Tips for Smart Homeowners
The knowledge you need to be a better homeowner.
Design on the wall
Planning to remodel? You can get a preview of the remodeled space by creating a full-scale layout on walls and floors with tape, chalk and paper. This trick is especially helpful in kitchens and bathrooms.
Consider storm windows
If you want windows that look great and open smoothly, complete replacement is definitely the way to go. But if your main concern is air leakage and energy costs, consider storm windows. Quality storm windows can stop air leaks almost as well as full replacements but cost half as much—or even less. Plus, the labor savings are huge; a DIYer can install 10 storm windows in the time it takes to replace one window. You might find inexpensive storm windows, but shop around. Chances are, you'll discover that spending a little more is smarter. Not sure if you need new windows? Here are some tips for finding out.
Raise your dryer
Set your dryer on a box and save your back. This box is a simple one made from 2x8 boards and topped off with 3/4-in. plywood. It's a good project for a first-time carpenter. Before you begin, make sure your dryer's exhaust duct, power cord and gas line will accommodate the move up. If you have a rigid duct rather than a flexible one, you'll have to alter it. Learn how to build a washer pedestal here.
Don't choose cheap coaxial cable
Shielding is what counts when it comes to cable quality. It blocks interference and keeps the signal clean. So skip the "dual-shield" or "double-shield" cable and go for a "quad-shield" product; it has twice as much braided wire and foil shielding. After spending big bucks on a TV or computer, it doesn't make sense to skimp on cable.
Don't carry it—slide it
You can buy furniture slides in many shapes and sizes at home centers and online. It's also easy to make your own sliders from plastic container covers, Frisbee discs, bedspreads, moving blankets, towels and carpet remnants. Use hard plastic sliders for carpeting and soft, padded sliders for hard flooring.
The best caulks for concrete are usually labeled "urethane" or "polyurethane," and most can fill cracks 1/2 in. wide or more (check the label). For any crack wider than 1/4 in., stuff in foam backer rod first. Using backer rod saves expensive caulk and results in a stronger joint. And since it seals off the crack, it allows you to use runny "self-leveling" caulk, which provides a much neater look on flat surfaces.
Lock the overhead garage door
When some people go on vacation, they "lock" their overhead garage door by unplugging the opener. That's a good idea, but physically locking the door is even better. An unplugged opener won't stop a burglar who has entered through the house from opening the garage door from the inside, backing in a van and using your garage as a loading dock. Make a burglar's job more difficult by locking the door itself. If your door doesn't have a lockable latch, drill a hole in the track just above one of the rollers and slip in a padlock. See more garage security tips.
Springtime safety warning
Every spring and summer, readers tell us about their window air conditioner accidents: A/C units dropped on toes, tumbling down stairways or falling out of windows. We haven't heard about any serious injuries or deaths, but lots of close calls. In almost every case, the trouble began when someone decided to install an A/C unit solo. The lesson is this: Those things are heavy and clumsy to handle. Get help! There are some things you can do by yourself with the help of these tips.
Check the outlet
If any electronic item suddenly won't turn on, don't immediately assume it's broken. Plug in a radio or a lamp to make sure the outlet is working.
Buying light fixtures? Beware!
Every once in a while, I show up at a home to install a new fixture that the homeowner provided and run into an obstacle. It might be a hanging fixture that won't allow a door or cabinet to open or a sconce that blocks the medicine cabinet. The worst part is that I sometimes don't recognize the problem until I've installed the fixture. Ouch. So before you go shopping, measure first. -Al Hildenbrand, Electrical contractor and The Family Handyman wiring whiz
Screw flowerpot saucers to shelves so balls can't roll off. Cheap plastic trays come in sizes to suit all kinds of balls. Want more storage tips?