Stuff We Love
50 Top Home Improvement Products From 2018
Scoop up some of our favorite tools and home products from the last year.
Handy Way to Grab a Handle
Getting a hammer out of a standard tool belt loop takes three mini moves: Grab the head, flick it upward and (hopefully) catch the handle—then start swinging. I’ve done this so many times that I don’t think twice about it. That’s why, when I saw the , I didn’t immediately see an advantage.
Then I started fiddling with it—and grew to like it. It’ll never replace my tool belt, but it has a lot of other great uses. You can hang it off your belt or a pocket. When I was working on my knees, it made grabbing and putting away a hammer way easier. For ladder work, it provided a surefire way to pack my hammer. I also liked it for holding a staple gun to install insulation and tar paper. The angle of the holster and the pressure of the metal clamp can be adjusted easily to hold different tools, and it only takes a minute to convert it for left-hand use. Get more info at . Price: about $10. — Spike Carlsen
Wall Repair That Works
If you have wall texture that needs repair, check out and “fine” and “medium” orange peel. Each type costs less than $10 per can, and covers 30 to 110 sq. ft. (Homax Products also makes knockdown texture sprays, but we haven’t tried them yet.)
Testing is everything with this stuff—set up a half sheet of drywall or a piece of cardboard and experiment with the spraying distance to get the best match with your wall.
The spray has a strong odor, so only use it when you can open the windows and vacate the room for a while. It’s incredibly messy—use lots of painter’s plastic on surrounding floors and ceilings. And be sure to shake the can every few seconds of spraying or the nozzle will plug. Also, these are the things we’re buying at The Home Depot this month.
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Great String Trimmer for the Money
I needed a new string trimmer but didn’t want to spend the $300 to $400 that most home centers were charging. Then I found this one made by . It works great and has plenty of pro-quality features like a straight shaft, an adjustable handle and a “Tap’n Go 35” head—which makes dispensing new string a breeze. It also has lots of power and starts right up with a pull or two. I bought mine for about $220 at Menards, a Midwest chain of home centers. You can also find them at Tractor Supply Co. and many independent dealers. — Jason White, Contributing Editor
Check out some more garden products here.
Watering my garden is a big enough hassle without having to bend over to attach the hose to the spigot and stop to unkink it every three minutes. The solves both problems. Attached to the spigot, it can swing up and down 180 degrees and rotate 360. This means securing the hose requires fewer contortions, and it’s less likely to kink as you move about your yard. You can also attach it to the other end of the hose to make hand sprinklers easier to use. Best of all, it doesn’t leak. You can find the Hose Swivel for about $6 at hardware stores and home centers. —Spike Carlsen
Smart Irrigation Saves You Money
Do you know what’s better than a sprinkler timer with a rain sensor? A smart timer that knows the exact rainfall in your area so it can adjust future schedules to avoid overwatering. The () grabs local weather data via the internet and computes how long each zone should run to keep your plants and turf healthy while conserving water. You can also program it with a tablet or smartphone. It comes in two models: a six-zone unit for about $100 and a 12-zone model for about $120. They’re available at home centers and online. — Rick Muscoplat, Contributing Editor
A Saw For The Ages
When I was a framing carpenter in Denver back in the day, pulling a mammoth “worm-drive” saw out of your truck and going to work was the sign you’d reached the big leagues. These monsters required Popeye forearms and a diet of canned spinach to operate, but they could cut through anything and were virtually indestructible.
The is the cordless equivalent of these vintage brutes. It has a lot to love. Like all worm-drive saws, the left-side blade position makes it easy to see your cutting line. It’s a workhorse: The 60-volt battery coupled with DeWalt’s thin-kerf FLEXVOLT blade (specifically designed for cordless saws) creates a saw that’s fast and powerful. It can churn through materials up to 2-1/2 in. thick and cut bevels up to 53 degrees. The safety button is easy to access.
The saw also has some nice grace notes, like the on-board blade-changing wrench, a depth gauge that tells you how deep the blade is set, and a carrying bag. The swing-down rafter hook lets you hang the saw from a joist or rafter between cuts (and believe me, you’ll want to give your arm a break between cuts).
