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posted: 4/25/2014 12:01 AM

Easy plan for a catch basin to collect rain

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Want free water for your garden? Make your own rain barrel, and harvest water for your plants. It's easier than you might think.

Here are some easy-to-follow plans we have used to make a rain-collection and distribution center.

You can buy plastic barrels at many places -- just look around. We got ours from a company that delivers apple juice. You can use an old wooden barrel or even a large plastic trash can.

You need to make three holes in it: One near the bottom for a spigot, one near the top for any overflow and one in the top to catch the rain at your downspout

The spigot fits into the side and needs to have a gasket and lock nut on the inside of the barrel to hold it in place. A little dab of silicone caulk around the hole also will help ensure a no-leak seal.

The top hole will be fitted with a hose or some pipe to carry the overflow away from the barrel.

You also will need to cut a hole into the top of the barrel to run your downspout into. It's a good idea to put a filter onto the end of the downspout or into the top of the barrel to catch the debris from your gutters and to keep out mosquitoes. You can use window screen for this.

You can hook up a garden hose to the bottom spigot and water your plants with this. A lot of folks put the barrel up on a platform to make getting the water out a little easier.

This is a very simplistic plan for a rain collector. Do a little shopping around, and you'll find great helpers, like a diverter that can be fit onto your downspout, which will look sleek and eliminate the need for an overflow. There's also a self-seating spigot, which can be installed without having to reach down into the barrel.

You can paint the catch basins if you like. Place them around your home's foundation, and you might not have to buy water for your landscape at all.

Easy-drip irrigation system

The most efficient way to water your garden is with a drip irrigation system. The easiest way to set one up is with a water hose that is designed just for this purpose. Most of these are made from recycled tires, so they are eco-friendly. You can customize yours by using connectors, splitters and other couplers that can easily be installed on these types of hoses. Check your garden center or hardware store for these parts. You'll find a good variety of them that will allow you to cut your hose to the exact length you need, or split it to provide water to several areas all at once. Use water wisely, and your landscape will look super!

Sledgehammer safety

What could be worse than smacking your fingers with a sledgehammer? Smacking your hand, or your helper's hand, with a sledgehammer! Here is a super way to avoid doing this. You can hold the stake, spike or rod with pliers or a wrench. Then you can use a sledgehammer to safely drive it in without harming yourself or your friend!

Super hints

• If you want to make a super-size bulletin board, just go to your home center and buy a rigid foam panel. You can paint it or cover it with fabric and attach it to any wall. It's great for a kid's room, craft rooms, sewing rooms and home offices.

• I have an older buffet table that has seen better days. It's still in pretty good shape, but it needed a new top. Since my favorite place to shop is the hardware store, I found a roll of cork and glued it to the top. It's great. I don't have to worry about setting hot or damp dishes on top of it, and it looks great. I even had some leftover and made place mats out of these scraps.

• Foaming oven cleaner, like Easy Off, is great for cleaning your oven. It's also pretty effective for oil stains on a driveway or garage floor. Treat them like oven stains, and you'll be amazed at how well this stuff works to clean them.

Q. We had a small leak in our roof that we didn't find for a while. The water got into the wall, and we had a lot of mold there before we finally found it. I've pulled off the drywall and tried to scrub it clean. What else can I do to get rid of the mold and make sure it doesn't come back once I seal up the wall?

A. Liquid laundry bleach will kill mold and mildew, so use it to clean these surfaces. Let it dry completely and then repeat the process, including the drying time. Don't re-use any materials that have mold or mildew on them. That means replacing the drywall and any insulation that was there.

Q. I have what my sister calls a "phantom flush." The toilet flushes all by itself, with nobody around. I can hear it during the night. What is causing this, and how can I stop it from happening?

A. This usually is caused by water leaking from the tank into the bowl and causing the float valve to refill the tank. Check to see if the flapper seats properly over the hole between the tank and the toilet bowl. These flappers are very inexpensive and easy to replace.

Q. I just painted my master bedroom, and the paint is pulling away and cracking around the joints that I caulked. What did I do wrong, and how can I fix it?

A. This sometimes can happen if the caulk wasn't allowed to fully cure before painting. Sometimes the paint itself might be to blame, as lower-quality paint will tend to do this. Remove the loose paint and primer, and repaint. We're always trying to save money, but, as you may have just found out, sometimes saving money ends up costing you more money and time than you budgeted for.

Reader tips

• I found the perfect place to store my hardware: a spice rack. I found one at a garage sale and mounted it on my pegboard wall. It even had some labels, so I put the hardware into the individual jars and then put labels on them. It's so much easier to find what I need now that I don't have to pull out a box full of little bags and boxes of hardware.

• Our house is on piers, so we have access to pipes under the house. I check them and replace the insulation when needed. I like to use foam-pipe covering, as it is easy to use and works pretty well. I have leftovers, so I try to find good ways to use them. I put them over the handles on my lawn mower, fertilizer spreader and even the pool net. It is more comfortable on your hands. My wife especially is appreciative.

• We needed to replace our old, worn-out window screens. In shopping around, we discovered we had a lot more choices than we originally thought. One of the more interesting options was a sun-blocking material. It's a little thicker and more expensive, but we chose it for the west side of our house, which gets a lot of direct sunlight during the summer. The sun-blocking material really should make a difference, and we're excited about getting them installed next week.

• Our oven is not built into our cabinets, but it can be moved for cleaning or if we need to replace it. I was trying to cook and lost a shrimp. Since it wasn't on the floor, I figured it might be under the stove. I knew it would smell in a few days, so I had to find it. I finally got out a hand mirror and was able to spot it down the side, between the cabinet and the stove. I had to stick the broom down there to get it out. Thank goodness for the mirror.

• I found a really good way to clean my leather tabletops. I really like them and am glad I was able to keep them after my grandparents moved to a retirement facility. I clean and protect them with oily furniture polish. It's really good at cleaning them and makes them shine.


• The Smart Sink Stopper is a super fix for most common sink stoppers. It's easy to install and has a built-in hair trap, as well as a reservoir for Clearzyme tablets, a slow-release cleaning tablet that keeps your drain running smoothly longer, saving you money on service calls. Even the cap comes in a variety of finishes to match your existing faucet. Check it out at the website, and see if it might be just the thing you've been waiting for.

• Spackling and filling dents in walls is not rocket science, but it does take some practice. One thing that makes it easier is to find a good-quality filler that is easy to spread, won't crack or shrink and is mold- and mildew-resistant. Flex 'n Fill is a super choice. It does all of that -- and more. The high-strength polymer formula sticks to your surface better and, because of the built-in primer, can be sanded and painted in only 30 minutes. Check it out at your hardware store, home center or 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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