28 Reader Tips That Save Time and Money
My, my—you TOH readers are an inventive bunch! Here are some of the best DIY tips and tricks you've ever submitted
Amazing! That's all we could say after reviewing all the DIY tips and tricks you gave us this year. So we've come to an obvious conclusion: You're all a bunch of latter-day Thomas Edisons—brimming with inventive, practical ideas and always looking for ways to save a buck or avoid a trip to the store.
With each of these tips, your resourcefulness shines through. For example: Don't have a fancy bit for stuck screws? No problem; see Tip #7. Can't afford a custom marble threshold? Check out Tip #13. And who knew Shop-Vacs could be used to dig holes? (See Tip #8.)
As Edison said, an inventor needs a good imagination and a pile of junk. We can't supply the junk, but there are plenty of ideas here to spur your imagination. We're counting on you for another round of tips next year.
Take a plastic laundry detergent container and cut it off about 1½ inches above where the handle connects with the container (as shown). It's easy to hold and easy to clean.
—Charles Burchett, Fort Collins, CO
If you find that dust motes have left a rough surface in dry paint or varnish, rub it down using the back of the sandpaper.
—Desmond Landon, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Rather than buy the powder that dries
up leftover latex paint, mix in some sawdust. Let the paint air-dry for a week before you put it in the trash.
—Daniel Fitzgerald, Chelmsford, MA
When I paint my walls, I also paint the wall switch and outlet plates. That way I have a "chip" I can take to the paint store to get touch-up paint that matches the actual faded color on my walls.
—Barbara Schuppe, Roseland, NJ
In order to set a new PVC toilet flange into an old iron pipe, I had to get rid of the pipe's corrosion buildup, so I taped sandpaper around a hole saw, chucked it in a drill, and sanded away all the gunk.
—Glenn Nastepniak, Alsip, IL
Every winter, loose stones from our gravel driveway end up on the grass, where they can damage my lawn-tractor blades. Raking them up is hard, but sucking them up with my Shop-Vac is easy and doesn't damage the grass.
—Andrew Costantino, Yardley, PA
If a screwdriver can't remove a rusted or damaged screw, drill about ¼ inch into the screwhead with a 1/8-inch bit. Then hammer a #3 square-drive bit into the hole. Put an impact driver on the bit and back out the screw.
—Wayne Glasbrenner, Hudson, WI
I was having a heck of a time digging a posthole in a tight space alongside a wall until I came up with this approach: Start a hole a foot or so deep, fill it with water, then suck out the mud with a wet-dry Shop-Vac. Keep adding water and removing mud until you're done. I "dug" a 42-inch hole this way in less than 2 minutes.
—Royal Ottmar, Roscommon, MI
To straighten the bent metal fins in an air conditioner, grab an old toothbrush. Just press the bristles into the fins above or below the bent spots, then pull and push the brush through those spots until the fins straighten out.
—Ned Pendleton, Peoria Heights, IL
The exposed ends of my in-law's stone-tile backsplash weren't polished like the tile faces, so I brushed them with clear nail polish. Now the edges and faces match.
—Steve Crounse, Snyder, NY
I always wear a dust mask when using a router or saw, which makes it a hassle to blow away sawdust. So I use a baby's large-size nasal aspirator or a kitchen baster to do the puffing for me.
—Leslie Kienholz, Spokane, WA
Wrap flowering bulbs in ½-inch hardware cloth as you plant them. The bulbs grow through the mesh, but squirrels can't eat them!
—Bob Savery, Knoxville, TN
The stone and tile retailers wanted more than $1,000 for a single piece of honed black marble threshold to match the mosaic tiles on my shower floor. So I bought some inexpensive polished marble tiles and sanded them—first with 60-grit paper and working up to 220 grit—until the finish matched the mosaic tiles. Then I cut them to size and rounded the edges. Voilà! Honed marble trim for pennies per linear foot!
—Janelle DeRuosi, Escalon, CA
I thought that installing fence posts would be easy with a power auger, but every time we pulled it up, the sandy soil fell right back in the hole. Finally, we got a hose and wet down the soil in the hole. After that, the excavated sand stayed right where we put it!
—Paul Ferrari, Billerica, MA
When I tiled my kitchen floor, I also tiled the inside bottom of the cabinet under the sink to protect the wood from leaks and spills.
—Van Landrum, Plano, TX
You can keep loose stairway balusters from rattling by putting wood glue on a toothpick and sticking it between the top of the baluster and the banister. Cut off the excess with a knife and wipe away excess glue
—George Owsley, Hastings, MI
I screwed the ends of two 4-foot boards to two drywall-bucket lids and snapped them onto the buckets that carry my tools. That gave me: (1) a ready-made sawhorse, (2) a scaffold that lets me reach 8-foot ceilings, and (3) a seat for lunch. The boards and attached lids are lighter and much easier to carry than sawhorses or a stepladder.
—Sam Stout, Hartford, CT
Before drilling into drywall, take an ordinary envelope, fold in the tab, and tape it to the wall just below the area where you're working. As you drill, the dust falls in the envelope, not on the floor.
—Clifford Bechtold, Madison, CT
When you're cutting PVC pipe in a tight space, loop a nylon string around the pipe and pull the ends firmly back and forth. The heat generated by the string cuts right through the plastic.
—Reid Watson, Charlotte, NC
I like to cope my trim, so when I'm installing shoe molding I use contact cement to stick a piece of 80-grit sandpaper to the face of a molding scrap. Then, after I cut my cope, I have a tool that smooths the cut to the exact shape I need.
—Jim Fischer, Saint Louis Park, MN
All I need to mark scribe lines for the back edge of a countertop is a washer. I put it flat on the counter so that it touches the wall where the gap is widest, and put my pencil tip in its hole. Then I roll the washer along the wall with the pencil tip, leaving a perfect scribe line on the counter. The bigger the gap, the wider the washer has to be.
—Jay Kester, Layton, UT
When I'm cutting PVC pipe with a hacksaw, I first tighten a hose clamp next to the cut line to act as a guide to make the cut square. When I'm done, I leave the clamp on to fine-tune the cut with a file.
—George Urban, Hartland, WI
My favorite tool for smoothing wallpaper is one I make by cutting a section from the side of a plastic 5-gallon paste bucket.
—Gary Lucas, Westerville, OH
Used to be, if I let Danish oil finish congeal on the threads of the can lid, I'd have to open the can with pump pliers. Then I remembered my grandfather's trick of placing wax paper under the lid when he mixed shellac in a jar. Now I use wax paper when sealing all my cans and jars.
—Roger Rayburn, Colorado Springs, CO
To remove the calcium deposits under faucet handles, take off the handles and escutcheons and cover the deposits with cotton balls soaked in white vinegar. Once the buildup is gone, rinse and wipe the parts clean with a dry cloth, and replace them.
—William Osia, Cadet, MO
I got tired of having drywall mud and premixed grout dry up and go bad, so now I toss a couple of damp paper towels in their buckets. In this dry climate, it really helps extend their shelf life.
—Ken Schultze, Cheyenne, WY
After you've partially emptied a can of spray foam, don't throw away its straw; unscrew it and clean it out with WD-40. Just insert the WD-40's red straw into the spray-foam straw and give it a few squirts. Don't forget to wipe off the red straw with a clean rag when you're done.
—Jody Dingman, Columbia, PA
Here in south Florida, rusty tools are a big problem. So every time I receive a package that contains those little silica-gel packets, I place them in toolbox drawers and power-tool cases, where they absorb moisture and help keep my tools rust-free.
—Phil Houghton, Cape Coral, FL