The DeWalt Fast Charger is so hardworking that it’s fan cooled. The battery itself has a simple gauge that indicates how much juice is left.
Weighing in at 11 lbs., it still requires Popeye forearms to operate. And at nearly $400 (with battery and charger), it takes a Popeye-size wallet too, but if you’re looking for a saw, corded or cordless, that’ll handle anything, this is the one. It’s available online or wherever DeWalt tools are sold.
Tool Bag That Says “Aah”
Hauling tools around can be a real pain in the a … arm. Digging for the tool you need is another hassle. The solves both problems. The padded handles and shoulder straps make it easy on the back and hands. And the wide-mouth, stay-open top keeps your tools visible and easy to grab.
The bag is big enough to haul the hand and power tools you need for most any job but small enough to easily carry and store. The interior has 33 pockets for organizing small tools, a zipper pocket big enough for a laptop, and space for a battalion of cordless tools, batteries and chargers. The exterior has six large pockets – four with flaps – and two mesh bags for larger items. The molded plastic bottom keeps your stuff dry, and the ballistic nylon construction says “I’m here to stay.”
The Tradesman Pro Wide-Open Tool Bag (No. 55469) costs about $90. To buy it online or find a retailer, go to kleintools.com.
Check out even more products we love here.
A Pair Of Killer Digging Tools
When you see the word “assassin” in a company’s name, you figure it must have some killer products. Well, the two “Root Assassin” shovels we tried sure lived up to their name.
The has an alligator snout-shaped blade with aggressive teeth to match. It will easily sever small roots with a single plunge and can be used as a foot-powered saw for cutting through larger roots. The teeth are so sharp that you can use the tool for pruning above-ground branches. the blade and handle are unibody constructed of industrial-grade steel and guaranteed for life. It’s a heavy-duty tool, yet at 4 lbs., it’s light enough to carry around all day. If you ever need to dig a posthole or remove or transplant a root-bound bush or tree, this is the shovel to grab. The company also offers a small version of the tool.
The One Shot Shovel, also made by Root Assassin, has two features we love. The top of the blade has a wide flange that gives your foot more area to push and distributes the pressure over a wider area. The flange continues around the side of the shovel, allowing you to carry larger loads without spilling. The top and side flanges combine to increase the overall strength of the blade, making this a true workhorse.
The Root Assassin shovel retails for $50, the One Shot shovel for $40. You can buy them at other online retailers.
Plus: You need to see these 23 yard tool hacks that’ll make your life easier.
A Low-Vibration Sander
There’s not one BIG thing we love about —it’s a lot of little things. The split disc has inner and outer rings (one turns clockwise, the other counterclockwise) that counteract each other for less vibration. The split-disc design also provides a larger opening for more efficient dust collection (using either the clear collector shown or the vacuum attachment included). The sander feels good in the hand, and we like the variable speed – not a revolutionary feature on an RO sander, but like we said, it’s the little things. At first glance, the inner and outer sanding discs might seem like a disadvantage – more edges to catch and more sandpaper to tear – but they grip tenaciously.
The only drawback we see is the need to buy proprietary sanding discs; more stuff to store and keep track of. But the pain is lessened by the 15 discs that come with it, along with a tool bag to keep everything together.
The Vibrafree sander (about $70) is available at home centers and online.
A Lawn Mower That’s Got It All
Troy-Bilt began making steel-wheeled rototillers in Troy, New York, more than 60 years ago. And it continues to churn out high-quality yard and garden equipment. The TB240 self-propelled mower is no exception. The TB240 features front wheel drive and big, 11-in. wheels in back, a combination that makes it easy to maneuver. It’s powered by a high-performance Honda engine with an AutoChoke starting system, which means no priming, no choking and no need to pull the starting rope more than once. Variable-speed control allows you to set the pace. There are three cutting modes—side discharge, mulching and rear bag collection—and the 21-in. deck can be easily adjusted to cut grass in height from 1-1/4 in. to 3-3/4 in. The handle can be adjusted to three angles, so you can mow in comfort regardless of how tall you are.
You Need This Magnetic Stud Finder!
