Super handyman: Try fabric on walls for a totally different look

Posted6/28/2012 10:51 AM

You can create a whole new room by covering the wall. Paint works, and so does wallpaper, but why not use fabric? It's a great look, and it's also a super way to hide an ugly wall, bad paint job, bad wallpaper or a few cracks. Here's how it's typically done.

Remove switchplates and outlet covers for now. If you have baseboards, gently pry them out a little so you can shove the fabric behind them.

Most people like to put up batting on the wall as padding, but it's not required. Use spray adhesive on the wall, and then place the batting over that. It will go up quickly this way and will stay in place. Trim off any excess.

The fabric can be just about anything. Look for bargains at upholstery shops and online. Since most fabric won't be wide enough to cover the entire wall, you will need to sew two or more pieces together. Cut lengths, with a couple of extra inches, for the wall and sew the pieces together on a sewing machine. You can use glue or iron-on seam tape if you don't want to sew them. If there is a pattern to the fabric, make sure you match it before sewing the pieces together.

Start at the top of the wall in the center to attach the fabric. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can just staple it to the wall, which is really fast and simple. You can hide the staples later.

You also can use long, straight pieces of cardboard for a cleaner edge. Fold the edge of the fabric over the cardboard, hold the front of the fabric up and staple the cardboard, and the edge of the fabric, to the wall. Now when the fabric folds over the cardboard, you won't see any staples.

Work from the top center out to either side, making sure you have enough to reach each side and the bottom of the wall.

With the power to the outlets turned off at the breaker box, carefully cut the fabric around the outlets and glue it around the edges before replacing the covers and restoring the power.

You can use staples along the bottom and press the baseboards back into place. Again, work from the center and side to side in order to keep the fabric taut. Make sure the fabric is stretched tight from top to bottom.

You can use a little glue along the edges to hold it in place.

If you want to trim the edges with braid, you can glue it in place, and it will hide any staples.

Dust your walls periodically, and they should look great for a long time.

An irregular solution to a common problem

You might be surprised to know how many ceilings and walls aren't straight. If you have a crooked ceiling/wall seam, don't feel bad. It's very common. The only time it can be a problem is when you are trying to put up a wallpaper border or some molding. One way to deal with the wallpaper-border issue is to find a border with an irregular pattern along the top. Then use good scissors to cut the outline of the pattern, and do away with that straight edge along the top of the paper. An example would be a border of different flowers. You can cut off the straight edge and cut along the outline of the flowers. Now when you glue it up, the irregular joint won't be noticeable at all. Problem solved, the easy way!

Old garden hose sections make nifty trash-bag clips

Is there some unwritten law that a plastic bag, placed inside a trash can with its edges around the top of the can, will automatically fall into the can at some point when garbage is inside it? Maybe it's physics. One way to keep the trash bag's edges at the top of the can is after you peel them back and stretch them over the top edge of the trash can, secure them with short sections of garden hose that have been split down the side to slip over the edge of the can and the trash bag. It's so simple, and it eliminates the droopy-bag-inside-the-can issue!

Super hints

• Old golf clubs don't need to be thrown away. You can use them, singly or in bunches, to hold up veggie plants in your garden. Tie three together at the top and spread the bottoms out to make a teepee for your tomatoes or cucumbers. They look neat in a plain old garden.

• I've seen some clever (and usually expensive) hooks for plants that allow you to turn them when you need to, to get more sun on one side or to make watering easier. You can use a simple swivel hook, available at any hardware store at a cost of less than a dollar, to do this. Most of the other store-bought swivel hooks for hanging baskets cost about $10. The next time you have to run to the store for caulk or staples, spend a few more minutes just looking around for useful goodies like this. You'll be amazed at what you can find!

• The gel knee pads are really nice when you are working on your knees. But if you don't have any of these, you can use old shoulder pads from your suits or your wife's clothes. Slip them under your knees while working, and you'll feel the difference.

Q. Last weekend, the kids knocked over a candle, and it dripped on the patio. I can't get the wax off the surface. What will work?

A. Try dissolving the wax with mineral spirits paint thinner. You also can use a putty knife to scrape off the top layer. Leave mineral spirits thinner on the spot, and cover it with clay cat litter to absorb the rest. That should take care of the stain.

Q. Our blacktop driveway is about 10 years old. We just had it resurfaced and are wondering if sealing it, this time, might help it last longer. What is your opinion?

A: Sealing it will help it last longer. You should wait a couple of weeks after it's been applied before you use a sealer. Sealers are fairly easy to apply and are available at most home centers.

Q. My oven has a double glass door with years of baked-on grease. Is there a way to clean it?

A. It's not going to be easy, but you can give it a try. First, apply oven cleaner and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. This will loosen up some of the grease. Use a razor scraper, with great caution. Be careful around the edges so that you don't damage any gaskets that may be in place. You may be able to repeat this and get more off. Good luck!

Reader tips

• My mother-in-law gave us a wonderful old set of wicker furniture. It's a lot nicer than most of the stuff you can buy today. It was a little saggy, so she told me to spray it with a fine mist of water and then set it in the sun to dry and shrink. I didn't think it would work, but it did. I polished it with some oil to protect the wicker. It's really nice stuff. Of course, we keep it indoors to protect it, and it is really nice. She's the best!

• I keep my stepladder together, while stored, with a bungee cord. To prevent losing the bungee, I keep it wound around the ladder when I'm using it, too. I've discovered that if I place the cord near the top, I can use it to hold my hammer, a paintbrush or any number of other things that I need to hang on to when I'm working.

• If you have window shades that won't work anymore, I found a neat trick you can do to tighten up the springs again. Leave the "spade" end of the shade in the wall bracket but lift the other end out. Now roll the shade back up by hand, while the spade end turns in the bracket. Then place the other end in the bracket. The springs should be tighter now. If not, do it a couple more times.

• Since I've retired, I've really gotten into gardening. This year my garden is twice the size of last year's. I have more tools now, too. I made a great tool holder for my work shed from short sections of leftover PVC pipe. I drilled a hole through one side (for access to the other side of the pipe), and then I screwed the pipe, vertically, to the shed wall. All of them are about five feet from the ground. I can shove tool handles up through the bottom or down through the top of the pipe to hold them along the wall. They are easy to get to, and the holder was simple, quick and inexpensive to make.

• I have tried to protect my small trees and shrubs from the landscapers and their heavy-duty weeding equipment. I finally bought a length of black, flexible drain line and cut it into 6-inch sections, and then slit it all the way down the side. I slip these over the trunks, and they wrap around and close up around the trunks. This takes a beating but protects the plants from the weed-eaters and mowers. It's barely noticeable, too.


• Rollers make painting so much faster. Now you can even get into those hard-to-reach places with the Mini-Roller Flex. The mini roller size is made for tight spots, and the stainless-steel flex tubing is genius. It even has a comfort-grip handle so you can work longer with less fatigue. It can be used indoors or out, and will mount on any standard extension pole. To find out more, including a local dealer, go to

• If you are looking for a clever and quick way to put photos up on a wall, check out Stickr Frames. These peel 'n' stick frames come in a variety of styles to fit your decor. They are so easy to use, and since they adhere to the wall, you don't need a hammer, nails, hooks or anything else that can damage a wall. They are great for kids' rooms, dorms and other similar situations. Check 'em 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

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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