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posted: 2/7/2014 12:41 AM

Give your kitchen faucet new life

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Last week we talked about simple, quick and inexpensive things you can do to upgrade your kitchen. One of the things we suggested was to replace your kitchen faucet. It really can be fairly easy to do.

Here are the steps you need to follow for that simple and quick replacement.

The easiest replacement is one that will fit right into the same holes that are already cut into your sink or counter. Take a photo and some measurements with you when you shop for a new faucet. Take a look under the sink, inside the cabinet, to see what type of hookups you have to see if they might need to be replaced, too. If you have older, rigid copper pipes, you might consider replacing these with flexible supply lines.

When you shop for a replacement, you also need to consider style. Of course you want the latest style, but it needs to fit in with what you already have.

• Turn off the water supply to your sink at the cutoffs inside the cabinet. Let the faucet run to drain any water in this line out.

• Unhook the water supply lines from the old faucet.

• Loosen the nuts holding your existing faucet in place. Some connections will be on top of the sink, but other faucets will be connected on the underside of the sink. Special tools for removing any nuts underneath the sink may be required. A basin wrench will allow you to loosen the nut at this odd angle, unlike a standard wrench. As an alternative, you might be able to use a ratchet wrench with an extension on it.

• Make sure to clean away any old caulk left behind on the sink or countertop.

• Apply new caulk or plumber's putty to the underside of the new faucet base. If your new faucet comes with a rubber gasket for this purpose, you won't need to putty. Put the new faucet into place as straight as you can and then start tightening the mounting nuts. Before you are done, restraighten the faucet and then finish tightening the nuts.

• Hook up your supply lines and turn the water back on. After you are sure there are no leaks, test your new faucet.

You're going to love the look of your new faucet, because it's new and because you installed it yourself!

Lubricate locks

We all have learned how much the lubrication of moving parts can make a huge difference in the operation of things. Of course, there are different lubricants for different moving parts. Graphite is what you should use on most locks. It's been the choice of experts for many years. You can buy graphite at your home center or hardware store just for using on locks. But you also can get graphite, enough for one lock, from a pencil. Just rub the lead of the pencil over the edge of your key back and forth several times. This will spread the graphite on the key and then, when you push the key into the lock, it will spread the graphite around to lubricate the inside of the lock. It will make a huge difference. You'll see.

Hole punch

Lots of small hardware pieces are sold on plastic bubble cards that hang on a rack at the store. These can be hung on your shop wall the same way. But when the holes tear through, then what? That's what a home-office hole punch is for. This same hole-punch can be used to make holes in lots of other shop supplies to make it easier to hang on your shop wall, too.

Super hints

• If you get a splinter in your finger and can't get to it with tweezers, try covering it with some nontoxic white glue. Let the glue dry and then peel it off. Many times the splinter will come off along with the glue.

• I work out of my home, so my "mail room" is down the street at the UPS store. When I get a package in the mail, I save the packing material. I take it straight to the UPS store and they are grateful to have it. I doubt I get better service, but they sure treat me well when I have to ship something. Plus, I feel better when I can recycle rather than throw something useful away.

• Even the slightest bit of moisture can turn a box of plaster into a rock. Transfer all powdered shop compounds into plastic bags and seal them to prevent moisture problems while stored. You can put the material back into the box to keep your label and instructions if you want. You'll be glad you did.

Q. We need some advice. We found a new pedestal sink that will replace our old pedestal sink. The only problem is that it's shaped differently at the base, so there are gaps around the current tiles. What do we fill these gaps with?

A. If you can find matching replacement tiles, you can cut them to fit and grout them into place before putting the new base in. If the gaps are small, you might just fill in with some matching grout.

Q. My toilet isn't that old, but the bolts holding the seat in place are rusted so much that I can't get them loosened. I want to change the seat. What can I do to get the bolts undone?

A. Navel jelly is a thick grease that you can put on rust to help dissolve it. Hopefully this will do the trick. If not, you might have to use a hacksaw to cut off the bolts. Just be very careful not to scratch the porcelain while you are cutting. Then you can replace the seat and bolts with plastic hardware.

Q. I have what appears to be peel-and-stick vinyl wallpaper in one of my bathrooms. Please tell me how to get it off the wall so I can paint. I have tried just pulling it down, but it isn't coming off easily and is leaving behind a sticky adhesive. What will get the paper and adhesive off the wall?

A. Unfortunately, it's not going to be easy. Heat will help, so try using a hair dryer to loosen the adhesive. Heat and pull, then repeat a lot. Once you get all of the vinyl off the walls, use adhesive remover to get the rest of it off.

Reader tips

• With both sons home from college and looking for jobs, our house is overflowing. We love having the boys here, but they have a lot of stuff. Instead of the standard plastic storage boxes, we've switched to large trash cans on wheels. These seal up nicely and are easy to roll around and move when the day finally comes for them to get their own places. Until then, they are full and lined up at the back of the garage.

• I added some of the battery-operated lights in our dark closets. This helped in some of them, but not so much in others. I added some mirror tiles in a couple of the closets to see if this would make a difference. It really spreads the light around. I went back and added more to the other dark closets. Not only does it reflect the light from the battery lights, it also brings more light in from the rooms. Who knew?

• In our city, we have a fantastic store that sells used office furniture to profit a children's hospital. Most of it, if not all, is donated by businesses. The store is full of great stuff you can use in a home workshop. I bought metal lockers I store some of my tools in. I've also had my eye on a great work table. Check around in your city to see if there are charity-run resale shops where you can shop. Another good outlet for supplies is a Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

• I needed hardware cloth to patch up my bird cage, but ended up with quite a bit of extra screen. I made some storage boxes out of it. I just cut out the box shapes and "sewed" them together with wire. These boxes are perfect for holding mail that used to sit on the kitchen counter and for pens and pencils in my office. I think I will make a hanging basket out of some, too.


• Nuheat has a super line of radiant floor heating systems, and their latest, Signature, has Wi-Fi connection, which means you can operate the system wirelessly. That means you can turn it off if you are going out of town in a hurry, turn it on so your floors will be warm when you get home from work, or make adjustments from another room in the house. It's easy to set up and use, and even allows you to see energy usage, so you can save money. There's also a seven-day programmable setting, as well as a clock and battery-backup power. Check it out for yourself at and see if this might be the perfect solution to your cold floors.

• We get a lot of questions about how to insulate an attic stairway. Well, there are lots of ways to do it and several good products you can use. One of the easiest to install and afford is the Duct Brand Attic Stairway Cover. It comes in a small package and is sort of like one of those pop-up tents. You carry it up into the attic and set it up over the stairway opening. It doesn't interfere with the stairway when it's folded into place, but does a nice job of insulating this leaky spot. Additionally, if you need to get up into the attic, it's easy to move aside and to put back into place when you are ready to close it back up again. Check for it at your home center or hardware store in the insulation aisle. For additional information and a cool video, 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

2014, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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