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'l-%nt to get your deck makeover accomplished in one day? Turn to the Thampsons" ~ter Seaf® Advanced Wood Protector line, which can be applied to damp wood. (Most coatings must be applied to dry wood.)


A beautiful deck is the exclamation point to your backyard, and luckily, a deck makeover is an easy and affordable home improvement project. In fact, the cost to clean and treat an average-size deck is under $1OO-and the results? Priceless! OFF TO A CLEAN START Cleaning your deck is the critical first step to remove years of soils, worn coatings and grayed wood cells. Choose a deck cleaner based on your deck's condition. A dirty deck with no coating can be treated with a Deck Wash; decks with some remaining coatings will need a stronger cleaner, and a Deck Stripper is needed to remove solid stains. (Redwood and cedar also require special cleaners to optimize their naturally beautiful colors.) Application of the deck cleaner is relatively straightforward. Some cleaners come in concentrated form and are mixed with water while others are premixed and just need to be poured into a container. Just be sure to follow the label directions. Most products, except Deck Strippers, can be put in a pumpup garden sprayer. After waiting a short time (usually around 5-15 minutes), scrub lightly with a synthetic broom, then rinse the surface. DON'T FORGET YOUR COAT(ING) Act Two of your deck's revival involves decisions based on questions of both beauty and protection. If you want to see as much of the natural wood as possible, apply a clear coating like Thompson's" Water Seal" Waterproofer Plus Clear Wood Protector or Thompsons" Water Seal® Advanced Clear Wood Protector. These products are also available in tinted formulas that add natural wood tones while helping Stop water damage. Thornpsons" Water Seal" Deck & House Stains give you even more color options-c-over 100 shades are available ranging from natural wood colors to greens, blues, yellows, and more. These stains are available in semi-transparent formulas, which allow some of the wood grain to show through, and solid formulas, which completely cover the wood grain, but allow some of the wood texture to come through. While many waterproofing coatings can be applied with a sprayer, you should always go back over the surface with a brush or paine pad to work the product into the wood. HELP ON DECK Don't tackle your deck makeover aIone! Get help and great ideas at www. thompsonswaterseal.com or www. faccbook.com/thompsonswaterseal.



I •


Gives you

ouses are complicated, and as DIYers we're faced with a bewildering array of choices when it comes to repairs and remodeling. What should we fix first and what should we choose for materials, designs, techniques, finishes and tools? What projects will increase our home's value? Which can I do on a budget? Do I use a circular saw or a jigsaw? Laminated hardwood or carpet? Craftsman or Ryobi? Walk down the caulk aisle at your local home center and you'll see so many choices that your eyes will glaze over. That's why we created this Best in DIY publicationto give you projects that we've tested and recommend, tips that we've found to be particularly useful, and

I the

techniques that offer special benefits for the DIYer. We hope they help you in your projects. Happy hammering! The Family Handyman Editors

Storage Projects
11 13 14 Kitchen cabinet rollouts Selecting Materials:Baltic birch for cabinets Measuring Tip: Avoid mistakes with a story stick Selecting Hardware: Use the right slides Garage entry storage center Building Tips: Cut cost and assembly time Installation Tip: Use cleats Finishing Tip: Use a roller on large, flatsurfaces Overhead storage

26 27
27 30 32

Sturdy multipurpose

storage shelves

18 20 21

Simple utility cabinets Cutting Tip: Let someone else do it! Selecting Hardware: Use partial wrap-around hinges Finishing Tip: Use iron-on edge banding Grand bookcase Assembly Tip: Use pocket screws Mitering Tips: E3emore efficient Safety Tip: Install chain latches

35 38 42


Money-Saving Fixes
45 How to stop a running toilet Stay-Clean Tip: Wear gloves Repair damaged walls Work Tidy Tips: Paper bag dust catcher, neat sanding sponge, moist air Spray-texture a damaged Safety Tip: Asbestos ceiling

55 56 58


Finding & fixing roof leaks Home Care Tip: Fix leaks now Safety Tips: Roof brackets, planks and harness Repair Tip: Don't count on caulk Best kitchen appliance fixes Repair Tip: Don't wreck the floor when you pull out the fridge 5 cash-saving auto fixes




Special Section: Best-Ever Ways to Cut Energy Costs

68 72 76
Seal air leaks .Super-lnsulate your attic thermostat Save energy with a programmable




Tools & Accessories

79 Our favorit.e tools under $100 Tool Tip: Clamp-in-place straightedge Our favorite tools under $15

82 86

Editors' Choice: The tools we love Spotlight on impactdrivers


Backyard Projects
91 94 One-day island deck Planning Tip: Permits and safety Planning Tip: Build a privacy screen Simple garden archway Tool Tip: Hacksaw blade installation Installation Tip: Solution for hard soil Classic cobblestone path Planning Tip: Add edging for garden beds Planning Tip: Consider mixed materials Repair Tip: Use a paver puller

109 114 116 117

Soothing backyard fountain Planning Tip: Install an outdoor outlet Installation Tip: Soften soil with water

110 Garden arbor 115 Defeat crabgrass

Yard Care Tip: Reduce hand trimming Yard Care Tip: Try ride-by weed shooting

96 98

100 103 104

118 Simple bench

Weekend ,Projects
123 125 Cabinet face lift Selecting Materials: Wine glass molding Storage Tips: Spice storage, measuring cup hang-up, plastic bag dispenser, thyme saver Lighting Tip: Install an overhead light


Install a new sink & faucet Installation Tip: Save your back Revive a hardwood floor Repair Tip: Fix a squeaky floor Cleanup Tip: Use an abrasive pad

138 141

126 Closet system


139 Tile a backsplash

Special Section: All-Time Best Painting Tips

142 Top 13 pro painting tips


Editorial and Production Team
Steven Charbonneau, Roxie Filipkowski, Vern Johnson, Rick Muscoplat, Becky Pfluger, Mary Sthwender, Marcia Roepke


Editor in Chief Ken Collier Project Editor Mary Flanagan Senior Editors Travis Larson, Gary Wentz Associate Editors Elisa Bernick, Jeff Gorton Administrative Manager Alice Garrett Senior Copy Editor Donna Bierbach , Page Layout Teresa Marrone, Bruce Bohnenstingl Production Manager Judy Rodriguez Vice President, Publisher Lora Gier Associate Publisher, Sales Chris Dolan

Photog,raphy andlUustratlons
Ron Chamberlain, Tom Fenenga, Bruce Kieffer, Mike Krivit, Don Mannes, Ramon Moreno, Shawn Nielsen, Doug Oudekerk, Frank Rohrbach III, Eugene Thompson, Bill Zuehlke Text, photography and illustrations for Best in DIY are based on articles previously published in The Family Handyman magazine (2915 Commers Dr., Suite 700, Eagan, MN 55121, familyhandyman.com). For information on advertising in The Family Handyman magazine, call (212) 850-7226. by The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. ©2011 The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. All rights reserved. This volume may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the Publisher. Reader's Digest and the Pegasus logo are registered trademarks of The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. The Family Handyman is a registered trademark of RD Publications, Inc.

Published by Home Service Publications, Inc. A subsidiary of The Reader's Digest Association,


Best in DIY is published

President President,


& Chief Executive

U.S. Affinities

Officer Mary G. Berner Suzanne Grimes

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA A NOTE TO OUR READERS: All do-it-yourself activities involve a degree of risk. Skills, materials, tools and site conditions vary widely. Although the editors have made every effort to ensure accuracy, the reader remains responsible for the selection and use of tools, materials and methods. Always obey local codes and laws, follow manufacturer instructions and observe safety precautions.

10 Kitchen cabinet rollouts

11 Selecting Materials: Baltic birch


for cabinets Measuring Tip: Avoid mistakes with a story stick Selecting Hardware: Use the right slides Garage entry storage center Building Tips: Cut cost and assembly time Installation Tip: Use cleats Finishing Tip: Use a roller on large, flat surfaces

18 20 21

22 Overhead storage
Sturdy multipurpose storage shelves

27 Simple utility cabinets

27 30 32
Cutting Tip: Let someone else do it! Selecting Hardware: Use partial wrap-around hinges Finishing Tip: Use iron-on edge banding

33 Grand bookcase
35 38 42
Assembly Tip: Use pocket screws Mitering Tips: Be more efficient Safety Tip: Install chain latches

r:Iase cabinets have the least convenierit 1.:1 in the entire kitchen. Rollouts solve

storagespace that problem. They make organizing and accessing cabinet contents back-friendly and frustration free. This article shows how to retrofit nearly any base cabinet with rollouts that'll work as well as or better than any factory-built units. The project will go faster with a table saw and a miter saw to cut out all the pieces. A circular saw and cutting guide will work too; it'll just take a little longer. Building a pair of rollouts takes about half a day, and costs about $20 per shelf.

What wood products to buy

The rollout drawers are entirely made of t/z-in. Baltic birch plywood. Baltic birch is favored by cabinetmakers because it's "void free," meaning that the thin veneers of the plywood core are solid wood. Therefore, sanded edges will look smooth and attractive. If local home centers don't stock Baltic birch, find it at any hardwood specialty store (search "Hardwood Suppliers" online to find a source). Baltic birch may only come in 5 x 5-ft. sheets, so don't expect to fit it in a minivan. But home centers often carry smaller pieces. Baltic birch plywood may not even be labeled as such at the home center. But it's easy

to recognize by comparing it with other hardwood plywood in the racks, Baltic birch will have more and thinner laminations in the plywood core, The sides of the rollout drawers can be made from any lx4 solid wood that matches the cabinets, and then finished to match (use plywood for the bases). But if 3/4-in. material is used for the sides, subtract 3 in. from the opening to size the rollout (not 2-1/2 in., as described in Photo 2). (See "Building rollouts in cabinets with center dividers," p. 12, for an example.) The drawer carriers (Figure A) are made from pine lx4s for the sides (Photo 7) and 1/4-in. MDF (medium density fiberboard) for the carrier bottom (Photo 9). The MDF keeps the drawer base spaced properly when being shimmed and attached to the cabinet sides. It can be removed and reused for other carriers after installation. If MDF isn't available, substitute any other 1/4-in. hardboard or plywood. Side-mounted slides are the best choice among drawer slide options. Their ball-bearing mechanisms and precise fit

Open the

narrowest opening

part (usually

of the cabinet at the hinges).

, Fi ure A
Standard rollout
LENGTH: OPENING MINUS WIDTH: 3·1/2'" 2·1/2'" SIDE 3-1/2'" x 22'"

Drawer all 1/2"

assembly plywood

Best in DIY
Selecting Materials
Baltic birch for cabinets
Cabinetmakers love Baltic birch plywood for rollouts because the edges look great. Unlike standard hardwood plywood, Baltic birch never has voids in the inner core. It may not be labeled "Baltic birch" at home centers, but you'll be able to identify it by comparing It with other hardwood plywood in the racks. It'll have more and thinner laminations in the plywood core. The bigof using Baltic birch are gest disadvantages

Figure B
Wastebasket rollout
Carrier assembly

1/4'" MDF

that it costs more than standard hardwood plywood and can be harder to find. A 4 x 8-ft. sheet will run you $65 compared with $50 for standard hardwood plywood. If your home center doesn't carry it, try a traditionallumberyard.
Drawer assembly



all 1/2" plywood


SIDE 3-1/2'" x 22'"


Building rollouts in cabinets with center dividers


Rip 1/2-in. plywood down to 3-1/2 in. wide and cut two 22-in. lengths (drawer sides) and two more to the measured width minus 2-1/2 in. (drawer front and back; Figure A).

Many two-door cabinets have a center divider (photo above), which calls for a slightly different strategy. The rollouts willneed to be narrower versions on each side of the divider. (Check to be sure they won't be so narrow that they're impractical.) The key is to install a 3/4-in. plywood, particleboard or MDFpanel between the center divider and the cabinet back to support the carriers. Cut the panel to fit loosely between the divider and the cabinet back and high enough to support the top rollout position. Center the panel on the back side and middle of the divider and screw it into place with l-in. angle brackets (they're completely out of sight). Use a carpenter's square to position the panel perfectly centered and vertical on the cabinet back and anchor it there. again using angle brackets. Measure, build and install the rollouts as shown in this article.

surface to use as an assembly jig. Use a carpenter's square to ensure squareness. Leave a 2-in. gap at the corner.

make for smooth-operating drawers that hold gO lbs. or more. This project uses 22-in. full-extension KV brand side-mount drawer slides that have a gO-lb. weight rating. That means they'll be sturdy enough even for a drawer full of canned goods. Full-extension slides allow the rollout to extend completely past the cabinet front for easy access to all the contents. Expect to pay about $6 to $15 per set of slides at any home center or well-stocked hardware store.

Measure carefully before building

Nearly all standard base cabinets are 23-1/4 in. deep from the inside of the face frame {Photo 1) to the back of the cabinet. So in most cases, 22-in.-long rollout drawer and carrier sides will clear with room to spare. Check the cabinets to make sure that 22-in. rollouts will work. If the cabinets are shallower, subtract whatever is

Spread woodworking glue on the ends and clamp a drawer side and front in place, then pin the corner together with three I-II4-in. brads. Repeat for the other three corners.

Cut a II2-in. plywood bottom to size. Apply a thin bead of glue to the bottom edges, and nail one edge of the plywood flush with a side, spacing nails every 4 in. Then push the frame against the jig to square it and nail the other three edges.

Separate the drawer slides and space the drawer part 1/4 in. up from the bottom. Hold it flush to the front and screw it to the rollout side.

Mount the carrier part of the drawer slide flush with the bottom and front of the carrier sides.


Measuring Tip

Best in DIY
(like the width of the So try this: Forget the

Avoid mistakes with a story stick

The most obvious way to size rollout parts is to measure the opening of the cabinet and then do the math. But that's a recipe for mistakes because it's easy to forget to subtract one of the components slides or the drawers) from the overall measurement. math and mark your measurements kitchen and your shop constantly

on a piece of scrap wood. It's a great measurements.

visual aid that helps you prevent mistakes and having to walk between your to double-check



Best in DIY
necessary when building the rollouts and their carriers (see Figure A). Then measure the cabinet width. The drawer has to clear the narrowest part of the opening (Photo 1). When taking this measurement, include hinges that protrude into the opening, the edge of the door attached to the hinges, and even the doors that won't open completely because they hit nearby appliances or other cabinets. Plan on making the drawer front and rear parts 2-1/2 in. shorter than the opening (Figure A). This project shows drawers with 3-1/2-in.-high sides, but they can be customized. Plan on higher sides for lightweight plastic storage containers or other tall or tippy items, and lower sides for stable, heavier items like small appliances.

Selecting Hardware
Use the right slides

There are a dozen kinds of drawer slides out there, out if you want to keep shopping and installation simple, stick to these two types: Roller slides glide on plastic wheels. They're inexpensive, a cinch to Install (it takes about two minutes) and nearly impossible to screw up. You'll find them at home centers under various names including side mount, under mount and bottom mount. Most are rated to carry 35 to 100 lbs. For heavy-duty rollouts holding items such as canned goods, use slides rated for at least 100 lbs. The big disadvantage: length-the Most roller slides of their extend only three-quarters In the cabinet. Ball-bearing slides glide on tiny bearings. The big advantage of these slides is that they extend fully, giving you complete access to everything In the drawer. They're about three times the cost of roller slides, and they're usually rated to carry 75 to 100 lbs., but you can get 200-lb. versions for about $40 a pair. Home centers carry ball-bearing slides, but The you'll find a wider variety at woodworkershardware.com. big disadvantage: They're fussy to install. If your drawer is a hair too big or small, these slides won't glide.


Drawer slides aren't as confusing as they seem

Drawer slides are sold in pairs and each of the pairs has two parts. The "drawer part" attaches to the rollout while the "cabinet part" attaches to the carrier. To separate them for mounting, slide them out to full length and then push, pull or depress a plastic release to separate the two parts. The release button position and shape vary among manufacturers. The cabinet part, which always encloses the drawer part, is the larger of the two, and the mounting screw hole locations will be shown in the directions. (Screws are included with the drawer slides.) The oversized holes allow for some adjustment. When mounting the slides, make sure to hold them flush with the front of the rollout drawer and carrier sides (Photos 6 and 7). The front of the drawer part usually has a bent metal stop that faces the front of the drawer.

back of the drawer stays

Assembling parts and finishing the rollouts

It's important to build the rollout drawers perfectly square for them to operate properly. Photos 3 and 4 show a simple squaring jig that can clamp to a corner of any workbench to help. Use the jig to nail the frame together, but even more important, to hold the frame square when nailing on the bottom panel. If it hangs over the sides even a little, the drawer slides won't work smoothly. Use 1-1/4-in. brads for all of the assembly. Glue the drawer parts together, but not the bottom of the carrier. It only serves as a temporary spacer for mounting. (After mounting the carrier and drawer, remove the carrier if it catches items on underlying drawers.) To finish the rollout for a richer look and easier cleaning, sand the edges with 120-grit paper and apply a couple of coats of waterbased polyurethane before mounting the slides. To figure the spacer thickness, rest the lower carrier on the bottom of the shelf, push it against one side of the

:2 "iii c



Make drawer boxes about 1/32 in. smaller than you nejd. It's easy to shim behind a slide with layers of masking tape fa make' up for a toosmall drawer. It's a lot harder to deal with a drawer that's too



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t: QI





Ball-bearing slides cost more----O and are harder to install, but they can extend fully.






Slide the drawer and carrier sides together and measure the carrier width. Cut 114-in. M DF to that width and 1 in. less than the carrier depth (usually 21 in.).

Rest the carrier assembly on 3/4-in.-thick spacers, pull the car.rier sides slightly away from the drawer, then nail on the carrier bottom (no glue).

Remove the drawer, tip the carrier into the cabinet and push the carrier against one side. Measure the gap and rip six 3-1/2-in.long spacers to half of the thickness.

Nail the spacers to the center and each end of the carrier sides (not into the cabinet; see inset photo)' Then predrill and screw the carrier sides to the cabinet in the center of each shim. Slide the drawer back into place.

cabinet and measure the gap on the other (Photo 10). Rip spacers to half that measurement and cut six of them to 3-1/2 in. long. Slip the spacers between both sides of the carrier to check the fit. They should slide in snugly but not tightly. Recut new spacers if needed. In out-of-square cabinets, custom-cut spacers may be needed for each of the three pairs of spacers, so check each of the three spacer positions. It's easiest to tack the spacers to the rollouts to hold them in place before pre drilling liS-in. holes and running the screws through the rollout frames and spacers and into the cabinet sides (Photo 11). Slip the rollout into its carrier and check for smooth operation. By following this process, it should work perfectly. Hit binds, it's probably because the spacers are too wide or narrow. Pull out the carrier, remove the spacers and start the spacer process all over again.

The best way to level and fasten the upper rollout is to support it on temporary plywood spacers (Photo 12). The pieces of plywood shown are 7 in. high, but the exact height can vary. To store tall boxes of cereal on the bottom rollout and shorter items on the top, space the top rollout higher. Build and install three or more rollouts in one cabinet for mega storage of short items like cans, cutlery or beverages. (Those now-obsolete shelves being replaced with rollouts are good stock to use for the spacers.) Again, pin the spacers in place with a brad or two to hold them while predrilling and screwing the carriers to the cabinet sides. Be sure to select screw lengths that won't penetrate exposed cabinet sides! In most cases, 1-5/S-in. screws are the best choice. Strive for 1/2-in. penetration into the cabinet sides. Countersink the heads as far as necessary to get the proper penetration.







Cut plywood spacers to temporarily support the upper rollout and set them onto the carrier below. Rest the second carrier on the spacers and install it as showrr in Photo 11.


Build an uPSide~d~wnversion of the carrier and rollouts for the wastebasket drawer (Figure B). Center and trace around the rim of the wastebasketts). Use a compass to mark the onening 1/2 in. smaller.


Drill 112-in. starting holes and cut the openings with a jigsaw.

Mount the wastebasket carrier and drawer as shown in Photos 10 and 11.

Building wastebasket rollouts

Wastebasket rollouts are just upside-down versions of standard rollouts. That is, the carrier is mounted on the top rather than the bottom of the rollout and the slides are positioned at the bottom edge of the carrier sides. That lets the wastebasket lip clear the MDF. Follow Figure B on p. 11 for the details. This wastebasket rollout is built inside an 18-in.-wide cabinet, so two plastic containers fit back to back. For 15-in. cabinets, size may be limited to one container mounted sideways. Buy containers ahead of time to fit the opening.

Some wastebasket rollouts require knocking the MDF free from the carriers after mounting so the wastebasket lips will clear. That's OK; it won't affect operation. It may not always work to center rollout assemblies in all openings with equal spacers on each side. That's especially true with narrow single cabinets that only have one pair of hinges. Cheat the wastebasket assembly away from the hinge side an additional 1/2 in. or so, if needed. Again, it's best to test things before permanent mounting. But if a mistake is made, unscrew the assembly, adjust the shims and remount everything.





