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posted: 6/28/2013 10:48 AM

Preparing your home for summer storms

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We've certainly seen some severe storm damage around our country this spring. You can't fool Mother Nature, but you can do a lot of things to protect your property from some of the damage.

One thing we see a lot of are downed trees. You can minimize this type of damage on your own property by just pruning them back when they get dangerously close to power lines, your roof or your windows. If you can't tackle the job yourself, don't feel bad. It's a big job in some cases, and may require a pro just to get it done correctly and safely.

• Have your roof inspected once a year. You could have problems or damage and not see it. An annual inspection can reveal problem areas that you can address before leaks happen.

• When it rains, even a little bit, look for drainage issues. If you can correct these ahead of a big rain or flood, you might save your home.

• Keep your yard picked up. Anything in your yard can be blown around and cause damage, so keep items tied down, or carry them into a more secure area before big storms.

• Windows are huge targets and are hard to reinforce. 3M makes a Safety and Security Window Film that will keep the window intact after breakage. Storm shutters also are something you can add. In some areas where storms are very common, this might be a practical solution.

Some disasters can't be avoided, but many can be diminished with a little prep work on sunny days. Have a safe summer!

Use PVC pipes for quick and easy tool storage

A fence post, pergola support or any other stout pole can offer you some great storage possibilities for yard and garden tools. Just grab some PVC pipe scrap sections, large enough for the tool handles to fit into, and secure them to these poles for some quick and easy tool storage. You can use pipe strapping, cable ties or just some screws to hold the pipe sections onto the poles. You can install one or several on each post. Put one storage area on your back patio to be handy when you are working back there.

Plastic bags can be handy for home projects

We're all about saving time, and we love to share these tips with you. The long, narrow bags that most newspapers and loaves of bread come in are great for a variety of things around the house. If you are getting ready to paint, use them to cover your ceiling-fan blades. That way, you can save time by not having to remove the blades before you start painting. It's easy to slip one over the blade, (two for larger blades) and hold it in place with masking tape. When you are finished painting, just slide the bag back off and toss it in the garbage.

Super hints

• Ever tried a stress-relief mat in front of your workbench? Wow! What a difference this can make. If you are working on a project that keeps you standing up for a long time, you will sure feel the difference when using these. They are available at most home centers.

• Those plain-black rubber "welcome" mats look OK, and will do the job just fine. But why not grab a can of Fusion paint for plastics and paint them to match or coordinate with your front door? Use a stencil and paint your initial or a message on the mat. Get creative. For less than $20, you can have a truly personal door mat.

• If your garage is bursting at the seams, look up for additional space. Install hooks, shelves and other storage solutions from the ceiling. If you have exposed rafters, you have even more opportunities!

Q. We have just moved to this community and have learned that we have "hard water." Apparently it can cause problems in appliances. Personally, I like it. Should we get a water softener? Can you tell me more about these?

A. Your first stop should be your water department. They are likely to have information on water softeners and how effective they will be with your local water supply. Next, you probably should ask some of your neighbors to see what they have to say. They can be quite effective and can save your appliances from damage. They also can be a little bit of a hassle and require regular maintenance.

Q. The gutters on our house are white. They came that way, and until we painted the house trim, they looked fine. But now I want to paint them to match the trim color, which is gray. What kind of paint should I use?

A. Clean off any rust spots and make repairs if you have leaks. Add additional hangers if you have any sagging spots. Coat all bare metal spots with a zinc-based metal primer. Then, just use a good quality exterior paint, made for metal, that offers UV protection to give your gutters the look you are going for. It should last as long as your regular house paint will, maybe longer.

Q. We are getting ready to replace our water heater and are very confused about what size to get. We've been told we could get two and put them in a series rather than getting just one. What would you suggest? Is there some formula to use to determine your needs?

A. You can try to estimate your needs by determining the highest usage in a single hour. A 10-minute shower uses about 30 gallons, the dishwasher uses about 15 and your washing machine will use about 25 gallons. If you have several people in your family getting ready for work or school at the same time, you don't want to run out of hot water. Another option, if your budget allows, is an "on demand," or tankless, water heater.

Reader tips

• We cook out often during the summer, and cleaning the grill is just part of the deal. I always try to save a wad or two of aluminum foil to use, when I'm finished cooking, to scrape the grate clean of grease. The foil does a great job and, since it's destined for the trash anyway, I'm saving time by not having to wash the grease out again.

• We have a lake house that has inexpensive fiberglass shower/bath enclosures. One of these has a large hole in the side and we were trying to find a way to patch it up. My neighbor suggested I try using some fiberglass boat repair. It's a kit that has everything you need for repairing a scratch or dent in a fiberglass boat. It was easy to use and really doesn't look that bad. I do plan to paint over the repair, but the surface is very smooth.

• My wife has had a cedar chest for her whole life. We keep it in our bedroom and use it to store blankets in. I never really knew it was lined with cedar because there was no longer any smell. When I found out it was real cedar, I took my palm sander out and thoroughly sanded the whole surface inside. It has a very nice, strong smell now, and my wife loves it even more.

• When we first decided to finish out our game room, I figured we would just paint it. But I wanted to find a way to deaden the sound a little more. We decided we would glue quilt batting to the wall and then cover the walls with inexpensive burlap material. We bought a powered staple gun and saved a lot of time and effort by using that. The walls look neat, and the sound from the TV is more tolerable, for sure.

• I found some pegboard scraps in the garage and decided to put them up inside the house to use. I put one on the inside of my pantry door to hold some of my utensils. I also put one up in my sewing room. I use it to hold a lot of my tools and other sewing supplies. I have also put one in my closet to hold belts, scarves and other things. I love this stuff!


• For summer furniture, you can't beat PVC plastic pipe. It's lightweight, inexpensive, easy to work with and weather-resistant. You can build just about any piece of furniture once you have learned the basics. We have put together a sheet detailing the basics of working with the plastic pipe. With these instructions, you can create just about anything, and have fun doing it! Another good summer project might be a wooden picnic table. We also have plans for a very simple, long-lasting family picnic table made from wood. This table is a one-piece design that is both safe and convenient. Have a super summer!

• The GLOWr Wayfinding Illumination Discs are an easy-to-install marking system that shows you where things like steps, walls, driveways and other obstacles are in the dark. The discs come packaged with a simple mounting system, so they can be placed on wood, concrete or even the ground. They only need eight minutes of daylight to charge, but the glow will last for 48 hours. No batteries are required and they are made in North America. If you are looking for a "green" product, this is a super choice. In fact, it was selected as "Best in Category" at this year's Housewares Design Awards Show. Check them out at They are available at several discount stores including Bed, Bath and Beyond, Ace Hardware, True Value and many more.

• Sugru is a new self-setting rubber that can be formed by hand but sets to a strong, flexible silicone rubber overnight. The applications are practically endless, and it sticks to just about anything. It comes in small packets in a variety of colors. You can put it on tools, shoes, electronics, appliances and tons of other things. It's waterproof, stable in high and low temperatures and is removable when the time is right. You need to see it for yourself, so go to

• 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

2013, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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