23 Reader Tips That Save Time and Money
Once again, we asked for your brilliant nuggets of advice—those clever little time-savers and why-didn't-I-think-of-that solutions—and you offered up scores more hard-won pearls
You people are unbelievable. Or at least amazing. Every year, we ask you for your brilliant nuggets of advice—those clever little time-savers and why-didn't-I-think-of-that solutions—and you still offer up scores of hard-won pearls. Thanks again for a job well done
To keep caulk fresh for months after opening the tube, cap it with plastic wrap and a wire nut, and stand it upright in the refrigerator. Just don't put it in the freezer!
Whenever you're working on old electrical wires, you risk damaging the insulation and exposing the copper. To avoid that, I thread some heat-shrink tubing over the wire and insulation, then hit it briefly with a heat gun fitted with a shrink-tubing attachment. The plastic tubing contracts to form a protective seal around the wire.
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Before pouring a new concrete floor in my den, the nice mason ran PVC conduit for wiring a pellet stove. Not so nice were the five 90-degree elbows in the 12 feet of conduit, which made running the electrical cable a bear. I tied fishing line to a cotton ball, trimmed the ball to fit the conduit, and stuck it in the opening. Then I taped the hose of a wet/dry vac to the other end of the pipe and sucked the cotton ball through, right along with its line. Fishing the cables was a cinch after that.
I'm a 7-year-old boy who loves to watch This Old House with my dad and brother. I used to lose my keys a lot until I put a small eyebolt into the wall and attached a hook made of an unfolded paper clip. Now I hang my keys on the clip so that I always know where to find them.
Shingle Springs, California
You don't need a crimping tool to fit together gutter downspout sections. Just give each groove a quarter turn with needle-nose pliers. The end will collapse enough to let it slip inside the next one.
To keep setting-type joint compound from clumping after adding water, I use a cheap handheld electric mixer with beaters that fit perfectly in the mud pan and blend the stuff smooth at low speed. This way, it's easy to mix small amounts, no bucket required.
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
When driving big screws into studs, spray them first with WD-40. They will go in much easier.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
I find the best way to stir paint is with a kitchen whisk. It's quick, easy, and thorough, and cleanup is a breeze.
The spent gift cards I collect are flexible, durable, and free. Among other things, I use them to keep clamps from damaging my work. I slip a couple of cards between the wood and the clamps before tightening the jaws.
Whenever I'm hanging pictures and need to mark where the hook will go, I put up Post-it notes and make my marks on them. When I'm done, I just pull down the Post-its, and the wall stays nice and clean, except for the nail holes.
After we laid a new tile floor, our washing machine slid around like an eel during the spin cycle. Rubber cups and vibration pads didn't work, but the rubber fender washers at the hardware store did. It's been rock steady ever since.
I got a steal on porcelain sinks that had metal scratches, hoping they'd be easy to remove with Barkeepers Friend. No luck. Then I got the idea to use an automotive rubbing compound. The scratches are gone, and the sinks look beautiful.
Years ago, when I was remodeling my house with my granddad, I had a bathroom door that wouldn't stay open. I figured it needed to be rehung, but Granddad removed two of the hinge pins, laid them on the floor, and hit each one in the middle with the hammer, bending it slightly. After replacing the pins, I never had a problem with the door swinging shut again.
—Henry Jacobs III
When I have to lug heavy 5-gallon buckets, I cover the handles with short lengths of half-inch foam pipe insulation. It really saves my hands.
Don't risk smashing your fingers when holding a small nail. Instead, stick the nail between the teeth of a hair comb. Once the nail is started, remove the comb and sink the nail as usual.
When I'm soldering wires for speaker connections or sprinkler-valve controls, I hold them in place with springs that are screwed down at one end. I stretch the spring, place the wire in the coils, and release. The springs hold the wires tightly, are easy to adjust, and help dissipate the heat.
Before setting a metal post into hard ground, give the soil a good soaking. Attach a piece of 1½-inch copper pipe to a garden hose, turn on the water, and push the pipe into the spot where you want to set the post. When the ground is saturated, remove the pipe and pound in the post with a small sledge.
A quick tip for rescreening: Wipe the spline with dish soap. It will slip into its groove quickly, without twisting or pulling the frame out of square. Hose off the soap and you're good to go.
Plastic rafter squares make great jigs for positioning door and drawer handles. Drill holes in the square, hook it on the edge of whatever needs a handle, and make a mark through the holes. Works perfectly every time.
I was installing beadboard panels on the kitchen walls, a fairly easy task—until it came to cutting the holes for the electrical outlets. Then I had this thought: Take off the outlet cover, screw it on backwards, paint its outer rim white, and then—before the paint dries—press the panel against it. Sure enough, I got an accurate line to guide the cut without measuring.
I never had a good way to hold my trailer's tarp in place until I made my own clips out of 4-inch PVC pipe. I cut it into 1-inch rings, then made a slice through each one. That allowed me to open them enough to clamp the tarp to the trailer. A black mark on the cutline makes the opening easy to find.
Grimesland, North Carolina
The loud plunk of water dripping in my downspout was driving me crazy. So I stuffed an old toilet brush into the bottom elbow. The bristles break up the drops, halting the noise, yet still allow water to flow through, even during downpours. Now I live torture-free.
When I plant window boxes and other pots, I line the bottoms with foam packing peanuts before adding soil. They're as effective as rocks in providing drainage but don't add to a container's weight, making it easier to lift.