Hints for the Homeowner

f a layer of salt is spread on the window sill underneath the sash, windows will not freeze at the bottom.  The salt should be renewed from time to time. 
-Reprinted from The Almanack of 1921
To remove a stubborn grease stain from wallpaper, apply liquid starch from a push button container to the spot and let dry.  A few applications may be necessary if the spot is serious.  
 -From The Almanack of 1971

Cut the fingers off old worn work gloves and use to protect the tips of chisels when you need to carry them. They’re also good for softening the grip of screwdrivers, pliers and other small hand tools.

To create a handy sandpaper file to use in tight spaces, cut a piece of sandpaper to fit around a paint stir stick. Then use spray adhesive or an all-purpose glue to adhere it to the stick. Write the sandpaper grit on the handle of the stir stick.

Often, it’s just the tip that gets dull on a utility knife. When it does, simply snap off the tip with pliers and you’re in business again. Be sure to wear eye protection. Sometimes a little piece of the blade goes flying!

Need a squeegee in a hurry? Take a piece of pipe insulation and use a couple cable ties to fasten it to the back of a garden rake. Works like a charm, and you don’t even have to take it off to use the rake.

A rubber chair leg cap instantly converts a hammer into a rubber mallet.. A 1-1/8-in. rubber cap fits tightly over most hammers and costs about $1 at home centers and hardware stores. And if you want to drive a nail without denting the surrounding wood, cut a hole in the rubber cap. Pound the nail in until the rubber strikes wood.. Then finish driving the nail with a nail set.

Pad your sawhorses and create a non-marring surface that will protect your projects by wrapping the top rails with pieces of old carpet or rugs. Secure the cut-to-size pieces to the sawhorses with staples.

Synthetic wine corks are great for sealing partially used tubes of caulk. Drill a 5/16-in. hole into the cork about 1 in. deep. The cork fits perfectly and makes a perfect airtight seal.

Beer or soda six-pack cartons are useful for storing and transporting items like spray paint, lubricants, glue, or caulk

If you don’t have drop cloths, use broken-down cardboard boxes to protect floors and carpeting. Thinner cardboard boxes (like cereal boxes) can be used to wedge between the baseboards and carpet when you’re painting the trim..

It’s important when buying paint that you buy ALL that you will need for that room prior to starting. If you underestimate the quantity, you run the risk of the next batch of paint you buy not matching your existing paint already. A good rule of thumb for how much paint to buy is to multiply length times width of the area you will be painting to calculate the square footage. For most surfaces and colors, you need a gallon of paint per 400 square feet (double if planning on applying 2 coats).

Use an old over-the-door plastic shoe organizer to effectively hold spray paint cans and keep them handy when needed.

To keep your square from sliding on slick material when trying to mark with it, simply apply several vinyl picture-frame bumpers on the back. This will hold the square securely in place while you draw your pencil line.

 A dab of glow-in-the-dark paint means no more groping for the light switch in the dark. You can buy glow-in-the-dark paint at hardware stores and home centers.

 If you are having trouble remembering the combination on that lock, try this trick: pick a ‘secret number’ and then add that to each of the combination numbers. Mark the resulting higher numbers on the lock with an indelible marker. Then to unlock, simply subtract your ‘secret number’ from the listed numbers to determine the combination. 

Paiint both sides of a door without waiting for one side, drive a lag screw into the center of the top edge and then two near the bottom corners. Set the screws on sawhorses, paint one side completely and then’ flip’ the door to paint the other side.

 Before making a mess when drilling or cutting into a wall, first tape a brown paper bag right below the work zone and it will catch the falling dust.

For a quick, thorough, and clean way to mix two-part epoxy, put the components into a plastic bag and knead them together. Then snip a small part off one of the bottom corners to make a neat dispenser.

A great trick to increase the pressure of your plunger is by covering the drain with a dishcloth. This will greatly improve the suction.

To easily determine if your toilet valve is leaking, add some food coloring to the tank and leave it alone for an hour or so. If the water in the bowl changes to that color, you will need to replace the valve.

When using a chalk line to mark surfaces, such as walls and flooring to provide a cutting line, use a white color. Red and blue will permanently stain.

Create a string or rope dispenser using old coffee cans. Simply remove the plastic coffee can lid, cut a slit in it with a utility knife, put the rope inside the bin, and pull the rope end through the lid. Replace the lid, and dispense without any tangling!

Check your tire pressure Less air pressure means more contact and friction between the tire and road, will wear the tire’s rubber faster, makes the engine work harder, and uses more gas. The harder the tires, the less grip they'll have so don't overinflate!

Turning off your car’s air conditioning will lower fuel consumption, but only if not driving on the highway. Otherwise, opening the windows uses more gas because of the drag you're putting on the car. Instead, run the AC in recirculation mode. This will recycle the already-cooled air from inside the car, using less energy than completely cooling the air that comes in from outside.

Protect your various original manuals (car manuals, tool manuals, repair manuals, etc.) by making copies of the pages you will regularly need. These can be used without damaging the original documents.


You don’t need a ladder to find out if your gutters need cleaning.  Attach a hand mirror to the end of a long PVC pipe. Cut the pipe at a 60-degree angle so the mirror reflects an inside view of the gutter.
And if the gutters do need cleaning, you still don’t need that ladder.  Simply attach a length of PVC pipe with the same diameter as your lawn blower to its end.  Position a PVC elbow at other end so you can angle it into the gutter for a thorough cleaning.
Use a bobby pin to mark the loose end of roll of tape, and never struggle to locate it ever again!
Synthetic wine corks are great for sealing partially used tubes of tile caulk. Drill a 5/16-inch hole into the cork about 1 inch deep. The cork will fit perfectly to make an airtight seal.
To keep your square or rule from sliding on slick material when trying to mark with it, 
vinyl picture-frame bumpers on the back. This holds the square securely in place while a line can be drawn a pencil.  


 Before starting that painting project, coat your face and bare arms with moisturizer lotion. When you’re done, splatters will wash off effortlessly
No need to mess up a brush to fix a ‘wall wound’. Just dip an old washcloth in the paint and throw it away when you’re done. A washcloth leaves the same texture as a paint roller, so your repair will blend nicely.
Us a hair dryer to soften the adhesive under tape used to protect trim when painting walls Works to remove stubborn bumper stickers too. 
Here is how you can paint a door without waiting for one side to dry before flipping it over. Drive one lag screw into the center of the top edge and two near the bottom corners. Set the door (screws) on sawhorses, paint one side, then lift the door using the two lag screws at the one end, pivot the door on the single lag screw at the other end to  flip it over.  Secure and then paint the other side.

Before making a mess when drilling or cutting into a wall, first tape a brown paper bag right below the work zone and it will catch the falling dust.