Archive for the ‘seasonal’ category

Quick Tip #33 – Squeak, Squeak, Squeak in the Hardwood Floor

September 30th, 2014

Flooring of all types has the potential for squeaks. Floor framing dries and shrinks, and squeaks occur as fasteners become loose, allowing movement in the subfloor and framing. Hardwood floors are known for this quality as they dry during the winter.

For a quick fix, try sprinkling a little talcum powder between the offending hardwood boards. This may temporarily quiet the squeak as the talc lubricates the rubbing surfaces.

For a better quick fix, try Counter Snap. This screw fastening system secures loose hardwood floorboards and stops squeaks. You drive the slotted screw through a special bracket into the hardwood and subfloor. (For dense woods, you will need to drill a small pilot hole.) Once the screw tightens the loose board, you break off the screw just below the finished wood surface.

You will be left with a very small hole which you can patch with wood putty or colored filler – or just ignore.

M033C - Counter Snap - Special Screw_300dpi

Quick Tip #5 – Save Money with a Filter Change

March 10th, 2014

H009Maintaining the filter on your air conditioning and heating equipment isn’t fun or glamorous. So why bother? Because a clean filter allows for proper air flow, and that makes the equipment run efficiently, saving you money. Also, a clean filter helps your system perform better, so your home environment will feel more comfortable.

And because a dirty filter restricts air flow and can make a heating unit overheat or an A/C unit freeze up, maintaining the filter helps you avoid a service call.

Filters come in various types, so take a look at your equipment. If you have a cleanable filter, note on your calendar when cleaning is due. Otherwise, buy an appropriate replacement filter to have on hand when you need it. Filters are inexpensive and should be changed or cleaned when they are visibly dirty. When you do change the filter, note the directional arrows on the side. Place the filter so that the arrows point in the direction of air flow.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #4 – One Cold Room

February 21st, 2014

H020Does your home have one room that’s always cold? Is there very little air flow from the heating grill, even when it is fully open? The culprit may be a heating supply duct that’s been closed.

In the basement, find the main warm-air supply duct, which originates directly above the furnace. Often this is a rectangular duct running down the center of the basement. It may branch off into smaller circular ducts serving individual room registers.

Where the round duct attaches to the rectangular main, look for evidence of a duct damper: a wing nut around the end of a quarter-inch threaded rod. At the end of the rod, you’ll see a screwdriver slot.

If this slot is perpendicular to the small round duct, the damper is closed. If the slot is parallel to the duct, the damper is open. You can loosen the wing nut and change the position of the damper. Then secure it by retightening the wing nut.

If opening the damper solves the problem, great. If the room is still cold, you may need to partially close other dampers to direct more air to the cold room. Often, dampers fit loosely, and even when fully closed, they can leak lots of air.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Natural Fireplace Maintenance

February 8th, 2013


We have a natural fireplace, not gas. Can you tell us the maintenance we should be doing on our fireplace? What is the maintenance on a gas fireplace? Should we be having our chimney cleaned out by a professional? Is this necessary?



F005 - Masonry FireplaceFor a typical wood burning fireplace, you should have the chimney cleaned and inspected every several years. The cleaning depends on how often you burn wood. If you burn most weeks, clean the chimney every year. If you burn a few times per year, clean the chimney every few years.

With a gas fireplace the maintenance is limited because the products of combustion are relatively clean. The fireplace logs should not be producing excessive soot and they should be checked along with the chimney flue every couple of years.

With either fireplace, you should also make sure the damper is closing tightly when you are not in use. You should make sure the damper opens fully and latches open when you build the fire. Outside there should be no bird or animal nests in or around the chimney.

For a masonry chimney, the cap should be solid and overhang the structure of the chimney. The structure should be solid without salt stains or surface spalling. For a framed-in metal chimney, it should have a cap that directs water away from the flue with limited rust. The box should be in good condition just like the siding of your home.

With either type of chimney, I think it is important to have a rain cap on the flue. They keep water and animals out of the chimney flue. When in doubt about chimney or fireplace issues, have a professional check it out.

Cracks in Windows

March 16th, 2010

We have lived in our home for 7 years and have had to replace four windows because the inside panes crack and spider (usually during winter). They are double-hung thermopanes with a full screen on the outside. It happens to different windows; three in the back bedrooms, and one above the kitchen sink. Is there any logical explanation for this? What can be done to prevent this from happening to other windows?


Thermally insulated glass should not crack unless there is some type of manufacturing or installation defect. The only windows that I have seen crack did so because they were twisted or under pressure in the frame. A small amount of pressure applied to one point can cause a crack.

In this case, I would follow up with the manufacturer and their local representative. Major manufacturers stand behind their products and often offer a 10-year warranty on thermally insulated glass. There is no logical reason for glass to randomly break except the issues listed.

Water on the Garage Floor

February 25th, 2010

I have a 1954 ranch with an attached garage. Water from melting snow (and rain the rest of the year) accumulates in the center of the garage floor. By late winter, I have a small lake in the garage. Short of putting in a dock, is there anything I can do?


First, attempt to eliminate any water that may be caused by poor surface drainage. The soil outside the garage should be at least 6 inches below the foundation of the garage. The soil should direct surface water away from the slab and footing. Make sure the gutters and downspouts are directing water away.

If the real problem is snow and ice from the car, the best bet is to sweep and shovel it whenever it accumulates, and before it melts. Technically, the garage floor slab should have a pretty good pitch or slope to the garage door, and water should just flow out the door.

If you have a low spot that collects water, consider drilling a 1/2-inch hole through the slab at the low spot. You will need a hammer drill and a special masonry bit. Plan on a little bit of work, noise and dust. The hole will drain away most water into the gravel under the floor slab. Since the hole is small, you will need to clear it periodically.

Patio Door Sticks in Winter

January 7th, 2010


My patio door is harder to close when it gets cold. I think it needs to be lubricated on the bottom. What kind of lubricant should i use?



A patio sliding door often sticks in the winter because of changes in temperature and humidity that causes wood to move or expand. The frame, door, and home structural framing move. This movement also makes any lack of lubrication or dirt compound the problem.

You should clean the lower track with a vacuum, then wipe it down with a damp cloth. Follow the dampened-cloth with a silicon lubricant on the raised lip of the track. The silicone will lubricate the metal and limit dirt accumulation.

To properly lubricate the rollers, you will need to remove the door. You need to remove the top, inner stop that is normally screwed in place. Tip the top of the door in, then inspect, clean, and lube the top and bottom rollers. This is a two-person job, so have a helper.

You should also observe the operation of the door in the opening. If it’s rubbing on the track, then raise the door with the roller adjustment. If it’s rubbing on the top, lower the door. You might be able to solve your problem with a simple adjustment.