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posted: 3/7/2014 12:01 AM

Get an inexpensive, customized look for your blinds

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Blinds offer a variety of design options for homeowners, plus privacy and energy efficiency. They can be expensive, but if you can purchase standard sizes and cut them to fit your windows, you can get that customized look for a lot less. Here's how to do it.

Shortening your blinds is easier than you might think. Take a close look at your blinds, and you usually will find a place on the bottom piece where you can access the cord, threaded through the blinds from the top to the bottom. There will be at least two of these, and they may be covered with a cap. Access the cord and untie the knots on the end of each cord to release the bottom piece. Remove it, and then remove the excess slats that you don't need. Replace the bottom piece, retie the knots and cover the access points with the plugs or caps, and you're finished.

If your blinds are too wide for your windows, you can trim them. Wooden and vinyl shades are easy to trim with tools most of us have on hand. What you need to do is pull the blinds all the way up, then clamp them tightly in place, even at the edges. Use a straight edge and pencil to mark where they need to be trimmed, and split evenly between each side. Tape along this line with masking tape, and then use a chopsaw or hacksaw to carefully and slowly trim down each side. Sand the edges smooth and touch them up with matching paint or stain. Remove the tape, and they will be ready to hang.

You can paint your blinds by just cleaning, priming and painting them. Use the appropriate paint for the type of material your blinds are made of.

If your blinds are old and still have a "looped" cord, then let them all the way down and cut that cord at the bottom. Put beads, or just tie knots, at the ends. This will prevent accidental strangulation. All blinds are required to be made this way today.

Paint roller extensions

Painting often involves using a roller. It is a super way to get the paint on the wall quickly and smoothly. Most paint rollers simply are a special handle that holds a disposable roller, so doing a ceiling or most walls is going to also require an extension pole. These can cost a lot more than the roller itself. But you can use a variety of extension poles, some of which you probably already have in your home. If your broom or mop has a screw-on head, unscrew the head and try it on your roller handle. Most of the time it will fit just fine, saving you time and money!

Get creative

When we have a scrap left over from a project, we challenge ourselves to try to come up with some alternative uses for it. Recently we ended up with a piece of angle iron with holes along the sides, about three feet long. We chose to mount it horizontally on the garage wall. It is now an off-the-floor storage rack for some yard tools. We put "S" hooks in the holes and hang tools on them. It's so super that we want to add more soon!

Super hints

• Household hydrogen peroxide, like you use to clean wounds, also is a great rust remover. You can pour the peroxide directly on the rust to dissolve it, or make a paste by mixing baking soda into it to work longer or on vertical surfaces.

• My friend has an older dog with problems getting to the door on time. If you've had a pet like this, then you know how difficult this situation can be. She ended up using painter's masking tape attached to a piece of heavy-duty construction paper to cover the floors in one area of the house. It has to be replaced periodically but does a nice job of shielding the floors from those occasional accidents. Plastic floor coverings also could be used. Both are temporary and won't harm your floors.

• Grease and oil spots are a common problem for us do-it-yourselfers. But you can rub a piece of chalk over the spot on your jeans or shirt and throw it in the hamper. The chalk will work while it's sitting there, and it might be all gone when your clothes come out of the dryer. Give it a try!

Q. I am seeing a problem around the house where the gutters are starting to pull away from the fascia. I think the existing mounts are long spikes. Is there a better way to mount the gutters, or should I just replace the spikes?

A. If the spikes are loose in the fascia, then you should remove them and fill the holes. Then use a different kind of mounting system with these gutters. There are several types that should work fine, and you probably can replace these without first taking it all down.

Q. Our bathtub won't hold water any more. It has a standard pullup drain activator on the side of the tub. This lever moves up and down but doesn't do anything to the drain. Is there a way to fix this, and how?

A. Remove the screws that hold the cover over the lever and pull it out. It's a long mechanism but, hopefully, it's still intact. Then, remove the stopper in the tub. Take these parts to your home center and buy replacements. This is a fairly easy repair and should take care of the problem.

Q. Our family picnic table is old, but we've had it a long time and want to keep it. The frame is steel, and I plan to remove all of the old wood and replace it with new, synthetic wood. The problem I am running across is that the old bolts holding the old wood now are rusted, and I'm having a hard time removing them. Any help?

A. The easiest way to take care of these is to just cut them off. If the wood is old, you should be able to cut or break it away. Then use a hacksaw or reciprocating saw to cut off the old bolts. By the way, you're really smart to choose the synthetic wood. It's easy to work with, won't warp or have splinters and will last probably forever. Enjoy every minute you can with your family. It's a blessing, for sure!

Reader tips

• We had a large plastic ice chest, and it was fine until it fell off the back of my camper and cracked on the inside. It will no longer hold ice without leaking, so I turned it into my new toolbox. I taped over the crack and then filled it with some of my tools. The ice chest is on wheels and has a handle, so I easily can move the heavy load to where I am working. It's great because it is so large and yet it is very easy to handle with the wheels, and I like it much better than my old toolbox.

• I have a word of warning for your readers, if you don't mind. I stripped an old desk and sanded it smooth. Then I put on a stain. Unfortunately, oil from my hands got on the wood and there are several white spots where the stain didn't get into the wood. I had to sand it down again and try to apply more stain to these areas. Before applying any stain, make sure the wood is grease- and oil-free, or the stain will not penetrate evenly. You can use paint thinner to remove it, or use sanding. Wearing gloves also can help prevent some oil stains.

• I know not to get too attached to my tools because they break down, get borrowed and never returned or just get replaced by better tools. My metal tape measurer was starting to "go," so I decided to mount it to the front of my workbench. I used screws to attach it and I trimmed off the extra part. It's really handy for measuring things, as I do a lot of hobbies at this workbench. Most of the time I don't even need another tape, so this is just perfect.

• Our garage is a tight fit for both of our cars. There barely is enough room to open the doors to get out without hitting the walls of the garage. I bought several of those foam pool noodles and used staples and cable ties to pin them to the wall right where the doors would hit. This protects our cars and it really works. We still have to be careful, but I'm sure it's making a big difference over time.

• My shower head is adjustable. It turns to switch from regular to pulse, etc. I noticed that the plumbing pipe coming through the wall was too loose and appeared not to be nailed down inside the wall. I bought a can of expanding foam insulation. I pulled the cover around the pipe to the side, and pumped the foam down inside the wall to fill in the gaps. Now the pipe doesn't wiggle so much, and though I'm sure it's not done exactly right, it's good enough for me. I used the rest of the foam to fill in some other spots around the house. Great stuff!


• Baking soda isn't just for baking anymore. 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 its full potential? We have put together a list of some of our favorite uses. This information, and more, is available on our website,, so come on by!

• Radiant floor heaters are a super way to get the warmth without a lot of waste and high bills but, if you're not ready to redo your floors, you might be interested in a RugBuddy. The RugBuddy comes in different sizes and is made to go under a standard floor rug. It looks like a big heating pad and works in a similar way. These plug-in models are a super-efficient way to heat a small area in your home. To learn more, go to

• Laminate wood floors are tough, but over time, they do need a touch-up. We like Rejuvenate cleaners and restorers. The cleaner will take grease, scuffs, dirt and other stuff off the floor and the markers cover scratches to make them invisible. The Restorer is so easy to use and will make your floors look new again. It's available in high-gloss and satin finish. You can find it at home centers and other stores, and online 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

© 2014, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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