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Winter is a great time to get things done around the house. Blistering temperatures keep you holed up inside, but you can still put that time to good use. If you stay on top of these easy fixes, your house will be in tip-top shape—and the last thing on your mind when those warm temps return.
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Patch Some Holes
Rambunctious kids, inexperienced furniture movers, and carelessly swung doors all have one thing in common: they can make a hole in a wall in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, the repair is almost as fast.
Buy a peel-and-stick wall patch, such as this product by Bon. It consists of fiberglass mesh backed by an aluminum screen and a peel-and-stick backing. These patches come in various size square ranging from 4 inches on each side to as big as 8 inches.
Peel off the backing and place it over the hole then apply drywall compound over the screen using a 6-inch drywall knife. Sand the patch smooth and repeat until the patched area blends in with its surroundings. Then prime and paint the repair or paint the entire wall for a truly invisible repair.
A ceiling fan can spend all year getting loaded with dust and it’s easy to forget that the thing needs to be cleaned. Cleaning it takes just minutes.
The simplest method is to use a ceiling fan duster, such as this gadget by Ettore, the same company that’s famous for its window cleaning tools. Run the duster over each fan blade and the top of the motor housing, then vacuum the floor below.
This ladder-free method works for quick, routine cleaning but you can also get up on a ladder and wipe each blade individually with a microfiber cleaning cloth or use an old pillow case slid over each blade. Wear a dust mask if you’re allergic to dust, and if the fan is extremely dusty, place a drop cloth on the floor and nearby furnishings. Take the drop cloth outside and shake it off. Complete the work by vacuuming the floor below.
Recaulk Your Bathtub
A tub surrounded by mildew-blackened caulk is gross, but it’s easy to fix.
An overview of the process is this: Cut out the old caulk with a utility knife and a painter’s 5-in-1 tool. Thoroughly disinfect the area with a bleach-based cleaner. When the surface is dry, caulk the cleaned-out joint with a high-quality tub-tile silicone caulk.
This is the best and longest-lasting caulk I’ve found. Apply it properly and it lasts for years.
Fix Squeaky Doors
Fixup projects don’t get any simpler than this. Remove each hinge pin one at a time. If the hinge is open at the bottom, all you have to do is insert a nail and tap it upward using a hammer. If the hinge is closed, you need to insert a putty knife just below the point where the hinge cap meets the hinge knuckle. Tap the knife upward to free the pin.
Next, wipe the pin clean with WD40, alcohol or a little clean motor oil. Wipe a little grease on the pin, and slip it back in.
Grease can be inexpensive like this, but a bit more money will get you something that’s longer lasting like this, which is one of my favorites.
Fix Loose Drawers
Drawer boxes, especially inexpensive Euro styles can actually come apart. The solution is to remove the drawer and insert a small reinforcing block of white pine in the corner between the loose parts, then simply fix the block in position with hot glue on both surfaces between the drawer side and the drawer bottom.
It’s an amazingly fast and efficient repair, many times outlasting the cabinet or furniture.
Fix the Drip
Faucets drip. Not only does that waste water, the sound is annoying enough to keep you up at night. Fortunately the fix is easy and you know what one of your most powerful plumbing repair tools is? Your phone. It helps you document how your faucet comes apart.
In almost all cases today your faucet’s water flow is by means of a cartridge. The cartridge itself may wear out or its rubber parts such as its O rings may be shot. Sometimes, you can peel these off the cartridge, replace them and reinsert the cartridge. You’re back in business faster than you can say, drip.
For the definitive view of this small-but-important job, see our article, Plumbing Basics, Single-Handle Faucet Repair, by Merle Henkenius.
Merle, retired now, was for many years a contributing editor at Popular Mechanics. He’s probably repaired more faucets than anybody in the U.S.
Fix the Toilet
If the toilet sounds like it flushes itself in the middle of the night or it makes a trickling sound, chances are good that its flapper valve is worn out.
This is the easiest fix of all. Turn off the water, flush the toilet, and then reach into the empty tank and move the existing flapper.
Its chain unhooks, and the flapper itself unhooks from two small plastic knobs on which it pivots. Then install a universal toilet flapper and you’re good to go.
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