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posted: 8/3/2012 5:24 AM

Install grab bars for safety in the bathroom

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Installing grab bars in your bathroom, especially in the shower and/ or tub, can be pretty helpful. If you don't have these already, you should install some. You never know when you might need them.

It's really not very difficult to do. First locate the wall studs behind your shower walls. A stud finder is the best tool for this. You can mark the location with a pencil, or a crayon for tile walls. Also, keep in mind that some grab bars will have several screws to use when installing, and some may not fall on the studs, so you will need to use toggle bolts.

Proper placement is important, and you may wish to consult a physical therapist for some guidelines if you have specific needs. In most cases, you'll want to mount a vertical bar about 32-38 inches above the floor or 6-10 inches above the top of the tub. Some bars may need to be installed at an angle. These are just general guidelines and may need to be altered for specific needs and situations in your bathroom.

Drill into grout joints if possible. If you need to drill through a ceramic or stone tile, use a masonry bit. Use the right size bit for the screw that's included with the bar. If you need to use toggle bolts, the hole you drill will need to be much larger.

Once installed, test them with lots of weight. You don't want one of these to fail when you need it!

Also, consider installing some in other places, like next to a toilet, near steps, along a hallway and other areas where they might come in handy.

Hang in there for more super ideas to come!

Put damaged hardware to use anchoring fenceposts

What do you do with bent nails, stripped screws and other damaged hardware? Bury them. Well, actually, use them to help anchor a fence post in concrete. These bent nails are perfect to help hold a wooden post in concrete. Just drive them in enough to hold them there, and then stick the post into the hole. When you put the concrete into the hole and it sets up around the post, these nails will help anchor it in place. No one will ever see your boo-boos!

Hammer can temporarily transform into mallet

You wouldn't use a hammer to tap a brick paver into place, would you? Of course not -- you probably would chip the brick if you did! You need to use a mallet. You can make a mallet out of a hammer, though. Just grab a sponge and a scrap of thick rubber, old shoulder pad or anything else along these lines, and attach it to the hammer face with tape or a rubber band, and you'll have a mallet. It really is that simple. You can remove it when you are finished, and have your old hammer back to normal again.

Super hints

• Stripping layers and layers of old paint from hardware can be a lot easier when you let the hardware sit in a bucket of boiling-hot water. One way to keep the water hot is to soak the hardware in a crock pot of water. Several hours are needed, but it can actually do a pretty good job without all the chemicals.

• We had a large, ornate, framed mirror that we had hung in our dining room for years. Over time, the mirror had started to deteriorate, and the finish no longer looked good. I decided to turn it into a large chalkboard. I masked off the frame and painted over the mirror with chalkboard paint. It looks great now, and is a real showpiece.

• Wicker patio furniture looks great, and the new weather-resistant material helps it last a long time. You can customize it with paint and/or stencils, too.

Q. We have a problem with our wood floor. It's the prefinished kind, and we are having trouble finding the best way to clean it. What do you recommend?

A. Most manufacturers suggest a damp mop. When you try to use other floor cleaners, you usually end up with streaks and spots, so stick to the basics. Even wax can be more trouble than it's worth.

Q. We have a brick planter box that runs in front of our home. There are cracks in the bottom, and the water leaks out. Can I pour more concrete in on top of what's already there to seal up the bottom?

A: Yes, you can do that. It would be best to use concrete that has a bonding agent in it so that it will adhere better to the existing concrete. Another option would be to apply rubber paint to the inside of the planter to seal it up better and prevent moisture from leaking through the bricks and mortar.

Q. I need your help. We have a two-story home and are trying to find an easy way to clean the upstairs windows ourselves, without a ladder. Do you have any suggestions?

A. You can use a power washer that has a low-force setting, or a hose-end sprayer. Use the special window cleaning solutions available with anti-spotting rinse included. The water just sheets off the glass, so no streaks or spots appear. It works pretty well.

Q. I need to replace the faucet in my bathroom but can't get the rusty bolts off under the sink. What can I do?

A. Try WD-40 or navel jelly to cut through the rust. This might take some time, but it's your best option. If that doesn't do it, you may have to cut through the metal with a hacksaw if you can get to it.

Reader tips

• I do some maintenance work in a local office building and have a great tip for y'all. Whenever I have to replace a burned-out light bulb in a fixture that has several bulbs in it, I go ahead and replace them all at the same time. It might seem wasteful, but you might end up replacing one a week for the next couple of months if you don't. This is especially smart when the light fixture is hard to reach or requires a lot of effort to get to.

• I made a neat table for my patio from a couple of old wooden pallets. I added more screws and sanded them smooth. Then I painted them and stacked them together to form a nice coffee table. I added heavy-duty wheels to the bottom so I can easily move it around when I want to. It's great, tough and should last a long time. If it gets dirty or damaged, it's OK, because it's just an old wooden pallet. I'm sure I can replace it if I need to.

• We added a small slab to our yard for our fire pit and barbecue grill. I built the forms, rented a cement mixer and bought all the cement and other supplies. For reinforcing the concrete, I used some old chain-link fencing that we had torn down awhile back. We just poured some of the concrete, then set the fence into the concrete and poured more on top. I feel like this is all we need for this small slab. It's cured now, and the fire pit and grill are in place, and we are really enjoying it.

• We have a standard hot tub on our deck. We stained the deck a new tan color and repainted all of the metal furniture to match. The hot tub looked out of place with the redwood siding, so we painted it, too. We used the same tan paint and also painted a border around the bottom that looks like tiles. This was done with some inexpensive stencils. It really looks neat now.

• I found an old dresser and bed frame that I wanted to redo for my daughter's room. I bought paint stripper and some work gloves. The gloves were huge, so I went back to the store to buy some smaller ones. They had nothing in my size. I decided to coat my hands with heavy face cream instead. This worked really well. I like it much better than trying to wear gloves made for much larger hands. The hand lotion kept the paint from sticking to my hands, and I never have the time to take care of my hands like this -- two birds, one stone!


• If you have noticed that the pressure in your water supply has diminished over time, especially the hot-water supply, it may be something as simple as mineral deposits clogging up the lines. It's not a very hard thing to fix once you know a little trick you can play with a dime. It's a very simple thing to do, and it may just solve your problems -- at least your water-pressure problems. You'll be shocked at how great this works. We get thank-you letters all the time from readers who have tried it! Visit our website at

• We've tried a lot of string trimmers through the years, but the latest 36-volt rechargeable model from Black & Decker is really great. The best feature is the lithium battery, which holds a charge better than any other type of battery. It also weighs a lot less, so you can work a lot longer on a single charge. It even recharges superfast, too. Thirty-six volts will tackle just about anything you need to chop down, and you can dial it down for lighter jobs, which increases the run time, also. It has an automatic feed, so no bumping is required. The shaft also twists around so it can be used as an edger, and it does a good job of that, too. Check it out at or at your hardware store or home center. It's one of our favorite tools for our own landscape!

• Future Glue is made by the same folks who make Super Glue, and it's made to work on things that the original formula can't. The brush-on formula is great for both porous and nonporous materials, and it even works on greasy, dirty surfaces. It can take high and low temperatures without failure and is easy to use. Use it on aluminum, cardboard, jewelry, pottery, leather, corkboard and rubber. It's available at hobby and craft stores as well as hardware stores and home centers. To find out more, 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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