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New Year's resolution: better home



Published: Sat, January 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



By now you've probably broken all your resolutions: So much for losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, getting organized and bringing about world peace.

Don't despair. You can have a second chance.

Resolve to do something around the house, like tightening loose screws in a door hinge, fixing that broken chair leg, putting up shelves or maybe adding a dimmer switch.

If you feel a bit more energetic, build a bookcase or put up track lighting, clean out the garage or maybe paint a room or two. Who knows, you just might burn off some calories and get some exercise, which will go a long way toward making good on your original resolutions.

Don't be surprised if your "kill two birds with one stone" resolution routine has some very positive effects on your home fix-it "to-do" list. The surge of adrenaline you experience from the physical exertion and excitement associated with successfully making a few home improvements and burning off some calories can throw your do-it-yourself get-up-and-go into high gear.

Thus, in celebration of a new year and in consideration of your desire to get more exercise and to trim down, we offer some suggestions for home improvement that will assist you in your quest for self-improvement.

What to do

Is your home looking a little worse for wear? Does it need a few fixes here and there? Good impressions start at your front door. If your door's beat-up and faded, repaint it, using two coats of satin-finish paint. Flat is too dull, and gloss too shiny. Then, as budget allows, add a shiny knocker, fancy new hardware, a door mat and plants to set it off.

In the bathrooms, polish or replace sink fixtures and install a state-of-the-art shower head. Then, clean grout with a toothbrush and a 50-50 solution of bleach and warm water.

In the kitchen, new cabinet knobs and drawer pulls and well-scrubbed counters complete the transition.

In depth

Want to kick it up a notch? How about a kitchen or bath cabinet tune up? No money in the budget to replace or reface cabinets? First, tackle the hardware, adjusting hinges on misaligned doors. All you need is a screwdriver and a little trial and error. Fill any stripped screw holes with toothpicks and white glue so that loose hinges can be firmly reinstalled. Adjust or replace any catches that hold doors shut and any worn or bent drawer rollers and slides. Add felt bumper pads to silence doors.

After giving all interiors a good scrubbing, turn your attention to cosmetic details: Touch up nicks and scratches, tighten, glue or replace knobs and handles and clean wood cutting-boards with lemon juice and table salt.

Keeping mechanical systems working efficiently and saving energy should be a part of any New Year's resolution list. When it's cold outside your furnace, the water heater works harder, accounting for 86 percent of the typical winter gas bill. There are steps you can take to reduce seasonal gas bills.

First, for both safety and efficiency, have your furnace professionally inspected and perform routine maintenance such as changing filters, adjusting burners, lubricating mechanical parts and cleaning the blower chamber.

Second, if you haven't done so already, install a programmable thermostat to automatically control your home's temperature.

Third, weather-strip and caulk all drafty windows and doors -- that'll save at least 5 percent on your heating cost.

Fourth, check heating ducts for leaks, and make repairs with a mastic-type sealant (not duct tape). This could cut heating costs by 5 to 20 percent.

Finally, lowering the setting on your water heater thermostat can cut water heating by 10 to 20 percent.

Caulking tricks

If you'll be caulking to reduce drafts, weatherize or prevent interior leaks (such as around sinks and tubs), but are concerned that you'll end up with a mess, we'll have you caulking like a pro if you follow these simple steps.

Caulking requires two important tools: (1) your finger and (2) lots of paper towels or a damp sponge. Your finger, because it is flexible and can be formed to fit almost any shape or surface, and the paper towels or damp sponge so you can frequently clean your finger and the joint where the caulk is being applied.

Want to caulk like a pro? After wiping the joint with denatured alcohol, apply one continuous course of masking tape to either side of the joint. The edge of the tape should be held approximately one-sixteenth of an inch from the center of the joint.

Tip: Use blue painter's tape instead of conventional masking tape because it has less adhesive and is easier to remove. With the tape in place, caulk away, removing the excess as discussed earlier. Simply peel back the tape, pulling away from the joint, and voila, a perfect joint every time.

Outside upkeep

When it comes to exterior maintenance, unless you're socked in with ice and snow, the roof might be where you'll go.

When serious winter weather sets in, it pays to make a midseason check to see how your roof is holding up against heavy rains or ice and snow. One of the best means of accomplishing this is by using a pair of binoculars with both feet planted firmly on the ground.

If on the roof you must go, it's wise to note how pro roofers stay safe and avoid nasty falls. They wear soft rubber-soled shoes and they nail 2x4 cleats across the roof at 6-foot intervals as slide guards. For themselves and their tools and materials, they use fall arresters on steep roofs -- belts, harnesses and ropes. That's something you should do, too.

Down below, they string caution tape to warn others of possible falling debris, and they avoid back injuries by lifting carefully and wearing support belts.

Here's hoping all your New Year's home improvement resolution solutions are successful and that you and your home (and family) will be better for it.

XFor more home improvement tips and information visit www.onthehouse.com.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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