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posted: 9/20/2012 11:14 AM

Here are some ways to prep your house in case of health issues

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Being prepared for health issues like broken legs and old age is a smart thing for a homeowner to do. Simple additions like grab bars and hand rails are easy enough. Here are some upgrades to consider when making your home ready for this part of life:

Grab bars can be installed just about anywhere, as long as you have a stud wall in place. They come in a wide range of styles and colors. Your grab bar also will have hardware and instructions to refer to. Use a stud finder to locate and mark studs. If you don't want to make a mark on your wall or you are working on tiles in a shower, put down masking tape first, then make your marks. Drill through the surface and into the stud. If you are drilling through tiles or stone, use a bit made for this, and watch your drill speed. Just follow the instructions and you'll get a superstrong hold.

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Other things to consider are flooring surfaces. Remove rugs. Make sure other flooring surfaces are tacked or glued down securely. If you have tall thresholds, consider replacing them with low-profile models.

Hallways and doorways should be at least 32 inches wide. One way to gain a couple more inches from a doorway is to use offset hinges on the door so they will no longer be in the way.

Switching from a standard showerhead to a hand-held model can allow you to sit down on your shower stool and still get clean.

Lever door handles are so much easier to use for almost all of us, not to mention those with arthritis or other issues that make turning a standard doorknob difficult.

To make electrical outlets easier to reach, add power strips mounted higher on the wall or on a table top.

Use motion sensors or timers on lights to bypass wall switches.

When replacing appliances, consider front-loading washers, stoves with controls on the front, etc.

These simple things can make your life a lot easier if you become injured at some point, and can add value to your home as well.

Use this trick with a nail when hammering in cotter pins

Cotter pins have been used for years to secure things like wheels in place on an axle. They are really handy and, with a little practice, are easy to install and remove. One little trick to try when you are driving the cotter pin in is to use a hammer to tap it in. To keep the "eye" round, slip a nail through it before tapping it with the hammer. It will save you time, and you can reuse the same cotter pin again.

Super-easy hanging storage for paintbrushes will keep them dry and handy

Paintbrushes aren't a dime a dozen. In fact, some are pretty costly. That's why it makes sense to take good care of them. Storing them so that they hang makes a lot of sense. It's better on the bristles, and it's easier to retrieve the brush you want for a specific project. The simplest way to accomplish this is to use a wire coat hanger. You can open up the hanger where it's twisted onto the hook at the top and slide all of your brushes onto it. Then you can twist the top back together and hang it up on your pegboard wall or just on a nail in your shop. All of your brushes will be easy to spot, and they even can be left to dry this same way.

Super hints

• When you have to paint a metal fence or a wrought-iron table, choosing a brush can be tough. That's why they make paint mitts. You can slip this mitt onto your hand, dip it into the paint, grab the iron bars and put the paint right where you want it. These are real time-savers.

• I've had everything from guineas to guinea pigs throughout the years. Animals can be worse than kids when it comes to eating things they shouldn't. For example, chocolate can be very toxic to dogs. Talk to your vet and find out what things can harm your cat, dog or whatever you have around your home. Be a responsible pet owner and protect your "loved ones."

• It's natural to grab a rag when you have messy hands. Wrap a rag around the doorknobs in your project area with a rubber band so you can grab it instead of the clean doorknob. It's an easy-on, easy-off solution, and it's a whole lot quicker to do than masking it off.

Q: I need to remove the old caulk from my shower and replace it. How do you get the old stuff off?

A: Try using a razor blade or utility knife. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes. Be careful not to damage the tiles or the shower surface. When you have finished, make sure all of the old stuff is gone. Then install new, mildew-resistant caulk. It will last longer.

Q. We installed a ceiling fan on our back porch when we got our table and chairs. It's been great, but the blades are starting to warp. I know we can replace them, but I wondered if there is a way to weatherproof them.

A. You can buy blades for outdoor fans. Do a little checking around. We're sure you can find some for sale online. While you are at it, do a little extra cleaning of the fan motor. Keep the fan clean and lubricated to protect it from weather damage as well.

Q. I have an old desk that I found at a garage sale in my neighborhood. I have cleaned it out and want to refinish it. It is painted now, and I want to stain it. What do I need to do?

A. Before doing so, consider that if the wood was of good quality, it would be stained already. If you still want to try it, you'll need to strip off the old paint. Use a chemical paint stripper to remove every bit of the old paint. Then sand it all to open up the grain of the wood. Make sure it's completely dust-free, and test the stain on the underside. If it looks good, go for it. You might consider using a stain with polyurethane already in it so you can finish faster, even though two coats might be required. Good luck!

Reader tips

• We had a heck of a hailstorm in our city last month. We called a window repair company but had to get on a long waiting list for service. We did a temporary fix with clear plastic contact paper. We covered all of the broken windows from the inside with this. It covered over the cracks and holes, and barely showed. It worked great, and we didn't have any other major leaks for the next week, until the glass guys came. Keep some on hand if you can, especially during hurricane season.

• I have two small gates at the front of my walkway. They are decorative but nothing too fancy. I have wanted to do something to make them look nicer for years, but painting them has been my only attempt. I finally got motivated, and I installed window boxes on them. I found some inexpensive window boxes, attached them to the gate with cable ties and filled them with greenery and some flowers. I have to water them a lot, but they look great, and it has gotten rave reviews from our guests.

• I learned a long time ago to use gloves for painting projects and other messy things. I tried the thin, disposable gloves but found that they tear too quickly, so I switched back to the heavier Playtex gloves. I can reuse them several times before they need to be tossed. Even then, I still can use parts of them. I cut around the bottom edge all the way to make a large rubber band. I can make a bunch out of just one pair of old gloves -- the ends rarely get ruined; it's usually the fingers that start tearing.

• I like my drop fertilizer spreader, and I use it three or four times a year. One little trick I use to make sure I don't miss a spot is to mix some white flour with the fertilizer. Then I can easily tell if I missed a spot before I put it away. The flour goes away when you water, so it looks weird for only a couple of hours. It does seem to work, and I'd rather it look strange for a couple of hours than for two or three months!

• I have a nice work space for my sewing and crafts. I have lots of storage and a great work surface for crafting. One thing I found useful was to take the metal, serrated edge from an empty plastic-wrap or aluminum-foil box. I used some small tacks to attach it to the side of my table. It's great to use for cutting ribbon, paper and other materials when I need to. It's not as precise as some other blades, but it's super for quick cuts, and I use it often.

Shoptalk

• 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.

• Liquid Nails is a staple for most avid do-it-yourselfers. There's just nothing better to use. But for smaller projects, you have a lot more products to choose from. Liquid Nails also makes an adhesive for smaller projects, and it's just as reliable. The ready-to-use squeeze tube has a good applicator tip that you can install, and it works on just about every type of material. It's construction-grade, fast-bonding, permanent, weather-resistant, sandable, paintable and stainable. You can find it at most hardware stores and home centers, as well as many other retailers. When you need an adhesive you can count on, look for Liquid Nails. Check it out at www.liquidnails.com.

• Standard plungers work fine, but they do get wet and can be messy when placed on the floor after they have been used. Rubbermaid has a solution in its new Clean and Dry Plunger. It's made with a NeverWet coating that forms a protective shield around it and keeps it dry and free of germs and bacteria. It works great and won't drip. Check it out at your favorite grocery or discount store, or at www.rubbermaid.com.

• 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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