Do-it-yourself projects and plans for anyone who can swing a hammer.

In the Grease

Lanolin-rich but clean water spun out

Lanolin rich, but clean fleece.

My very first raw fleece was a beautiful silver Gotland from a spinner’s flock here in Ontario. I remember opening it up with trepidation, inexperience leading me to expect a putrid, filthy mess.

Instead a cascade of beautiful liquid silver curls tumbled out onto the tarp and my first thought was that I wanted to jump right into it. Literally. It called to me to run my hands through the silky curls and for the first time I was tempted to spin raw wool straight off of the sheep. Then my olfactory senses kicked in and I washed it.

I had no further desires to spin “in the grease” until a shepherdess in British Columbia from whom I purchased some beautiful Romney fleece recommended that I refrain from scouring it and simply wash it, and then spin in the grease. When the fleece arrived I was once again taken in by the gorgeously clean fleece. There was very little dirt or VM (vegetable matter, what we call the bits of feed, bedding, etc. that ends up embedded in the fleece) and so I thought I’d try it. I’m so glad I did.

The fiber felt amazing on my hands while spinning and again later while knitting it. My swatch lives beside my bed where I look at and feel it often. I am looking forward to washing and spinning the remaining Romney to create some amazing garments.

What is “the grease?”

 The grease we’re referring to is lanolin, a soft waxy substance secreted by the sebaceous glands of sheep. Its purpose is to help sheep to naturally shed water from their coats. This natural waterproofing quality leads to lanolin’s use in waterproofing wool diaper covers. It can also have the same result in the project you create with your yarn spun in the grease. Think water resistant hats, mittens, even sweaters. It also has moisturizing properties and is used in the beauty industry to create salves, balms, etc. and thus your hands will feel amazing after creating with lanolin-rich yarn.

“In the Grease:” What is it, and what is it not?

 Spinning “in the grease” means that you are preserving the natural lanolin by not scouring it out. For some people this means spinning raw fleece straight off the sheep. I don’t fall into this school of thought; not only do many breeds contain a lot of lanolin which will make a sticky mess of my equipment, but sheep, even in a fleece that looks clean, are filthy creatures. Their fleeces contain farm dirt, manure, urine, plant matter, and possibly insects. These are not things I want on my hands, in my wheel and carders, or in my living room. Raw fleece is also stinky, and I don’t want my house smelling like a barn! Lastly, the suint (a naturally occurring detergent secreted by sheep) in the fleece causes a burning sensation on my skin. All around, I find the idea rather repellent. By gently washing the fleece you can maintain a welcome level of lanolin and enjoy spinning “in the grease” rather than “in the filth.”

Choosing a Fleece

The best candidate for this method is a clean (preferably jacketed) fleece, low in veggie matter and from a breed that is not too high in lanolin. I find that breeds like English Leicester and Lincoln tend to get hard and tacky if they aren’t fully scoured with extra hot water, so they are not the best candidates. My favorites for spinning in the grease are Romney, Gotland, and Finn, though many others will work well too.

Beautiful Romney locks

Raw Romney locks

The Method

 The trick to this method is to clean the fleece without stripping the lanolin out. This means using a gentler detergent (I like Unicorn Clean’s Beyond Fiber) and water at 110 degrees F or less.

The first step is to check your fleece over and skirt out any nasty bits that may have been missed in the initial skirting. This includes things like tags (dung), stains, extra dirty spots, and areas contaminated with VM. Measure out the fleece to be cleaned; you want to make sure that you don’t overfill your washing vessel. The fleece needs room to open up a bit and let any dirt fall out. Think fleece stew rather than fleece porridge if you need a visual!

Cold Soak

 If your fleece is dirty, begin with an overnight cold water soak. Fill your washing tub with cold water (rain water works great here) and gently place your selected fleece in it. Very gently hold it under water until it’s saturated and will stay submerged. Then simply leave it overnight. You’ll want to let it soak at least several hours, but don’t leave it longer than overnight as extreme lengths of time can lead to a degradation of the fleece. If I do this outside (which I usually do as I dump the water rather than sending it down my drain to clog my pipes and septic), I cover it with tulle to avoid any mice (or toddlers) going for a swim in my fleece!

