28 More Reader Tips That Save Time and Money
Our many ingenious readers dream up novel solutions to get the job done quickly and cheaply
We can learn a lot from you, our many ingenious readers. When faced with home-improvement problems, you resist the urge to rush off to the hardware store and instead dream up novel solutions to get the job done quickly and cheaply. Your creativity, on full display here, is an inspiration to TOH fans everywhere.
I like to use a cheap spray bottle from a discount store to stain the tight, difficult-to-get-at parts of a lattice. It works great, and when I'm done I just dispose of the bottle.
— Chris Huang, Lafayette, Ind.
Instead of painting directly over old wall paneling, I filled the grooves with joint compound, then troweled it to achieve a stucco look. When I painted it—wow!—you'd never know it was paneling.
— Patty Studdard, Cookeville, Tenn.
Those thin strips of fancy trim always seem to split when I nail them up. Now I use a push pin to make a small pilot hole for a nail, and it has saved me a lot of wood and frustration.
— Timothy Hays Sr., Marshfield, Mo.
While I was redoing our bathroom floor, I found it difficult to cut vinyl floor tiles with a utility knife. So I got out my rotary fabric cutter. It worked like a charm and was easy on my hands.
— E. Carole Cruse, Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
If the tip of a caulk-tube nozzle isn't long enough to reach into a corner, I take apart one of my old pens and attach the lower barrel to the tube's nozzle with electrical tape. The additional 2 to 3 inches of nozzle saves me from having to apply the caulk with my fingers.
— Gary Dickinson, North Haven, Colo.
To protect my bad knees while I refinished the floor, I cut 8-by-8-inch squares out of the carpeting I had removed and stacked two pieces together, plush side down, for each knee. They were soft, slid easily on the wood floor, and picked up extra dust as I scooted around.
— Sheila Kitzman, Mendota Heights, Minn.
To speed up sanding the inside curves of crown moldings, I made a profile sander out of a PVC tee fitting and foam pipe insulation. The foam, which is glued to the tee with spray adhesive, overhangs the ends of the fitting to stop gouging. Stick self-adhesive sandpaper to the foam and go to town. I mounted mine on an oscillating sander.
— Mark Collins, Centennial, Colo.
When I'm spreading grout on a floor, I use two floats—one in each hand—so that I'm always supported by one float held flat on the tile while the other hand works the grout. This allows me to work either left- or right-handed and reach farther with the float, and makes the job much easier on my back.
— Aaron McCoy, Beaverton, Oreg.
Whenever I mix 5-gallon buckets of paint with a drill and paddle attachment, I put the paddle's shaft through a hole in a large cardboard square before attaching the shaft to the drill. Then I lay the cardboard directly on the container before turning on the drill. No splatters!
— Tracy Thompson, Marion, Va.
Here's an easy way to fill joints between pavers or patio flagstones: Simply take an empty screw-top wine bottle and punch a hole in the top of the cap near its edge. Fill the bottle with sand, mortar mix, or polymeric sand; screw on the cap; and pour the contents into the joints rather than on the pavers. There's no waste and no cleanup.
— Sid Galbaugh, Walton, Ky.
When I'm taking apart something that I need to put back together, I take pictures at each step of the disassembly. Then I arrange the photos in reverse order to see step-by-step how to reassemble it.
— Cristina Beck, Temperance, Mich.
Here's a quick way to inflate any small pneumatic tire after it's gone flat. Tie a rope tightly around the circumference of the tire, then use plumber's putty to seal the edge where the rubber meets the wheel rim. Now you can pump up the tire and untie the rope. Simple as that.
— Ken Marshall, Rockford, Ill.
We wanted to paint all 20 doors in the house, but where do you put them while they're wet? By screwing short 2x4 blocks to the ends, we were able to paint both sides of each door and then stack them neatly while they dried. Just make sure to keep the same spacing between every pair of blocks.
— Charles Sapp, St. Charles, Mo.
I made a brand-new-looking flagstone pathway to my gazebo just by flipping over the weathered stones that were there and washing them off. The tricky part was fitting the shapes back together, but with a little finessing I managed it.
— Larry Koch, Pomona, Calif.
