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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

We’ll show you the problem—and the fix

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Collapsed-retaining-wallStructure Tech

An Epic Collapse

A retaining wall that needs to hold back this many tons of soil requires a well-engineered design. Our guess is that this wall didn’t have drainage built in. It looks as though water from a big rain event, with nowhere else for it to go, may have exerted too much pressure on the back of this aging wall. Here are some home repairs you can actually do yourself.

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A properly designed retaining wall requires a solid, level foundation, properly stepped-back blocks and backfill that drains well.

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switchFamily Handyman

A Hair-Raising Switch

To meet code, switches and outlets belong inside a correctly sized electrical box. With the setup shown here, a slip of the finger could get you a nasty shock or worse. These 11 easy home repairs can save you a ton of money.

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outletFamily Handyman


Adding a cord to your disposer and then plugging it into a GFCI-protected outlet allows you to quickly disconnect the unit for servicing or replacement. For easy control of the disposer, wire the outlet to a switch located in a convenient location above the countertop.

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Greasy Kitchen Stuff

We understand that venting the range hood into a wall cabinet saved a lot of labor, but we admit that we’re puzzled by the louvers.

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ventFamily Handyman


The exhaust duct from vent hoods should lead outside. In single-story homes, it’s usually easiest to go through the roof. But the vent duct can also run horizontally through an exterior wall.

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shinglesFamily Handyman

Right Idea, Wrong Layer

Shingles that abut a wall do require step flashing, but the flashing isn’t installed on top. And relying on caulk to seal step flashing is a formula for disaster. Plus: Check out our best 10-minute home repairs and maintenance tips.

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Step flashing consists of bent rectangles of metal that prevent water from entering where roofs meet walls. The flashing pieces are installed along with the shingles and must overlap one another and fit behind the siding. If the step flashing can’t be installed behind the siding, then an additional piece of counterflashing should be installed over the top edge of the step flashing.

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Trip-Proof Fuses

Saving a few bucks by replacing your bad air conditioner fuses with copper tubing may seem like a good idea—that is, until you burn out your overloaded compressor. Copper tubing will complete the circuit, but it doesn’t provide the protection of a fuse.

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Use a continuity tester to see if fuses are burned out. Replace spent fuses with new ones of the same amperage. Learn how to prevent electrical overloads in your home. Plus: Check out these 100 super-scary home inspector nightmare photos!