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posted: 7/20/2012 3:56 AM

Super handyman: Projects for your family's best friend

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Man's best friend deserves a little love from the DIY'er in the house. Here are some of our pet projects for our dogs and cats.

If your dog is large, then bending over to reach a food bowl on the ground might be a strain. Get a small wooden bench or footstool, and cut out a couple of circles that you can set the food and water bowls down into. This way, your dog or extra-large cat can get its dinner without a struggle. Use each bowl as a guide, but cut the hole smaller than the bowl's diameter.

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A cat box shouldn't be smelled or even seen. Remove a cabinet door or cut a hole in the side of a cabinet to hold the litter box. The cat will like the privacy, and the litter box will be out of sight. You'll still have to clean it, so don't forget it's there!

A crate also can be hidden away in a cabinet or under a small table. Most pets prefer the seclusion if they are to be crated.

If your pets are confined to a small room while you are away, install clear acrylic panels on the walls and/or door to prevent scratching damage.

Adding a pet door to a pet-friendly yard is a great addition to your home. You can install a lock on it for added security when you are away.

Create a pet area in a mud room or laundry room. Install a shelf and hooks to hold leashes and other supplies. Food dispensers where food can be sealed up to extend freshness are easy to install and easy to use, too.

Keep your pet's bed where it likes to sleep, and it will be used more often. Most can be thrown into the washer for easier cleaning, and you won't have to have your "good" upholstery cleaned as often.

Clean your air filter more often if you have pets. You and your pets will stay healthier.

Keep in mind that pets usually are a problem only when they are neglected, so spend more quality time with your best friend! The love you'll get in return is priceless!

Here's an easy, innovative way to keep pictures hanging straight

Every time we see a picture that is crooked on a wall, we feel compelled to straighten it. It's a curse! One thing we try to tell people is that you can take a small blob of clay or caulk and press it around the hanging wire in the center and then place that part over the picture holder and let it set up or harden. Then it will stay put for good. Just make sure you get it right the first time, though you will have time to get it right before it sets up.

Got exposed rafters in your garage? Take advantage of that storage space!

Exposed rafters in a garage offer a great place to store lots of things. All you need to do is place a wooden shelf over the rafters and load it up with things you need to store. We suggest using screws to secure it in place. That way, it won't tip if heavy items are placed on one end or the other. Store things like camping equipment, ice chests, holiday decor and other items you need only once a year or so. These things will be easy to spot but will be up and out of the way.

Super hints

• One of the best scouring powders you can use on appliances, pots and pans and most kitchen and bath surfaces is baking soda. Add bleach, lemon juice, vinegar or liquid soap if you want and scrub up those messes. It's quicker and cheaper than most store-bought powders.

• I have a small car, so I don't mind waxing it myself to save some money and make it look good. I have a little trick I'd like to share with y'all. First I park the car in the sun and let it warm up, which is pretty easy and quick to do in Texas. Then move it back into the shade and start applying the wax with a soft sponge. The warm surface helps the wax go on smooth and easy. It also dries a little quicker this way. Then you can buff it out. Also, you can use the waxy rags to polish some of your tools and appliances.

• If you are cutting the same shape into several pieces of wood, clamp them together and cut them all at the same time. They will be more uniform, and you'll get the job done a lot faster.

Q. I want to turn my basement into a spare room. We have a small half-bath there already. I need to know how to hang the drywall -- horizontally or vertically. Which is best?

A. It doesn't really matter. We suggest considering the height of the walls and the layout of the whole room. You'll want to hang it in a way that will make the least amount of seams. Other than that, it's up to you. If you have any moisture problems in your basement, make sure to take care of those first, and if you are concerned about a recurring problem, consider using drywall that's made for bathrooms, as it will give you some protection from moisture issues.

Q. We had our house painted this spring. The painters took our guttering down and put it back up after repairing some wood and painting it. There are a couple of runs that are loose, and we feel like they might come apart. What's the best way to secure them?

