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Erik Larson writes about the job market, resume improvement, and career advice

How to Fix Common Household Problems

Written by Erik Larson, Community Blogger | Sep 14, 2017 3:04 AM

Many homeowners are flummoxed when something in the home needs fixing. Though there are some things that are best left for professionals to handle, a surprising number of problems can be remedied by a homeowner with fairly basic skill sets. Here are some:

Broken Electrical Outlets
A homeowner may notice that plugs keep falling out of a certain electrical outlet. They should first check the plug. If there's nothing wrong with it, this probably means the outlet itself needs to be replaced. Fortunately, this is a simple job. 

• First, go to the circuit panel, and turn off the power to the receptacle. 
• Unscrew the cover plate and take it off. To make sure the power is off, use a voltage tester.
• The receptacle is screwed into the electrical box. Unscrew it, and pull it forward, but leave the wires attached. Notice where the black, white and green wires are attached, because the new receptacle will have the same formation.
• Take off the wires.
• Look for the break-off tab that connects the two pair of terminals on both sides of the receptacle. If the tab is broken off, make sure to break off the tab in the new receptacle.
• Connect the wires to the terminals in the new receptacle.
• Tuck the new receptacle into the electrical box. Screw it in.
• Reattach the receptacle's cover plate, and turn the power back on.

Fixing a Faucet Spout Leak
A leak in a faucet spout is not only annoying but wastes water and drives up the water bill. Again, repairing a two handled faucet is fairly simple.

As with any plumbing job, turn the water off at the shut-off valves. Then, take off the spout cap with a strap wrench or pliers that have been padded with a towel. When the cap is loose, take it all the way off by hand. If it has a lot of limescale, soak it in warm vinegar. If there's a retaining nut, take this off with an adjustable wrench. 

Grab the spout by its base, twist it and pull it out. The leak is probably caused by the O rings beneath it being broken or worn out. Cut them out with a utility knife and replace them with new O rings. Lubricate them first with plumber's grease. Then, reinstall the spout and its cap.

Tighten a Newel Post
The newel post at the bottom of a staircase is subject to wobbling. There are a couple of ways to secure it, but one of the easier ways is to drill through the newel post into the handrail, and secure the joint with a lag screw. Make sure to countersink the hole, and hide the head of the screw with a wood plug that matches the newel. Another way is to go beneath the stairs, and tighten the bolt that holds the base of the post.

Fix a Sticking Sliding Door
If a sliding door sticks in the track, take it out by lifting it straight up and maneuvering the bottom out of the track. Examine the wheels on the door. They may simply need replacing if they're broken or deteriorated. Check the channel in the door sill and straighten any warps. Reinstall the door then see if it moves smoothly. If it still doesn't, it may mean that the ends of the panel are too low. Take the door out again, and adjust the wheels using the adjustment screw found in the recessed edge of the door.

Replace Floor Tiles
Ceramic floor tile manufacturers boast that their tiles are indestructible. If a floor tile has a crack in it, it usually means that the floor beneath it isn't as sturdy as it should be. If a ceramic tile needs to be replaced, the way to do it is to first drill a row of holes across it, then score the line of holes and crack the tile with a hammer and a cold chisel. Pry up the broken sections with a pry bar, then clean out grout and other material from the space. Add a layer of adhesive then use a notched trowel to make ridges. 

Set a new tile into the adhesive. Center it to make even seams for the grout. Place a wood block over the tile to protect it then tap it into the seat with the end of a hammer. When the adhesive sets, force grout into the seams, and wipe off any excess.

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