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posted: 9/6/2013 12:52 AM

Super handyman: Making the most out of a small space

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Most kids' rooms are small. You think that since kids are small, their rooms can be small. It's not fair, but that's just the way it goes. But you can make a small room a lot more functional with some of these ideas.

• The bed usually takes up the most space in the average kid's room. A twin-size bed is your best choice. You can install drawers or other storage under the bed. If you need an extra sleep space, you can make it a trundle bed. Another option would be a bunk bed -- two beds with the floor space of one. Some bunks are designed with a bed on the top and a desk or play area on the lower level.

• Built-ins like floor-to-ceiling cubbies offer a large amount of storage. If you choose free-standing furniture, be sure to attach it to the wall for safety's sake. Put some baskets or bins in some cubbies to keep smaller items under control.

• A closet can be used to store a lot of things if you add additional shelves, drawers and closet rods. Add over-the-door shoe organizers or spice racks to organize lots of small items, including toys. Add coat hooks to the door as well.

• Even a window can be used to display items with added shelves. You can add a large display shelf over a window.

• Even though bright colors usually are kids' favorites, try to tone it down a little and keep the color palette simple. It will make the room appear larger.

• Keeping clutter to a minimum also will help.

• If a door takes up too much room, consider switching to a pocket door. It will require some construction but takes up no room to swing in or out.

These are just a few simple ideas. Some also might be good for other rooms in your home or even a dorm room for kids who are off to college.

Easy organization for your kitchen

Our new kitchen has upright storage inside one of the cabinets for serving trays and baking sheets. It's very handy. But if you don't have this type of built-in storage, you can create it for just a couple of bucks, and our way requires no tools. Just buy inexpensive tension rods that will reach from the top to the bottom of the inside of the cabinet. Install a couple in a row from front to back to support the trays in an upright position. Create several rows of storage this way, and your kitchen will be organized in no time flat!

Magnetic bowls can make your next project easier

We have a super magnetic bowl that is perfect for holding metal screws, nuts and other hardware while we are working on a project. We use it all the time. The problem was that one of these super bowls just wasn't enough, so we made a second one. We just got a plastic bowl and glued a magnet to the inside bottom of the bowl. Now we have two. It works almost as well as the one we bought, too. Our second model even has a lid so we can store the hardware when we need to.

Super hints

• We don't mind getting rid of things around the house and shop, as long as we know that they are going to a good cause. Maybe you can do this too. Plan to donate things to charity, family or online. Remember the adage "One man's trash is another man's treasure."

• I love to paint. When I'm finished, I like to put the brushes into some solvent and let them soak while I take a break. But if you find an empty solvent can, grab some vinegar. You can fill up your container with this and set the brushes into it to soak them. It works almost as well and, as an added bonus, is a whole lot cheaper to use.

• Clear containers are the best way to store items in a crowded garage or closet. You can get a glimpse inside before you drag the box down and open it up. They will save you time and aggravation, and they usually don't cost any more than the opaque containers.

Q. I want to try to seal the attic door a little better. I can feel the heat coming down from the door when I walk through the hall. What should I do?

A. There are some great insulating devices available at your home center. Most are easy to install and work quite well. We have used the Attic Tent with good results. You should at least add weatherstripping around the door frame. That's easy to do and will keep most of the hot air from getting around the door.

Q. I have an outdoor faucet that's leaking every time I turn it on. I hate to waste water, even a few drips. I'm not sure how to fix it, but I would really like to try. What would you do?

A. The first thing to do is determine what type of faucet it is. It might seem like they are all alike, but there are some differences. An easy way to do it is to take a picture of it with your phone and take that to your hardware store. Then you can see it up close and determine what parts you need to fix it. Most fixes are inexpensive and fairly easy to replace, and might be as simple as tightening a nut or replacing a washer. Good luck!

Q. I have a small concrete back porch, and I want to cover it with a wooden deck. I want the deck to be larger than the current porch. Part of the deck will be sitting directly on the concrete surface. Do I need to put anything between the wood and the concrete surface?

A. You should install floor joints under the decking -- even two-by-fours would be enough over the porch area. This will give you some air flow between the two surfaces to keep moisture problems under control. You also will want to use pressure-treated wood, which we're sure you already plan to do. Good luck!

Q. I have newly painted kitchen cabinets, and I've noticed smudges from my hands, I guess, around the knobs. What can I use to clean them that won't harm the finish?

A. You should be able to use warm, soapy water to clean away most dirt. You also should be able to use mineral-spirits paint thinner to clean grease and grime. If you are worried about the new paint, test the thinner on an out-of-the-way place first. If it harms the finish, I would go back to the painter, as there may be a problem with the paint itself. The thinner should not harm the finish.

Reader tips

• I put up new paneling in my study. It was a tough project, but it looks great. When I got it home from the home center, there were sheets of paper between each piece. I used these sheets as templates. I taped them up on the wall and marked where the outlets and switches were so I could cut them out before I put the paneling up. It made the whole process quicker, and fortunately, it all worked out right. It does look really nice.

• I saved a couple of pegboard scraps for my wife. She wanted them to hang purses and jewelry on in her closet. She had me cut them to fit some large, gold-leaf frames. She painted them first and then mounted them in the frames. They are loaded with stuff now, and she is thrilled with them. Now my daughter wants some -- of course.

• Years ago, I built a picnic table for us to use in our backyard. I stained it with a redwood stain to match the fence. The stain was looking really bad, so I was going to re-stain it. I started to use a lighter stain but found that some places wouldn't take more stain. I guess there still was enough left on it to prevent the new stain from penetrating. I ended up using a darker stain, which worked out well and covered the areas that still had some red color. It looks new and matches the rest of the patio furniture.

• Bungee cords are so great. I use them to hang lots of stuff up in the rafters of my garage. I have all four bikes up there, as well as the Christmas tree and even two spare tires. This stuff would have taken up most of the room in our garage, but now it's up off the ground. I do use the heavy-duty strapping bungees, not the cheaper ones, as I wouldn't want any of this stuff coming down on my cars.

• I use cooking spray when I bake chicken in my oven. It keeps the food from sticking to the baking dish. It works so well, I wondered if it would keep paint from sticking to my hands. I normally wear gloves when I paint, but I couldn't find them when I was ready to get started last weekend. So I tried spraying my hands with cooking spray before I started. I was pretty neat, but I did get some paint on my hands. It just wiped right off with the cooking spray. It really works. You should try it.


• Petroleum jelly is an incredibly useful concoction. It's perfect in the shop and super in the home. We bet you would love a list that we have put together of some of its many uses. If so, let us know, and we will add them to our list. We also will have it posted on our website at

• If you do your own yard work, you probably use a standard leaf rake to pick up shrub trimmings, and this is just not a good way to do it. But Fiskars has a new Shrub Rake. The design is similar to a leaf rake, but it's much stronger and a little narrower, which makes raking up larger debris much easier. It has a lightweight aluminum handle and is built to last for many years. The smaller profile lets you get under shrubs without disturbing ground cover and other small plants. It even carries a lifetime warranty. To find out more, you can go to This tool and the rest of the Fiskars line are available at most garden centers and hardware stores around the country.

• We get a lot of questions about repairing dings and scratches on appliances. Krylon's Appliance Touch-Up Tubes are a super-easy way to take care of these. The rollerball tip gives you excellent control, and there is a brush for versatility. It dries quickly and works on refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers and other metal appliance surfaces. You can find it at and at your favorite hardware store or home center.

• 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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