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100 Vintage Home Hacks That Are Still Brilliant Today

These tips and tricks for the home have been passed down from generation to generation, but do they still hold up today? You better believe it!

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Gutter Cleaner

Clean your one-story-high gutters right from the ground using an old paint roller on an extension handle. It’s angled just right to push leaves and debris out quickly and easily. — Lee Sens

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Plastic Bag Storage

If those empty plastic grocery bags are threatening to take over your kitchen, here’s help: Stuff them into an empty paper towel tube. It’s quick and easy, and a dozen or so bags take up hardly any space. Keep the stuffed tube handy in a drawer. — Joan Hill

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Trapeze Clothes Hanger

Here’s a quick way to add another clothes rod in a closet. It’s especially useful in a child’s closet, because you can easily adjust the height to accommodate a changing wardrobe and a growing child. Use lightweight chain, attached to both the upper and lower rods with screw hooks. Squeeze the screw hooks closed with a pliers. — Jim Shephard

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Floor Ruler

No need to scramble for a ruler every time you have to measure something big. Draw a ruler on your shop floor with a permanent-ink, felt-tip marker. It won’t be accurate enough for precise measurements, but for rough cutting it will save you time and effort. When the markings start to wear off, just redo them. — Christine Smith

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Lawn Fertilizer Markers

So you fertilized your lawn last week, and now you’ve got some streaks of pale grass where you missed, and some really dark streaks where you hit twice. To prevent this, use two short lengths of wood as markers. Whenever you start a new row from either end of your run, drop a marker at the edge of the line of the fertilizer. Aim for the marker as you proceed, and move the marker at each end every time you make a turn. It works with a broadcast spreader as well. — Jim Carabetta

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Help For Losers

Doesn’t it drive you nuts when you drop a small part on the floor and you can’t find it? Try this trick: Lay a flashlight on the floor, and beam the light slowly in a circle so it just skims the floor surface. The shadow cast by the lost part will help you spot it. — Gary Stewart

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Vacuum Accessory Keeper

Here’s my quick and simple method for keeping shop vacuum accessories handy: Use an ordinary wire clothes hanger for each accessory. Bend the horizontal bar into an inverted “V,” squeeze the arms together and insert them into the open end of the accessory. The tension will hold the accessory in place. Then mount a row of hooks or screw eyes on the wall and hang the accessories in place. — Richard Siegel

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Hollow Door Fixer

If you have a sizable hole in a painted hollow-core door, here’s a quick way to fix it: Completely fill the hole with spray foam insulation (a can costs about $4 at home centres) so the foam is about level with the door surface. Allow it to dry overnight. The foam will expand slightly as it dries, forming a slight mound. Slice off the mound with a razor knife so the foam is slightly lower than the door surface. Apply one or two coats of drywall compound, sand it smooth when dry, and paint. — Richard Loeb Jr.

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Roof Gutter Tool Trays

Here’s my solution to workbench clutter: I mounted vinyl gutters along both ends of my workbench to hold small tools and other items that usually end up buried on the work surface. The gutters are durable, inexpensive, and it’s easy to find things in them. An added benefit is that small items that get knocked off the workbench no longer fall on the floor. Use an end cap at each end. — Scott Wright

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Splashblock Anchor

Do those plastic downspout splashblocks tend to wander away from the foundation of your house, allowing water to seep into the basement? To prevent this, drill two holes through the hefty corners of the plastic at the back end. To anchor it, drive two large spikes through the holes into the ground. — Joseph Perrone

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Blade Life Extender

When the blade in your utility knife gets dull, it’s usually only the point and the first 1/4 in. or so that’s bad. You can get additional life from your blade by snapping off the point with a pliers (wear safety glasses). It won’t cut quite as well as a fresh blade, but a lot better than the dull one. — Dennis Feldpausch

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A Better Sawhorse

Here’s an improvement on the standard DIY hinged sawhorses. They can be cut from a sheet of 3/4-in. plywood 48 in. wide by 75 in. long, and when folded, each horse is only 2 in. thick. The drop-on top is optional. The bolts just slip into the space between the two legs alongside the hinges. — Pat Carnahan

