DIY Network

Home Improvement Tips

Want to repair a nail hole in a wall? Drill through ceramic tile? Solder copper? The experts at DIY Network share tips for home-improvement and repair projects.

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Tips from Amy Devers, co-host of DIY to the Rescue.

  • Save those fake pre-approved credit cards you get in the mail -- you can use them as glue spreaders or shims.
  • When driving screws into dense hardwoods, lubricate them with wax or soap to prevent stripping the hole.
  • Double-sided carpet tape works great for temporarily fastening templates without leaving screw or nail holes.
  • If you happen to ding your wood in the course of a project, use a wet cloth and a clothes iron to steam out the dent.
  • Save that old electric carving knife. It's the perfect foam saw for upholstery projects.

Tips from Karl Champley, co-host of DIY to the Rescue.

  • When painting a surface that needs to be primed – new drywall or wood – tint the primer to match the finish coat, reducing your painting project from three coats to two.
  • Sand the face of the hammer head with sandpaper to help the hammer grip the nail and prevent the nail head from slipping.
  • Wrap paint rollers and brushes in a plastic bag between coats to keep them full of paint and prevent them from drying out.
  • Don't try to work with electrical or plumbing projects you are not confident about. It often costs more to repair later and can be dangerous.
  • When drilling though ceramic tile or natural stone, place masking tape on the surface. This makes marking the tile easier and helps the drill bit stay in one place.
  • When building or renovating your home, always print a budget breakdown. If you're not sure how to do one, invest in a professional estimator or quantity surveyor to do it for you. The printout will show you the cost of every trade, nail and screw, giving you an accurate figure to base your budget on. This information is great for comparing quotes as you will have done the homework and know the costs!

Tips from Amy Matthews, host of Bathroom Renovations.

Create space and style in a small bathroom by adding niches in the wall and shower area.

1. With the walls open, find a space between two studs that is free of electrical and plumbing.
2. Cut a 2x4 for the top and bottom of the niche and attach to the studs.
3. Cover with drywall or cementboard, mud and tape, and then paint or tile to finish.

Now you've created an out-of-the-way shelf space for clean towels or products, or for a fun design element: add a recessed light to the top of the niche and place a favorite decorative item below. For the shower, measure the height of your bath products so the niche becomes a custom shelf.

  • Save money by shopping at your local re-use center. You can find great pieces of granite or marble left over from larger jobs, that are just the right size for a bathroom countertop.
  • If there's a custom tile that you love but your budget won't allow you to cover the entire bathroom with it, use it as an accent tile and purchase lower-cost field tiles. You'll save money and still get the look you want.
  • If you're soldering copper in a tight area and you're a little nervous about burning the house down (never a good idea), place a nail plate behind the pipe so the flame hits the metal and nothing else.

Tips from Paul Ryan, host of Kitchen Renovations.

  • If you have a paint roller that's too dirty to use anymore, use it to clean the gutters on your house. Using an extended handle, slide it along the gutter to remove the debris and leaves.
  • A level can be very useful as a cutting guide for your circular saw. To use one, line it up so that the saw blade is in the right area. Clamp it into place and you'll have a good solid surface for the saw bed to ride along.
  • To repair a nail or screw hole in drywall, use a screwdriver with a rounded end on the handle. Press the end of the handle into the screw hole. The pressure creates a divot. Fill the divot with spackle or drywall compound and you'll have a nice smooth surface.
  • When planning a budget for a home improvement project, add 10 to 15 percent for surprises. You never know what you may find until you start a project.
  • When changing blades in a utility knife, wrap the old blade in tape before you throw it away. This will cover the sharp edges of the blade to protect from injury when packing down the garbage or taking out the trash.

From Chris Babcock, co-host of Restoration Realities.

  • Expect the unexpected. Just when you think there isn't termite or water damage, it's there. Have the patience to work through these issues and anticipate that budget costs will change.
  • Educate yourself before diving in. The reason so many projects are left uncompleted is a lack of understanding of how it goes back together. Explore the history, structure, codes, safety and aesthetics before you decide to tear apart the house over the weekend.
  • Don't skimp when it comes to replacing the work that needs to be restored. Buy the right tools and materials for the job. That will ensure that the original integrity will be restored.
  • Play the part of a good detective. When working on a historical project, look for "ghosts," or old remnants of the past such as old wallpaper, paint marks, or even molding and trim pieces. These will help you in restoring your project to its original character.
  • Regularly scheduled maintenance is key to preservation. Keeping the outside elements away, such as water, wind, cold and heat, is the key to maintaining a treasure from the past.