Hot Bath

 The next day, drain your fleece, then gently press any extra water out. Avoid agitating it or squeezing too much. Next you will fill a wash tub with bath-hot water (I use a kids bath thermometer to help me measure, I like it at about 110F degrees) and a squirt of wool wash. I like to use a capful (about a teaspoon) of Unicorn Clean Beyond Fiber Wash, but something like Soak or Eucalan works well too. Once the tub is full, gently move the fleece into it (if you’re starting out with a very clean fleece you can skip the cold soak and go straight to this step). Gently submerge the fleece and avoid agitating it. You don’t have to worry about going from cold water to hot; it’s hot to cold, detergent, and agitation that will cause felting. Leave the fleece for about 10 minutes. Don’t leave it long enough for the water to cool or you will end up with sticky wool. Again drain and gently press out the water.

In the Wash

In the wash.


 Next you’ll repeat the above step exactly, but without the wool wash. This will rinse out your detergent. If your rinse water looks pretty clean and not too soapy then you’re all set. If you were overzealous with the detergent you may need to rinse again (and know better next time!) The water may look milky and that’s ok, it’s the lanolin (we’re washing some of it out here, just not all of it). Brown water however indicates further washing/rinsing is needed. With an EXTREMELY clean fleece I’ve even been able to get away with a single wash in bath hot water with a no rinse wash like Eucalan. You can imagine what a time saver that is!

Dirt is left behind

Dirty water.

Out to Dry

 Your final step is to dry the fleece. I have a salad spinner especially commissioned for the purpose, but others like to use a commercial laundry spinner. Some swear by using only the spin cycle in their top loading washing machine, but I don’t like to put any fleece water down my drain and into my septic field. After spinning out the water I lay it in a single layer on a tarp in either my basement or sunroom. If you dry outside you’ll need to watch for critters who may come and try to steal it. I turn the fleece over once a day to make sure it’s getting air on all sides. It usually takes me about 2 days of drying time.

Spin dried


 Next it’s time to prep the fiber for spinning. With Gotland I tend to lock spin it, maintaining the texture of the curls, or spin a worsted type yarn straight from the opened locks. With the other types though I prefer to card them first, either with hand cards or a drum carder. I find that my method of cleaning leaves enough lanolin in but also removes enough of the lanolin (and all of the filth) so I don’t have to worry about it gumming up my carders or wheel. Those who spin straight from the sheep often have separate processing equipment for their greasy, dirty fleece as it will affect the equipment. They’ll also need to clean their wheel and bobbins.

Clean Locks

Clean locks


 You’ll notice that as you spin your hands will feel amazing from the lanolin, and you will also have that wonderful sheepy smell! You may find that warming the fleece slightly helps the lanolin melt, making for easy spinning (a great excuse to sidle up to the fire on a cool night). Spin the yarn in the matter you desire, then skein it off and set it in tepid to warm water with a drop of no rinse wool wash. When you wash your finished garments, wash them again in cool to tepid water with a lanolin enriched wool wash to avoid stripping the lanolin from the wool.

I hope I’ve inspired you to try this method of spinning in the grease. By gently washing the fleece but not scouring it you’ll reap the benefits of the lanolin without having to deal with the problems or filthiness of spinning a completely raw fleece.

Happy spinning!

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Displaying Your Canning Jars and Recycled Glass as Kitchen Décor


It is the end of the season, and you have just canned a dozen jars of tomatoes, several jars of peaches, or maybe tons of applesauce from a bumper apple crop. Maybe you are a jam maker with an assortment of colored, flavorful jams. Why not show them off as part of your kitchen décor? Why put all of them on a dark shelf in a pantry or basement?  Be proud!  Revel in the beauty of these specimens. Ideally, your canned bounty should be in a cool, dry place, but it won’t hurt to take a few jars of each for display. Just use them first and replenish from your pantry/basement. If it is available to you, jars in a variety of colors and textures are preferred.  The stores now have a variety of colored glass jars, also, that can be used.  Display them in a row on a shelf, an open cupboard or a countertop. Just make sure not to stack them; display them in a single file. The stores now have a variety of colored glass jars also that can be used. Try it – stop hiding these beauties!

Displaying empty canning jars looks wonderful, as well, especially if you have different colored glass. You can put the band on the rim for display. That way, when you need to fill during canning season the bands are already there, and you just to need to buy more unused lids to sanitize before filling them with gifts from the garden.

