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posted: 7/5/2013 12:27 AM

Install GFCI outlets for safer bathrooms and kitchens

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Most homes are protected by GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets in kitchens, bathrooms and other areas where water and electricity are in close quarters. These outlets are designed to shut off power to the circuit should water short it out.

If you don't have these outlets in these areas already, you really ought to add them. Here are the basic steps involved in doing so. Be safe and, if you don't think you can do it on our own, hire an electrician to do it for you.

The first thing you need to do is turn the breaker off to the circuit you are going to be working on. Use a tester to make sure you got the right one.

Once you are sure the power is off, you can remove the receptacle cover plate.

Undo the connections to the existing receptacle and remove it. The new receptacle probably will be a little larger, so make sure it will fit in the existing box. If not, you will want to replace the box, too.

The way the new receptacle is wired depends on whether it is at the end of the run or in the middle, and also whether you want to protect just that outlet or the rest of the circuit. Your new GFCI receptacle will have the diagrams for both, and you should follow them closely.

Once the wiring has been completed, turn the circuit back on and push the reset button to see if it works. Now press the "test" button to make sure it cuts off when pushed. If all goes well, you're finished -- and safer, too. You should test these receptacles periodically to make sure they are functioning properly. It could save your life!

Preparing for furniture painting

Before you start painting a piece of furniture, you'll need to get ready. Lay down a dropcloth to set the piece on when painting. But before you set it on the dropcloth, drive some thumb tacks or brads into the "feet" to keep them from making direct contact with the dropcloth. This will prevent sticking as your paint dries. Doing this could save you time later when removing the piece from the dropcloth and from doing any touch-ups with paint.

Make window cleaning a snap

Cleaning windows should be done at least once a year. It's easy to do if the windows are at eye level and are not blocked by shrubs. Windows behind shrubs or higher up than you can reach present problems. You can buy telescoping poles to make the job easier, or you can use something you already own. Try using your sponge mop. It can scrub and reach areas you can't. If you have an extension pole for a paint roller, take off the roller and install your sponge mop head.

Super hints

• If you have to work up on your roof in the middle of a hot day, bring a car floor mat with you. You'll be much more comfortable kneeling on this than on a very hot roof!

• You can buy some nice liners for your drawers. The purpose is to protect the contents from rolling around. Small Bubble Wrap works just as well, and it's free. Just save it the next time you get a package in the mail, and use it in your kitchen or workshop or wherever you need drawer liners.

• Baby wipes are the most convenient way to deal with baby messes. But keep some in your workshop because they also tackle big shop messes.

Q. At one point, we had some indoor/outdoor carpeting on our porch and steps. We pulled it off years ago, but some of the adhesive still remains on the concrete and won't come off. Is there anything you can suggest to remove this adhesive?

A. Brush some paint and varnish remover over the old adhesive. It will take several minutes to start working, but it should help dissolve the old adhesive. Then you can use a putty knife to scrap it off. A wire brush also will help get more of it off.

Q. I have black tire marks on my driveway. What can I use to remove these from the concrete surface?

A. TSP, or trisodium phosphate, is a great cleaner for surfaces like concrete and can remove a lot of different stains. It should do a good job with a stain like this. Just use it according to the package directions, and use caution because it is a strong cleaner. You'll like having it for other cleanups, too.

Reader tips

• I made some birdhouses for our lake house out of scrap-metal things, like old coffee pots, cheese graters and old mailboxes. I just cut a hole for the birds to go in and out and made sure they had a roof. Everyone likes them so much I'm making them to sell at a flea market. I'm having a blast -- and making money, too!

• We bought our first rain barrel, but decided to make a couple more. Ours are made from food-grade barrels, with taps placed on the lower front side. We also installed overflow outlets and the adapters that hook them directly up to the downspouts. We have a good vegetable garden and some rose beds, and are in a drought area. The rain barrels hold water for us to use year round.

• We've always used powdered carpet deodorizer. The carpet is clean but retains the animals smells without the deodorizer. We have learned we can mix our own and save money. We pour a can of the store-bought powder into a large bowl, and then add a large box of baking soda. This triples the amount of product and cuts down on the scent, which is a little overpowering anyway. It works just as well, and cuts the cost by more than 50 percent.

• I have a good stock of table linens to choose from. I've been collecting them for years, and love to use them for parties and get-togethers. My husband put six more closet rods into my linen closet. This way, the tablecloths are draped over the rods instead of folded up. That means less ironing and a longer life for these beauties.

• 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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