Preparing your grill for warmer months

Posted12/11/2015 2:01 AM

It's never too cold to cook outdoors. Well, a lot of people would not agree with that, especially during the wintertime! But this IS a good time to take a closer look at your grill and make some repairs and improvements during the "off" season. You can do most of the work in your garage or workshop, and stay reasonably warm while you are doing it.

If you have a gas grill, go ahead and start your burners to see if the flames are even. If there are any places where the ports look like they might be clogged, take note of these so you can clean them later. If your starter isn't working, replace the battery, if needed, or replace the starter kit.


If your grill is gas, disconnect this while doing the maintenance. If you are using propane, the tank should be stored outdoors out of direct sunlight.

Gloves, safety glasses and a dust mask will be helpful in protecting you from the fallout. You should do the cleaning outdoors, and if you are working on a deck or patio, put down a dropcloth to catch the debris as you work.

Start with a stiff wire brush or putty knife to knock off the top layer of soot. Grease will respond best to oven cleaner.

If your gas grill has any clogged gas ports, use a pipe cleaner to clear these out.

Look for bare metal spots that could develop rust. Sand off any rust that you already have. Buy a metal primer and paint made for grills, as it can take the high heat it will have to endure.

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If you need to order parts, you should be able to find them on sale at this time of the year.

Put everything back in place except for the gas connections, and install a good cover to protect it during the winter. When it finally warms up outside, your grill will be as ready as you are to get cooking again!

Bubble wrap

Pipe wrap foam is great for insulating exposed pipes during the winter. But if you don't have what you need on hand and you see a place you missed, try using Bubble Wrap. You easily can wrap it around most pipes, and it works pretty well. If you order holiday gifts online, you'll have some of this stuff hanging around. Larger sheets also can be used to add another layer of insulation to your windows.

Cutting pipes

Even if you have a bench vise, which many of us don't, cutting a piece of round pipe can be difficult. It is hard to hold something round while you are applying pressure to cut through it. I created a simple holder from an old plastic bucket I had on hand. I used a hacksaw, the same one I was going to use to cut the PVC pipe, to cut a couple of notches into the top of the bucket on opposite sides. This created a sort of trough to set the pipe in to steady it while cutting through it. This really works!

Super hints

• Vinegar is the best way to clean mineral deposits from the inside of your toilet tank and bowl. But to clean the water holes under the rim, soak some paper towels in vinegar, press them into the area where these holes are and let it sit overnight to work. That ought to do the trick!


• My neighbor was throwing away her birdbath after the top bowl fell off and broke. I got to it before the trash guys did and brought it home. I took a large clay tray meant to go under a large flowerpot and set it on top of the base. It's in the backyard now, and the birds are loving it!

• If you want to have a greenhouse but don't have a big budget, make a small one from PVC pipe and fittings, and cover it with plastic sheeting. It can get you through some chilly nights and comes in handy for starting seedlings in the spring.

Q. My basement has concrete block walls. They are good and dry, but I want to install wooden paneling. Do I need to do anything else before adding the paneling?

A. It probably wouldn't hurt to install a plastic vapor barrier on the wall behind the paneling. Another little tip would be to bring the paneling into the room and let it acclimate for a few days before starting to hang it.

Q. We are considering adding a second water heater, as our twins are getting older and we seem to run out of hot water more than we used to. Do we replace the one we have with a larger one, or add one to another area of the house?

A. This is something you really need to talk to a plumber about. Another couple of options might be to add a second water heater, in series, to one you already have or add a tankless water heater. Your choice depends on your existing utilities, your budget and the age of your current water heater.

Q. Our concrete patio has a pitted surface and we would like to make it look smooth again somehow. How do we do this?

A. It's not as hard as you might think. Check your hardware store or home center for a concrete topper or leveler. It needs to have a bonding agent in it to stick to your existing slab. Just clean it really well and apply the topper. You'll need to choose a good-weather day, too. It will take a little practice to get it smooth, but you should be able to do it yourself. Just follow the package directions.

Reader tips

• We used our circular saw to cut up some branches for the fireplace. It really messed up the blades, and they were coated with the gummy stuff. I brought them into the house and sprayed them with oven cleaner, and let it sit on them for the standard 10 minutes. This got the gunk off them, and they are ready to cut real lumber now. (My husband is getting a chain saw for Christmas this year!)

• I wanted to make scented pine cones. I've seen them in stores, but they are expensive. I did a little research and found out how to do it. I picked up several in the backyard and placed them on a baking sheet in the oven at 200 F for about 15 minutes. This doesn't scent them, but it will kill off any bugs or fungus that is on them and help them dry out and open up. After you take them out of the oven, you spray them with some cinnamon essential oil. Then put them in a large sealable plastic bag. That's all it takes. I made a ton of them and gave them as gifts to my neighbors.

• My apartment has older radiation units. They work OK and, besides the occasional odd noises, I like them. However, I did place some large aluminum cooking sheets behind them against the wall to reflect more of the heat back into the room. I had seen one of my neighbors do this, so I tried it. It actually works and was inexpensive to do. It doesn't show much, either. This should be a much cozier winter this year!

• We finished our basement and were picking out colors for the walls. We found three colors that we liked and bought sample-size cans to paint some swatches to see which one would look the best. I thought the darker gray would look much better, but after seeing it, chose the lightest shade. Now that the room has been painted, I must say the lighter shade looks great. More importantly, it really brightened up the room. Without any windows, this light paint reflects a lot of the light from the lamps. I think it would have looked like a cave with the darker color.

• I made some wooden trees for our front porch for the holidays. They needed to be painted, and I wanted to spray them. It was too cold outside, so I decided to do them on the back patio. To protect the trees from the wind, and also shield my patio from the overspray, I placed the trees into a large cardboard box, set on its side. My little "spray booth" worked well, and they trees look so cute!


• Vinegar is one of those everyday household products that we all have in our homes. It has tons of uses there, as well as in the shop and even outdoors. It's really inexpensive and can save you money in many cases. We have put together a list of some of our favorite tried-and-true uses for the stuff. You also can get this information, as well as a lot of other interesting tips, on our website at We hope to hear from you soon. Have a super day!

• You probably already know about most of the "smart" controllers -- like the type you use on your burglar alarm, thermostat and other products -- but did you know that there's one for your landscape? The Blossom is a smart control for your automatic sprinkler system. The controller can be plugged into any electrical outlet to extend the range on your household Wi-Fi. It uses real-time weather data to personalize your watering plan. You can control the system with your Smartphone which enables you to optimize your water usage and save hundreds of dollars a year on your watering bill. Your plants will look great, too. To find out more, go to

• WD-40 just got better, I swear! The New WD-40 with the EZ-Reach Flexible Straw gets the best lubricant in the world right where you need it. The flexible straw is 8 inches long and bends (and keeps its shape) to get into just about any hard-to-reach place. You can find the new WD-40 EZ-Reach container at your hardware store or home center. To find out more, just go to

• Write to Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit online at

© 2015, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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