Another way to use glass jars for display is to recycle old pickle, honey, sauce, baby food, etc. jars. So many shapes and sizes exist from products we buy at the store. They are beautiful, and you are recycling too – double whammy!  Wash them well and soak them to get the label off. Make sure they are completely dry before filling. If the top has an advertisement that you don’t care to see, just paint it with spray paint, craft paint, blackboard paint, or leftover wall paint.  With blackboard paint you can label the jars with chalk and wash it off when you want. I sometimes use spare spray paint, then I label the jars with a fun marker. Doing this is permanent, so make sure it is something you always have in your pantry like sugar, pasta, rice, beans or whatever is a staple in your home.

Additionally, you can use the lids from parmesan cheese shakers on most standard canning/pasta jars.  These are great for storing things you shake, such as cinnamon, sugar, etc.  I fill mine with dried goods that have a variety of textures and shapes for visual interest. Plus, they are much better off stored in a sealed glass jar than the original containers that are plastic or cardboard. This is because it optimizes the shelf life of the food by keeping away bugs, critters, moisture and air. It is a perfect storage solution if you buy in bulk, too. Sometimes I buy something at the store just to reuse the glass jar in my pantry!

Old liquor bottles can be used for such things as vinegars, oils, salt, etc. Wash the jar, remove the label, and dry the jar thoroughly.  To top them off, you can use bottle pourers and corks. These bottles look wonderful on the countertop. To customize further, you can use some made-for-glass markers to paint them. I have an old green glass stemmed bottle from my grandparents’ house that I use for storing olive oil. It looks great and brings back wonderful memories, too.

Filled with canned bounties, your jars and recycled glass containers will be a beautiful addition to your kitchen décor. Fruits, vegetables and dried goods are beautiful and need to be shown off.  Come on – boast your bounty!

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Unclog Drains Easily

kitchen sink

Back when I was single and lived in an all-female household, the answer to a clogged drain would be simple: pick up the phone and call a plumber. These days, however, I can usually deal with clogged drains myself – it saves us a bundle, not to mention that few professionals would actually venture out here.

The simplest and most obvious thing is prevention: try not to let your drains get mucky in the first place. Clean plates thoroughly before placing them in the sink, especially plates with lots of fatty/oily residue, and try to catch hair and other gunk before it slides down your bathroom drain. 

It is preferable not to let a drain clog completely, but deal with it as soon as you notice draining gets a little slow. The sooner you get to treating the problem, the less likely it is you’ll have to revert to harsh measures. Here are some simple methods that nearly always do the trick:

Boiling water – things don’t get simpler than this; boil a kettle of water and pour it down the drain all at once. Often it’s enough to clear up whatever is blocking the drain. Run the tap for testing. 

Baking soda, vinegar and hot water – pour some baking soda down the drain and top off with vinegar and hot to boiling water. This should start a nice fizzy reaction that does wonders at clearing drains. You can even do that once in a while on a regular basis as a preventative measure.

Mechanical methods – this can get yucky, but it’s still pretty straightforward and very effective when dealing with a blocked kitchen sink. Put on a pair of rubber gloves, grab a bucket and place it underneath the sink piping. Unscrew the trap where it curves into a U shape and let the spills and gunk collect in the bucket. Fish a bit in the upper part of the pipe for any remaining debris and discard those too.

For unclogging bath drains, you may wish to use a long metal hook to fish out any hair that had been stuck in the drain.

Caustic soda – when nothing else works, I revert to caustic soda (also known as lye and used in soap-making). It’s an extremely corrosive substance, so be careful. Pour about 1\3 cup down a clogged drain and top off with a kettle of hot water. Back off to avoid toxic fumes and check the result once the reaction cools off. This has never failed us yet.

From Your Own Hands: Self Reliant Projects for Independent Living

Image source: Creative Commons

 Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

A New Spin on an Old Craft Handspun Yarn Gets Its Resurgence

Beautiful Handspun Yarn

When I tell people that my hobby is spinning, they usually assume I mean the trendy exercise class. However, you won’t find me sweating it out in a gym hunched over a stationary bike (although it’s a fair assumption to make as I am a physical education teacher by trade). Rather than pedaling, my spinning involves treadling. And it’s more common than you may think.

What’s Driving Handspinning’s Renewed Popularity?

Handspinning yarn from wool and other materials has seen a resurgence in the last two decades. While I don’t pretend to know all that has brought this about, I do know that it has grown not just in popularity, but the craft also has evolved and flourished as an art. Spinning veterans and newcomers alike are working to preserve traditional knowledge and to push the boundaries by exploring new methods and materials, creating a rich and diverse field of makers and a renewed prominence.

