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By Glenn Haege
(All rights reserved)


Glenn cooks up 4 easy home-improvement projects for the holiday weekend

It's the Fourth of July weekend, and if you are staying home for the holiday, you can finish off some things on your To-Do List that are simple and guaranteed to get your house in shape for the remainder of the summer months.

All the products you will need to use are available at most local hardware stores and home centers.

In just a weekend, you will have done more home maintenance than many people do in an entire year. Now, sit back, let someone else fire up the grill and brag about what you've done! Enjoy the remainder of your Fourth of July weekend.

1. Refurbishing the mailbox

While people often spend a lot of time and money on landscaping the front yard of their home, they usually neglect one of the home's most visible features, the mailbox. The United States Postal Service thinks your mailbox is such an important part of your home that it named May as Mailbox Improvement Month.

And fixing up your mailbox is the perfect weekend project because it doesn't take much time or money, and the results really improve your home's curb appeal.

If your mailbox is mounted to a post, make sure it is sturdy. If not, you can pull out the old post and get a post replacement kit available at most home and hardware centers. That way you have a great looking new post to go with your refurbished mailbox.

Here are the simple steps to spruce up your mailbox:

1. Remove the red mail flag and then use a wire brush to remove any rust on the exterior of the mailbox. Then caulk any seams to keep the rain and snow out of the inside, and don't forget to file down any sharp edges or nails that are sticking out to help protect your mail carrier.

2. Clean the mailbox with Simple Green or Contractors Solvent. After it dries, wipe it down with a liquid deglosser.

3. Now use Rust-Oleum Universal to paint the mailbox. Rust-Oleum Universal has a specially designed delivery system that allows you to spray the paint evenly from any angle, even upside-down.

4. Allow the paint to dry for at least four hours, then put some new reflective address numbers on the side of the mailbox and on the inside of the mailbox door so your mail carrier will be able to read them easily.

5. Next, replace your red mail flag with a new one from the hardware store.

6. If your mailbox is on a post, install a post collar at the bottom to protect it from the dreaded weed whacker. You can make a collar yourself by bending a sheet of brass, aluminum or rubber around the bottom of your post, and use coated exterior wood screws to attach it.

If you have one of those plastic mailboxes, you can clean it with a good cleaner like Simple Green and then paint it with Krylon Fusion spray paint, which is designed to be used on plastic.

2. Filling cracks in concrete

Another outdoor maintenance problem you can tackle over the Fourth of July weekend is filling in the cracks in your driveway. Here's how you fill in cracks that are more than a half-inch wide:

1. Clean out the cracks with a linoleum knife and use a whisk broom to remove all the fine dirt particles.

2. Fill the crack with play sand and tamp it down. Push the backer rod, also referred to as a caulk saver foam rope, leaving a 1/4 -inch gap to the horizontal surface.

3. Using a caulk gun, fill the 1/4 -inch area with a self-leveling caulk designed for filling horizontal concrete cracks.

4. For thinner cracks less than 1/2 -inch wide, just fill with the caulk after you clean it.

4. HVAC and water heater maintenance

This time of year, you probably have forgotten all about your furnace, but there are two things you should do now to properly maintain your system: change your furnace filter and the pad or sponge in your humidifier and drain the water heater.

Changing the furnace filter is just as important in the summer because you still need to filter the air when you are running the central air conditioning system.

Furnace filter

1. Locate the furnace filter and gently pull it out of the slot.

2. Look for the size on the side of the filter and head to the local Ace or other hardware or home center to get a replacement filter. The size is the width, height and depth of the filter in inches, such as 20 x 25 x 1.

When buying a new filter, make sure to get one that is pleated. There are several terms you should know when selecting a replacement filter.

" HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air, a rating used by the Department of Energy to denote an air cleaner or filter that is 99.97 percent efficient or better at removing 0.3 micron-sized particles from the air passing through it.

" Electrostatically charged fibers act like tiny magnets to attract and capture particles that can pass right through fiberglass filters or other non-charged pleated filters. Electrostatic filters are most effective when new and clean.

" Microparticle Performance Rating (MPR) is the rating used by 3M that focuses on a filter's ability to capture smaller particles between 0.3 and 1 micron in size. Based on independent laboratory tests, 3M's MPR measures a filter's ability to capture submicron particles that make up 99 percent of the particles in the air, such as bacteria, smoke and smog. The MPR can be used to compare filters, however, MPR cannot predict how a filter will actually perform in your home.

3. Check the side of the new filter for the air-flow arrow, and slide the new filter into the slot with the arrow pointing in the direction of your furnace's air flow.

Humidifier

While you are around the furnace, it's a good time to change the pad or sponge in your humidifier so it doesn't cake up with lime deposits, rendering it useless when heating season returns.

1. Turn off the water supply to the humidifier and open the compartment.

2. Pull out the drum, pad or sponge and replace with a new one.

3. Now close the compartment. Check the duct coming from the humidifier.

You should see a metal arm and two marks on the ductwork. Hopefully you'll see a W for winter and an S for summer. This shuts down the air flow to the humidifier during the summer months.

Water heater

Now, while you are in the furnace room, it's a good idea to drain your water heater to remove the sediment and keep it working properly.

1. Hook a hot-water-rated rubber hose up to the bottom drain valve on the water heater and run it to the floor drain.

2. Carefully open the drain valve and watch the water run out of the hose until it turns clear. I know it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Be careful as this water is very hot!

3. When the water coming out is clear, slowly turn off the drain valve and carefully disconnect the hose.

3. Fixing the leaky toilet

If you have to put up the "shake handle" sign in your bathroom due to a leaky toilet, you can easily fix it with the new Korky WaterWI$E Fill Valve kit by following these steps:

1. Shut off the water supply to the toilet, flush it and then sponge out the tank to get rid of any excess water.

2. Disconnect the water-supply line running into the tank, then twist the old fill valve counterclockwise and remove from the tank.

3. Next, place the new fill valve into the hole, adjust the height and turn clockwise until it snaps into place.

4. Cut the refill tube to size and attach it to the new fill valve.

5. Hand-tighten the nut on the water supply line running into the bottom of the tank, and slowly turn it back on. Make sure to check for leaks.