Easy Fixes for Common House Problems

By: Gary Ashton

Here are some practical tips inspired by the gang at ThisOldHouse.com to fix up some of the most common house ailments.

Squeaky floors and stairs are more of a nuisance than anything else. We put up with the annoying squeaking, and then suddenly one day, it's just time to fix it. The easiest fix is to purchase Squeeeeek-No-More screws, commonly available in home centers and hardware stores. Use them to tighten flooring to joists, or stair treads to stringers, and once tightened, their heads fall off leaving a 1/2 inch wide hole on the surface. These just disappear in carpeting, but for wood floors, the holes can be filled with wax filler.

When unclogging a bathroom sink, sometimes a plunger just doesn't do the trick. For those tough jobs, you'll need to remove the P-trap, get rid of the clog and reinstall the trap.

Important - Turn off the main water source. Then begin by unscrewing the ball-and-socket connection that holds the assembly together in the back of the sink (you may need a wrench); slide out the rod and remove the pop-up stopper. Usually whatever is clogging the trap will come out on the end of the stopper. Just clean it off and replace and tighten the ball-and-socket nut.

Shine up those stainless steel appliances and keep them that way. But, whatever you do, don't use stainless steel cleaners. Most of those specialty cleaners leave a thin oily film on the appliances that smear and attract dust and dirt. Instead, try using a glass cleaner that doesn't contain ammonia or alcohol. Try dissolving 2 tbsp. of baking soda in 1 quart of water for an effective, natural stainless steel or chrome cleaner. Make a paste of baking soda and water for those tough spots. A combination of 1 part vinegar to 1 part water works well also.

Scratches in woodwork can be hidden with little effort. For small jobs, get wax filler crayons in a slightly darker stain than the wood you are repairing. Rub the crayon over the scratch and lightly smooth over it with a spatula to leave a flat surface. For bigger jobs you can purchase a pigmented wax product such as Briwax, apply a thin coat and buff.

Odor control for the whole house can be accomplished without the use of dozens of scented air fresheners. This works if you have forced-air heating. Place a couple drops (the operative word here is a couple, too much and you will be overwhelmed) of vanilla extract on the filter. The blower will send the scent of vanilla throughout the entire house.

Make that noisy bathroom fan a thing of the past. Vent fans aren't supposed to be loud, so when they are, chances are some of the parts have loosened. The most common problem is the constant rattling of a loose cover. Simply remove the cover, bend the spring-loaded attachment brackets slightly so they grip a little tighter against the ceiling. While you're there, turn off the breaker (for your own safety) and vacuum the inside of the unit to remove any dust that may be inhibiting the fan blades and causing the motor to work harder than it needs to.

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