If your floors squeak, your toilet leaks, or a mouse scampering across the floor has you shrieking, there’s no need to panic. These are all “bite-size” do it yourself problems that with a few tips, you can easily handle on your own. Here are eight easy do it yourself home repairs:
Squeaky Floor. While useful as a “low-tech alarm system” when your teenager has arrived home past curfew, squeaky floors are mostly very annoying. Fortunately, you don’t have to put up with them. First, realize that floors squeak because the floorboards are loose. What you hear is the noise made by the friction of those boards rubbing together or the nails that are used to attach them being pulled in and out of the floor joists or sub-floor. The solution is the same; the floors need to be re-secured to the structure of your home.
There are a couple of ways to do this easy home repair yourself. If the squeak is under carpet, remove the carpet and re-attach the sub-floor to the floor joists with case-hardened screws. A short-term fix without removing the carpet is to locate the floor joist with a stud finder, then re-nail right through the carpet using a hot-dipped (the edges are rough and bumpy) galvanized finish nail. Then pull the carpet up through the head of the nail. Squeak-ender has two products that can also help – a clamp that can secure loose boards from a basement below and a headless screw that can be driven through carpet and then broken off to keep the repair out of sight.
Caulking Tubs. Besides being unsightly, worn out caulk can leads to leaks and expensive structural damage behind tile walls. To replace it, first remove the old caulk, being careful not to damage the tub. To make this part of the job easier, DAP (www.dap.com) makes a product called “CAULK-BE-GONE®” that softens old caulk, making it easier to remove. Once the old caulk is completely removed, fill the tub with water to weight it down. Then caulk around the tub using a bath-kitchen caulk that has a mildecide to keep it from turning black with mildew from the moisture. Wait until the caulk dries, then remove the water. This will help compress the caulk in place making it less likely to pull away when you climb in to take a bath.
Beat the Rat Race. As the weather turns cooler, mice or rats gravitate to the shelter of your basement or crawlspace, and sometimes even the very same rooms where you live. You might see the unwanted furry guest or you might find telltale signs of its presence, such as droppings or torn product packages. Remember that mice can squeeze through spaces as small as a nickel and a rat only needs the space of a quarter. While it’s difficult to find and seal all spaces that small on the outside of your home, sealing obvious ones will help.
Traps and poison bait designed for rodents are highly effective, too. Be sure to use both traps and bait according to the directions on the label. If exposure to children or pets is a concern, use lockable bait stations. With a bait station, the poison is secured inside a container that has holes small enough for only a rodent to enter. Lastly, don’t throw the proverbial red meat to the lions. Keep dry foods elevated in sealed plastic or metal containers, including less obvious products like pet food. A big bag of dry dog food left on your garage floor will keep an entire community of mice fed for an entire winter!
Running Toilets. While toilets themselves never wear out, that’s not true of their moving parts. In fact, one leaky toilet can waste 78,000 gallons of water in one year – enough to fill a backyard swimming pool. To check your toilet for a leak, open the tank and pour a little food coloring inside. Check the bowl 20 minutes later. If the dye shows up, you probably need a new flush valve, a part that costs just a couple of dollars and is an easy do it yourself repair. If your toilet seems to run all the time or never fill up, the fill valve may need replacement, another easy do it yourself repair. If these fixes seem daunting, visit www.fluidmaster.com. The site offers a wealth of information to help you understand how your toilet works, diagnosing problems, identifying the parts you need, diagrams and troubleshooting questions and answers.
Cracks in the Walls or Ceiling. While drywall cracks are understandably a concern for most folks, they are frequently not indicative of a structural problem. Instead, they are a function of age and movement as the home settles over the years. A smear of fresh spackle over the crack won’t do the trick. For the best do it yourself fix, apply self-sticking fiberglass drywall tape to cover the crack, and then follow-up with 2 or 3 layers of spackle. By bridging the gap with the tape first, the repair will be stand-up to the future expansion and contraction of the building that will follow.
Draft proofing. Collectively, every tiny gap in the outside wall of your home, including areas around windows, doors, light switches, outlets, ducts, ends up being one big hole in your home that can rob your wallet of energy dollars. Fortunately, managing these leaks doesn’t have to include expensive upgrades like window replacement. Caulking works well both outside and inside. By caulking the joint between molding and the wall and the molding and the window with a white acrylic latex product, you’ll seal out streams of cold air.
Around electrical outlets use foam gaskets that are available at any home improvement center or a latex foam sealant such as DAPtex Latex Foam Sealant. It is easy to apply and expands to fill cavities around outlets, pipes, wires or windows and doors. Another helpful do it yourself repair for windows and doors is simply to replace the weather-stripping. It comes in rolls of black, white or tan adhesive-backed foam and can quickly and inexpensively eliminate air infiltration around your doors and windows.
Dark Days. When shorter days make dark places around your, porch, walks or driveways, adding a light sensor to outside fixtures is a good idea and an easy do it yourself home repair. But while rewiring your lights is a job best left for professionals, “screw-in” light controls can be installed by anyone that can handle a light bulb replacement. Today’s screw-in controls include digital programmable technology that can be set to turn porch or spot lights on at dusk, and then off a few hours later.
Squeaky hinges on doors, and just about everything else. When the weather turns cold, wet and damp, corrosion sets in, causing doors to squeaks, locks to rust and lots of other annoying problems. The easy and quick do it yourself fix is WD-40, a favorite of ours for years. A quick spray of this magical liquid and your squeaks will disappear in seconds.
WD-40 has dozens of other uses including installing storm windows, winterizing boats, coating tools and accessories to guard against rust, lubricating and preventing rust on coat zippers, eliminating moisture from fishing gear before storage, removing road tar from automobiles and even removing adhesive labels.
Besides being used as a quick do it yourself home repair, WD-40 also has a very interesting history. It was originally discovered by engineers at the Rocket Chemical Company who were working to develop a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for the aerospace industry. “WD” stands for “Water Displacement” and 40 – well, they got it right after 40 attempts at the formula!