grateful.edChuck Miller, CT
editor at large
Tip master Chuck Miller has found yet another way to avoid struggling with a sheet of sandpaper loosely wrapped around a scrap of wood.
Master carpenter Mike Belzowski demonstrates his efficient method for making batches of different-grit sanding blocks out of scraps of MDF and sheets of sandpaper he has laying around the shop.
If you're working with power tools on a wet, rainy job site, you could take the chance that your extension cord won't trip a breaker when it slips into a puddle, but there's a better way
If you need to cut a round hole in a ceiling for a light fixture but you don't have a compass, you could just hack away at the drywall until your electrical box fits, but there's a better way.
Don't waste your money on a bundle of shingles if all you need are some shims for a framing project. Use this simple jig to cut your own shims on a tablesaw.
If you're rolling a nice, smooth finish onto a painted surface, you could take your chances that the fuzz from your brand-new roller doesn't end up in your paint, but there's a better way
If you're cutting a postform laminate countertop in the field, you could try freehanding the awkward cuts and hope you don't screw it up, but there's a better way.
If you need to make an elliptical backing for a cove or arch, you could look at the 15 ways Wikipedia shows how to do it and risk your head exploding, but there's a better way.
Chuck Miller demonstrates why folding your tarp like a flag is not the most convenient way to stow it. Learn this old trick from the theater industry and save time every time you need to protect a surface.
If you're on the job and need a super-sharp chisel, you could hope that your stone doesn't slide around while you're trying to work on that edge, but there's a better way
Chuck Miller takes an online reader's suggestion and adds a new step to the emergency homemade-bit technique. Attention all tipsters! We're looking for any smart idea that would make a great There's a Better Way Video or that could be featured in...
If you've got to cut a hole in a drywall ceiling for a light fixture, you could just let the dust and debris fall and clean it up later, but there's a better way.
If you've got a PVC water-supply line that's dripping, you could put a bucket under it and use it to irrigate the garden, but there's a better way
If you need to cut some starter strips for asphalt shingles, you could drop to your knees and just cut them right there on the ground out of the bundle, but there's a better way. If you need to cut some starter strips for asphalt shingles, you could drop to your knees and just cut them right there on the ground out of the bundle, but there's a better way.
If you're cutting stair stringers out of two-by stock, you could make both of your saw cuts right to the intersection and hope you don't over cut and weaken the stringer, but there's a better way.
Don't trip up your siding installers by not doing a good job when hanging your weather-resistant barrier
If you have a kitchen full of cabinets that need door and drawer pulls, you could measure them all individually and hope you get it right, but there's a better way.
Don't bust you're knuckles fumbling with a wrench to get your old blade off; use this super-simple tip instead.
If you've drilled some pressure-treated lumber for a bolt, you need to protect the inside of that bolt hole with some wood preservative. You could use a small paint brush, but there's a better way.
If you need to measure a mitered piece of trim from the short point, you could try to hook the end of your tape to a very difficult purchase point and hope to get an accurate measurement, but there's a better way.
If you need to drill holes in small workpieces, you could hold them in your hand, but there's a better way.
If you have some plastic pipe or thin moldings to cut with you chop saw, you could hunt around the job site for scraps of wood to prop them up, but there's a better way
If you're on a remodeling job and you've discovered that someone has drilled a hole for your NM cable a little bit too close to the face of a stud — you could stop everything and run down to the hardware store for a metal plate, but there's a better way.
If you have to work on a door and you don't have any door bucks, you could straddle it and hold it steady with your legs, but there's a better way
If you've got to install housewrap on a house and your helpers didn't show up, you could bag it for the day, but there's a better way.
If your housewrap has holes or tears in it, you might be tempted to put on a tape Bandaid and hope it doesn't leak, but there's a better way.
Pair a wire brush with your reciprocating saw for the perfect metal-cleaning tool
If you can't find a small bit to drill pilot holes, you could drop everything and run down to the hardware store, but there's a better way
You could cram all of your tools into your tool belt and hope you can find what you need when you need it, but there's a better way
If you've got a bunch of screws you need to paint, you could spray them individually, but there's a better way
Tame that reluctant lid on your paint rattle can with a simple modification.
Don't get hand cramps from lugging around that metal paint can—recycle a plastic jug into an ergonomic painting container.
This cutting-edge technology will boost the efficiency of any home-building project
Chuck Miller shares a simple tip for keeping the screw holes clear and accessible on electrical boxes
You could try to peel that carpet back as you brush along the edge of the molding and hope you don't get any paint on it, but there's a better way.
