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posted: 10/19/2012 4:54 AM

Tips to help you be safe while cleaning your gutters

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Every year, thousands of people clean out their gutters. But every year, hundreds of them get hurt doing it. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it -- just be careful. Here are some super tips for getting the job done right and without breaking a leg!

If you are going to work alone, at least let someone know you are working so they can check on you occasionally. I still can remember watching my neighbor fall off his roof. If I hadn't seen him fall, I'm not sure how long he would have been lying there. Choose a good, sturdy ladder. Make sure you use it properly and with all caution. And watch out for overhead power lines, some of which might be attached to your roof near the gutters.

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Before starting to climb the ladder, assemble all of your work gear, including the right clothes. Wear long sleeves, a hat, safety glasses, gloves and rubber-soled shoes. You'll also need a good scoop that will fit into the gutter and a garden hose with a spray nozzle attached. A plumbing snake also might be able to remove a downspout clog. It also might be handy to have some extra gutter spikes for securing loose sections, some repair caulk for any holes or rust spots and some leaf guards for the downspouts, if you don't already have some in place.

Start with the downspouts this time. If your gutters are connected to underground drains, disconnect these while flushing out the downspouts. Try running water down them to clear them out. If that doesn't work, try squirting the water up the downspout to flush it out. If it's still clogged, use the snake. Once clear, install a downspout guard and reconnect it to the underground drain.

Start at the opposite end of the gutter, and start flushing out the leaves and debris. Use the scoop on heavier stuff.

If you enjoyed this project, do it every six months. If you didn't enjoy it, consider springing for full gutter guards. There are lots of different types for a variety of budgets.

Cord labels

From the top of the average desk, all looks somewhat organized. But when you view it from underneath, it's more like a rat's nest! When you need to unplug one particular cord, it might seem impossible. Old plastic bread-bag closers are the perfect solution. These rectangular plastic tags are large enough for you to note the specific component on them, and they will fit right around the average electrical cord. A Sharpie makes a great permanent label on the plastic. Mark each cord and slide the tags down near the plug so you can easily pick out the one you need to unplug when it's time. Take the guesswork out of it!

Textured borders

A textured border around your room could be really neat looking. It's a lot easier to do than you might think, too. Stencils make it simple. Choose a simple pattern, with no tiny details. Place it on the wall as you would for painting, and then put a little joint compound (pre-mixed) on a putty knife and smooth it over the stencil thickly. Pull off the stencil, and the drywall compound will have left a dimensional pattern behind. You can mix paint into the drywall compound if you like, or paint the pattern by hand afterward. You even can put it up before painting the wall a solid color. The pattern will still be there, just very subtle.

Super hints

• When using dowels to secure joints in wood, the fluted type work better because they can hold more glue. You can turn a plain dowel into a fluted version by just grabbing it between the teeth of your pliers and pulling it through. Let the teeth make indentations all the way down the wood.

• You can turn those old, plain, clear glass flower vases into works of art with just a little paint. Clean the vases really well and let them dry completely. Then you can pour paint into the inside of the vase and move the vase around to thoroughly coat the inside with the paint. You can use several different colors if you want. The paint will dry after a day or so, and then you will have new, unique vases. You even can turn them into lamps if you want.

• If you waited too long to avoid the first cold snap to finish your weatherization, never fear. Just break out a heating pad and wrap it around your caulk to warm it up and make it easier to dispense.

Q. Our toilet sticks, so we need to work on it, but it's a different kind of toilet than most. It has a push-button flusher instead of a lever. The button won't come back up, and I'm not sure what to do with this type of flusher. Can you give us some tips for this problem?

A. The push button works basically the same way that a pull lever does; it just hooks up at a different angle. First make sure it's not just stuck in the "in" position. Check the connections to make sure they are tight and that it's not just loose. You can find a universal replacement for the push-button system at most hardware stores.

Q. Last year we added a fifth turbine vent to our attic to add more ventilation. It works fine, but it's a different color than the others. We would like to paint it. Is this possible? What paint should we use?

A. Most are galvanized metal. If it's coated with brown or black paint now, you can use a zinc-based primer and matching paint. Spray paint will be the easiest way to do it, if you can find a paint that matches your existing fans.

Q. We collected a whole lot of shells on our summer vacation and want to glue them onto a Styrofoam frame in our home. We tried hot glue first, but that didn't hold, and most of the shells are falling off. What kind of glue will work best?

A. Crafts stores actually carry glue for use on Styrofoam. 3M's 77 Super Adhesive works great, and so does Weldbond. Hot glue might be quicker, but it's just going to melt the foam, and it won't last very long. It also can release dangerous fumes from the foam. Sounds like a fun family project!

Reader tips

• Every year, my wife and I have a shred-a-thon. We gather up all of the papers that we've been keeping all year and shred what we don't need to save. We had a whole bag of shredded paper in no time at all. We decided to put some of it in the compost pile this year. Our composter is very large, so we put the whole bag in it. It's only been a month, and the shredded paper is breaking down even more quickly than I thought it would. It should be ready for the garden before we are!

• Our driveway was blacktopped last spring, and now it has started to grow a little moss in some places. We didn't want that to ruin the surface, so we used a mix of half water and half laundry bleach to clean off the moss. It worked, and the blacktop is clean again. We will be putting a sealer on it next weekend, and it should last for several years.

• My wife came up with a really creative toilet-paper holder for our lake cabin. It's an old, rusty metal can. We sealed the rust with clear polyurethane so it won't rub off on the tissue. She added a second one for magazines. It's a larger-size can and holds two or three magazines. There are some other rustic pieces in the room, so this goes with the rest of it. It's really quite clever.

• I'm not really into faux-finish painting, but I do like the way some of these finishes look when they are complete. I didn't use a sponge, like so many other people do. I used what I had on hand, and it really looks neat: I used a wadded-up piece of canvas tarp. I did the walls in our guest bathroom first. It looked so good that I did it in the breakfast room, too. I plan to do a wall in the kitchen to go with it. I just washed the tarp when I was finished with it, and I'll be able to use it again.

• I gave my old spice rack to my daughter to hang in her room. She keeps all of her nail polish on it. It's easy to see and pick out just the right shade. There's even room for a small cup, which she uses to hold clippers, files and other small items. It's the perfect organizer for a girl's room or bathroom. It would be great for makeup or bath products, too.

Shoptalk

• We always recommend safety glasses to protect your eyes, and the new 3M TEKK Protective Forceflex glasses are really top-notch. They are impact-resistant, have an anti-scratch coating and are actually comfortable to use. The secret is the flexible frame, which gives to prevent even high-impact damage, and the fact that the lenses are actually fused to the frames. Check it out on YouTube. They even protect your eyes from 99.9 percent of UV light. To find out more, go to www.3m.com. They are available at hardware stores and home centers now for all of your fall projects.

• Powering USB devices just got a whole lot easier, with the Power2U AC/USB Wall Outlet. It's an easy change-out for most do-it-yourselfers, and it fits right were a standard wall receptacle/electrical outlet goes. It offers two regular electrical outlets along with two USB 3.0/2.0 ports. The spring-loaded safety shutters on the USB ports eliminate the energy flow when not being used. Charge your phones, iPads, MP3 players and all other similar devices for less than $25. To find out more, go to www.newertech.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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