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Take proper steps when using a ladder to prune

Published Oct. 16, 2005

Even if you have fancy pruning tools, you almost always end up having to drag the ladder out to prune trees. If you use an extension ladder to get up there, proper care should be taken to make sure you don't have an accident. First, you must secure the ladder at the bottom. By attaching stakes to the feet, you can prevent sliding. Resting the top of the ladder against a round tree trunk doesn't offer much stability either. Attach a length of chain from one arm of the top of the ladder to the other with eye bolts. Leave some slack in the chain. Now with the side rails on either side of the trunk, the chain acts as a curved rung to hold the ladder steady against the tree.

That can be much more dependable than a plain ladder rung. Check it out before you climb to be sure it's going to be steady.

Reader's forum

Dear Al: My wife is always getting after me for the rusty rings my shaving can leaves on our bathroom counter. I fixed it by painting a layer of clear fingernail polish around the bottom of the can.

I've done this to metal cans in my garage for years to keep rust marks off my garage floor. _ C.C.

Dear Al: Instead of the plain nails that we used to hang our coats on, we have put erasers over the heads of the nails now. We just used standard slip-on pencil erasers, but I guess you could use any color or shape. They prevent snags that we used to get quite often. _ G.G.

Dear Al: Unfortunately, I broke a light bulb before getting it out of the socket. After cutting the power, I tried to grab the old base with some pliers to twist it out but had no luck.

I know you've recommended using a potato but I tried using the handle of my screwdriver. Because it's rubber, it grabbed the base and turned it right out. _ H.J.

Dear Al: I've come up with a tackle-box helper. I have glued a kitchen sponge onto the inside top of my toolbox. This is great for sticking loose hooks into. I keep it dampened with oil instead of water so the hooks don't rust. _ K.G.

Do-it-yourself clinic

Question: How can we go back and insulate walls in our home that were not previously insulated without tearing the walls down?

Answer: The easiest way to do this is to fill the walls with a blown-in material. Check in your attic to see if you can access the wall from above. This will make the whole job much easier but isn't likely.

You must locate the studs within the wall to determine the spacing between them. The next step is to see if your wall has fire stops within it. These are horizontal pieces that run between adjoining studs, usually about halfway up in the wall. You can drill a small hole near the top of the wall and drop a fish tape or plumb bob down into the cavity to see if it goes to the floor. If not, you have fire stops.

The next step is to make access for the blower hose to fit into the wall between each pair of studs. This requires you to cut a hole between studs at the top of the wall. If you have fire stops, you must also make another hole just under each fire stop.

You can either blow the insulation in yourself or have it done. Many home centers have rental or loan equipment for the do-it-yourselfer to use if you buy the insulating material from them. You might also check rental stores.

After you have added the insulation, you need to go back and cosmetically patch each hole and cover it.

Question: My fiberglass shingles grow a fungus that I treat with bleach every year or so. Is this safe for the shingles, and is there any way to prevent this after cleaning?

Answer: Bleach shouldn't harm the shingles. Scrubbing with a brush can remove particles on the surface. Usually, an area where you have this problem is one where there is a moisture problem because of a lack of good air circulation or exposure to the sun. If you have foliage that grows up over the roof, you should try to prune it.

Super hint

Patching wallpaper takes some practice. The most important thing to remember is matching the pattern. The easiest way to get the pattern to blend right in is to tear the patch out instead of cutting it, so the edges feather on the back. Then you'll have a perfect patch.

Equalize your air flow

With many central heating and air-conditioning systems, you may have certain parts of the house that just don't heat properly in the winter or cool enough in the summer. This is usually because the room is farther from the central blower, or perhaps its duct has too many bends in it.

No matter what the problem, you can add a new device called the Equalizer to that vent and fix it. The Equalizer is a thermostatically controlled fan that pulls in extra heat or cooled air to that vent. It fits right over existing vents for easy installation.

For a local dealer, please contact: Suncort Mfg., 4511 Manhattan Road SE, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2G 4B3.

Got a question or a handy tip? Write to Al Carrell, the Super Handyman, c/o the St. Petersburg Times, 235 E 45th St., King Features, New York, N.Y. 10017-3305.