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posted: 4/5/2013 3:56 AM

Spruce up your deck or patio for spring

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It might not seem like springtime to some of you, but it is. Time for those spring-cleaning projects. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, then cleaning up a deck or patio is a priority.

Here are the steps we suggest you take to get the job done so you'll be ready for that first family barbecue.

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Start by taking everything off the surface. Once that's done, you can clean the deck or patio. A power washer will do a good job on just about any surface. Use the recommended cleaners for your washer. For stubborn stains, you can spot clean with bleach, TSP or other cleaners made for specific stains.

Concrete surfaces might benefit from a water seal, which can be sprayed on fairly easily to protect the surface from stains and moisture damage.

Decks might look better with some stain or paint. Make sure they are dry and prepped properly for the best results.

Before moving furniture and other things back onto the surface, give them a thorough cleaning. Add rubber or plastic "feet" to your furniture pieces to keep them from scratching or rusting on your patio or deck. Paint rusty areas.

Clean and ready your grill. If it drips grease, consider adding a mat under it to keep it from soiling your patio or deck. A nice cover won't cost you much and can protect your grill when you are not using it.

If you place potted plants on your patio, use feet or trays to keep water from pooling on the surface and leaving mold or mildew behind. Plastic trays work better than clay because they are not porous.

Make sure to switch old light bulbs out to LED or CFL bulbs. They last longer and use less electricity. You can add more lights if you don't have enough. You can purchase nice-looking floor and table lamps these days that are made to use outdoors and can stand up to the weather nicely.

Do a little light cleaning once a month or so, and your patio or deck will be ready for all of your family get-togethers all summer long!

Roll away messes

A lint roller is something we rarely use, at least for removing lint from our fancy clothes. As you can imagine, we don't wear a lot of dark suits or velvet jackets. But a sticky lint roller doesn't have to be retired. They are great for cleaning your car seats and carpet, and can be used to clean dust out of a drawer. You can use them to pick up small hardware that has been spilled. Clean a freshly sanded piece of furniture without stirring up a lot of dust that will settle back on top of the piece. These also are great for cleaning up craft-project fallout, like glitter and sequins.

Stick to glue

For joining wood together, glue is a good choice, especially for sheet materials. You'll want to make sure to press the pieces together tightly and use clamps to keep them that way until the glue has dried. You'll also want to make sure to wipe off the glue that squeezes out along the edges. If you plan to paint or stain, this will be very important. One way to prevent glue absorption along the edges as it squeezes out is to mask off these areas before you clamp them together. Then you can just pull the tape and glue off when you have a chance. This also is a good way to keep your caulking mess to a minimum.

Super hints

• Pour a cup of liquid laundry bleach into your air conditioner drain pan. It will dissolve the fungus and keep it from clogging and backing up onto your floors or secondary drain pan.

• Wicker furniture looks really neat on a patio, but you have to take care of it a little more than the plastic or metal stuff. Clean it with warm, soapy water and let it dry in the sun. Then apply a little oil to the finish to keep it from drying out. If it's a little saggy, the sun will usually tighten it up while it's drying. Bring it in during bad weather, and it should give you many years of good use and good looks.

• If you haven't sealed your granite in more than a year, do so. Sealers are available at most hardware stores and are easy to apply. Just make sure the counter is spotless and completely dust-free when applying.

Q. I have noticed that the lid of the dishwasher detergent dispenser of my dishwasher doesn't open all the time. Is there anything I can do to get it working again?

A. Try using warm vinegar on the hinges and catch. If it's working some of the time, then it's probably clogged with old soap or mineral deposits. That should take care of the problem.

Q. I have replaced a part of our ceiling that was damaged from a leaky roof. I put the drywall up but can't figure out how to get that "popcorn" look that the rest of the ceiling still has. How do you do that?

A. The easiest way is to buy it pre-mixed in a can or a bucket. The can is easy to spray onto the ceiling and the larger amount in the bucket spreads on. It's a little messy, so spread dropcloths around where you are working. It's easy to use, and you should get good results.

Q. I have some stains on my bathroom counter that were made years ago by cigarettes. I have tried most bathroom cleaners but have been afraid to use abrasives or stronger cleaners just yet. Is there anyway to remove them? The counter is a fake marble surface. What should I use?

A. Make a paste with cream of tartar (a cooking spice) and household hydrogen peroxide and cover each spot with this. Check after an hour or two to see if it's working. If it is, leave it on the spots overnight. If the surface is dark, do a test spot first to prevent too much bleaching. If that doesn't work, email us again and we'll try something else. Good luck!

Reader tips

• The old mantle for our fireplace was very sturdy and very plain. Our decor is sort of woodsy, but I never could find a mantle that went with the style, so it's just been bare for a while. Finally we got some rough timber that we wanted to use. We glued three pieces together to make it bulkier. To get the glue spread evenly over the large surface, I used a paint roller. It made the spreading easier over the rough surface and I got great coverage. It is up and looks magnificent. It really goes well with the rest of the rugged furnishings.

• I found a mesh laundry bag that we have used to keep delicates from getting destroyed in our heavy-duty washing machine. I rarely use it, so I thought we might get rid of it. My daughter wanted it to use for washing plastic baby items in the dishwasher. She can put toys, pacifiers, spoons, bowls, lids and lots of other small items into the bag, set the bag in the top shelf of the dishwasher and do a load of wash. These items stay in the bag and get cleaned without falling down into the bottom of the dishwasher and becoming ruined or damaged. She's smart and, I guess, takes after her mother!

• Our city just passed out some new trash cans for us to use for trash pickups. They are really heavy duty and large. Unfortunately, I just bought new trash containers that I've only been using a short time. I decided to turn them into compost makers, and they are working quite well. The first thing I did was to drill holes along the sides of the cans. I fill them with grass clippings, leaves, veggie scraps and shredded newspapers. Every week, I lay the cans down and roll them to mix up the compost. The compost should be ready in a week or so. The cans are great and keep the area clean, too.

• The old wallpaper in our bathroom came down pretty easily except for a couple of spots. To get it down, we mixed dishwashing liquid and hot water together and wiped it over the wallpaper spots that wouldn't come loose. After only a short time, the paper started to bubble up and come loose. It was really easy then, and we textured and painted the walls. They look so much better with just paint on them.

• My husband and I replaced the steps on our deck and some of the other wood also. It was hard to do, but I learned a lot and the deck looks really nice now. We put hinges on the steps and can now store things under the deck in this area. It's great for some of the gardening tools and supplies and I plan to add some storage containers so I can put the cushions there during the off season. The garage gets too full of this stuff, and the added storage is great.

Shoptalk

• Keeping your knife blades sharp keeps them ready to use when you need them. We found a super universal sharpening system by Lansky that works on a wide variety of blades and is kind of fun to use. The setup is fairly simple but versatile enough to do a lot of different types of blades, including kitchen knives, pocket knives and even serrated blades. You get everything you need, including detailed instructions so that every blade in your arsenal will be honed to perfection. Find out more at www.lansky.com.

• If you plan to do drywall work, then you will have lots of sanding and dust in your future. But with the Vacuu-Sponge, you can eliminate most of it. The Vacuu-Sponge is a sanding sponge with a vacuum hose attached. The hose attaches easily to most standard shop vacuums and is long enough to do so without getting in the way. It will cut your sanding time and cleanup time in half! Check it out at www.sandlutions.com and watch the video.

• 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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