Here are enough home maintenance tips to fill a toolbox

  • Wednesday, June 9, 2004 9:00pm
  • Life

Although our column usually tackles a specific project or subject, this week we’re sharing some useful tips with you.

Deck safety check

Recent deck collapses you might have read about underscore the need for proper construction and periodic deck safety checks. Despite good plans, building permits, inspections and building codes, as decks age they can become unsafe. Boards rot, insects destroy wood integrity, and fasteners and railings consequently loosen. The result: a weakened structure. The bigger and higher (and older) the deck, porch or balcony, the greater is the need for doing things right and for frequent checkups.

Drilling ceramic tile

If you’re installing a towel bar, shelf or paper holder, drill straight and true – and prevent drill-tip slip and slide. Here’s how: Make an “X” by placing two strips of masking tape over your mark. Then drill through it, using a carbide tip bit.

The tape will keep the bit from traveling as it grinds through the surface glazing and on, into and through the softer ceramic back. Ease up toward the end to avoid pushing out the backside of the drywall or backer board.

The cleaner the hole, both through the tile and inside the wall, the better hollow-wall fasteners will grip and hold.

Prep for concrete painting

Whether you’re adding a touch of color on a concrete bench or table – or painting an entire garage or basement floor – here’s a preparation that retards – if not eliminates – peeling. Wash first with warm water, rinse and let dry thoroughly, at least a day. Then, using a clean paintbrush, apply a generous coat of white vinegar as a pre-paint primer.

Once dry, it will increase the bond, and paints will hold and last much longer. White vinegar pre-wash works well on metal, wood and plastic surfaces, too.

Candle wax on carpets

One of the toughest carpet cleanups is melted candle wax. Cover drips with a brown paper grocery bag and gently run a warm iron over the spot. Start with a low temperature, and keep checking and increasing the temperature as you go. The heat will liquefy the wax and the paper bag will absorb it.

Keep checking and repositioning the bag until all wax is absorbed. Caution: too much heat can damage your carpet. Start low and increase heat gradually.

Hollow-wall stud helpers

When you open a wall or build new – and have exposed framing – take time to think ahead concerning things you might want to install in the future. Atop windows, add extra lumber nailed flush between the studs just below the top plate at each end of the header.

Later on, you’ll have solid backing for any curtains, valences and accessories you want to install. Add backup blocking anywhere you might need extra support later on (for grab bars, shelves or wall-mounted accessories). Not building or opening up a wall? Add strength and support with surface-mounted half-inch-plus lumber.

For a spiffier look, use a prefab shelf instead with plastic laminate on all six sides and matching snap-in screw head covers.

Rug corners that curl

Got rug corners that won’t stay put and curl and lift up? All you need is a piece of peel-and-stick floor tile a foot square, at least. With a pair of scissors or a utility knife, trim off each of the corners to form four large triangles. Then peel the backing and stick each one to the underside of the rug, where corners are curling.

The tile will straighten the unsightly curl and the extra weight will help keep them flat and in place.

Barbecue tune-up

Ready for summer cookouts, but your grill isn’t? Here’s a quick refresher course: Wrap grill racks loaded with crusty barbecue sauce with aluminum foil (all around with the shiny side in), close the lid and cook on high for 15 minutes. If the lava rocks below are grease-laden, don’t replace them. Just turn them over and “cook” them as well. Later, grill racks can be rinsed and brushed to look like new, and grease will have cooked right out of the lava rocks. Spray high-heat glass windows with glass cleaner, and dab some fine gray fireplace ash on a dampened soft cloth. Rub, and the ash will permeate the microscopic pores and reduce surface tension, making cleaning easier. Oven cleaner adds horsepower, too.

Dramatic deck illumination

The clever use of rope lights and cable illumination systems turns average decks into stunning showplace settings. These lights, contained in flexible clear tubing, can be bent, curved or added onto. The low-voltage mini-bulbs can be clear or one of a myriad of dazzling colors. Rope and cable lighting throws soft indirect long runs of light on or around almost anything. Used under hand railings, on stairs and to outline decks, it adds shimmering pizazz to starry summer nights.

Readers can mail questions to On the House, APNewsFeatures, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020, or e-mail For more home improvement tips and information, visit the Web site at

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