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posted: 6/15/2012 5:38 AM

Here are some tips to ease the pain of wallpaper removal

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How can something as classy and elegant as wallpaper bring out the angry truck driver in the most genteel of us? It's because it's a pain in the you-know-what to remove when you want to.

That's not always the case, but the longer it's been up, the harder it can be to get down. Here are some things you can try before losing your cool!

Nobody likes to get into hot water, but in the case of wallpaper, it can be quite helpful. The hot water loosens the glue when given enough access. There's a tool that makes small perforations in the face of the wallpaper to let the water in. It's called a Paper Tiger, and it's simple to use. You can use a utility knife, but be careful not to cut too deeply, or you'll have wall repairs to make after you get the paper down.

One way to keep the hot water in place on the surface longer is to wet newspapers, press them to the wall, and let them sit and soak into the paper to loosen the glue.

If the hot water doesn't work, bump it up to steam. You can rent a wallpaper steamer, which shoots steam under the paper to loosen it as you scrape it off with a wide-blade putty knife.

Some of the chemical strippers that are available work pretty well, too. The gel formulas are best, because they stay in place a little better on most vertical surfaces.

Before putting up more wallpaper, remember these hours or days, and choose your next batch carefully. Buy wallpaper that is "removable." Make sure you use sizing on your walls, too. Both of these will make getting the next batch off a lot easier. Or just go with a freshly textured wall and a couple of coats of paint!

Keep attic vents clear

Attic ventilation is vital for the health of your home. It keeps moisture from building up in the attic and also keeps heat from building up in this area. You need to have plenty of soffit vents to bring air into the space, and roof or gable vents to exhaust it back out. Make sure soffit vents are cut all the way open. Since insulation has a way of falling down over soffit vents, plan to blow it back out of the way once a year or more. You can do this from the outside with a shop vac set to "exhaust," or a leaf blower set on slow. It's a simple thing to do and keeps the flow going.

Extension ladder tip

Long extension ladders come in handy for lots of projects around the home. Storage for them can be a problem, in many cases, because of the extended length. A lot of folks store them outside the garage. This is OK to do, but you should try to lock them up to prevent thieves from taking them or using them to access your home. Install a couple of eye screws, horizontally, on the inside of your wooden fence or along the side of your home, where they won't be highly visible. You can use hooks, buckles or chains, with locks, to hold the ladder in place securely.

Super hints

• Spraying for insects isn't something we enjoy, but it must be done from time to time. If you mix a little liquid soap into the mixture before spraying it, it will "stick" to the leaves better and will do a better job for you.

• I love a challenge and a bargain. Sometimes I get both at once -- a series of hard-to-remove, clearance price tags on something I just bought. Soaking them in a sink can work on some price stickers, if it's something you can soak. My favorite thing is mayonnaise, a trick my dad taught me years ago. It's cheap, I always have some around and it works super fast.

• The least-expensive fix for a leaky toilet flapper is to clean it! A little soap and water, maybe a light sanding with fine-grit sandpaper along the rubber edge of the flapper, followed by a thin layer of petroleum jelly, and your leaky toilet could be fixed!

Q. The corner of my home's foundation is sinking. I've had three different repair companies out to take a look at it, but got three completely different bids. How do I know which one to choose?

A. Ask them for references, and then call these folks. Do the companies offer a lifetime warranty? A good company will, and look for one that is backed by a secondary warranty company in case the foundation company goes out of business. Check their Better Business Bureau ratings. If these three guys don't pan out, try some more. Good luck!

Q. We have a clog and need to get the clean-out plug off. It's really rusted on. What can we use to break through the rust?

A. We always start with penetrating oil. Spray or drizzle it all over, and give it a chance to settle into the threads and go to work. Tap around it with a hammer to loosen it up, too. Use the best wrench you can find. You're lucky that it's metal, because most of the new ones are plastic, and when they get stuck, they break if you put too much pressure on them. Of course, they don't rust. If the oil doesn't do the job, try some heat from a propane torch. If that doesn't work, you'll have to drill it out, and then you'll need to get a new cover. Hopefully you'll get it loosened before it comes to this!

Q. I dented the wall between my laundry room/house and the garage. It's an interior wall, so I wasn't too worried about it. But when I looked inside the wall cavity, I did discover that there is no insulation in this wall. Is that normal? Should we add some?

A. We think adding some would be worth the trouble and expense. It probably can be most easily done by drilling holes between the studs, near the top of the wall, and blowing insulation into the cavities. Check the volume of the cavities to make sure you get the fill to the bottom. You may need to use a wire to push some down. Replace the areas cut out, and seal over them.

Reader tips

• We have had several rugs replaced throughout the years, and some are steadier than others on the flooring. My wife has found some great rubber backing that can be sprayed on the backs of rugs that don't have this already in place. It's easy to use, available at crafts stores and works well. You take the rug outside, flip it over and spray it on. It's messy, so watch where you spray. It lasts a long time, too.

• We have a new puppy, and he had dragged quite a few limbs and other debris out into the yard. I started mowing and kept having to stop and move toys and other stuff out of the way of the mower as I worked. If I had checked first, it would have saved me a lot of time, and maybe my lawn mower. One of the things I found was a TV remote control!

• We have an older bedroom set that includes two dressers, both of which needed new drawer glides. We didn't want to damage the furniture, but the original wooden glides were broken and were no longer working well at all. I was able to pry out the old pieces and install some really nice, smooth-running drawer glides for all the drawers. What a huge difference it has made.

• I use epoxy for lots of projects. My family has even nicknamed me "Epoxy Man." I think it's by far the best adhesive for most repairs. It's a little messy to use, because you have to mix two parts together to get the tight bond, but it's worth it. I have found that if you put both parts into a small plastic freezer bag and mix the two compounds together quickly, you can squeeze them out of one corner onto the pieces to be glued. It is much quicker and a lot less messy this way. Just throw the bag away as soon as you are finished.

• I love helping my sister do her home projects, but when she asked me to help her paint, I had no idea what I had volunteered for. She had decided to spray-paint all of her patio furniture with bright-green paint. As soon as I started, I knew it was going to be messy, so I stopped and grabbed a plastic bag and slipped it over my hand and arm. This didn't make it easier, but it did keep me from getting as messy as she got. It took two cases of paint, seven plastic bags and two days to finish.


• If you're getting bored just sitting around on your front porch whittling, why not take up the game of chess? We have some super plans on our website for making your own chess set out of hardware. It's really great-looking, and is made from leftovers and odds and ends you probably have sitting around your workbench. If you've got a lot of hardware just collecting dust, you probably already have what you need. If not, it won't cost much to put together a complete set. Having this in your home might make you look creative and smart!

• If you have an old, stained patio or walkway, you can use Quikrete Concrete Resurfacer to make it look new again. It's made specifically for ultrathin repairs, so it goes on smooth and withstands heavy foot traffic and even vehicle traffic. It can be used on vertical surfaces, too, if brushed on. It's easy to mix, dries quickly and will look fantastic. Look for it at your home center or hardware store. For more info, visit

• "Paper Made" by Kayte Terry is one of the most inspiring books I've read lately. It's recycling on steroids! More than 100 projects are detailed, so you can turn any kind of paper "trash" into art, frames, bags, desk sets, candleholders, dishes, jewelry and lots more. What a blast! It's on bookshelves now from Workman Publishing,

• 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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