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posted: 2/22/2013 2:10 AM

Brighten up your home with wallpaper

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A little bit of wallpaper can go a long way toward making a bold statement in your home. Most DIY'ers have done a room or two in wallpaper. It's kind of fun, but you usually have to use the more subdued patterns. However, for smaller projects, you can go bolder.

Here are some items we've covered with wallpaper:

• You can do just one wall in a room. Cover the wall behind a bed, either "headboard" size or do the whole wall.

• Cover the wall your fireplace is on to accent the area even more.

• If you have a chair rail in your dining room, do the area below the rail or use wallpaper to fill in the trimmed areas.

• Cover a light switch. It's like wrapping a package. You also can do electrical outlets.

• You can use wallpaper to cover things like boxes to give your closets and office a customized look.

• Cover a brick or a block of wood and turn it into a decorative bookend.

• Use wallpaper to line drawers or shelves. You also can do the inside back of a shelf or cabinet.

• Frame scraps to create art for your walls. If you have a plain piece of canvas or a print, wrap the wallpaper around it and tape it in place before putting it back into the frame. When you want to change it out, you can just unwrap it.

• You can make place mats out of wallpaper. Cover an old place mat or a piece of cardboard.

• By the way, use wallpaper paste when gluing the wallpaper to most surfaces. If it's pre-pasted, like most wallpaper, go ahead and put it in water just like you would for doing a whole wall. This softens it up and gives you the best adhesion. Use sharp scissors or a knife to trim it.

• You may come up with your own super ideas. If so, email us through our website,, and we'll share it. Have fun and get creative!

Circuit breaker idea

You should always make sure your circuit breaker box is easy to access. You never know when you may need to reach it. Most of the time, it is located in a garage or closet. But in some homes, they put it right in the front hallway or some other place where you don't want to see the thing. Cover it up with artwork. Just find a great framed piece of art and attach a piano hinge to the back of it, then to the wall. This will cover the panel when you are not using it, but will easily swing out of the way when you need to open it up to take a look at things. If your artwork is lightweight, you might even be able to use Velcro to hang it.

Use leftover gutters

With all the rain many parts of the country have received during the past few months, guttering is more important than ever. In making sure you keep yours in good shape, you may have ended up with some leftovers. They are great for keeping things organized in your workshop or garage. Put them on the wall to hold long, thin materials, like molding or pipe. If you put end caps on them, you can store tools and hardware in them. Small sections can be attached over your workbench or right to a pegboard wall. Keep a scrap in your garden shed to store tools in.

Super hints

• Put a strip of colored electrical tape around the handles of your tools to let others in your family know where the tools belong. One color means they belong in the workshop, another means they can be kept indoors. This system works for lots of the things in a busy house, too.

• I love twinkle lights, and have them in my garden room and on my patio just for fun. I bought a small package of seashells and glued them to the plastic light sockets. The shell lights really look cute, and I like that they are customized. You could do the same things with glass beads or flowers.

• If your old threshold isn't doing enough to keep drafts out of your house, add a door sweep. These are inexpensive, and they are easy to add to the bottom of most doors, and will take up the slack of a damaged or old threshold.

Q. We have dark-wood paneling in our family room. I plan to paint it a light yellow, and am wondering what I need to do to cover the dark wood. What do you recommend?

A. Scuff-sand the paneling first. Then apply a good-quality primer to cover the wood. Then you can use any paint over that with good results. You might not even need two coats.

Q. We have older fluorescent fixtures in our kitchen. I don't mind them, but the color they put off is kind of harsh. Are there other light bulbs one can use.

A. They do make bulbs that put off a "warmer" color. That might work for you. Fluorescent fixtures are a little dated, so you might consider replacing the old lights with some modern fixtures.

Q. I tried doing soldering to repair a leak at my water heater. I didn't do a very good job and ended up having to call a plumber to do the repairs. What tips do you have that might help me get a better seal?

A. There are a couple of things that can cause a soldering joint to fail. If there is any water present in the pipe, then it can prevent a good seal. An old trick is to push a wad of white bread up into the pipe to block water from coming into the area. It will dissolve once the water is back on. The pipe has to be smooth and perfectly rounded so clean it with sandpaper, both pieces to be soldered. Also make sure your flux is spread on both pieces. Keep practicing and you'll get it!

Reader tips

• My wife bought a "sweater dryer." I had never heard of such a thing, but she showed me how it works. You simply lay the sweaters on the flat surface and, because it's wire, it lets air through to dry the fabric. I improved it for her by setting a box fan on the bottom rack so that it was blowing up through the sweaters from the bottom. Now they dry a lot faster. She likes this setup even better.

• Our kitchen is small so storage space is always an issue. We installed a couple of nice slide-out trays in a couple of the cabinets, but can't afford to do the whole kitchen. I got some nice plastic bins that fit into the cabinets. My wife put labels on them, and now we have our own version of slide-out boxes. It's a simple solution that works on a budget.

• I grabbed an old pump hand-soap dispenser from the recycling bin. I cleaned it out and then refilled it with waterless hand cleaner to use in my workshop. I know they sell containers like this just for the shop, but they cost too much, and I already had a large container of the stuff. Anyway, it's very handy in the shop.

• I used vinegar to thoroughly clean out my dishwasher. After that, I decided to mess it up again by putting some of my dirty tools in it to be cleaned. They were greasy and the dishwasher did a great job of cleaning them up. It didn't mess up the dishwasher, either, so now I have a clean dishwasher and clean tools. There are some things you can't wash in a dishwasher, but it's great for cleaning dirty, greasy tools, even if they are from the workshop and not the kitchen.

• I made some really neat bells for my back patio. I got a wine bottle that was a pretty color. Then I used a glass cutter to score the bottle and cut off the bottom of it. I sanded the edges smooth. Then I got a nice shell and put it on the end of a long piece of decorative cord. I drilled a hole in the cork of the bottle and threaded the cord through the cork. I pushed the cork into the top of the bottle, tying knots in the cord on both sides of the cork. The shell is the "clapper," and the bell hangs by the cord from a hook.


• 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. This info and more is on

• If you are looking for a super-quick, super-easy and super-looking window covering, you need to check out SimpleFit Cellular Shades. Cellular shades offer extra insulation for most windows and these shades come in a variety of styles (bottom-up, top-down, light-filtering, sun-blocking), and colors -- as well as sizes. But the cool thing about these shades is the way they install. No tools are required. A peel-and-stick pad is located on each end to get you started. Once in place, you deploy the trigger, located on the end, which activates a hidden tension rod that holds the shade in place so it will never fall down. It's amazing how simple it is to install. Go to their website,, and see for yourself. You can see all the options available there as well.

• If you are a fan of Liquid Nails, like we are, you'll love Fuzz-It Adhesive. It's a new multi-surface, all-weather adhesive that comes in a ready-to-use tube that is resealable. It works on wood, ceramic tile, drywall, fiberglass, marble, granite and more. It cures easily in most conditions (-60 to 300 degrees) and is waterproof, won't harden and won't shrink. Check it out at www. or at your favorite hardware store or home center.

• 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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