Replacing odd size closet doors – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis

We have odd width closet doors, 45 1/2″ X 80″ opening. The 80″ is standard height, but the width is giving us concern. We had sliding doors, but they restrict access. We are wondering if there is a place that custom builds closet doors without breaking the bank or if you have any ideas. We looked at bi-fold doors, but they are 24″ inch’s wide only, and 2 of them would be too wide.

You aren’t alone in your frustration here. Many builders will create a closet space intended for bi-pass doors as they are less expensive and easier to install, but even then, the space should have been made to accommodate a normal size opening.

Since your width is 45”, a standard bi-fold door is also out of the question, since its opening size is similar to normal doors (28”, 30”, 32” or 36”).

I’ll give you a couple of options. The first is to consider purchasing an accordion door, or folding door. But most people don’t like the look of them.

The next option that you have is to modify your opening space by either expanding it, or reducing it. Either one will have some expense to it and would probably require hiring a professional.

There is also a possibility of ordering custom doors. If you have 6-panel doors, the door builder can cut them down to the appropriate size, but there is one catch. Some door builders will take the nearest size and simply rip it down to the size needed. This means that you will have less room for the handle. In your case, you have a rough opening of 45.5”. The framing of the unit takes up 2”, so that brings us to 43.5”, meaning each of the two doors will be about 21.75”. Some door builders will take a 24” door and cut it down 2.25” to create the width you need, but if you are wanting to put a handset on the door, this may not look very good, as the hole for the handset will be too close to the moldings of the 6-panel. What you want to do is find a door builder that will use a special mold for your particular door size, not just rip one down from the next size up.

If by chance you don’t have or want 6-panel doors, and are going with a “flush” door, you can custom order doors to get just the size you want.

Be aware, if you are ordering a custom French door unit (two doors which swing open in the middle) it is not a one person job, mainly because of its size. If you are planning on doing this yourself, be sure you know what you’re doing. As well, the cost of the door unit will likely be at least $250.

Depending on the location of the closet and your décor, some people simply choose to hang decorative cloth panels. They’re relatively inexpensive, can had some personality to a room, and allow for easy access to the closet. These can work especially well in a child’s room.

Good luck on making your decision. Sometimes that is the hardest part of the job!

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Sewer Smell – Ask THE Handyman St Louis – Get It Done

We have a sewer-like smell in only one of our bathrooms. Several plumbers have not been able to find the source of the smell. Can you give us any ideas on how to find the source of this odor or someone with expertise in this kind of problem that might be able to help. We don’t know where to turn.

This is one of those situations that will require you to put on your detective hat! You’ll have to try a couple of things in order to attempt to fix it.

You need to try and locate the origin of the smell as closely as you can. Unfortunately, this means getting on your knees and literally smelling around the toilet, vanity, and tub or shower. Hopefully, this will let you know where the smell is coming from. If you can isolate the smell, then you’ll have an idea as to where to start.
Any drain, if open, will give off the sewer gas smell. That is why your sinks have a “p-trap”, or a drain which has a bend in it. This bend holds a small amount of water, and the water creates a “seal” or barrier from the sewer gas. Most likely, if you are smelling the odor, there is either a break in one of the joints, or water has escaped or evaporated from the “p-trap”.

If you pinpoint the smell coming from the vanity, it could be that the p-trap has failed, either due to low use of the faucet, letting the water in the trap evaporate, or possibly a seal on the p-trap is faulty (although this would usually cause water to spill out into the vanity). If the trap is chrome, it can be rusted on the top, letting the sewer gas enter, but not letting a leak occur. A new p-trap is about $5 – $10, and doesn’t take much time to replace.

If by chance this bathroom is in the basement and has a drain in the floor, you might try occasionally pouring water into the drain, perhaps once a month – especially if it doesn’t get a lot of use. Again, water may have evaporated from the trap, allowing the sewer gas to become noticeable.

