A toilet that won’t stop running is a small thing that can become a big irritation in a quiet house. Turn off the waterworks by fixing the flapper valve that covers the drain hole in the bottom of your toilet tank. The “running” in the toilet is water flowing past the valve when it fails to completely close. This is usually caused by a blocked valve seat or a pull chain that is too short.
If you can’t fix the problem by cleaning the valve seat or adjusting the chain, it’s time for a new flapper valve. Replacements are available at hardware stores and are easy to install. First, turn off the water supply to the toilet at the shutoff valve. Remove the old valve by disconnecting the pull chain (note where on the length of chain the valve is hooked) and pulling it off the fill-tube mounting ears. Slip the new valve’s tabs onto the ears and reconnect the chain. Then rest in peace.
Remove a Rusted Bolt
That engine block bolt won’t come loose, so it’s time to show it who’s boss (and it ain’t the bolt). Yeah, you could spray a penetrating product into the threads and wait around a few hours, but where’s the fun in that? Turn to real-man remedies instead.
Heat the bolt with a small torch to expand the metal and break the rust bonds. Some brave souls hold a candle near the head so that the melted wax makes its way down into the threads, but the heat itself will likely work the magic.
No torch on hand? Turn to a tasty beverage. Create a dam around the bolt using plumber’s putty or a similar material. Fill it with diet Coke and let it sit for about 20 minutes, until it seeps down into the threads. Give the bolt a sharp rap with a ballpeen hammer and it should come out easy as pie.
Why does it always seem that you’re just one hand short in the middle of every DIY project? You’ve got a nail in one hand, the hammer in the other, but how are you going to hold the boards together? Sure, you could use a nail gun, but there’s a simpler solution: the one-handed nailing technique.
First, grasp a claw hammer from the side, in the same way you would grip the shifter ball handle in a ’70 Hemi Cuda (yeah, you wish). Slide the head of the nail up between your index and middle fingers so that it’s held securely, sticking out perpendicular to the side of the hammer. Now just drive the nail home with a solid swing of your arm. Put a little pepper on it and you’ll drive it in far enough to hold it firm. Finish it off with a couple blows of the hammer and presto! Job done.
Water squirting out a pipe in the basement can freak anyone out, so you can’t blame her for wanting to call the plumber. Down deep somewhere that we don’t discuss in bars, you too want to call a plumber. Fight the urge, brother, fight the urge.
Instead, show her your innovative handy side with a simple temporary fix that will stop the water flow until you can make a permanent repair. A small hole is no big deal if you can lay your hands on a couple of small hose clamps and a sheet of flat rubber gasket (you’ll find both in abundant supply at the local hardware store). Cut the gasket so that it circles the pipe in a perfect sleeve. Then wrap it in position over the leak, and use the hose clamps on either end of the sleeve to create a snug patch. Add another clamp to apply pressure directly over the leak. Show her your handiwork because it ain’t boasting if it’s true. Leak? What leak?
It’s okay to vow revenge on whoever it was at your party who left that big hunk of Double Bubble in your retro orange shag carpet. This is not something friends do to friends and you shall have your revenge. But for now, concentrate on stopping that gum from becoming a bigger mess than it already is. The solution is as simple as a TV dinner: freeze it out. You can set a piece of ice right on the gum, but by the time the gum is frozen, you’ll have a puddle to contend with. Do it the easier way by using a sports pack or a sandwich bag full of ice (you may have to replace it a couple of times until the gum is completely frozen). Once the gum is rock hard, just chip it out and go on the hunt for the criminal chewer.
Catch a Mouse
The only place mice are cute is at Disneyland. In your house, glue traps work great, but mice are notorious for avoiding them if others have already been trapped in the location. A more foolproof option (well, more creative anyway) involves a cardboard toilet-paper core, tape, and a large pail or kitchen garbage can.
