Unusual Remodeling Tricks That Get You Out of a Jam

Cake separators?  Cheese graters?  What's this--a food cooking show?  No, these are just two examples of ordinary, day-to-day things that can help you get out of home improvement jams.  

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    If you accidentally cut your recessed light hole slightly too big, a cake separator plate is great for creating custom trim.  

    The plastic is strong enough to hold the light, thin though to allow the clips to clamp down, and neutral enough to blend into the ceiling.  

    Just cut a hole in the center with your RotoZip and fit over the can light.  Then install the light as you normally would.

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    Use:  Cheese Grater or Concrete Pavement as Drywall Rasp

    Arguably not the best way to treat a cheese grater, this ordinary kitchen tool can be called into emergency action when you have an edge of installed drywall that needs a little shaving down.  Then, next chance you next, purchase a real drywall rasp!

    Buy on Amazon - Tajima TBYD-180 Drywall Rasp with Edge Trimmer & Shaping Tool

    For uninstalled drywall, you can carefully rub an edge on smooth concrete and remove some of the nibs and raised portions.

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    Recessed lights driving you crazy because the clips keep popping loose?  There are more elegant solutions than this, but few are faster.  Shoot a staple, bridging the clip and the housing.  The staple will hold the clip in place.

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    When you are in a panic, it can be hard to find your house's main water shut-off value.  Clear heads can get clouded when floods are developing.

    This is why, pre-emergency, you should locate your home's main water shut-off valve.  This guide gives you some hints...or simply consult the property inspection report from your house purchase.  It will be listed there.

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  • 05 of 14

    Use:  Sharpie To Mark Your Utility Blades In Order To Keep Track of Sharp End

    Utility knives' double-ended blades are great for reducing waste.  When you finish one end, you switch it around for a fresh, sharp end.

    Short of testing it with your finger, often it is hard to know if you have a sharp blade--until the moment you are failing to cut drywall with a dull blade.

    Solution:  when you get a stack of blades, mark each end with a Sharpie:  1 at one end, 2 at the other.  This helps you instantly know.

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    Use: Contractor's Bag as Makeshift Concrete Mixer

    If you want to mix one bag of concrete but do not want to haul out the shovel and wheelbarrow, pour the bag into a contractor trash bag.  Pour in the proper amount of water.  Seal the end with clamps or hold tightly.  Roll across a soft surface, such as a lawn, until fully mixed.  Then pour out!

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    Use:  Newspaper To Mask a Window For Painting

    One classic way to mask off window glass when painting--when you have no masking film--is to wet a newspaper and adhere it to the glass.  

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    Applying Wood Putty
    Applying Wood Putty. Getty / Russell Sedur

    Sawdust mixed with wood glue is a quick and nearly free way to make wood filler that matches the natural color of your wood.  

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  • 09 of 14

    Blindmark is my favorite way to mark the location of installed electrical boxes prior to hanging drywall.  But you can also use a laser level.  Simply place the level on a tripod or other steady surface, use the cross-hairs function to shoot the box (i.e., locating the center of the cross-hairs at the upper left of the box), then hang the board.  The laser mark remains, showing you where to cut.

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    Garbage disposers are heavy.  Just trying holding it in place with one hand while fastening it with the other hand:  difficult.  A scissor jack topped with a towel holds the disposer firmly in place while you make the necessary connections.

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    Use:  Drywall Mud Instead of Primer

    Priming Drywall
    Priming Drywall. Getty / spxChrome

    Drywall compound ("mud") can be used as primer for bare drywall instead of latex primers.  Just dilute with water and roll on.  

    Or keep the same consistency and apply with your drywall knife.  Immediately scrape off.  Trace residue remaining in the pores of the drywall paper act as primer.

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    Use: Freezer As Substitute For Cleaning Your Paint Brush

    Man Painting House Exterior 519515491
    Man Painting House Exterior. This Guy Is No Procrastinator!. Getty / Hill Street Studios

    In the middle of painting your house and need to run out to pick up your kid from school?  No problem!  Instead of cleaning your paint brush, wrap it tightly in a plastic bag and toss in your freezer.  Next time you need it, let it thaw for about 30 minutes, and it will be good to go.

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  • 13 of 14
    SharkBite 1/2
    SharkBite 1/2" Straight Coupler. © Lee Wallender

    While hardly a novel concept, this one bears repeating:  If you think you cannot do your own plumbing, you might be wrong.  

    Crimp ring couplings are indeed faster than the ancient art of plumbing with galvanized pipes.  But one thing is even faster:  push-fit couplers, such as those going under the SharkBite brand name.  

    No specialized tools are needed.  Just push them onto PEX pipe until they fully "seat."  

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    How to Drill at an Angle - Introduction and Safe Zones
    © Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com

    You just need to drill a couple of holes in wood at an angle.  Do you really want to buy a drill press for this?  Or even a cheaper item called a pocket hole jig?

    You can do this with only a drill and a few special techniques that mainly involve starting with a pilot hole developed by a smaller drill bit.