A. Add some small sheet-metal screws. That ought to be sufficient to hold the pieces together.

Q. I've wanted to upgrade my appliances for a couple of years now, and I can see that it's not going to happen. Now I'm thinking about painting them. What is your opinion about this? Do you have any other thoughts, or any alternatives to painting that you might suggest?

A. If you plan to paint, use epoxy appliance paint. It will last a lot longer. Special paint will be needed for your stove, so consider your color options for that before painting the other appliances. Many have a flip front panel. A dishwasher is a good example. Check to see if the front panel can be removed and flipped over. Many times they are sold with white and black fronts to make them more adaptable to buyers. There also are some great peel-and-stick coverings available, including a stainless-steel finish. This might be another option.

Reader tips

• With our new pool, we have new patio furniture and some potted plants around the area for decor. I used to always put broken pottery shards or small pebbles in the bottoms of the pots to prevent the drains from clogging with soil, but I've found something better: I use scraps of window-screen wire. It's easy to cut, you can buy it by the foot at the hardware store and it works great.

• We have had to cut down three of our largest trees. We plan to burn this wood in our fireplace this winter, and wanted to season it for next year. I stacked it loosely to allow for plenty of airflow so it will dry out. We also covered it with a tarp. The tarp is weighted down but just stretches over the top, so the sides will still get plenty of air. We used this plan last year and had plenty of good firewood last year, so with a little luck, we'll be able to get through another year without having to buy any.

• I used to put a long spike into my caulking tubes when I still had some caulk left over. This is supposed to keep them from drying out when you are not using them. But it doesn't work all that well. I have found that a long screw works a lot better. The screw twists in with a screwdriver, or just by hand. It seals better and also is easier to remove when you need to use more caulk. You should try it if you haven't already.

• I have a great garden cart. It's large and really heavy-duty. But the wheels needed to be replaced, and I couldn't find the right ones to fit it. I finally checked out some bike tires for kids' bikes. These fit fine and seem to be even better than the original ones. I have the heavy-duty tires on them, and the cart rolls smoothly and hasn't gotten a flat yet.

• I collected a lot of neat seashells on our family vacation, so I decided to use them in the backyard to decorate. I placed them in pots around the patio. I also glued them to my small twinkle lights, and they show up nicely whether the lights are on or off. I filled some large shells with sand and candles to keep the bugs at bay, and even planted some small ferns in other shells. It looks neat, and we love seeing all the goodies we gathered this year at the beach.

Shoptalk

• Petroleum jelly is an incredibly useful concoction. It's perfect in the shop and super in the home. We bet you would love a list that we have put together of some of the many uses that we have found for this stuff in and around the house. Some you may have tried, but hopefully, others will be new to you. Heck, you may have some clever uses that we didn't list. If so, let us know and we will add them to our list.

• Hate weeds? We sure do, and we're not too fond of the chemicals used to kill them, either. We found a handy little tool that's a lot of fun to use. It's called the Mini Dragon. It's a small propane torch that lets you burn away those weeds. It's super for driveway and sidewalk weeds, and perfect for rock gardens. The flame is adjustable, and the small size makes it comfortable to use. One propane cylinder will take care of your whole landscape, and, used properly, it's very safe. To find out more and see a video of the Mini Dragon in use, go to www.reddragontorch.com. These torches are available in larger sizes, too, and the company also carries a wide range of other propane products that you might find useful.

• There are lots of ways to cover or disguise a stained, cracked walkway or patio. GraniTex is one that's a little different. It's easy to apply, and the kit has everything you need. You can brush or roll it on, and it turns plain, ugly concrete surfaces into beautiful stone finishes. The product is water-based, so cleanup is a lot easier, and it creates a nonslip surface. It's great for sidewalks, porches, patios and even pool decks. It comes in four premixed natural shades, and each kit contains enough material to cover 150 square feet. Check it out at www.seal-krete.com and watch the demo.

• 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 thesuperhandyman.com.

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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