Water is a valuable resource, and in many parts of the country, drought conditions make it even more precious. Here are some tips to help you conserve more water around your home, and cut your utility costs at the same time.
• Use water-restrictive shower nozzles and faucets wherever you can inside and outside the home. These can be very inexpensive and easy to install.
• Limit shower times, washer times and even dishwasher times. Again, this can cut your water usage a lot.
• Check and repair hoses, faucets and valves that leak. Give yourself the peace of mind that properly repaired water lines can give you.
• If you use an automatic irrigation system, give it a test and check it periodically to make sure you are not wasting water. Set small containers in the yard to see what your water coverage is, at current settings. Then adjust your timer down if you can. The experts tell us that watering longer and deeper, less often, is the smart way to water for a healthy landscape. Adjust heads so they are not watering sidewalks and driveways too. If you don't have a rain sensor yet, install one so you won't be watering while it's raining! Drip irrigation is the best method of watering, so make the switch if it's an option.
• And, speaking of your landscape: Choose plants that are adapted to your area, because they usually will do better in your climate and require less care, including water.
• Add a rain barrel to your landscape and use rainwater on your landscape. It's free, and probably healthier, too.
• If you suspect a leak but don't see one, you can confirm it by keeping a close eye on your water meter. Remove the cover and note the dial reading. Make sure everything that uses water in your home is shut off, and then check it again in about a half-hour to see if the reading has changed.
• Don't forget to check bathrooms that are rarely used in case they might be leaking while you are not watching them.
• Look for other ways you can conserve water around your home. It's the right thing to do, and you'll save money on utility bills each month, too.
Put a stop to deck-damaging patio furniture
If your metal patio furniture doesn't have rubber tips on the bottom of the legs, go to your hardware store and buy some. These are great at protecting your deck, avoiding that screeching sound when you move the furniture and preventing rust stains on the patio. Our tip for this is to put a small metal washer down inside the rubber tip before putting it on the legs. It needs to be placed flat down into the bottom of the tip. Then the legs will sit on the washer and not the actual rubber. This will keep the metal legs from pushing through the rubber tip as quickly and help it last longer.
A fix that's a real hole-in-one
When you have a screw that has become loose in wood, then you have a couple of options. You can try a bigger screw, which may hold for a while, but the best way to fix the situation on a more permanent basis is to plug the hole with better wood. Grab a golf tee and drive it into the hole. Most golf tees are made of strong wood and are slightly tapered and will fit most common screw holes. Put a little wood glue in first, and give it time to set up before trimming the tee off level with the rest of the wood. Now you can take a Mulligan and start over with that screw.
• To make sure your refrigerator gasket seals the door properly, clean the surface regularly and wipe a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the gasket each time. This will ensure the tightest closure to keep the cool in and the heat out.
• Stripping paint isn't that hard, especially with all of the products available to make it easier. But getting the last of it out of small cracks and crevices still is a challenge. Wrap some dental floss with a little steel wool, and pull it back and forth through these areas to grab and pull the paint out.
Q. I want to repaint the shutters on my house. I will be taking them down next week to do so and, after cleaning them, I'm not sure what else to do. They are made of some type of plastic, maybe vinyl. What kind of paint will I need to get? Is there anything else I need to do?
A. You'll do best to scuff-sand them first so the paint will "stick." Use a primer made for vinyl and then you can use any good exterior paint. Don't cut corners on a project like this. I'm sure taking them down and putting them back up is going to be a tough job. Good luck!
Q. I have noticed that I am getting hot and cold air coming in through the stairway to the attic that is in my front hallway. Is there some sort of sealer that one can use on these ceiling doorways?
A. You can install regular door weatherstripping on this doorway. Even the foam kind will help. You can staple batting to the doorway inside the attic. There also are several contraptions that you can install in the attic that act as a weatherization for these doors. One is called the Attic Tent, available online. Check online or at your hardware store to see what it has. It is a good idea to take care of this air leak and save money on your utility bills.
Q. My front walkway has rust stains on it. I was told by my son that it might be caused by my choice of fertilizer. It does have iron in it, but really, can it be the cause?
A. Yes. Really. Fertilizer that contains iron can cause rust stains on many surfaces. You'll need to use a chemical rust remover, being careful not to damage lawn or plants in the area. Once the rust is gone, you can use a water sealer on the concrete to prevent future stains.
• I try to recycle whatever the city allows us to. I have set up several bins in my garage for various items so I can keep them separated. Most are picked up by the trash service once a month, but others can be taken in periodically to the main disposal site. As an added bonus, I have discovered that I can get into these recycling bins and re-use some of these items in my shop and home. Dispenser bottles for mayonnaise and mustard are great for hand cleaner and soap. Other items can be used to mix things like glue and paint in. When I'm finished, they can go right back into the recycling bins.
• The rust stains on my patio are not new, and I have to admit that I don't even notice them anymore. I think they came from a metal plant stand that we used to have, and it just rusted onto the concrete. I got some salt and lemon juice and scrubbed at the stain. It came out in just a few minutes. I was surprised at how easily it actually was. I am going to use them on another rust stain that I have on the side of my house. My air conditioner leaked last summer.
• We don't have to refill our propane tank very often, but it's pretty heavy, so we have to carry it together to the store. I have found that it will fit perfectly in a plastic milk crate. This makes it much easier to carry with the handles on the sides. It also keeps it from rolling around in the back of my SUV during transport.
• Our metal porch railing is really decorative, so painting it was going to be a chore. I found the right paint and was looking for a good brush when I fount the paint mitt. What a brilliant idea. You put the mitt on your hand, dip it in the paint and then use it to apply the paint. It's very pliable, so you can grab the railings and decorations and get really good coverage without a lot of mess. I was even able to wash it out, and I will be able to use it in a few more years when it's time to paint again. It was so easy.
• My new gas can isn't very helpful at hitting the gas tank on my mower without making a mess. So, I made a funnel from an old plastic, 2-liter soda bottle. I just cut the bottle in half and, with the top removed, it makes a great funnel when turned upside down. Sometimes I keep them, but usually I put them back in the bin and grab another one when I need to fill the mower again.
• I am trying to get my house ready to sell and was trying to update the older brass doorknobs. I found some nickel-finish spray paint at my hardware store. I didn't even take the doorknobs off; I just placed masking tape around them. I can't tell you what a difference it has made. I also plan to paint the towel and toilet-tissue rods and other hardware around house to match. It does look upgraded.
• Baking soda isn't just for baking. 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." Check www.thesuperhandyman.com for even more tips and information, and feel free to ask us questions if you need more advice.
• The PowerFlex System from Amdro makes controlling insects and weeds easy. You just fill the base with water and load the pre-filled canister into the sprayer and get to work. The sprayer works effortlessly to put the material right where you want it without dripping or spilling. There are four different formulas for pests and weeds indoors and out, and all you need to do to change to a different formula is pull one cartridge out and insert a new one. Check it out at your Home Depot and give it a shot! We did, and it was FUN!
• If you have a busy kitchen, then a knife sharpener is a good tool to have on hand. The Chef's Choice Professional Sharpening Station works on a variety of blades, is easy to operate and does an excellent job, even on serrated blades. It's a three-step process and gives you superior results on these blades, as well as sport and pocket knives. You'll get a better-than-factory edge every time. Check it out at www.chefschoice.com. There also are other models available, and you can find the location of the nearest dealer.
• 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.