If the odor comes from the base of the toilet, it could be a wax ring. This is literally a ring of wax which the toilet sits on. Replacing this can be done in about an hour, with a new ring costing about $5.

If you still smell the odor after trying these repairs, it could be a problem behind the wall, in which case a licensed plumber is going to your best bet. Talk with them beforehand to see how comfortable they are in solving the problem before they begin the work. The drain stack could have a crack in it, allowing the smell to be noticed, but because the pipe is horizontal, it may not cause a noticeable leak.

Hope this helps and that you can discover and remedy the source. Best of luck!

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Icemaker Not Working – Ask THE Handyman St Louis – Get It Done

My ice maker has quit making ice cubes. Is the problem the ice maker unit? It is probably 5 years old.

There is usually one of two things that will correct this, and both are fairly easy to do.

First, you want to verify that the ice-maker is getting water from the water line. To do this, pull the refrigerator out so that you have access to the back. You will see either a copper or clear plastic tubing that comes out of either the floor or a side cabinet that goes to the refrigerator. With an adjustable wrench, slowly start loosening the nut which holds the tubing. You should almost immediately see small drops of water trying to escape the fitting. If you slowly loosen the nut even more, the drops will develop into a small stream. This verifies that you are getting water.

If you aren’t sure, follow the tubing to its source, usually in the basement, to where it taps into a copper pipe. Here, there is a small saddle valve, which can be turned off by turning the small bars on the valve clockwise, until it stops. Next, take a bucket to the other end at the refrigerator, place the tubing in the bucket, then have a helper turn the saddle valve back on. You should have a steady stream of water coming out into the bucket. Now you can be certain of water flow. If you’re not getting water, replace the saddle valve, and possibly the ice maker water line (always use copper, not plastic).

As long as you’re getting water, about 90% of the time, the next thing to do is change the solenoid valve. This is the small box where the water line is hooked on to the refrigerator. You’ll have to get the solenoid from an appliance dealer, and you’ll need the make and model of your refrigerator. The cost of the solenoid will be in a range of $35 to $80, if you have an ice and water dispenser in the front of the door.

Replacing the solenoid is fairly simple. You will be disconnecting the water line (after being sure the water is turned off), an electrical wire or two, and the screws which hold the solenoid to the refrigerator. Just put everything back where it was and you’ve taken care of it. Next, turn the water back on and make sure there are no leaks. Carefully slide the refrigerator back into place, then go and wait. It can take several hours for your ice-maker to generate ice, and keeping the door open while you watch will only cause it to take longer. Just listen for the unit to operate and for the ice to fall into the tray. I recommend that you let the unit make two or three rounds of ice, then throw these away, in case there was anything in the line that you wouldn’t want in the ice.

The next important part is to get a glass of tea, with ice of course, and go outside and celebrate!

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Door Not Closing Properly – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis – Get It Done

I have a home repair question: how can I get my door to go smoothly into the door frame when shutting it? Right now when I close/open the door it hits the frame slightly.

A door that doesn’t close properly can be a source of great frustration! However, it’s usually an easy fix.
There are several reasons a door that used to close properly won’t any longer. The hinges and screws could be loose, the door could have warped over time, or the house may have settled slightly. The heat of the summer and cold of the winter can cause the door to expand and contract so that in the summer the door doesn’t fit any longer.

If you have any cracks in the wall around the door, this could be an indication that settling is occurring, and any fix to the door may be temporary.

After a visual inspection for wall cracks, make sure that the hinge screws are tight, both into the door and into the frame of the jamb. If you find they are loose a slight tightening could be enough to get the door into proper alignment.

If the hinge screws are tight and the problem still exists, then grab some course sandpaper and a block of wood. Or, if you have a wood planer or a rasp, this will make the job much easier. Where the door is sticking, notice by how much and make a light pencil mark on the door, indicating how much of the door you need to sand down.

For minor adjustments, you can proceed with the door still hanging – but be sure to lay a drop cloth down under the door (if you don’t have one, a large trash bag will do), as there will be saw dust.

