Sometimes the key to making a fix is just knowing the right product to use. We asked our team of professional carpenters, plumbers, painters, electricians and fix-it gurus what their favorite products were, and this is what they told us they never leave home without.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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Screw-in drywall anchors
Screw-in anchors go in fast and hold tight
The first time you use one of these, you may just throw away all your other anchors. They drive in easily without pre-drilling and they hold firmly, just as they’re supposed to. And you only need a screwdriver to put them in. The light-duty type shown is perfect for hanging lighter shelving and artwork. Use the toggle bolt type for heavier shelving, towel bars and curtain rods.
No matter what you have to fasten, inside or out, there’s almost always a drywall-style screw that can handle it. With thin, hardened shanks, aggressive coarse threads (fine threads are just for metal studs) and deep Phillips or square-drive heads, these screws are tough enough to drive into most woods without stripping or breaking — and usually without pre-drilling. Most pros keep a selection of coated exterior deck screws on hand for dependable fastening even in treated wood, and black, coarse-thread interior screws for everything indoors. Plus a few stainless steel and gold-colored screws for special repairs like replacing stripped-out brass hinge screws.
Bumpers do lots more than just stop cabinet doors from banging. Stick them under ceramic pots or hot plates to keep them from scratching tabletops; silence a rattling toilet tank lid by placing them at the corners of the tank; even stick them on a doorstop if you have a door that rattles because it’s too loose. Note: Use felt bumpers on varnished wood surfaces. The plastic types can eventually leave marks.
The trick is to fill the chip with multiple thin coats instead of trying to cover it all at once. Use the porcelain-type version for stovetops and sinks.
Tighten loose handles and knobs permanently
For mysterious, quantum-mechanical reasons, the screws that hold handles and doorknobs always eventually work loose. A few drops of thread-locking compound will permanently fix the problem, yet still allow you to remove the screw with ordinary tools if you need to later. A heavier duty variety is also available for large bolts and machinery.
Two-part filler has to be mixed and it doesn’t rinse off with water, so it’s not as user friendly as other fillers. However, it’s much tougher and a much better choice for any hole bigger than a nail head, especially outdoors. And it’s not just for wood — you can patch metal, fiberglass, even concrete.
Two-part epoxy glue is rock-hard, fills huge gaps, bonds to almost anything and dries very quickly. Some brands now come with an applicator tip that automatically mixes the two parts so you can spread it like a regular glue, without mixing. It’s perfect for gluing irregular shapes and dissimilar materials to each other. Most epoxies set in five minutes, but you can buy quicker-setting types that allow you to just hold pieces in place for a minute, without any clamping.
Quick-setting drywall compound lets you finish small repairs and fill deep holes in minutes instead of waiting days for premixed joint compound to dry. The small boxes — available in most home centers and paint stores — are also easier to store and more likely to get used up than large bags or buckets.
Silicone dries quickly and invisibly and doesn’t attract dirt, making it a good lubricant for drawer rollers, window tracks, door locks, bike parts, and other plastic, metal and rubber surfaces. It also helps protect metal against rust. Lithium grease is a long-lasting, weather-resistant (though somewhat messy) lubricant for garage door tracks, car doors and latches, and other metal parts that get heavy use outside.
Natural or stained woodwork is beautiful, but scratches can really stand out — especially with darker stains. You can make these scratches disappear by touching them up with a stain marker. It’s simple to use, and much cheaper than buying whole cans of stain.
Start with a lighter color, and if the scratch still shows, go over it with a darker shade. Unless the varnish is in bad shape and needs to be recoated, that’s usually all you have to do to make older woodwork look almost new again.
Texture spray cans
Spray texture makes ceiling repairs easier
Sooner or later, every sprayed ceiling is going to get a water stain or a scrape. Spray texture in a can won’t perfectly match every ceiling texture, but it’s usually close, and a lot easier than respraying a whole ceiling. Before spraying, seal the patch with a stain-blocking primer, cover the floor and furniture, and practice your technique on scrap plywood or cardboard.
Water-based sealers do a good job most of the time. But for really tough problems like wood knots, yellowed water stains, heavy smoke damage and other stains that bleed through paint, pigmented solvent-based sealers (BIN and KILZ are two brands) are unbeatable.