Tips from Ed Del Grande, host of Ed the Plumber.

  • Make sure you and your entire family know where the main water shut-off valve is located and how to turn it off in an emergency.
  • Installing a whole-house water filter will not only give you great tasting water and ice cubes, but it can also prolong your plumbing fixtures from clogging up with debris saving you many costly repair bills!
  • To test for correct water pressure you can quickly attach a water-pressure test gauge to an outside sillcock or faucet, turn on the faucet and read the pounds per square inch you have in your home. Normal operating water pressure should be around 45 psi - 75 psi. Anything over 80 psi is considered too high by most building codes.

Tips from Lynda Lyday, co-host of Talk2DIY.

Problem: What's the best way to repair a crack in an acrylic and fiberglass shower?
Solution: First, check the warranty of your shower and if it's still under warranty, don't make repairs yourself because it will void the warranty.

1. Score the crack so the adhesive will stick.
2. Clean the area with a toothbrush and rubbing alcohol.
3. Apply the sealing paste and allow it to harden.
4. Sand until smooth and buff with buffing compound.

Problem: What is the best way to create an indoor waterfall?
Solution: Build a frame with 2x4 wood studs and finish it with green board drywall or cement backer board, to combat possible moisture leaks. Bury the pump in the well below. Cover with faux rocks. (You can get faux rock that's poured from molds that look like rock, but much lighter to work with.)

Problem: What causes the water from a newly installed faucet to flow slowly?
Solution: Check the shut-off valve. Sometimes when replacing a faucet, it's easy to forget to turn it all the way back on.

1. Make sure the supply line from the valve isn't kinked. Get the proper length for what you need.
2. Check the aerator. Soak it in water and vinegar and poke through the filter holes with a toothpick to get all the deposits out. Even a faucet can be clogged.

Tips from Tim Hockenberry, host of Home Maintenance.

Air Conditioner Maintenance & Spring Cleaning

It takes good airflow to cool your home efficiently and effectively. If you have an outside air-conditioning unit, you need to keep it obstruction-free and clean by doing some simple maintenance at least once a year:

  • Maintain a 2-foot space around and a 4-foot space above your condenser clear of plants, branches and debris.
  • Insert a common kitchen knife between the thin metal fins of the condenser and straighten out any bent fins. Slide the knife between any fins not evenly spaced to clean out debris.
  • Check to see if your unit is level. If necessary, carefully lift the unit and place pressure treated lumber or concrete stepping stones under it to level.
  • Disconnect the power to the condenser unit and spray off any additional dirt and debris on the unit with your garden hose.
  • Check all the ducts and vents for leaks. Patch them with heat-graded foil tape. Don't use duct tape; it dries out and cracks. Despite the name, it's not meant for ducts.

Tips from Dean Marsico & Derek Stearns, hosts of Rock Solid.

Finding the Perfect Stone Materials for Your Home

1. Use a nearby quarry as your reference center — a place to find stone materials and obtain advice. If you want to do installation yourself, ask whether your quarry or stone yard offers classes. If you want to hire somebody, ask for mason recommendations. Also, if you have a lot of questions, go in off-peak hours – late mornings and late afternoons during the week, early mornings and late afternoons on Saturday.

2. Know the layout of the quarry. Start at the main office, get a map and ask for directions. The quarry can be expansive with its cutting shops, warehouses and displays spread over the yard.

3. Do your homework. Have some idea of what type of stone you want. Use pictures from magazines and books or visit other job sites for ideas. The more you know, the better you’ll be at decision-making time. Also, know what your project dimensions are, and ask the experts for help with ordering the right amount.

4. Know the stone. Don't choose stone on looks alone. That could be a costly mistake! Know which stone is "right" for the project. Some stones are conducive to interior use, while others are best for outdoors. Some stone is cheaper but will cost you in labor time; more-expensive stone will save you time and effort. Many quarries will let you take samples home to help you make your decision.

5. Know what's new. Don't hesitate to ask what’s new. Newer products, like thin stone veneer and paver products, can often make your job easier.

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