Measuring Cup Hang-Up
Stir-Stick Paint Organizer
Test the Sump Pump or Risk a Flood
It's easy to forget about your sump pump, but it's important to make sure it's in good working order. If you don't, you could end up like the homeowner who returned from a weekend trip to discover his entire basement floor covered in 1/2 in. of water. After shutting down the power, he waded over to the sump pump and noticed it wasn't working. Upon closer inspection, he realized that the cable attached to the float must have gotten tangled somehow. It took him two seconds to untangle the cable, and then he spent the next 15 hours dragging out waterlogged carpet, running the wet/dry vac and moving fans around.
To avoid a similar disaster, be sure your pump has a vertical float switch. Also, check your pump at least a couple times a year by dumping water into the basin to make sure everything is working properly.
Six-Pack Shop Organizer
Pull-Tab Picture Frame Hook
Eliminate Drain Odor
The traps in floor drains—or for that matter, any drains that aren't used often—will eventually dry out. This may sound harmless enough, but a dry trap can cause a room to fill with potentially harmful sewer gas from the septic tank or the city sewer system. Eliminate this problem by adding about a quart of fresh water topped with a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil. The oil floats on top of the water and seals it against evaporation. Your drain will hold water in the trap much longer.
Racks for Canned Goods
Extra Towel Bar
Topsy-Turvy Door Painting
Toilet Paper Shelf
Clean Dryer Vents or Waste Energy and Risk a Fire
A plugged dryer vent will cause your dryer to run inefficiently, and that's bad. A plugged dryer vent could also cause a house fire, and that could be deadly! Dryers that are centrally located in houses are most prone to plugging because of the longer ducts. Excess lint is only one reason ducts get clogged; nesting pests and stuck exhaust hood flappers can also cause backups. Stronger odors and longer dry times are two signs your vent is plugged.
You'll have to remove the vent from the back of the dryer to clean it. Suck debris from the ducts with a wet/dry vac, or ream them out with a cleaning kit that includes a brush on a long flexible rod that attaches to a power drill. The kits are available at home centers. If your ducts need replacing, get smooth metal ducts, which will stay cleaner longer than the rough corrugated surface of flexible ducts. Avoid plastic ducting altogether; it can be a fire hazard.
Plus: Slash Heating Bills
Stop Losing Socks
No-Slip Seat Cushions
Stop Under-the-Door Air Leaks
If you can feel the breeze and see daylight under your entry door, it's costing you big-time. It also means you need to adjust your door threshold or install a new door sweep. Door sweeps start at $10. The hardest part about replacing them is usually taking off the door.
Start by adjusting the threshold. Newer versions have screws that raise and lower them. Turn all of the threshold screws until the door opens and closes without much drag and any draft is eliminated. If that doesn't work, or your threshold doesn't have adjustment screws, replace the door sweep.
Close the door and pop out the hinge pins with a pin punch to remove the door. Set the door on a work surface and remove the old door sweep. Caulk the ends of the door, then install the replacement sweep. Some sweeps are tapped into place and stapled along the door bottom; others are screwed to the side along the door bottom. If a drafty sliding patio door is your problem, here's how to fix it.
Closet Nook Shelves
Wire shelves are available in a variety of widths. Measure the width and depth of the space. Then choose the correct shelving and ask the salesperson to cut the shelves to length for you. Subtract 3/8 in. from the actual width to determine the shelf length. Buy a pair of end mounting brackets and a pair of plastic clips for each shelf.Plus: Learn how to triple your closet space.
Wet-Saw Marking Tip
Test and Replace the Batteries in Smoke Detectors
Smoke detectors should be tested monthly, and the batteries should be replaced every year, so it's a good habit to make this part of your regular spring maintenance routine. Test the batteries by simply pressing the 'test' button and making sure the unit chirps. Even if it works, replace the battery (or back-up battery, if your is a hardwired model) and re-test it. If the alarm does not pass the test, replace it immediately.
Smoke detectors have a lifespan of 10 years, so look for a 'replace by' sticker or date embossed on the inside of the unit to see if it needs to be replaced, even if it passes the chirp test. If you can't find a date, replace it anyway immediately. On new detectors, make sure to write the 'installed' date on the inside cover on a piece of masking tape. Get all the info you need on installing smoke alarms here.
Junk Drawer in a Bag
Find a Flashlight
Repurpose Old Jars and Containers for Free Garage Storage
File by Grit
Switch Your Ceiling Fan Direction
Instant Drawer Dividers
Mobile Tool Rack
Hang Ladders Low
Spray-Bottle Pipe Pump
Repair a Loose Doorknob
Hang a Bike on the Wall
Let Paint Dry, Then Cut the Tape Loose for a Perfect Edge
Once paint is dry, you can't just pull the tape off the trim. Paint forms a film between the wall and the tape, and removing the tape tears pieces of dried paint off the wall. So before pulling off the tape, cut it loose.
Wait for the paint to completely dry at least 24 hours, then use a sharp utility knife or box cutter knife to slice through the film. Start in an inconspicuous area to make sure the paint is hard enough to slice cleanly. If you cut the paint while it's still gummy, you'll make a mess. As you cut the paint, pull up the tape at a 45-degree angle. Get more secrets of professional painters.
