How to keep pests out of your home during colder months
When temperatures drop, pests may seek warmth exactly where you don't want them -- in your home! Here are some tips for keeping critters out of your house this fall and winter.
• Seal up all gaps around the outside of your house. Seal up cracks in siding and trim gaps.
• Add a chimney cap over your flue.
• Add a door sweep and more weatherstripping to doors and windows.
• Store wood piles away from your home. If pests do move into them, it won't be easy for them to upgrade to your house from them.
• Trim trees and shrubs to keep them a safe distance from your house.
• Make sure vents for air flow, dryers, gas appliances and fans work properly and are protected with wire mesh.
• Don't feed pets outdoors. Food is scarce for pests and they may try your pets' food when there's nothing else to eat.
• Use bird feeders that are designed to keep other critters out, and make sure the seed doesn't end up all over the ground.
• If you have a problem with rats and mice, check your hardware store for pet-safe poison-bait stations. Just make sure your pets are protected from it.
• Inspect your attic and make sure soffit and gable vents are protected with wire mesh, too.
Simple welcome mat
A personalized welcome mat can cost quite a bit, but you can make one yourself from a plain mat and a stencil and some paint. Find a stencil with your initial, place it on top of the mat and press it into place, and then use a dabber or a short paint brush to apply some paint over it, putting your personal stamp onto the plain mat. This is a great way to welcome your guests in style.
Those hanging baskets that were full of flowers during the summer months are empty now. But you still can use the baskets to hold your tools when you are up on your ladder working. The fact is, the baskets have hooks on top and can hold quite a few hand tools that you might need when painting, cleaning your gutters or hanging holiday lights. Fill the basket with what you need and climb on up. Hang the basket from the top of the ladder, and it will keep your tools within easy reach while you do the chores. You can refill them with flowers in a few months, I promise!
• I'm not sure why file cabinets -- the good metal kind with locks on them -- come in beige only or black, but they usually do. I think painting them with some spray paint made for metal is a great way to jazz them up and make them more presentable in the average home office. It's practical, too!
• We don't get to have out-of-town guests very often, but when we do, I love to pamper them. Our guest room is simple, but I have a basket that I always place on the bedside table. I choose a book to read, some hand lotion, a sleep mask, hard candies and other treats for our guest. It lets them know how much I care and how happy I am they have come to visit our home.
• For cleaning up cat and dog hair, lint rollers are the best option. You can make one by just rolling tape, sticky side out, around your hand and sticking the edge back onto itself to form a roll. Duct tape works the best, and you can get most of the hair up off the average sofa in just one pass.
Q. We had cabinets put in this summer. They look pretty good, but the one on the end looks a little crooked to me. Is there a way to fix this, or do I just need to find a way to live with it?
A. If you have some muscle to help, you might be able to fix it. Take everything out of it and locate the screws holding it on the wall. Remove them and take it down. Now, hold the cabinet up in place and use a level to reinstall the screws so that it will be straight. Hopefully the rest of your cabinets are straight. If you have a gap between it and the rest of the run, try to cover it with a piece of trim. Good luck.
Q. My refrigerator looks OK on the outside but not very good on the inside. What can I use to clean it, especially stubborn, sticky stuff on the glass shelves?
A. It's OK to use laundry bleach, diluted with plenty of water, as long as there's no food around that could be contaminated. Baking soda is a good product you can use with the bleach to scrub off the tough stuff. You can soak a paper towel in the liquid, place it over the grime and let it sit for a while to loosen it up. You can use shelf covering on these shelves to protect them once you get them clean. They even make these just for your fridge now.
Q. Our garage door opener probably needs to be replaced, but we cannot afford to do it right now. The problem we are having is the remotes no longer work, but the button by the back door does. It also goes up and down on its own sometimes. Can you tell us a way we can fix it?
A. Unfortunately, it sounds like the problem is in the logic board or computer. See if you can use your owner's manual to troubleshoot it. If you don't have one, see if you can get one from the manufacturer online. There should be a way to reprogram the remotes, and that may fix the problem. You also might try replacing one of the remotes to see if that works. Hopefully you can return the remote to the store if it doesn't. If you have to replace it, it won't be the end of the world. The new models work great and often have security features your older model likely doesn't and probably should.
• We bought an old dresser at an estate sale. It's a nice piece, but pretty old. The outside of the dresser has a great stain and what looks like a clear finish of some kind. The problem was the drawers were sticking. I thought it might be because they were old, but I didn't want to do anything that might take away from the authenticity of the piece. I sanded them smooth along the edges of the glides and then applied an even coat of paste wax. This really helped them glide smoothly.
• You'll love this. My son is playing soccer now, and we decided to make him a goal to practice with. We got some PVC pipe and a net, and made a goal from them. It's not regulation, but it's great for him to practice with. He's actually getting pretty good.
• I learned the hard way not to put hot dishes on my countertops. But with the holidays coming, I needed more space for storing food, so I made my own trivets. I just took a few extra floor tiles and glued some felt pads to the back side. Then I set them on the counter and table to shield the counter and tabletop from the hot dishes. They will be fine for the holidays. Since I used tiles that match my kitchen, they look pretty good, too.
• We have a cedar-lined closet and hadn't opened it until this month. It seemed like the smell was gone. I mentioned it to my husband, and he asked me to remove all of the coats. Then he went in with his power sander and sanded down the surfaces. It smells really cedary again. He said the pores of the wood get clogged up over time and the sanding opens them up again.
• We have an exposed brick wall in our kitchen. It's OK, but after painting the cabinets and the rest of the walls, the brick looked kind of dark, so I "antiqued" it with a sponge and some white paint. I just blotted the paint on the bricks to lighten the overall look. Mission accomplished. It looks much better now.
• If you have done a good job of weatherproofing your home, it will be sealed up tightly. This will save energy, but may create a mildew problem in some cases. Mildew not only looks and smells bad -- it can ruin walls, carpeting and just about any surface it gets on. Learn how to rid your home of this problem once and for all. We've put together a pamphlet called "Mildew Around Your House," and it is full of tips on how to get rid of mildew and how to keep it from coming back. Visit our website at www.thesuperhandyman.com.
• If you no longer want to have that magnet collection on your refrigerator (but still like to use the magnets), you can create a magnetic wall with Rustoleum's Magnetic Primer. You just paint it on, and it turns a plain wall into a wall that magnets will stick to. It can be applied to wood, metal, masonry, drywall and plaster. Once it's dry, you just paint the regular wall paint over it, and your magnets will stick to it. Create a message wall or a place to put up all of your photos. It's great for hobby and craft rooms, not to mention kids' rooms. To find out more, just go to www.rustoleum.com. You can find it at your paint store, home center or hardware store.
• If you spring a leak in your basement and need to plug it fast, you need a product called Fast Plug, of course. It's made by Drylok. Fast Plug is made for sealing cracks and holes in masonry when you are in a hurry -- even under pressure -- and it sets in only five minutes. You can find it at your hardware store or home center. For more information, just go to www.drylok.com.
• Write to Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit online at thesuperhandyman.com.
© 2015, Cowles Syndicate Inc.