Digital marketplace. Since handspinning’s last wax and wane in popularity, we have seen the development of a global marketplace and communications network. This means that not only do today’s spinners have instant access to information, instructions, and an (amazing!) online community, but we also have easy and fairly inexpensive access to a whole range of materials that were previously difficult to source. With the click of a button, we can have silk from Asia, rare breeds from Great Britain, and Quiviut from the Arctic (ok so that one isn’t inexpensive!) sent right to our door.

Makers movement. Conversely, and likely in reaction to the above-mentioned digital presence in our lives, there has even more recently emerged several co-existing and intertwined movements that push back against the digital age: slow living, the makers movement, and slow fashion.

A sense of place and purpose. Despite how happy we are to have information at our fingertips, it (ironically) leaves us starved for a sense of connection. In reaction, we yearn to savor our creating, to know where the materials came from, and to produce long-lasting, quality garments that can be worn and enjoyed for decades. A step beyond the more mainstream crafts of knitting, crochet, and weaving is spinning your own yarn — possibly even from fleece you’ve sourced and processed yourself.

New modes of learning. And while such an historical craft may seem incongruous with the digital age, it’s an incredibly convenient anachronism. You can take an online course on Craftsy while nestled in front of your hearth. You can order a PVC spinning wheel to travel to guild spin ins with or browse YouTube for videos to help you restore your antique wheel. You can register online for a growing number of educational retreats where spinning celebrities will teach you new skills, and you can join a team of spinners from around the world for the Spinzilla or Tour de Fleece competitions.

Handspinning is an enjoyable, relaxing, and practical craft. It allows us to connect with the past while complimenting current lifestyle trends. It can be a very cost effective hobby and requires very minimal investment. So whether you learn from a YouTube video on a DIY drop spindle you find instructions for online, or head to the local guild to try out a selection of wheels and receive hands-on tutoring, I do hope that you will join me and give this craft a whirl.

Jennifer Huhta is a production handspinner and natural fiber artist in Ontario, where she teaches yarn-spinning classes, writes for fiber arts publications, runs an online business, and works with Canadian shepherds to creatively promote their fleeces. Connect with Jennifer at Roses and Purls on Facebook, Instagram and Etsy.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

A Quick Way to Repair Pin-Holes in Garden Hoses

Sometimes a garden hose will spring a pin-hole. Every leak reduces the amount of water reaching our plants, or increases the time we have to spend watering to give the plants enough. In hot dry weather, time spent watering is at a premium! Leaky hoses can waste a lot of water in one growing season! We need ways to get leaky hoses back in action quickly. Here's a way to quickly repair hose pin-holes, using parts you likely already have in your shed.


A repaired hose ready to get back into action. Photo by Pam Dawling

If you are dealing with larger holes, or lengthwise cracks, cut out the damaged portion and see my August 2017 post Step by Step Garden Hose Repairs. If it's a very small hole, you likely have been questioning whether it's worth the time to cut the hose and fit a repair coupling. Here's an alternative (with no cutting) that's very quick to do.

My collection of old hose repair clamps, ready for a new life. Photo by Pam Dawling

Plastic hose repair clamps often last longer than the inserts. I hope you kept some clamps. Maybe you don't have as impressive a collection as I do, but you only need one for each repair. The other item you need is a piece of inner tube. Tools needed are a permanent marker to circle the pinhole before you lose sight of it, scissors to cut the inner tube, and a Philips screwdriver for the clamp.

Keep a caddy of hose repair tools handy, including an old inner tube. Photo by Pam Dawling

Cut a piece of inner tube a bit longer than the clamp, and wrap it around the hose over your circled pin-hole. Fit the halves of the clamp around the inner tube, being careful to keep it smooth, rather than bunched up. Have the clamps directly over the hole. Fit the screws and tighten the clamp. Test the hose. You're done.

Buy good quality watering tools

I've noticed that cheap hoses usually crack up, and that it is the better-quality ones that eventually spring pin-holes. Those good hoses are really worth repairing! Without being paid to say so, I like the Gilmour Flexogen hoses. Their heavy-duty hoses have a lifetime warranty, and even their medium-duty ones have a 10 year warranty. That's for home use. They also sell professional hoses, as well as the heavy-duty all-metal hose repair ends I advocate in Step by Step Garden Hose Repairs.

