Whether you’re working on a home improvement project or a minor repair, sometimes knowing a few tips can save you time money and aggravation. Here are 33 different tips to help you get the job done:
Painting & Sanding
- To reduce dust while sanding joint compound and plaster, use a drywall wet sander. This tool is a sponge with two sides. You can use the coarse side to level ridges and the high spots. The fine side is perfect for smoothing.
- To open a window that is sealed with dry paint, use a sash knife. A hacksaw blade or a utility knife will also work.
- When sponging corners and along trim, cut off a small piece of a sponge to reach those tight spots. A small artist brush can then be used for touch up as needed.
- If considering a spray gun look for one that is comfortable to hold, doesn’t clog and puts out enough paint for the job you need done. It is also important to see what shape the gun’s mist comes out. This is called a pattern. Try to use a gun that is adjustable. A good spray gun may be expensive but can really speed up a job.
- To put a roll of sandpaper in a sander drum, tighten the nut squeezing the sides of the drum together. This will increase the diameter and keep the sandpaper from slipping off. To remove the paper, loosen the nut.
- You find copper pipe in the walls and you can not remove it since you want to run CPVC for the hot and cold water supply to your sink. There are special transition fittings available that can join CPVC to copper or brass. You can find them at a hardware store or your local home center.
- When plumbing use MAPP gas cylinders. They are a combination of propane and methylacetylenepropadiene. They come in a yellow cylinder and burn hotter and solders better than pure propane does.
- When you shut off the water, banging is caused by water pounding against a valve. This is called water hammer. To stop it you can get a water hammer arrester, which is a small pipe-like device that absorbs the shock.
- If a plunger is not available, try a plastic drain tool. It has barbs at one end which grab the clog and pull it out.
- After you use an auger, rinse it in warm water and spray with a lubricant. This will keep rust from forming.
Drywall & Spackling
- When cutting holes in drywall or cutting out a counter top, try high-speed cutting tools. They work quickly and are an alternative to the saber saw.
- Screws should be used when hanging a sheet of drywall. Drive the screw deep enough to create a dimple. Do not break the face paper or you will weaken the screws holding power. The dimple can then be filled with joint compound. A drywall gun is used by professional drywall installers to drive drywall screws. It is similar to a drill with a screwdriver but also has a clutch with an adjustable depth gauge. If you a drywalling an entire house consider a drywall gun.
- When dry walling a ceiling, rent a cradle. It will help you raise sheets of drywall into place quickly and safely. The cradle can lift as high as 11 feet. It is on casters and it can be rolled into position. Most lifts can hold a full 4×16 sheet of drywall and can even install drywall on slopped ceilings since it has a titling platform feature.
- Three different drywall knives are needed since you will put joint compound on in three coats. A 6-inch is used for the first coat, an 8-inch for the second and a 10 or 12 inch for the final coat. Before you begin, round the corners of the knives with a file so they will not dig into the drywall. There are specialty knives for inside and outside corners.
- To cut panels with a straight cut, guide a saw against a jig made from plywood. A 3 or 4 inch wide piece of plywood that is 3/4 inch thick is screwed to a wider piece. Before you trim the panel, trim the jig. Guide the saw against the narrow piece of plywood to cut off the wider piece. Align the cut edge of the jig with your layout line, clamp the jig to the panel and then make the cut.
- If you purchase a power miter saw, you must check the saw before you begin using it. Unplug it and remove the guards so you can get to the blades. The saw may have been misaligned during shipping. Put a speed square between the fence and the body of the saw blade. Push the saw down slightly so the square is not resting on any teeth. If you see a gap between the saw fence and the square the saw is out of alignment and must be adjusted. The owner’s manual will give directions on how to do this but it usually involves adjusting some screws.
Wood Working & Finish Carpentry
- To keep wood from splitting and stop the nail from bending over on floors, drill a pilot hole in the visible surface. For #6 finishing nails use a 3/32- inch drill bit. You can also use an extra nail by clipping off the head, popping it in your drill and then using it as you so a standard drill bit.
- Use a two bit drill when drilling holes and driving screws with the same drill. A magnetic socket that fits in your drill holds the screwdriver. The drill that comes with the multi-bit also has an end that fits the socket. You can change from screwdriver to drill by just popping one in and the other out.
- When installing door trim, rub lipstick against the point of the miter. The lipstick will make a mark where you need to cut when you put the leg against the miter.
- When using levels to take a reading make sure you are precise. Make sure the bubble is centered between the lines on the vial. Use a level which allows you to adjust the vials that hold the bubbles so you can keep the level true. Always use the longest level that will fit in your work space to get the most accurate reading.
- To simplify installing trim around cabinets use a pneumatic brad gun which shoots small nails. It does not slip or slide. To use, hold the trim in one hand and pull the trigger with the other. It uses large nails and is more powerful than a nail gun.
- When installing cabinets, countersink the screws used. There heads should be below the surface of the wood. You should also drill a pilot hole the same diameter as the screw so the screw will not split the mounting rail. You can use a combination bit, which will make both holes.
- When installing drywall, to lay out the hole for a switch or outlet, rub lipstick on the junction box. Then put the drywall in place and gently push in the general area of the junction box. On the back of the drywall you will find a bright mark showing the location of the box.
- When running cable in existing walls, flexible wire fish tape is essential. It comes on a reel and you feed the tape through the wall from the junction box to the receptacle box. You then attach the wire to the tape and pull the wire through.
- For small jobs, a simple continuity tester is good. But for larger jobs, a non-contact voltage detector or professional grade tool may be needed.
- A cable ripper can be used to strip cable that is already installed in a box. Practice using the tool on scrap cable first. You do not want the ripper to cut too deep or you will damage wire insulation.
Ladders & Ladder Safety
- If you need to rent a ladder, rent one that will reach where you need to reach. Use ladder stabilizers for extra stability and to prevent damage to the gutter system.
- If you are using two or more extension ladders, you can use ladder jacks instead of scaffolding. They allow you to work from wooden or aluminum planks.
- If you need scaffolding for a bigger project, you may want to use aluminum planking. This provides a less bouncy work platform. Scaffolding takes longer to set up but makes a very secure and stable work platform.
- If you are working around power lines or performing electrical repairs make sure you are using a fiberglass or wooden ladder.
- Be careful when working with ladders. The feet of the ladder should be placed away from the building at a distance equal to one-fourth the height of the ladder. The legs should always be on a level surface. Use wood shims to level out uneven surfaces.
- Use ladder boots or wrap cloth around the top of a ladder. This prevents damage to the siding and keeps the legs from slipping.
- To secure the base of a ladder when the surface slopes, place a 2×4 across the base and drive two 2×4 stakes into the ground.