Solving Holiday Home Improvement Emergencies

The potatoes are mashed, the pumpkin pie is cooling and the turkey is ready to be carved; but what's a homeowner to do when the unpredictable happens? Here are solutions to some of the holidays' most common home repair hurdles:

Disposal Disaster: If your garbage disposal goes on the fritz right when you need it most, follow these steps: turn off the electrical circuit that operates the disposal. Use a flashlight and tongs to pull out any obstructing objects. If this doesn't work, insert an Allen wrench in the base of the disposal and rotate clockwise and counterclockwise until the object dislodges. Remember to push the reset button on the base of the disposal. Avoid this by keeping pumpkin rinds, corn cobs, bones and other heavy-duty kitchen waste OUT of the disposal.

Toilet Turmoil: If a toilet is clogged, first turn off the water at the shut-off valve typically located behind the base of the toilet. Use a plunger over the drain hole rapidly about a dozen times. Repeat if necessary. If that doesn't work, insert the corkscrew end of a toilet auger into the drain hole to dislodge the obstruction. Slowly pull it out and do not attempt a repeated effort at flushing it down!

Dishwasher Dilemma: If your dishwasher goes on strike right after twenty of your closest friends and relatives have finished dinner, check to make sure the spray arm isn't blocked by large dishes, which would stand in the way of rinsing. Double-check the water temperature, and make a quick adjustment at the water heater if water isn't hot enough (at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit). Lastly, use a granular type detergent if the home has hard water and a liquid or gel detergent if the home has soft water.

Hot Water Help: If your hot water calls it quits when you've still got company waiting for a shower, there's not a lot you can do but have them wait. But to avoid cold showers in the first place, take a few minutes to install water-saving shower heads before visitors arrive. Stagger and set time limits on showers for guests and family members. Also, run washing machines and dishwashers at night while guests are sleeping. Consider a tankless hot water heater, which provides little to no waiting time for a hot shower!

Electricity Takes a Timeout: First, turn off all appliances, such as hairdryers or microwaves that may have triggered the outage. When working with a circuit breaker (or fuse), use one hand, while keeping the other at your side. Go to the main electrical service panel and open the door. Look for the circuit breaker that is in the off position (it will be flipped in the opposite direction of the others) and switch it to the on position. Plug appliances back in one at a time so the circuit doesn't trip again.

Kitchen Emergency: For a grease fire, a quick solution is to pour a box of baking soda directly over the flames. Never douse with water! Always keep a fire extinguisher within reach. Regularly check the gauge to make sure it's operable.