20 of the all-time best hints for making household repairs.
By Al Carrell
Mother Earth News, Dec/Jan 1994
Editor's Note: There are no more excuses. You've been putting off
that minor repair project around the house for months now, even
though it's making the whole family crazy. Either you're not sure
how to fix it, you fear you'll have to call in a money-suck-ing
professional, or you've simply been too involved with the outdoor
thrills of summer and fall to be bothered.
But now it's winter and you're trapped indoors, so you may as
well repair the door that keeps slamming or adjust the window shade
that won't snap back up. To help you along, we have compiled over
a dozen quick solutions to the most common--and most ir-
ritating--household problems, based on the extensive home-repair
experience of "Super Handyman" AI Carrell
An Easy Way to Sand
If a door is dragging on the floor or threshold--making
scraping sounds-place sandpaper on top of a stack of magazines and
position the pile under the door. (Use enough magazines so that the
door hits the sandpaper.) Then work the door back and forth over
Dripless Lube Job
Use petroleum jelly instead of oil on door hinges. That way
you don't have to worry about oil dripping on the carpet.
Lube Locks the "Write" Way
First, transfer graphite from a soft lead pencil to a key by
rubbing the pencil over the key as if you were coloring it. Then
put the key in the lock and move it in and out several times. Also
turn the key back and forth. Your lock will love it.
Stubborn Hinge Pin
To remove a hinge pin from a door, insert a nail into the hole
at the bottom of the barrel and then drive the pin upward.
No More Slam
To cut down on slamming noise, put tabs of leftover
peel-and-stick foam weather stripping at several spots all around
the doorstop. You can also place a wide rubber band around the
doorknobs on both sides of the door. The part that stretches around
the edge will cushion the slamming noise. (Be sure the rubber band
doesn't touch the striker.)
Here's a tip for fresh-air fiends who enjoy leaving their door
open in all seasons: Stop the wind from blowing your door open and
shut by installing a screen door hook-and-eye to hold it open.
To cut down on noise in general, think weather stripping.
Noise can't travel from one room to another if you weather-strip
the door just as you would do for an exterior door.
You don't need a plane to fix a door that won't open or close
due to swelling. Instead, blow hot air from a hand-held hair dryer
directly on the places that are causing the doors to stick. Once
you have removed the moisture from those spots, the swelling will
When you're done, place a wood sealer on the area to prevent
any future humidity from getting into the wood.
This Is a Hole Up
Repair a hole or gouge in a slab door with auto-body filler.
After it sets, hide the repair by sanding it smooth and then
painting over it. If you are filling a hole in an interior door,
substitute water putty for the auto-body filler.
Make Your Own Cleaner
1) Here's a homemade formula for window cleaner that cleans away
stubborn spots. Mix two cups of kerosene into a gallon of warm
water. When you wipe the glass, the kerosene leaves an invisible
2) Add 1/2 cup of ammonia, one cup of white vinegar, and two
tablespoons of cornstarch to one gallon of warm water.
3) Add three tablespoons of denatured alcohol for every one
quart of warm water.
A Tea Party for Windows
Leftover tea makes a super window and mirror cleaner--the
stronger the tea the better.
Don't clean windows in full sunshine; the sun will dry the cleaner
before you have a chance to shine the glass.
Window shades that act up can be fixed by adjusting the
tension in the roll. A shade that has problems snapping back up
needs more tension.
Pull the shade down, take it out of the brackets, and hand
roll it back up two or three revolutions. If it still hasn't got
what it takes, roll it a few more times.
Cleaning With Art
To remove spots and stains from a shade, rub an art gum eraser
A squeaky floor is usually caused by two or more boards
rubbing against each other. Silence the noise by sprinkling talcum
powder over the boards and sweeping it into the cracks. Another
option is to pour liquid wax (which acts as a lubricant) between
the cracks. Or rub a bar of soap back and forth over the cracks.
If you can get under the floor (in a basement or crawl space),
place wedges between the subfloor and the joists.
Tame a Floor
To tame a large piece of new flooring that refuses to uncurl,
lay an electric blanket over the flooring and turn the blanket on
to a low heat.
Hiding the Damage
For a gouge in vinyl flooring, you can make a matching
patching compound. Shred a scrap of the vinyl with a food grater.
Then mix the resulting chips with clear adhesive or shellac to form
a paste, and work the mixture into the crack. Another option is to
find a crayon that matches the color of the flooring and melt it
over the hole.
For a warped floorboard, strip the finish and place a damp
cloth over it for 48 hours. Then screw in countersunk wood screws
to secure the unwarped board.
In the Buff
If you hang your floor buffer, the brushes won't flatten out.
(It may sound obvious, but few people do it.)
For ceiling work, most of us need a little extra height. Make
a dandy scaffold from a pair of inverted plastic milk cases with a
2 x 12 laying across them to form a walkway.
Here's Dust in Your Eye
When drilling into the ceiling, poke a hole through the center
of a throwaway aluminum pie pan. Hold the pan over the area to be
drilled, and poke the bit through. This way the pan will catch most
of the dust. If you don't have a pie pan, use a plastic butter tub.
Cutting Into the Ceiling
If you have to cut into your ceiling, your best bet is
obviously to do so from the attic, so that you're working with the
ceiling below you. You won't catch dust in your face or
accidentally cut hidden wires. If you must make the cut from below,
insert a corkscrew into the center of the part you plan to remove.
The corkscrew makes the perfect handle for the cutout.
--Reprinted from Best Home Hints from the Super Handyman Al
Carrel, published by Taylor Publishing Company; 1990. Available
post paid for $14.95. To order, call 800/759-8120.