Garage entry storage center

.m·' .
you have an attached garage, the door to the house is probably a dumping ground for shoes, sports gear, jackets and all kinds of other stuff that you don't have space for indoors. These five cabinets can eliminate that mess so you don't have to walk through an obstacle course to get in the house. Each cabinet is a simple box that has been customized to solve a different storage problem. Build one or all five. You can build, install and load these cabinets in a weekend. The only power tools you'll need are a drill and a circular saw. But a table saw and a sliding miter

Five easy options for five kinds of clutter

saw are handy for ripping and crosscutting the plywood, and a brad nailer helps tack the cabinets and drawers together before you drive the screws. Each cabinet requires one sheet of plywood or less and costs about $50, including the hardware and finish. Shown is birch plywood ($40 per sheet). You could use oak plywood ($48) or even MDF ($30). For the pantry cabinet, you'll need 1/4-in. plywood for the drawer bottoms. All the materials are available at home centers except the drawer slides for the pantry cabinet.

Y .


Get perfectly a homemade plywood.



cuts with

a circular

saw ~sing on the

saw guide. Clamp

the saw guide at your mark


Clamp pilot

the frame




the screw strip.


holes and drive screws.

Box assembly tips

These cabinets are surprisingly easy to build. The illustrations tell you most of what you need to know. Here are some tips for smooth assembly: If you don't have a table saw to rip the plywood, use a saw guide and a circular saw (Photo 1). Use a shorter saw guide or a sliding miter saw to get straight, square crosscuts. Drill liS-in. pilot holes to prevent splitting. Keep screws 1 in. from edges. If you have a brad nailer, tack parts together to make drilling easier. But don't rely on brads alone-you still need screws. If you don't have a brad nailer, use clamps (Photo 2). If your cuts were slightly off and the top, bottom and sides aren't exactly the same width, don't worry. Just make sure the front edges of the box are flush. Attach the screw strip to the top before attaching the side pieces. • Attach hardware (drawer slides, shelf standards) to the sides before building the box. Screw the top, bottom and any fixed shelves onto one side before attaching the other side.
BEST STORAGE PROJECTS Set the cabinets studs the cabinet bottoms on a cleat, then screw them to the wal] at the the stud locations). Drive screws through into the cleat. (use tape to mark

Best in DIY
Building Tips Cut cost and assembly time
These cabinets were designed with economy and speed in mind. Here are three tricks to cut costs and assembly time: • Size all parts to use the plywood efficiently. The sides, for example, are just under 12 in. wide (11-7/8 in.), so you'll get four from a 4 x 8-ft. sheet. • Eliminate the ca'binet backs, saving time and materials. Just be sure to handle the cabinets gently=-they're flimsy until they're screwed to the wall. • Apply the finish before assembly. After you cut the parts to size, sand everything with 120-grit sandpaper and apply a coat of Minwax Wipe-On Poly ($9 per pint). a bit

Shoe and boot cabinet

Eli m i nate the footwear pi Ieup

on the back steps
The lower shelves in this cabinet hold boots and shoes, while the cubbyholes at the top are for slippers and sandals. The screw strip is lower in this cabinet than it is in the rest, but it'll still hold the cabinet in place. Install the lower shelf first, then add the divider and screw on the shelves that fit between the divider and the cabinet sides. Build the cubbyholes on your work surface, then stick the assembled cubbies into the cabinet. Start by screwing two dividers onto a shelf. Make two shelves this way. Then install a center divider between these two shelves. Add a shelf to the bottom, over the two dividers. Then insert the cubbies inside the cabinet and screw through the sides into the shelves and through the top into the dividers.

Sports gear cabinet

A compact organizer for all kinds of equipment
The cabinet dividers let you store longhandled sports gear, like hockey sticks, bats and rackets. The lip on the top shelf keeps balls from falling off. Nail the lip to the shelf before installing the shelf at any height that suits your needs. When installing the dividers, cut two 7-in. spacers and place them between the cabinet sides and the dividers to keep the dividers straight as you install the cabinet face. Measure diagonally from box corner to corner to make sure the cabinet is square before attaching the face. Set the face on the cabinet, leaving a liS-in. reveal along both sides and the bottom. Drill pilot holes and screw the face to the sides and the dividers.
314· •

FACE ~3!4· .23-314"






Spacious, adjustable shelves that cut entryway clutter

This open-shelf cabinet needs a fixed shelf in the middle to keep the sides from bowing, but you can make the rest of the shelves adjustable. Install as many adjustable shelves as you want-this cabinet can hold a lot of stuff! You'll need four 6-ft. shelf standards ($3.30 each) for this cabinet. Get started by marking the shelf standard locations and the fixed middle shelf location on the two cabinet sides. Cut the shelf standards to length with a hacksaw, then screw them to the sides above and below the fixed shelf marks. Install the adjustable shelves after you hang the cabinet on the wall.


FIXED SHELF x 11·7/8" x 22-112"

Wet clothes cabinet

An airy hangout for damp or dirty coats and boots
The wire shelves in this cabinet allow boots to drip dry and air to circulate freely so clothes will dry. The extra-wide screw strip lets you attach coat hooks. To build the cabinet, you'll need 6 ft. of 12-in.-deep wire shelving ($6) and coat hooks (starting at $2.60 each). Attach the back cleats flush with the sides. Inset the front cleats 1/4 in. Cut the wire shelves at 22-1/4 in. This gives you 1/8 in. of play on each side. Cut the shelves with bolt cutters or have the home center cut them for you. The metal in the shelves is very tough and hard to cut with a hacksaw. Place plastic end caps ($1.30 for a pack of 14) over the shelf ends. Secure the shelves to the front cleats with C-clamps ($5.70 for a pack of 20). Fasten two clamps per shelf. Hold the coat hooks in place in the cabinet, drill pilot holes and then drive the screws that came with the hooks to fasten them in place .

• Best In DIY
Use cleats

Installation Tip

Install a 2x2 cleat on the wall for the cabinets to sit on. You'll need 24 in. of cleat for each cabinet. Keep the cleat at least 8 in. above the floor so you can sweep under the cabinets. Snap a level chalk line on the wall for the cleat (measure down from the ceiling if your floor slopes!). Attach the cleat at the chalk line by driving a 3-in. drywall screw into each stud.

Set the cabinets on the cleats. Place a level alongside the cabinet to make sure it's standing plumb and square. Then drill pilot holes through the screw strips and attach the cabinets to the wall with 3-in. drywall screws (Photo 3). Screw adjoining cablnets together by driving 1-l/4-in. drywall screws through the side near the top and the bottom.




Best in DIY

Finishing Tip

Use a roller on large, flat surfaces

With a little roller, you can get polyurethane finish on fast and evenly. No brushstrokes, puddles or thin spots. For the fewest bubbles, use 6-ln. microflber rollers ($5 at Lowe's) dampened with mineral spirits. There's always a bit of leftover lint, but only on the first coat. A Teflon baking tray makes a great rolling pan. Don't freak out when you see the finish right after you lay it down. It'll look like It's full of flaws. Just roll it out and use the raking light to make sure the surface is completely covered. Don't keep working the finish. Let it be, and It will flatten out. Keep a can of spray poly handy In case of bubbles. A light mist knocks them out. After each coat, redip the roller in mineral spirits and put it Into a zippered plastic bag for the next coat and leave the wet tray to dry. in a couple of hours, the dried poly just peels right out of the pan. Put two coats on cabinet Interiors and sides, and three coats on tabletops for extra protection.

Pantry cabinet "


Bulk storage that frees up kitchen space

If you buy groceries in bulk, this is the storage solution for you. The bottom drawers in this cabinet are deep enough to hold two cases of soda. The top drawers are perfect for canned goods or bottled water. The upper shelves are adjustable for more bulk storage. The cabinet faces and door keep everything enclosed. Inexpensive drawer slides let the drawers open and close easily. The ones shown are from Woodworker's Hardware ($4 per set of two, including screws; No. BZ30M 1ZCM; wwhardware.com). You'll also need two 6-ft. shelf standards ($3.30 for 6 ft.). Lay the cabinet sides next to each other and mark the center for each drawer slide. Place a slide over each mark, drill pilot holes (a $7 self-centering drill bit works best) and screw the slides into place. Cut the shelf standards with a: hacksaw and screw them to the cabinet sides, above the fixed shelf. Assemble the drawers with 1-5/S-in. screws. Place the drawer slides on the drawers, drill pilot holes and attach them with screws. Test-fit them in the cabinet. If the cabinet sides are bowed even slightly, attach a 2-in. rail in the back to hold the sides in place so the drawers slide smoothly. Fasten the faces to the drawers with 1-1/4-in. screws driven from inside the drawers. Build the handles with leftover plywood and attach them with Z-in. screws (driven from the inside). Attach the door to the cabinet with liZ-in. overlay hinges, also called half-wrap hinges ($1.70 each). They're available at home centers or wwhardware.com (No. A07550).

POOR 3/4".23-3/4" • 2fJ.3/8"

DRAWER SIDES 3/4" x 4-3/4" x 11·7/S"



x 23-3/4" HEIGHT VARIES:






Overhead storage
extension l.adder
It's always most convenient to hang an extension ladder on brackets on a wall. But unfortunately that wipes out all other storage potential for that wall. To save that valuable wall space, here's a pair of 2x4 suspended brackets so a ladder can be stored flat along the ceiling. Simply slide one end of the ladder into one bracket, then lift and slide the other end into the other bracket. Most people will need to stand on something solid to reach the second bracket. The 2x4 bracket sides are 16 in. long with 5-in. corner braces lag-screwed into the top for attachment to the ceiling truss (Figure A). The bracket base is a 1/2-in. x 24-in. threaded steel rod ($2.75) that extends through 5/8-in. drilled holes on the bracket sides. It's held in place with flatllock washCAUTION ers and a nut on each side of For extra security, wrap a Bungee cord around the both 2x4 uprights. A 3/4-in. ladder and one bracket. x 18-in.-Iong piece of PVC conduit pipe surrounds the rod for smooth rolling action when you slide the ladder in and out.

Build two identical brackets, then screw them both to ceiling trusses with 1/4 x 2-in. lag screws. Space the brackets so the ladder will extend at least 1 ft. beyond the end of each one.

Figure A
Ladder support detail



NUT ~~~''''''''''






Two-story closet shelves

There's a lot of space above the shelf in most closets. Even though it's a little hard to reach, it's a great place to store seldom-used items or offseason clothing. Make use of this wasted space by adding a second shelf above the existing one. Buy enough closet shelving material to match the length of the existing shelf plus enough for two end supports and middle supports over each bracket. Twelve-inch-wide shelving (about $9 for an 8-ft. length) is available in various lengths and finishes at home centers and lumberyards. Cut the supports 16 in. long, or place the second shelf at whatever height you like. Screw the end supports to the walls at each end. Use drywall anchors if you can't hit a stud. Then mark the position of the middle supports onto the top and bottom shelves with a square and drill 5/32in. clearance holes through the shelves. Drive 1-5/8-in. screws through the shelf into the supports.



Ceiling track storage

If you store stuff in big plastic storage bins and you need a place to put them, how about the garage ceiling? Screw 2x2s to the ceiling framing with 3-1/2-in. screws spaced every 2 ft. Use the bins as a guide for spacing the 2x2s. The lips on the bins should just 3·n/2" brush against the 2" SCREW 2x2s when you're sliding the bins into place. Then center and screw 1x4s to the 2x2s with 2-in. screws. The garage ceiling is a perfect place to store light and medium-weight seasonal items like holiday decorations and camping gear.




Over-garage-door shelving
Tuck medium and lightweight stuff onto shelves suspended from the ceiling. The shelves are designed to fit into that unused space above the garage doors (you need 16 in. of clearance to fit a shelf and standard 12-1/2-in.-high plastic bins). However, you can adjust the shelf height and put them anywhere. The only limitation is weight. This 4 x 6-£t. shelf is designed to hold about 160 lbs., a load that typical ceiling framing can safely support. It's best to save the shelf for "deep storage," using labeled bins with lids, because you'll need a stepladder to reach the contents of the bins. First, find which way the trusses run, then plan to hang one shelf support from three adjacent trusses (Photo 2). The trusses shown here are 24 in. apart; if yours are spaced at 16 in., skip one intermediate truss. These shelves were built to hold plastic bins, but if you

put loose stuff up there, add 1x4 sides to keep things from falling off. Assemble the 2x4s as shown (Figure A), using 5-in. corner braces (t-in, x 5-in. Stanley corner brace, $2.89 at amazon. com, or look for them at home centers) and 1/4-in. x I-in, hex head lag screws (drill pilot holes first). Now attach the corner braces on both ends of a shelf support to the center of a truss by drilling pilot holes and using 1/4-in. x 2-in. hex head lag screws (Photo 2). The only challenge is finding the center of trusses through a drywall ceiling (if your ceiling is finished) to attach the shelf supports. Tap a small nail through the drywall until you locate both edges of the truss. Measure to find the center, of the adjacent trusses, and measure to keep the three supports .in alignment with one another. Finish the shelf unit by attaching a 3IB-in. x 4-ft. x 6-ft. plywood floor (Photo 3).


Measure from the ceiling to the top of the raised garage door. Subtract 1 in. to determine the height of the side 2x4s.


Build three identical shelf supports, align the side supports, and predrill and lag-screw each into the center of the ceiling trusses.

Cut 3/8-in. plywood for the shelf base and attach it to the 2x4 shelf supports with l-in. wood screws.

Don't overload bins with heavy stuff. Limit the total weight to about 160 Ibs.

lngs .-in.

One shelf holds all this!

Figure A

Shelf support detail


he If and The ugh ach vall Ind eep iish Dod


x 6'




Each shelf holds eight containers 16 in. wide x 24 in. long x 12-1/2 in. high.





Build sturdy, simple shelves, custom sized to hold boxes or other storage containers.

Sturdy multipurpose storage shelves

r::I tore-bought



shelving units are either hard to asflimsy or awfully expensive. Here's a better solution. These shelves are strong, easy to build and cost about $70. The sturdy shelf unit is sized to hold standard bankers' boxes ($4 each). If you want deeper storage, build the shelves 24 in. deep and buy 24-in.-deep boxes. If you prefer to use plastic storage bins, measure the size of the containers and modify the shelf and upright spacing to fit.

Refer to the dimensions above to mark the location of the horizontal 2x2 on the back of four 2x4s. Also mark the position of the Zx4 uprights on the ZxZs. Then simply line up the marks and screw the ZxZs to the 2x4s with pairs of Z-l/Z-in. wood screws. Be sure to keep the ZxZs and Zx4s at right angles. Rip a 4 x 8-ft. sheet of liZ-in. MDF, plywood or OSB into l6-in.-wide strips and screw it to the Zx2s to connect the two frames and form the shelving unit.

You can modify the study storage shelves above and create a greatlooking storage center. The only modifications to the project shown above are the addition of one shelf, the 22-1/2-in. measurement was changed to 14 in.,and the 4-in. measurement was changed to 6 in.
Overall dimensions: 62-1/2" tall x 96" wide x 19" deep Paint used on shelves:

Behr Premium Plus Eggshell Castlestone 360E-2







m of nark nply with 2x2s 2-in. .rew the


I!I designed

uild 'em and fill 'em. These sturdy cabinets are cutting a lot Of plywood accurately. A table saw helps for simple assembly. Just glue and screw here, but a circular saw with a guide works fine too. Add a drill or two, a couple of clamps and some careful adplywood together to make the basic box, then add a prevance planning, and start building! made door, actually an inexpensive bifold door panel. Since bifolds are readily available in several styles, including louvered and paneled, it's easy to make a wide Buying the bltolds and plywood range of practical yet handsome cabinets without the When planning the cabinets, begin by choosing the bifold door and build the rest of the cabinet to match its dim entime and hassle of making the doors. sions. Standard bifolds are 79 in. Make the cabinets big and deep high and available in 24-in., 3D-in., to store clothing and sports gear; 32-in. and 36-in. widths. Keep in shallow and tall for shovels, rakes, skis or fishing rods; or shallow and mind that it takes two doors for each Cutting Tip short to mount on walls for tools, of these widths, each approximately 12,15,16 or 18 in. wide. The cabinet paint cans and other small items. Let someone eLsedo it! Or mount them on wheels and roll can be any of the single-door widths Most lumberyards and home centers have or any of the double-door widths. Or the tools right to the job. The only a large saw (called a panel saw) for cutting cut the doors down to make shortlimitation is the size of standard sheets of plywood. For a nominal fee, they bifold doors. er cabinets, as demonstrated here. will rip all of the plywood to proper widths. Make them any depth desired. Here you'll learn how to build (Cut the pieces to length later.) It requires planning the cabinet depths in advance, one of the smaller hanging wall Bifolds come in several styles but it's quicker than ripping the plywood at cabinets. Use the same techniques and wood species. This project home and makes hauling it a lot easier. shows louvered pine doors ($60 for and the Cutting lists on pp. 28 and 30 in. wide) and birch plywood ($40 29 to build others. Advanced skills or special tools are not needed to per sheet) for a handsome, natural look. All the materials build this entire set of cabinets. However, it does require for the ventilated wall cabinet shown at top, p. 28,

Best in DIY









Figure A
Ventilated wall cabinet

Cuttingl ist
KEY A QTY. SIZE&, DESCRIPTION 2 2 2 3 2 1 14-3/4" x 43-3/4" doors (30" bifold,)* 3/4" x 11-1/4" x 43-3/4" sides 3/4" x 11-1/4" x 28-1/8" top and bottom 3/4" x 11·1/4" x 28-1/8" shelves 3/4" x 3" x 28-1/8" hanging cleats 114" x 29-5/8" x 43-3/4" back



* Exsct door sizes va/yo Measure the doors

before deciding exact cabinet dimensions.


Other cabinet options

Cutting lists and dimensions on p. 29

Storage locker Compact storage for long items like skis, fishing rods, long-handled tools; either on the floor or wall-hung; 12-in.- wide door and one fixed shelf. Closet on wheels Large storage capacity (about 32 in. wide and 22-112 in. deep): fixed shelf; closet rod; 3-in. swivel casters ($6 each). Paneled wall cabinet Shorter version of cabinet above; made from the paneled portion of partial louvered doors; one adjustable shelf. Narrow floor or wall cabinet Shelf version of storage locker Cleft); top and bottom shelves fixed; intermediate shelves mounted on adjustable shelf standards ($2 each).





guide the saw. Cut the other cabinet pieces using the straightedge as.well.

Predrill screw holes through the sides 3/8 in. from the ends. Drive 1-S/8-in. screws with finish washers through the sides into the top and bottom. Stack extra shelves in the corners to keep the box square.

including hardware, cost about $70. The five cabinets cost $320. Cut that cost considerably by using less expensive plywood, bifolds and hinges. · Also save by using plywood efficiently. Decide on the door sizes, then layout all the cabinet pieces on a seals drawing of a 4 x 8-ft. sheet of plywood (graph pa:per helps). Feel free to adjust the cabinet depths a bit to' achieve best use. The five cabinets shown were built from four sheets of 3/4-in. plywood and two sheets of 1/4~in. plywood for the backs.

The "partial wrap-around" hinges may not be available at home centers or hardware stores. However, woodworking stores carry them; see photo, p. 30. If exposed hinges are okay, simply use bifold hinges, which cost less than $1 each at home centers.

Cut out all the parts

Begin by cutting the bifold doors to size (Photo 1). This will determine the exact cabinet height. Be sure to use a guide and a sharp blade for a straight, crisp cut. Center

Cutting list
s.torage locker ITEM
Door Sides .Top, bottom shelf Cleats Front cleat Back

Paneled wall cabinet

1 2




Doors Sides Cleats Back

2 2


14-3/4" x 32-1/4" (3D" bifold)* 3/4" 3/4" 3/4" 1/4"

11-3/4" x 79" (half of a 24" bifold)* 3/4" x 11-1/4" x 79" 3/4" x 11-1/4" x 10-1/4" 3/4" x 3" x 10-1/4" 3/4"

2 1 II

Top, bottom shelves 4

2 1

x 3" x


x x x x

11-114" 11-1/4" 3"

x 32-1/4" x 28-1/8" x



1/4" x 11-3/4" x 79"

· Closet on wheels
ITE.M · Doors Sides Top, bottom shelf Cleats Back Casters

Narrow floor or waH cabinet ITEM

Door Sides Cleats Back


2 15-3/4" x 79" (32" bifold)* 3/4'" x 22-1/2" x 79" 3/4" x 22-1/2" x 30-1/8" 3/4'" x 3" x 30-1/8" 1/4" x 31-5/8" x 79" 3"


1 2 11-3/4" X 79" (half of a 24" bifold) 3/4" x 11-1/4" x 79" 3/4" x 11-1/4" x 10-1/4" 3/4" x 3" x 10-1/4" 1/4"

2 3 3 1 'I

Top, bottom shelves 9 2 1

x 11-3/4" x 79"


door sizes vary. Measure the doors before decidinq exsct cabinet dimensions.





