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Problem Solving Home Improvement Products

We asked our experts for their top DIY problem-solving tools and materials for every type of project. Here's their list of the Top 10 most helpful products.

FH062811_2_003_PROSOL_06-2Family Handyman
Our team of experts uses just about every tool and material out there. Some of these products become immediate favorites because they work so well to solve common DIY challenges. Here's a collection of our experts' “Top 10” problem-solving tools and materials that every DIYer should know about.

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Sticky sand for pavers

Use polymeric sand

If you're tired of pulling weeds from between stones or pavers, here's a solution. Replace the old sand with polymeric sand. It's just sand mixed with a glue-like polymer. When wetted, the polymer binds the sand, holding it in place and creating a weed resistant barrier. Just be careful to clean the sand off the face of the pavers or stones before wetting it. Polymeric sand is available at landscape suppliers and some home centers for about $12 for a 50-lb. bag.

Instant electrical connections

Push-in connectors make wiring easier

Traditional twist-on wire connectors can be a bother to install. The wire ends have to be held in perfect alignment while you twist on the connector. And then you have to fit all those wires and connectors neatly into the box. Try push-in connectors instead. They're simple to use and almost fool-proof. Just strip the wires to the length recommended on the package and press each wire end into a separate hole in the connector. You'll find push-in connectors ($25 for 200) at home centers and online.

Paint-job insurance

Use binding primers to prevent peeling

Let's face it. Sometimes it's too much work to remove old exterior paint down to bare wood. Zinsser's Peel Stop and XIM's Peel Bond ($22 and $32 a gallon, respectively) are two clear, binding primers that are formulated to seal the edges of paint and prevent peeling. It's a good solution for painting over an area that you've scraped, but that has patches of sound paint you don't want to peel later.

Flat-proof wheelbarrow tire

Buy flat-free tires

Is the tire flat every time you go to use your wheelbarrow? Do you use your wheelbarrow on construction sites where nails can be a problem? If so, then you need a “flat-free” wheelbarrow tire. Flat-free tires are filled with foam or made of urethane so they never need air and won't go flat if you run over a nail. You can also buy flat-free tires to fit lawn mowers, handcarts and lawn tractors. Expect to spend about $30 for a wheelbarrow tire. Find flat-free tires at home centers and online.

Faster toggle bolt

Snaptoggles are better toggle bolts

Old-fashioned “butterfly”-type toggle bolts are a pain to install. Toggler brand Snaptoggles is a vast improvement. Just drill a hole and slip the metal toggle in. Then slide the retainer along the plastic strips until it's snug to the wall and snap off the strips. With the metal toggle mounted on the wall, it's easy to attach whatever you want by simply screwing in the included bolt. Look for Snaptoggles (about $1 each) near drywall anchors in home centers and hardware stores.

Ever-straight wall studs

Engineered studs make a difference

Engineered studs are worth the premium price when wavy walls can wreck your project. Because engineered studs are made of laminated lumber or finger-jointed lumber, they're perfectly straight and more stable than standard studs. Plus, they're available in long lengths for extra-tall walls. They don't come cheap, though. An 8-ft. laminated strand lumber (LSL) stud from LP Building Products costs about $8. Ask for engineered studs at your local lumberyard or home centers. You may have to special-order them.

Adjustable-depth electrical box

Take away the guess work

An electrical box that can be adjusted until it's flush with the wall is a perfect solution when you're thinking about adding tile or paneling but aren't sure how thick the finished wall will be. Turning a screw in the Carlon box shown here moves the box in and out and allows you to fine-tune the box position after you've completed the wall covering. Adjustable-depth boxes cost a little more than regular boxes ($2 to $2.50 each) but can be worth every penny.

Faster fastening with better screws

Use premium construction screws

Premium construction screws have a few big advantages over the drywall screws we've all been using for years. Most have improved head designs: tight-fitting hex, Torx or Spider head driver bits. This eliminates the annoying tendency of Phillips head screws to strip out or slip off the bit. Premium construction screws are also less brittle than drywall screws, so they won't break off as easily, and they're coated to resist corrosion. There are several brands including GRK, Spax and FastenMaster.

Moldable wood filler

Two-part epoxy wood filler is magic

Nothing beats two-part epoxy wood filler for rebuilding moldings or other architectural elements that have missing or damaged parts. The most common brand is Abatron's WoodEpox. When mixed, WoodEpox has a consistency like Play-Doh that allows you to hand-mold it into the approximate shape of the damaged part. It'll stay put and you can shave it, carve it and when completely cured, sand and plane it like wood. Find a local WoodEpox retailer or purchase online from abatron.com.

Ultimate water-base trim paint

New water-base alkyds are worth the money

There are several modern paints that combine the best advantages of water-base and oil paints for a smooth finish on woodwork without fumes or tough clean up. Two popular examples are Sherwin-Williams ProClassic Interior Waterbased Acrylic-Alkyd and Benjamin Moore's Advance Waterborne Interior Alkyd. Like any superior paint product, these aren't cheap. Expect to pay about $45 a gallon. But if it's a smooth, durable paint job you're after, water-base alkyds are worth every penny.