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posted: 8/10/2012 5:40 AM

Repairing cane furniture is tricky, but fun

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We love a challenge, and renovating furniture is a real passion of ours. Caned pieces are a little tricky but can be repaired with a little knowledge and some practice. We've tried it and found it both challenging and fun! Here are some of our tips in case you want to give it a shot.

First of all, caning is woven strips of cane. But it comes in two forms for repair work. You can buy pre-made sheets of it that are set into panels, or you can use cane strips to weave it by hand. Obviously, the pre-made sheets are much faster and easier to use, but they may not work on all pieces to be repaired. Most vertical sections or light-use pieces will use these sheets, but chairs and stools that need to take some weight need to be hand woven.

Most supplies are sold online and are very reasonably priced. You'll need to take some measurements before placing your order. You'll want some basic instructions and "pegs" for holding the cane, also.

Start by removing the old cane and cleaning the surfaces well. Make any needed repairs.

The pre-made panels should be soaked in water long enough to soften them and make them pliable. The sheet is pressed into place, and a thick band of cane is used to wedge it into place permanently.

If you are weaving your cane, you still will want to soak it, a few pieces at a time, to avoid oversoaking it. It takes some time but is really beautiful and long-lasting when done properly.

We had so much fun doing our first project that we are always looking for flea-market finds that need to be re-caned just to keep in practice. Good luck!

Prepare for floods

Floods seem to be happening more and more often these days. It's a good idea to have a few things on hand in case you find the water rising around your home. Did you know you can create a little "dam" out of Great Stuff expanding foam insulation? It's true. It's a great way to prevent water from spreading around as well. If you have a little flood in the bathroom, you might be able to stop it before it hits your carpet. Lay down a line of the foam on a clean, dry surface and give it a few minutes to start curing. It really can come in handy. We've even seen a window or roof leak plugged up with the stuff. It might not make a permanent repair, but it sure can come in handy in an emergency.

Turn panels into home projects

Foam insulation panels are great, and make insulating a wall so easy. But they also can be used for lots of creative projects. Cover it with fabric and maybe a little batting, and attach it to the wall behind your bed to become a beautiful headboard. Use glue or staples for the fabric and to attach it to the wall. Velcro is another possibility for adhesion. You also can make framed art, valances and other coverings for walls and windows.

Super hints

• Cleaning oil off your garage floor is as easy as dumping a bag of clay cat litter over the mess and letting it soak up the spill overnight. Then you can sweep or vacuum it up when you have some spare time!

• Our neighbors have a neat hammock near their pool, but unfortunately it doesn't get much use because of the sun that beats down on it all day long. They now use it to corral all of the pool toys. The kids throw them into the hammock to let them drain. This also keeps them off the ground, so mowing is easier. I'm glad someone is getting some use out of it. It's hard to watch a perfectly good hammock just sitting there.

• Getting fiberglass on your skin is no fun at all! We suggest long sleeves, a dust mask, eye protection and long pants. Also, put baby powder on any exposed skin before you handle insulation, and it will keep the tiny splinters from sticking to you. It really works!

Q. Our dishwasher has stopped draining. I don't know what to check. Can you offer any advice?

A. Check the drain hose as it feeds into the drain line under the sink, and make sure it isn't kinked. If that is OK, then check the inside of the unit to make sure nothing is blocking the drain from the inside of the unit. If that is OK, then you need to check the pump. On some units you can see it from the inside of the unit by removing the spray arm. In other units, you have to access it by removing the bottom panel. If you are not sure about this step, it's time to call in a professional. Replacing a pump is a little messy and time-consuming, but it is doable for sure.

Q. Our wooden fence goes around the back side of the hot tub, and it has started to turn green in this area. What can we do to keep the mold away a little better?

A. Clean the fence with fence brightener to strip away the mold. Then apply a water seal to the wood to keep it from absorbing so much of the moisture. You may want to do this once a year to keep the fence in good shape. Adding more ventilation in this area also would help.

Q. Our driveway has a lot of small cracks running across the surface. What's the best way to seal it?

A. You can use a liquid concrete crack sealer that pours from a bottle, or use the type that comes in a caulking gun for larger cracks. Both are available at most hardware stores or home centers. Make sure to clean the cracks of loose material as much as you can, and make sure they are dry. Then you can use filler or caulk for the repairs. Stay off the drive for a day just to ensure a good cure. Apply a water seal to the drive to protect it from moisture damage. It probably will need to be done once a year, but it's easy to do and worth the time in the long run.

Reader tips

• I am not a plumber, but I do like to try to fix things around my home when they need repairing. I took a few photos with my cellphone of the bathroom drain under the cabinet. Then I took the pictures with me to show the man in the plumbing department of the home improvement store. He knew just what I needed when he saw the photos. I did it! I fixed the problem!

• The kids bought some glow-in-the-dark paint at the crafts store to paint a project they have been working on. They had some left over, and I decided to use it around the house. I painted several light switches so they now glow even when the lights are out, making them easier to spot. I painted the top and bottom steps of the basement stairs, and the steps on our wooden deck outside as well. This stuff is kind of neat, and I wish I had some more.

• I love to get old furniture and make it look new again. Sometimes I am lucky enough to get some really great vintage pieces, but other times it's just the garage sale stuff. One thing I've learned that helps keep the stripping mess to a minimum: I drop shop sawdust into the paint and stripper to absorb some of it and soak it up before picking it up with a scoop. It really helps.

• I always shop for office furniture at a local used-furniture shop that funds a children's hospital. They have decent stuff for a great price, and all of the proceeds go to charity. I found a nice chair I re-covered for my office. It originally was green leather, but I stripped off the old stuff and covered it with an inexpensive remnant of upholstery fabric. I just removed a few screws, cut the fabric to fit and glued the fabric back over the frame. It looks really great in the office.

• Our roof leaks in one spot about half the time. We're still trying to locate the problem, but we have it narrowed down to one area. We have a large pan in the attic to catch the drips. We have found that by placing a baby diaper in the pan, it absorbs all of the water and is easy to get rid of when the rain has stopped. I'm determined to find and fix the leak, but I wanted to share my great drip-catcher tip!


• Quikrete Cement and Concrete Products has a patch or repair compound for just about anything related to these materials. The Asphalt Cold Patch is one that is super easy to use and doesn't even require heating the material first. Use it to repair a damaged surface in just a few minutes and with hardly any mess at all. Check out the super line of how-to videos available on the website for complete instructions on all of the projects. It's at

• Everyone carries a phone or tablet at most times, even when working and playing outdoors. SmartWraps are perfectly clear, protective, sealable bags that will shield these devices from dirt, dust, water, paint and other substances. They come in a variety of sizes to fit a variety of devices, and are available in multipacks so you never run out. Check them out at

• 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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