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Common Household Repairs

By Jim Sulski

Summary: General house maintenance tasks are typical for do-it-yourself fixes. Here are instructions for making common home repairs.

Even the most well maintained house has its share of problems.
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Outside of normal maintenance, and versus once-in-a-lifetime projects such as roof repairs or furnace replacements, what are the most typical home repairs faced by do-it-yourselfers? What are those things that are guaranteed to come loose, wear out or get rusty in the next year or so?

What follows are a few common household repairs that most homeowners will be sure to face in the next year or so:

With all the twisting and turning they go through, doorknobs can loosen to the point where they no longer function. Usually, the retaining screw that holds the doorknob to the spindle becomes loose and requires tightening.

In addition, the screws in the doorknob's faceplate become loose and also need tightening. Loose strike plates and latch plates are also common.

It's also common for front and back door locks to become sticky. If this happens, squirt a little graphite into the keyhole and into the latch cylinder. Never use oil as that tends to get the lock gummy over time.

If you have storm doors on your home, you can bet that the sweeps at the bottom will wear out or fall off.

To repair the sweep, you will need to remove the old sweep. The sweeps are usually held in place by a series of screws. Replacement sweeps can be found at most home improvement stores. You may need to cut the new sweep to fit the existing door.

Even with twice-yearly maintenance, expect gutter and downspout problems each year. Ice or ice dams are usually the sources for problems such as leaks in the gutters or splits in downspout seams. While leaks can be patched with a gutter caulk, downspout splits usually need to be replaced by a professional.

It's also inevitable that you will face sump pump problems over the next year or so. The most common problem is the sump pump will stop working during a rainstorm, as rainwater fills a sump pit. Normally, the pump is supposed to eject water out of the pit and into a sewer system.

The short-term remedy is to lift the float arm or ballcock on the pump to engage it and clear the water out of the pit. The long-term remedy is to replace the pump, not a difficult task if you have some plumbing experience.

Clogged drains are something that every homeowner also faces annually. There are a number of ways to unclog drains. If it's the first time the drain has clogged in a long time, try a commercial remedy. These range from the chemical drain cleaners that pour into the drain, to plungers that use air and water pressure to clear drains, to mechanical augers that snake out the drain.

If the drain clogs constantly, you're best bet is to an auger to clean the pipes.

An overflowing toilet is also a given as far as a home repair. Toilets overflow when they become clogged and the outlet valve is stuck open.

First, stop the flow of water by removing the toilet tank lid. Find the outlet valve, an opening at tank bottom. Above the valve will be a tank ball. Push the ball into the opening to stop the flow.

If the ball is truly stuck, lift the float arm - a grapefruit-sized ball on a wire arm - to stop the flow. Keep the float arm up in place with a piece of wood or a book across the top of the tank.

Next, remove the clog with a plunger or auger in the bowl of the toilet. If the clog won't come free, you'll need to call a professional.

Garbage disposers often jam when they get stuck on a utensil or a stringy food item, such as celery. When a disposer jams, it stops grinding and instead hums or buzzes.

Correct the jam by first shutting off the power to the unit. Then use a flashlight to look into the disposer chamber to find what's jamming the unit (don't put your hand in the unit). You may be able to pull out the obstruction with a pair of pliers.

If not, clear away any debris with a wooden spoon or tongs and insert a wooden broom handle into the disposer. Using as much pressure as possible, try to turn the rotor in either direction. Then remove the blockage with pliers.

Often, you'll need to push a reset button on the bottom of the disposer or flip the circuit breaker the disposer is on.

Usually once a year, the pilot light will go out on your water heater, and will need to be relit. The pilot light can go out because of basement flooding, a draft across the basement floor or simply because the water heater is getting old.

Most water heaters have relighting instructions printed on the front of the heater. If it doesn't, call a professional to relight the unit.

A way to make the job easier is with a box of long-stemmed fireplace matches

© by Jim Sulski. All rights reserved. January 27, 2005.

NOTE: This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, Illinois, 60022. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. 

2005 by Ilyce R. Glink. Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.




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