeling paint. Then cover any bare metal spots with a metal primer. Then just use a high-heat paint. Spray paint can be a little messy, but it goes on and dries quickly. Good luck!

Q. My father-in-law has moved in with us, and he loves to tinker around in the workshop. I want to try to make this more comfortable for him but currently have plain, concrete floors in the shop. Do you have any suggestions?

A. Anti-stress mats, available at most hardware stores, really work pretty well. These come in a variety of sizes, and some are made to interlock to enable you to cover a larger area. There are a lot of online sources, too.

Q. Our outdoor shutters need to be painted, but they appear to be plastic or vinyl. What type of paint will work on these?

A. You should scuff-sand the surface to allow for better adhesion of the paint. There are paints made just for plastics, and they actually work quite well. Check with your paint dealer for his recommendations, and make sure he understands that these will be outside, so they need extra protection from the elements.

Reader tips

• The recent bad weather did some damage to our roof. We have had an adjuster out, and it will need to be replaced soon. We also had a satellite dish on the roof that we were no longer using. The company left it on our house, and the storm blew it off and into our neighbor's pool. We now have to pay for some damage to their fence that it did on the way to the pool. I wish, now, that we had taken it down, even though the original company no longer wanted it. Lesson learned, I guess!

• We put a ceiling fan in the baby's room to keep him cool during the summer. The only problem is that when it's on the slow speed, it rattles. I had my husband tighten everything up, and it was still making the noise. He finally figured out that the glass globe over the light bulb was making the noise. He removed it and wrapped a scrap of rubber around the glass where the set screws were holding it, and it stopped making so much noise. The rubber did the trick. Two more months to go ...

• We just had our house painted. I saw the painters mixing their cans of paint every once in a while, and was curious. I asked them why they were doing that, and they told me that even though paint is mixed by a computer today, there may be slight differences in the color, and they mix the cans of paint together to make sure they all are the same as they work. Pretty smart, I'd say. The house turned out great, and I learned something, too!

• I finally got around to doing some of the "curb appeal" projects on my "honey-do" list. I actually like to paint, so I did quite a bit of that myself. To keep the mess to a minimum, I created a wiper for my paintbrush on the top of the can. I took an old can lid, cleaned it and cut it in half. Then I put it back on top of the can for wiping off my brush as I worked. It did save me some time, and when I took breaks, I was able to put the REAL can lid back on without making a mess, too.

• I live in a great neighborhood, and everyone gets out in the evenings and walks their dogs. It's really nice. We also are all pretty good at cleaning up the "waste" they leave behind. With three sons, I have a steady supply of bread bags. I save them and slip them over my hand and arm before picking up the "stuff," then pull the ends down my arm and over my hand to enclose the "product." I even can tie up the bag to cut down on the smell. I have a neighbor who uses plastic grocery bags for this, too. Both work well and are a great way to recycle.


• Baking soda isn't just for baking. As a matter of fact, it can be used for all sorts of things in the shop and home. Baking soda doesn't cost very much, and just about everybody has a box or two in the house, so why not use it to its full potential? We have put together a listing of some of our favorite uses.

• A water timer is a super add-on for your outdoor landscaping. Most fit on the faucet and connect to the water hose to control the amount or time the water is on. This eliminates the need for you to try to remember to shut off your sprinkler or turn off a soaker hose. Costs for these start at about $10 and go up. You could have one fit on each outdoor faucet, and you'd never have to worry about wasting water again. One brand to check out is found at and is widely available throughout the country.

• Spray-painting from a can gets old when working on large projects. The CanGun1 makes it so much easier. It snaps onto a standard can of spray paint and gives you a larger, more comfortable trigger grip to use. These are available for a great price at lots of hardware stores, home centers and paint dealers. If you want to find out more and see a demo of the CanGun1 in use, 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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