I need a stud finder about once a year…and that’s about how long the batteries in my electronic stud finder last. So I keep this handy gadget in the bottom of my toolbox for finding studs the old-fashioned way—magnetically. You run in a zigzag pattern across the wall, and when it detects a metal screw or nail that fastens the drywall to the stud, the little red tongue waggles. It seems a little hit-and-miss, but finding a stud has never taken me more than 15 seconds. (about $4) is available at most hardware stores and home centers. — Spike Carlsen, Contributing Editor
Gilmour Circular Sprinkler with Spike Base
I’m not a huge fan of yard work, especially watering grass and gardens. So I pay attention to watering tools that make it easier—and Gilmour has come out with two watering tools that do just that. The has all the features you want and need, and its design makes it intuitive to operate. You simply slide collars to adjust the spray pattern or pull up the top for full-circle watering. It has a simple lever for adjusting spray distance and an on/off switch to minimize back-and-forth trips to the spigot. Two sprinklers can be linked in series. — Spike Carlsen, Contributing Editor
Extra Hand, Anyone?
Ever held a flashlight in your teeth to make a plumbing or auto repair? Well, these flashlight holders can save your teeth and your neck. Both holders have a 9-in. flexible neck that bends 90 degrees and rotates 360 degrees. The tapered spring clip firmly grips flashlights ranging from 3/4 in. to 2 in. in diameter. The spring clamp version can be secured to any object up to 2 in. thick. The magnetic version has a powerful disc magnet that can cling to appliances, vehicles and many flat metal surfaces. You can even stick this version to a drill press table so a flashlight can illuminate your work.
The Lisle holder with a magnetic base () sells for about $20, and the clamp version () for about $30 online and at some auto parts stores. Find out more at or
Plus, check out The Coolest Yard Tools You’ve Ever Seen.
Hair’s a Solution
My daughter has long hair, which means constant drain clogs. So I tried the . Bottom line: It works. Instead of fishing out clogs, I just lift the SinkShroom out of the drain and yank off the hair. Installing one involves removing the existing stopper, which can involve a little wrench work if it’s connected to an operating arm.
There are models in various finishes for bathtubs, showers and sinks. They cost about $15 each. To find them, as well as other clog-busting solutions, search online for “drain hair catcher.” — Gary Wentz, Editor-in-Chief
Plus, check out What is a Zip-It Drain Cleaning Tool and Why Do You Need One?
Photo Courtesy of Dewalt
A New Heavy Hitter
We expect a lot from our sledgehammers. We want an indestructible head and a handle that can withstand overstrike. We also want a tool to be the ideal weight: heavy enough to bust through concrete yet light enough to swing all day. With most sledges you get two out of three—but one company has upped the score. feature composite carbon fiber handles that are durable and seemingly immune to overstrike damage. The handles—which are about two-thirds hollow—lighten the weight and help absorb shock. The sledgehammers are available in 8-, 10- and 12-lb. versions and cost $50 to $60. — Spike Carlsen, Contributing Editor
Check out these Concrete Demolition Tools and Tips.
A Mini Air Jack
Pry bars are great for lifting windows, appliances or cabinets to level them. But they’re also great at leaving scratches—and sometimes you need three hands to lift, align, level and shim all at the same time. The solves all that. This 6 x 6-in. bladder inflates with the squeeze of a bulb, up to about 2-1/2 in. thick. A push of a button deflates it. The manufacturer says each one can support 300 lbs. There’s also a Pro XL model that can handle 500 lbs. They’re handy for lifting appliances to adjust the leveling feet or lifting one end of a cabinet to slide permanent shims into place. You can also use them in pairs to level windows and doors during installation.
Check out these Premium Tool Gift Ideas that any DIYer will Love.
Ryobi ONE+ 18-volt model P2190
We have a gas-powered leaf blower, but I hate to start it, and I got tired of begging my husband to do it for me. So I had resorted to using a broom to clean off our deck, stairs and paver patio. Not anymore. I bought , and what used to take me an hour or more now takes 10 minutes or less! I start up on the deck, work my way down the stairs and then blow all the debris from the patio out into the lawn or away from the driveway. I paid about $40 for the Ryobi ONE+ 18-volt model P2190 without the battery. (I use the batteries from my husband’s other Ryobi 18-volt tools.) The blower is light and has enough battery life to do everything I need to do. No more gas-powered blowers or brooms for me! — Jan Lehman.