If you're finishing pieces of woodwork with paint or varnish, you could just lean them up against the wall and hope that they don't drip, but there's a better way.
The safest way to loosen a router collet is as simple as changing the direction of your wrenches
Don't blow all your money on expensive bar clamps. Use a homemade tool made from scraps to glue on edge band and other long, thin pieces of wood.
If you need to make a quick rip on a piece of lumber, you could hunt around for your tablesaw, but there's a better way.
You don't need fancy, store-bought thresholds to block the air leaking under your old doors. Make your own sweep out of materials you already have lying around the shop.
If you need to work on a door while it's on edge, you could look around for a third hand, but there's a better way
If you need to measure an angle that's other than 90 degrees, you could hunt around for your protractor, but there's a better way
If you've got a bunch of eye screws to install, you could do it the old-fashioned way with the blade of a screwdriver, but there's a better way
Grab a few common items from around the shop to make this job a snap
Don't wipe your hands on your clothes or a messy rag when caulking crown moldings, casings, and baseboards. Use this handy tip instead
Avoid busting your knuckles on your next hole-boring project with this clever video tip
If you've got a router job coming up, you could just let the chips fly and vacuum them up later, but there's a better way.
Don't wait for siding repairs to blend in naturally; Chuck Miller has found a great way to make unfinished wood weather quickly
If you need to filter an old can of varnish for a small touch up job, you could pour the whole thing through a filter and make a mess... But, there's a better way.
You can't buy a half dozen clamps for a buck—but you can make your own for less than that
"Measure twice, cut once" no longer applies once you learn this easy fix for a board that's been cut too short
You'll feel like a kid again when you use this slick tip for cleaning the messiest of painting tools
This simple tip will help you cut studs more-accurately when making new rough openings in existing walls.
If you need to divide a piece of wood by some inconvenient fractional number like 11/64, you could do some complicated math in your head, but there's a better way.
Don't buy an expensive bit that you'll only use once. Make this custom drill bit for running wire for doorbells, thermostats, or other low-voltage equipment.
If you need to keep a straight, clean line between a painted surface and a varnished surface, you could try free-handing it the way the great painters do, or you could put down some masking tape and...
Propane torches have tippy bases on one end and flames coming out the other. You could keep a fire extinguisher handy, but there's a better way.
If you're hanging moldings and the nails keep blowing out the side of your trim stock, you could just swear a lot and keep your putty handy, but there's a better way.
Chuck Miller shares a tip on how to evacuate sawdust from a holesaw without pulling the saw in and out of the cut.
A round tenon is a solid way to secure a baluster to a deck railing. Chuck Miller shows how to make a simple jig to cut your own in this episode of "There's a Better Way."
Keep this simple tool in your nail pouch and you'll never have an excuse for working with a dull blade again.
Tired of scrapping good wood when a stripped screw won't budge? Chuck Miller shares a tip for using, of all things, an old golf club to painlessly pull stubborn screws.
Scott Gibson shares a tip to keep doors and other big workpieces secure and level.
Don't let the back of your pickup get jammed up with soil or stone dust. Chuck Miller shares a tip for making a movable cover to keep your tailgate free of debris.
Plumber Bruce Norman shares his secret to keeping PVC waste pipes right where he wants them.
Fine Homebuilding reader April Uno shares a new way to countersink nails with a single custom-made tool.
Add a little water, grab a paint roller, and speed up this tedious job.
Learn about a simple way to keep your truck bed clean without buying an expensive tarp.
Romex isn't just for electricity anymore! Make your own handy light snake with a few wraps of this easily-formable wire.
A few 2x4s, 2 sheets of plywood, and some small casters are all you need to maximize the usable space in your pickup bed.
An improvised spinner and a bucket of water work wonders when cleaning these handy little rollers.
You may be surprised at the tool Chuck Miller uses to make sure his concrete pour goes as smoothly as possible.
How do you keep construction documents from getting buried under piles of tools and materials in your truck? Chuck Miller shows a couple of super-easy ways to fit a simple storage space for plans into any pickup.
Don't bother bringing your router table to the job-site. All you need is this home-made jig and a couple of clamps to mill perfect molding on the fly.
Does your extension ladder howl when you're driving down the road? Our latest 'Truck Tips' video has a quick fix for that. Plus, see an easy way to load ladders without breaking your back.
Put away your shovel and save your back. Make your truck do all the work, with this simple homemade bed liner.
