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Install a Pocket Door to Save Floor Space Dear James: I was raised in an older house that had pocket doors, but they never worked smoothly. I am building my own house now, and I would like to use pocket doors. How can I avoid the problems with those old doors? — Pat G. Dear Pat: …Read more. Stencil Your Old Laminate Kitchen Countertop Dear James: I would love to remodel my kitchen, but my budget must go for my kids' new shoes first. Is there any inexpensive method to improve the appearance of my old laminate kitchen countertop? — Amy P. Dear Amy: Do not despair. There is a …Read more. Regular Maintenance Keeps Gutters Open Dear James: Every time it rains, water overflows my gutter and streams down my window and cedar siding. It doesn't seem to be hurting the window, but I've noticed the siding is starting to peel and flake. Do you have any suggestions? — Rich P.… …Read more. Build a Compost Bin to Recycle Wastes Dear James: My children are learning about composting in their science class. We want to do our part for the environment and build an inexpensive compost bin. Do you have any suggestions on building a simple, yet effective one? — Hope D. …Read more.
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Buying a Ladder

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Dear Pat: I need to get some tools for my new home, and I think a ladder would be a good place to start? What are my options for ladders, and are different ones better for different tasks? — Polly M.

Dear Polly: Selecting a ladder is about the best place to begin because, until you start doing some projects around your house, you will not realize how often you use a ladder. When you visit your home center store, you will be surprise at the array of ladder options.

Actually, most people, particularly women, should use ladders more often. A tall, strong man can sometimes get by without a ladder by reaching. If you are not as strong, swinging a hammer overhead in an off-balance position can easily result in a strained back or worse.

The two basic types of ladders are step ladders and extension ladders, and you will need one of each. Step ladders are used primarily, but not always, indoors, and extension ladders are used outdoors.

Four-in-one ladders (often called Gorilla ladders) that can be adjusted to create step or extension ladder configurations are also available. These ladders are quite versatile. A big advantage of one is when using it in the step ladder configuration. In effect, there is a step ladder on each side, so someone else can help with overhead projects.

A 6-foot-tall step ladder is a good size for the majority of the jobs around your home. Eight-foot ones are available, but they are heavier and more difficult to store indoors. Next time you are visiting a discount store, get an inexpensive two-step ladder with a handrail that will fit in a kitchen closet.

Many times, you need just an extra foot or two of reach.

Standard extension ladders are 20 feet long, but because of the overlap, the usable length is only 17 feet. With a tall roof, you may need a longer one. Also keep in mind, if you are planning to use it to get on your roof, it will have to extend 2 feet above the gutter for you to safety step on and off the roof.

The three material choices for a ladder are wood, aluminum and fiberglass. Wood is an excellent material, particularly for a step ladder. It is heavier than the other two materials. This makes it more stable, but not too heavy to handle. Wood is not a good conductor, so it is fairly safe when working around electrical wiring.

Aluminum is an excellent material for both step and extension ladders. It is lightweight and can be stored outdoors without deterioration from the weather. Some inexpensive aluminum step ladders are almost too lightweight for stability, so select a good-quality one.

Fiberglass has become the most popular ladder material. It is slightly heavier than aluminum, but still manageable to handle. Fiberglass is extremely strong, does not conduct electricity and is resistant to the weather. It is somewhat more expensive than the other two materials, but it will last a lifetime.

Whenever using a ladder, consider some basic safety precautions. If possible, have a helper steady any ladder you are using. Make sure the ladder feet are on a solid surface. There is tremendous stress on the ladder feet. If one or more settle, it and you will tip over.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about Pat Logan and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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