Predrrll, clamp and screw the fixed shelf to the sides. Use adjustable shelves as a guide to space it and keep it square.

and drive screws through the top, bottom and sides into the cleats.

Assemble the box face down on a flat surface. The garage floor works well for this step. Mark and predrill screw holes through the sides for . the top and bottom pieces (Photo 2). Use partial wrapThis project uses finish washers (Bit each; around hinges available at full-service hardware stores) for The hinges shown are , a more decorative look. available at woodworking ....1'" Attach the fixed shelf next to stiffen and stores such as Rockier /. ,.". strengthen the box (Photo 3). Use the Woodworking and Hard/ extra shelves as guides to help position ware (800-279-4441; \, /. and square the shelf. Predrill and drive three rockier. com; No. 31456; '\ >~" screws through each side into the fixed shelf. $8 per pair). Less expen'\" Attach cleats at the top and bottom of the sive styles are also available. cabinet to use for screwing the cabinet to a wall the cut on the dividing rail. Be prepared for the saw to (Photo 4). Use three or four screws across the top and botbump up and down slightly as it crosses each stile (Photo tom. Clamp the cleat into place until the screws are driv1). Then trim each newly created door so that the top and en. Because the screws won't be visible on the top and bottom rails are the same width. bottom, skip the finish washers. Make sure the cleat sits Some bifold door manufacturers use only a single flush with the side (Photo 4). dowel to attach each rail to the stile. If that's the case, one The 1/4-in. plywood back stiffens the frame and keeps of the rails (after being cut in half) is no longer attached it square, which is essential for the doors to fit accurately. to the door. Don't panic. Dab a little glue on each rail and Spread glue along the cabinet edges, including the fixed stile and clamp them back together. After 20 minutes or shelf and the hanging cleats (Photo 5). Carefully set the so, they'll be ready. back onto the cabinet, keeping the top flush with the cabThen cut the plywood to size using a guide to keep all inet top. Nail in the order and direction shown in Photo the cuts straight and square. If the plywood splinters a 5. Align the edges carefully before nailing each side to bit, score the cutting line first with a utility knife. keep the cabinet perfectly square.

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Assemble the box







Spread a bead of glue on all back edges. Then align the plywood back with the top and nail with I-in. brads. Align the other sides and nail in the order shown.

pegboard template. Mark one side of the cabinet, then slide (not flip) the pegboard to the opposite side and mark matching holes. Drill the I/4-in. pin holes.

Shelves, hinges and other hardware


h: or ld e

ee f. e


ts s y. d

to to

Use a scrap of pegboard to help layout the holes evenly for the adjustable shelf support pins. Mark each hole clearly (red circles; Photo 6) on the front and back of the pegboard. Mark each hole position on one side of the cabinet, then slide the pegboard across to the other side for marking. Don't flip the pegboard over; it can throw the pattern off and the shelves will rock rather than lie flat. Most shelf support pins require a 1/4-in. hole, but ~ check the pins to be sure. In addition, measure how ~ far the pins are supposed to go into the cabinet sides. Wrap a piece of masking tape around the drill bit at this depth. This ensures that the bit won't go completely through the side of the cabinet. Check the bit after every few holes to make sure the tape hasn't slipped. Install the door hinges 6 in. from the top and bottom of the doors (add a third hinge on taller doors). The best type is a "partial wrap-around" hinge (Photo 7). Its hinge leaves are hidden when the door is closed, and the design avoids driving screws into the weak plywood edge grain. Begin by installing the hinges on the door (Photo 7). Keep them perfectly square to the door edge and

predrill screw holes as precisely as possible. An extra set of hands will be helpful when attaching the doors to the cabinet. Have one person align the door exactly with the top or bottom of the cabinet while the second person marks, predrills and screws the hinges to the cabinet side. Repeat for the other door. Ideally the doors will meet evenly in the center with about a liS-in. gap between. If not, "tweak" the MAGNETIC LATCH hinge positions slightly with paper shims, or plane the doors a bit to make them perfect. Choose any type of knob and magnetic latch. However, bifold door stiles (the vertical edges) are CATCH PLATE narrow, so make sure the neighboring door will clear the knob when opened (Photo S). If there's a rail (the horizontal door frame member), mount the knobs there. Another potential problem: Bifold stiles are usually 1 to i-r/s in. thick and most knobs are designed for 3/4-in. doors. Look for longer knob screws at a local hardware store. Or try this trick: With a 3/S-in. bit, drill a 1/4-in.-deep hole on the back side of the stile to recess the screwhead.






Screw the hinges to the cabinet doors. Align the door edges with the cabinet top and bottom. Then predrill and screw the hinges to the cabinet sides. Attach cabinet knobs to the doors and install a pair of magnetic latches to hold the doors closed. For full-length doors, install latches at both the top and the bottom.

To mount a magnetic latch, first mount the magnet to the underside of the fixed shelf (Photo 8). Stick the catch plate to the magnet with the "mounting points" facing out (photo, p. 31, bottom right). Close the door and press it tightly against the latch. The points on the catch plate will indent the door slightly and indicate where to mount the plate.

That's about it. These cabinets are finished inside and out with two coats of clear water-based satin polyurethane. It dries quickly (one-half hour), has little or no odor, and cleans up with soap and water. The first coat raises the wood grain a bit, so sand it lightly with fine sandpaper (150 grit or finer). Whether using a clear finish, paint or stain, it's generally faster to remove the doors and hardware first.

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Use iron-on edge banding
If you'd like these cabinets to have a more finished look, you can apply edge banding ($6 for 25 ft. at home centers) to the exposed plywood edges. The process couldn't be simpler: You just iron on the adhesive-backed veneer and trim off the excess. You can trim with a utility knife, but that requires a steady hand, and any wrong move creates a wavy edge. An edge band trimmer ($20) eliminates mistakes and does the job much faster. For complete edge-banding to familyhandyman.com "edge banding." instructions, go and search for

Finishing Tip








md the per tor LTd-


Figure A
Bookcase construction

Overall dimensions: 84-1/2" tall x 99-112" wide (at crown) x 18-1/2" deep (at cabinet top)





A), Square each box by taking diagonal measurements, then attach the back. Equal measurements means the box is square. Edge-band the front with iron-on birch.

and pocket screws. Glue and nail a plywood panel to the back of each frame. M iter, glue and nail molding to the panel front.

Tools, money and time

This project consists mostly of quickly assembled plywood boxes and solid-wood frames. The only fussy steps are cutting and installing the mitered moldings that trim the doors, panels, base and crown. If you have experience with a table saw, a miter saw and a router, you can build this bookcase. You'll also need one special toola pocket screw jig ($60; Photo 2). If you haven't used pocket screws before, don't worry. You can learn to use them in minutes. It's best to use a brad nailer rather than clamps to tack glued parts together: A brad nailer is faster and actually cheaper than the assortment of clamps you would need for this project. The total materials bill for this cherry bookcase was $1,200. Built from a less expensive species hke oak, this bookcase would have a total cost of about $800. A similar piece of comparable quality would cost three times that much, or more, at a furniture store. Expect to spend at least 20 hours building this bookcase and another 10 hours finishing it.

Best in DIY
Assembly Tip
Use pocket screws
Pocket screw joints have many advantages over more traditional joinery: • You can assemble large needing an arseframes without

nal of expensive clamps because the screws provide the clamping action while the glue dries. • No fancy cutting is required; joints are simply butted together, saving time and reducing tool costs. :. The use of an alignment clamp during assembly ensures flush joints without

Build basic cabinet boxes

The three cabinets are simplyboxes made from 3/4-in. plywood with 1/4-in. plywood backs (Photo 1). Cut the plywood parts to the dimensions given in the Cutting List on p. 41. Before you assemble the boxes, cover the front edges of the 3/4-in. plywood with iron-on wood edge band. Also drill 1/4-in. holes in the cabinet sides for adjustable shelf supports. To assemble the boxes fast, tack them together with a brad nailer. Then drill 3/16-in. pilot holes and drive four 2-in. screws along each joint for strength. Fasten the backs with l/2-in. brad nails.

EasYI elegant doors

The cabinet doors may look fancy, but they're just solid wood frames with a plywood panel slapped on the back. The base cap moldings surrounding the panel give these

simple doors a rich look. Cut the solid wood rails and stiles following the Cutting List and assemble them with pocket screws (Photo 2). The pocket screw holes will be visible on the back of each door, so fill them with a solvent-based wood filler such as Plastic Wood (waterbased fillers dry slowly and can swell wood when used to fill large, deep holes). The filler will shrink as it dries, so you'll have to apply a second, skim coat after four


Lay the cabinet box on its side and center the door against it. Mark hinge guidelines on the door and cabinet using a 2-1/4-in.wide spacer block.

Center the mounting plate template on the cabinet guideline and drill two 3/32-in. pilot holes for the mounting plate. Screw the mounting plate to the cabinet.

hours. Sand the joints flush on both sides of the doors and lightly sand the plywood panels before assembly with ISO-grit sandpaper. Fasten the panels with liZ-in. brads. Careful! y center the panels so they're 1-314 in. from the edges of the door frames; this leaves ample space for mounting the hinges. Miter the moldings and install them with glue and l-1/4-in. brads. Throughout this project, use brads sparingly. Drive only as many as

it takes to draw glue joints tight. Fewer brads means less time spent filling holes later. For some tips on installing mitered moldings, see Best in DIY:Mitering Tips, p. 3S.

High-tech hinges simplified

European hinges-also called "cup" or "euro" hingescost less than good-quality traditional hinges and make cabinet door installation much easier. The best feature of euro hinges is that they're adjustable: To move the door up and down, left or right or in and out, you just turn adjustment screws. That means you don't have to spend hours sanding or planing doors to get a perfect fit. The hinges shown here let you hang and remove doors in seconds by releasing a lever. Choosing the right type of euro hinge for the job and positioning the parts correctly can be confusing. But all the calculating has been done for you. If you use the model recommended here (see the Materials List, p. 40) and follow the steps shown, you'll find the process foolproof. The template shown in Photo 4 isn't absolutely necessary, but it will save you lots of fussy measuring and costs only $6. The spacer jig (Photo 5) is simply a block of wood glued to a scrap of hardboard. You'll have to buy a l-3/S-in. Forstner bit ($lS). Use a corded drill to bore the hinge holes; most cordless models don't have enough power. Clamp down the door and hang on tight to the drill; the bit might bind and twist the drill or the door. Stop drilling occasionally and insert the hinge to check the depth of the hole-if you bore too deep, you'll ruin the door.

Figure B



Pilasters give a classic look

[Note: There are two door sizesJ

The three cabinet boxes are divided and flanked by four flat, protruding columns, or "pilasters." Make the pilasters using a 3/S-in. cove bit and simple jig that guides your router bit at the beginning and end of each








Mark the center point of the hinge hole 7/8 in. from the door's edge using a homemade spacer jig. Drill the hinge hole with a I-3/8-in. Forstner bit. Insert the hinge and screw it to the door. Snap the hinges onto the mounting plates to make sure they fit correctly. Then remove the doors by pulling the release lever.

s g

e ,f

Screw 2-I/4-in.-wide guide blocks to plywood to make a pilaster jig. Screw on a wedge block and lock each pilaster in place with a wedge. Rout coves in the pilasters with a 3/8-in. cove bit.

Build the facades just as you built the doors. Glue the pilasters to the facades. Glue I-1I2-in.-wide strips of plywood together to make l.-cleats, and attach the cleats to the facades.

cut (Photo 7). To get perfect, splinter-free coves, rout the edges of each pilaster in two passes. Set the bit to a depth of about 3/16 in. Rout all the pilaster edges once, then set the bit to a 1/4-in. depth and make a final pass along each edge. Next, build two facades to cover the sides of the left and right cabinet boxes. The facades are constructed just like the doors, with frames, a plywood panel and mitered moldTWO LAYERS OF ings. Glue a pilaster to the front edge 3/4" PLYWOOD of each facade. Also add L-cleats to the backs of the facades (Pho.to S). Space the rear cleat 3/4 in. from the back edge of the facade. These cleats allow you to attach the facades with screws driven from inside

the cabinet boxes (Photo g). Glue two layers of 3/4-in. plywood to the back sides of the two middle pilasters that fit between cabinet boxes.

Set the cabinets on the base

The base is simply a plywood platform covered on three sides with mitered baseboard and base cap molding (Figure A). Assemble the platform parts with brad nails and then add 2-in. screws for strength. You can use construction-grade plywood for the sides of the platform, but use finish-grade plywood for the lid, since the perimeter of the lid will be visible. Make the baseboard from a 4-5/S-in.-wide board using the same cove bit you used on the pilasters, and use the same base cap molding that you used on the doors. Attach the base


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Mitering Tips

on the base. Screw the facades to the side boxes and screw the pilasters between boxes. Carefully position and screw the boxes to the base.

Be more efficient
This bookcase has a dozen door and side panels that are lined with molding. Fitting moldings inside a frame is slow work: You miter one end, then miter the other end so the piece is a hair too long, then shave that end again and again until the molding fits just right. The process is painstaking, but here are a few tricks to speed up the job: • Don't swing your saw from left to right a hundred times. Set your saw 45 degrees to the left and rough-cut all the pieces, making them 1/4 in. too long. Then set your saw to the right and cut them to length. • Don't bother with a tape measure. To mark the length of each piece, hold the mitered end in place and mark the other end with a sharp pencil (photo above). • Eliminate miter saw guesswork. Attach a flat scrap of plywood to the bed of your saw and cut kerfs in It. When you position a marked piece for cutting, you'll know exactly where the blade will land-no the bed and use double-faced guessing. To attach the carpet tape. 3/4-in. solid wood. Cut a cove in the underside of the banding with a router. plywood, you can drill holes into the metal bed or preserve

cap to the platform first, making it flush with the lid. Then add the baseboard. Set the base on furniture dollies ($20 each at home centers) or make your own dollies from plywood and casters ($3 each). Set the cabinet boxes on the base. Screw on the facades and join the boxes by screwing into the two other pilasters (Photo 9). All four pilasters protrude 1-1/4 in. from the cabinet boxes; cut a spacer block to help you position them. Gently shift the whole cabinet assembly to center it on the base and then fasten each box to the base with four 1-5/8-in. screws. The cabinet top is a slab of plywood banded with solid wood edging. Be sure to drive brads at the center of the banding. If you drive them too close to the underside of the banding, you might hit them with your router bit when you cove the banding (Photo 10). Next, glue and nail two layers of 3/4-in. plywood strips to the underside of the top

Frame on the underside of the cabinet top with two layers of 3/4-in. plywood. Then wrap three sides of the frame with mitered base cap molding.

Assemble shelf boxes and side frames following Figure A. Glue side frames to both end shelf boxes. Then install base cap molding inside the frames.

You have to remove the blade guard to make these cuts. Keep hands and clothing away from the blade.


Rout 1/4-in.-deep coves into both sides of the top rails. Then cut a rabbet on the back by making two cuts with your table saw. Cut the top rai I to length so that the half pi laster protrudes about 1/32 in. beyond the side of the shelf box. Glue and nail the top rai I into place followed by the half pi laster.

to form a frame. The back of the frame is flush with the back of the top. The other three sides are inset 1/2 in. from the edge of the plywood. The frame acts as a cleat, allowing you to screw the top in place from inside the cabinet boxes, and provides backing for the base cap (Photo 11). This is the same kind of molding that was used on the doors. With the entire cabinet unit assembled, snap the doors onto their mounting plates and adjust the hinges. If any doors fit badly, trim them with a belt sander or shave them down slightly on the table saw. Label each door with its location and set them aside to avoid damage.

Shelf units
To build the shelf units, you'll repeat the techniques you used on the cabinets. 'The shelf units begin as plywood boxes (Photo 12 and Figure A). Before assembly, drill holes for adjustable shelf supports just as you did with

the cabinet boxes. There's no need to edge-band the shelf parts. They'll be covered. When you assemble the center shelf box, keep screws at least 3-1/2 in. from the front of the box; that protruding part of the box will be exposed. Square the shelf boxes just as you did the cabinet boxes. To make the pilasters for the shelf units, build a 47-1/2-in.-Iong version of the jig shown in Photo 7. You'll need four full pilasters and two half pilasters. The sides of the shelf units are covered with frames. These frames are like the facades used on the cabinets, but without the 1/4-in. plywood panels. Instead, the shelf box sides act as panels. When you add the top rail and half pilaster (Photos 13 and 14), allow the half pilaster to protrude slightly from the shelf unit's side. This makes it easier to create a tight joint between the side units and the middle shelf unit. The middle shelf unit has no frame; cover the front plywood edges with two pilasters and a top rail.


Material sl ist
For a wider selection of wood species and mold.ing profiles, visit a traditional lumberyard rather than a home center. Molding profiles vary, so you may not find the exact profiles shown here.



4' x 8' 3/4" hardwood plywood 3 4' x 8' 1/4" hardwood plywood 2 4' x 8' 3/4" construction plywood or M DF 1 lx4 boards 40' lx6 boards 60' Crown molding 12' Base cap molding 116' 1/2",1-1/4" and 1-3/4" brads 1-114",1·5/8" and 2" screws 2" metal straps 4 Wood glue Spray cans of satin lacquer 8 Ttre-followinq specialty items are available from Woodworker's Hardware, (800) 383-0130. wwhardware.com • Pocket hole jig (I(reg is one brand), I(TR 3, $40. 1-1/4" fine-thread pocket screws No. I(TSPS F125. $5.201100 screws Two 25' rolls of iron-on birch edge band No. n078 PB25. $7 each 12 Blum 107 Clip Top straight hinges No. B075Tl550. $2.44 each 12 Blum Omm. Mounting plates No. BI75H710. $1.37 each Mounting plate template No. B065.5310. EsaJe price] $7.n Plastic brackets No. H260.24.117. $7.60 (bag of 20) Shelf supports No. Gl11BR. $4/20 brackets

position them. Fasten them to the cabinet unit on the back side using metal straps. Position the lower ends of the pilasters with a tape measure and fasten them with small brackets hidden inside the she If units.

When the shelf units are complete, set them in place and fasten them to the cabinets below by screwing metal straps to the backs of the shelf units and cabinets. The sides of the shelf units may angle inward or outward slightly, so check the positions of the pilasters with a tape measure (Photo 15). Then anchor the shelf unit to the cabinet top with small brackets hidden behind each pilaster.

Top it all off with a crown

The crown begins as a solid wood frame joined with pocket screws (Figure C). Glue a board to the front of this frame to cover the protruding middle shelf unit (you'll need three clamps that open at least 6 in. to attach this part). Then build a plywood parapet around the perimeter of the frame to support the crown molding. Run mitered base cap molding around the front and sides of

Figure C

Crown construction






Cutting list

Moldings are not included. Cut all to fit.


A 6 2 4 2 1 2 1 12 8 4 4 2 4 2 2 4 2 2 3 15-3/4" x 22-1/2" box sides 15-3/4'" x 24" box floor 3-1/2" x 24" box top slats 23-3/4" x 23-3/4" back 15-3/4" x 33" middle box floor 3-1/2" x 33" middle box top slats 23-3/4" x 32-3/4" middle box bad 2-1/4" x 23-3/4" door stiles 2-1/4" x 7-3/8" door rails 2-1/4" x 11-7/8" door rails 8-3/8" x 20-1/4" door panel 12-7/8" x 20-1/4" door panel 3" x 24" cabinet pilasters 3" x 24" rear sti les 2-1/4" x 24" front stiles 3" x 11-1/4" rails 13" x 19-1/2" side panels 5-1/4" x 93-1/4" base frame 5-1/4" x 16" base frame
in red iNdicate 3/4-in.





1 1 4

17-1/2" x 93-1/4" base lid 17-3/4" x 94" cabinet top 2-1/2" x 93" cabinet top frame (assemble from scrap plywood) 2-1/2" x 12-1/4" cabinet top frame 10-1/2" x 47-1/2" box sides H)-1/2" x 24-3/4" box top 26" x 47-1/4" back 2-1/4" x 24-3/4" back rail 13-1/2" x 47-1/2" box sides 13-1/2" x 37-1/?" box top 38-3/4" x 47-1/4" back 2-1/4" x 37-1/2" back rail 3'" x 47-1/2" shelf pilasters 1-1/2" x 47-1/2" half pilasters 2-1/4" x 47-1/2" rear stiles 1-1/2" x 47-1/2" front stiles 3" x 7" side rails
p'lywood and black

KEY OrY.. SIZE & DESCRIPTION pp 2-1/4" x 22-1/2" top rail 2

(cut to flt)


1 3 3 6 6 1 1 1 2 1 1 2 2 2

2-1/4" x 33" top rail (cut to fitl 12-1/2" x 37-1/4" middle shelves

1 40' 60' 12' 116'


4 4 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 4 2 2 2 6

1-1/4" x 37-1/4" shelf nosing

9-1/2" x 24-1/2" side shejves 1-114" x 2.4-1/2" shelf nosing 2" x 93-1/2" front rai I 3" x 39-1/2" front rai I extension 2" x 89-1/2" back rail 2" x 9-3/4" stiles 3-3/8" x 93-1/2" back parapet 3-3/8" x 39-1/2" front-center parapet 3-3/8" x 27" front-side parapets 3- 3/8" x 13-1/4" through parapets 3-3/8" x 10-1/4" side parapets

4 8 J I( L M N







solid cherry.