Learn an ingenious trick for leveling your drill bit when boring horizontally through a thick piece of wood.
Get your router bits to stay put and stay sharp.
Sometimes the right tool for the job isn't a tool at all. In this tip, watch Chuck Miller make a pilot hole by working backwards.
Washing a brush after every coat of paint can be a real drag. Follow this tip and your bristles will stay straight, and the brush should stay wet for days.
Learn an old carpenter's trick for getting a sheet of sandpaper to last. All it takes is two folds and a quick slice with a knife.
See how a quick snip out of a cracked measuring tape stops the split from spreading.
This video combines two tips into one - first, a quick way to make an access hole in drywall, and then an ingenious way to close it back up.
Snake wires with a tape measure When upgrading the electrical outlets in my kitchen I needed to pull a wire from the bottom of the wall into the attic. As shown in the drawing (location), I used an...
Don't throw away half-full cans of spay foam. Save them for later use with this tip.
Get suction on demand with this easy and inexpensive retrofit.
Don't let sagging plaster get you down. If you're in a pinch, you can secure it with an item from your plumber's tool kit
Don’t let narrow wall cavities filled with plaster prevent you from running new wires
Don’t cry over spilt screws. Save time and your fingertips with this clever pick-up trick
Save valuable leftover paint without the danger that it will gluck up your walls
Easy-to-make jig for cutting blocking when framing
Here is a little jig I made for cutting asphalt shingles for cut roof valleys
Convert a spring clamp and two drywall screws into a strong miter clamp for assembling tight miter joints
I love to work on our house. I don’t even mind working on the roof, but I have to admit, I really don’t like ladders very much. So before I started the dormer project to improve our...
Submit your tip! Share what you know and help others to work smarter and faster.
A no-mess, no-fuss approach to spray painting screw heads for use with cabinetry, fixtures, and other carpentry projects
Got a flat? Instead of heading to the nearest gas station, try this easy technique that saves time and money.
Don't let your chalkline slip. Here's a tip for snapping diagonal lines on panels.
If you've lost the cap for the nipple on your pneumatic nailer, but want to keep the dust from building up and clogging the air line, try this simple tip.
This zero-clearance circular-saw base ensures the edges of your plywood cuts stay clean
This smart solution for holding down lumber with a make-shift bench is sturdy and cheap
If you need a number of studs or deck boards cut to the same length, this accurate, time saving trick is your solution
A simple and effective way of patching small holes in drywall or plaster is done without tape.
Does throwing away an old, clogged caulk tube pain you? At five to ten bucks a pop it could. Here’s a way to revive old caulk tubs and even improve on the design.
With this device, I am able to check my coping without climbing a ladder, and if it is not a good fit, I am able to see exactly where and how much material needs to be removed.
This simple setup uses a couple of sawhorses, some long screws, and a few pieces of plywood to make a spinner for supporting a door while it is painted.
When making a large drywall patch, all you need is a scrap of plywood and some drywall screws.
Two easy ways to make crown molding installation go smoother
A custom drywall taping knife is cheap, easy to make, and produces excellent results
Build a jig to draw a perfect ellipse with just two scraps of wood and a few nails
Tips get better with technology
For quick texture touch-ups, grab a plastic bottle, some joint compound, and an air gun.
Reader David Kalin of Kaneohe, Hawaii, submitted a simple method for bending steel, copper, or aluminum flashing on site. Charles Miller demonstrates and points out how the flashing can run as long as you've got friends to hold it.
Teamed up with a straightedge, a sharpened putty knife cuts through foam like butter
This quick video tip teaches you how to keep track of those little line levels.
Fine Homebuilding reader Peter J. Gootos of Grapevine, Texas, discovered a perfect alternative to drop lights for lighting tight cramped spaces: a rope light made from flexible clear PVC
Submitted by David White of Cupertino, California, and demonstrated by Charles Miller, this expert tip will save you time in aggravation in determining power-cord polarity in tight spaces or dark conditions.
A utility knife will sharpen your pencil but when your stuck on a ladder there's a better way.
Rick Nelson of Alameda, California, created a handy tool to help with installing unfaced fiberglass insulation overhead.
“This is a story about a woman in love with her house. It's also about your house. Your sister's. And your best friend's. It's about intuition, and some fundamental principles of design. And it's about how we all can learn to love our houses a little more.”
Our two-story house has a weird combo gambrel/gable roof. The gambrel half is in front, facing east, and it had no windows. So the upstairs lacked morning light in the eastside rooms, and missed out...