Q: I am a female homeowner; I love trees and have many all around my yard. I would like to use a chainsaw for some of my pruning; however, my guy friends caution me about using it, telling me stories about how dangerous they are.

I don’t want to be all girly about this, but what’s your opinion? I’ve never really had any safety lessons on chainsaw use. Is there something safer that would do the job? Right now, I just hire the pruning to be done every year. –Jillayne S.

A: Chainsaws, like any cutting tool, are dangerous if not handled properly. That doesn’t mean you need to be afraid to use one, just that you need to exercise caution and common sense — whether your are male or female!

Chainsaws have an exposed cutting chain with highly aggressive teeth, and their length and weight can throw an operator off balance. Cutting often takes place in wooded areas or other areas with unstable footing, adding to the danger. The other thing about chainsaws is the unpredictability of the material that you’re cutting. Limbs can twist and bind the chain; trees can tip or fall in a direction you don’t intend; and the saw can occasionally kick back.

Safe operation is not a gender issue, although the stronger a person is, the easier it is to control the saw. I don’t see any reason to steer you away from using a chainsaw, but I would instead offer the following suggestions:

  • Purchase your saw from a reputable dealer who specializes in these products — avoid the home centers and department stores for this one.

  • Don’t get a saw that is bigger than you need or that is bigger than you feel comfortable with in terms of weight and balance.

  • Ask the dealer for a complete operating and safety lesson, which many specialty retailers are set up to offer. Make sure you understand how to start and stop the saw, how to operate the chain brake, how to service the engine, and the basics of safe cutting.

  • Your saw will come with an instruction and safety manual. Be sure you read through it carefully, and pay attention to the safety tips.

  • Purchase — and use — additional safety equipment, such as safety glasses, chaps and ear protection.

  • If your pruning tasks are relatively small, consider an electric or a cordless chainsaw instead of a gas-powered one. While still dangerous if handled improperly, their smaller size and lighter weight make them a little safer.

  • Above all, when operating a chainsaw — or any cutting tool — use a lot of common sense. Don’t overextend your reach, don’t climb up in the tree or balance precariously on a ladder, don’t cut when you’re off balance, and always know what direction to move in if a limb begins to fall or act in a manner you weren’t expecting.

Q: We are planning to sell our home soon, and the outside of our house is painted a cardboard-colored tan with burgundy trim. Do you think painting it a lighter color would improve our chances to sell with the market the way it is? And do you think it is something we could do ourselves? It is hardboard siding (not the bad stuff), and it is 24 by 40 feet. Thanks! –Jesseca H.

A: When you’re considering selling a home, you want to use colors that will appeal to a wide range of buyers. I would suggest that you drive through your neighborhood and see what looks clean and fresh, or ask your real estate agent for advice on your particular market. Be sure and clean up front landscaping and overhanging trees as well. If you’re patient and reasonably handy, you should certainly be able to undertake the painting on your own.

Q: I’m considering painting my kitchen cabinets until I can have my kitchen remodeled in the distant future. Before reading your article I had not known of TSP. At what type of store would I purchase that product? –Claudine H.

A: TSP — trisodium phosphate — is available at most paint stores and hardware stores. Due to growing environmental concerns about phosphates, there are also several phosphate-free, biodegradable “TSP substitutes” on the market as well, although I have yet to try one and can’t vouch for how well they remove grease.

TSP is a very powerful cleaner, so be sure to follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing, clothing, safety precautions, etc. Also, when you buy the TSP, be on the safe side and request an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) from the retailer.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@ykwc.net.

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