Position the tube on the edge of a counter the mice frequent. Tape it down, so that an inch overlaps the counter edge and the rest sticks out over the floor. Slightly crease the underside of the tube at the edge of the counter. Center the pail under the tube’s outer end and place a peanut butter-coated cracker just inside that end.
When the mouse takes the bait, the tube bends down and slides him into your trap. Then it’s up to your conscience whether you free him in a local park, or flush him to a watery grave.
Practicing your golf swing in the hall is never a good idea, especially when you wind up with a 2-inch gash in the wallpaper. Man up and make the repair with a scrap piece of wallpaper and a sharp razorblade. Tape the patch over the damaged section, aligning the pattern of the patch exactly with the pattern of the underlying wallpaper. Now use a sharp utility knife or razorblade to cut through both the patch and the bottom layer of wallpaper. Cut a square or rectangular shape, making sure to cut the patch large enough to completely cover the damaged area. Remove the taped sections of the patch, remove the damaged wallpaper section, and scrape out the underlying adhesive. Lay a new bed of adhesive, position the patch and roll it to remove any air bubbles. Now nobody will ever know how bad your swing really is.
When the neighbors start openly gawking because there is more water pouring out of a hole in your metal gutter than is coming out of the downspout, it may well be time to take action. The damaged area needs to be free of rot before you patch it, so you don’t have to redo the job anytime soon. The first step is to get up there when it’s dry and scour the corroded area around the leak with a wire brush. Scrub thoroughly until you’ve exposed clean metal all around, then use tin snips to cut a sheet-metal patch slightly larger than the damaged area. Bend the patch to the shape of the gutter, matching the curve as closely as possible. Slather asphalt roofing cement on the back of the patch and set it into position in the gutter. Smooth the edges, and you’re ready for the next storm.
Unstick a Wood Drawer
She loves that old wood dressing table she got from Aunt Edna, but the drawer that keeps sticking is an irritation every time she gets dressed. Be her hero by making that drawer glide open and closed like it was riding on air.
In some cases, the drawer will be warped slightly out of alignment. You can fix it by sanding the high points a little at a time until the drawer moves freely. (Follow up with the solution below, in any case.)
More likely, the wood is just old and misshapen from temperature changes and use, just rough enough to cause excess friction. Solve the problem with bar soap or a beeswax candle. Rub the soap or wax along the slide and surfaces where the drawer meets the desk’s frame, applying a liberal coating. Pull the drawer in and out a few times and it should work like new.
So you knocked a burning candle onto your brand new carpet? No problem. Damage such as cigarette burns are so common that some bright soul invented a round tool just for dealing with them, called a cookie cutter. Do yourself a favor and buy a metal or aluminum tool with detachable blades, rather than a plastic type.
Slip the blades into place, position the central pivot post in the center of the damage, and cut a circle down to the pad. Now cut a patch from a remnant or an inconspicuous area such as the back of a closet. Line the pad or subfloor with double-sided carpet tape and position the patch in place with the nap direction matching the existing carpet. Make the job even easier by buying a complete patch kit, including cutter, adhesive backing for the patch, and burlap undersurface to help hold the patch in place.
Straighten a Warped Door
We’re all a little warped, but your doors shouldn’t be. If you’re having a problem with the door sticking or closing properly, check it top to bottom and on the diagonal with a straightedge, such as a long metal carpenter’s level. When you detect a noticeable warp in a door, remove it from its hinges and set it across two sawhorses with the crest of the warp facing up. Then place several weights on top of the warp. Use those barbell weights that never seem to move from the floor of the garage; cinder blocks work just as well. The greater the weight, the quicker the fix, but don’t overload the door to the point of cracking. Place a clean, thick towel underneath the weights to protect the door’s surface. Keep checking the door with a level until it is completely straight, and then reinstall it. (Be patient; this usually takes days.)
