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posted: 5/24/2013 1:51 AM

Super handyman: Keeping mosquitoes at bay

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In many parts of the country, mosquitoes can be a real problem. They can cause diseases like West Nile virus and are just a real nuisance. We have some great tips that you can try to keep the population of mosquitoes, and other pests, down to a minimum.

• Mosquitoes need water, even a little bit, to breed. Make sure to limit standing water on your property. Areas where you might find standing water are in the trays around flower pots after a heavy rain or watering with a hose, bird baths, low spots on a sidewalk or driveway or areas in a yard where drainage is poor. Add drainage to these areas, if at all possible.

• Special mosquito "dunks" are small tablet-like devices, made of special material that contain a biological inhibitor that will kill breeding mosquitoes and their larva. They can be put in standing water and will not harm birds or fish.

• Another area where standing water can create a breeding ground is a clogged gutter. Clean out your gutters so they will not hold water.

• There are a lot of different insecticidal sprays that you can use. All offer temporary control and are satisfactory for short periods of time when you need to work outdoors.

• Citronella candles and oil lamps seem to help a little. The oils and incense versions won't blow out in the wind, so they are better in some situations.

• The best personal protection should contain DEET. You have to use caution when using it. Read and follow the package directions. They even make clothing with insecticide in the fabric. This is available at some sporting-goods stores.

• Wearing protective clothing, like long sleeves and long pants, will help keep them from biting, too.

• Most mosquitoes seem to be more active at dawn and dusk, so try to work around their schedule, if you can.

Skateboards can be handy in the shop

Neither one of us has been on a skateboard in a VERY long time! But a skateboard can be a great helper in the workshop, especially when you need to move a large piece of material, like a heavy sheet of plywood or a bag of concrete mix. Just set it on a skateboard and move it to the location where you will be working with it. Skateboards won't work for everything, but the way they can be steered just by leaning the material to one side or the other makes them perfect for this purpose. Give it a try.

Simple tip for removing stubborn screws

The other day, we had to remove a really stubborn screw, and it wouldn't budge. The only way to make any progress with it was to grab the shaft of the screwdriver with a pair of pliers, and turn the screwdriver and screw with the pliers. Finally, it loosened up and we could remove the screw. Try to remember this tip if, or when, this happens to you.

Super hints

• The rubber mulch mats that are made to fit around trees really keep the weeds down, so you don't have to use a weed whacker around them. If you cut them into smaller pieces, they can be made to fit around your shrubs as well and, again, no weed whacking will be required.

• The old screen doors used to have exposed springs on them so they would close automatically. But you still can have that automatic door closer by installing a spring hinge. You would just replace a standard hinge with one of these, and the built-in spring will close your door for you. If you're lucky, you still can enjoy that screen-door-spring-closing sound that we grew up with -- minus the pinched fingers!

• Replacing patio furniture can be very expensive. If all you need to do is make repairs or paint, do that instead and save a bundle. Replacing the chair webbing is easy, and it comes in tons of colors. Or you can add new cushions.

Q. My countertops are wooden and very old. I'm told that they are better than granite, but I'm not sure why. I know I have to clean them often. I would like to know how to get rid of the stains that have built up on them through the years. What should I use?

A. Bleach is a good way to clean and disinfect the surface. Once it's clean, see if it is rough. If so, sanding might be required. You can finish it off with a rubdown with mineral oil. Wipe off any excess. This will help protect it from future stains.

Q. I was considering putting up some reflective window film, but was wondering if it would really make a difference. I've also heard it is hard to take down. What do you think?

A. It does a satisfactory job and is fairly easy to install. If you follow the directions and you use their particular remover, it will be easier to take down if you ever decide to. Most brands are not recommended for double-paned windows.

Q. We have a great pedestal sink, but it's yellow and I want to try painting it. What do I need to know? What type of paint will last the longest?

A. Epoxy paint is what you need to use. You need to read the directions carefully first. It's very important to get the best results. It's a little time-consuming, but it's the best option.

Reader tips

• I had to do a repair in my bathroom after fixing a water leak. The drywall got wet up to about 4 inches, so I cut it out and replaced that part of the wall. I needed to do the texturing and painting in a hurry, so I started the process. After two coats of texture, I was starting to run out of time. I set up a box fan in the doorway and turned it on. I came back after only about an hour and it was dry enough to paint over. I got the trim up the next day after work, so I didn't go too much over my "weekend project."

• We often use our ceiling fan during the summer to keep us cool and so we can use our air conditioner less often. This year it had started to make a squeaking noise. I got out the manual, and it's supposed to be a self-oiling fan. I decided to use a squirt or two of oil on the fan motor even though it said I wouldn't need to. Sure enough, it stopped squeaking. Maybe we used up all of the original oil. All I know is that I can still be cool, and without all the squeaking!

• This past fall, we bought a pressure washer. We have used it on the driveway but nothing else. We decided to try using it to wash the house before painting. Wow! It was amazing. It took off all the dirt, plus a lot of the old paint that we thought we would have to sand or scrape off. It has saved us a lot of time and effort. I'm going to do the deck next. I can't wait!

• My wife has a couple of cats. I am not really a "cat person," but I love my wife, so I put up with the cats. I finally found a great way to get all of the hair off my couch. I just use a damp sponge to wipe it off. It really works quickly, and usually in just one swipe. I keep a sponge around just for this. If only I could train the cats to do it ... but you know cats!

• My appliances are all white, except for the new dishwasher that we had to buy to replace our old, broken-down unit. The new one has a black finish on the front, but I was told that I could change it out to a white. I wasn't sure what they were talking about, but they said everything I need is all in the box. I had to get out the instructions, and finally realized that I could just loosen the screws on the front panels and pull the covers off and turn them around. They were white on the back side. That's so cool. I never knew they would do that.


• If you have spent a lot of time and money getting a piece of furniture to the stage where it's ready for a good finish, don't forget to clean it thoroughly with a tack rag. This special rag will remove any dust left over from sanding or just from sitting in your shop or garage while you work. You can buy tack rags if you like, but you also can make them fairly easily yourself. For faster instructions, download them off our new website,

• JHandles make carrying sheet materials like drywall and paneling a lot easier. They easily lock on to these materials (without a lot of maneuvering) and create a great handle to make carrying them a breeze -- even in a breeze. One handle on each side means, with a helper, you can carry the material in one hand and your tools in the other. The handles keep the load balanced to prevent accidents, and can be used for a variety of materials. To find out more and where you can purchase them, go to JHandles are proudly made in the USA.

• If you've thought about installing a heated floor but were afraid of the labor involved, not to mention the instructions, then CozyFloors is what you have been searching for. CozyFloors are super easy to install and pretty much foolproof. The UL-approved materials are simple to put together and offer a great, energy-conserving way to keep your feet cozy in the wintertime. You need to go to the website, where you will find everything you need to know about measuring, ordering and installing the floors. Check them out at

• 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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