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Plywood cutting diagrams

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"Utility-grade" plywood was used for most of the hidden parts (Sheet 1). You could use AC plywood or MDF. For the exposed parts, more expensive cherry plywood was used (Sheets 2 - 6),

Sheet 4,1/4' c,hetry plywood


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Bui'ld the crown's frame and add the parapet. Wrap the frame with base cap molding and install crown molding. Glue and nail in V-blocks to strengthen the crown molding.

Best in DIY
Safety Tip
Install chain latches
Any bookcase you build should be anchored to the wall so it can't tip over and injure someone. Simply screwing it to wall studs is one good solution. If you choose that method, load up the bookcase with books so it fully compresses the carpet before you drive the screws. If you want to be able to move the bookcase without removing screws, pick up a couple of chain latches ($5 each). Fasten the chains to studs with 2-1/2-in. coarse-thread screws. Position the tracks so there will be just enough slack in the chains for you to detach them.

the frame. A narrower version of base cap in cherry wasn't available, so it was cut down on the table saw (photo, right). Crown molding in rooms is usually 4-5/8" CROWN coped at inside MOLDING corners to account for out-of-square walls. Since the frame has perfectly square corners, the two inside corner joints were mitered for this bookcase (Photo 16). BASE CAP When you cut the two [CUT DOWN) short pieces of crown that flank the middle protruding section, do it safely: Cut them from a piece at least 12 in. long while holding on to the waste side. Don't hold on to the short piece. When the crown molding is in place, glue in V-blocks to support it. If you want to display items on top ofthe crown, cut a sheet of 3/4-in. plywood to fit. The parapet is 3/4 in. lower than the crown molding, so a plywood top will fit down inside it.

Disassemble for easier finishing

By removing a few dozen screws, you can take the whole bookcase apart in about 10 minutes. Label the parts to make reassembly easier. Cherry can absorb stain unevenly for a blotchy appearance, so apply Minwax Prefinish Wood Conditioner first. Then wipe on two coats of Watco cherry oil finish. After three days, lightly sand the finish with 320-grit sandpaper and apply three light coats of satin lacquer (from spray cans). Think twice before you choose a brush-on finish for this project; the intricate doors and side panels will require careful brushwork. Let the finish dry overnight and spend about 30 minutes reassembling the parts in the bookcase's new home. A tall, heavy piece of furniture like this can tip forward and badly injure someone, so drive two 3-in. screws through the back of the parapet into wall studs (for a less permanent solution, see Best in DIY:Safety Tip, left).





base cap was cut ~ht).

44 How to stop a running toilet

ld the lue in t to disa sheet apet is ing, so it.

45 Stay-Clean Tip: Wear gloves 46 Repair damaged walls 47 Work Tidy Tips: Paper bag
dust catcher. neat sanding sponge, moist air

52 Spray-texture

ou can 1 about e reasb stain ce, so Condioats of e days, t sandf satin twice ish for d side work. spend e parts heavy rward etwo e paraanent , left).

a damaged ceiling 53 Safety Tip: Asbestos


Finding & fixing roof leaks 55 Home Care Tip: Fix leaks now 56 Safety Tips: Roof brackets, planks and harness

58 Repair Tip: Don't count on caulk

59 Best kitchen appliance fixes

63 Repair Tip: Don't wreck the floor
when you pull out the fridge


5 cash-saving

auto fixes

68· Special Section

Best-Ever Ways to Cut Energy Costs

68 Seal air leaks

72 76
Super-insulate your attic

Save energy with a programmable thermostat


I ,

How to stop a running toilet.

Check the fill tube
Remove the. tank lid and find the fill tube. It's a small flexible tube that runs from the fill valve to the overflow tube. While the tank refills, this tube squirts enough water down the overflow tube to refill the bowl after the completed flush. If this tube falls off or the water stream misses the overflow tube, the bowl won't fill and your next flush will be wimpy (that is, won't develop a strong siphon). Reattach the fill tube and make sure it perches about 1 in. above the rim of the overflow tube. Flush the toilet and watch the water stream to make sure it goes down the overflow tube.
Push the fill tube firmly onto the fill valve. Make sure the fill tube sends water into the overflow tube.

... and get a stronger flush while you're at it

oilets haven't changed much in the last 80 years. After a flush, water still fills a tank, lifting a float that shuts off the water when it reaches a certain level. A lever still opens a flapper to cause the flush, falling back into

place when the water level drops. But, sometimes the flush is too wimpy, sometimes the water keeps running, and sometimes the bowl doesn't refill. Here's how to fix a running toilet without the expensive call to the plumber.

Adjust the fiU height

The water level in the tank is controlled by an adjustable float. A float that's set too low produces a weak flush; if it's set too high, water spills into the overflow tube and the fill valve won't shut off. The water will keep running. Look for the fill level mark on the inside back of the tank and mark it on the overflow tube so you can see it more easily. If you can't find it, measure down about 1 in. on the overflow tube and make a mark. Then flush the toilet and see if the water reaches and stops at that mark. If not, adjust the float up or down. If you have an old toilet, you'll have to bend the brass rod that connects to the float ball to make adjustments. But with newer toilets you usually turn a screw or slide a clip along a rod. Flush the toilet after each adjustment. Also make sure that the water level is at least an inch below the C-L (critical level) marked on the fill valve. You can adjust the height of many valves to raise or lower the C-L. Occasionally the fill valve simply won't shut off, which means that it's defective. If so, turn the water supply off at the shutoff under the tank. Buy a replacement valve ($6 to $10 at hardware stores and home centers). You don't have to match the old one; many, like the one shown, fit most toilets. It's a 15-minute changeout. For detailed instructions, go to familyhandyman.com and search for "fill valve."
Adjust the float to set the water level. Pinch the clip and slide the float up or down on the rod. Keep adjusting the float until the water shuts off at the proper level.




Adjust the flush handle/flapper chain

res the inning, to fix a umber. A chain that's too short or tangled won't allow the flapper to close and water will continue to leak into the bowl. This causes the fill valve to cycle on and off to refill the tank. A chain that's too long, or a flush rod that hits the the tank lid, won't open the flapper wide enough to stay open for the full flush. You'll find yourself having to hold the lever to complete a good flush. To avoid these problems, adjust the linkage in the chain to leave only a slight bit of slack when closed. Cut the chain at the rod to leave only about an inch extra to reduce the potential for tangles. Then put the tank lid back on and make sure the flush rod doesn't strike the lid when you press the lever. If it does, bend it down slightly and readjust the chain.
Adjust the chain to leave a little slack with the flapper closed. Then cut off the excess, leaving about an inch.

Replace the flapper

If you've completed the first three steps and your toilet still runs, chances are you have a worn-out flapper. Turn off the water, remove the old flapper and take it to the store to find an exact replacement. (Hardware stores often carry a wide variety.) Most flappers snap over ears on the overflow tube. Others have a ring that slips over the tube. Now here's the catch. You may not find an exact match. The range of flapper styles has mushroomed over the last 15 years, and you may find 15 to 20 flapper options on the store shelf. Some packages include specific brand and model information (so note yours before you leave home). Others have a "universal" label. If you can't find an exact replacement, try the closest one and pick up a universal type as well. They're cheap ($2 to $3), and the extra one just might save you a second trip to the store! (Avoid the "adjustable" types unless you're replacing an adjustable one.) Install the new flapper and make sure it opens and closes freely. Then test it. If the water continues to run or runs intermittently, you're not getting a good seal. Try a different flapper. If you just can't find a flapper that seals, consider replacing the entire overflow tubelflapper (about $10). On most toilets (two-piece), this means removing the tank. It's not difficult and you don't need special tools. It'll take you about an hour, and you'll avoid that $100 plumber service call.

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Unsnap the old flapper and take it with you to the store to find an exact replacement. In addition to the closest replacement, pick up a "universal" type.

Best in DIY
Stay-Clean Tip
Wear gloves
Wear plasttc gloves when you remove the flapper. A fine black film often builds up on rubber surfaces and it Is hard to scrub it off your hands.





Repair damaged walls

When you punch through drywall, the back side of the hole breaks away more than the surface. Reach your fingers up into the hole to survey the interior damage (also feel for pipes, electrical cables and other obstructions). Cut out an access hole from stud to stud, a few inches wider than a 2x4, making sure to remove all the damaged drywall (Photo 1). Once the wall cavity is open, measure the distance between wall studs, cut a 2x4 to fit and install it as in Photo 2. Keep the 2x4 backer slightly behind the stud faces. If the patch protrudes beyond the wall, it'll be a nightmare to blend it in with the wall. Size the patch by tracing around the damaged section that you cut out. Cut the new piece and attach it to the 2x4 backer with a few 1-1/4-in. drywall screws. Tape the joints (Photo 3). You may have to use four or five thin coats of joint compound to skim over the tape and build up the patch even with the wall (Photo 4). Sand out any imperfections and blend the edges of the patch into the wall with sandpaper before painting. Installing a doorstop will protect your wall from future knob incidents. You can find doorstops that mount to the door, wall or hinge at any home center or hardware store.

in drywall

Repair large holes

Doorknobs, vacuum cleaners, baseball bats, elbowsthere are many ways large holes show up in walls. This rock-solid fix will demonstrate how to patch those holes in drywall walls by installing a 2x4 backer board to prevent it from happening in the same spot again. All the necessary supplies can be found at hardware stores and home centers.

Reach through the hole, enlarging it if necessary, and feel for electrical wires or other obstructions. Cut out a 5-1/2-in.-wide rectangle between the studs to remove the damaged section.

Hold the 2x4 flush to the front edge of the wall studs and predrill 1/8-in. holes through both. Solidly anchor the 2x4 with 2-1/2in. screws. Then screw on a drywall patch with 1-114-in. screws.




ywall, away your ey the pipes, strucn stud
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Repair small hol.es in.drywall

Small holes caused by screws or hooks, wall fasteners or drywall fasteners that pop up are simple to repair, but again time consuming because you almost always have to repaint the walls. Nail pops are common and particularly irritating, because you're likely to have more than one. But drywall screws sometimes pop up too, as a result of damp framing that dries out and shrinks during the first year or two in' new construction. The first step of the fix is to drive nails back down using a nail set (Photo 1). If you have screws, dig the drywall compound from their heads with a utility knife and turn them in tight with a screwdriver. Then dimple the hole slightly concave with a hammer to indent any raised edges. But take care not to crush the drywall core. In addition, cut away any paper tears with a sharp utility knife. This is a good technique to use with old wall fasteners as well. It's usually easier to tap them into the wall slightly rather than pull them out. Two coats of joint compound, applied with two swipes of the knife in an "+" pattern, should fill the holes (Photo 3). The first coat will shrink a bit, leaving a slightly smaller dent to be filled by the second coat. Scrape the excess off the surrounding wall so you don't build up a hump. Sand lightly to blend with the surrounding wall. Be sure to prime the spot Otherwise the topcoat will absorb into the patch and make the area look different from the surrounding paint. And use a roller when priming to help raise the surface texture to match the surrounding wall.

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Drive a popped nail below the surface of the drywall with a hammer and a nail set. Cut away loose joint compound and paper shreds. Drive drywall screws about 1-112 in. above and below the popped nail. Sink the screwhead just below the surface of the drywall. Fill the holes with joint compound, swiping first across the holes, then down. Let dry, apply a second coat, then sand, prime and paint.

and patch with joint compound and allow it to dry. Lay a thin coat of joint. compound over the seams and press in the drywall tape. Drag a 6-in. putty knife along the tape to squeeze out the excess joint compound, apply another thin coat over the tape and allow it to dry.

pound. Use a 6-in. or larger putty compound, let the joint compound ridges with the putty knife before with ISO-grit sandpaper and then

knife to apply a coat of joint dry and then scrape down any recoating. Sand the patch smooth paint.


Repair cracked corners

Every home settles unevenly as it ages. This sometimes causes inside corners to crack or ripple. Often the crack will run from floor to ceiling. Once you spot this problem,. watch it for two to three months for continued movement and fix it after all movement stops. The key to renewing the strength of the corner is to remove all loose tape and joint compound (Photo 1). If the drywall below has crumbled, cut it away with your utility knife and fill the gap with setting compound. Retape the joint. Crease the paper tape down the middle so it fits into the corner easily (Photo 2). It's difficult to spread compound smoothly on one side of the corner without marring the other side. The trick is to apply compound for the second and third coats only on one side at a time. Let the one side dry, then do the other side. Finally, buy a fine-grit sanding sponge ($3) to smooth the corners (Photo 4). It'll do a nice job without gouging.


Cut throuqh the tape at the ends of the cracked area and slice, scrape and tear away all loose tape and compound.

Apply a liS-in. layer of joint compound, then fold and press paper tape into it. Stroke the length of the tape, squeezing compound out on both sides. Let dry.

Apply second and third coats to smooth the joint, tapering the compound about 6 in. out. Let one side dry before applying compound to the other side. 48

Lightly sand the finished repair using a fine-grit sanding sponge to make a crisp corner. Prime and paint to match the existing wall.

Repair a drywall crack



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As homes settle, cracks may radiate from the corners of doors and windows. Whether your walls are made of plaster or drywall, you can repair the cracks in two steps over a day or two-and get the area, ready to sand and paint. Use paper tape; it's stronger than fiberglass tape for wall repairs. For cracks more than 1/4 in. deep, clean out the loose material and use a setting compound like Durabond to build up the area level with the wall. Then use the steps shown in Photos 2 and 3 to fix it.

in. deep, removing all loose wall material. Protect woodwork with masking tape .


Embed paper tape in joint compound using a 6-in. taping blade. To avoid trapping air bubbles under the tape, moisten the paper 'tape with water, lay it over the crack and squeeze excess compound and air hom underneath with the blade. Apply an additional thin layer of cornpeund and feather it off 2 in. on both sides of the tape. Let dry.

Apply a second (and third, if necessary) coat of compound, smoothing it out 6 to 7 in. on both sides of the joint. Smooth the compound to a thin, even coat using long, continuous strokes with a 12-in. taping blade. Allow the repair to dry thoroughly, sand it smooth (avoid exposing the tape) and paint it.

Best in DIY
Work Tidy Tips Paper bag dust catcher
Minimize the mess when you're cutting or drilling a hole if) drywall. Tape a bag below the work zone to catch the dust. Use an easy-release tape to avoid wall damage.

Neat sanding sponge

Sanding drywall doesn't have to mean choking on a cloud of dust or dragging out a vacuum cleaner. Here's a low-tech, low-mess way to smooth small patches: Use a damp sponge encased in nylon mesh as a flexible sanding block. Just wet the sponge and squeeze It nearly dry.

Moist air
lnge III. When you're sanding drywall, use a humidifier in the room. The moist air makes the dust settle quickly, so it's less likely to spread throughout the house.





Repair cracked and sagging plaster


Plaster sags from ceilings or bulges from walls when the plaster keys embedded around the wood lath break loose. To repair it, you've got two choices (three if you count hiring an expensive contractor!). You can break out all the loose stuff and rep laster the area-not necessarily a do-it-yourself project. Or, you can stabilize the sagging plaster by using plaster washers to pull it back up against the lath (available at leevalley.com; item no. 67Z20.02). Plaster washers don't always work, but they're cheap (about $14 for 100), so it's worth a shot. First, locate the joists or studs and mark their location in the loose area. Push up the loose plaster and place 2-in. screws and the perforated plaster washers into the joists or studs about every 6 or 8 in. The convex washer will flatten as the screw tightens. If the plaster has a rough surface, you may need to first scrape the surface to get the washer to lie flat. Next, secure the loosened field to the lath between joists with more washers. Finally, skim-

coat over the washers with drywall joint compound. It may take several coats and extra effort to create a smooth finish or mimic the existing texture. If you have solidly attached plaster with cracks spider-webbing through your walls and ceilings, you can stabilize and coat the entire surface with another product-sheets of fiberglass mat. One such system, called Nu-Wal (spec-chem.corn), costs about 52r,t per square foot. With it, you simply roll on a latex-like base coat, embed the fiberglass mesh, and roll over it again. This method essentially gives your plaster walls a new flexible skin so nonstructural cracks won't reappear. Plus, it acts like a vapor barrier, keeping moisture from migrating into the wall, and it's approved for lead paint encapsulation on interior walls. Before making repairs, be sure to solve the moisture, settling or other problems that caused the cracking or sagging.




Repair damaged plaster

Plaster is applied to a lath material fastened over studs or joists. The lath may be wooden strips (in pre-1930 houses), metal mesh or drywall-like gypsum. Repairing oldfashioned plaster walls used to be a real art, requiring a practiced touch, arcane ingredients like horsehair and complex recipes for the plaster. Now the same materials and tools used to repair drywall can be applied to plaster. Before making a repair, fix any leaks or other causes of excess moisture and give any water-damaged area time to dry thoroughly.


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Secure solid plaster around the damaged area using plaster washers. Concretelike plaster is tough and messy to cut with a circular saw, so carefully use a masonry bit to drill a series of holes around the repair area, then "connect the dots" with a chisel.




Hold a cold chisel at a shallow angle to the ceiling to avoid breaking lath or loosening additional plaster. Carefully chip plaster away from wooden lath in damaged area.


Patch with drywall of appropriate thickness. Drywall is available in a wide range of thicknesses. Space drywall screws about 6 in. apart along edges and every 8 in. along a joist or stud.

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Plaster wall anatomy: When plaster is applied over lath, the first (scratch) coat squeezes through the lath's gaps or holes to create "keys" that bond it to the lath. Sagging plaster is usually an indication that some keys have broken.

..... Apply joint tape (paper or fiberglass mesh) over joints and skim-coat the entire repair area after taping. Work in thin layers to blend the patch with the surrounding surface. Sand smooth, then texture, prime and paint.




your spray-textured ceiling is just dingy or stained, you can renew it with a coat each of sealer and paint. But if the texture is falling off or missing in spots, you'll have to reapply texture to fix the problem. For small areas, say less than a foot in diameter, you could try using an aerosol can of repair texture. But the patch is bound to stick out like a sore thumb. For the best results, you're better off res praying the entire ceiling. It's a messy job, but it's not hard to do. In fact, after you spray one room, you'll probably want to keep going. You can spraytexture unsightly plaster or smooth drywall ceilings too. As with most jobs, the key is in the prep work, which is also the time-consuming part. Once the room is masked off, the ceiling prepped and the texture mixed, it'll only take you about 15 minutes to spray the ceiling. If any of the paper drywall tape is loose or the drywall is soft or damaged, you'll have to repair and sand these areas first. In addition to the putty knives and drywall joint compound for the repairs, you'll need a wide putty or taping knife for scraping, a roll of t-I/z-in. or wider masking tape, enough painter's plastic to cover the walls, a gallon or two of primer/sealer, a bag of spray texture (enough to cover 300 to 400 sq. ft.), and a compressor and hopper gun. You can buy coarse, medium or fine texture. If you're matching existing ceilings, take a sample of the material with you when you buy the texture and ask for help matching it. Medium is usually the best choice and

will match most ceilings. You can rent a compressor and hopper gun for about $30 for a half day or buy a hopper gun for about $70 and connect it to any average-size or larger compressor. If you use a small compressor, you may occasionally have to stop spraying to let the pressure build up. Minimize rental costs by getting all the prep work done before you pick up the compressor and hopper gun. Start by removing everything you can from the room. If you must leave large furniture in the room, stack it in the center and cover it with plastic. Cover the floor with sheets or a canvas drop cloth. Then cover the walls with thin (I-mil or less) poly sheeting (Photo 1). Painter's plastic is very thin and works great. Leave an opening with overlapping poly at the doorway so you can get in and out. Turn off the power to the lights and remove any ceiling fixtures. Don't forget to cap the bare wires with wire connectors. Stuff Buy a hopper gun like this for about newspaper into the $70 and connect it to any 2.S-cfm electrical box to keep or larger air compressor. Or, you can rent. out the spray texture.

Best in DIY Safety Tip

Caution: If you have ceiling texture applied before 1980, it
may contain asbestos. Before you remove any ceiling texture, contact your state's department , department information of environmental protection, of health or a regional asbestos coordinator for on asbestos testing and removal. For a list of conon asbestos, go to epa.gov/asbestos.

tacts, go to epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/regioncontact2.html#reg5. For general information




rand .pper ze or you pres1 the , and oom. it in with with ter's

Speed up and simplify your masking job by applying the tape along the ceiling first. Leave the lower edge of the tape loose. Then rollout a length of lightweight poly along the floor, pull one edge up to the ceiling, and stick it to the tape.

