General home maintenance need not include a call to a costly pro. Many times all that's required is a simple repair, but without guidance homeowners are quick to think they need help. While having professional contractors work on your home can be a good thing, you can do a few adjustments first and possibly avoid an expensive bill for a few turns of a set-screw. "Today" contributor Lou Manfredini shares his expertise.
That pesky toilet: “It won’t flush,” “it runs on,” “I have to hold the handle.” You are not alone. Many times the problem is the jets below the rim of the toilet. Try cleaning these out with a tube brush and a calcium and lime cleaner. By opening up these holes you will increase the action or swirl in the toilet, which will improve the flushing.
A running toilet can usually be traced to a poor adjustment on the fill valve or a leaky flush valve or flapper. Make sure the water level is about 1/2-inch below the top of the overflow tube. You can adjust this by turning the set-screw on top of the valve (that’s the part directly above the water line coming from the wall), or if you have a ball float you can bend the arm to lower the float ball in the tank.
If water continues to flow into the bowl once the tank is full, the flapper isn't sealing properly and needs to be replaced. This $5 item takes about five minutes to fix. Make sure you also clean the seat ring that the flapper sits in when closed.
Replacing tired grout: In the old days, removing the grout in tiled floors and walls was a long task that required a lot of elbow grease. A hand grout removal tool would have you looking like Popeye, with forearms as big as tree limbs. Now, using an attachment for a rotary tool makes this a snap. You hold this tool like a big pencil and literally draw the grout out from the joints. Once it’s cleaned out, you can insert the new grout, and you'll be amazed how great the tiled floor or walls in your bathroom will look.
Patching a hole in the wall: We have four children, so bumps, holes and nicks in the walls are a fact of life for the Manfredini family. Many times a door will pop a hole in drywall that is just too big for a lump of wall patch. The solution is a quick job using a metal wall patch and some joint compound. The metal patch has a self-stick side that goes over the hole. Then, using a 6-inch taping knife you can apply a thin setting coat of joint compound. The trick is three thin coats that cover a larger surface each time. You’ll need to let the coats dry for 24 hours or so, then lightly sand them smooth. Once that’s done you can prime the walls and then paint them.
Sticky doors: While sometimes you can fix a door by just tightening the screws on the hinges, using a planer on the door might be what really makes it work well. In the past you had to pull the door, lay it on some sawhorses, and use a hand planer to reshape the door. Now you can do it right in place with a new tool and attachment. The Dremel XPR has a planer attachment that takes a sliver off the door with every pass. And the best part about the tool is that it has an additional thousand uses around your home.
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