Welcome to MisterFix-It.com

how to operate your home cover

Looking for great advice on home repair, home improvements and many do-it-yourself projects? Then look to Tom Feiza, Milwaukee's "Mr. Fix-It." Tom has helped millions on a broad range of home-related topics. The right column contains a list of chapters from Tom's book "Just Fix It". If you find this information useful you will enjoy Tom's book. If you are looking for the How to Operate Your Home website, click here.

Call Tom Feiza - Mr.Fix-it Inc. for a Home Inspection at (262) 303-4884

Free PDF Articles

HowToOperateYourHome.com

Books


Mr. Fix-It Blog

Quick Tip #17 – Caulking the Wide Open Spaces

June 13th, 2014 by admin No comments »

M009 - Caulking TechniquesSo you filled that wide gap in the exterior trim with the best caulk you could buy, and the next year it had pulled away from one surface, leaving a large gap. Or you tried to fill a wider gap, and the caulk just fell in the hole. What went wrong? No backer rod.

Before professionals fill a large gap with caulk, they bridge the wide opening with a stiff foam backer rod. The backer rod is wide enough so friction holds it just below the gap’s surface. The rod supports the caulk applied in an hourglass shape with a height-to-width ratio of about 1:2.

Why? Caulk needs to expand and contract as surfaces move. The hourglass shape allows the caulk to bond to only two surfaces; the narrower section easily expands and contracts with movement. Caulk should never completely fill a space. It should never be applied to three sides or an unbridgeably wide gap, or it will quickly fail. Caulk can’t expand and contract when it is pulled in three directions or when the cross-section is too thick.

You will find backer rods in larger paint and hardware stores. It is sold in lengths like rope, and it comes in various diameters. Choose a diameter that is wider than the gap to be filled, and force the rod into place with a blunt tool or putty knife.

Quick Tip #16 – Three-Way, Two-Way or One-Way Switch?

June 2nd, 2014 by admin No comments »

E036 - Switches - 120 Volt, Single Pole, 3-WayHome systems have some strange terminology. Why are the two light switches that control one light fixture called a three-way switch? You know – the kind with a switch at both the top and the bottom of the stairs. Sometimes it’s up/switch off, and sometimes up/switch on.

The name relates to switching the power line back and forth, and having an extra wire and connector. Electricians call this a three-way switch, and it takes a smart electrician to wire this properly.

You may not care about the details, but you should care about the switches and what they control. Here is the quick tip: You can identify the type of switch by looking at the marking on it.

Single pole switches, with one switch controlling one light, are marked with an “on” and “off ” position.

A three-way switch has no marking because there is no consistent on or off position. The on-off can change depending on the position of the second three-way switch. Take a look at the switches in your home. You may be surprised with what you have overlooked.

Quick Tip #15 – Garage Door Safety

May 29th, 2014 by admin No comments »

D009 - Garage Door Operator Control ButtonWhat is the largest, heaviest moving object in your home? You got it – the garage door. So it makes sense to do frequent safety checks on the door.

First, look for a safety label near the control button or the overhead door. It will tell you how to safely operate the door and test the reverse mechanism.

Second, make sure the control button is mounted at least five feet above the floor or any step. This prevents small children from playing with the door operator.

Third, never allow children to play with the door or the operator.

You should test your operator for reverse and door balance once per month. Follow the specific instructions on your door’s safety label. If you don’t understand these instructions or you don’t have specific instructions for your door, contact a professional door service company.

Several times per year, check the door hardware for tightness. Consult your owner’s manual for the proper lubricant, and apply it to rollers, tracks and other mechanical parts. Have the door serviced by a professional if there is any sign of problems.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #14 – Thump, Thump…It’s the Water Heater

May 19th, 2014 by admin No comments »

Gas Water Heater with Thumps, Gurgles, and PopsIt’s annoying when your water heater thumps, pops and whomps whenever you use hot water. What can you do?

The water heater’s thumping is caused by sediment that has built up in the bottom of the metal tank or around the electrical heating elements. The illustration shows a gas water heater with this problem. The sediment interferes with even heat transfer and allows steam bubbles to form. The bubbles float upward and then implode with a muffled thump.

You could try to drain sediment from the bottom of the tank. Attach a hose to the drain valve and route it to a safe plumbing fixture, such as a floor drain. Be careful; the water will be hot. Drain a few gallons; repeat this several times. Often, though, sediment is difficult to remove from the tank.

The thumping does not cause any damage to the water heater, but it certainly is annoying. Consider installing a water softener to eliminate the hard water sediment.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #13 – That *#%! Stuck Patio Screen Door

May 19th, 2014 by admin No comments »

Patio Screen Door AdjustmentSticking, rubbing, cheap, nasty, impossible patio screen door! Well, the door takes a beating, and most patio screen doors are not the highest quality. But often there is a fix.

Most sliding patio screen doors can be unstuck with a little maintenance. First, look at the lower track. Clean it with detergent and water or even a little solvent on a rag. If the track is bent or squashed, straighten it with smooth pliers and file.

Find the rollers at the bottom of the door. Above or on the side of the rollers, you will see an adjustment screw. Use this to raise the door so it runs on the rollers rather than rubbing on the frame. You may need to lower another set of rollers located above the door, allowing the door to rise within the frame. Lubricate the rollers with silicone or a light lubricant like WD-40; don’t use other lubricants that will attract dirt.

