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posted: 4/11/2014 12:01 AM

Start spring cleaning outside your home with the gutters

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In some parts of the country, rain isn't a problem -- but in others, too much of it has been a real problem. Guttering around your home is your best defense against too much rain, as it should channel the water away from your home's exterior.

A little light maintenance is all that is required to take care of gutters. Here are some guidelines to go by and a few tips you can use to keep your gutters in good working order.

Cleaning out leaves and other debris is the first step, and it should be done three or four times a year. You are going to need a ladder. Make sure it is on solid ground before climbing. Place a rubber mat under it if you feel like it might sink into the ground or slide. Also, if you are using an extension ladder that will be leaning against your siding, place socks over the top rails so they won't scratch or leave a mark on your house.

A good scooper is the best way to clean out the gutters. You can make one from an empty milk or juice jug. Just cut off the bottom of the jug and use the handled part of the jug as your scooper. You also can use a garden hose to spray them out, but that can get very messy. It will allow you to get to hard-to-reach areas. There's even a little robot that will do the job.

Use a plumber's snake to push debris out of the downspout. Follow up with a garden hose to wash out the remainder.

Install leaf guards at the top of the downspouts to prevent future clogs. There also are gutter covers you can install. Check your home center for their supplies.

Inspect your downspouts to make sure they are directing water away from your foundation. If they need to be extended, add more to the ends of the downspouts. There are easy-to-install flexible add-ons at most hardware stores. Splash blocks also will help send the water off into the landscape. Make sure they are positioned to best do so.

Inspect gutters during rain to locate problem areas and then make needed repairs as soon as possible.

It might seem too easy a project to have that much benefit, but water collecting around your home's foundation can cause a lot of very extensive (and expensive) damage.

Old drawers

There are lots of cool things you can do with old drawers, but we tried a new one a couple of weeks ago that really looked great. The front of the drawer we were working with was falling off, so pulling it off the rest of the way was easy. It had one knob on it, but we had a few more old, decorative knobs that we also installed on it. Then we hung it up on the wall in the front hallway to hold hats, coats, keys and other stuff. You could put up several of these in one area and use them to hold a wide variety of things. The fun is getting creative with it, and it's a super way to recycle a family treasure that's seen better days.

Organize your kitchen

Pegboard is one of the greatest shop aids for organization, but it's also great in the home. One simple way to use it is inside a cabinet to help store pots and pans and other supplies. Mount the pegboard in the standard way, with a little space behind it, to accommodate the hooks. These hooks are perfect for hanging pots and pans, lids, utensils and even cups.

Super hints

• Even if you use filtered water in your automatic ice maker, ice can take on refrigerator and freezer smells over time. The cubes left in the bin for a while will start to taste funny, so dump the bin once a month and let it refill with fresh cubes. You'll taste the difference.

• I would much rather be working in the yard than sewing on buttons or mending a torn shirt. But, as a good wife, I feel it is my duty -- not to mention that my husband would do a lousy job of it. I made up a little sewing kit with pins, a few assorted threads, needles, scissors and masking tape. I can grab it, along with the clothes to be mended, on my way to the family room before "movie night" starts. I barely notice that I'm sewing while being distracted by the movie.

• Acids usually make great cleaners, but they need to be used with caution. You should always wear gloves and use eye protection. Always pour the acid into the water, not the other way around, to prevent splashing it.

Q. We have been renovating our home ever since we moved in, and have had some fun doing it. Instead of replacing our old, damaged parquet flooring, as suggested, we decided to try to fix it. How do we best remove the dark spots, which are probably caused by water?

A. Try a little bleach and water first. If that doesn't work, your best bet is going to be to sand the floor and then apply a new finish. If you do this, it will be like a new floor again and will last for many years.

Q. We have some Christmas decorations that are wooden cutouts. I noticed the last time I was in the attic that some of them are starting to deteriorate. They are made of plywood. Is there any way to protect them better?

A. Apply a couple of coats of polyurethane on all of the surfaces, even the sides and bottom, to seal out moisture. If you ever have to replace any of them, use marine-grade plywood, as it will last a little longer.

Q. We have a pink toilet that we would love to paint. Is that something we can actually do, or should we just learn to live with it?

A. Painting with an epoxy paint is an option. It's going to be a chore and it won't last forever. We might suggest you just replace it, though. A pink toilet, although it may not be to your liking, might be worth a bundle to the right person on eBay or Craigslist.

Reader tips

• I have a secret weapon for cleaning my carpets: I use vinegar and water. The stronger the mix, the more cleaning power it has. I am amazed at how well it works. Of course, you would have to test it on your own carpet first, but it works well on my carpet. And remember to blot the stains, not scrub them.

• I thought that having a washing machine upstairs near our bedroom would be a bonus because it's so close to the closet. But it makes a lot of noise, especially if you are trying to sleep. I just bought a door sweep and rubber insulation to go around the closet door, so I can seal off this room better when the washer and dryer are running. I think this will take care of a lot of the noise.

• I started using safety glasses when I took shop class in high school, and have continued to use them through the years. If you don't, you could have serious injuries. But I do know they scratch easily, so you have to take care of them to make them last. I keep mine in a thick wool sock that hangs on my workbench. I never could find a good case that they would fit into, so the sock works great.

• I recently tried a new cleaner for my glass shower doors. I used Rain-X, which is meant for car windshields, to repel rain. It keeps spots from forming on the doors. It's now been two months since I cleaned them, the longest I've ever gone without cleaning. They still are looking really good. Try this and see if you get the great results I did.

• During spring break, we made steppingstones. We have three kids, and I thought it would be fun. We bought a simple, round mold and gathered up some items to put on the stones -- like shells, rocks, marbles and things like that. We let the kids make a design from these items in the bottom of the mold, then poured mixed concrete into it and let it sit for a couple of days. The first one cracked a little, but the others look great. It was a lot of fun, and I'm glad to have them by the trash cans, where I've been needing them for years! Maybe the kids will start taking the trash out.


• If you think you can't install hardwood flooring without glue, nails or extensive training, then you need to check out the latest and greatest product that we've run across -- Elastilon. It's a self-adhesive membrane that is thick enough to go over a wide variety of surfaces, including ceramic tiles. It allows you to place the flooring planks directly on top of the adhesive backer. It's super sticky to hold the flooring in place, but it still allows for expansion and contraction of the wood. It even helps cut down on sound transmission, and can be used over in-floor heating. Once in place, there's no waiting to walk on it. To find out more about it, go to or call them at (877) 526-9663.

• If you are going to apply epoxy paint to your garage floor, you do have some choices. Seal-Krete has a one-part epoxy paint made with an acrylic formulated to do the job and there's no mixing, like you have with two-part epoxy paints. This finish resists water, oil, grease, gas, salt, scuffing, peeling and can handle those hot tires. Best of all, it cleans up with soap and water. It comes in a wide variety of colors, and it also would work great on pool decks, driveways, patios and basements. Check it out at your hardware store or home center 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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