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posted: 9/26/2013 2:22 PM

Try these tips to get a cabinet upgrade within a budget

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You can give your kitchen cabinets an upgrade without throwing your budget out the window. Just try some of our super ideas, and you'll be amazed! Clean all of the cabinets with mineral-spirits paint thinner to remove all grease and oils. You can do a lot of different things to a cabinet door or drawer front:

• You can pick out a stencil and paint a design on the front of each door. Or do it freehand.

• Use a decal or stick-on design, or cut out your art and decoupage it onto the door.

• Wallpaper the door front. You even can cut out part of the wallpaper and paste it onto the door.

• Paint the door, or at least part of it. You also could use chalkboard paint and redecorate your doors anytime you want.

• Add depth to your doors by attaching wooden frames to them. These also can be painted to match, and will look just like you added custom trim work.

• If you're a bit more gutsy, you can remove the center of each door and install glass, mirrors or wire mesh.

• Apply gold leaf to some parts of the door. It will give your cabinets a really unique look.

• Apply a protective coat of clear polyurethane to your work of art to help it last longer.

Your imagination is your guide to budget decorating, so get inspired and have some fun while doing it!

A tool that every DIY'ER should have

Locking pliers are very handy. There are a couple of manufacturers that make them, and every DIY'er should have some. If you don't, or you just need more for a project you are working on, you can use regular pliers with the addition of rubber bands. The rubber band needs to fit tightly around the handles, holding them together for you. You could also use tape, if you can manage it. These won't work nearly as well as the real thing, but will sure do the job when you are in a bind, or need to be!

A bright idea for lighting your home during a storm

In some parts of the country, storms can cause power outages but, thanks to solar lights, it's a lot easier to deal with than it used to be. Of course, a flashlight or lantern can be helpful, but you also can just go outside and grab a solar light and bring it indoors. The landscape lights that usually are right next to the driveway or front door work great indoors, too, as long as they are charged. They are cool and very safe to use and most will stay lit for many hours. Keep one or two handy and remember to use them the next time Mother Nature comes your way!

Super hints

• Luggage tags can be put on lots of things -- ice chests, tool boxes, camping gear, etc. Most of us have extra tags hanging around, so why not use them instead of just keeping them in a drawer?

• Decals are a very cost-effective way to jazz up just about anything. Check out your craft store to see what they have in the way of decals. You easily can apply the decals to walls, tiles, cabinet doors, windows, mirrors and even furniture.

• If you use rags in the workshop, garden or kitchen, or to clean the house, then you are being "green." But keep those rags clean. Just place them in your dishwasher or washing machine after each use. No extra water or soap is used this way, and you'll be even more green.

Q. The fan part of our air conditioner located outside is starting to squeal. We don't really need to use it that much right now, but I want to get it fixed before next year. What do I need to do?

A. More than likely it's the fan motor. See if you can lubricate the motor shaft, with the power off, of course. If it still squeals, you might need to replace the fan. It's not terribly expensive or hard to do with basic skills. Just be careful and don't do it if you aren't up to the task.

Q. We have had rough weather this year, and half of our fence was blown over. We have replaced five sections of it, mostly on the west side of the yard. I would like to know if I can lighten older sections of the fence or darken the new ones. Got any ideas?

A. There are several fence cleaners and "brighteners." There are wood brighteners that you can use specifically for cleaning a fence, and they work pretty well. Most are easy to apply and don't cost that much. The new wood will age over time and should look like the rest of the fence in about six months or so. If you want your fence to last longer, it would be good to clean it with the brightener and then use a water seal to prevent moisture problems.

Q. Under the sink in my master bathroom, there are gaps around the water-supply lines. They're on an interior wall, so I wasn't sure if it needed to be insulated. What do you think?

A. If you have some expanding foam left over from a project, we suggest filling the gaps. It might not add insulation but will prevent bugs from settling into your wall cavity.

Q. You always recommend chemical drain openers as a last resort. Why is that?

A. They tend to be more of a short-term solution and usually don't really clear up the problem. It's much better to get into the drain with a snake and really get rid of the clog. Another issue with chemicals is that, once you use them, you have to be really careful about doing anything else, even snaking out the drain, because they can get on your hands -- or worse -- and cause burns on your skin.

Reader tips

• I was so mad at my son for driving through the construction area because I knew he would get road tar all over the sides of my car. Sure enough, it was there. I handed him the can of WD-40 and had him spray it over the spots. Then he had to clean them all off. After that I made him hand wax the car. Hopefully, he learned a lesson. If not, my car should look good until he does!

• My hot tub has a plastic and paper filter. It's simple to switch out, but I don't think it gets much of the pollen out of the tub. I placed a pantyhose leg over the filter and have been using it like this for the past two weeks. I can see the pollen on the nylon. I just take it off and clean it every week and replace it. It's doing the job and doesn't seem to have any negative effect on the tub. Just keep a close eye on it. Remove it when you don't need it, as it might put an extra strain on the pump if you are not careful.

• We have hard water in our city and are always fighting mineral deposits. I've replaced the ice maker, dishwasher and both water heaters and I know the hard water was the main reason for their short life span. I have learned that adding vinegar to the water in the dishwasher and toilet every other month or so can really cut back on the buildup. It's easy to do and really does help. Vinegar is really inexpensive, too, so it's well worth the extra effort.

• I keep a bottle of waterless hand cleaner in my garage. I use it whenever I am working there or in my yard to pre-treat my hands before going into the house for the final cleanup. It also can be used to clean greasy messes inside the house. Use it to pre-treat grease stains on your clothes, and it works in the kitchen, too. Maybe you should get a small container just to keep in the kitchen and/or laundry room.

• I know there are other ways to paint, but I still prefer to use it right out of the can. But small cans don't have a handle on them like the larger ones do, so I put a small can inside a large can so I can hold it with the handle. It also catches the drips that might end up on the floor. I put a scrap of wood or a small box into the large paint can for the small can to sit on. That way the top of the smaller can is closer to the top of the big can, which also is helpful.


• 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 it's full potential? We have put together a listing of some of our favorite uses. Check out more tips and hints at, too!

• These days, there's an app for just about everything. Now Hunter Douglas has the Platinum App for use with their PowerRise and PowerGlide blinds and shades. Now you can precisely control window coverings around your home with the touch of a button right from your Apple device. It's easy to download, install and use and will make your life so much easier (and fun!). You can raise and lower them, open or close slats for security and privacy and, if you have toddlers and pets, there will be no cords to worry about. It's also great for hard-to-reach window coverings. See it in action at a Hunter Douglas dealer, or online at

• We think pressure washers are great for heavy-duty cleaning outside the home. We have recently run across the PivotJet. It's a pivoting nozzle that can be fit onto most pressure washers that fits on the end of 32-inch pole that you can control from the base. This allows you to reach and guide the water just where you need it. It's easy to operate and even has a built-in hanger for easy storage when you are not using it. You can find out more 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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