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posted: 3/14/2014 12:01 AM

Here's how to keep your drawers in tiptop shape

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Do you have problems with your drawers? Of course, we're talking about the ones you keep kitchen utensils and clothes in. Drawers may have appeared not to change much through the years, but inside, the mechanics have. Here are suggestions and tips to keep your drawers operating smoothly, and how to fix them if they are not!

The first drawers actually ran on wooden rails. There usually would be a slot on the drawer, along the bottom or sides, and a rail on the dresser or cabinet itself. You can rub wax, a candle or even a bar of soap on the wooden pieces to lubricate them. Over time, these wooden rails can wear down or split. They actually still make wooden replacements that are available at several online sites, or you can fashion your own.

Metal parts started taking over this role later on, and there are a plethora of designs for keeping drawers moving smoothly. These are much easier to work with, and are fairly easy to install. If you are replacing just a damaged part, you can remove the damaged piece and take it with you to the hardware store to buy a suitable replacement.

If you need new drawer glides, you will need to know a couple of things: how deep the drawer is from the front to the inside back of the cabinet, and how much weight you expect to support.

You will have the option of a center slide or side rails. You'll probably also need to get out your level, a square, a pencil and a few shims. Just follow the package directions, making sure your measurements and marks are accurate. You also might consider replacing the included screws with better versions. Pre-drilling for the screws also will help you get them in easily and without damaging the wood.

Upgrades also are available, and include self-closing drawers.

Do your homework and set aside some time, and you can take care of just about anything around your home. Good luck!

Quick clamp

In repairing a drawer front recently, we needed to hold the glue job with a long bar clamp. Unfortunately, it was busy serving on another project. We grabbed two small bar clamps and used them together for clamping the length of the drawer. One goes on the drawer front, stretching toward the back, and the other goes over the back of the drawer and hooking onto the other clamp. You can tighten them, one at a time, until you are happy with the tension. There are going to be other times when this trick can be used, so tuck it in your mind for later if you don't need it now!

Tight wire act

Adding a new outlet can make your life easier in many cases, but fishing the wire through the wall can be a challenge. Have you ever tried using a retractable tape ruler instead of a fish wire? In some circumstances, it's the only way to go. If you can maneuver it into the hole and stretch it out, it will remain rigid to allow you to find it at the other end of the run. With the new wire tied to it, you can then retract it and get the rest of the job finished much quicker.

Super hints

• Squirt a shot of WD-40 into the trough around a paint can lid before putting the lid back on. This will prevent the lid from sticking, and it will come off easier when you are ready for the next coat of paint.

• One of my good friends has a great way to clean her convertible. She always leaves the top down, so it collects leaves. She actually uses her leaf blower to clean it out. I thought she was crazy, until I found myself in the same situation with my car last weekend. It worked great. The vacuum never would have been able to suck up the leaves.

• When moving some items, wrap them in wide, plastic wrap, which wraps onto itself and sticks. You can use kitchen wrap, but the stuff you buy at the home center is a lot cheaper because it's not food-grade. It prevents a lot of scratches and dings and keeps doors and drawers from swinging open.

Q. I have an older home that has the typical iron posts and railings on the front porch. They need to be repainted. Right now, even after cleaning, I see a chalky finish to the paint. Do I need to scrape this off before painting? Use a primer? Special paint?

A. Some paints are supposed to "chalk" as a means of self-cleaning. Just don some rubber gloves and use TSP to clean the surface, then lightly sand it. Use a metal primer, then a good exterior paint made for metal surfaces.

Q. We have a sunroom that currently is full of plants. Once it gets nice outside again, I want to paint the floor, which is plain concrete. What kind of prep is needed before I do this, and how can I make it look nice?

A. Use TSP to clean the floor thoroughly. After it is completely dry, use epoxy paint. Some will require an acid etch, so read and follow the package directions. This paint will last much longer than any other paint. There are some nice-looking exterior rugs these days too. You can just hose them off if they get dirty.

Q. We want to install a hand rail on our front steps. I'm not sure how this is done, but I want to try to do it myself. Can you give me more information?

A. Look around and talk to companies that supply metal fence parts for your railings. Most are easy to install with masonry anchors and epoxy. You'll need a good drill with a masonry bit. Anchor it to the steps and to your structure if you can. Another interesting source for decorative railings might be a salvage yard. You might find a real treasure if you hunt for it.

Reader tips

• I try to use paint tray liners more than once, if I can. They can be hard to clean unless you get right on them as soon as you get finished painting. If I can't find a clean one around when I need one, I will use aluminum foil. You can line the paint tray with this, and when you are finished painting, you can clean it off and let it dry. Then you can flip it over and use it again for your next paint project.

• We just did some landscaping and it was worth every bump, bruise and backache. The yard looks great. I discovered that I had to pick up my mower to get it in and out of the backyard. I added a handle to the front of the mower. It's just a gate handle mounted with screws, but it allows me to lift the mower without having to stick my fingers under the front end, which usually is caked with fresh-cut grass.

• I saw a jewelry organizer at the discount store the other day that was merely a small piece of pegboard, painted white, along with assorted hooks and a shelf for $40! It's a great idea, but I could put it together for a whole lot less. I had a scrap of pegboard that I painted with spray paint and hung up in our closet for my wife. I bought an assortment pack of hooks and even installed a small shelf at the bottom of it. She loves it and says it's super handy for her to use every day.

• Before we moved, I wanted to touch up the paint in the house but didn't want to have to paint the entire room, just to get the paint to match. I found out that many large paint stores keep a record of what paint colors certain builders use. If you know the builder and the year your home was built, they usually will give you a matching paint. I was amazed at how easy this worked and wanted to share it with you and your readers.

• I am getting my vegetable garden ready for another season. I don't grow much during the winter, but do spend time amending the soil. I also straighten the edging, clean and lubricate the sprinklers and get all of the trellis' and tomato cages ready to go. I have started hanging old DVDs around the garden to scare off the birds. This works really well, and when they start to fade out, I just take them down and put new ones up. They spin around and flash the birds.


• Spring is just around the corner, thankfully. How would you like to make a nifty set of wind chimes for your patio or garden? Wind chimes add a touch of music to your deck or patio. We have plans for an easy-to-put-together set of wind chimes made from electrical conduit (pipe), which is easy to cut and not very expensive. The other parts are available at your favorite hardware place -- or, you may have them left over from another project right in your workshop. If you are looking for more tips and answers to your home repair questions, visit our website at We love to hear from our readers, and welcome your ideas!

• "The Home Book: A Complete Guide to Homeowner and Homebuilder Responsibilities" is a super reference for all homeowners. When things come up, like a faulty ceiling fixture or cracked driveway, this book will explain what it can mean to you, what your responsibility is in repairing it and what your builder might be responsible for. Valuable information also is included on costs, codes and cures for everything that can go wrong in your home. The glossary and index will make looking up a wide variety of issues easy. Check it out at your home center or bookstore. Additional information also is available at

• As with many products we run across, they may have purposes that they didn't think about. The SmartShopper 301 Grocery List Organizer is the perfect "tool" for a messy workshop. This state-of-the-art, voice recognition "listing assistant" records, organizes and prints what you tell it to. No looking for a piece of paper and a pencil. It will record screw sizes, board lengths and other information that you probably will forget before you write it down. You'll be ready to go to the hardware store, list in hand, before you even get cleaned up. Check it out 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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