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posted: 10/11/2013 12:11 AM

Make your windows more efficient without breaking the bank

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Windows let light into our homes, but most let a lot more in than that. The fact is a standard window just doesn't insulate against heat and cold air. But you can upgrade to a more energy-efficient model.

If you don't have the budget for that or just want to add a little more to what you already have, try one or more of these ideas.

Add weatherstripping along the sides and bottom of the sash so it will seal better when closed. This can be something as simple as a peel-and-stick foam gasket, available at most home centers and hardware stores. Also available are vinyl "V" strips and metal weatherstripping. You even can buy a roll of removable caulk.

It also wouldn't hurt to caulk around the frame of the window to fill any gaps that might let air in. Larger cavities can be filled with scraps of fiberglass insulation or expanding foam.

Another layer of protection can be added simply with a plastic storm window. There are a couple of companies that make these, and they are inexpensive and easy to install. Most use a double-sided tape that is installed around the edge of the window frame, and a plastic sheet is stretched over the window and attached to the tape. This, combined with the layer of air between the glass and the plastic, increases the energy efficiency quite a bit.

You also can have custom-made storm windows installed. Some are installed inside your home, while others are fit to the exterior of your home.

Thermal-lined drapes also can be effective. You can buy drapes already lined or add a thermal lining panel to your existing drapes.

Some other insulated shades use magnets along the sides to keep them fit to your windows, and will keep hot or cold air out.

Paint-can coasters

We use coasters in our home to prevent water rings on our tables. Well, you can use a "coaster" for your messy paint projects, too. Set your paint cans in a cardboard box. Better yet, set your paint trays into cardboard boxes. You can trim the box down to a shorter height so it won't get in your way while painting. It will work great and cut way down on your clean up time, too. If you use a larger box, you also can set your other messy tools into the box and eliminate those messes, too.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

A scratched mirror reflects a project that still needs to be completed. Well, it's not going to be quite as hard as you might think. You can put a piece of aluminum foil against the back of the mirror over the scratch and make it practically invisible. Use painters' tape to hold it in place so that it won't damage the rest of the mirror. If you look closely you can still see the damage, but most people won't even notice it.

Super hints

• When you are painting around window panes, paint over the seam between the wood and glass just a tiny bit. It will seal the gap enough to protect it, and keep it sealed a little longer.

• A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, is the reason they put silly warnings on some products. Just last weekend, she reached into her bedside table and grabbed the nose drops for her stuffy nose. It turned out that she grabbed the Super Glue instead. Oops! She's OK, and she was able to remove the glue before it caused serious damage, but she's very lucky. Be careful with dangerous compounds when they are in your home. Keep them out of children's -- and some adults' -- hands.

• Those old CDs make great scarecrows. Hang them in and around your garden by monofilament, and they will move around and scare off the birds. The shiny surfaces reflect the light, and they are too flashy for most birds, and even a few squirrels.

Q. We have bricks left over from our original build. We have enough to do a walkway around the house, but are not sure if that will work. Will these bricks be OK for that purpose, or will they fall apart?

A. These bricks normally are not made for walkways, but if you don't mind a few cracks, chips or a small amount of spalling, you can be happy with the results. They should look like they've been there for a while in a short time, and will be fine.

Q. We live on a golf course and have the occasional stray ball hit our house. We've been very lucky that we haven't had any broken windows, but we have had some screen damage. It looks more like a tear than a hole. What is the best and fastest way to patch these tears?

A. Check your hardware store for a stick-on screen patch. These come in a few colors to match your existing screen. These are super quick and actually last a long time. If you want to spend a little more time on it, use a needle and monofilament to "sew" it up.

Q. I started cleaning and sealing up gaps around the outside of the house before the winter comes. Then I happened onto a huge wasp nest. I'm just glad they didn't see me before I spotted them. How can I get rid of them without getting stung? I will have to knock the nest down afterward, too.

A. You can find a wasp and hornet spray that will shoot about 20 feet, so you can stand well away and knock out most of them. After spraying, give them some time to die and disperse. Then you can go back with a broom to knock down the nest. Wash it off with a water hose. You may have to go over the spot where it was with a putty knife to scrape off anything that's still left behind.

Reader tips

• I had a carpenter come in to do some work on my kitchen, and he used coated screws. He said they go in more smoothly and that his dad used to use a bar of soap to coat his nails and screws. Apparently he's not the only one, because now they sell them already coated. It made sense to me. So after he left, I decided to try it on another project that I was working on. I used soap to coat my screws. It really works! I never heard of this before, but will use it again for sure.

• I used to have track lights in my den, but they really looked out of date. I replaced them with a new ceiling fan and fixture when we painted. I saved the old track lights and put them up in my garage. They are super easy to install, as you probably already know, but they also put light right where I need it in the garage. It has three lamps -- one is pointed to the sprinkler-system control box and refrigerator, one on my workbench and the other toward the storage closet. I definitely can see where I need to clean now!

• This summer we built a wooden playhouse for our kids. We were going to buy a kit that had all of the lumber and parts included. We decided to just buy the plans and build it with engineered wood instead. Our thought was that we wanted it to last through our kids and grandkids. It cost a little more, but we feel like it will last a lot longer and we'll get more use from it this way. As an added bonus, we won't ever have to worry about warping, splitting or splinters.

• We had our house painted inside and out during the past couple of weeks. The company left us with a nice collection of messy paint cans, too. Of course, we plan to keep the leftover paint to use for touch-ups when we need them. But we found some great plastic containers with roller dispensers on the lids at our paint store. We put small amounts of each color into these containers and sealed them up tight. (I think they are made by Rubbermaid and are just for paint.) We put labels on each bottle, so we know where each color is to be used. We took the rest of the messy cans to the disposal site, and have a good collection of sealed and labeled bottles in our storage cabinet.

• I bought a really nice tarp to go over our boat. It has our team logo on it and I wanted it to last for a long time. It has metal grommets on it, which would be fine, except that the nylon rope knots aren't big enough to hold it tightly. I thought about making the knots larger but decided to put large washers onto the rope between the grommets and the knots. This works better. My new team logo looks much better than a plain tarp, too.


• Valspar's Frosting Spray is the easiest way to turn a clear glass or plastic window into a beautiful, private window. It comes in a spray can, so it's fast and easy to apply, and it will block out prying eyes but not sunlight. It's great for garage-door windows, too, and you can add additional coats to make it even more opaque. You can use it with stencils to create accents on a window or your front-door panel. Check it out at or at your favorite paint store.

• Gorilla Glues and Tapes are super strong, and the new Gorilla Clear Repair Tape is a neat way to mend anything from a headlight to a cellphone screen, and it really is clear. It's very tough and won't yellow, is waterproof, airtight and extreme temperature- and UV-resistant. It can be used on rough and uneven surfaces, too. Look for it at your hardware store or home center, or 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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