Blog Posts by Family Handyman

  • Transform your yard in one weekend with a DIY waterfall and pond

    Even if your yard is tiny, you can create this beautiful waterfall and pond in just a couple of days. You may want help digging the hole for the pond and hauling the stone around, but you don't need any special skills or tools. Check out our detailed step-by-step how-to photos, grab you work gloves and let's build a waterfall!

    Step One: Design your pond and purchase materials
    Your pond and waterfall don't need to be big to have a big impact on your yard. Walk around and see where this water feature would fit best in your landscape, keeping in mind that you'll need an electrical outlet so you can plug in the water pump.

    Pond and waterfall details
    When choosing your materials you'll need to make decisions regarding the type of pond liner, the underlayment that protests the liner, and the size of the pump. You'll also get to select the stone and rocks, plus the aquatic plants.
    Complete planning guide here
    Step Two: Dig the hole
    This part of the project is pretty hard work, so enlist

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  • Sparkling Clean Windows, Guaranteed!

    Wash your windows the fastest way with crystal clear, streak-free results. Try washing windows with a squeegee and you'll never go back to a spray bottle and paper towels. Squeegees get your glass clear and streak free in a fraction of the time it takes with paper towels. Here we'll show you the equipment you need and simple steps to follow for fast, clear results.

    Start with a good squeegee

    The keys to success are buying a good squeegee and keeping it fitted with a sharp, new rubber blade. The whole setup is inexpensive and will last many years. You'll need:

    • a 10- or 12-in. squeegee
    • you'll need a scrubber
    • a bucket (a 5-gallon plastic bucket will work)
    • hand dishwashing liquid
    • a few lint-free rags or small towels
    Buy a good squeegee and replace the blade frequently. Look for replacement blades, also called rubbers, where you buy the squeegee and pick up two or three to have on hand. The pros we talked to change their squeegee blades as often as once a day.
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  • The right way to sharpen your knives and scissors

    Remember the last time you sliced a tomato and it looked like it had been cut with a spoon? Even if you've never honed anything in your life, we'll show you how to get razor-sharp results with different sharpening methods-so you can get back to dinner. But first, a word of caution: Your fingers are every bit as delicate as the meat and vegetables you're cutting, so be careful!

    1. Inexpensive tungsten sharpeners
    Great for:
    Knives that still have their factory edge intact without nicks or irregularities-ones that are not gradually dulled from everyday use. Note: The small, preset angle of these sharpeners makes them less effective on more blunt edges, like those on butcher knives. Because those have a fatter blade and wider angle, you'll need to use a traditional sharpening stone.
    Look sharp: Pull the knife through from the base of the blade to the tip.
    Get more DIY photos and how-tos »

    2. Precision blade-sharpening systems

    Great for: Restoring an edge on most dull

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  • Yuck! How to get rid of ants

    Put an end to most ant problems with inexpensive products from the home center or hardware store, and save the expense of hiring an exterminator.


    1. Keep it clean
    A clean house is your first defense against ants. Sweep up food crumbs, wipe up spills, take out the garbage and don't leave dirty dishes sitting around the house. This takes away the ants' food source. Pro tip: Spray 1 part vinegar mixed with 3 parts water around bowls of pet food to keep ants from feasting there.

    2. Erase their trails
    Where you see one ant, you're bound to see others. That's because ants leave a scented trail that other ants follow. Sweeping or mopping isn't enough to eliminate the scent. Instead, mix 1 part vinegar with 3 parts water in a spray bottle, then spray wherever you've seen ants in the past to stop outdoor nesting ants that entered the house to forage for food. Ants that come inside are not necessarily trying to establish a nest. To stop that are

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  • 4 Easy Shelving Ideas for Home Organization

    Check out these simple and sturdy shelving ideas that will help you organize your laundry room, bathroom, bedroom and garage without spending a lot of money.

    Laundry shelf does double duty

    Sometimes you just need another place to hang clothes, like on the shelf over your washer and dryer. Turn the edge of that shelf into a hanger rack by predrilling some 3/4-in. plastic pipe and screwing it to the edge of the shelf.

    You can do it! DIY details and more ideas »

    Hang shower shelves from cabinet knobs

    If you need more than shampoo and a bar of soap in the shower, here's how to provide space for all your vital beauty potions: Get a couple of those shelves that are designed to hang from a shower arm and hang them on cabinet knobs. Use No. 8-32 hanger screws ($1) to screw the knobs into studs or drywall anchors.