The next step is to scrape off the old texture (Photo z, below), but not before you've had it tested for asbestos. If it hasn't been painted, it'll usually come off easily. So try just scraping it first. If that doesn't work (you'll know right away), try wetting the texture with a pump-up garden sprayer. That might make it easier to scrape, but it'll leave a sticky mess on the floor. If you use this method, cover your drop cloths with 4-mil plastic so you can wad it up and dispose of the wet texture and not track it all over the house. Texture that's been painted over can be a lot harder to remove. Just do the best you can. Try to knock off the high spots and flatten it as much as possible. The ceiling doesn't have to be smooth, but it's easier to get a nice-looking job if most of the old texture has beenremoved. When you're done scraping, paint the ceiling with stain-sealing primer (Photo 3). BIN and KILZ are two popular brands. Use an aerosol can of solvent-based sealer such as BIN white shellac to spot-prime severe stains. Then paint the entire ceiling with a water-based primer/sealer. The key to a successful spray-texture job is mixing the texture to the right consistency: Don't mix it too thick. Use the amount of water recommended on the bag as a starting point. Then adjust the thickness by adding more water or powder. Mix slowly using a mixing paddle mounted in a liZ-in. drill (Photo 4). Mix thoroughly, adding water until the material reaches the consistency of runny yogurt-or thick paint-with tiny lumps in it. Let the texture sit for 15 minutes, then remix, adding more water if necessary. There are a few different versions of hopper guns, but they all have a mechanism at the nose 'that controls the diameter of the pattern, and a trigger control that helps govern the volume of spray. Start by setting both controls to the middle position. Then load the hopper about


bout fm the messy job of scraping texture. Popcorn spray texture comes olf easily if it hasn't been painted.

Paint the ceiling with a fast-drying primer/sealer. Let it dry before applying the spray texture.







Mix the powdered spray texture and water thoroughly. Lumps will clog the spray tip and could mess up your spray job. Let it rest 15 minutes and remix, adding water if necessary.

half full with texture material and practice on a piece of cardboard or drywall scrap (Photo 5). Adjust the spray pattern and trigger until you can get a nice, even pattern without runs or excess buildup. When you're comfortable with the spraying technique, start on the ceiling. Start by spraying the perimeter (Photo 6). Hold the gun -about 18 to 24 in. from the ceiling and aim so that about two-thirds of the spray hits the ceiling and the rest hits the wall. Move quickly around the room, paying special attention to the inside comers where walls meet. Remember, you can make another pass if it's too light. The goal is to cover the ceiling with an even layer of texture. Don't worry if it looks too smooth. The texture will become more pronounced as it dries. Be careful to avoid puddles. If you mess up and get a puddle or just a thick buildup, stop and scrape off all the texture with a wide putty knife. Then try again. Move the gun back and forth while backing up across the room. After you've covered the ceiling, tum 90 degrees and apply another light coat at a right angle to the first. Concentrate on filling in light spots to create an even texture. When you're satisfied with the consistency of the texture, you can clean up the gun, hopper and hose with water and pull down the poly. If your masking job was a little off and there's texture on the wall or flooring, wait for it to dry. Then carefully scrape it off and remove the white residue with a wet sponge.




Practice on cardboard or a piece of drywall to get a feel for spraying. Adjust the gun's tip and trigger until you get a consistent spray pattern that's easy to control. 54

heavy buildup-you

can always add more.

see of spray Itt ern nfortg. d the i aim T hits wall. aying .rners . you light. with ITTy if 11beireful rddle xture 3 gun After apply atrate If the , with was a , wait re the

you have water stains that extend .. across ceilings or run down walls, the cause is probably a roof leak. Tracking down the leak is the hard part; the fixes are usually pretty easy. Here are some simple tricks for finding and repairing most of the common types of roof leaks.

Best in DIY
Home Care Tip
Fix leaks now
Have a roof leak? Well, you'd better fix it, even if it doesn't bother you much or you're getting a new roof next year. Over time, even small leaks can lead to big expensive problems, such as mold, rotted framing and sheathing, destroyed insulation and damaged ceilings. The flashing leak that caused this $950 repair bill was obvious from the ceiling stains for over two years. If the homeowner had dealt with It right repairs would have been minimal. away, the damage and subsequent

Finding the leaks

When you're trying to track down a leak, start by looking at the roof uphill from the stains. The first thing to look for is any roof penetrations. Items that penetrate the roof are by far the most common source of leaks. In fact, it's rare for leaks to develop in open areas of uninterrupted shingles, even on older roofs. Penetrations can include plumbing and roof vents, chimneys, dormers or anything else that projects through the roof. They can be several feet above the leak or to the right or left of it.


If you have attic access, the easiest way to track down a leak is to go up there with a flashlight and look for the evidence. There will be water stains, black marks or mold. But if access is a problem or you have a vaulted ceiling, you'll have to go up onto the roof and examine the







suspect(s). The photos on the following pages will show you what to look for. If the problem still isn't obvious, enlist a helper and go up on the roof with a garden hose. Start low, soaking the area just above where the leak appears in the house. Isolate areas when you run the hose. For example, soak the downhill side of a chimney first, then each side, then the top on both sides. Have your helper stay inside the house waiting for the drip to If running water doesn't reveal the €-xact location of the leak, don't be timid. Start rernovinq shingles appear. Let the hose run for sev- in the suspect area. With them removed, there'll be evidence of the leak and you'll be able to track eral minutes in one area before it down right to the source. You'll see ctscoloredtett paper or water-stained or even rotted wood moving it up the roof a little directly below and around it. farther. Tell your helper to yell when a drip becomes visible. You'll be in the neighborso be patient and don't move the hose too soon. Buy your hood of the leak. This process can take well over an hour, helper lunch!

Best in DIY

Safety Tips

Roof brackets, planks and harness

The dangers of working on a roof are obvious. Avoid accidents by taking proper precautions. Install roof brackets with planks -across them to give you a safe place to step and set tools and materials. For the ultimate in roof safety, use a safety harness and rope (aka a "personal fall arrest system"). These safety measures aren't overkill. Be safe when you work on your roof.

Lay a 2x6 plank across the brackets and attach it to the brackets with screws. Make sure the 2x6 extends-at least 6 in. but not more than 12 in. past the end brackets. Set another row of roof brackets and planks about every 8 ft. up the roof, or as close together as needed to make your work safe and convenient.

Clip the end of the safety rope to the ring on the roof anchor. Then clip the lanyard to the D-ring on the back of the harness. Squeeze the rope-grab and slide it along the safety rope to reposition the lanyard on the rope as you move around the roof.




Fixing the five most common 'leaks

Plumbing vent boots can be all plastic, plastic and metal, or even twopiece metal units. Check plastic bases for cracks and metal bases for broken seams. Then examine the rubber boot surrounding the pipe. That can be rotted away or torn, allowing water to work its way into the house along the pipe. With any of these problems, you should buy a new vent boot to replace the old one. But if the nails at the base are missing or pulled free and the boot is in good shape, replace them with the rubberwashered screws used for metal roofing systems. You'll find them at any home center with the rest of the screws. You'll have to work neighboring shingles free on both sides. If you don't have extra shingles, be careful when you remove shingles so they 'Pro'blem: When gasket-type can be reused. Use a flat bar to separate
plurnbinq cracked vent flashing is usually leaks, the culprit loose nails. a or gasket or missing

g shingles



luy your

the sealant between the layers. Then you'll be able to drive the flat bar under the nail heads to pop out the nails.

nails. They'll


the old boot.

Screw the base to Don't use

the roof with

rubber-washered only work


loose over time.

Briel( chimneys

sty lot.

All kinds of bad things can happen around brick chimneys. In fact, there are far too many to cover here. Flashing around chimneys can rust through if it's galvanized steel, especially at the gO-degree bend at the bottom. A quick but fairly long-term fix is to simply slip new flashing under the old rusted stuff. That way any water that seeps through will be diverted. The best fix, though, is to cut a saw kerf into the mortar and install new flashing. If you want to see what's involved,go to familyhandyman. com and type in "chimney flashing."

Check for cracked housings on plastic roof vents and broken seams on metal ones. You might be tempted to throw caulk at the problem, but that solution won't last long. There's really no fix other than replacing the damaged vents. Also look for pulled or missing nails at the base's bottom edge. Replace them with rubber-washered screws. In most cases, you can remove nails under the shingles on both sides of the vent Problem: Plastic roof vents 1b e nai 1s across t h e can crack and leak. hi . tape Duct to pull it free. There wil . I is not the solution t IS time. top of the vent too. Usually you can also work those loose without removing shingles. Screw the bottom in place with rubber-washered screws. Squeeze out a bead of caulk beneath the shingles on both sides of the vent to hold the shingles down and to add a water barrier. That's much easier than renailing the shingles.

or. Then

n the





3. Leal(y walls & dormers

Water doesn't always come in at the shingled surface. Often, winddriven rain comes in from above the roof, especially around windows, between corner boards and siding, and through cracks and knotholes in siding. Dormer walls provide lots of spots where water can dribble down and enter the roof. Caulk can be old, cracked or even missing between the corner boards and between window edges and siding. Water penetrates these cracks and works its way behind the flashing and into the house. Even caulk that looks intact may not be sealing against the adjoining surfaces. Dig around with a putty knife to see if the area is sealed. Dig out any suspect caulk and replace it with a siliconized latex caulk. Also check the siding above the step flashing. Replace any cracked, rotted or missing siding, making sure the new piece overlaps the step flashing by at least 2 in. If you still have a leak, pull the corner boards free and check the overlapping flashing Problem: Water that sneaks Solution: Recaulk the corner flashing. Lift the at the corner. Often, there's old, hardened behind walls and dormers overlapping section, clean it thoroughly and add a caulk where the two pieces overlap at the generous bead of fresh caulk underneath. Make sure dribbles down into your house just like a roof leak. inside corner. the gap at the corner is filled with caulk.

Problem: Unnailed step flashing can slip down and channel water into the wall.

Step flashing is used along walls that intersect the roof. Each short section of flashing channels water over the shingle downhill from it. But if the flashing rusts through, or a piece comes loose, water will run right behind it, and into the house it goes. Rusted flashing needs to be replaced. That means removing shingles, prying siding loose, and then removing and replacing the step flashing. It's that simple. But occasionally a roofer forgets to nail one in place and it eventually slips down to expose the wall.

Solution: Push a loose piece of step flashing right back in place and then secure it with caulk above and below.

5. Small holes
Tiny holes in shingles are sneaky because they can cause rot and other damage for years before you notice the obvious signs of a leak. You might find holes left over from satellite dish or antenna mounting brackets or just about anything. And exposed, misplaced roofing nails should be pulled and the holes patched. Small holes are simple to fix, but the fix isn't to inject caulk in the hole. You'll fix this one with flashing.

Best in DIY Repair Tip

Don't count on caulk! .
Rarely will caulk or roof cement cure a roof leak-at least for very long. You should a "mechanical" fix whenalways attempt ever possible. That means replacing or repairing existing flashing Instead of using any type of sealant. Only use caulk for very small holes and when flashing Isn't an option.

holes can let in vast amounts of water. 58


Solution: Seal nail holes forever. Slip flashing under the shingle and add a bead of caulk under and over the flashing to hold it in place.

Best kitchen appliance fixes

ixing appliances is one of the best ways for a DIYer ... to save money. With just an hour or two and less than $75 in parts, you can fix many simple problems on

A little time and a I.ittle know-how can save you big bucks!


stoves, refrigerators and dishwashers. At a minimum, you'll save the $50 to $100 service charge that most appliance repair technicians charge just to show up.

Electric range
Problem: Burner doesn't heat
If one of your electric burners isn't heating, it could be a bad burner, a bad connection in the burner socket or a faulty switch.

Replace the switch

The knob you turn to control the burner temperature slides over the shaft of the infinite switch. If the switch burns out, your burner won't get power. Test the infinite switch if you know the burner and burner socket are good but the burner still won't heat. Here the back panel was removed to access the infinite switch. Your range may be different. With the range unplugged, test the switch with a multimeter set to RX-1 (Photo 3). If the meter reading remains the same, the infinite switch is bad and should be replaced (Photos 3 and 4).

Replace the burner or socket

To see if the problem is the burner, exchange the burner with one that you know works (Photo 1). If that burner won't heat, the problem is either the burner socket or the infinite switch. (The burner prongs plug into the burner socket.) Connections in the burner socket can burn out and fail to provide power. If the prongs look burned, inspect the socket. If the socket looks charred or burned, replace it. Photo 2 shows how to replace a burner socket.


Test the burner by replacing the burner that doesn't work with one that you know does.

t" U

Replace a burner socket if it's charred or corroded. Remove the screw that attaches the socket to the range. Unscrew the wires and reconnect them to the new socket. Attach the new socket.



Test the switch. Unplug the range and turn on the burner. Remove the wire from the H1 terminal. Set the tester to RX-l and place the probes on the Hl and H2 terminals. Replace the switch if the tester reading doesn't change. FINDING

place. Install the new switch and replace the screws. You may have to install one of the included adapters so your knob will fit.









Remove the old

necessary. unplug

Cut or

the wires.

First check to be sure the oven is plugged in and getting power and that the gas valve is open. If you have an older oven with a mechanical instead of a digital timer, check to make sure you haven't bumped it off the manual setting. If your oven still won't light, you probably need a new igniter. Even if you see the igniter glowing, it can be faulty.

Replace the igniter

Remove the burner for easier access to the igniter (Photo 1) (on some ovens this isn't necessary). To replace the igniter, remove the screws that secure it to the burner. Then remove the wires. Some igniters simply unplug. Others require you to cut and strip the wires and reconnect the new igniter using the special ceramic wire connectors included with the igniter (Photo 2). Remove 1/2 in. of insulation from the wires with a wire-stripping tool. Then reconnect the new igniter by aligning the ends of the stripped wires and twisting on the ceramic wire connectors. Reassemble the igniter and burner in the reverse order.


and push the wire


and excess wire


into the compartment

below the oven.

Problem: Burner won't light

If a burner on your gas range doesn't light, it's likely that you can fix the problem with one of these solutions. Shown here are repairs to a range with an electronic ignition system and sealed burners (if your range clicks when the burner lights, it has an electronic ignition). For repair information on ranges with pilot lights and ranges with open burners, go to familyhandyman.com and type "gas range repair" in the search box. Before you undertake more-complex repairs, check for simple solutions. Be sure the gas range is plugged in and getting power. The oven light should come on when you open the door. Also check that the gas valve is open-it may have been turned off by accident.
Always unplug your range before working on it.

)~ before spalr,

Clean the igniter and burner holes

Ie old le burner. iurner if . or res.

Start by cleaning the spark igniter (Photo 3). The igniter is the white ceramic nub that's located near the base of the burner. Your range may look different from the one shown here. On this range, you lift off the burner to access the igniter. Clogged burner holes can also prevent the burner from lighting. Use a needle to clear the tiny hole or holes in the burner (near the igniter). If your burner still won't light after you've cleaned the burner holes and igniter, there are three parts that could be faulty: the igniter, the igniter switch or the igniter control module. Of these, the most likely cause is a bad igniter control module. Occasionally an igniter switch will go bad. An igniter is rarely to blame. Photo 4 shows you how to replace the igniter module. Go to familyhandyman.com and search for "gas range repair" for information on replacing an igniter switch.


Clean the igniter and burner holes if the burner won't light. Brush the igniter with a stiff toothbrush to remove gunk. Clean out the burner holes with a needle.

Test the igniter control module

Darken the room and turn each burner to "Light" for three seconds and then off again. If you don't see sparks, replace the igniter control module (Photo 4). First unplug the range. Then locate the control module to replace it (Photo 4). In most cases, you'll have to pull the range away from the wall to access the module, which is usually located behind a removable metal cover on the back of the range or under a small metal box below the control panel.

le lent

Replace the igniter control module if none of the igniters spark. Transfer the wires one at a time to the new module so you don't get them mixed up.











Problem: Fridge or freezer won't cool There are several possible causes 1lI••••••••••••
when a refrigerator doesn't keep your milk cold or your ice cream frozen. Before you attempt more complex repairs, try these simple fixes: • Be sure the fridge is plugged in and getting power. The light should come on when you open the door. Check the setting on the temperature control and adjust it if needed. Be sure. the vents on the back of the freezer compartment aren't blocked by boxes of ice cream or frozen vegetables-the vents have to be clear for cold air to circulate. Vacuum the coils under or behind the fridge. Clogged coils can cause poor cooling. Check to make sure nothing is stuck in the condenser fan and that it spins freely (models with coils on the back won't have a fan). To do this, unplug the fridge and pull it out. Clean the fan blades and spin the fan by hand to see if it's stuck (Photo 5 shows the condenser fan location). Plug in the fridge and make sure the fan runs when the compressor is running. If the fan doesn't run, see Photos 5 and 6, which show how to replace it.




Remove the cover to inspect the evaporator and to access the evaporator fan. The screws may be covered with plastic plugs that you pry out.

If your refrigerator has a fan cover,

remove the screws that hold it in place. Then remove the cover to reach the fan.

Replace the evaporator fan if it's noisy or doesn't spin. First unplug the refrigerator. Then remove the screws that hold the fan to the wall of the freezer.


Replace the evaporator fan

Here are some tips to help you zero in on the problem. If you can hear the compressor running but the fridge isn't cooling, the problem is most likely either frost-clogged evaporator coils or a stuck or broken evaporator fan. Evaporator fans often squeal or chirp when they start to go bad. You'll know it's the evaporator fan if the noise gets louder when you open the freezer door. The evaporator coils and fan are located behind a cover in the freezer compartment. Photos 3 and 4 show how to replace the fan if it's necessary.

"'~!_lI~.'I ••iiflMjll~Unplug itthe wiresnew fan. attach to the . and

Replace the old fan with a new one. Remove the mounting bracket from the old fan and

switch them from the old fan to the new fan. Reinstall the fan and rep Iace the cover.


Best in DIY Repair Tip

Don't wreck the floor when you pullout the fridge.
Lay down a cardboard runway before dragging out your fridge. For the ultimate floor protection, use liB-In. hardboard (about $6 for a 4 x B sheet at home centers). A pair of shims create a ramp for easier pulling.

:over, Ice. fan.

Replace the condenser fan if it's noisy or doesn't run. Depending on your fridge, you may have to remove the fan bracket first, and ·then unscrew the fan from the bracket.


d fan emove :ket md w fan. and the old


wires and connect the new fan with wire connectors. Screw the new fan to the bracket and reinstall the fan and bracket in the fridge.


If you remove the cover inside the freezer and find the coils completely filled with frost, take everything out of the freezer and fridge, unplug it and let it thaw for 24 to 48 hours. Keep a few towels handy to soak up water that may leak onto the floor. When all the frost is melted away, plug the fridge back in. If it works, the problem may be a defrost timer, defrost heater or defrost thermostat. Replacing these parts isn't difficult, but figuring out which is faulty requires troubleshooting. Call a pro if you suspect a problem with these parts. Normally the condenser fan and compressor, located near the floor on the back of most refrigerators, come on when the thermostat calls for more cooling. If you don't hear the compressor running after the door has been left open for a while, it could mean the condenser fan is stuck or worn out or that the relay or compressor is bad.

Replace the condenser fan

Pull the fridge away from the wall, unplug it and remove the thin panel on the back near the bottom to access the compressor and condenser fan. Next plug the fridge in and wait for the compressor to come on. The fan should also come on. If the compressor runs but the fan doesn't, or if the fan is noisy, you need a new fan. If neither runs and the compressor is hot, unplug the fridge and point a fan or a hair dryer set to "no heat" at the compressor. Wait for the compressor to cool and try again. If the compressor runs but the fan doesn't, the fan is bad. Unplug the refrigerator and replace the fan (Photos 5 and 6). If neither runs, then you may need a new relay or compressor. Call an appliance repair technician to find out.






Problem: Dishes aren't getting clean


Remove the spray arm and clean out the holes. This also allows access to the filter for cleaning. Spray arms like the one shown simply snap off. Others require you to unscrew a cap on top.

is running but the dishes aren't getting clean, one of these simple fixes could solve your problem. Start by consulting your manual to be sure you're using the right detergent, loading the dishes correctly and maintaining the right hot water temperature. Then follow Photos 1 - 5 for repair steps. Insufficient water in the dishwasher also can cause poor cleaning. If the float gets stuck in the raised position, the dishwasher won't fill with water (Photo 3). Another likely cause is a clogged inlet screen or faulty inlet valve. Photos 4 and 5 show how to clean the screen or replace the valve. To determine if your dishwasher is getting enough water, start a wash cycle. Open the door when you hear the machine stop filling. The water should reach or come close to the heating coil. If it doesn't, first make sure the float valve is operating freely (Photo 3). If this doesn't solve the problem, check the inlet valve and screen.

