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posted: 8/2/2013 12:10 AM

Tips and tricks for painting bricks

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Brick is a long-lasting building material, but it can get old -- or you might get tired of the same old thing and want to paint it. But there are a few things you should know before you do this.

• All masonry is porous, so it must be thoroughly cleaned first. A power washer is a good tool to use.

• For stubborn stains, TSP -- or trisodium phosphate -- is a good cleaner. Just wear gloves and other protection, as it is a strong cleaner.

• The surface needs to be completely free of oil, so use solvents if you find any oil or grease on the surface.

• Mildew and mold also take hold of concrete quickly, so remove all traces of it with a mixture of water and liquid laundry bleach.

• Once your surface is clean, give it plenty of time to dry, perhaps several days.

• Make sure all cracks are filled with mortar or grout, depending upon the existing surface.

• A primer is a good idea because the masonry is very porous and the primer will help seal it and give you a smoother surface. Make sure you use one made for masonry and follow the directions to the letter for optimum results.

• Latex is a good choice in paint and, if you can find one with a mildewcide, it would be even better.

• If you take the time required to do the paint job properly, it will last for a long time. You'll also be able to paint over this when you do get tired of the current color.

Creativity counts

We saw an interesting wainscoting recently and decided to try to do something similar in our dining room. The trim was basic frames under a chair rail. But the area inside the frames was woven wood, so we cut trellis panels to fit inside the frames. When painted to match the surrounding trim, the look was really neat. The wall behind the trellis was left a contrasting color but could have been painted the same as the trellis and look just as good. An alternative might be a woven mat of some kind, also painted to match. It pays to get creative when you are on a budget.

Magnetic strips

Magnets are great for so many things. When using them in a busy workshop, we usually think of super storage ideas. You can glue strips of the magnets right to your shop wall and use them to hold on to metal screwdrivers, wrenches and other tools. But you can hold nonmetal items on them, too, by just gluing a metal washer to the item and then sticking the metal washer on to the magnetic strip. It makes storage so much quicker and easier, and you easily can grab what you are looking for, too. You can find these magnetic strips at just about any hardware store or home center, and even some craft stores.

Super hints

• You can make some super projects out of acrylic sheet material. It usually comes with a paper covering over it. Try to keep it in place while you work so you don't scratch the plastic. When finished, you can peel it off to reveal your work of art.

• You can buy radiant barrier fabric in some hardware stores and home centers these days. I sew and have made drapes for our home. To add insulation to windows, I tried adding a layer of radiant barrier lining to the drapes. It does seem to help. I am getting ready to make a casserole carrier with a radiant barrier lining. This stuff is easy to work with and really seems to help.

• If you have dated hardware, consider painting it instead of replacing it. Most spray paints come in a variety of finishes now that look just like the new, expensive hardware that everyone wants. It will be well worth the extra time involved in doing it.

Q. I would like to know how to paint my old vinyl flooring. I've heard, if it's in good shape, that you can do this and it will last a while. Can you tell me how to do it?

A: The most time-consuming part of it is lightly sanding the whole surface to remove the gloss. This will allow the paint to stick better. You can try a chemical sander and see if that will work for you. Then use a primer and a couple of coats of paint. You might also want to add another layer of clear polyurethane to protect your paint finish and add some shine to the surface. Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

Q. I have always drained my water heaters twice a year and they have never failed me -- until now. I can't seem to get the faucet on one of them to stop dripping. I'm afraid the other one will start soon. How can I stop the drips?

A. This is a very common problem and you are lucky it hasn't happened until now. Just install a hose cap onto both faucets as soon as you can pick them up at the hardware store. That's all you have to do.

Q. I have a couple of bags of cement left over from my outdoor barbecue grill project. I know I will be able to use it for some upcoming projects, but just don't have time to do them right now. I worry that it will turn to rock if I don't store it properly. What's the best way to store cement that has not been used up yet?

A. The biggest problem is moisture, and it can absorb that just from humid air. You need to try to eliminate this problem. If you can place the bag into a heavy-duty plastic bag, it will stay good longer -- double bag it for even better results. A sealable plastic bin also is a good choice. Keeping both of these off the ground also will help. If you could store these in an interior closet or room, even better.

Reader tips

• I was having trouble getting the old silicone caulk off the bathtub last weekend. I used WD-40 and a small putty knife and finally removed the old stuff. Once I got it started, it peeled right off. I think the WD-40 really helped. It also worked pretty well on the soap scum. Of course, then I had to clean the WD-40 off. The bathtub looks good now with the new caulk in place.

• We are on a tight budget, so we have always tried to buy gently used items when we can to make our dollars go farther. We found a couple of great charities in our town that have nice furniture and donate most of their profits to children charities. We found a dining room table and chairs, as well as some nice club chairs for our family room. It feels good to get a bargain and make a donation at the same time. Support these type of businesses if you have them in your city. They deserve it.

• I installed a couple of hanging paper towel racks above my workbench. I keep a roll of paper towels handy for quick cleanups. I also have all of my tape stored on the other paper towel roll holder. It's the best way to store them all and they are easy to get to without having to take the rolls off the holder. You can mount these holders just about anywhere, and they even can hold other stuff, too.

• We have some trees overhanging our driveway that drop berries on the concrete. It makes horrible stains, which we are always fighting. We have found that if we cover the stain with powdered cleanser, like Comet for sinks, and let it stand on the stain overnight, it will wash off with the garden hose the next day. It works really well and is very easy to do.

• I bought a nice baker's rack at a garage sale and put it in my guest room. I thought it would be good to hold the TV and some other things for guests. It seemed a little rickety and I just felt like it wasn't as sturdy as I wanted it to be. I had my husband cut two wooden shelves for it. He bolted them to the rack. That did the trick.


• A great way to keep your garage cooler is to add ventilation. A fan is an inexpensive and efficient way to do this. Tjernlund Products has come out with a "Cool Breeze" Garage Fan that is mounted between the joists to pull hot air from the garage ceiling and exhausts it through your roof. The 1200 CFM motor is super powerful, has a built-in automatic fire damper, adjustable thermostat, optional timer, wireless wall switch and removable control. You'll need to install two outdoor air intake grilles to create the draw, which is included with the fan. To find out more, go to

• The folks at Great Stuff, the expanding foam in a can, have just come out with some super Work Wipes. They come in a dispenser pack that seals back up after you take out a wipe. The wipes will clean up tough messes like silicone sealant, contact adhesive, uncured Great Stuff, paint, polyurethane, varnish, epoxy, grease, oil, tar and lots more. You can find them at your hardware store or home center and 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

2013, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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