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posted: 3/8/2013 3:54 AM

Keep your garage door on the right track

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It's more common than not to have an automatic garage door opener these days. They sure make life easier. All you have to do is push a button to open and close it, and you can stay warm and dry in your car. We get so used to it that it's really inconvenient when it won't work right.

Here are some tips you can try to keep your garage door working smoothly every time you need it:

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First of all, as with so many other projects, cleaning everything is the first step. Start with the door itself. Use mild, soapy water and a sponge to clean the surface, inside and out. Then rinse it off and let it dry.

Clean the track with a dry paintbrush to remove dust, dirt and other debris. Use a silicone lubricant, available at hardware stores, to keep the track in good shape.

The doors usually have hinges and rollers for the tracks. Clean these and apply the silicone grease to them as well. If you see any rust spots, you should replace the rusted parts.

Inspect springs, cables and other parts for wear and repair, or replace them as soon as you spot any problems.

There are several different types of automatic garage door openers, so each will have specific maintenance tips to follow. If you don't have the owner's manual for your unit, go online and find it. Most are free and invaluable.

These instructions will help you adjust the closing and opening tension so that it is set properly. You also will be instructed on how to test the automatic safety backup feature. Make sure it is functioning properly at all times. Never bypass the electric eyes or any other safety features.

Add-ons for garage doors include rubber thresholds, weatherstripping and insulation. All of these will keep your garage cleaner and more comfortable year-round.

Do this once or twice a year to keep your garage door on the right track.

Stop paint splatters

If you just came home from the paint store, your paint probably is mixed up pretty well already. But if not, you will need to take a few extra minutes to do the job yourself. You want to mix it thoroughly. There are some great tools you can add to your power drill to get the job done. We suggest installing a shield around the top of the paint can to keep the paint from splattering when you are using a power-stirring device. A simple "collar" can be cut from a scrap of cardboard or a plastic milk jug, and fastened around the top of the paint can with a rubber band or some masking tape. It will keep the paint in the can!

Grab nails easily

The hammer "claw" is called a claw because it is made to grab nail heads and pull them out. But, as your hammer ages, these claws dull. The edges, when dulled, have more trouble grabbing the nails. You can sharpen the edges of the claw with a metal file and improve your grabbing abilities. It will only take a few minutes and really helps a lot. Give it a shot and see for yourself.

Super hints

• Test automatic irrigation systems once a month to make sure all heads are operating properly. Make adjustments or replacements where needed. Wasting water is a finable offense in some communities. You'll save water and your landscape by doing this periodically.

• Tomatoes have a lot of acid in them, and can be pretty effective at cleaning copper pots and pans. It sounds kind of crazy, but it actually works. You can use tomato paste or even ketchup. I like to use what I am throwing away after dinner on some nights. I call this recycling!

• Ever get down to the end of the tube of caulk and wish you just had a couple more inches? Well, try backing the caulking-gun plunger back out and placing a scrap of wood between it and the end of the tube so you can get that last inch or so out. It works!

Q. We have had a problem in our home with the high ceilings making it difficult to keep the rooms comfortable when it's really cold or really hot. Rather than rework our whole system, is there any way to help circulate the air better in homes with tall ceilings?

A. If you don't have ceiling fans, you could add them. They will be very helpful in moving the heated or cooled air around the rooms in a more efficient way. The only other option you would have would be to add vents to your existing system that will service these high ceilings.

Q. We have what is called "popcorn" ceilings. How are you supposed to clean these?

A. Most people dust them to keep them clean. As you may already know, just touching them can cause the popcorn to come down. Some people have tried using a hair dryer or vacuum, put on "reverse" to blow the dust off the surface. Of course, that can get even messier if you are not careful. One of these days, you might consider removing it permanently to avoid these issues.

Q. We put a rolled vinyl floor in our mudroom. I can see and feel a bubble just under the surface right in the center of the floor. What can I do to press it back into place?

A. Try applying heat, maybe with a hair dryer, and see if that will activate the adhesive again. Put something heavy on the spot to press it back down. If that doesn't work, you can make a tiny hole in the center of the bubble, let the air out and use a syringe to put more adhesive into the area, then apply weight and press the area back down. Finally, apply a seam sealer to seal up the hole. Good luck.

Reader tips

• I ordered some really neat New Orleans-style railings for my front porch. I had to drill into the patio to install them, and I learned to use water on the drill bit to keep it from getting too hot as it was boring into the concrete. It took some time, but worked and the railings are in place now. They look amazing!

• We have a dog run along the side of our house. There is a fence about 6 feet away from the side of the house that runs the whole length, about 30 feet. I installed a gate at the end and covered the whole area with shade cloth. The shade cloth was inexpensive to buy at a local greenhouse and easy to put up. It will keep Sonny from getting too hot during our summertime. I might get some more of this and install it over our porch, too. I think it would really help there as well.

• My wife likes to feed the birds with veggie scraps. I keep telling her that she also is feeding the local rats and other vermin. We compromised so we can both have our way. I nailed a pie tin to the top of one of our fence posts. The birds still can reach the scraps, but the other critters can't -- at least, so far. I know she likes to care for the birds, but I may have to take it down during the summer. I'm sure we'll have it back up for next winter, though.

• I bought a heavy-duty case for my new phone. It's shockproof -- but not waterproof. I accidentally dropped it into a small pond and had to dry it out. Fortunately, it worked, and it's still working. But now I keep it in a sealable plastic bag when I have it outside and am working in or around my pond or pool. This way, I'm protected on both counts!

• I bought an old metal coffee table to go with my patio set. It didn't match colorwise, but the style was similar. I bought some brown spray paint and painted everything the same color. Now it all is the same color and, with the new cushions, it's almost like a whole new complete set of patio furniture. I can't believe I almost bought new furniture this year. I think it will last at least a couple more years now.

Shoptalk

• Baking soda isn't just for baking anymore. As a matter of fact, it can be used for all sorts of things in the shop and home. Baking soda doesn't cost very much, and just about everybody has a box or two in the house, so why not use it to its full potential? We have put together a list of some of our favorite uses, "Get Cooking with Baking Soda," at www.thesuperhandyman.com. Feel free to email us some of your favorite uses, and we'll add them to our list.

• Concrete is a wonderful material for repairs and projects. It's inexpensive and widely available, and you don't need a lot of skill or tools to use it. Quikrete has a new book out full of fun projects that you might want to try. The "Guide to Concrete" tells you what you need to know to tackle everything from a basic sidewalk repair to building a stone fireplace for your patio. The book goes through all of the steps, fully illustrated, with super tips and techniques on doing it right and as easily as possible. You'll get some inspiration too and, with a little practice, you'll be building permanent structures that you can be proud of around your home. Look for it at your home center and at bookstores. For more information, visit www.quikrete.com.

• If you have standard spray heads on your automatic irrigation system and would prefer more of a drip-style watering, you can exchange this standard spray head for a drip head through RainBird. The Drip Emitter Conversion Kit contains everything you need to change out the head. All you have to do is unscrew the old head and put this one on. The new head has six "ports," which you can add flexible hoses to, as well as emitters that gently drip the water out where you need it, without wasting any more water. It even comes with stakes so you can put the emitters right where you need them. We have used these in our own landscape and are thrilled with the results and ease of installation. For more information and other neat options, visit www.rainbird.com. You can see what they have to offer and find a retailer near you.

• 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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