Pam Dawling works in the vegetable gardens at Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia. She often presents workshops at MEN Fairs, as well as sustainable agriculture conferences. Pam also writes for Growing for Market and other magazines. Her book, Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres, is available at, Pam's second book The Year-Round Hoophouse will be published by New Society November 20, 2018. Her blog is on her website and also on

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Rodent Proof Raised Garden Box


We live in the mountains where there are numerous rodents which can make gardening very difficult. After sacrificing half or more of our gardening efforts for a few years to chipmunks, ground squirrels, moles, voles and mice we came up with a raised bed box that kept our vegetables protected. I had a personal wood mill so I milled out the lumber needed to make several boxes. Since we have been growing vegetables in the garden boxes we have not lost any of our efforts to rodents.

Flexible Size Boxes

Below is a description of the construction and design of the box. Dimensions can be changed from our 30” wide, 60” long and 18” high box to suit individual needs. The actual box itself is 6” high and 2” thick.  I built boxes that were higher to accommodate peas, zucchini and beans. Boxes like the one shown in the photo were designed for spinach, radishes, carrots and lettuce. What I also like about the raised garden box is that with the ½” hardware cloth I can water the plants without having to raise the lid. It also protects them from hail which is not unusual in the mountains and I can throw a tarp over it when we get a late season snow.

Tools Needed And Materials

The tools needed to build the box are: hammer, screwdriver for the ‘L’ brackets, tin snips, a hand saw (what I used), small square and a framing square to get good square tight fitting joints.


2 X 6’s for the box
2 X 3’s for the framing.
1 ¼ ”X 4” lumber for the lid
1/2-inch gardware cloth

Since my lumber was milled out it was true to size but nominal size from a lumber yard would do equally well. I personally chose not to use pressure treated lumber as the chemicals used to preserve it could slowly leach out over time and contaminate my garden. Instead I use a good quality wood preserver painted on and applied long before I use the box so it will soak into the wood and not into the soil.

Step 1, The Box

I start by cutting the pieces to length and height before assembly. It doesn’t make much difference what joint is used as long as it can be tight and strong. In this box pictured I used half lap joints on the upper pieces and on the actual box itself I used butt joints with ‘L’ brackets at each corner. I also used a waterproof glue on all these joints along with galvanized nails at each corner of the butt joints. Between the ‘L’ brackets, nails and waterproof glue each joint will stay strong for many years. I also cut ½” hardware cloth to fit the bottom of the box and attached it with ¾” galvanized staples to keep rodents from burrowing up from the bottom.

Step 2, The Frame

Next I cut cross supports for the three upright posts so they would firmly fit between the posts and nailed them into place with galvanized nails and glue to hold them secure. I then took the partially completed box outside and put it on our picnic table and applied a good coat of wood sealer to protect the box from repeated exposure to moisture.  When the sealer had fully dried I then stapled hardware cloth around the inside of the uprights making sure there were no gaps. that smaller rodents could access.

Step 3, The Top/s

The only part remaining was to make tops or lids for the box. I chose in this case to make two lids that came together in the middle and hinged at each end so I could plant one species of vegetable at each end. I could have used half lap joints but instead I chose to use a ¼” thick plywood gusset at each corner. I liberally applied waterproof glue to each gusset and also used decking screws to affix them in place. This made a very secure and square set of tops that will be strong. After an application of sealer to protect the tops I stapled hardware screen on each top and then put on sturdy hinges.To keep the tops from going too far back I used a ¼” rope affixed with screw eyes so the tops would stay open as seen in the photo. That completed the box and it was now ready. I had some foam insulation tape left from when we put a cap on the back of our pickup truck. I put that along the top rail to cushion the top if it falls or is dropped but it is not necessary.   

Strong, Durable, Flexible

These boxes have proved to be effective in keeping rodents out and they are also durable. We looked out the window once and saw a bear standing on top of one and all we needed to do (after it departed) was push the hardware screen up from the bottom giving it a slightly rounded crown and not a concave one caused by the bear. By using ½” hardware cloth it allows the sun to reach the plants and also air and water. Occasionally the sun gets hot at 9,800’ elevation and small seedlings will wither and die. In that case I put a piece of black 50% sun screening over the box to allow the tender seedlings a proper start.

