Learning how to fix common household problems like this is not only empowering but could also save you lots of time and money, says Beth Allen, a contractor and DIY expert in Pennsylvania. “With a little bit of knowledge, you may be able to skip calling the pros for everyday hassles,” she explains. “Plus, you’ll get the fixes done faster and more affordably.”
Here are the five of the most common problems she gets asked about.
- Stop the water supply by turning the shut-off valve beside the toilet
- Flush the toilet to empty most of the tank.
- Inspect the chain to make sure it’s long enough to let the flapper close fully but not long enough to get caught under it.
- If the chain is the right length, remove the flapper by gently unsnapping it from the hinges, says Allen, and take it to a home center to buy a replacement that’s the same size and shape.
- “Pop the new one on, connect the chain to the handle, turn the water back on, and flush!” Allen says.
- Determine the make and style of the faucet to buy the proper replacement cartridge.
- Shut off the valves under the sink. Remove the decorative cap and screw, then the faucet handle, to expose the cartridge.
- With an adjustable wrench or socket set, unscrew and remove the cartridge.
- “Now you’ve got an empty hole,” says Allen. “With a toothbrush and a little bit of vinegar, scrub away any mineral deposits. Then put a paper towel in and clean out the well,” she says. “This way, you know that when you put the new cartridge in, it will fit snugly.”
- For a tub or sink that has a drain screen, you may have to unscrew it to insert the stick.
- For a pop-up drain, you can usually pass the tool around it.
- After using the tool, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, suggests Allen, followed by a cup of vinegar.
- Close the drain and allow the cocktail of ingredients to fizz for 10 minutes.
- Pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain. “This disinfects, deodorizes and cleans your drain without any toxins,” Allen says. “Plus, it’s cheap!”
Hole in Drywall
- Sand the area of the wall half an inch around the hole with smooth-grit or drywall sandpaper.
- Apply a layer of spackling paste with a spackle blade held at a 45-degree angle to the wall, swiping from top to bottom and left to right until the area is smooth and even, says Allen.
- Allow it to dry completely for two to three hours. “The biggest mistake people make is not letting it dry. If you’re impatient, use a hair dryer set on medium heat, slowly passing it over the patch,” Allen says. (High heat will cause cracks.)
- Be sure to prime the area before painting it with the color topcoat. “Paint dries differently on fresh spackle than it does on a primed wall, so you’ll have a blemish if you forget to prime,” she says.
- Finally, use a mini-roller to apply the topcoat. “If you brush paint on, it almost always looks different than the rest of the wall,” Allen advises.
Replacing a Door Lock
- To begin, remove the screws that are holding the knob in the door and pull it out—one section from each side.
- Near the latch, remove the screws along the edge of the door. Here you’ll find the locking mechanism; pull it out.
- Check to see if the new lock holes line it up cleanly with the edge of the door. “If not, you may need to chisel out a space so the latch sits flush against the surface,” says Allen.
- Put in the new mechanism from the skinny side of the door, says Allen, and tighten the screws. “It’s like making a sandwich,” she explains. “Knob, mechanism, knob.”
- On the doorframe, inspect the latch plate before removing, suggests Allen, as you may be able to get away with keeping the same one in place. “You don’t have to change the plate if the color and shape are similar, but you won’t know until you try to shut the door,” she says.
- You can keep the hinges, says Allen, or brush them with metal enamel paint if they’re a different color.
By Patrick Rogers
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