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Door Painter

I had a lot of doors to spray paint, and I needed a quick and easy stand to hold each one upright, so I could paint both sides without moving it. This stand, made from one 2×4 stud and a triangular base of 3/4-in. plywood, took about five minutes to build. Drive two nails up through the base to set the bottom edge of the door on. Drill a hole through the upper arm to allow an easily removable nail to be tapped into the top edge of the door. Paint the door bottom first if all the edges need to be sealed. — A. Westfall

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Paint Brush Keeper

An empty coffee can with a plastic lid makes a great container for soaking brushes. Just cut an “X” in the centre of the lid, push the handle up through the “X” and place the lid on the can. The lid seals the can so the solvent or water won’t evaporate, and it holds the bristles of the brush suspended above the bottom of the can. — S.L. Wiener

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Wire Stick-Up

No more hammered thumbs, dropped and lost staples or broken wires: Use hot-melt glue to fasten low-voltage wire in place. Use it on phone lines, bell wire, garage door safety sensor wiring, outdoor low-voltage lights, or thermostat wiring. It makes a neat job, and the glue dabs can be painted to match the wall if necessary. (Note: This is for low-voltage lines only.) — Lloyd Ziegler

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Painter’s Box

When I paint, I always place the paint can and my painting paraphernalia in a cardboard box—one that fits snugly between the legs on the fold-down shelf of my stepladder. The box allows for safe and easy transporting, makes dumping the can less likely, and catches those inevitable spills or drips while you’re working. — Jim Carabetta

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Quieter Doors

Noisy, banging doors always annoyed me, until I discovered this easy fix: I stick three or four small self-adhesive felt pads— the kind used on cabinet doors—onto the door jamb stop moulding. Besides quieting things down, they make the doors fit better. I also lubricate the latch with a dab of petroleum jelly, because it makes them work easier, further encouraging gentle closings. — Steve Bogumil

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No-Mess Drywall Sanding

Here’s a way to keep dust to a minimum when you have a lot of drywall joints and surfacing compound to sand. Using duct tape, attach a standard swivel-head drywall pole sander to the rigid extension tube of your wet/dry shop vacuum. Keep the vacuum nozzle close to the sandpaper, and just below it. You’ll also need an extra length of hose for your vacuum to reach the ceiling and into corners. — Bruce Wallick

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Small-Shop Space Saver

I have a small shop with a lot of bench-top power tools (table saw, router table, scroll saw, miter saw), and I use all of them often. To keep the shop uncluttered, yet everything close at hand, I mount all my bench-top tools on 1/2- in. thick plywood bases, and store them on hooks on the wall. When I need the tool, I just clamp the plywood base to my worktable with two large C-clamps. — Roger L. Favorite

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Gutter Protector

Do you manage to cave in your gutters every time you lean a ladder against them? Try this: In the area or areas where you’ll place your ladder, drill two 3/16-in. holes, and drive two 7-in. galvanized spikes with 5-in. ferrules into the gutters behind where each leg will rest. The ferrules will support the ladder’s weight instead of the gutter. Most home centres sell standard gutter spikes and ferrules. — Randy Lucas

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Fence Post Holder

As a novice sinker of fence posts, I was having a heck of a time keeping the post plumb while pouring concrete into the hole. My Workmate workbench saved the day. Here’s the system: Simply position the workbench over the hole, clamp the post in place in the workbench, plumb it, then pour the concrete. By the time you have the next hole dug, the concrete will be firm enough to gently lift the workbench off the post. — Peter Gallagher

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Old Caulk Remover

Need to remove that old caulk from your siding or from around your windows and doors? Nothing works better in my book than a hole-punch can opener. For better leverage, make a handle by cutting a slot in a 1-in. dowel. Then flatten the handle end of the opener in a vise, and secure it in the slot with a bolt and nut. — Fred Horlander

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Staple And Tack Puller Fulcrum

After removing carpeting and padding, I had a million tacks and staples to remove from my hardwood floors. To protect the floors, I tore strips of duct tape 3/4 in. wide and wrapped about 10 or 12 layers very tightly just above the base of the tack puller. This not only provided protection, but a bonus fulcrum that made pulling the tacks a breeze. I also filed a sharp edge on the tack puller to help get under tack heads and staples without damaging the floor. Be sure to wear safety glasses! — Vincet J. Santilli.

