Help for Holiday Home Improvement Emergencies

Help for Home Improvement EmergenciesThis week, many of us have full houses and tightly timed schedules for getting a beautiful, bountiful Thanksgiving feast on the table. All this activity may spark some unplanned home emergencies, so while you’re giving thanks for everything that goes right, be prepared to act in case any of the following go wrong.

Disposal disaster: If your garbage disposal goes on the fritz right when you need it most, turn off the electrical circuit that operates the disposal. Then use a flashlight and tongs to pull out any obstructing objects. If that doesn't work, insert an Allen wrench in the base of the disposal and rotate clockwise and counterclockwise until the object dislodges. Once the disposal is clear and ready for use, be sure to push the reset button on its base.

Toilet turmoil: To unclog a toilet, turn off the water at the shutoff valve (typically located behind the base of the toilet) and use a plunger over the drain hole rapidly about a dozen times, repeating 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 relatives and friends have finished dinner, check to make sure the spray arm isn't blocked by large dishes that are standing 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 detergent if your home has hard water and a liquid or gel detergent if your 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, and run washing machines and dishwashers at night while guests are sleeping. Also consider installing 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 hair dryers 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 from the others) and switch it back 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, and regularly check the gauge to make sure it's operable and ready in the event of a kitchen fire.