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posted: 6/13/2014 12:01 AM

Bring an old piece of furniture back from the dead

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One of the most rewarding projects a Do-It-Yourselfer can accomplish is to bring an old piece of furniture back from the dead. Sometimes you can do this just by cleaning it and making minor repairs. But other times it will require stripping and refinishing.

Here are some of our super tips to make the latter a little easier to tackle.

First of all, make sure you are not going to take away the value of the piece by refinishing it. Have furniture appraised if the piece is old and you are not sure of the value.

Depending upon the age of the piece, special care should be used if joints are loose. Add glue, hardware or clamps before moving it around too much.

Place your furniture piece on a plastic tarp before working on it. If you are using a really drippy stripper, place an empty can under each leg to catch a lot of the drips.

Chemical strippers work quickly, even on lots of layers of old paint. Just wear protective gear and follow the label directions.

Use plastic tools to remove the remnants of any stripper, and be careful not to gouge the surface. Special tools like a toothbrush, toothpick, dental floss and steel wool work pretty well and help you get into cracks and crevices for a final cleaning.

Allow the piece to dry before doing any sanding. Sanding will remove surface scratches and open the wood pores to accept new stain. Use courser-grit paper first, and then graduate to a fine sandpaper for a super-smooth finish.

Use a tackcloth to make sure you get rid of all sanding dust and keep the air still while applying any finish. If you want to make your own tack rag, visit our website,, for directions. You also can buy them at your hardware store.

Do your homework with regard to paint or stain, and apply a protective coating when finished to keep your project looking good for many years.

Create more storage

You can add extra storage to just about any wall that's covered with a layer of drywall. Use your stud finder to locate and mark the studs. Make sure no wiring is located in this wall before cutting. Then use a keyhole saw to cut out a rectangular piece of drywall from one stud to another. Add simple shelves between the studs and trim out the hole. Buy a stock cabinet door and mount it on hinges. Voila! Now you have some extra storage. It's perfect for a utility room, kitchen, kid's room or bathroom.

Maximize airflow

Ductwork that is not properly supported or crimped will not allow the forced air through it and out into your home. It's a good idea to go up into your attic, basement or crawl space and take a look at your duct work. If you find runs that are sagging or crimped, add supports -- like pipe strapping or cable ties. You can place a piece of cardboard around the duct work to prevent the ties or strapping from doing their own crimping. You'll feel the difference!

Super hints

• Add a dot of red paint to your food-disposal switch to make it obvious which one it is. Then you won't accidentally hit it when you are trying to sneak a midnight snack.

• Remember the old label makers? Well, they sure have come a long way. I have one, and have become a compulsive labeler since I got it. My label maker prints labels in a flash and on peel-and-stick material, so it's easy to install and stays put. It's a super way to keep yourself organized and it's great for the workshop, garage, office, craft room and lots of other clutter-prone areas.

• If the drawers you are trying to organize are too small, consider placing dividers diagonally. This way, you can create at least one longer storage compartment.

Q. We have wood paneling in our family room. I don't want to paint over it, like most people end up doing. I just want to cover a few minor holes and try to bring it back to life. Any suggestions?

A. You should be able to find a matching wood putty at your hardware store or home center. Clean the paneling with mineral spirits paint thinner to get rid of any airborne grease, and then just use a wood-restoring cleaner. An oil-based product rubbed into the finish should give you good results.

Q. Our towel bar and toilet-tissue holder keep falling off the wall. I've tried using larger screws and even glue, but they still fall off after only a short while. What else can I try?

A. There is a wide variety of pretty good wall anchors available at your hardware store. Molly bolts will be the best bet for a fix-it-once repair, and they are easy to install. Make sure to buy the ones that will fit your drywall, which ought to be easy to see at this point. If the holes are already too big for Mollys, you can move them over an inch or two and cover the existing holes and start over again. A little mud and paint will cover up the first set of holes. You also can opt for the larger toggle bolts.

Q. The faucets throughout our home are all made by the same manufacturer. But after many years, they all are starting to leak a little bit. Should I replace them all, or is there a quick fix for them?

A. Our first recommendation would be to check with the manufacturer. If this is a common problem throughout your home, it might be a defect, and they may have a free fix for you. If not, we suggest further investigation. If it's just a small, inexpensive part to replace, go ahead and fix them all, as replacing them can get quite costly.

Reader tips

• Our new refrigerator is really nice. But we put the old one in the garage, and the door was hinged on the wrong side. I removed it and rehung it on the other side of the frame so it would open without hitting the car. It was heavy but easy enough to do.

• We added some foam insulating panels to our basement when we finished it out. These panels were easy to use, and really seem to help. I had a couple left over, so I painted them and put them on my son's wall to use as a giant bulletin board. They cover the whole wall. It looks great, and I think he will use it for many years to come.

• We had twins last year and we have been trying to create a small but organized playroom for them in our basement. We bought acrylic sheets for making some storage bins. They were easy to work with and will last forever. I like them because you can see what's inside them, too. To smooth the rough edges, I used my small propane torch just to run across the edges. They all came out smooth.

• We stored some books in our garage, and when we opened up the box, you could smell a bad mildew odor. I got them all out and set them in the sun for a day. Then I put them in a clean box with some cornstarch underneath and on top of them. I used a couple of boxes, but it was fairly inexpensive. I left them, with the top off, like this for a week and then cleaned them off. They seem fine now. I don't see any spots on them, so I guess I got to them in time.

• When my husband gets grease on his clothes from working in his shop, I try lots of things to get his clothes clean. I've tried just about everything on the market, but finally, out of desperation, tried his own waterless hand cleaner. I rubbed it directly on the greasy spots and then put them in the wash. It worked! It works on just about all of the grease I have to clean from our clothes. It's amazing!


• Ever heard of "lock-bumping?" It's a way that thieves have learned to quickly access your home, even with a deadbolt lock. As with most creative ways to do harm to you, someone also has come up with a solution. The Deadbolt Secure is a simple, hinged device that can be installed in just a few minutes to make lock-bumping impossible. It easily can be unlocked when you need to but pushed into place when you want your lock to stay that way. To find out more, go to and see how this inexpensive device works. You will see how easy it is to install and use. Everything you can do to secure your home usually is worth the extra trouble and expense, and you'll sleep better at night knowing you've done your best.

• When you need to set a post in concrete for a fence, mailbox, clothesline or some other, smaller project, grab a bag of Sakrete NoMix Post Set to do it. It's super fast and easy to use and keeps the mess to a minimum, too. All you really need to do is dig the hole, set the post in place and fill it about halfway up with water. Then you pour the powdered NoMix into the hole and use a tamping rod to mix it up. The rod will stir it and remove any air that gets trapped in the mix. Then, just hold the post for about five minutes while the concrete sets up. That's all there is to it. You'll probably be able to find it at your home center or hardware store, so get some and cross off at least one project from your to-do list this next weekend. To find our more, go to and see this and all of the other products they have to make your chores a little easier.

• 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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