Simple Storage Spools
Closet Bracket Bike Rack
Luminous Light Switch
Loosen Stuck Pipes with Heat
When a threaded connection won't budge, heat sometimes does the trick, especially on ancient connections that were sealed with pipe dope that hardened over time. Be patient. Getting the metal hot enough can take a couple of minutes. Protect nearby surfaces with a flame-resistant cloth. This method is for water and waste pipes only, never for gas or fuel lines.
A Sticky Solution
Perfect Keyhole Template
Wine Cork Caulk Saver
Make the Most of Your Vacuuming
The right vacuuming technique, combined with the right filters, bags and machine, has a significant impact on how much dust remains in your carpeting. Keep the following tips in mind:
- Vacuum high-traffic areas twice a week and the rest of the carpeting and large area rugs at least weekly.
- Make numerous slow passes over the same area in all directions (fast passes stir up more dust than is being sucked up).
- Use certified True High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters to remove invisible particles and allergens. Look for the word 'True' on the label.
- If you have allergies, upgrade to a sealed-body bagged vacuum with an airtight 'sealed filtration' system that works together with a True HEPA filter. This means all of the exhaust will exit through the HEPA filter instead of leaking dust back into your house through the machine's housing. Sealed-body vacuums have rubber seals or gaskets around the lid and filter and will last 10 to 20 years. Brands include Riccar, Miele and Sanitaire.
- Buy high-quality vacuum bags. Inexpensive 2- or 3-ply paper bags leak more dust. Higher-quality cotton-lined paper bags are better, and top-quality synthetic cotton HEPA bags are the best. Bag capacity matters too. Higher-capacity bags capture more, smaller particles that would have otherwise clogged the filter.
- Clean all your bagless vacuum filters regularly and replace them every three months.
- Turn off the agitator brush on hard flooring so you're not blowing dust into the air.
- Maintain your vacuum: Empty the canister frequently (always outside) and change bags and belts when needed. Keep the agitator brush free of hair and other material, and check the vacuum for cracks and loose hinges and get it serviced every so often to keep it running smoothly.
Glove and Mitt Storage
Touch-up Without Cleanup
Dustless Drilling and Drum Sanding
Solid Cord Connection
More Shower Shelves
Don't Choose a Problem Tree
Don't Wreck an Outdoor Faucet
Here's why you end up replacing outdoor faucet washers that have worn out long before they should: When you turn off a frost-proof faucet, water continues to trickle out of the long pipe even after the valve is closed. When people see that water, they often assume the valve didn't close, so they crank down harder, which overcompresses the washer, greatly reducing its life. Patience is the key. Wait a second or two after closing the valve. The water should eventually stop (unless you've already destroyed the washer).
MYTH: Frost-proof faucets cannot freeze.
FACT: Leaving a hose attached throughout the winter could leave water in the line to freeze and cause the faucet to burst. Also, if the faucet slopes slightly toward the house, the long pipe will also hold water that can freeze.
Before You Call an Electrician
“I can diagnose about 30 percent of electrical problems over the phone. I play a game of “Twenty Questions” to see if I can avoid making a trip to the house.” Here are some of the most common complaints electrician Al Hildenbrand gets, and the questions he asks:
“I screwed in a new fuse but I still don't have any power.” Are you sure you used the same amperage fuse as the one you replaced? Is the fuse good? Is it screwed in tight?
“I've checked the circuit breakers, but the outlet still doesn't work.” Some outlets are protected by upstream GFCIs or GFCI circuit breakers. Look in the circuit box for a GFCI circuit breaker and in bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms for GFCI outlets. Test and reset them. This may solve your problem.
“I replaced the lightbulb but the light fixture still doesn't work.” Are you sure the new bulb is good? Try it in another light fixture and make sure it's screwed all the way in.
“This outlet used to work. Now it's dead.” Check all the switches in the room. One of them might control the outlet.
Instant Mini Bins
Tablecloth Drop Cloth
Vinyl tablecloths—the kind usually used on picnic tables—make great drop cloths. They're tougher than plastic sheeting, and if you put the smooth side face down, they don't slip around on hard flooring the way canvas drop cloths do. On carpet, put the smooth side face up. These tablecloths are cheaper than drop cloths, too: $2 to $4 at discount stores.
Store on a Door
Keep Pictures Level
Fix Loose Joints With Epoxy Resin
Fix a loose screw
This is an old carpenter’s trick. If you have a screw hole that’s too big, just wrap a bit of steel wool around the screw before you drive it in. It provides just enough friction to hold the screw firmly in place and takes less futzing than trying to fill a hole and re-drill.
No-Mess Epoxy Mixer
Suck Out Drain Clogs
Add-On Clothes Rod
Mirror and Message Board
Long Reach Shears
Secret Lock Code
Replace loose, popped nails
Overhead Ladder Rack
Heat up sticky stuff
Make the Most of Skinny Spaces
Robin Hood Curves
Clean Hard Floors Faster
Create Secret Storage
Fix a Wobbly Ceiling Fan
Sizing a Ceiling Fan
Vertical Cabinet Space
Coffee Bag Ties
Tennis Ball Parking Guide
Joist Space Storage
Seal Outlets and Ceiling Boxes
The tiny gaps around outlets on exterior walls and ceiling boxes let cold air in (and warm air out). Sealing these areas takes just half a day and will help cut down on drafts (and your heating bill!).