Photo courtesy of Greenworks
Greenworks G-MAX 40V Self-Propelled Wheelbarrow
The first time I used a gas-powered wheelbarrow, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I was in heaven vibrating like mad with ringing ears, but at least my back wasn’t killing me. However, the provides the best of both worlds—it gets your stuff where it needs to go, and does it quietly and painlessly. The dual 10-in. pneumatic front wheels supply the propulsion while the back wheel does the steering.
It’ll haul up to 220 lbs. while tackling inclines of up to 20 degrees. The nearly 4-cu.-ft. tray is spacious enough to haul dozens of tools, many bags of mulch, or armfuls of twigs and weeds. It dumps with the squeeze of a lever and the lift of a handle. It has “tortoise” and “rabbit” speeds as well as forward and reverse. The throttle is a motorcycle–style twist grip. According to the manufacturer, the battery will last up to 45 minutes between charges.
Two dinky quirks: You can’t disengage the drive system and push it like a normal wheelbarrow, and you need to push the “safety switch” each time you put it in motion. Both are easily forgiven once you haul four bags of mulch uphill without breaking a sweat. The G-MAX 40V wheelbarrow is available online and at some home centers. — Spike Carlsen, Contributing Editor
Voltage Tester with Flashlight
Part voltage tester and part flashlight, this will keep you safe when locating hot wires. The built-in flashlight will help you even in the darkest, tightest areas such as attics and crawl spaces.
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You’ll move around projects easily with the Hitachi This nailer will drive 1,650 nails per charge and allows you to drive them at a clean angle.
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Keep your eyes safe during all of your DIY projects with from DeWALT. This new design not only provides protection from debris and dust, but the lens is coated to protect against scratches and fogging.
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Mobile Project Center
Whether you’re doing a woodworking project, furniture repair or just need another work area in your basement or workshop, the from Kreg Tool will provide a steady work surface. The unit has easy-release tabs for setup and the steel legs provide a rock-solid foundation.
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Pull Power, Light and Compressed Air From Your Ceiling
When auto mechanics need a trouble light, receptacle or compressed air, they just reach for the ceiling and pull down whatever hose or cord they need. Now you can too. The Chamberlain Garage Power Station mounts on your ceiling and has a 25-ft. multifunction pull-down/retractable “hose” to provide light, power and compressed air.
The base unit plugs into a nearby receptacle and houses an air compressor capable of putting out 100 psi (great for bike tires). Pop two MR16 halogen bulbs into the ceiling unit to get 100 watts of area lighting in addition to the LED work light on the retractable hose. Find the .
OxyLED Motion Sensor Light
The nice thing about the is that it only turns on when you need it and will only stay on for as long as you need it. It can be mounted just about anywhere and give light where you need it. It’s battery operated, which means it’s one less thing to have to worry about it being an energy vampire.
Electrical Tools With Onboard Voltage Tester
Non- voltage testers are great for making sure the power is off before you start an electrical project. But the testers are easy to lose track of and misplace—which pocket is it in?
Tool manufacturer Gardner Bender solves the problem of lost testers by incorporating a tester right into the handles of its wire stripper and screwdriver—tools you’re bound to have on hand whenever you’re doing electrical work. Simply press the button and move the tool handle near the wires to test before touching. Or, slide the tester off the tool handle to use it as a freestanding unit.
Find the at home centers and online.
Smartphone Inspection Camera
This Distianert Endoscope Inspection Camera has a 13-ft. cable that lets you snake behind walls and peek inside appliances—even grab wires or retrieve nuts and bolts from tight quarters. Just download the app and plug the 2.0-megapixel inspection camera into any on-the-go (OTG) compatible Android smartphone or tablet or into a USB port on a Mac laptop. Move the camera into position and adjust the light intensity switch to get the proper illumination. Watch your screen to get the camera into the right spot. Then snap a still shot or shoot video.