If you think you’re going to have to do quite a bit of sanding, then I suggest you remove the door off the hinges. To do so, place the edge of a flat head screwdriver under the head of the hinge pin and gently tap the hinge pin out of the hinge using a hammer. You’ll need to do this on each hinge.

Once all the hinge pins are removed you can slide the door off the hinges and take it to a convenient place (outside or in your garage) to do the sanding. FYI – solid doors can be heavy so you might want a second person on hand to help you maneuver it off the hinges and carry it.

When you’re ready to start sanding, wrap the sandpaper around a block of wood which fits comfortably in your hand. Look for your pencil line and then go to work! When you get close to the pencil line, try closing or rehanging the door to see if it fits. If you need to sand a lot an planer can come in handy.

If it’s still sticking, keep going. But as you get close to a proper fit, switch your sand paper to a medium grade, and when you’re finished, take a fine sandpaper and go over the area to make it smooth.

When the door fits properly, wipe the area you’ve sanded with a damp cloth, then prime and touch up the door with paint (or if the door is stained, just stain it).

If by chance the part of the door that is sticking is near the door handle, you may have to remove the plunger plate on the door or the strike plate on the jamb and chisel the area out to make them recessed enough to prevent the sticking.

That’s it! You’ve done it. Know you have the arm muscles and the know-how to fix a sticking door.

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Door Bells – Ask The Handyman St. Louis – Get It Done

We just moved into our house and found that our door bell isn’t working. Do we need an electrician for this?

Hopefully, you won’t need an electrician, but perhaps a “knock-knock” joke would work well here.
There are basically three components to your door bell: the chime or ringer (located usually by the front door), the doorbell button, and a transformer (usually located in an unfinished area of the basement, up in the ceiling joists). Also, there is wiring between each of these components, but for this purpose, we’ll assume that the wiring hasn’t been cut somewhere along the line.

The first and easiest problem to look for is the button at the front door. Most door bell buttons are attached to the house with two screws. Remove the screws, and carefully try to pull the button to the side so that you have access to the back of the button. Don’t pull too hard as there are small wires attached to the back. Although these are electrical wires, they are much lower voltage than normal household current. Any shock here would be similar to that of a normal 9 volt battery. Once you can see the two wires on the back of the button, unscrew one of them from its terminal.

Next, take that wire and touch it to the other wire. If you hear your door bell chime, then this indicates that your button is defective. All you’ll need to do is replace the button by transferring the two wires to the new button, then attaching it back to the house.

If the door bell chime did not sound, we need to go to the next easiest repair, the chime itself. Remove the cover to the chime. Many times the chime or bell won’t work because the clapper or plunger is dirty. Use a cotton swap dipped in alcohol to clean them. If your chime is an electrical chime, cleaning them won’t work and you’ll have to buy a new one. After cleaning or installing a new one, test the door bell. If it doesn’t work, you’ll need to test the transformer. Many times, it is easier to go ahead and replace the chime with a new one, so that you know for sure that it is in good order.

To work on the transformer, first you’ll need to find it. The transformer is about 2” square, and should be attached to the outside of an electrical junction box, which is normally attached to a ceiling joist in the basement. Turn off the electricity for the circuit that powers the transformer. When you think you have the correct circuit breaker turned off, use a voltage tester to be certain. Replace the transformer, turn the circuit breaker back on, and then test the door bell. If it is still not working, there may be a break in the wires somewhere, and this repair could get expensive, so here are two last options.

First, you can purchase a battery operated door bell, which is simple to install. These units will be somewhere in the area of $50 – $75.

The second option, if you don’t want a battery operated door bell is to … GET A DOG!!!

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Low Voltage Lights – Ask The Handyman St Louis – Get It Done

Are the yard lights I see in the stores easy to install, or do I need an electrician?

