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Ten last-minute Christmas gift ideas for busy homeowners

(Public Domain Photo)

This late in the Christmas season, you may not have bought gifts for all your family and friends just because you don’t have any good ideas.

You might be in a panic, so we put together a list of some possibilities you might find at your local hardware store.

Take the temperature of that boiling chocolate

A mini-infrared thermometer will let you accurately measure the temp of any household surface ranging from about -26 to 1000 degrees.

You might even find out where heated or cooled air is leaking out of your home or get a more accurate reading on the surface temperature of a boiling pot of fudge or determine what the temperature really is in barbecues where ribs are roasting.

The device is battery-powered. Cheaper versions sell for $12 or so, but some cost $80 or more.

Prevent electrical mishaps with this device

If the do-it-yourselfer at your house starts taking on some electrical jobs, that person can find out quickly whether power is really off or on. A non-contact voltage detector can provide assurance about the outlet, light switch or light fixture being worked on.

Just plug in one of these voltage testers (from $10 to $20), and they will chirp or flash if they detect live electricity.

Light up the really dark corners of your house

A telescopic LED torch-type light will expand to 30 inches long if needed and also has a magnetic tool on one end that can pick up stray nails and tacks. Use this device to find missing items in murky spots indoors or out.

Lots of models are out there ranging in price from $20 to $50.

Spiff up the garage

Shop vacs aren’t exactly a stocking stuffer, but having one is a necessity for cleaning up after do-it-yourselfers and the debris tracked into the garage when mesquites start shedding.

You want one that can clean up wet and dry messes. They should have hoses and brushes that can be attached and removed easily so ask questions before you buy.

Prices can range from $50 to $200.

A strong hammer weighing about 16 to 20 ounces with curved prongs for pulling out nails

Steel with a black rubber handle will be ideal and $25 to $30 should be enough to buy a quality hammer.

Estwing products get high ratings from reviewers, and the Rockford, Ill. company has been making tools in America since 1923.

Good quality screwdrivers that won’t disintegrate

Like most of us, the person you’re buying for probably has more than one screwdriver, but these tools may be cheaper and low in quality. The screwdriver heads chip off and they don’t grip properly any more. Sometimes handles loosen up when you put pressure on them.

You can buy a couple of sizes of better quality screwdrivers – some with Phillips heads and some with flat heads. Also choose slip-resistant handles – rubber or wood.

You can spend more than $100, but $40-$50 is probably sufficient.

A cordless drill-driver that will work well in dark situations

A cordless drill/screwdriver with an LED work light makes a great gift for a man or woman who has ever tried to use a manual screwdriver in a dark closet or cabinet and then gets stuck with a screw only halfway into a board or a wall.

A power screwdriver will give you enough torque to use on stuff like concrete blocks.

There are lots of great manufacturers are out there, including DeWalt, Bosch or Milwaukee. Get a driver that has 12 to 18 volts and uses lithium batteries.

Possible cost is $100 to $200, but you can spend more.

No more tapping on walls to find a 2-by-4

A handheld electronic tool can help you find those studs in order to hang heavy pictures and mirrors. You glide the stud finder across a wall and it beeps when it finds a 2-by-4 or 2-by-6 because it senses the difference in density between wood and wallboard.

We favor stud finders from Franklin Sensors, a company that we believe makes the best stud-finders ($40 to $50) on the market. Since we first tested their product, we have not used another stud finder.

The digital lights that show the actual width of the stud prove time and time again to be accurate and reliable.

Glasses to protect the do-it-yourselfer

HexArmor, maker of safety products, is a company whose motto is “Safety is not a luxury – it’s a necessity.” Their wraparound glasses ($12 to $16) are known for their comfortable fit and scratch-resistant lenses.

After all, one of the main reasons why workers don’t wear glasses is that they feel awkward and clunky.

Glasses to protect the cook

How about buying a pair of tearless “onion glasses” ($20) that can keep the cook from suffering eye irritation while slicing onions for a big cooking job – such as French onion soup?

Estwing hammers, Franklin Sensors and HexArmor are on our Rosie eStore. You can find the store by clicking on the Certified Partners tab on our website, putting in your zip code and then searching for the word eStore.

The eStore can give you a receipt and date of delivery that you can wrap up for your gift recipient.

For more homeowner advice, DIY tips and videos, and information about all the projects around your house, home, castle or cabin, visit Arizona’s largest collection of homeowner DIY advice and information at

And if you are in need of a quality contractor you know you can trust, visit our list of Arizona’s very best contractors or service providers for your home improvement projects at – Arizona’s most-trusted referral network.

Tune in to KTAR every Saturday morning from 7-11 a.m. for the Rosie on the House broadcast!

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