If your dishwasher

Figure A
Anatomy of a dishwasher







re spray n out the ,0 allows filter for ay arrns hown .ff, Others ) unscrew

_ To clean the filter, remove the filter screen if possible. Otherwise, use a wet/dry vacuum to suck out the debris.

Make sure the float moves up and down freely. If the float on your dishwasher is removable, take the float apart and clean it.

Remove the inlet valve to clean the screen or Yeplace the valve. Unscrew the nut that connects the water line and remove the water line. Remove the screws that connect the valve bracket to the dishwasher frame and lower the valve. Pinch the hose clamp to remove the rubber hose. Unplug the wires.

1:.11 Check to


see if the screen is plugged. Unscrew the water line fitting from the valve. Then unscrew the four screws that connect the valve to the bracket.

Replace the inlet valve

Inlet valves that are starting to fail sometimes make a hammering noise. If you hear this, replace the valve. But before you start any work on the dishwasher, unplug it or turn off the power at the shutoff switch or main circuit panel. Test to see if the power is off by turning on the dishwasher and making sure it doesn't run. You'll also have to shut off the water before removing the inlet switch. Usually you'll find a shutoff valve under the kitchen sink or in the basement or crawl space under the

dishwasher. Otherwise, close the main water valve. Photo 4 shows how to remove the inlet valve. Yours may look different. Whether you're replacing the valve or simply cleaning the screen, you'll have to unscrew the brass fitting that connects the water line to the valve. Remove the four screws that secure the valve to the bracket to access the filter screen (Photo 5). Reassemble and reinstall the valve in the reverse order. Wrap Teflon tape around the fitting threads before screwing the fitting into the valve.




I! I'


5 cash-saving auto fixes

ere are five of the best ways to save money on car •maintenance. These are easy jobs that you can do yourself in minutes instead of overpaying at the oilchange joint. Do each one, as needed, throughout the year, and you'll leave about $175 in your wallet.

This sounds complex, but it's not. Pull out your PCV valve every other oil change. In most cases, you'll find the valve on the top of the engine, connected to a vacuum hose. Some late-model cars don't have PCV valves, so don't beat yourself up trying to find it. Slide the vacuum hose off the valve and unscrew the valve. Then perform the world's easiest diagnostic test: Shake it. If it makes a metallic clicking sound, it's good. If it doesn't make noise or sounds mushy, replace it ($4). But don't replace it on appearance alone-all used PCV valves look dirty.

Need help locating your PCV valve? Buy a short subscription to an online factory service manual (oemlstop.com); rates start at less than $10 a day. Nonfactory manuals are cheaper, but they're skimpy on instructions and diagrams for these kinds of repairs.

Told that your engine air filter needs replacing? It may be true. But testing your filter is easy and replacing it is a brainless task-so do it yourself. Replace the filter ($12 to $20) based on its actual condition rather than the manufacturer's recommended service intervals. Checking its condition isn't rocket science. Just pull it out and give it a look-see (inset photo). If it fails the back-light test, replace it. While the filter is out, vacuum out the crud in the air cleaner box.
Remove the air filter and vacuum out any dirt. Then hold it in front of a shop light. If dirt blocks more than 50 percent of the light, replace the filter.





Save $20

It's easy to tell when your blades need replacing. Simply press the washer button and see if your blades wipe clean. If they streak, they're toast. The auto parts store will have lots of economy blades, but go with a name brand instead (ANCO, Trico or Bosch). They cost more than economy blades, but their higher-quality rubber wipes better, has better UV protection and lasts longer. Follow the installation instructions on the package. Be sure you have a firm grip on the wiper arm once you remove the old blade. If it gets away from you, it can hit the windshield with enough force to crack it.

Save $60
Some carmakers recommend replacing brake fluid every two years or 24,000 miles. Others don't mention it at all. But it's easy to test your brake fluid. Just dip a test strip into the fluid and compare the color to the chart on the packaging. You can't do a complete brake fluid flush yourself, but you can do the next best thing-a fluid swap. This procedure won't replace all the old fluid with fresh, but you'll introduce enough new fluid to make a difference. Use a baster to suck out the dark brown brake fluid (brake and power steering fluids are incompatible, so use a different baster for each). Squirt it into a recycling bottle. Refill the reservoir with fresh brake fluid as shown. Then drive the vehicle for a week to mix the new fluid with the old. Repeat the procedure several times over the next few weeks until the fluid in the reservoir retains its light honey color. Note: The brake fluid may damage the baster's rubber bulb, so don't suck the fluid all the way into the bulb.

hart rual

{ on s.

There aren't any test strips for power steering fluid, so you'll have to rely on the manufacturer's service recommendations or general rule-of-thumb (two years or 24,000 miles). Use the turkey baster method to remove the old power steering fluid. Suck out all the fluid (engine off) as shown. Then refill the reservoir with fresh fluid. Start the engine and let it run for aboufLf seconds. Repeat the fluid swap procedure until you've used up the full quart. Note: Never substitute a "universal" power steering fluid for the recommended type, and never add "miracle" additives or stop-leak products. They can clog the fine mesh filter screens in your steering system and cause expensive failures.


Special Section: Best-Ever Ways to ~ut Energy Costs

Seal air leaks

1::1 easy and will

8 simple money savers

r::I ealing most air leaks is surprisingly

cut your energy bills. Sealing leaks also reduces drafts, making your home more comfortable, even with your thermostat at a lower temperature setting. And using that lower setting will save you more money. Here you'll discover products and techniques for sealing your house against energy loss. You can do all eight of these projects in a single weekend-most take less than an hour and cost less than $20. Considering what you'll save each year in heating and air conditioning costs, you'll see a good return on your investment. Most of the products shown here are available at home centers; the rest can be ordered online.

finding air leaks

Locating air leaks can be tricky. They're often so small as to be hardly noticeable. To find them, follow a trail of smoke. Close all the windows in the house, turn off all the fans and exhaust fans, and shut off the furnace. Light some incense and walk slowly around the outer walls of the house. Anywhere you notice the smoke blowing away from something or being sucked toward something, there's probably an air leak. Now that you've found it, seal it!



Stop airflow up the chimney

Fireplace chimneys can be very inefficient, letting your warm inside air disappear like smoke up a chimney. If you have airtight glass doors that seal the opening, you're in good shape. (The doors are available starting at $230 at fireplace retailers and home centers.) If not, a special balloon or chimney-top damper will get the job done. For fireplace chimneys that are seldom or never used, inflate a Chimney Balloon inside the chimney to stop the air leaks. Prices start at $43. Buy it directly from the company (608-467-0229; chimneyballoon.us). Partially inflate the balloon by mouth or with a pump, then stick it into the chimney and blow it up the rest of the way. Putting in and taking out the reusable balloon can be messy, so you don't want to hassle with chimney balloons if you regularly use your fireplace. But that doesn't mean you have to settle for energy loss. Instead, you can install a chimney-top damper system, like the Chim-a-lator, which seals the top of the flue when the chimney's not in use. A lever in the fireplace controls the damper via a long cable. Prices start at $209. Type "chim-a-Iator" into any search engine to find distributors or buy from chimalators.com. Installation in vol ves attaching the damper and screened-in cap to the chimney top, then ---,mounting the lever in the fireplace. If you don't feel comfortable working on the roof, hire a chimney sweep or mason, who can install the system for about $400.

Energy-saving fact
If you combined all of the air leaks in a typical house-up the chimney, out the dryer vent, under the front door-it would be the equivalent of leaving a window open all day long!

Seal small attic holes with foam and caulk

Hot air rises, ·so leaks in the ceiling are even worse than leaks in walls. And in many homes, this airflow through ceilings and into the attic is the No. 1 source of heat loss. You can check for leaks around ceiling light fixtures and the attic access door using an incense stick (see p. 68). But the only way to detect other leaks is to crawl up into the attic, pull back the insulation and look for them. Most leaks occur where chimneys and electrical and plumbing lines pass through the ceiling. Although the attic is a nasty place to work, plugging these leaks is a simple project-mostly caulking and foaming gaps.

Install an airtight dryer vent

Don't expect the thin metal flap on your dryer vent to keep out the cold. Lint or dents in the flap can keep it from fully closing, allowing outside air in. Wind blows them open too. For a more reliable air seal, install a Heartland 21000 Dryer Vent Closure ($14 at amazon. com). A cup inside the vent seals the opening when the dryer's off, then "floats" when it's on to direct the warm, moist air out the bottom of the unit. Remove the old vent and install the new one (it takes less than 10 minutes). The vent comes with easy-to-follow installation instructions. The company guarantees it will keep out birds, rodents and bugs too. You can paint it to match your house.



Special Section: Best-Ever' Ways to Cut Energy Costs

Fill gaps under sinks
Pull back the escutcheons on plumbing pipes where they enter exterior walls and you'll probably see generous gaps around the pipes. In cold weather, you might also feel the draft coming in. All it takes is some $7-acan expanding foam to seal those leaks. Shake the can vigorously, then squirt the foam around the pipes inside the wall. Don't completely fill the gap-the foam will expand. If it expands too much and you can't get the escutcheon back on, wait for it to dry, then slice it flush with the wall with a utility knife.


FiU gaps around electrical boxes

The gaps around electrical boxes in exterior waIls and ceilings are breezeways for cold air. If the gap between the electrical box and the drywall is less than 1/4 in., fill it with latex caulk. If the gap is bigger and lopsided, use foam sealant that's formulated for use around doors and window framing. The minimally expanding foam won't drip down your walls. Turn off the power to the electrical box and use a noncontact voltage tester to ensure there's no power. Remove the cover plate. Spray the foam around the box to seal it. After it dries, cut away any protruding foam, add a foam gasket (to reduce drafts through the box) and replace the cover plate. Do the same around register openings on the inside of exterior walls.

Stop under ... ..doorair leaks the

If you can feel the breeze and see daylight under your entry door, it's costing you big-time. It also means you need to adjust your door threshold or install a new door sweep. Door sweeps start at $10. The hardest part about replacing themis usu'all y taking off the door. Start by adjusting the threshold. Newer versions have screws that raise and lower them. Turn all of the threshold screws until the door opens and closes without much drag and any draft is eliminated. If that doesn't work, or your threshold doesn't have adjustment screws, replace the door sweep. Close the door and pop out the hinge pins with a pin punch to remove the door. Set the door on a work surface and remove the old

door sweep. Caulk the ends of the door, then install the replacement sweep. Some sweeps are tapped into

place and stapled along the door bottom; others are screwed to the side along the door bottom.

Raise or lower the threshold by turning the adjustment screws,

the replacement sweep and staple the ends with a couple of lI2-in. staples.




Seal leaky windows with removable caulk orfilm

Solution 1:
Leaky windows are one of the biggest sources of energy loss in a typical home. If you don't want to cover your entire window, a quick, low-cost solution is to seal the gaps with removable caulk. A $4.50 tube seals five 3 x 5-ft. windows. Apply the caulk over the cracks between the movable parts of the window (sashes) and the stationary· parts (jamb) and between the two sashes. Keep the bead between 3/16 and 1/2 in. wide, Don't run your finger over the bead after caulking (the caulk will be harder to remove later). In the spring, simply pull off the caulk, Clean off any residue with mineral spirits,

Solution 2:
If you don't like the look of caulk on your windows all winter long, cover them with plastic film instead. A $13 kit covers five 3 x 5-ft. windows, The plastic also reduces window condensation and can be used with curtains or blinds. The film is available for the exterior and interior. .Apply double-sided tape (included) to the window casing. Cut the film roughly to size with scissors, leaving a few extra inches on each side. Starting at a top corner, apply the film firmly to the tape around all four sides of the window. Use a hair dryer to remove the wrinkles. When winter is over, take down the plastic and pull the tape off the casing. The tape removes easily without damaging the finish.

'alls and between 4 in., fill ded, use oors and m won't id use a power. the box 9 foam, he box) register

e door to the

Caulk and cover room air conditioners

A room air conditioner keeps a section of the house cool. The problem is, it'll keep the room cool all winter long if it isn't covered properly. If you have a window unit, the best solution is to remove it so the cold air won't flow through and around it. If you decide to leave it in or you have a permanently installed wall unit, grab some removable caulk and an inexpensive window air conditioner cover to keep out the cold. Place the cover over the outside of the air conditioner, fitting the sewn-in corner straps over the bottom corners. Wrap the middle straps under and up the sides of the unit, then hook them over the top. Inside the house, apply removable caulk around the air conditioner where it meets the wall or window. If the air conditioner is a built-in unit, permanently seal it with latex caulk,

Tap in the ends


·[ I

Special Section: Best-Ever Ways to Cut Energy Costs


you need to add insulation in your attic, save big by blowing in cellulose insulation yourself. Blowing attic insulation isn't hard, but it's. dusty, sweaty work. To make it easier, enlist a helper and set aside two days: one for attic prep and the second to actually blow the insulation. By the end of the weekend you're going to be sore

and tired. But saving $1,000 or more will make up for your aching back. The long-term payoff is impressive too. You could see your energy bills go down by as much as 15 to 25 percent depending on your climate and existing levels of insulation.

Pull back the existing insulation and use expanding spray foam and holes where electrical wires snake through, Make sure to seal all the way around the pipe, For gaps 1/4 in, or less, use caulk rather than expanding foam,
to seal any gaps around plumbing pipes, ceiling perforations

Pull the existing insulation away from the roof. Position the new vent chute so the bottom extends 6 in. into the overhang and staple it into place. It's a good idea to use a squeeze stapler instead of a hammer stapler because it's more accurate and there's less chance you'll crumple the chute,

Day one



Seal attic bypasses

Leaks from cracks and gaps around lights, plumbing pipes, chimneys, walls and other ceiling penetrations are the equivalent of having a 2-ft.-wide hole in your ceiling. The worst offenders are open stud and joist cavities and dropped soffits and ceilings in kitchens and baths, You'll learn some basics here (Photo 1), but for complete step-by-step detailed information about how to seal attic bypasses, go to familyhandyman.com and type "seal attic air leaks" in the search box.

hatch opening, make a 2x12 dam around the hatch perimeter, Then, to really seal the attic access up tight, lay fiberglass batt insulation on the inside of the hatch or door and wrap it up tight like a Christmas present (Photo 3). You can insulate the hatch door while you're inside the attic or slide the door out and do it more comfortably on a tarp outside.

Marl< your final insulation level

When you're blowing insulation, it can get dusty and hard to see whether you've got it deep enough around the entire attic. Mark the desired level on different roof trusses around the attic before you start (Photo 4).

Install or repair vent chutes

In many homes, the vent chutes are missing or aren't properly installed. Without them, you're not getting the most out of your insulation's R-value because air needs to move properly at the eaves to remove moisture in the winter and heat in the summer. To make sure existing chutes aren't blocked, stand in a dark attic to see whether light from the eaves is filtering through the vents. Replace any chutes that are blocked, damaged or missing, You'll find both plastic and foam vent chutes ($1 each) at home centers. Use foam chutes because they're more rigid and there's less chance of them getting crumpled or compressed when you're installing them. Pull back the existing insulation so you can see out to the edge of the eaves, and install a vent chute in every rafter space (Photo 2),

Do you need to add insulation?

The answer depends on where you live, the heating and cooling costs in your area, your existing insulation levels, local codes and more. The first step is to make sure you've sealed your attic bypasses, Then visit www1, eere.eriergy.gov and go to "Calculators and Software," then "Homes," and the "Zip Code Insulation Tool." Use the insulation calculator to plug in your zip code, lifestyle factors, building design, energy costs and budget to get adetalled recommendation, The recommended insulation level for most attics is R-38 (or about 12 to 15 in, from the drywall, depending on the insulation type), In the coldest climates, insulating up to R-49 is recommended,

Ip for could to 25 'els of

Dam and insulate the attic access

To keep the insulation from falling through the attic






Special Section: Best-Eve,r Ways to Cut Energy Costs




Cover the attic hatch with a pillow of fiberglass insulation. You want a nice, big puffy pillow of insulation to stop any air leaks. Cut two layers of R-19 fiberglass batt insulation slightly larger than the hatch and staple duct tape to the hatch edges to secure it in place.

Measure up from the ceiling to mark your desired insulation level. Use a permanent marker to mark the level every few trusses so you know you have even coverage around the entire space.

Have your helper crumble the compressed cellulose as he loads the hopper so it doesn't clog the hose. If the cellulose comes out too fast or too slow, adjust the hopper door. The blower machine is loud, and you and your assistant won't be in visual contact. Communicate with each other using a walkie-talkie or cell phone. You can also cl ick the blower control switch on and off several times to get your helper's attention. 74

of the attic. Don't move around a lot in the attic with the hose. Work from the middle and do three bays at a time. Push the hose out to the eaves and blow those areas first. Then pull the hose back and use a slow, steady sweeping motion until you reach the desired level. Then pivot in place and blow the opposite side of the attic the same way.

Mistake #1: Not

sealing attic air leaks first

No amount of insulation is going to help if you don't seal your attic properly. For detailed step-by-step information about sealing attic alr leaks, go to familyhandyman.com and type "seal attic air leaks."

Mistake #2: Not getting lnsulatlon out to the edges When you're prepping the attic, use a broom handle or stick to push the existing insulation out to the edges. Then when you blow 'inthe cellulose, make sure you do a
good job of getting it way over to the eaves with the hose.

Mistake #3:

Stepping through the ceiling

It happens aU the time. You've got to move around slowly and step from joist to joist. If there's no floor, bring up a 12-in.-wide piece of 3/4-in. plywood and lay it across the ceiling joists to use as a platform to work from. And wear rubber-soled shoes so you can feel the joists thmugh the bottoms of your feet.

lation trusses e.

Pick up the blower and insulation

Cellulose insulation is a good choice for Dl Yers, It has a higher R-rating and is less expensive than either blown fiberglass or fiberglass batts. It's an environmentally friendly material made from recycled newspaper, so it's easier on your skin and lungs. And you can blow it easily and quickly into odd-shaped spaces in an attic, where access is limited and dragging up batts is tough. Most home centers sell bagged cellulose insulation ($6.75 per bag), and many provide the blower for a minimal fee ($20) or free when you buy a certain number of bags (usually 10 or more). You can also rent the blowers from a rental center for about $65 a day. Although rental machines aren't as powerful as the truck-mounted units the pros use, they work fine for a DrYer. To determine how many bags you'll need, measure your existing insulation so you know your current R-value and subtract that from the recommended levels (see "Do You Need to Add Insulation?" on p. 73 for how to find recommended levels for your zip code). Check the chart on the insulation bag to determine the number of bags necessary to reach your desired R-value based on the square footage of your attic. Buy more bags than you think you'll need. You can always return them, and you don't want to stop in the middle of the job because you've run out.

into the hopper while you work the hose up in the attic (Photo 5). The blower should include two 50-ft. hoses that you can connect and snake into the attic. If your hoses have to wind their way through the house to reach a scuttle (the attic access) in a hallway or closet, lay down tarps along the way. It keeps things neater during the process and makes cleanup a lot easier. Connect the hoses with the coupler and then use duct tape over the coupler to secure the connection. The metal clamps can vibrate themselves loose. You don't want them to get disconnected and have cellulose sprayed all around your house.

Blow the insulation

Wear eye protection, a long-sleeve shirt and gloves, and a double-strap mask or particulate respirator. Start as far away from the access panel as possible and blow the eaves and other tight spots first. For hard-to-reach areas, duct tape a length of PVC pipe to the end of the blower hose. As you work back into corners and around eave vents, don't cover any ventilating areas. You can blow three rafter bays on each side of the attic from one position. Let the hose sit on the drywall to fill the eave areas, giving it a shake to move it from bay to bay. For the center areas, hold the hose level and blow the insulation evenly until you've reached your level lines (Photo 6). Then pivot in place and do the same thing to the other side. Move across the attic until you've hit your desired height at every point. Blow the rest of the insulation until the hopper is empty. You'll end up with a clean blower, and the extra inch or two of insulation will settle over the nextfew months.

e center

hose se back esi red ttic the

Set up the blower

The blower machine is heavy, so have your helper along to help you load and unload it. Set the blower on a tarp on flat ground near the window or vent opening closest to the attic access. Your helper will feed the insulation


I! I

Special Section: Best-Ever Ways to Cut Energy Costs


Save energy with a programmable thermostat

.1'1 ou
can reduce your home's heating and cooling .. costs by about 15 percent with a programmable thermostat It automatically keeps the temperature at a comfortable level when you're home, but switches to an energy-saving level when you're away or asleep. Programmable thermostats are available from home centers and hardware stores for $25 to $100. The higher-priced models provide more programming options. Programmable thermostats will work with most gas or oil furnaces, and central air conditioners. However, heat pumps, electric baseboards and a few other systems require special features. Read the package to make sure the programmable thermostat you buy is compatible with your heating and cooling system. If you're unsure, call your local utility or a heating and cooling contractor. Remove the old thermostat as shown in Photo 1. If your old thermostat contains mercury, you'll see a small glass tube with a shiny silver ball inside. Mercury is toxic. Take this type of thermostat to a hazardous waste disposal site. There will be anywhere from two to five wires hooked up to the old thermostat. Label the thermostat wiring with marking tabs using the letters on the old screw terminals as reference. If your new thermostat doesn't come with marking tabs, use masking tape. Clip a clothespin to the cable so it doesn't slide down inside the wall cavity, and mount the new wall plate (Photo 2). If the thermostat has back-up batteries, insert them before wiring the new thermostat (Photo 3). The thermostat may need to be configured to your heating system. It may come preprogrammed, but to maximize savings, set it up according to your schedule. Consult the instructions that come with the thermostat for system adjustments and programming. You won't save energy if the thermostat isn't programmed correctly.

