27 Instant Fixes For Nagging Problems Around the House
Super-simple solutions for common household headaches.
Stop Washing Machine Walk
If Your A/C Won't Come On...
Appliance Touch-up Paint
A single scratch or chip can make a beautiful new appliance look like something you found out in the alley. Fortunately, you can make those eyesores, even up to 1/4-in. diameter, almost completely vanish with color-matched epoxy touch-up paint. The trick? Fill the chip with multiple thin coats instead of trying to cover it all at once. Use the porcelain-type version for stovetops and sinks. You can also paint the plastic handles on your appliances to make them look brand new.
Before You Call About Heat or Air Conditioning
Clean Contact Points to Let Battery Power Flow
Diagnose Appliance Problems With Fault Codes
If Your Disposer Won't Start, Push the Reset Button
Oven Won't Heat? Check the Clock
Quiet a Noisy Washer by Leveling It
Silence a Squealing Hinge
Solid Solution for Stripped Hinge Screws
One day the door closes smoothly; the next day it's sticking. And the sticking grows worse as the weeks pass. It's a common old-house problem, but it can happen anywhere kids hang from doorknobs.
The screws holding the top hinges carry most of the weight of the door and are almost always the first to pull out, especially after they've been repeatedly tightened over the years (inset photo). The best way to beef them up is to replace the standard 3/4-in. hinge screws with at least two 3-in. screws that go through the jambs and solidly anchor into the framing. If the door has a large hinge with four screw holes, just drive 3-in. screws straight through the two holes toward the center of the door. However, if the hinge has only three holes, add a 3-in. screw through the middle hole and redrill the top screw hole at a slight angle so the screw hits solid wood (photo right).
Start the drill bit at a sharp angle so the bit doesn't follow the old screw hole. As soon as you feel a fresh hole starting, tip the drill bit back to an angle that will hit the stud—the angle shown here should work for most doors. If the bit or screw feels like it's sliding off to the side between the drywall and wood, redrill at a sharper angle.
Screw the hinge back in with yellow dichromate (zinc-plated) screws—the color and head size of these rust-resistant drywall screws are a good match for standard brass hinge screws. If the door doesn't shut properly after all the screws are driven in, they may have been driven in too far, pulling the door frame out of plumb. Just back the screws out a few turns.
Bend a Strike Plate Tab to Stop a Door Rattle
A closed door that rattles as you walk down the hall is easy to fix. Remove the strike plate and bend the tab forward slightly. You may need two pairs of pliers or even a vise to bend a heavy-gauge tab. Screw the strike plate back into place, check for rattles and try again if necessary. When you get it right, the bent tab holds the door tightly against the doorstop molding and eliminates the rattle.
Fix a Stripped Crank Handle
Quick Fix for Loose Screws
You go to tighten a screw in a door latch or hinge and it doesn't grab and draw tight. It spins. Or worse, wobbles in the screw hole. First try using a larger or longer screw. If the screw still doesn't get a grip, or if the screwhead size is too large for either the hinge or the strike plate, try the solution my grandfather taught me.
Fill the hole with steel wool, a short length of plumbing solder, or a wooden match (noncombustible end first; see photo). Then reinstall the screw. Don't use glue—the screw may never come out again!
If your doors tend to slam or rattle, here's how to quiet them: Stick cabinet door bumpers to the door stop. Place the bumper wherever the door first contacts the door stop molding. You can get a pack of bumpers at home centers.
Replace a Doorbell Button
Reinforce a Sagging Drawer Bottom
Natural or stained woodwork is beautiful, but scratches can really stand out—especially with darker stains. You can make these scratches disappear by touching them up with a stain marker. It's simple to use, and much cheaper than buying whole cans of stain. Start with a lighter color, and if the scratch still shows, go over it with a darker shade. Unless the varnish is in bad shape and needs to be recoated, that's usually all you have to do to make older woodwork look almost new again. If you need to replace whole pieces, learn how to finish and match the stain.
Iron Out Dents and Scratches
Before You Call an Electrician
Blend Fillers to Patch Laminate
If your laminate floor has a few chips, gouges or deep scratches, you'll like this good news: Home centers carry fillers especially for laminate floors. There are colors intended for specific brands of flooring, but you don't have to run around hunting for an exact match. With a little experimentation, you can blend colors for a nearly perfect patch. Different areas of the floor may require different mixes. Apply the filler with a plastic putty knife to avoid scratching the floor.
Fluff up Furniture Dents in Your Carpet
Got a Leak?
For mysterious, quantum-mechanical reasons, the screws that hold handles and doorknobs always eventually work loose. A few drops of thread-locking compound will permanently fix the problem, yet still allow you to remove the screw with ordinary tools if you need to later. A heavier-duty variety is also available for large bolts and machinery.