Easy To Empty And Store

At the end of each growing season I remove the soil from the box and store the box where it is protected and out of the way. That way when I start the box again next year the soil is automatically turned and aerated and any weed roots that came up from the bottom are easily removed. The roots of the vegetables, depending on how much soil you put in the box, will grow through the bottom hardware cloth into the soil below.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their homesteading  lifestyle in the mountains with their three German Shepherd Dogs visit their blog site. They live fairly remote in their small cabin that they heat with a wood stove and in the summer grow their own vegetables. Their blog site

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Safety Tips for Dangerous Home Improvement Projects


You like to learn new things and come up with creative solutions, which is why you’d prefer to tackle a project yourself than delegate it to someone else — especially when it comes to home improvement tasks in your current living space.

So far, you’ve done well with this old house. You’ve given it a more modern feel, upgraded to energy-efficient appliances and hashed together a streamlined design using funky, up-cycled industrial-inspired materials.

Now it’s time to address a few of the more difficult, potentially dangerous tasks on your list. Read on to discover essential tips aimed at helping you approach three precarious projects safely and mitigate through a variety of challenging roadblocks with success.

Switching Out Electrical Fixtures

You’ve waited long enough to hang that salvaged retro chandelier, and it’s time for the faulty outlet that keeps your favorite chair in perpetual darkness to go. Before you break out your tools and head for the breaker box, take a minute to remember electrocution is one of the United States Department of Labor “fatal four” occupational hazards. People reported 67 deaths by electrocution in 2016, up more than 8 percent from the previous year.

Other risk factors associated with electrical repair include shock, burns, overheating wires, destruction of insulation, fires and explosions. You can minimize danger and maintain adequate safety caution by following these guidelines:

Always replace existing outlets with grounded alternatives. GFC — Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter — switches have built-in breakers that automatically disconnect the flow power in case of a short. You can install these circuits in the same manner as their traditional three-pronged predecessors.

Unplug all your appliances and remove all bulbs before you begin to work.

Turn off the breaker. If you will be in an isolated portion of the house, it’s not necessary to shut off the main — you may need power to run tools and affix spotlighting — but be sure breakers associated with the area in question are completely down.

Remove faceplates or fixtures, and keep the screws that held them in place.

Slowly pull wires out, leaving yourself enough space to move around comfortably.

Note black, white and bare or green copper wires.

Attach color-coded wires in precisely the same manner to new outlets or fixtures.

Wrap electrical tape around connection wires and nuts for added stability.

If you are hanging a heavy piece, consider recruiting a friend to help you hold it securely in place while you connect the wiring.

Fixing Your Roof

Another “fatal four” cited by the United States Department of Labor is falling. Roof falls accounted for 1,200 fatalities between 2003 and 2013 alone. You don’t have to become a tragic statistic, however, to efficiently undertake necessary roof repairs. You must employ essential safety requirements — and do so with diligence.

Study fall protection options and make sure appropriate solution plans are in place from the get-go. Viable examples include using sturdy covers for roof holes, guardrail systems, safety nets with harnesses and lanyard lines with a deceleration device.

Practice secure ladder and scaffold safety techniques. Ladder locations should be level, stable and clear of high traffic areas.

Always maintain at least three points of contact when climbing a ladder — such as two feet and one hand, or one hand and both feet. Also, do not carry items up or down with you — use a bucket pulley system for necessary tools and supplies.

Maintain safe access to connective scaffolding with secure ramps, walkways, portable ladders or stair powers. Finally, do not skimp on protective equipment such as safety glasses, work gloves, treaded boots and a visored hat, preferably a hard hat.

Removing Walls

The streamlined design you’re ultimately shooting for requires a more open floor plan than the one you’ve got now. Older structures tend to include several small rooms partitioned off with non-load bearing walls — yours is no exception. If you open up one or two of the internal walls, you might find additional flexible, multi-use common space.

However, wall removal carries a significant potential risk of exposure to toxic substances.  All too often, homeowners discover previous tenants masked the presence of harmful materials by building directly over them. It’s not unusual to find asbestos hidden behind a double wall, or lead paint underneath layers of non-lead varieties.

The good news is hiring an environmental expert and arranging for pricey testing is not your only option. If you uncover something concerning — like exposed pipes with white or grey insulation remnants, or paint that breaks off in a tell-tale scaly, geometric pattern — head to your nearest home center or hardware store and buy some DIY testing kits.

While asbestos results boast an average of 2-3 weeks turnaround time, you can confirm the presence of lead-paint in minutes. Of course, taking any amount of time to assure safety will always be the best precaution — regardless of project scope.

After all, avoiding problems in the first place is the ultimate creative solution!   

Photos Credit: Image by Pixabay

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

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