Turn off power to heating/cooling systems at the main panel. Mark wires with a tab (or tape) and letter that represents the terminal; unscrew them. Remove and discard the old thermostat.

Level the new mounting plate in position and mark the mounting screw holes. Drill 3/16-in. holes, insert drywall anchors and screw the plate to the wall.

Programmable _thermostat options

When shopping for a programmable thermostat. select one with the options that are right for you. Some contarn a time-to-change-the-filter light or low-battery indicator. Others have keypad lock features to prevent tampering, or contain mechanisms that automatically reset your temperature settings when moving between heating and cooling seasons,
Screw wiring to terminals on new thermostat using labels as reference (strip wires back if needed), Hook wires up to same terminals on new thermostat. Snap thermostat to mounting plate. 76


78 Our favorite tools


under $100 Tool Tip: Clamp-in-place straightedge Our favorite tools under $15


82 Editors' Choice: The tools

we love

86, Spotlight on impact drivers

e mounts and

bels as

me terate.

Our favorite tools under $100

Versatile angle grinder cuts almost a.nythin,g· fast
An angle grinder excels at grinding down metal or masonry, but it's a must-have tool because it can do so much more. My favorite use for an angle grinder is as a tile saw. Fitted with a diamond blade ($13), it'll cut just about any stone or ceramic tile. And the relatively small blade is perfect for the intricate cuts needed for outlet openings or the curved holes around a shower faucet. Grinders cut metal fast too-all you need is a metal cutting wheel ($3). With wire wheels and brushes ($18 for a set of three), you can strip paint from metal or remove rust from wrought iron. For occasional use, a $40 to $50 angle grinder will work fine for all these jobs. - Jeff Gorton, associate editor

Drive concrete screws fast

If you drive lots of concrete screws, save time with a concrete screw installation kit (one brand is the Tapcon Condrive 500, buildextapcon.com). It contains the masonry drill bit and screw drive on the same shaft. Ordinarily, you'd have to chuck a bit into the hammer drill, drill the hole and then take out the bit and chuck in the driver to run the screw in. Or use two drills. But with this, you drill the hole and just slip the driver shaft over the bit and sink the screw with the attached screw drive. The whole operation takes about 30 seconds. You'll find the kit (about $22) near the concrete screws at home centers. - Travis Larson, senior editor

D.riverfor stubborn ......... screws

"1 learned about impact drivers when 1 was a teen working on my motorcycle. It was impossible to remove the machine screws with a regular screwdriver," said Travis Larson, senior editor. "But this driver would take out any screw." When you whack the driver head with a hammer, it drives the tip deep into the screw head slot while twisting the screw 20 degrees. The driver also works with 1/2-in.-driveimpact sockets. Impact driver sets (about $23) are available at home centers, hardware stores and Sears.




Best in DIY
Clamp-i n-place straightedge

Tool Tip

"I picked up this special clamping straightedge at a tool sale lS years ago and still find myself reaching for it whenever I want to make a perfectly straight cut with a circular saw," said Jeff Gorton, associate editor. "The bultt-in clamps adjust quickly to plywood or lumberand they're great for cutting off the bottom of doors." Different lengths of straightedges are available, from 24 to 99 in. The 24-in. model costs $39. The BORA Clamp Edge from Affinity Tool. Works Is one brand (borapro.com). "Just slide the back clamp until It's snug against the wood, and then press down the lever to lock the straightedge In place," Jeff said. "The whole process takes seconds and leavE?syou with a securely attached straightedge with no pro-

iding it's a :Io so inder ond any ively icate r the


truding clamps to get In the way. The grlppy rubber clamp feet even let you clamp at angles up to 22.S degrees as a guide for angled cuts." You can find clamping straightedges at rockler.com and amazon.com.

1 you With a set netal iron. angle jobs. idiior

Go..through ..anything
hammer drills
"If you're going to buy a corded drill, get a hammer drill," said Joe Jensen, set builder for The Family Handyman and home improvement contractor. "It does everything a traditional drill does, but the hammering action lets you drill through tough materials faster-without burning up the bit." The drills use a hard, fast pounding action while drilling. When you don't want the hammer feature, simply turn it off and use the drill like a standard one. Hammer drills have dropped in price considerably in recent years. You can now buy one for $60 (the model shown, the Hitachi No. FDV16VB2, costs about $70 at Lowe's and online). "I just used my hammer drill when I was remodeling my basement," Joe said. "The drill easily drove concrete screws into the concrete and drew the plates tight against the floor."

Forever filter for shop vacuums

"About 10 years ago, I bought a CleanStream filter. I've worn out two shop vacuums since then, but that filter lives on," said Gary Wentz, senior editor. "Aside from immortality, the CleanStream has two more advantages: First, it's easy to clean. You can rinse it off with water, but I usually just take it outside and tap it against a tree; 90 percent of the dust drops off in 90 seconds. Second, it's a HEPA filter. That means it catches fine particles like drywall and sanding dust that pass right through other filters." You'll notice the difference in the superdurable filter material when you touch it-the slickness keeps debris from sticking. A sturdy aluminum core maintains the shape of the filter when you tap it to clean it. CleanStream filters cost $20 to $36, depending on the model (be sure to buy the filter that fits your shop vac.uum brand). You can find the filters at home centers, hardware stores or on the company's Web site at cleanstream.com.

when r cycle. It achine r," said ut this ad with into the e screw s with 23) are irdware


Our favorite tools under $15

Speedy socket driver
Buy a socket driver at a home center and you can leave your slow ratchet in the toolbox. It lets you use sockets in your drill, which is a great way to increase your drill's versatility. And it's cheap, too-$4 for the 1/4-in. socket driver and $6 for the 1/2in. version.


Selfcentering drill bits

When you need a perfectly centered screw hole for hinges or other hardware, reach for a self-centering drill bit. The bits 'have an outer sleeve that centers the bit in the screw hole. Prices start at $7. They're available at woodworking stores and amazon. com.

Hold-it-all tool hook

You can buy holsters for drills, or hooks that mount on nail guns or other tools. But this simple $5 tool belt hook replaces them all. Pick one up at a home center, clip it over your tool belt and you've got a handy place to hang just about any tool.

Double-fast chalkline
Speed chalk lines don't look any different from standard ones. But you'll notice the difference when you rewindthey rewind up to 3-1/2 times faster than standard chalk lines. Look for "fast retrieval" or "high-speed" on the packaging when buying one. Speed chalk lines are available starting at home centers and amazon.com.

Handy strapping
Next time you're at a home center or hardware store, spend $6 on a roll of strapping film (aka "shrink wrap"). Use it to bundle and store stuff or to tie down loads. You can even use it as a makeshift clamp for woodworking projects.



Pull nails with nippers

Put $11 nippers in your tool belt anytime you're removing trim and you'll make quick work out of pulling the old nails-without damaging the wood's surface. The sharp jaws bite into the nail, holding it firmly as you roll the nippers back to pull out the nail from the back side of the trim. Buy them at home centers.

The versatile Speed Square

The Speed Square has been in the tool belt of every carpenter since the 1980s because it's small, light and versatile. It can act as a saw guide, measure angles, draw hip and common rafter end cuts (no hard math!), scribe lines for rip cuts, and measure widths under 7 in. You can also use it for minor prying and occasionally as a nail set. Available starting at $4 wherever tools are sold.

Better bit holder

If you use square-drive or star-drive screws, you've probably seen this happen a hundred times: The driver bit gets stuck in the screw head and pulls out of the bit holder. This happens with Phillips screws, too, but not as often. The solution is a bit holder that locks onto the bit with a spring-loaded sleeve, not just a magnet. If you can't find one in your area, get one online at amazon. com ($10; search for "snappy bit holder").


Odd ..shapegauge
Whenever you need to mark an irregular shape, a contour gauge ($5) is a lifesaver. When you press the gauge against an object, the pins conform to the object's shape. Then you lock the pins in place and transfer the shape to whatever you're cutting. These gauges are sold at home centers.

Grabbe'r for

tight spots

Cheap shock insurance

This $14 noncontact voltage detector may be the best value ever. Hold it in front of an outlet or switch and an LED light and alarm will let you know if the power is on. It's also a fast way to track down breaks in circuits. These detectors are available at home centers.


This flexible magnetic pickup tool ($13) is perfect for reaching into tight spots to retrieve dropped parts. Get the version that keeps the magnet shielded until you need it, then extends when you press the handle (otherwise the magnet sticks to things you don't want it to). Some also have fingers for picking up nonmetallic items. Get one at auto parts stores or amazon. com (search for "flexible magnetic pickup tool").





Editors' Choice: The tools we love

Once you know about 'em, you're gonna want 'em!

he editors at The Family Handyman are passionate about tools. They spend a seemingly endless amount

oftime discussing (and arguing about!) which tools make the cut as an editors' choice. Following are the top picks;


. Fast and easy,joinery

"A Kreg Jig will let you make a joint in about two minutes. I first saw the jig during a product demonstration at a tool show years ago," said Jeff Gorton, . associate editor. "I was impressed enough that I went out and 'bought one. It's become one of my favorite tools because it lets me build furniture, cabinets and bookcases without having to cut fancy (and time-consuming) joinery." A Kreg Jig lets you drill pocket holes, then screw the pieces together with special screws. You'll leave visible holes, which you can hide
I ,, I

inside the project or fill with special plugs. The Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System includes everything you need-a stepped drill bit, 6-in. square driver, starter screw set, and a starter plug set-all for around $95: A mini kit for drilling one hole at a time costs $22 (woodcraft.com). A few other companies make pocket jigs, but Kreg's is quick and easy to use, and it lets you drill two holes without moving the jig. For projects you can build with a Kreg jig, visit family handyman. com and enter "pocket jig."

Fast screw guns

"What I like about the automatic-feed screw guns is their speed. You don't have to handle individual screws-the screws come in strips that you feed into the gun," said Jon Jensen, set builder for The Family Handyman and former contractor. "They're wonderful tools for drywalling, fastening decking-any job where you need to drive a lot of screws. You can adjust the depth for sinking screws and for different types of screws. That's what makes it really versatile." The DuraSpin 14.4-volt model by Senco ($159; amazon. com) and the Autofeed Screwdriver by Makita ($110; makita.com) are two automatic-feed screw guns. "You just keep the tool running, and it drives each screw to the exact same depth each time," Jensen said. "You can really get a lot of work done fast."

Cut dust, save time

"The best addition to my woodworking shop over the past 10 years was a basic, low-cost dust collection system," said Gary Wentz, senior editor. "My goal was cleaner air, but I soon found that a dust collector has an even greater benefit: It's a time-saving tool. It drastically cuts cleanup time-1 don't have to sweep off every surface and tool. I used to do the dustiest work, like sanding or cutting MDF, outdoors. Now I do these jobs in the shopno need to drag tools and cords outside." A dust collector is basically a big vacuum, but it sucks in a lot more air (and dust!) than the most powerful shop vacuums. "Complete with hoses and fittings, my small-scale dust collection system cost less than $300," Wentz said. Some home centers carry dust collectors, but the best place to browse is online. Just search for" dust collector."



Compact compressors
A few years ago, when we bought a little Senco compressor here at the office, we instantly starting fighting over it. Nobody wanted to drag around our 50-lb. beast anymore. Since then, several other mini compressors have hit the market. Although they're usually recommended for use with brad nailers, we sometimes use them for small framing jobs too. With a big framing smake picks; nailer, you get three to five shots and then you have to wait a few seconds for the compressor to catch up. So if you need a new compressor and you do a lot of brad nailing-and maybe some occasional framing-try a lightweight model. If you want a bigger one later, the compact compressor is a great portable backup. Below are some models you can check out online.

Five featherweights
Bostitch CAP1516

des lare rter kit $22 lies lick rill For jig, ter

20 lbs. $157 bostitch.com

Campbell Hausfeld FP2048

Craftsman 15309

DeWalt 055140

Senco PC1010

19lbs. $103 chpower.com

25lbs. $90 sears. com

24lbs. $119 dewalt.com

20 lbs. $120 senco.com


electrical tester

Al Hildenbrand, master electrician, has several favorite tools, but the one dearest to his heart and the workhorse of his stable is the Greenlee GT-95 electrical tester. It's durable and easy to use. The feature that sold Al was the ability to test for a hot wire without the need for a known ground. You simply hold the tester in your hand and touch one probe to the wire you want to test. Push the test button to see if the wire is hot. The GT-95 also features a GFCI tester, a noncontact voltage tester and a continuity tester in addition to a digital and LED display for reading voltage. The GT-95 costs about $80 online, but it's the only tester you're likely to need. And it'll last a lifetime.


M ightymidget


I've tossed a dozen perfectly good cordless drills because the batteries died and new ones cost as much as a new drill. That's one reason I love new lithium-ion batteries: They have a longer life span-twice as long, ac- , cording to some manufacturers. But the best thing about lithiumion batteries is that they're about half the size and weight of other batteries. That means power-guzzling tools like saws can pack more punch and run longer without being too heavy. And the screwdrivers are small enough to drop in your tool pouch, but powerful enough for just about any job.

'Easy..to ..handle air hoses

y cuts urface ing or hopsucks shop -scale said. e best ctor." "I've gone through many, many air hoses over the years-rubber, plastic, synthetic, you name it," said Travis Larson, senior editor. "They all get hard and inflexible in cold weather, they're hard to coil, black ones leave marks all over walls when you're trimming, and they're very heavy. The four or five survivors are all hanging neatly in my shop, unused for the three years since I converted to polyurethane lines." Polyurethane is soft, so it's more flexible than rubfuel'.The air hoses are lightweight, flexible and easy to coil up at the end of the day, even in low temps. They don't leave scuff marks, so you can use them inside without marking up the walls. And the hoses are tough enough to withstand use and abuse on job sites. "I love the way the hose's slippery surface glides over everything. You don't have to constantly pull on them to drag them, and they don't get hung up like the old-fashioned hoses did," Larson said. "They're well worth the premium price tag." A 50-ft. polyurethane hose costs $30, versus about $10 for a traditional hose. Polyurethane hoses are available at some home centers or online (amazon.com is one source).





Oscillating tools
There's been an explosion in the number of oscillating tools appearing on tool shelves over the past year; The patent for the tool, held by Fein, has expired. So a bunch of tool companies jumped on the opportunity and came up with their own versions. An oscillating tool is that rare kind of tool that you don't know you need until you get one. And now anyone can afford to pop for one-the new versions cost as little as $40, compared with $310 and I!P for Fein versions. The tool operates very simply. The business end vibrates back and forth like crazy. That's it. But attach different heads like sanders, scrapers, rasps and even shears, and these things can accomplish all types of different tasks.

From top to bottom:

Chicago's Multifunction Power Tool. $35. harborfreight.com Dremel's Multi-Max. $119. dremel.com Ridgid's Multi-tool.

~~~ '- _..~-t""-__ ._...


$100 (sold as part of the Jobmax

I ~

combo kit). ridgid.com Bosch's Multi-X. $180. boschtools.com Craftsman's Nextec Multi-Tool.

$100. craftsman.com Rockwell's SoniCrafter. version). rockwelltools.com

$120 (20-piece

Fein's MultiMaster. $210 (FMM 250Q Select version at amazon.com). feinus.com

Dual-use wire stripper

"I used to use two tools for wiring projects-a goofy little stamped metal tool to strip off sheathing and a pair of wire strippers to strip insulation off individual wires," said Ken Collier, editor in chief. "Those days are gone. My new wire strippers do both tasks admirably. "I've rewired my cabin, my workshop and most of my 100-plus-year-old house. Wire strippers that strip the sheathing and the insulation make wiring faster, easier and more pleasant." These strippers start at $15 at home centers.

Three tools inone

The Japanese eat's paw has three intended uses: It pulls nails, works as a pry bar (the thin blade will get under just about anything) and acts like a small hammer to whack things. Once you own one, you'll find other uses for it too. "It has a permanent place in my tool belt," said Ken Collier, editor in chief. "I use it for prying open cans, as a roughand-ready scraper, and for pulling small nails that would slide out of the hammer claw. It's an always-with-me tool." Japanese eat's paws and other small eat's bars start at $10 at home centers.

Time ... saving triangle

When professional landscaper Jeff Timrn installs paver patios and driveways, he focuses on top-quality workmanship. This giant triangle is perfect because it allows him to quickly and accurately chalk square layout lines. He could do the same thing using the 3-4-5 triangle method, but this is faster. Just align the chalk line with the edge of the triangle and snap the line. The triangle folds to take up less room in the truck. The Asquare folding triangle is available online for about $60. Search for "asquare folding triangle." One source is amazon. com. 84

came up that rare 1you get -the new ~310 and The nd forth ach rs, shears, of

Super ..sharp p,runing saw

"I carry these Japanese pruning saws when I'm camping, canoeing or working in my yard. The saws have aggressive teeth, so they can saw through tough branches in less time than it takes to get out a chain saw. I even use them to cut through frozen branches," said Ken Collier, editor in chief. On some models, the blade can be folded into the handle, allowing you to carry the saw safely in your pocket. The saws start at $22 at home centers.

Jack ..of ..al'l..trades gardening tool

"My all-in-one gardening tool has saved me a lot of trips to the garage. I use the bypass pruners for cutting back hydrangeas and spireas. The saw is handy for tearing through fibrous, difficult stems like rugosa rose canes and honeysuckle vines, which don't always cut cleanly with a pruning tool. I've been using the small knife blade to slice open bags of potting soil, mulch and manure," said Elisa Bernick, associate editor. You can find the tools for $15 and up at amazon.com.

Steel and plastic toolboxes aren't always best, especially when you're up on a roof or doing inside trim work. Sometimes canvas rigger's bags (about $25) are a better crib for your tools ..Keep little tools on the outside, big tools in the middle. The canvas bag is lightweight and easy to carry and it won't scratch floors. But know this: You'll wreck the pockets if you haul unsheathed chisels. Search online for "canvas riggers bag." intendpry bar ;t about nmerto :, you'll ny tool :hief. "I roughg small rammer r small

Gas ..free mower for small yards

"I never have to deal with gas, oil, exhaust fumes or starting problems with my Neuton mower-it runs on a rechargeable battery. And my wife likes it because it's easy to operate and push uphill," said associate editor Jeff Gorton. "Battery-powered mowers like this one are perfect for small lawns like mine. They eliminate the need to store fuel, are more eco-friendly than gas engines and are light enough to lift over retaining walls." Neuton mowers start at $300 plus shipping from neutonpower.com







I i



Spotlight on impact drivers

To sort out the pros and cons of impact drivers, we put them in the hands of our staff editors and field editors, who are pros on the job and DIY guys at home. Here's what we learned:
It's all about torque
Impact drivers have one overwhelming advantage over standard drills and drivers: enormous torque. Basically, that means you can drive a big screw (or bore a big hole) with a small driver. In this photo, we sank 3/8 x 10-in. selfdrilling lag screws into cedar lumber. No pilot holes, no cheating.

you need?

The only driver

Maybe. An impact driver will handle just about any job, and some of our testers have already retired their old drivers. But when high torque isn't needed, most of us like to avoid the noise and reach for standard cordless drills or drivers instead.

I , ,

Not just for driving screws

Impact drivers make great drills. With small bits (up to 1/4 in. or so), they act like a drill-but at nearly twice the rpm of most cordless drills. With bigger bits, they kick into high-torque impact mode so you can bore a big hole with a small driver.

Loud .. Really loud

An impact driver can bring a heavy-metal drummer to tears. Wear muffs or earplugs-or get fitted for a hearing aid. Your call.

hammer drill
With a standard driver, you have to get your weight behind the screw and push hard. Otherwise, the bit will "cam out" and chew up the screw head. Not so with an impact driver. The hammer mechanism that produ.ces torque also creates some forward pressure. That means you don't have to push so hard to avoid cam-out. Great for one-handed, stretch-and-drive situations.

An impact driver works kind of like a hammer drill and sounds a lot like one. But it's no substitute for a hammer drill. An impact driver's innards are engineered to generate torque, not powerful forward blows.

Small and smaller

Generally, there's a big torque difference between 12- and 18-volt models. But some of the 18-volt sluggers are amazingly compact-not much bigger than their 12-volt cousins. Big torque in a compact toolthat's why most of our testers favored the 18-volt versions.

ret driv-

Hex shafts only

The chuck on an impact driver makes for quick changes; just slide the collar forward and slip in the bit. But you'll have to buy hex-shaft. drill bits. Regular bits won't work.

st about Ie of our sady revers. But ue isn't IS like to nd reach ordless istead,

Prepare for impact

Pick up a set of hex-shaft accessories for about $25 (drill bits, driver bits, socket adapters). You'll want most of that stuff sooner or later, and buying a kit will save you a few bucks. Check the label and get a set that's tough enough for impact-

Easy to handle
You might think that extreme torque puts extreme strain on your arm. Nope. For reasons Isaac Newton could explain, an impact driver actually generates less wrist twist than a standard driver. Don't be fooled by the macho-man feeling you get when you effortlessly sink a big screw. A little princess can do the same thing.

Consider a combo kit

For a few bucks more than an impact driver alone, you can add a driver, a drill or a hammer drill to your tool collection. This; driver/ impact driver twosome cost us just $25 more than €lither tool sold separately. We couldn't resist. er can -metal . Wear or get ng aid.

driver duty.

They look alike outside, but ...

The difference is how they transfer torque from the motor to the chuck. On a standard drill or driver, the motor and chuck are locked together through gears; as the workload increases, the motor strains. An impact driver behaves the same under light loads. But when resistance increases, a clutch-like mechanism disengages the motor from the chuck for a split second. The motor continues to turn and builds momentum. Then the clutch re-engages with a slam, transferring momentum to the chuck. All of this hapImpact driver pens about 50 times per second, Standard driver Torque: 930 in.-Ibs. and the result is three or four times Torque: 265 in.-Ibs. as much torque from a similar-size tool.

Good for
gearheads, too
They don't have nearly the torque of big impact wrenches, but cordless impact drivers can be a time-saver when you tinker with engines. They're perfect for small engines, where less torque is usually enough. For automotive work, consider an "angle" version, such as the Craftsman 17562. Hitachi, Makita, Ridgid and others also make angle impact drivers.

works ammer lot like stitute An imrds are erate ful for-







Impactdriver roundup
It wasn't

I! I

easy, but after weeks of testing, retesting and arguing, we settled on six favorites. The models shown here are widely available at home centers and hardware

stores. If you're willing to do some hunting, you'll fir several other models and manufacturers.

OuroveraU favorite
Milwaukee 2650-22 Cost: $275 (Ouch!) Torque: 1,400 io-Ibs. Weight: 3.5 lbs. Battery: 18V lithium (2) Of our 10 testers, eight gave this one the top rating. In our lag-screw races, it consistently matched or exceeded the others. In addition to raw power, it has all the features we loved: a tool-belt hook, a bright work light and a battery "fuel gauge." Bummer: No onboard bit storage.

Compact bargain
Hitachi WHI0DFL Cost: $125 Torque: 840 in.-Ibs. Weight: 2.zlbs. Battery: 12V lithium (2) You can find a smaller and lighter driver, or more torqu or a lower price. But for a combination of all three I those traits, you can't beat this light, powerful, affordab little gem. Cramp warning: If you have big hands or wear gloves 0 the job, the handle might be too short. Otherwise, it's or of the most comfortable drivers we tested.


Dissenting opinion: The DeWalt DCF826KL is better. It has almost as much torque, but it's lighter, more compact and comfortable.

Terrific torque, low prices

Porter-Cable PCL1801DK-2 Cost: $170 Torque: 1,600 in.-Ibs. Weight: 3.6Ibs. Battery: 18V lithium (2) You can't beat this combination: Top-tier torque at a price that's about $100 below most of the competition. Skepticism: Top torque rating by far, but in our tests performed about the same as other pro-grade 18-vo models.

Big power in small packages.

Bosch PS41-2A Cost: $145 Torque: 930 in.-Ibs. Weight: 2 lbs. Battery: 12V lithium (2) Among the 12-volt models we tried, this one takes two prizes: lightest and most compact. Plus, it's a runner-up in torque. Bonus points: Battery fuel gauge!

DeWalt DCF815S2 Cost: $139 Torque: 950 in.-lbs. Weight: 2.3 lbs. Battery: 12V lithium (2) This driver tops our list for 12-volt torque. And although it's taller than most, it's lightweight and comfy. Dissenting opinion: Torque-it's THE reason to have an impact driver. So these 12-volt models just don't make sense. Get an 18-volt.

RyobiP230 Cost: $80 Torque: 1,200 in.-Ibs. Weight: 4.5 lbs. Battery: 18V NiCad (2) Though not as powerful as most of the other 18-volt models, this driver has plenty of torque for all but the toughest jobs-and a crazy-low price tag. Curmudgeon's note: Don't buy anything with a NiCa battery. Lithium is the only way to go.


you'll find

ore torque, 11three of affordable

. gloves on se, it's one

91 94

Planning Tip: Permits and safety Planning Tip: Build a privacy screen

96 98

Simple garden archway

Tool Tip: Hacksaw blade installation Installation Tip: Solution for hard soil

99 Classic cobblestone path

100 Planning Tip: Add edging for garden beds 103 Planning Tip: Consider mixed materials 104 Repair Tip; Use a paver puller ur tests it e 18-volt

106 Soothing backyard fountain

109 Planning Tip: Install an outdoor outlet


Garden arbor

114 Installation Tip: Soften soil with water

115 Defeat crabgrass

116 Yard Care Tip: Reduce hand trimming 117 Yard Care Tip: Try ride-by weed shooting

118 Simple bench

a NiCad

-----ne-dayisland deck
Create a comfortable retreat anywhere in your yard n:1. ost decks are attached to houses, but there's no rea- treated" decking and screws would lower the cost .UlI son they have to be. Sometimes the best spot to set $900. You may need to special-order composite deckir
up a deck chair and relax is at the other end of the yard, and hidden fasteners if you use the same ones as show tucked into a shady corner of the garden. And if you here, but everything else is stocked at home centers I don't attach the deck to the house, you don't need deep lumberyards. frost footings-which can save hours of backbreaking labor, especially in wooded A deck you can build in a day or rocky areas where footings are difficult The slmpllclty of this deck makes it fast to build. With a helper and all the to dig. materials ready to go first thing in the morning, you can have a completed This deck was designed with simple deck before sundown. If you add a step to your deck and use hidden deck construction in mind. If you can cut fasteners as shown, you might need a few more hours to finish the i.~b. boards and drive screws, you can build it. The only power tools you'll need are a circular saw and a drill. Shown is premium grade, low-maintenance composite decking with hidden fasteners, which brought the total cost to $2,100, but using standard




Best in DIY
Planning Tip
Permits and safety
If all or part of the deck Is higher than 30 in.

he cost to .te decking ; as shown centers or

oM the ground, you'll need a building permit and railings. If you Intend to build any kind of structure on top of the deck or attach the deck to the house, you also need a permit. Also, keep the deck at least 4 ft. back from the property line.

id all the rnpleted

fen deck ie lob,

Place the footings and beams

Layout the two beams parallel to each other, 9 ft. apart. Screw on temporary 1x4 stretchers across the ends of the beams, overhanging them each the same distance, then measure diagonally to make sure the beams are square to each other. Mark the location of the gravel base (see Figure A, p. 92) by cutting the grass with a shovel, then move the beams out of the way and cut out the sad where the gravel will go. Establish the highest and lowest points with a string and string level to get a rough idea of how deep to dig and how much gravel to put in to make the blocks level (Figure A). Tamp the dirt with a block to make a firm base, then spread the gravel. Place the blocks and level them against each other and in both directions (Photo 1), adding or scraping out gravel as needed. Use construction adhesive between the 4-in.-thick blocks if you stack them, or use 8-in. blocks. If your site slopes so much that one side will be more than 2 ft. off the ground, support it on a 4x4 post on a frost footing instead-it'll look better and be safer. Set the beams across the blocks and square them to each other, using the same lx4 stretchers to hold them parallel and square (Photo 2). If the beams are not perfectly level, shim them with plastic or pressure-treated wood shims (sold in home centers). Mark the joist locations on the beams, starting with a joist on the end of each beam. Shown are 11 joists spaced 12 in. on center to keep the composite decking from sagging over time, but wood decking can be spaced 16 in. on center. Instead of toenailing, which often splits the wood, use metal angles to hold
Lay a quick foundation with minimal digging by setting concrete blocks on gravel. Level from high to low spots with a string level.

Take diagonal measurements and tap one beam forward or back to square the beams. Temporary stretchers hold the beams parallel.

Screw on angle brackets at each joist location instead of toenailing, which can split and weaken the joists and knock the beam out of square.

down the joists. This also makes it easy to place the joists. Attach one alongside each joist location (Photo 3).

Cantilever the joists on all sides

Set the two outer joists and the center joist on the beams against the metal angles. Extend the joists over the beam on one side by 10-1/2 in.,


Figure A
Island deck
Dimensions: 11' 8" square (not including stairs)


Materials list
4" x 8" x 12" solid concrete block Class V (5) crushed gravel 4x6 x 10' pressure-treated timbers 2x6 x 12' (12" o.c. joist spacing) 1-1/2" corner angles 7" reinforcing angles (or 2x4 x 11" blocks) 5/4x6 x 12' decking (Trex Brasilia Cayenne) lx8 x 12' matching skirt board Joist hanger nails 1-5/8" deck screws

Cutting list
6 (min'> 6 bags

KEY QTY. SIZE & DESCRIPTION 2 A 3-l/2" x 5-l/2" x 120" beams

B C 13 2 7 24 2 2 2 1 1 1 6 10 25 1-1/2" x 5-l/2" x 135" joists 1-l/2" x 5-1/2" x 138" rim joists 1-l/2" x 5-1/2" x 48" stair stringers 1" x 5-1/2" x 138" deck boards (cut in place) 1" x 5-1/2" x 55-1/2" stair treads 3/4" x 7-l/2" x 140" skirt board 3/4" x 7-1/2" x 138-l/2" skirt board 3/4" x 7-1/2" x 48" skirt board 3/4" x 7-1/2" x 24" skirt board 3/4" x 7·1/2" x 57-1/2" riser 1-l/2" x 5-1/2" x 7-l/2" blocking 1-1/2" x 5-1/2" x 10·l/2" blocking 1-l/2" x 3-l/2" x 11" joist supports (can be used instead of metal reinforcing angles) 1/4" x 5-l/2" spacers

2 19
22 25 25 5 2lbs. Sibs. 2lbs. 2lbs. 2 2


J I( L M

3" deck screws


2" stainless steel trim head screws fasten Master 1Q deck fasteners (fastenmaster.com) lx4 x 10' temporary stretchers (for layout)







Install the middle and end joists, then screw on the rim joists; using clamps (or a helper) to hold them in place.

but let them run long over the opposite beam. Trim them to exact length when the deck is almost done so you can avoid ripping the last deck board. Fasten the joists to the angles with deck screws. Screw on both rim joists-you'll have to take the second rim joist back off when the joists are trimmed and then reattach it, but it's needed to hold the joists straight and to hold the outside joists up (Photo 4). The decking will hold the outside joists up when the rim joist is removed later. Set the other joists on the beams and fasten them to the beams and rim joists. Reinforce the outside corners with additional blocking (Photo 5). Finally, mark the center of the joists and run blocking between each pair of joists. Set the blocking 1/2 in. to the side of the center mark, alternating from side to side, so that the blocking doesn't end up in the gap between the deck boards.

Add a step
The deck surface should be no more than 8 in. above the ground where you step up on it. If it's close, just build IIp the ground or add concrete pavers. Otherwise, add a step. To cantilever the stairs, extend the stair stringers underneath four deck joists, then join the floor joists and stair stringers with, reinforcing angles (as shown) or wood 2x4s, which are less expensive (Photo 6). Use a screw first to hold the angles or 2x4 blocks. in place, then finish fastening them with nails, which have greater shear strength. The 5/4 (nominal) decking shown (Trex Brasilia; trex. com) called for a maximum spacing between stair stringers of 9 in. on center, but you can space stringers 16 in. on center if you use solid wood.

For strong connections at the comers, set comer blocking between the last two joists, then nail the rim joist from both directions.

Hidden fasteners create a clean 1001<

The deck boards shown are attached with hidden fasteners (see Materials list). Other types of hidden fasteners
Frame the steps next. You can avoid additional footings by hanging stringers from the deck joists with metal angles or 2x4s.



Attach the deck boards. Decks look best when you use hidden fasteners, but they make installation slower. Trim the deck boards flush with the rim joist when you're done.

ing trim head screws just below the surface at the spacer locatio (see Figure A).

are available-or you can use deck screws, which create lots of holes but save time and money. Start with a full board at one side, aligning it with the edge of the rim joist. Leave the boards long at both ends, then cut them back later all at once so the edges are straight. Use four 1/4-in. spacers between each pair of boards as you fasten them, but check the distance to the rim joist after every four boards and adjust spacing if necessary. At the next to the last board, remove the rim joist and mark and cut the ends off the joists so the last deck board lines up with the edge of the rim joist. Reinstall the rim joist and attach the last boards. Nail 1/4-in. spacers ripped from treated wood to the rim joist every 16 in. so water won't get trapped against the rim joist. Screw on skirt boards with two screws at each spacer (Photo 8). Attach the decking to the steps after the skirt boards are fastened. Finally, finish the steps (Photo 9).

Screw skirt boards to the sides of the steps for a finished lor then measure, cut and attach a riser board to the face of the step

Best in DIY
Planning Tip
Build a privacy screen
If your deck (or patio) leaves you feeling like you're on display, this privacy screen is a handsome solution. Visit familyhandyman.com instructions. Another way to get your prIvacy is to plant . trees. Of course you'll have to wait awhile for the benefits, but the beauty and shade will be worth it. Visit famllyhandyman.com and search "planting trees" for Complete how-to. and search "privacy screen" for complete how-to




Simple garden archway

Turn rustic materials into a flowering arch

I!I to assemble? Then this archway trellis is perfect. It's

made from inexpensive steel "rebar" that you can find at any home center. Once the trellis is covered with climbing plants, the steel disappears and you have a dramatic entryway into your garden. This design, about 7 ft. high and 6 ft. wide, is made of two 20-ft. lengths of rebar that you bend into arches. You then simply join the arches with rebar circles, lashing them together with wraps of copper wire. No welding needed-and there's no maintenance. The materials for this trellis cost less than $25. For comparison, a welded metal or high-end vinyl trellis costs several hundred dollars. Here you'll learn how to create smooth bends in rebar and how to assemble the trellis. You'll need a few

ooking for a garden feature that's low cost and easy

leckinq, drivcer locations

simple tools, including a conduit bender ($30) for tight curves and a hacksaw for cutting the bar to length. You may want to pick up an angle grinder ($50) and a metalcutting blade for quicker rebar cuts. And don't forget to buy a pair of heavy leather gloves. Allow a full day to build your first trellis. Once you've mastered the process, you should be able to build a second one in less than half a day. Rebar itself is relatively inexpensive: A 20-ft. length of 1/2-in. costs about $7 and 3/8-in. about $4. The main problem is getting your 20-ft. lengths home. Rebar is floppy, not stiff. One trick is to buy a 16-ft.-long 2x4, attach it to your roofrack and then lash the rebar to it. (Be sure to attach a red flag to each end of it.) Otherwise, delivery costs vary from $50 to more than $100.











Figure A


Garden archway


Materia,ls list
Two liZ-in. x ZO-ft. lengths of rebar (for arches) One liZ-in. x IO-ft. length of rebar (for stakes) Two pIS-in. x ZO~ft. lengths of rebar (for circles) IS-gauge copper wire Plastic garage door stop molding or other stiff but bendable material Conduit bender Cable ties Chalk bottle


Best in DIY
Tool Tip
v i/ Hacksaw blade installation
Install the blade so the teeth face forward. Hacksaws are designed so the blade will cut when it's pushed (the forward stroke)

- _ _.....



- ~-.~


'""'" ••




--.... -

rather than when pulled (see





photo). Some blades have an arrow that shows the correct Installation (the arrow points toward the handle). Install the blade so it's tight in the saw and won't bend. When you do a lot of cutting, the blade will heat up and expand,

You/II need rebar in two sizes: 1/2 in. for the arches and 3/8 in. for the circles.

so be sure to tighten It if it starts to bend.

Create smooth bends with stakes

To create that swooping arch from the liz-in. rebar, make a simple bending jig on the ground. Cut the lo-ft.length of liZ-in. rebar into ten lO-in.-long stakes (Photo 1). Drive one rebar stake into the ground and tie a 3-ft. string to it. When you pull the string taut, you create a compass and can mark a smooth arc with chalk (Photo Z). Space the other nine stakes evenly in a semicircle around the are, driving them at least 5 in. deep (Photo 3).

The 3-ft. radius makes an arch that will span 6 ft. ' can make it larger or slightly smaller if you want. bending liZ-in. rebar into a z-ft. radius is difficult. Rebar may kink when you bend it, so insert a cushio 9-ft. length of plastic garage door stop molding; $1 home centers) between the rebar and the stakes to sol the bend (Photo 4). You can use some other firm but f ible item, like vinyl siding or a strip of flexible hardbc to cushion the rebar as well. Photo 4 shows how to bend the arches. Hold the rs


f rebar


Cut 112-in. rebar into ten IO-in. stakes. Saw about two-thirds of the way through with a hacksaw, then snap off the stake.

Drive a stake and tie a string to it. Mark a 3-ft.-radius the lawn using the string to guide the chalk bottle.

arc on

Space nine stakes evenly around the semicircle, and drive them down about 5 in. Mark the middle stake with a string.

Lay plastic molding around the stakes. With a helper, center the rebar on the middle stake and push the ends around the semicircle.


at the ends while you bend it to keep the arch smooth. Overbend it slightly; the ends will spring back a bit when you release them. Don't worry about that; the arches will form the correct radius when you set them in the ground.

circles aren't perfect. Minor imperfections will be minimized when you wire them to the arches, and hidden when your greenery grows.

Assemble the arches

Now find the ideal spot in your yard for the trellis and layout the footprint (Photo 6). To keep it sturdy and stable, you have to sink each arch end about CAUTION 18 in. into the ground. Call 811 or visit call811.com to locate underground lines Measure up each leg before you dig. and wrap tape at the l8-in. mark as a depth guide (Photo 7). With a helper, press the ends of the two arches into the ground. Drive a stake partway down to get started, or use a 3/4-in. steel pipe as a holder (see "Solution for hard soil," p. 98).

Create circles with a conduit bender

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Link the arches together with circles bent from the 3/8in. rebar. Cut the rebar into 4-ft. lengths and bend them with a l/2-in. conduit bender [avai lab le in the electrical department of any home center or hardware store). Work on a solid surface and simply fit one end of the rebar into the lip of the bender. Then form the curve by pulling the handle and pressing down on the tool with your foot (Photo 5). Shift the bender and continue the bend until you have a complete circle. The circle will have a l2-in. diameter. Cut off the extra robar, Don't worry if the


extra rebar. Repeat until you have nine circles.

Position the anchor holes for the trellis 6 ft. apart and 12 in. between arches. Drive in stakes to start the holes, then pull them out.


Position the trellis and push the ends 18 in. deep into the ground. Mark the depth with masking tape. Position the circles between the arches with cable ties. Then tightly bind the circles to the arches with 2-ft. lengths of copper wire. Wire down as much of the side of the circle as you can to make the circle stable.



Then add the 3/8-in. rebar circles. Position the first circle about 2 ft. up from the bottom of your arch. Any lower and you may be inviting little feet to use the trellis as a makeshift ladder. Use cable ties to temporarily secure the circles in place, with the cut ends against one arch (Photo 8). Later you'll cover these sharp edges with the wire wrap. Space the remaining circles evenly around the arch. They'll be about 6 in. apart. The cable ties allow you to easily reposition the circles for the best appearance before you wire them into place. To bind the circles, simply wrap the copper wire around the arch/circle joint. There is no special technique here. About 2 ft. of 18-gauge solid copper wire will do. Just keep the binding tight and extend it about 2 in. along the joint for good stiffness. Finally, tap the wire ends down flat to the rebar with a hammer. Once you attach the circles to the arches, your trellis is ready to shepherd creeping vines upward, adding height and dimension to your outdoor space.

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Installation Tip

Solution for hard soil

If you have hard soil, you won't be able to push the arches directly into the ground. Instead, you'll have to plant the rebar arches in a pipe. Drive an l8-in. length of 3/4-in. galvanized pipe most of the way into the ground as shown. Pull out the pipe and poke the dirt from the inside of the pipe until it's open. Then push the 3/4-in. pipe back into the hole and drive it down until it's flush with the ground. Now, simply insert the arch ends in the pipe.