    You can do it! DIY details and more ideas »

    Reuse dishwasher rack

    If you're getting rid of your old dishwasher, hang on to the lower dish rack. Slip it under a bed for

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  • 10 tips to slash your electricity bill by up to 40 percent

    Follow these tips and you can cut your electricity bill by up to 40 percent this year.

    1. Kill energy vampires: Save up to $100 a year
    Seventy-five percent of the electrical use by home electronics occurs when they're turned off, according to the Department of Energy. These "energy vampires" suck electricity all day long-costing you an extra $100 each year. So if you'd like to keep that Ben Franklin in your wallet, unplug your electronics or plug them into a power strip, then turn off the strip. Don't worry about losing the settings on new computers and TVs. They have a memory chip that resets everything when you power back up. If you have an old VCR or other devices that flash when the power goes out, keep it plugged in. Read more »
    Who knew? Some power strips have a few outlets that always have power even when you flip off the switch. This type of strip has a main outlet for the computer. When you turn off the computer, the strip also shuts down other devices, such as your scanner,

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  • How to deal if you break a compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL)

    Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) really aren't "new" any more. Ed Hammer, a GE engineer, invented the modern CFL in the 1970s in response to that decade's energy crisis. Thirty years later, CFLs have become mainstream, although some consumers, especially those who had bad experiences with the early versions, have been slow to jump on board. Many of the earlier CFLs took a while to reach full brightness, and once they did, the light had a cold, bluish quality that many people found unappealing.

    Advances in design and manufacturing-specifically, new electronic ballasts-have reduced the time it takes for CFLs to reach full brightness. Electronic ballasts have also helped eliminate any annoying flicker and hum. Plus, you can now buy bulbs that emit a "warm" light, if that's what you prefer:

    • "Warm" or "soft" light is comparable to an incandescent bulb and well suited for residential use.
    • "Cool," "bright white," "natural" or "daylight" bulbs have a bluish-white light, which some
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  • 10 ways to add instant curb appeal to your home

    These small, inexpensive improvements to your yard and home's exterior add up to a dramatic upgrade, whether you're looking to refresh your house or make it more appealing before a sale.

    1. Paint, paint, paint
    Whether you paint your front door, your trim or your entire house, few projects can transform a house as dramatically and inexpensively as paint. Top-notch paint costs only a few dollars more per gallon, but it will cover better, go on smoother and last longer than the cheap stuff-it's a smart investment.

    Pro tips:

    • If you want a small house to look larger, paint it white.
    • If your house is a mishmash of styles or has flaws, paint everything the same color to help visually unify the house.
    Several paint manufacturers market computer software that allows you to mock up different paint color schemes on a digital image of your house (or on a house close in style supplied by the program).
    MORE: Exterior painting tips and techniques »
    Cure for peeling exterior paint »

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  • 9 kitchen storage solutions to max out cabinet space

    Need more space in your kitchen? These tips will help you take advantage of every nook and cranny to help you instantly organize and cut the clutter in the hardest working room in your house.

    Spice storage

    Problem: Small spice containers use shelf space inefficiently and are difficult to find when surrounded by taller bottles and items.
    DIY solution: Use a small spring-tension curtain rod ($3) as a simple shelf. It's easy to install and strong enough to support the spices.
    You can do it! Get DIY how-tos and photos »
    Cookware organizer

    Problem: Most kitchen base cabinets lack vertical storage space for big, flat cookware like cookie sheets and pizza pans.
    DIY solution: Fasten a vertical panel of plywood with furniture braces and adjust the pins to match the original locations.
    You can do it! Get DIY how-tos and photos »
    Under-sink archives

    Problem: Lost or missing manuals for your kitchen and bath fixtures.
    DIY solution: Slip them into a zip-top plastic bag

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  • 10 pro tips for a perfect paint job

    Professional painters share their secrets for producing a great-looking interior paint job. The work will go faster with less hassle too.

    Tip 1: Roll paint along the edges for consistent texture.
    After cutting in close with a brush, the small roller erases all brush marks. Corners and areas next to trim that are painted only with a brush have a noticeably different texture than the surrounding paint. To ensure the finished texture will be consistent in these areas, brush on the paint, then immediately roll it out before the paint dries.
    You can do it! Get step-by-step photos and DIY instructions »

    Tip 2: Prime and texture wall patches to avoid a blotchy appearance.
    Freshly painted walls often look blotchy. The color is uniform, but the sheen isn't consistent. This usually occurs over the holes and cracks you patched with a filler or drywall compound. The porous fillers absorb the paint, dulling the surface (a problem called "flashing"). When light hits these dull spots, they stick

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