How to Maintain a Home

What You'll Need
Star Drill
Chalk Line
Steel Wool
Hot Pads
Steel Tape
Paint Stirrer
Propane Torch
Steel Square
Soldering Iron
Friction Tape
Paint Roller
Paper Plates

Here are miscellaneous how-to tips and suggestions that you will find useful around the house. They are merely a few of the many handyman tips provided in our Show-How Sheet series. Inside this document you will find information about painting, sanding, sawing, measuring, and other miscellaneous topics.


If you are often bothered by the paintbrush being in the wrong place when you are painting, use a magnet on the side of your paint can. Doing so keeps the brush within easy reach at all times. A magnet attaches to the metal can easily and provides an anchor for the metal flange on the paintbrush. The brush can be stuck to the magnet or pulled away at any time. You will probably find a magnet holder much more convenient than laying the brush across the top of the can. A brush laid across the can often gets paint on the handle, then onto your hands.

Place a small amount of paint in the middle of a paper plate. Place the paint can on the plate. The plate will stick to the can and catch any drippings from the brush.

Paint always seems to build up in the lid groove on the can during every painting job. The build up often causes paint to run down the side of the can. You can eliminate this problem by punching several holes in the lid groove with a 4 or 6-penny nail. These holes permit the paint to drain back into the can each time it accumulates in the lid groove. The holes in no way affect the resealing of the can. The lid seals by pressure on the sides of the groove, rather than on the bottom.

Put any leftover paint in a quart can and seal it tightly. Use the regular lid for the can if it is available. If the regular lid gets bent or lost, use the plastic lid from a coffee can, which fits smoothly onto the top of many quart cans of paint. The plastic lid makes an airtight seal to keep the paint in good condition until you use it later. You'll also be able to see the color of the paint.

For small touch-up paint jobs, try using a pipe stem cleaner. A pipe stem cleaner is ideal for applying small quantities of paint on flat or uneven surfaces. A pipe stem cleaner is especially handy for reaching into hidden corners and grooves on irregular surfaces. Simply discard the pipe stem cleaner when the job is through. There is no cleanup!

Your .25-inch power drill makes an ideal tool for cleaning paint rollers when the paint job is done. Remove the roller and pad from the roller handle and attach it to a paint stirrer that fits into the chuck of your drill. Use a discarded cardboard box or a newspaper-lined waste can to catch the paint as it is thrown from the roller pad by the spinning drill.

Sanding Tips

You can make regular sheets of sandpaper or emery paper last longer and work better by backing them with masking tape. The tape gives each sandpaper sheet more body and helps to keep it from tearing or creasing while you are working. A few pieces of masking tape on the back of a regular sheet of sandpaper will add two to three lifetimes to the paper.

Use regular sandpaper to smooth the sharp edges of cut glass, ceramic tile, and porcelain. Wrap a piece of fine sandpaper around a scrap piece of wood. A short piece of 1x2-inch lumber makes an ideal block for sanding these types of cut materials. Rub the sandpaper sheet along the edge of the glass evenly and smoothly. As the cutting edge of the sandpaper is worn away, rotate the sheet of paper on the block to provide a new surface until the sheet is used up.

Sanding irregular and uneven surfaces can sometimes be a problem. Corners and grooves can be extremely difficult to reach with a flat piece of sandpaper. For sanding irregular edges of table tops, and chair legs, use a deck of cards as the sanding block. The cards and sandpaper will adjust to the contour of the surface you are sanding. It makes a sanding block that is quite flexible, yet provides a firm base for holding the sandpaper against a curved surface.

Use old record covers to hold various grades of sandpaper. They keep the sandpaper clean and orderly. Old record covers also enable you to determine the grit of the paper quickly and easily, since the texture and grit show through the holes.

Sawing Tips

It's important to select the correct blade for your hacksaw. Select a hacksaw blade that always keeps at least three teeth on the surface you are sawing. While a coarse blade cuts faster and lasts longer, you'll get better results when at least three teeth are touching the surface at all times. You can avoid ragged edges when cutting armored cable by wrapping the cable with regular electrical tape before you begin to saw.

Remove the tape and you will find a smooth, clean edge that slides easily into other fittings without filing. You can avoid jagged edges on sawed conduit by driving a short length of dowel into the conduit before you cut it. You can also use a short length of dowel as a support when cutting any hollow metal tubing with a hacksaw. The dowel is especially helpful when making slanted or irregular cuts in hollow tubing.

Measuring Tips

Finding the center of a circle is sometimes essential for various jobs around the house. Follow these steps to make it easy.

Draw a straight line across the circle at the top from Y to Z. Draw this at any point in the upper section of the circle. Now use a carpenter's square to draw a square within the circle. Use the Y and Z line to create the square. When the square is drawn within the circle, draw lines diagonally from one corner of the square to another. The exact center of the circle is always at the point where these two diagonal lines cross.

You may also want to find the exact center of a line the easiest and fastest way. One simple way is to use a compass to draw an arc at any point between the two ends of the line. Set the end of the compass at one end of the line and draw an arc at any point beyond the halfway point. Move the compass to the opposite end of the line and draw an arc from that point with the compass at exactly the same setting. Now draw a straight line from the points where the two arcs cross at the top to the point where the arcs cross at the bottom. The center of the line is at the exact point where this line crosses the line you are measuring.

One of the easiest ways to find the exact distance between the centers of studs is to measure from the outside edge of one stud to the inside edge of the adjoining stud. The figure shows how to measure pipe when cutting replacement pieces for repair jobs. Always allow enough additional pipe to be screwed into the pipe fitting. In other words, measure the distance from fitting to fitting, then allow for about .75-inches on each end to be inserted into the pipe fittings.

A chalk line is usually the fastest and most efficient way to draw a long, straight line. Stretch the chalk line between the two points and snap it firmly against the work surface. The chalk line will mark the exact location on the surface easily, quickly, and accurately.

Miscellaneous Tip

To reduce splitting when driving nails near the end of the board, blunt the nail slightly before driving it into the wood. This blunting makes the nail spread the wood instead of splitting it.

Use the heat from a propane torch to help loosen stubborn nuts. Concentrate the heat from the torch on the nut instead of on the end of the bolt. The heat expands the nut slightly, making it easier to break loose.

A small disposable cup is a handy tool for small soldering jobs. A little water in the bottom of the cup helps hold the cup in place. It also prevents the bottom of the cup from melting. Cut slits into the sides of the cup to help hold wires or other small materials in position while you solder them. The cup also catches the drippings from the soldering.

Ceramic or enameled hot pads help prevent the flame from a propane torch from spreading and causing heat damage. Wetting the surrounding area can also help. Ceramic or enameled hot pads also help keep the heat at the desired point, making the torch work more effectively. When using a star drill, hold it with a combination plier wrench. Doing so absorbs some of the shock, reducing sting and fatigue in your hand.