Top 5 Common Household Fixes Part 1
This topic is way bigger than a Top 5 list but we figure we might as well start somewhere. The other day we were sitting around the water cooler and talking about when we first moved out of our parents’ house. Eventually, you run into a number of problems that you never really had to think about. Sometimes your Dad (or Mom) did them for you. Other times they simply had the tools needed to get the job done. Once you’re on your own with limited tools, you often have to make do. We thought back to some of the first things we ran across and assembled a list of the most common household fixes.
Common Household Fixes
1) How to get a light bulb out when it breaks off in the fixture
We can’t tell you how many times we’ve moved into a place and the first thing that happened was a broken light bulb. It’s even more common due to the incandescent phase-out. Sure, replacing a bulb is easy, but what if it breaks in the process? We’ve heard (and tried) the potato trick (cut it in half and jam it on), but this often ends with a very messy light socket. If you’ve got pliers handy, you can try those. Just make sure you turn the power off—and not just the switch. You must be certain no power is running to the bulb. We’ve also used corks and broom handles. For ceiling fixtures, the boom handle approach is particularly useful as you can knock out the rest of the glass. If the socket is too big, just wrap the end with tape (leaving some of the sticky side exposed) and use that.
2) How to fix a door that isn’t closing properly
Door issues present a more difficult problem. If it won’t close, look at the strike plate first to see if you have an alignment problem. If you find you need to completely move the strike plate, use wood dowels or wood golf tees and glue to fill the existing holes. If the problem lies with the hinges, you can use similar techniques. Sometimes the screws loosen, causing the door to sag a bit. Finally, don’t discount the weather – often a door will stick during winter or summer. Sometimes an electric or manual door planer can fix that and give you some flexibility. Remember, on interior doors in older homes, it’s good to have a gap of 1″ at the bottom of the door. This allows an air return for homes and rooms that don’t have a separate return vent. This is necessary for proper air conditioner circulation.
3) How to repair drywall
For basic repairs (nail/screw holes) you only need some spackle and some paint. For larger holes, you may need some mesh tape and some joint compound. Just sand down the area, apply the tape, and spread the joint compound very thin. You may need to sand it down and reapply a few times to get it flush. Nothing is really worse on a wall (especially with flat paint) than a poorly repaired hole. If you have a really large hole, you can often buy scraps of drywall from your local hardware store. Draw and cut a square out of the drywall with a razor knife and then cut a new piece to march. To give you something to screw it to, insert and fasten two pieces of 1×3 furring strips behind the hole with drywall screws. Then, simply screw the new drywall to the inserted wood and do you minor repair to the edge. If the hole is REALLY large, you might just want to cut out a piece large enough to span the full 16-inches to the existing studs and replace the whole section.
4) How to find a stud without a finder
We know lots of handymen that believe they are a walking stud finder… wait, that came out wrong. Anyhow, they knock on a wall (the “rap test”) and magically find the studs by the duller sound. We’ve found that this is more a function of the wall than the person, though some people seem to really have the knack. If you try this with an older home (lathe and plaster) you’ll quickly realize that your knuckles or even a stud finder may not work so well. The surefire method is to take your smallest drill bit and start drilling test holes. Studs are usually placed 16″ apart. Once you find one, assuming you’re in the middle of a wall, you can typically just start measuring. A touch of spackle will cover your drill bit trail and no one will be the wiser.
5) How to get painter’s tape to work right
We’re not sure what brand of painter’s tape they use on HGTV but we’re guessing they must have some special supply (or just use the best take). What most people find is when they pull up the tape either the paint comes with it or, more commonly, the paint has seeped under the tape, creating a feathered edge. The one thing that we have found really helps is to use a damp towel and really press down on the tape when applying. This will help prevent paint from wicking up under the tape. Second, make sure you take the tape off when the paint is still wet – dry paint will flake off and leave a less than a straight edge.
While none of these common household fixes should blow your mind, even Pros have to start somewhere. Right now, there’s a tween running around a Home Depot without a clue as to how to fix all those nail-holes from their favorite Emo band posters. If we can help just one of them… well, then we’ve helped just one of them. If they like Emo music, they’re sort of a lost cause anyhow.