When installing a toilet bowl, mark a line on the threaded ends of the tee bolts to show the orientation of the tees on the bolts' other end, which hold the bowl to the flange on the floor. Without that mark as a guide, you could turn the bolt 90 degrees as you tighten it and pull it out of the flange, making a mess of the wax ring. Trust me: I learned this one the hard way.
— Donald Alevas, Patchogue, N.Y.
I reuse those long, narrow plastic bags that newspapers are delivered in as protective gloves and sleeves when spray painting and pulling weeds. They're really good for uprooting and containing poison ivy and other stuff you shouldn't touch with bare hands; just remove the bags by pulling them inside out.
— Cyndy Smith, Nicholasville, Ky.
Before I have to work on a toilet, I use a wet vac to suck out all of the water from the bowl and tank. No muss, no fuss.
— John Palka, West Chester, Pa.
Put a window screen over a spot in your lawn that you're reseeding and you won't have to worry about birds eating the seeds.
— James Murphy, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
The plumber couldn't budge the clog in our upstairs bathtub drain, so he said we'd have to tear out the ceiling below in order to get at the pipe. But a contractor we know had another idea that made a lot more sense. He stuck the nozzle of a wet-dry vac into a roll of electrical tape to get a tight seal against the tub's drain, and covered the tub's overflow hole with a flexible rubber pad. Then he turned on the vacuum and, voilà: the clog was sucked out of the pipe, saving our ceiling—and our bank account.
— Laura Mozier, Fairfield, Conn.
Screw-in bulbs in outdoor fixtures can corrode and become stuck
in their sockets, and will often break when you try to twist them out. That's why I rub Vaseline on the bulbs' threads before screwing them in. I never have a problem replacing the bulb when the time comes.
— Denis Liederbach, Guntersville, Ala.
The next time you have an impossible-to-loosen knot, try giving it a squirt or two of spray lubricant, the kind meant for rusty nuts and bolts. Knots in nylon and other synthetic rope come loose as if by magic.
— Steve Davis, Sackets Harbor, N.Y.
To keep my synthetic-bristle brushes in good shape after cleaning, I rub them with hair conditioner stored in a handy hotel-size bottle. And I always rinse them out before using them again.
— Kyle Adams, Huntsville, Tex.
When I need to put two-part epoxy precisely in cracks or holes, I squirt both parts into the corner of a sandwich bag, twist it up like a cake-frosting bag, then roll it around between my fingers to mix it up. Once both parts are blended, I clip a tiny hole in the bag's corner and squeeze the epoxy out.
— Carl Anderson, Floresville, Tex.
I save the ends cut from nylon cable ties to fill stripped screw holes or to anchor screws when I hang things on a concrete, tile, or plaster wall. They hold better than matchsticks and don't splinter. For best results, place the ties' notched sides out, against the side of the hole.
— Jon Doucleff, Cincinnati
A local man who was trying to prevent a flood from filling his house sealed his door and basement windows with a can of spray-foam insulation. There will be some cleanup to unseal the door, but the foam did stop water that rose 40 inches high.
— John McMonagle, Broomall, Pa.
While stripping paint from an old crib, I found that my store-bought scraper couldn't get in some of the small profiles. So I cut up a flat-sided plastic paint can into custom scrapers that fit each problem profile, saving myself a few dollars and another trip to the store.
— Eric Haskins, Wahiawa, Hawaii
If the drywall has crumbled under stairway handrail brackets, take them off and cut out the damaged drywall using a hole saw slightly smaller than the brackets' bases. Use the same hole saw to cut plugs out of ½-inch plywood; put one plug in each hole. Reattach the brackets through the plugs into the studs. The plywood provides a much firmer foundation than drywall.
— Jiri Klinovsky, East Moriches, N.Y.
Next time you want to sink rebar into the ground, don't pound on it with a hammer. Instead, chuck the rod into a drill and drive it in like a screw. (It helps if you soften the ground first by pouring a little water on it.) The rebar spins in easily and doesn't get bent or beat up from hammering. And if it hits an obstruction, such as a sewer pipe, you'll feel it before you break anything.
— Richard Bryson, St. Bernard, La.