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Do It Yourself

Simple Solutions / Quick Fixes for Problems Around the Home

November 14, 1998|JOSEPH TRUINI

Tiling in Corners

Most floor-tiling jobs include at least one spot where a tile must be notched to fit around the corner of a wall, cabinet or doorway. To accurately mark the tile for cutting, put away the tape measure and do what the professionals do: direct-marking.

First, set the tile to be cut on top of the full-size tile closest to the corner. Be sure its edges are perfectly aligned with the tile below.

Next, set another full tile on top with one edge pressed against the corner.

Run a felt-tip pen or pencil along the edge of the top tile to mark the first cut line onto the middle tile.

Now move the top two tiles to the other side of the corner and repeat the process to mark the second cut line.

The area outlined by the two intersecting cut lines is the part of the tile that must be notched out.

Direct marking eliminates measuring mistakes and works great for all types of floor tile, including glazed ceramic, vinyl, wood parquet and plastic laminate.

Swabbing the Deck

Mild weather makes fall the perfect time to protect a wood deck against potential damage such as checking and splitting that can occur during a wet winter.

First, apply a deck brightener to the surface to loosen ground-in dirt and stubborn grease stains. Then rinse the deck with a garden hose or, better yet, a power washer (about $50 per day to rent).

Once the deck is dry, apply a clear wood preservative to bare wood or a decking stain to previously stained surfaces. If you're staining, choose one that contains a wood preservative.

Remember to coat all end-grain surfaces, which tend to soak up water and crack if not properly sealed. Use a 2-inch-wide foam-rubber brush to coat the long edges of the deck boards, forcing the applicator into the space between two boards and sliding it along to spread the finish.

The Edge on Insulation

Cutting batts of fiberglass insulation is a frustrating, imprecise process because the batts are so thick and fuzzy.

To speed things up and produce a clean, neat cut, lay the insulation, its foil or kraft-paper vapor barrier facing up, on a scrap piece of plywood. Then cut a 2-by-4 at least 12 inches longer than the width of the insulation.

Place the 2-by-4 across the batt on the cut line. Compress the insulation by kneeling on one end of the 2-by-4 and pressing down on the other end with your palm. Then use a sharp utility knife to slice through the batt in a single stroke. Always wear gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, eye protection and a dust mask when working with fiberglass. And work carefully so the knife doesn't slip and cut your knee.

Screening Process for Paint

No matter how much care you take, leftover paint always contains dust, fuzz and dirt. You can filter it with disposable cone-shaped filters, about $1 each, but a scrap of aluminum window screen works as well and lasts longer.

Lay the screen over a clean bucket and press down in the center to create a slight depression. Slowly pour paint from the can through the screen and into the bucket. Stop when the bucket is half-filled so it's easy to work with. Remove the screen, blot out the excess paint with a rag, then rinse it for future use with water (for latex paint) or mineral spirits (oil-based paint).

Fiberglass screening also works; first, tape it to the bucket to prevent it from sagging into the paint.

Plywood Pickup Trick

Carrying a 4-foot-by-8-foot sheet of plywood or particleboard by yourself is hard. To do it without throwing out your back: Tie together the ends of an 18- to 20-foot-long piece of rope. Lean the plywood sheet on its long edge and slip the rope around the two bottom corners. Then reach over the sheet, grab the rope in the middle and lift, steadying the sheet with your free hand. With the 4-by-8 secured between your arm and torso, it's easy to walk without losing balance or straining muscles.

Quick Tip

Need to attach a mirror, towel rack or similar object to a hollow-core door? Use a hollow-wall anchor, such as a molly or toggle. Bore the appropriate-size hole through the door skin, insert the anchor and tighten it until it fits snug. Finally, secure the object, being sure to use the proper-size screws.

Quick Tip

Plastic dropcloths are popular for painting projects because they're cheap and disposable. They are also slippery when wet with paint. To avoid this hazardous condition, cover the plastic with at least two layers of newspaper. A better, though initially more expensive, alternative is to buy a canvas dropcloth. The soft, nonslip fabric absorbs spills and spatters and lasts for years.

Quick Tip

When patching cracks in concrete or repointing the mortar joints between bricks, always mist the masonry surface with water before forcing in the patching compound or new mortar. This simple step prevents the existing surface from sucking moisture out of the repair, which would cause it to cure too quickly and eventually crack.

* Reprinted from the pages of Today's Homeowner Magazine. (800) 456-6369. http://www.todayshomeowner.com.

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