If the door still does not operate smoothly, you may need to replace the plastic rollers in the base of the door. Or you could switch the top rollers (normally, these show little wear) with the worn bottom rollers.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #12 – Is Your Roof Worn Out?

May 7th, 2014 by admin No comments »

Worn Asphalt ShinglesShould you care about wear and tear to your roof? You betcha. A worn roof at the end of its life span is prone to leaks. You don’t want to deal with damage caused by roof leaks, and you don’t want to worry about mold in your home. Plan for that roof replacement.

In most cases, an asphalt shingle roof lasts about 20 years. The life span depends on the roof’s original quality and the amount of sun exposure. Sunlight breaks down the asphalt base of the shingles and eventually causes shrinkage, curling, granular loss and potential leaks.

Take a look at the illustration; it shows what to look for. You can check your roof from the ground with binoculars or work from the edge of the roof. Check the sunny side — that’s where you will find the most wear.

You can also note the spacing or shrinkage between shingle tabs. Newer roofs will have a tight, clean space about 1/4″ inch wide between shingles. Older roofs will have a gap that increases with age up to about 3/4″ inch when the roof is worn out. Contact a professional if you suspect your roof is worn.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #11 – Inside Info on an Outdoor Fixture

April 28th, 2014 by admin No comments »

Hose Bibs - Types, DetailsHere’s a bit of fix-it trivia for you: the exterior faucet to which you connect lawn hoses is called a hose bib. You can toss out this technical term to impress friends and neighbors, right? Whatever you call it, keep these tips in mind to help things run smoothly.

For cold climates, locate the interior valve before winter sets in so you can turn the water off. Remove any hose attached to the bib, then open the exterior valve. This allows water to drain from the piping so it can’t freeze and break a pipe.

For both warm and cold climates, some type of vacuum breaker should be connected to the hose bib. It might be a round brass fitting attached to the threaded connection. In newer hose bibs, the vacuum breaker is built in; look for a large cap on the top of the valve.

Why does your hose bib need a vacuum breaker? It prevents dirty water from flowing backward into your drinking water system. If there’s low pressure in your home’s system, water can be drawn indoors from a hose lying in a dog dish or connected to a garden chemical sprayer — yuck! Such low water pressure could occur, for example, when a fire department’s pumper draws water from elsewhere in the municipal system, creating low (negative) pressure all down the line.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #10 – Reviving a “Dead” Disposal

April 22nd, 2014 by admin No comments »

Garbage Disposal Wrench, ResetDead garbage disposal? Usually, it’s easy to bring this gadget back to life. Take a look at the illustration and follow these simple steps.

Does the disposal “hum” when the switch is on? If not, most likely the problem is a tripped overload in the disposal. Turn the wall switch off. Look under the disposal and locate the reset switch — a little button recessed within a hole toward the side of the housing. Push the button, and the disposal should at least hum when you hit the wall switch. It may also come up to speed.

If the disposal hums but the blades don’t spin, you can use a service wrench to loosen up the motor. You’ll probably find the disposal’s service wrench stored in a small plastic sleeve below the sink. It will look like a hex wrench with two angled ends. If you can’t find your wrench, purchase one (they’re inexpensive) at the hardware store.

With the power off (no hum), place the small hex wrench in the center hole at the bottom of the disposal. Twist the wrench back and forth to free the impellers. Remove the wrench and hit the switch — yeah!

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #9 – No “Ding-Dong” at the Bell

April 16th, 2014 by admin No comments »

E010 - Doorbell ButtonHow annoying…that front doorbell only works from time to time, and you never know whether someone is there. You don’t want to call an electrician for such a small job.

Hey, it’s often a quick fix — just replace the exterior button. Doorbell systems operate at a low voltage, so you really can’t get a shock. You also can’t damage the system by attempting a repair. Give it a try.

Check out the front button and loosen a few screws holding it to the door frame. If the button is recessed into the wood, carefully pry it from the hole in the wood frame with a putty knife or pocket knife. The wires can be delicate, so be careful not to damage them — and don’t give the wires a hard tug.

Once you have found the wires, remove them from the screws on the switch. Touch the two wires together. If you get the “dong” every time you touch the wires together, you have found the problem. Just go to the hardware store and find a similar replacement switch, attach the wires and install the switch.

It is really that simple. Most doorbell failures can be traced to the exterior button, which is exposed to the weather and takes a beating.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #8: The Sinking Sidewalk

April 7th, 2014 by admin No comments »

M001A sinking sidewalk is bad news for you and your guests. Where the pavement is uneven, someone’s bound to trip eventually.

Pavement sinks because exterior concrete is always on the move. Soil settles. Moisture moves soil up and down. In cold climates, frost can heave and lift concrete slabs.

Tearing out, hauling away and replacing an entire sidewalk or driveway is expensive – and hard on the environment when all that concrete ends up in a landfill. But if your concrete is in pretty good shape, you can avoid this process. By “pretty good shape” I mean large sturdy pieces and a surface that is smooth and solid.

If that’s the case, a process called mudjacking can level the concrete slab. For about one-third the cost of replacement, a specialized contractor will drill holes in the slab and pump ground stone or a cement slurry under it. With just a little bit of pressure, the slab will be raised back into position. A few more holes are used to fill voids, and then a concrete mix is applied to patch the holes flush with the surface.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Use Quick Tips for your own content!