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posted: 9/5/2014 12:01 AM

These tips for ceramic tile really make the cut

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Ceramic tile is a wonderful material for covering floors, walls, tables and lots of other surfaces. It's not as hard to work with as you might think. The most challenging part of the job is cutting the tiles that need to fit into specific spots.

Here are our best tips for tackling this part of the project.

• When buying tiles for your project, order a few extras if you need to make a lot of cuts, as some will break.

• Wear safety glasses and gloves when cutting tile. It can fracture easily and damage your eyes, and the freshly-cut edges can be quite sharp.

• There are manual tile cutters, too. Go slow and make practice cuts if you can.

• If you have a lot of straight cuts to make, a powered wet saw or tile saw is your best bet. Check around and find a local rental company that has them.

• Tile nippers also can be used. These will manually bite off small pieces and are fairly accurate.

• Rotary and other hand-held detail cutting tools also can be used. Again, practice makes perfect. These can make it easier to get shaped cuts.

• You can drill a hole into a tile with a wet-drill stand and a diamond-core bit. Place masking tape over the right spot for drilling. This will keep the bit from skating around when you are trying to get it started.

• For some cuts, you may need to use several of these methods on the same cut. After your cuts have been made, make sure you file or grind down the sharp edges.

Good luck!

What's the hang up?

Do you ride a bike? A lot of people do, and it's a great way to get some exercise. But they do take up a lot of space in the average garage, unless you hang them up. It's a lot easier to do than you might think. Install heavy-duty hooks directly into the ceiling joists, and lift up your bike to place it on the hook. Your hardware store may even have special hooks just for bikes. You also can install hangers on your garage wall. This frees up valuable floor space and keeps your bike from hitting or falling against your car.

Neat pours

Funnels make it a lot easier to pour liquids and some solids into containers. There are quite a few different types of funnels that you can buy, too. But you also can make one for yourself if you need one. One of the easiest funnels to make is with just a piece of paper or plastic, rolled up in a cone shape, with the small end open just large enough to let the funneled material through. If you have a plastic bag or an envelope, just put the material to be funneled into the bag or envelope and snip off the end. Keep it neat, even on the cheap!

Super hints

• There are times when you need a watertight container either for camping, fishing or other travel. One of the easiest watertight containers you might find around the house is a flashlight. Check yours out, as many have rubber gaskets and seal up really tightly and will keep the contents dry.

• My neighbor, Neal, has a rain barrel similar to mine. But his is filled with the condensate from his air conditioner. He's a supersmart guy -- he changed his drain line so that the air conditioner drains into the rain barrel. He has had a steady supply of water for his garden all summer long, and we are on tight water restrictions here in Texas. I haven't done this to mine yet, but it's a super idea!

• Old speakers might be destined for the trash pile, but wait. Most are backed by a magnet, so first pull out the magnet so you can use it later. These large magnets really can come in handy in the shop and at home.

Q. I need your help. I finally replaced a section of guttering over my sidewalk that had been leaking for a couple of years. I can't get the sidewalk clean now. I've tried TSP, and detergent and vinegar. What else might work?

A. If you haven't tried bleach, make a 50/50 solution of laundry bleach and water, and use a scrub brush. Be careful not to get it on your grass or plants. This ought to do it. Once clean, you should apply a water sealant to prevent future stains.

Q. Our family room has large picture windows. We have three children under the age of 5 and a couple of dogs, too. I want to make sure nobody runs into the glass windows. Is there anything I can use other than ugly decals?

A. It's hard to tell if your glass panels are tempered or safety glass. Sometimes you can view glass through polarized sunglasses and see black lines if it has been tempered. There also are clear sheets that can be installed on glass to make it less likely to shatter if broken. Decals are the best way to show kids and pets that there is glass. Just shop for nicer-looking ones. Or you can always let them get dirty, and then they will be a lot easier to see!

Q. I have had a large iron planter for many years. In fact, I think I got it from my mom. There are no holes in it, but it's rusted and chipping. How can I restore it and help it last longer?

A. You can scrub off the rusty material with a wire brush. If it's a large planter and you're running out of steam, you might want to use a wire brush attachment on your power drill. Use a rust converter/preventive primer, and then use matte black paint to protect it further. Make sure you do this to both the inside and the outside of the container. If it collects water from rain or your sprinklers, make sure to keep it emptied out.

Reader tips

• Our new custom kitchen has wooden panels that match the cabinet doors to cover the appliances. This looks nice, but it eliminated our magnetic message board that used to be on our refrigerator. My husband found some metal paint that would magnetize any surface that is painted with it, so we painted our pantry door. Now the magnets and notes are located on the inside of that door. They are out of sight, but still where we can see them.

• I always clean my paintbrushes really well and keep them stored in a dry place when I'm not using them. I used to wrap them in paper, but now I use masking tape. The tape holds the bristles together and keeps them straight, and it lasts a little longer than the paper. Make sure to use low-tack tape.

• I painted my garage floor to make it look better and to cover up some stains. It took some time to finish, but it turned out well. I painted several special areas different colors. For example, I painted a red area, off to the side, for the bikes and other sporting equipment. Another small area is green for the yard stuff, and a yellow area is my "workshop." It looks a lot more organized, and the biggest benefit is that it has cut way down on the dust from the old concrete surface. I never realized how much dust was there and being tracked into the house.

• I remember having a bookshelf made of concrete blocks and boards when I was just out of school. I decided to do something similar in my backyard after adding a koi pond. I got the concrete blocks and painted them black. Then I bought thick shelf boards to use as benches, and painted them black, too. I used bolts to hold the bench tops on the bricks and put everything together. It looks great and has a real "Zen" feel to it. Brings back a lot of good memories, too!

• Our bathroom shower has a small glass window. It's not a big window, but it is clear glass and would allow a peeper to see in. I found some opaque contact paper at my home center and cut it to fit the window. I cleaned the window with rubbing alcohol and put on the paper. It still lets light in, but you cannot see through it. I'm loving it!


• If you've had recurring mold problems, then you need to check out Healthful Home Mold & Bacteria Spray Cleaner. It not only kills mold and bacteria super fast, it keeps them from coming back for several months. The innovative enzymatic formula contains no bleach and is totally safe to use around your family and pets. It's even 100 percent biodegradable and contains all-natural ingredients. To find out more about this product and some others in the line, go to

• You've seen the "touchless" sink faucets by now. Well, there is a new Touchless Flush Toilet by Kohler. There is a sensor on top of the tank that you simply wave your hand over and it flushes the toilet automatically. If you want to turn your existing toilet into a touchless model, Kohler even has a kit you can use that fits most standard toilets. 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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