Ten minutes spent trying to get your key to work in your door lock is time you could spend much more productively (watching Ultimate Fighting Championship, for instance). Fix the problem for good. The first thing to consider is how cold it is outside. Exterior door locks can freeze just like car locks, and simply heating it up or applying de-icer may be the solution.
More likely though, the lock mechanism is clogged with dirt. Before you spring for a whole new lockset, wash the lock out with a little WD-40 and blast it out with a few quick blasts from a can of air. Keep a rag around the straw on the canned air, to seal the lock opening and stop vaporized lubricant and dirt from blowing back out all over your clothes. Finish up with a dose of graphite lubricant and the key should turn the lock freely.
Straighten a Sliding Door Track
A sliding glass door shouldn’t take Superman strength to open. It may be a good workout, but you need to put the slide back in that sliding door. The first step is to thoroughly clean out the track and the door’s wheels (this may mean removing the door from the track, but bite the bullet and do it). Lubricate both the wheels and track with silicone lubricant.
If the door still moves reluctantly, the track’s guides are probably out of alignment. Raised sliding door tracks take a beating from foot traffic and just regular wear and tear. Reverse all that by using a scrap piece of wood (or even the right thickness of hardbound book will do) that fits snugly as a tapping block inside the channel. Position the block in place, and tap the outside wall of the track with a wooden mallet to realign the track guides.
There comes a time in every man’s life when a big bottle of drain cleaner won’t cut it. That’s when you have to answer that fundamental question: Are you going to call a plumber, or will you affirm your manskillfulness and deal with that clog? If you’re ready to take the bull by the horns, you need to lay your hands on a snake or, as it’s called professionally, an auger. Rent large versions—including power snakes—or you can buy a more modest sized auger as a defense against inevitable future plumbing emergencies.
There are actually two types of augers, the “closet auger” that is used specifically for toilet clogs, and the drain auger that is used for all other clogs. A drain auger is generally the more useful purchase because it can be used for toilet clogs in a pinch.
To snake a clog, slip on some rubber gloves and guide the snake’s corkscrew tip down the drain. Keep feeding the line into the drain, turning the handle counterclockwise as you do. Eventually, you’ll feel the snake contact the clog.
When that happens, keeping turning the handle while pushing and pulling the line. This action often dislodges the material, which can be washed away with warm water. If the clog is a little more stubborn, start pulling pieces of it back up the pipe as you snake through the material, disposing of it as you do. This can get messy, but suppress your gag response, get a bucket and clear out all the material. Then flush the drainpipe thoroughly.
Keep pipes clog-free by dumping a half-cup of baking soda down the drain, rinsing with just enough cold water to carry the baking soda down into the pipes. Then pour a kettleful of boiling water down the drain.
Free a Stuck Double-Hung Window
Don’t go all Jean-Claude Van Damme on that window; there are many easier ways to get it to open, and breaking the glass is only going to add to your problems. Older double-hung windows tend to stick for two reasons: they have been painted shut or they have swelled with moisture. In either case, you want to fix the immediate problem so that you can get fresh air moving through the room. Then you want to take steps to make sure the window doesn’t get stuck again.
If the weather is humid and you suspect moisture is the villain, heat the window with a paint- stripping gun set on low. Hold it farther than normal from the surface and move it rapidly over the area (you aren’t looking to strip the paint, just get rid of excess moisture). You can also use a hairdryer set on medium or high. In either case, constantly move the jet of hot air to prevent bubbling of the paint.
More often, paint build-up is the culprit. This is such a common problem that there’s a special tool called a window zipper tool to fix it. This handy item features a thin, heart-shaped blade with rows of teeth, mounted on the end of a wood handle. You stick it into the gap between the sash and the side jamb and slide the blade up and down. A few passes should clean the offending paint out enough for the window to slide free. If you can’t find a window zipper tool (local hardware stores are more likely to carry them than large home centers) a putty knife is a decent substitute.
Once you’ve freed the window, lubricate the channel with a little paraffin wax (the easiest way is to just rub a candle onto the wooden guides).