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posted: 11/9/2012 4:07 AM

Super handyman: Tips for having a productive home office

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Working from home is fairly normal for a lot of us. If you have an office away from home, telecommuting is so easy that many people work from home at least once a week, even more so in bad weather. The key to success in this realm is having an organized work space. Here are some super tips to get you started.

You don't need a lot of room for a home office, but you do need a dedicated area. Choose an area that is away from household noise and distractions.

You can "create" space by adding cabinets and shelves. Start with a desk, and build out from there. If you need a flat surface to work on, then you'll need a table rather than a desk, or maybe both.

A lot depends upon the materials you need to do your job. If you work with a lot of hard-copy files, then you'll need file cabinets. There are lots of cabinets available at your home center. You can buy them unfinished and paint them whatever color you like. Just think about your needs before making your purchase.

You also need electricity and Internet service. One way to add additional outlets to your work space is by adding power strips. This also enables you to shut down the operation with the flip of a single switch at the end of the day. If you already have Internet service to your home but no outlet in the room, a wireless router can be added so that no additional wiring is needed. You also may need to have an additional phone line, just for work.

Lighting is something that many people overlook. Make sure you have plenty.

Try to set up regular office hours that you work. This will help you stay on task and prevent distractions during the average workday.

"Casual Fridays" take on a whole new meaning when working from home. Choose pajamas that are more comfortable on Fridays!

Here's an easy way to lubricate sticky locks

The best lubricant for a lock is graphite. You can buy it at your hardware store, or just make it yourself. Grab a pencil and run it back and forth across the teeth of the key. This puts some graphite from the pencil right on the part of the key that will get into the lock and lubricate the moving parts that the key will come into contact with. Push the key in and out a couple of times to help distribute the graphite. It's a simple trick that works pretty well.

Broom clips can hold more than just brooms

Broom clips are brilliant for holding brooms, but they can hold a lot more than that. If you aren't sure what we are referring to, it's a single friction clip that is a cinch to mount on a wall and can be used to hold a broom handle for easy storage. You also can use these to hold garden tools. You can store some hand tools in them, too. Placed horizontally, side by side, several inches apart, you can use them to hold a single dowel and hang several tools or items from the dowel rod (similar to a towel rod). Place them on a utility room wall, garage wall or in your garden shed, or even right on the side of your workbench!

Super hints

• Ink stains or markings on items around the house can easily be dissolved with ordinary alcohol. Rubbing alcohol probably is something you have around, but any kind of alcohol will work.

• A Tip From the Super HandyMom -- I don't really like cleaning the shower, but I also hate a dirty shower. Once I get all the stains off the glass sides, I apply Rain-X. It's the same stuff you use on your car windows to repel rain. It works great, applied the same way, to your glass shower walls and door. This will keep them cleaner longer, and you can do other chores. Oh boy.

• The average garage or storage shed doesn't offer much protection from moisture during a cold winter. Always lubricate your tools before storing them. This will ensure a longer, rust-free lifetime!

Q: In our community, we have hard water. It has a lot of minerals in it, and they have caused my bathtub and shower walls to have stains on them. I can't find any way to clean them off. What can I use?

A. You can purchase chemicals at your hardware store, like CLR, that will help, but these can be costly. We would suggest using household vinegar, heated in a saucepan. It's a very inexpensive way to clean off mineral stains. It actually dissolves mineral deposits, so it's also good for cleaning shower heads and other areas affected by these issues.

Q. I accidentally used a caulk that can't be painted, and I need to try to do so. Is there a type of paint that will work on this type of caulk? I don't want to have to remove it and reapply more!

A. You can apply a primer and usually get the paint to stick to that. You also can go back over the caulk with a thin layer of paintable caulk. Of course, any spots that you miss with the second layer won't hold the paint well.

Q. We have a skylight that leaks. We've caulked every place we can find, but it still leaks. What else can we do?

A. Unfortunately, they do tend to leak eventually, so you're not alone. Check the flashing or gaskets that were originally used. If they are old, they may need to be replaced. We would suggest removing all of the caulk and starting with the flashing/gasket first. You always can add more flashing if you feel like what you have isn't enough or right for your style roofing. Then you can caulk again. If you don't feel like you can solve the problem, call a roofer and get the job done right. It should last a long time, and you won't have to worry about it for a while!

Reader tips

• We saved up our money for wood floors and were so disappointed to find that we didn't have enough for the whole installation. We decided to do some of the work ourselves. We originally had carpet, so we used a carpet knife to cut it into 3-foot-wide strips. Then we rolled up each section and started carrying it outside for the trash men to pick up. In no time at all, we had all of the old carpet and padding outside at the curb. We also pried up the tack strips and threw them away. Then we vacuumed. We saved so much that we were able to get our beautiful wood floors. They are spectacular, and the work we did was worth it.

• I admit it. I'm a part-time grease monkey. I love working on cars, and I have a couple of them that I'm restoring right now. I buy waterless hand cleaner by the gallon, and I think it's the best thing to use to get grease off your hands. It's also great for getting grease out of your clothes. If you just rub a little of the cleaner into the grease spots on your jeans and shirts, it will come out in the wash. Try it and see. You'll be amazed. You might decide to restore a car yourself one of these days!

• I have always dreamed of having a lawn vacuum, especially at this time of year, but they are too costly for me. I have found a great blower that also doubles as a vacuum. It has a collection bag, and, although it doesn't hold as many leaves, it does pick them up and even grinds them on the way to the bag, which means it can hold more leaves. As a bonus, I can put these leaves into my compost pile; they are shredded and ready to go to work.

• I replaced the bad bulbs in my landscape lights and painted a few that were starting to peel. I even moved a couple and added a new spotlight. But I wanted to test them and didn't want to wait for it to get dark (and cold!), so I covered the electric eye (dusk-to-dawn sensor) with masking tape. In just a few seconds, the lights came on and I got my test. All is well, and the lights look great every night (from INSIDE the house!).

• My dad made a table for me years ago. It's never been stained, but I wanted to do that. I called him to find out what to use, and he taught me a valuable lesson: He told me to sand it all over before staining it. I did, and the staining looks great. My sister showed me a similar table that she had tried to stain, without sanding it first. The oils of years of use made spots where the stain didn't penetrate. I'm so glad I sanded first, because this table means a lot to me.


• Ho, ho, ho! Would you like to make a nifty Christmas gift for the home? Wind chimes add a touch of music to your deck or patio. We've got plans for a set of wind chimes made from electrical conduit (pipe), which is easy to cut and not very expensive. The other parts are available at your favorite hardware place ... or, you may have 'em leftover from another project. Visit our website,, for more tips and projects!

• The folks who make Gorilla Glue also make a super-tough tape. Gorilla Tape has a heavy-duty backing that can take a beating; a double-thick adhesive to grip smooth, rough and uneven surfaces, something most other tapes can't do; and a rugged outer shell that will withstand moisture, UV rays and temperature extremes and will outlast most of the other tapes on the market. They even make it in an extra-wide (3-inch) roll as well as the standard 1-inch-wide roll. Check it out at your hardware store. To find out more about this or any of the other Gorilla products, go to

• Krylon has come up with an Indoor/Outdoor Plastic Primer. You can apply it to a wide variety of plastic surfaces, and it will enable the surface to accept just about any paint you want to use. Because it's a spray, it goes on quickly and dries quickly so you can get to the real fun of your painting project. It's tough enough to use on outdoor furniture, garden items and lots of outdated plastic items. Check it out at and at your paint, hardware or hobby store.

• 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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