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posted: 6/14/2013 4:47 AM

Tips for securing your home before vacation

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It's time for those wonderful family vacations! But before you load up the car and take off, make sure your home is as secure as it can be. Try some of these tips and tricks to make sure your home is still there when you come back.

• If you get the newspaper, mail or other deliveries on a regular basis, either stop delivery or have someone reliable come to pick up these items.

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• Have a neighbor park in your driveway. If they are used to parking on the street, they'll really appreciate this. You might even have trouble getting them to stop doing it once you come back home.

• Set automatic timers on some of your lamps. Have them turn off and on at varying times to make it look like you are home.

• Turn off your phone's ringers and answering machine. Thieves often stand outside your home and call your number to see if they can hear your phone ringing.

• Social media might be fun, but don't use it to announce your plans to leave your home vacant for thieves to break into. You should, however, let your neighbors know, just in case they see something suspicious. Just do so in person or over the phone.

• Store valuables in a secure, hidden place.

• You can save money by cutting your air conditioner way back. Do the same thing with your water heater. You might even consider turning off the water to your washing machine. Leaks can happen in places like this, and coming home to a flood would not be a lot of fun.

• Disconnect automatic garage door openers.

Anything you can do to make it more difficult for thieves might deter them. After all, if the work is too hard, they'll go elsewhere, or maybe get a REAL job!

Have a great, SAFE summer vacation!

Support your ductwork to keep cool this summer

Ductwork that is made of flexible material is very popular for several reasons. It's much less labor-intensive to install and can make a full run without any joints, eliminating the risk of leaks. But the flexibility that makes it so easy to work with also is a problem if it becomes kinked so that proper air flow is diminished. One thing that you can do is make a holder or a splint where these kinks occur. Use a scrap of cardboard that can be placed under the ductwork to support it at the points where it is being held up by cables or other strapping. These splints work well and will keep you feeling cool all summer long.

Simple ways to store your ladder

A ladder is a handy tool to have if you need to clean a ceiling fan, repair a gutter or paint your ceiling. But storing a ladder can be a challenge. Most ladders fold up, so at least you can store them flat -- but the bigger they are, the harder they are to store, even when folded. If the ladder is not too long, you can stand it up against a wall and secure it. We recommend using a couple of hooks. The large hooks that are meant to hold a garden hose or a bicycle will work great. If the hook is one that is screwed into a wall, then you can turn it one way to hold over the ladder to secure it up and out of the way and turn it back the other way to release it. This is a very simple way to keep a ladder stored securely.

Super hints

• With all of the wireless options you have with computers, phones and even printers, it's a whole lot easier to network within your own home. Go to your local electronics store and see how easy it can be. It will save you time and eliminate a lot of cords and other wires.

• Built-in spring rollers, like the ones rolling shades use, work pretty well and usually don't break down much. But if you have one that just doesn't stay up any more, try this: One end has a flat-sided peg that is held steady in a bracket while the shade is raised or lowered, and the other end just has a peg that doesn't move. What you need to do is pull the peg end out, roll the shade up and then replace the other end of the shade in the bracket. This should tighten the spring inside the shade again. You can repeat it if you need to.

• When mixing concrete, if you add a teaspoon or two of liquid dishwashing soap into the water as you stir it in, the powder will mix easier. The soap helps it mix faster and more thoroughly.

Q. My toaster is acting up. Sometimes it works OK, and other times it won't work at all. I think the problem is with the cord, because I can reposition it and get the toaster working. How can I fix this?

A. It sounds like you have a short in the cord. If not that, it could be a short in the toaster itself. Either way, you should probably just replace the toaster. To make sure it's not the electrical outlet, plug another device in there and make sure it works continually.

Q. Our house is white, and the new cable that we installed runs along the roof edge and is black. I thought about replacing the cable, but the price of that much white cable was outrageous. I'm looking for an alternative, like paint. What can we paint it with that will last outdoors?

A. We like Fusion paint for plastics and vinyl surfaces. It's available at most hardware stores these days, and it works pretty well on surfaces like this. It goes on quickly and seems to stay on better than most other paints. It's a spray so it easily can be applied to this cable. Just put a piece of cardboard or plastic behind it so that it won't discolor your siding. It might not match perfectly, but it probably will look a whole lot better than the black cable!

Reader tips

• We had several broken windows as a result of a pretty bad storm. Because we couldn't get anyone out to replace the windows right away, we needed to try to seal them up before more rain came along. I used Great Stuff over the cracks and smaller holes. It covered easily and sealed the windows up tight. It also was waterproof. It wasn't pretty, but worked until we finally got someone out to put the new windows in.

• I found this great old desk at an auction and just had to have it. After getting it home, I realized that it really needed to be stripped and stained. I love this kind of stuff, but the old finish was really tough to get off. I started off with steel wool but switched to plastic scrubbers that we use on dishes. These work a lot better and don't disintegrate like the steel wool. Try them the next time you are stripping furniture. They work great!

• My wife likes to collect plastic grocery bags and turn them back in at the store. I like to keep some because I use them around the shop for lots of things. But I understand that they do tend to stack up and even multiply if you don't corral them somehow. I have a tissue box that I keep a bunch in. I just stuff them in as I get them and, when I need one, I just pull one back out of the hole in the top of the box. I can store a lot in there, and they don't take up much room. As long as I have a few to use, I'm OK.

• We have a wall in our family room that is made of stone. It looked dull, so I went to the hardware store to see if they had something I could use to bring the color out. I ended up with boiled linseed oil. I rubbed it in with a rag, and it really made the rocks look great. It does have a strong smell, but that is going away quickly. The wall is absolutely gorgeous!

• I had a leak around the flapper in my toilet. I bought a new one but decided to try to see if cleaning the old one first would help. I shut the water off, pulled the flapper out and cleaned it with some silicone car-seat cleaner. It did take off a lot of the black gunk, and made it look new again. It also stopped the leak! I still have the replacement that I bought but will just keep it until I need it for this or another toilet.

Shoptalk

• Has your water pressure dropped off through the years, your hot water especially? Many times this is due to a buildup of mineral deposits in your plumbing system. There's a little trick you can play with a dime on your pipes to clear out some of these deposits. I've written down the steps so that you can try it yourself: "Better Water Pressure for Only Ten Cents." With any luck at all, you'll improve your water pressure -- and you'll even get your dime back!

• X-Metals can turn a plain, ordinary metal finish into a really neat, anodized metallic finish. It's made for bikes, scooters and skateboards, but it can be used for tons of other cool projects. It's a spray paint, so it dries quickly and is super tough. Besides metal surfaces, it also can be used on ceramic, wood, wrought iron, plaster and more, and it comes in several extreme colors. Check it out at your paint store and at www.krylon.com.

• Renovating a bathroom probably is the second-most expensive project a homeowner can do. So choosing surfaces and components is very important, not to mention confusing! "Taunton's Bathroom Idea Book," by Sandra S. Soria, is the solution. It tells you everything you need to know about planning, building and choosing all of the many options you will have for a dream bathroom, even on a budget. Check it out at your local library, home center and many bookstores. For additional information, go to www.taunton.com.

• 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.

2013, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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