Drywall repairs are pretty easy with a little practice. With a good drywall knife, you can spread it evenly. Several thin coats, drying between each one, usually will give you good results. One way to avoid a bulge on the surface of the wall is to use a straight edge, like a firm ruler, to draw over the drywall compound to keep it level with the rest of the wall. This also can save you time with the finishing part, because there will be a lot less sanding.


Q: I am so tired of the fluorescent fixtures in my kitchen. They don’t look that bad, but they make everything else look funny. Is there a way to make them give off a better light, or do I just have to replace them? – U.R.

A: You can try replacing the old bulbs with newer bulbs that cast a different color of light. Depending upon the type of fixture you have, you also might be able to replace the cover that is over the bulbs. Replacing the fixture is not a hard project and might really update your kitchen for not a lot of money.

Tips from readers

Dear Carrells: We converted an extra bedroom into a home office. The closet was set up nicely for a bedroom with shelves and clothing rods but wasn’t working for office storage. We installed extra shelves, which can be removed if we turn the room back into a bedroom. We left the closet rods in place for the same reason. We also bought a nice chair that turns into a twin bed in case we have an overnight guest. – P.S.


Dear Al: We put up a whole wall of family photos. It looked great for about 15 minutes, but then I started having to straighten the pictures almost every day. I’m not compulsive, but they were just always crooked. I finally took each one down, wrapped some masking tape around the center point of each hanging wire and then put them back up. This little “cushion” sits right on the hanger, and now they stay straight. I wish we had done this initially or used different hangers. – H.T.


Dear Kelly: I clean my house in small steps, one area each day, since I have a full-time job. I’ve started adding the garage into the schedule. I’ve discovered it’s not very hard to do, and it makes it so much easier to find things when we need them. I even have found room to store a few things from inside the house outside in the garage now. This makes the inside closet look neater, too. – C.D.


Dear Carrells: I converted an old closet into a small library. I installed paneling over the drywall and then put up shelves. I needed to drill a series of holes, spaced exactly the same on both sides, so I could use adjustable shelf holders. I got a scrap of pegboard as a template and drilled the holes on both sides all the way down the walls. Then, I installed adjustable shelves. You don’t see the holders at all, and the shelves are filling up with books already. I replaced the ceiling fixture with a hanging pendant light and brought in a comfy chair. It’s really nice. – R.W.


Dear Al: One of my favorite hand cleaners is WD-40. I keep a can inside the house to use here and there, and have found that it’s great to help get glue, paint and other stuff like that off your hands. You just use it like a hand cleaner, follow it with soap and water, and most sticky stuff comes right off. It also can help you clean things like stickers and price tags off of nonporous surfaces. It’s really easy and handy. – H.S.

A Super hint

If you want crown molding but can’t fit it into your budget, just install a thin strip horizontally about 6 inches below the ceiling and paint the trim and area above it a different color than the wall. You’ll have to take a second look to see that it’s not actual crown molding.