For long runs, tape the cable to a stick to feed and aim the camera head. The unit comes with a cloth storage bag and three attachments: a 90-degree mirror, a hook and a magnetic tip. The video quality is good enough to get the job done; just don’t expect 1080 resolution for this price. You can find the camera for about $29 at .
Vacuum Dustpan Saves Your Back
You may think this represents the ultimate in laziness. But if you have back issues, this smart vacuum/dustpan is for you. Just set the unit to automatic mode and sweep the debris toward it. The motion sensor detects when your broom is within range and starts up the vacuum. Aim the dirt pile toward the suction port and the vacuum will suck it up. If you have pets, they may activate the motion detector when they walk by. That’s why there’s a switched manual mode to activate the vacuum.
World’s Coolest Hose Reel: RoboReel Water Hose Reel
It’s crazy-expensive, but if you’re a serious gardener, it’s crazy-cool, too. Frankly, there’s nothing like the RoboReel Water Hose Reel. Its looks may be otherworldly, but its function is totally down to earth.
Here are the neatest features. One hundred feet of high-quality 5/8-in. hose (or 150 ft. of 1/2-in. hose) retracts with the push of a button either on the top of the cover or on the remote. So, no cranking—a big onboard rechargeable battery does the heavy lifting. The remote switch snaps onto the end of the hose (it features quick-disconnects on all the accessories), and that allows you to turn the water off or on from wherever you are. Attach it to a handheld sprinkler for hand watering, or use it separately to control the lawn sprinkler. No more running back and forth to the spigot.
The water shuts off automatically after one hour, so you never have to worry about it running all night if you forget to shut it off. The RoboReel system has lots more features that are worth checking out if you think this awesome hose reel might be for you. Believe it?if you’re a hard-core gardener with money to spend on your passion, you’ll absolutely love this thing. Learn more,
Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller Generation 2
Simply having an automatic sprinkler system is fine but it isn’t as comprehensive and environmentally conscious as . Rachio’s device will automatically calculate watering cycles based on the specifics of a yard. It will even set up custom zones all in an effort to minimize water usage and decrease runoff.
Not worried about upgrading, find what to do when an automatic sprinkler system breaks.
Ring Beams Home Security Lights
Ring, a home security tech company, recently acquired LED light company Mr. Beams and announced the launch of several new security products that combine technology from both companies. One of the first collaborative efforts is Ring Beams Home Security Lights. The Mr. Beams lights will illuminate any motion they detect and work in conjunction with Ring’s security cameras and doorbells. An alert will be sent to any connected device when movement is detected so you can see from the camera what’s going on outside.
Super-Easy String Replacement
The heavy-duty string comes coiled on a disk. All you do is plop the disk into position, feed out the two string ends (and not through tiny little holes, like on my old one), and snap on the cap. My property is several acres, so if I’m close to running out of string, I slip a replacement spool in my pocket before I head out. That way I don’t have to walk all the way back to my shop to reload. — Mark Petersen.
Scotts Wizz Cordless Spreader
It works great at spreading seed, week killer, fertilizer and even ice melt, and it has a little sliding shield called an EDGEGUARD that causes the product your spreading to be broadcasted only straight forward and too the right, which is perfect when working next to the driveway, sidewalks, etc.
The one handed operation is the biggest benefit. On windy days you can hold the spreader close to the ground to avoid nasty chemicals being blown back in your face, and you don’t have to bend completely over like you probably did with your old spreader. And sometimes, when you’re working a ways from the house, you can use your free hand to bring extra seed along in a small bucket. This eliminates half the trips back to the seed bag for refills. Scotts Wizz spreader is available at many home centers and hardware stores.
Gardenite 63-inch Adjustable Garden Leaf Rake
because it will reach places other rakes can’t. The 63 inches assure that but so toes the adjustable head, which can go from 7 inches to 22 inches. It might run a little more than a conventional rake but there is a reason why it’s Amazon’s best seller.
Check out other awesome tools to make yard work easier, like aerator shoes.