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Steady Miter Box

I always had a hard time manipulating my miter box, the miter saw and the piece I was cutting all at the same time. So I screwed a piece of 2×2 to the bottom of the miter box. Now I clamp the 2×2 in a vise and cut clean, accurate miters every time. — Robert Hartog

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Entryway Caddy

Our back door entry was a minefield of shoes, hats, gloves and jackets. This easy-to-make egg crate-type shoe case solved our problem. The inner partitions are 1/4-in. plywood, double-notched to slip together. The sides are 3/4 in., and the top and bottom are 1/2-in. plywood. Coat hooks above complete the package. — Tyler Woods

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Drill Bit Holder

A block of rigid foam makes an inexpensive and handy drill bit holder. Just poke the bits into the foam, reusing the same hole each time you return a bit. Push the bits almost all the way to the bottom of the foam block, so the holder won’t be top-heavy and tumble over. — Terry Andrews

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Paint-Level Marker

After you finish painting, and before you close the paint can, paint a line across the label to show the paint level. That way you’ll know how much and what colour paint is in the can without opening it. — Lulu Thompson

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Like-New Screens

Fiberglass window screening gets spotted and discoloured after a few seasons in the sun. Bring your screens back to life with an automotive vinyl protectant. Hold a sponge behind the screen when you spray to catch the spray-through, then wipe over the entire screen on both sides. It’ll make them look like new for several more seasons. — Jim Maurer

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Cut It Straight

When ripping a bowed piece of lumber with a circular saw, here’s how to keep the strip you’re cutting off a consistent width for the full length of the board: Line up the saw blade with the cut mark at the desired width. Make a pencil mark on the shoe of the saw directly above the board edge. Now when you push the saw the length of the board, just keep the pencil mark on the shoe lined up with the edge of the board. Important: Before cutting one-third of the way, tap a wedge into the cut to keep it from closing up and causing the saw to kick back. — Thomas Roberts

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Power Cord Keeper

To keep power cords out of my way when I’m working with a portable power tool, I usually secure the cord at my side, using a 6-in. loop of Velcro fastener to attach it to my belt loop. — John Simmelink

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Curtain Rod Plant Pole

My all-time favourite poles for supporting plants, both indoors and outdoors, are sections of brass-plated curtain rods. They’re rust-resistant, inexpensive and attractive. — Carol Crump

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Trash Bag Holder

You can buy fold-up lawn and garden bag holders for good money at the hardware store, but an old TV tray frame works just as well—maybe better—and it’s free. It’s the perfect size for a 30-gallon bag; for larger bags, tie a knot in the edge to take up the slack. — Tim Phelon

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Brush Wiper

Here’s a way to be a neater painter: Save some extra paint can lids, make three cuts with a hacksaw as shown, discarding the triangular centre section. Snap one of the cut pieces into the groove of the can. Use it to wipe your brush and you won’t have paint running down the side of the can or into the can’s groove. — Marilyn Parker

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Big-Time Compass

If you need to draw a large circle, and you’re tired of hunting through the kitchen cabinets for the right-sized bowl or plate to trace around, try this: Use a length of heavy-gauge wire or light metal rod. File a pointed tip on the bottom end and bend it slightly one-third of the way from the top. Then attach it securely to a long pencil with duct tape. Bend the wire as needed to give you the size circle you want. — Carol Crump

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Pickup Bed Rack

Here’s a great hold-it-in-place cargo rack for the bed of your pickup. Use either 1x3s or 2x4s, depending on how much weight you’ll need to restrain. Screw the four pieces together to fit just inside the wheel wells, as shown, with ears extending ahead of and behind the wells. Tools, sandbags and other items will stay where you want them. — Gary Coffman

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