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posted: 8/24/2012 5:16 AM

New lighting fixtures bring your home up to date

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One thing that can really date your home is the lighting fixtures. But these can be updated and changed out by most do-it-yourselfers. Here are some super tips and ideas that you can try. Let us know how your upgrades turn out.

• Sometimes you can just replace the glass globes or the light bulbs themselves to update an older ceiling fixture.

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• You might consider painting the fixture. There are some pretty great paints available these days, and many are designed to work well on metals.

But if that's not enough for you, then you can replace the whole thing. Do a little bargain shopping at home centers, resale stores, consignment dealers or garage sales, and find something more fashionable than what you have now. You'll want to replace an existing fixture with something similar so that a lot of extra wiring or support isn't needed. These things just drive up the cost as well as the level of difficulty.

• Turn off the circuit to that fixture at the main electrical panel. Test it to make sure it's all off before trying to disconnect the wires.

• Now you can remove the old wiring connections. If the fixture is heavy, ask a friend to help before removing the fixture itself.

Your "new" fixture should have similar wiring -- white, black and green or copper for a ground. The wiring should hook up white to white, black to black and green to ground. You may wish to test the fixture before finishing to make sure it works. Once tested, wrap the connections with electrical tape. Enclose wiring with the cover to conceal.

You might have so much fun with your first project that you may want to try more. Have fun!

Increase shelf storage

Plastic storage shelves for the garage are really great. They are inexpensive and easy to assemble. Of course, we have made a few changes to our basic shelves. We drilled a hole through the shelf uprights on one side of the unit to insert a dowel through. The dowel is longer than the width of the shelf, so it spans both uprights. We can store about six rolls of tape on each dowel. This way, they are handy and ready to use. You don't have to remove them to get what you need, and they are always easy to spot in this location.

Grab your garden hose

Draining off liquids can be messy, but there's a simple trick you can do with a piece of garden hose that will help you do the job in record time -- and without a mess! Just submerge the hose in the liquid -- both ends. Wait until the air has been pushed out of the hose, and then pull one end out of the liquid and position it lower than the other end, which is still submerged, and you should be draining the vessel. It won't always be this easy, but you might get lucky!

Super hints

• You should always clean your paintbrushes as soon as you have finished using them. Soak them in water or solvent, depending on what type of paint you used, and support the brush so that the bristles don't curl on the bottom of the bowl or bucket you are soaking them in.

• Before hooking up a whole new set of outdoor lights, try them out first. You can go out at night with a flashlight and place it in different spots to see what will work best before you do the actual wiring. You'll get batter placement this way, and your design really should enhance your landscape. Leave a mark at the right spot, and then do the hard install the next day, when it's light outside.

• Standing water is a great breeding ground and water source for bugs and rodents. Dump out plant trays on the patio and keep gutters clear of leaves that create places to hold water. Make sure no other objects in your yard are collecting water.

Q. We cleaned our deck and fence this spring. They looked great, and then we applied a penetrating stain. We were a little sloppy and dripped stain in several spots on the concrete patio and sidewalk. How can we remove these stains?

A. A penetrating stain is almost impossible to remove, since it actually penetrates the surface and becomes part of the concrete. You might try putting bleach on the stain to see if this lightens it. You also can try a power washer. If you ever do get it completely clean, apply a water seal to the surface to prevent many future stains.

Q. We found mildew on the inside of one of our closets. It was so bad that it got on some of our clothes. We have cleaned up the walls but don't know what to do about the clothes. What would you recommend?

A. Before tackling the clothes, you need to make sure the mildew is completely under control. Make sure it isn't still growing behind the drywall. Add ventilation to the closet. Check adjoining walls and the room or attic over the room for leaks. As far as the clothes go, we suggest removing the clothes from the closet and putting them outdoors to air out. Then you can clean them individually, depending upon the fabrics. You may wish to take them to a professional cleaner if they are valuable pieces.

Q. I really need to re-caulk my shower. It has a lot of stains (mildew) on the existing caulk and can no longer be cleaned. What do I do to get the old caulk off?

A. We suggest a paint scraper or knife edge. You really need to be very careful not to damage the tiles or any other surrounding materials. Also be very careful not to damage yourself! If you can get a little bit of the caulk loosened, sometimes you can grab it and pull it out all the way down the wall. Then you just need to go back and make sure all of the loose material has been removed. Make sure to clean the areas with bleach and water (a 50-50 mix works well) and let it dry completely. Then you can go back in and apply new caulk. Make sure to use a caulk made for bathrooms, because these usually are resistant to mildew and mold. Read and follow the package directions, and make sure to give the new caulk plenty of time to cure before using the shower again. Some caulks are available that cure a lot faster, but keep in mind that you still may have to shower elsewhere for a day or so. Fortunately, you'll only have to do this every few years!

Reader tips

• We have an access to the attic in our hallway, and I've noticed that a lot of hot air is coming down through this door on the ceiling. I know there are ways to insulate it better, but I've not had the money to do much. I finally bought a roll of stick-on weatherstripping to go around the door. It has really made a difference, and it cost only a couple of bucks. I can't believe I waited so long to take care of this.

• I found a great way to keep my hand tools close by when I'm working. I mounted a small broom holder on the side of my workbench. The holder has friction clips and holds several of my most-used hand tools. It's quite a convenience and was easy to install. I bought a second one for the other side of the workbench, and I can't wait to mount it and fill it with tools, too.

• We like playing horseshoes, and when the family is all together, we get a little competitive. We started making our own "soft" horseshoes for the kids and older folks. They are easier to hold. I took an old car tire and sliced it with my saw into 1-inch, horseshoe-shaped pieces. These still have enough weight to throw them, but they aren't nearly as heavy as the regular ones. They are much better for training newbies, too. Being hit with a steel horseshoe can leave a heck of a mark!

• My wife wanted a sewing room, and I put together what I could to make it special for her. I installed some inexpensive used cabinets. Instead of the standard cabinet doors, I installed sheets of pegboard, painted to match the rest of the room. I put a lot of hooks and other accessories on these to hold her craft items. She loves them. The room is her private sanctuary. She has created some great things for our home in there, too!

• I found a great way to clean my microfiber sofa. It's supposed to be easy to clean, but I've had problems with just using a wet sponge. I tried rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. It works really well and evaporates quickly. When the spot has dried completely, I go back with a stiff scrub brush and rub in a circle to bring the fibers back up. It looks great, and I've been able to remove many old stains with the alcohol.

Shoptalk

• Pegboard is perfect for most storage situations, but if you're looking for a stouter solution, check out AlligatorBoard. It's a metal pegboard that can hold up to 90 pounds of weight. It uses standard hooks but has built-in -inch flanges around the edges to make mounting easier. And it even comes in a variety of sizes and powder-coated colored finishes. To find out more about this heavy-duty metal pegboard, visit the website www.alligatorboard.com. You also can find it at select hardware stores (locations also available through the company's website). It's the last pegboard you'll ever have to buy!

• When we think of a reciprocating saw, we see the blade that can cut though most demo jobs, but ReciproTools has a lot more. The universal quick-change adapter is the key, and is used with all of the attachments. Now you can turn your standard reciprocating saw into a scraper, metal file, nylon brush, sanding pad, scouring pad, steel brush and wood rasp. More than a dozen different attachments are available. The website www.reciprotools.com has video demonstrations of most, and will show you how to use all that power to get some pretty grueling chores taken care of.

• 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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