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posted: 10/5/2012 5:26 AM

How to make your own backyard water feature

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Water features in a backyard are super. They look great and can really drown out other noises, like traffic. You can make a basic one in just a few hours. Here are some easy instructions for a simple water feature that you'll love in your landscape.

You'll need to use a pump for the water feature, so make sure you have an outdoor electrical outlet nearby.

Once you have decided on a good spot, buy a basin or shallow prefab pond. Dig out the soil in the area so that the top of the basin will be just a little bit above the level of the surrounding soil. Backfill the area around the basin for stability.

Place a submersible pump in the center of the basin, and run the cord over the edge and to the nearest outlet. Don't plug it in yet! Place a brick on either side of the pump and add more on top if you need to in order to bring the level of the bricks up to just below the level of the top of the basin.

Place a piece of wire mesh over the basin. Trim it to fit, and make sure that it doesn't crimp or cut into your pump's wiring.

For a "fountain," you can use any large flowerpot with a hole in the bottom. Attach a section of pipe to the pump and run it through the bottom of the pot so that it comes up to the level of the top of the pot.

Fill the pot and basin with water, and turn on the pump. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust the flow of the water.

Once you have it set up the way you want it, add rocks to the pot, and more rocks to cover the mesh over the basin.

Add water when you start running low, and clean out the pump occasionally if it starts clogging up. You're going to love it!

Curling vinyl floors

Vinyl flooring is super durable, and it can stand up to just about anything. But the fact is that it is glued down, and because of the heavy usage, some places, especially the corners, can start to curl up. This may look bad, but if you scrape off the old adhesive and put on new stuff, it will stick back in place with little trouble. Put a stack of heavy books on top of the flooring after you press it back into place, and leave it there overnight to allow the adhesive time to set up. Voila! Your floor is back to normal again.

Prevent stuck windows

This time of year, a lot of us are opening up those windows to let in some fresh air. But before closing them again for the winter season, wipe a little petroleum jelly along the frames. This does several things: It will help prevent rust and corrosion. It also will give you the best seal, as it fills in any small gaps and helps seal out the cold air. It keeps windows sliding smoothly. It will make opening up those windows next spring even easier, too!

Super hints

• Blackboards can now be painted on just about any surface. Check your paint store for sprays or brush-on cans in lots of colors, and install a chalkboard in your shop, laundry room or just about anywhere else you think you can use one.

• CFL and LED light bulbs are much more economical to use than the traditional bulbs, and you should make the switch. I highly recommend you use them wherever you can around your home. If you don't like the look of them, at least use them in places where you don't like to have to change them often, like a closet, patio or garage. They last a lot longer and cost very little to use every day.

• Closet organizers are great for the shop, too. Shoe racks or bags that hold several pairs of shoes on a door are great for storing a lot of shop supplies right in your workshop or garage. Get creative when it comes to shop storage.

Q. I finally fixed a leaky gutter right over my patio. It really wasn't very hard to do, and it didn't take very long, either. Now I have a big mold problem on the side of the house and patio. What's the best way to remove this mess?

A. Clean and kill the mold with a mixture of half water, half laundry bleach. Apply a clear water sealer to both surfaces to prevent moisture problems in the future. You may have to go back and repeat the water seal every year, but it will be worth it.

Q. I want to know if there is a way to paint my metal fireplace a lighter color. The rest of the room is light, and I don't want to tile it or anything. What kind of paint should I use?

A. You'll need to use a paint that can take the high heat of a fireplace. Check with your paint dealer. You probably can find it in a spray can for a small area. Mask off the surrounding areas to avoid overspray. It should be a quick and easy project.

Q. Our home is built alongside a golf course, so we get a few balls in our yard every month. We also get some tears in our screens, presumably from the same golf balls. We've been lucky we haven't had any broken windows, but the screens are a constant nuisance. What's the best way to fix these tears?

A. The quickest patches are peel-and-stick mesh. They may not look too good if you have a bunch of them. You also can "sew" up the tears with more screen wire or monofilament. If you ever get to the point where the screens need to be replaced, shop around for some stouter material for the screens.

Q. I bought a lot of books at an estate sale. The books have some value, so I don't want to do anything to damage them. They have a musty smell, though. How can I get rid of the bad smell?

A. Place them in a clean box with layers of cornmeal over and around each book. This will absorb any moisture, along with the bad smells. Leave them in the box for several days.

Reader tips

• My wife and I created a little guest bedroom in our attic. We carved out a little space and then put in some stud walls and drywall. We insulated the walls and even added a vent from the air conditioning and heating system. We put down carpet to soften the feel of the room. Now the room is really nice and cozy, and it should be nice this winter for extra holiday guests.

• My wife has done some redecorating in our bathroom and had replaced all of the towel bars, toilet roll holders, etc. I took the old ones out to the garage and found great places to put them into use there. The toilet-tissue holder is now holding three rolls of tape right on the side of my workbench. I installed the towel bar on the garage wall, and am storing my yard tools behind it. It holds them up and out of the way.

• We dropped an old dresser that we'd had for years, and it broke into several pieces. It was just not worth fixing. The drawers were still in good shape, though, so I turned them into under-bed storage for my daughter's room. I put wheels on the drawers and pushed them under the bed. She loves them. She stores all of her dolls in these, and has room left over. She pulls them out when she wants to play with her dolls, and loads them back up and pushes them under the bed when she is finished.

• This year we decided to hire a chimney sweep to clean our fireplace and chimney before it gets cold. It was a good thing, because he found a lot of buildup in the flue and several cracks in the firebox. Either one of these problems could have caused a house fire. It took him a while, but he made all of the repairs and cleaned it up really well. It's ready for a new season now. From now on, we'll be hiring him every year. Our home is worth a lot more than that!

• My home center is located about two blocks away, so I buy most of my hardware and other similar items there. I also have started taking advantage of the weekly classes it holds every weekend. I've attended classes on wallpapering and tiling, and am signed up for a closet-organizing class next month. All of the big home centers have these, and they are free. It's great hands-on training, and it's a blast to go to. I can't wait to do my first tiling project at my home.


• Big Stretch Caulking is just what you would expect. The super elastic formula spans large gaps, up to 2 inches wide. It stretches up to 500 percent of the original joint size without cracking! It's stable in freezing temperatures, so it can be used indoors and outdoors. It's great for windows, doors, siding, vents, soffits, baseboards, tile, plastic, glass and wood. It's made to last, has low VOCs and can be painted. You can get it in 13 colors and in both 10.5- and 29-ounce cartridges. It even has a limited lifetime warranty.

• Rustoleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover 2X is the fastest way to take care of a paint project. Breakthrough technology provides a formula that works on wood, metal, wicker and lots of other surfaces, and can cover in just one coat. Any angle spray allows you to spray in any direction, even upside down. It comes in a wide variety of colors, including clear. Check it out at your paint store or 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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