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posted: 11/15/2013 12:35 AM

Tips for fixing those doorknob dings

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One of the most common drywall repairs is the standard doorknob patch-up. Heck, most of us might even be guilty of damaging a wall this way. Oops! Well, it's not very hard to fix, as long as the doorknob leaves just a small dent or hole.

If the dent is very slight, you probably can patch right over it.

If the dent is deeper or goes all the way through the wall, use a sharp utility knife to cut away the broken paper and drywall.

For small holes like these, you don't really need to cut out a drywall patch. As long as you have a sturdy backer to spread the drywall compound, that's all you need. For small holes, you can use a piece of self-sticking fiberglass mesh tape to cover the hole.

For larger holes, we like to use a piece of screen wire. The screen should be a little larger than the hole. You need to thread a piece of string through the screen wire in the center, and then pull it back through a nearby hole so that both ends are on the same side. Place the screen wire inside the wall, and use the string to pull it back up inside the hole. Tie it to a pencil or scrap of dowel that is wider than the hole to keep it in place against the back of the wall.

Spread drywall compound over these patches in thin layers, letting it dry completely between each coat. Before applying that last coat of drywall compound, cut off the string. The final coat can be feathered out onto the surrounding wall a little bit to conceal your handiwork. You can try to match the wall texture by dabbing it with a sponge a little bit.

After it has dried, you can use sandpaper to smooth the surface before repainting.

Before you call it a day, install a door stop or wall bumper to prevent this from happening again!

Get problems squared away

A crooked frame usually results from loose hardware at the joints. Whether you fix it with glue, additional hardware or both, you need to straighten it and make sure it stays straight while you are working on it. A square surely will help. If you don't have one of these, clamp the frame to the corner of a counter or tabletop that you know is perfectly square. Use this as a guide for your repairs and leave it in place until the glue has set up, if using glue.

Repair antique furniture

We love older pieces of furniture and antiques. But if the wear that comes with age gets too bad, you have to try to make repairs. Carved wood sometimes can crack, and some of the details of the carving actually can fall off. When this happens, we rebuild the carving with plumber's putty. This is an epoxy putty that you buy at the hardware store; mix the two compounds, and mold into the approximate shape of the carving that was lost. Then you can go back in with a fine sander or rotary carving tool and re-create the finer details. A little stain or paint, and it's hardly noticeable.

Super hints

• The best way to save money in the laundry room is to switch to a cold-water detergent and use only cold water in your washer. You can also line or air-dry many of your clothing items. Set up a clothesline outdoors, on a patio or even in your garage.

• I love the shabby chic look of whitewashed and faded finishes. One way that you can get that old, really worn look to furniture is to sand off the edges in places where they might normally wear over time. But a little trick I learned was to paint a couple of coats of different colors on these areas first, ending with that white coat of paint. Then, when you start sanding off the edges, the other colors will start showing through, giving you that years-of-heavy-use look.

• If you have a plain, boring concrete porch or patio, add some style with stencils and paint. Create a large design in the center, or add a border -- or both! Use exterior paint for concrete, and it should last a long time.

Q. I can see that our hard water is staining my bathtub and sinks. What can I use to clean this off without scratching up the surfaces too much?

A. Warm vinegar is our favorite cleaner for this. Vinegar is very acidic -- make sure you wear gloves -- but it will dissolve these deposits while you watch. If you can place paper towels or cloth towels over the area, saturate them with vinegar and give it a few minutes to work. A plastic scrubbie also can be used.

Q. Our dining room table has seen a lot of use through the years. I would like to clean it up really well and cover the scratches so we can use it for Thanksgiving. Can you please give me some tips?

A. Mineral spirits paint thinner will get the surface clean of grease and dust. Gel toothpaste can take care of water rings, and furniture oil will fill most scratches. Just wipe off any excess before using it. Try the touch-up furniture pens available at the hardware store to fill small marks.

Q. Our home needs a makeover. Can we paint vinyl siding? What kind of paint will work best?

A. Yes, you can paint vinyl siding. The key is to clean it thoroughly first. Then you need to prime it and paint with a paint that is formulated to go over vinyl. It's best to use a color that is close to what you already have, not a lot darker, or you may get warping or buckling because the vinyl will expand and contract with weather changes. Sherwin-Williams has VinylSafe Color Technology formulas in a couple of its paints, as do many other good-quality paint dealers. Just follow the directions to the letter, and make sure you do all of your prep work.

Reader tips

• I know tape doesn't make a proper clamp, but I love to use electrical tape to hold things together while glue is setting up or until I do get a permanent repair made. Electrical tape is waterproof and really stretchy, so you can pull things together really tightly. I always keep a roll inside the house as well as in my garage workshop. I plan to put a roll in each of my cars, too. You never know when you might need some.

• In our new kitchen, the sink is on an outside wall, and those pipes froze last weekend when we had a freeze. I need to insulate them for sure. To thaw them out slowly, we just opened up the cabinet doors and let the heat from the house warm them up enough to thaw them. It took about two hours, but I'm glad to say that we have no leaks.

• We redid one of our bedrooms and had to scrape off some rough stucco wall texturing. It was a real chore and a real mess. With all the scraping and sanding, we covered the doorways with clear plastic sheeting. This really helped. It took us several days to get all of the messy part done and then we were ready to paint. It looks so much better now that it's done. We need to do a couple more rooms but have decided to wait a little while.

• My wife used Velcro to organize her craft room. She put several horizontal strips on the wall above her workstation. Then she attached small pieces of the other side of the Velcro on her tools (scissors, measuring tape, etc.) to stick them right on the wall. She says it's easy to grab them and then stick them back while she's working. I decided to try this with some of my tools, and it really does work. I put some on my shop wall and stick screwdrivers, pliers and other smaller tools right there. I can grab them in a hurry and put them back to get them out of my way. Cool, huh?

• Years ago, a good friend gave me an old leather suitcase that she was getting rid of. I kept it, trying to think of something creative to do with it when I figured out it was the perfect size for my new coffee table. I bought table legs at the home center that just screw in with the hardware, stained them to match and installed them. It's so neat-looking and everyone just loves it. It actually is working out really well.


• We love Goo Gone for cleaning up latex paint drips and spills. But the Goo Gone Paint Cleanup Wipes are even better. These ready-to-use wipes are just great for cleaning up paint messes, and you can just toss them out when you are finished using them. They come with just he right amount of product already on them, and you can use them on porcelain and ceramic tiles, glass, wood, metal, plastic, stone, fiberglass, fabric and even carpet. You can find these wipes, along with the rest of the Goo Gone line, at most hardware stores and home centers. If you want to learn more about this product, visit

• You probably know that a good paintbrush needs to be cleaned and stored properly if you want it to last a long time. The Paint Brush Cover certainly will make that a lot easier. It's a hard, clear sealable cover that you can use during breaks to keep the brush and paint fresh and ready to use and, after painting, to keep your brush clean and straight and ready to go when you are ready to paint. You can see right through the case, so you can pick the right brush. 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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