5 common house problems you can fix yourself

  • 5 common house problems you can fix yourself

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 30, 2016

    Tools laid out on woodDo you have your share of home-related issues that keep you awake at night? You're not alone. Some may be worries, but others may be disturbing noises, and you can't always control all of those -- your crying infant, the neighbors' barking dog, or your partner's snoring, to name a few.

    However, many common noisy house problems have relatively simple DIY fixes.

    You don't have to suffer in silence when it comes to the following annoying house noises. You can often fix them inexpensively and relatively easily without calling a repair person.

  • Squeaky door hinge

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 30, 2016

    Antique painted Victorian door hingeWhat you may need:

    • hammer
    • nail set or thick screw
    • rags or paper towels
    • cleaning solvent such as WD-40
    • lubricant like white lithium grease or petroleum jelly

    You may be thinking, "This is a no-brainer. Lubricate with WD-40." While it can silence the squeaky door hinge in seconds, regular WD-40 is actually a solvent for cleaning off rust, not a true lubricant. Both WD-40 and graphite can leave dusty residue behind that stains light-colored doors and frames. Professionals recommend using white lithium grease to lubricate a squeaky door hinge. Close the door and remove the squeaking hinge pins by tapping them from below with a nail set or thick nail. Wipe each pin clean of dirt and rust. For cleaning purposes, this is where WD-40 can effectively remove rust and gunk. After thoroughly wiping off the dirt and solvent, coat the pins with the grease and tap them back into the hinges. Open and close the door a few times to work in the lubricant, and then wipe off any excess.

  • Door rattles

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 30, 2016

    Interior shot of an open green front doorWhat you may need:

    • screw driver
    • needle nose pliers

    If your closed interior door rattles every time a breeze blows through the house or your forced air heat or air conditioning turns on, there is a very simple fix. Using a flat head screwdriver as a lever, bend the tab in the middle of the the striker plate -- that little metal plate with a rectangular hole in it on the door jamb. Adjust the angle of the tab a little at a time until the hole in the plate catches the latch securely. You may need to unscrew and remove the striker plate and use needle nose pliers to bend the tab. Then, replace the plate and check that the door closes with a firm click and won't rattle. It may need a tad more of a bend one direction or the other.

  • Creaky stairs

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 30, 2016

    Wooden staircase

    What you may need:

    • shims
    • subfloor adhesive
    • drill
    • Squeeeeek No More floor repair kit

    Fixing creaky stairs can be as straightforward as shimming where the stairs creak or filling those gaps with subfloor adhesive, so long as you get underneath the staircase. If you can't get underneath the staircase, you may need to remove treads, but not always.

    To fix staircase creaks without even removing the carpet or other types of flooring, you can purchase a kit that sinks special screws through the tread into the stringer or riser. The screws are scored so you can break them off below the surface of the tread. It does not damage carpet fibers but will leave a hole in other types of flooring that you'll have to fill and color/stain to match. Find the source of the squeak; then, secure the tread to the riser and/or stringers from above using the screws and tripod in the kit.

  • Clicking ceiling fan

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 30, 2016

    Bronze oiled ceiling fan

    What you may need:

    • screwdriver
    • duster or rags
    • step ladder
    • fan blade clips

    Do you hear clicking or thumping sounds coming from your ceiling fan? Most of the time improper balancing causes a noisy ceiling fan. First, dust the fan blades. Dust can settle unevenly and throw the rotation out of kilter. Any loose part can also cause an imbalance. If dusting doesn't help, cut power to the fan at the switch and the breaker box. Tighten all of the screws and moving parts of the fan including the light bulbs if there are any. If these measures fail to eliminate the noise, stand well back from the fan on a step ladder, turn it on at the speed that's causing the noise, and watch it spin -- with your eyes at the same level as the fan blades. If you notice the rotation is wobbly or not parallel to the ceiling, you may have to take the fan down and reattach the assembly to the ceiling or take the fan apart and reassemble it. If that doesn't work, try adding those clips the fan comes with to balance the blades.

  • Running toilet

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 30, 2016

    White bathroom with white tile

    What you may need:

    • pliers
    • screwdriver
    • toilet repair kit

    If you're tired of constantly having to jiggle the handle to stop your toilet from running, it's time to see what's causing it. A number of things can be wrong. Check the flapper and the fill valve. If either is leaking, you'll have to replace them, which requires draining the toilet tank. All you have to do is turn off the water supply valve -- it's under the toilet -- and flush the toilet. If the flapper and fill valve are okay, the float may need a simple adjustment so the water will stop filling when it reaches 1/2" to 1" below the overflow pipe. Another problem that can cause the toilet to run: the fill tube that's connected to the overflow pipe might be under water. If so, trim it back. If all this checking and testing is not your thing, however, cut to the chase and replace the entire guts of the tank. A complete toilet tank repair kit costs about $20. Simply follow the simple instructions that come with the kit and you're good to go.