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Osmile Professional Series Soaker Hose
Take care of shrubs, gardens, plants and lawns with It comes in 100-foot lengths so it will cover a lot of ground with its 1 gallon per foot per hour drip at low pressure.
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Husqvarna Rear Tine Tiller
Invigorate your garden with . This tiller will dig through tough ground with ease and utilizes a counterweight to improve balance.
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Now I just stick the hose down in the reservoir and pump out the old, dirty oil. When I’m done, I set the bottle on the ground and clamp the end of the hose onto the edge of my workbench and leave it like that for a while. That way all the oil drains out of the hose down into the bottle. I still lay down some cardboard even though I haven’t spilled a drop since I got it. . Briggs makes a 4-liter model as well. — Mark Petersen, Associate Editor
Want to see what auto mechanic’s top tools are?
Avalanche Roof Snow Removal
Learn how to prevent ice dams from forming on your roof.
Earthwise 40V Lithium Cordless power shovel
If you’ve got some old, dull shovels around, find out how to sharpen a shovel.
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Ariens Two-Stage Snow Thrower with Electric Start
Find out how to change oil on a snow blower.
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Bag-a-Nut 18 inch Push Pecan/Large Acorn Picker Upper
Acorns are everywhere beginning mid September, and they can be a real nuisance to stay on top of! Simply put, this device is genius. Roll the picker-upper around your yard and it effortlessly scoops up the acorns and other nuts into a large basket. When it’s full, empty the basket into a container. It’s as easy and breezy as that! If you’ve got a tree dropping acorns, keep a few on hand to create some acorn decor.
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Black + Decker Alligator Cordless Lopper
Stormy weather can lead to fallen branches and damaged trees limbs. When fall is in full swing, you may notice dead limbs that need to be removed. While a chainsaw is your go-to, it’s not the easiest to maneuver when pruning trees, with its lack of control and skipping when starting cuts. This cordless lopper is a great alternative, as it adds powerful jaws that clamp the branch in space, so you can cut wood into manageable pieces. Peruse these 11 hand tools for the hard-to-shop for DIYer.
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Worx 13 Amp Electric Leaf Mulcher
After cleaning, weeding and fertilizing, you’re going to want to cover your hard work with a protective layer of fallen leaves or straw. This mulching machine is your all-in-one solution to dealing with those piles of leaves. It disposes of the leafy yard waste in just a few simple steps, turning hundreds of gallons of rotting leaves into vitamin-rich organic mulch you can use for your flowerbed or garden. Want to know more about mulching? Check out this mulch guide.
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Paint Touch-Up in a Pen
When you’re finished painting a room, just load the pen with matching paint and snap on the cap. Later, when you’ve got a ding to touch up, give the pen a few shakes and go to it. They’re a little spendy. But it’s sure hard to beat the convenience. Plus: Check out these 29 painting tool hacks that’ll get you projects rolling.
Angle Grinder Dust Catcher
The collector also has a removable segment that allows you to get the grinder in close to edges. Having to drag a vacuum hose along with you as you sand is a little cumbersome. But we haven’t found a better way to catch dust from a grinder.
Lead paint caution: Houses built before 1978 may contain lead paint. Before disturbing any surface, get a lab analysis of paint chips from it. Contact your local public health department on how to collect samples and where to send them.
The is an infomercial favorite that works on all hard floor surfaces including wood, tile and vinyl and its brushes rotate 360 degrees. There are no bags, cords or dustpans so you may want to pack away your old broom for good. These cleaning tips will reduce household dust.
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Have stinky drain pipes? claim to keep your pipes odor free throughout the year. Just drop them in your drain once a month to prevent backups and nasty odors. Don’t give up! These tips will help you unclog stubborn drains.
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Banish dirt and grime with the Designed to work on aluminum siding, decks and even barbecue grills, you’ll be able to reach hard-to-get-at spots with its long wand and adjustable spray nozzle. FYI, here are 11 things you should never pressure wash.
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An infomercial must-have, is a strong, waterproof tape that will seal and repair things as it conforms to any shape. Try using it to seal out water and air to create a solid barrier. It can even be applied underwater! Try these 12 brilliant uses for duct tape.
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