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posted: 8/22/2013 5:15 PM

Plan out your storage shed before you build

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Extra storage for things like lawn mowers, wheelbarrows and other outdoor, camping and sporting equipment really can come in handy. If you have a back yard, then you probably have space for a small storage shed. If you build one from scratch, then you can customize it and make it look really great. If you buy a kit, then you probably can have it up in just one weekend. Here are some super tips to help you decide what you want to do and how to get started:

• Before you buy anything, check with your local building codes and find out what is required for footings, tie downs, permits, easements and other requirements. You wouldn't want to have to tear it down after you put it up!

• You'll want to choose a site that is flat, clear of drainage issues and accessible to power, if you plan to add electricity.

• The foundation or base can be made of concrete or wood. Your plans or kit will tell you exactly what size it should be and what type of anchors should be built into it. If adding electricity, run wiring and conduit to the base ahead of any building. If you are going to go with a wooden foundation, then make sure it has a good gravel base and that you set the wood on concrete blocks to keep it steady and level.

• You'll want to assemble all of your building materials in a nearby area. Gather up the tools you will need, including gloves, safety glasses and other protective gear, especially if working with metal.

Once the building is complete, make sure to spend a little time customizing it for your needs.

Pour more smoothly with these tips

Why is it that when you need to pour liquids, you can never find a funnel? Well, if you're careful, maybe you can do the job without one. A steady hand helps, and pour slowly to prevent spilling the liquid. If you can let air into the bottle as you pour, even better. This prevents the starting, stopping and splashing that can happen when you don't. If the bottle has an offset spout, like some oil bottles do, then you can hold the bottle so that the spout is at the highest point as you pour. This allows air to get in, as you pour, to prevent splashing.

Reinforce your workbench to make it last longer

If you have a workbench, you are lucky. It's a great place to make repairs and work on many projects. A good work surface is going to take a beating, so it needs to be made tough. Most are made of plywood, which is great and easily can be replaced if it gets too rough. You can add a piece of angle iron to the front edge. This protects the edge and also acts as a small anvil for working with metal. Add one to your workbench, no matter what it's made of. It will come in handy!

Super hints

• Storage cabinets that are designed for a garage workshop are great, but they can be fairly expensive. Why not just recycle some old ones, paint them and hang them in your workshop? You'll save a bundle, which you can spend on more tools or project supplies.

• Pegboard still is one of the best ways to organize tools and other stuff around the house. Create storage zones by installing small sections of pegboard in key spots. Put one piece in your utility room, another piece in your laundry room, another in your sewing or craft room and one more in your home office. With all of the various hooks and hangers available, there's hardly anything that can't be stored on this stuff.

• The next time you are struggling with a plastic blister pack, grab your manual can opener. Clamped into the blades, you can turn the handle and open up the package in record time!

Q. I am trying to take my closet door down to paint it. I didn't have any trouble with the rest of the doors, but this one will not come down. The problem is that I can't get the hinges out. Got any ideas?

A. Try to get a screwdriver in under the top of the hinge pin. Then pry it up. Another way to do it is to grab the top of the hinge pin with pliers and pull it up. The first method usually works best. If all else fails, you can remove the screws from the hinges and remove the door that way.

Q. I have a butcher block counter in our wet bar. Through the years, it has become stained and is a little rough from using it as a cutting surface. I want to clean it, so I have sanded it down to get rid of the rough spots. Now I'm ready to seal or protect it somehow. What should I use?

A. Check your hardware store for butcher block oil. It's a penetrating oil that is food-safe. You should apply it and let it soak in, then wipe off the excess. Buff it if you can, and check it periodically to see if water still is beading up. If it isn't, it's time for more oil.

Q. My kitchen sink has a standard single-handle faucet that is getting wobbly. It seems loose where it sits on the sink top. I don't see any screws that hold it in place, so how would I go about tightening it up?

A. The place to tighten it is going to be on the underside of the sink. You'll need a helper too. Just have one person hold the faucet from the top and the other person needs to grab the locking nut, which is going to be several inches wide, from the bottom side of the faucet and turn it to tighten the faucet in place. If you have a large wrench, you can try using that.

Q. If I'm going to strip and then stain my desk, what type of gloves should I use?

A. If you are going to use chemicals to strip the old finish off, then use a chemical-resistant nitrate glove, which you can find at your paint or hardware store. Regular sanding and staining would be OK with use a plain pair of latex gloves. Wear a mask and safety glasses, too.

Reader tips

• We decided to insulate our garage door. It's just a plain metal door. I bought foam panels at my home-improvement center and cut them to fit the sections of the garage door. When I purchased the foam panels, I opted for some with a foil covering. I reasoned that it would not only insulate the door but also act as a radiant barrier. I think it was the right choice and, as an added bonus, it reflects the light in the room and seems a whole lot brighter.

• We installed our own low-voltage landscape lighting, and it was a lot of fun. We spent a lot of time planning in advance, which made things much easier. Before we ever laid any wires, we went out at night and used a flashlight to simulate the lamps so we could get them in just the right spot. Then we put out the lamps and wiring. We only had to move one lamp a little bit. The yard looks so great with the new lights.

• I was helping my neighbor run some electrical lines in his yard for some landscape lighting. Neither one of us is a pro, but we can take on most home repairs, and we work well as a team. I've never worked with conduit before, but it was pretty easy to do. I learned that it's helpful to pour a little soapy water into the end of the pipe so that as you pull the wiring through the pipe, it slips right through. It really was amazing. I just thought your readers might want to try it.

• I love reading your column, and have used a lot of your storage tips. I keep all of my rolls of tape on a heavy-duty hanger. I use a wooden hanger that opens at the side, made for hanging slacks. I just slide the rolls on and hang the hanger on my garage wall. All of my tape is kept there, and it's very handy to get to when I need some.

• We have a small bathroom in our basement that rarely gets used. But the one upstairs was having problems, so I started using the one downstairs more often. Last weekend I got trapped in there. The doorknob actually came off in my hand, and I couldn't get the door open, since it opened into the room. Finally I grabbed the toilet plunger, pushed it onto the door and pulled. The first time the plunger came loose, but I did it again and finally got the door open. It might be the "plumber's friend," but it was my best friend that day!


• Baking soda isn't just for baking. As a matter of fact, it can be used for all sorts of things in the shop and home. Baking soda doesn't cost very much, and just about everybody has a box or two in the house, so why not use it to its full potential? We have put together a listing of some of our favorite uses.

• Great Stuff Expanding Foam has recently added PestBlock to its great line of products. PestBlock has no pesticides in it but has a bitter-tasting foam sealant that critters and bugs hate. Use it to fill holes and gaps around your home and block air and pest infiltration at the same time. It is great at keeping rats, squirrels and other rodents from getting into your home through air gaps left around pipes and other gaps. You'll find more information at, and you can buy the product at most hardware stores and home centers.

• BladeCote is a lubricant that you can spray on your saw blades, router bits and other blades. It contains no silicone or petroleum oil, so it won't leave stains on wood. It DOES prevent resin buildup on these blades, which will help them cut better and last longer. It reduces friction and heat and works on steel, carbide, stellite and even diamond-tipped cutting blades. It's available at hardware stores and home centers. If you want to find out more, 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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