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posted: 4/12/2013 3:57 AM

Increase the usefulness of your extension ladder

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There are several different types of ladders, but reaching the highest levels usually is done with an extension ladder. They are made to be strong and safe. But we have some super tips to make your extension ladder both safer and more practical.

• One simple add-on is just a rubber band or two, slipped over the top rails of the ladder. This will give you a neat way to hold lightweight items like rags, tools and other things.

• Most rungs on these ladders are hollow tubes. You can stick a dowel into the end of a rung so that just a little is sticking out. You can hang a paint can on this, among other things.

• "S" hooks can be used over the rungs to hold additional items. If you do this, you just need to make sure you don't accidentally slip on these as you climb up and down the ladder.

• If you need to rest your ladder against a surface like the side of your house, slip some socks over the top of the rails to keep from scuffing or scratching the surface.

• Make sure you place the legs of your ladder on solid ground. You can add to the stability by placing the ladder on a rubber mat or setting the feet into shallow tin cans. You even can place a stake between the wall and the base of the ladder, and strap the ladder to this. The base should be placed about 1/4 of the distance away from the wall as the height of the ladder.

• Add a screen door handle to the side. It can hold things or you can hold onto it as you work.

• Another add-on can be a wall-mounted toothbrush holder. This can be mounted directly to the side of the ladder, and could be a great place to hold things.

Whatever changes you make, be sure you don't prevent the ladder from operating safely as designed. Be safe when working without a net!

Spring cleaning: Clear the cobwebs first

Spring cleaning may not be a lot of fun, but it is a good idea for most of us. You're supposed to start at the top and work down. That means hitting the cobwebs up high first. If you have tall ceilings or a short duster, you easily can make an extension by just attaching your duster or a dust cloth to the end of a broom handle. If you need a longer reach, use the extension pole you use for painting or sanding. You can even use a long section or two of PVC pipe if you have some lying around. Just get the job over with and you can move on to more fun activities.

Create a guest-friendly gate

A gate should remain closed, in most cases. But if you want to invite visitors in, then you will want to make a latch available for them to come in. If the latch is your typical type that is pulled up to open the gate and it's on the inside, you can add an opener on the outside. Just drill a hole that is several inches above the latch on the gate. Run a cord through it and tie one end to the top of the latch and the other to a washer, ring or some other pull and give it a tug. It should pull the latch up so that the gate will open. Test it out and make sure it works to both open and close the gate.

Super hints

• Squirrels in the attic can be a real pain. They also can be a real hazard to get rid of. Once you have gotten them out, cover their entry holes with hardware cloth to prevent them from chewing their way back in. Good luck!

• If you have nice wood floors, you should add felt pads to all of your furniture. These pads come in a variety of sizes and have adhesive on the back side to stick to chair and table legs. It will protect your floors from scratches and will make moving the pieces around a whole lot easier. As an added bonus, it also will be quieter, with no squeaking or scraping sounds when you move the chairs out to the table!

• Those little packets of drying agent that are in electronics and vitamins can be tossed into your toolbox or other enclosed areas where moisture can be a problem.

Q. When I went up into the attic to pull some boxes down. I found a lot of moisture up there. I couldn't tell where it was coming from -- no leaks anywhere. What's the best way to deal with this situation?

A. Do a complete inspection for leaks to make sure you don't have anything going on. Then check your existing vents to make sure they are all open and operating like they should be. If you still haven't found a problem, then you might just need to add more ventilation. This could be accomplished in a variety of ways, so do a little shopping around and find a good solution for your space.

Q. We painted our tiled shower a few years ago. It's stood up well until this past winter. We'd like to strip off the old paint and redo it. What's the best way to get the old paint off the tiles?

A. If the paint is very tough, then use a paint and varnish remover. You probably used acid to etch the tiles before painting last time. Just make sure the surface is clean and prepped for more paint. It should be relatively easy to do again. It sounds like you know what you are doing, so go for it.

Q. We put down vinyl flooring in our basement years ago. We figured it was the best searing material for that area. We use the basement mainly to store things in and as a makeshift workroom. The past couple of years, I've started to see some large dark spots appearing on the floor. They seem to be coming from underneath the floor. Is this a moisture problem, or what? Can it be fixed?

A. Yes, most of the time it is due to moisture, probably coming through the concrete. There is no way to repair the existing flooring, but it is an indication that you need to resolve your leakage issue before it gets worse. At least you have some warning, and the flooring will prevent the moisture from getting into the room temporarily. But you do need to tackle the bigger problem.

Reader tips

• I found a material that you can mix into your wall paint that turns any wall into a magnetic surface. It was easy to use and really does work. I did a wall for my son in his room, and he loves it. He is always looking for magnets now, and every time we go on vacation, he comes home with some new ones. He also found some magnetic cars that he loves to use. Now, my wife wants me to paint a part of a wall in her sewing room so she can put patterns and things on her wall for storage. Sounds like a great idea. Maybe I'll have to paint one in the shop in my garage.

• We had some leftover shingles from a roof repair after the last storm. I will save them to use later on if we have any more storm damage. I took some of the damaged shingles that were still in pretty good shape and tacked them to the steps on our deck, they get slippery when it rains, and these shingles increase the tread on the steps. It's a great way to recycle old shingles.

• Our patio was in good shape, but we did apply a topper to level it out last fall. It looked boring, so my wife painted it. She actually painted a rug on it. It looks like there is a real rug on the patio. She used special patio paints and then put a clear sealer over the whole thing to protect it. It looks fantastic!

• I had some chair cushions that I wanted to spray with water repellent for use on our boat. I had an older can from a while back but couldn't get the can to spray any longer. I pulled the spray nozzle off and placed it onto a can of WD-40. Then I sprayed through it and could tell it was clearing out. I replaced it back on the can of water repellent and tried again. This time it worked. So now we have some new cushions on our boat for the summer.

• We had a huge mosquito problem last year in our community. I learned several things that can help prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your yard. You're supposed to limit standing water. I checked and found that I had a lot of potted plants on my patio, with saucers under the pots, filled with the overflow water. I got rid of them all -- not the plants, but the saucers. I also helped my husband clean out our gutters. They needed to be cleaned again anyway. Hopefully we'll have fewer problems this year.


• If you are trying to be "green" (and who isn't these days?), you might consider starting a compost pile. This is easy to do, and once you know the basics, you can have a steady supply of FREE plant food and mulch for your yard year round. It doesn't cost much to start and is a great way to get rid of vegetable waste from your home, as well as many other items destined for the garbage can. Learn how to build and manage your own compost pile with our instructions.

• We found some easy-to-use furniture restorer worth trying. It's called Restor-a-Finish. It blends out scratches, restores color and shine, revives faded finishes, and even can remove water rings and white marks. It can be used on a wide variety of woods and comes in several colors to match. Steel wool can be used with the material for resolving some issues, but that's about as much of a tool as you'll need. It can save you a lot of time and effort and money when trying to return an old furniture finish to a nice look again. Check it out online at You can find a dealer through the website as well. It is available at many hardware stores, too.

• Evapo-Rust Rust Remover is a water-based product that safely and quickly removes rust. It won't harm metal, plastic, PVC or even paint. It's biodegradable and has no fumes, isn't flammable and contains no VOCs. It's easy to use, and it's so good that you might not even have to use any elbow grease. It's available in three sizes, and you can find it at most auto-parts stores. To find out more, go to

• 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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