Great question! Most of the yard lights you see in the hardware stores are “low voltage” which basically means that you can run the wiring yourself and it doesn’t have to connect to your circuit panel box. You just need access to a normal outlet.

Many of the low voltage lights come in a kit, which includes the lights, wire, and a transformer. This is a simple set-up that anyone can do. It’s just a matter of deciding where you want the lights, running the wire, then making the connections, and plugging it in.

You can select lights for along a sidewalk, ones to shine on the house or trees for accent lighting, and/or lights to use on the steps for your deck. As long as they are low voltage, they all operate the same.
To position accent lights, go out at night with a powerful flashlight and set the flashlight on the ground aiming to the house/tree. This will give you an idea not only where to put the lights, but how they will look as well.

If you need more lights than a kit provides, you can purchase them individually but you will also need to purchase a transformer and low voltage wire. To determine the transformer size you’ll need, simply multiply the wattage of each light by the number of lights you’re going to install (most lights are 4 to 11 watts). As long as you don’t go over the wattage capability of the transformer, you’re fine. Most transformers are 100 watt, but 300 watt transformers are readily available.

Most transformers have a timer inside the box, which you can set to determine when the lights on and when they go off. However, I like the timer that has a dusk-to –dawn “eye.” It will come on at dusk and then you can select how long you want them to stay on – anywhere from 2 hours to all night.

Once you have all your supplies, set your lights in the location desired, then run the wire on top of the ground to connect them, ending at an outlet on the outside of your home. Assemble each light according to directions, connect it to the wire, then move on to the next light. When you’re finished, make the connections to the transformer, then plug it in. Once you’re sure that all lights come on, you can bury the wire – just enough so no one can trip over it. In planting areas, try to keep it out of an area where future plantings and digging won’t cut the wires.

Be sure to attach the transformer to your house – hanging it near an exterior outlet. Usually, a nail or screw is enough for it to hang on. If the outlet is exposed to the rain, you might want to buy a “perpetual” cover, one that will allow something to be plugged in, while keeping the rain out. These covers are only about $15, and are simple to install in place of the standard exterior outlet cover.

The next part is the best. Go outside and admire how a few lights can add a new dimension to your home!

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Toilet Handle – Get It Done – Ask the Handyman St. Louis

Why is it that I have to hold down the lever on one of my toilets and not on the others to make a complete flush? Is there an adjustment I can make? Thanks.

This can be a source of frustration, especially when nothing appears to be wrong. There are a couple of possibilities, however, and the fix might be an easy one.

Inside the toilet there is a chain that connects the flushing handle to the “flapper” (the covering which is usually at the bottom of the tank where the water drains out). Sometimes, the chain has too much play in it. It should only have a small amount of slack. If it has too much slack, the flapper may not raise up all the way when the handle is pushed. If it doesn’t have any slack, it may not let the flapper rest all the way completely down.

In your case, it could be too much slack, so try adjusting it. First, turn the water off to the toilet by closing the “shut-off valve” which is located under the toilet tank where the water comes out of the wall. Turn the valve clockwise to stop the water flow. Then unhook the pin at the end of the handle bar. Put the pin down a few links in the chain (towards the flapper), making it slightly shorter in length. Reinstall the “hook” or “pin” onto the end of the handle. You’ll then need to turn your toilet shut-off valve back on, let the tank fill up, and see if this did the trick. If not, you may need to adjust it a little more.

If the chain adjustment doesn’t completely fix the problem, there is one more thing to check. Look at how the flapper is attached to the tank. It should have either “ears” or a “ring” attachment. The ears will be on either side of a tube which stands in the toilet – it’s the tube where the water goes down when the toilet is filling up. These ears are small pieces that stick out slightly and the collar of the flapper fits into the ears. A different way of attaching the flapper to this tube is by a ring on the flapper which goes over the tube and rests on the bottom. Both the “ears” and the “ring” are designed to keep the flapper in place. You should have one or the other. If you have both, the flapper gets into a bind and won’t operate freely. If that is the case, remove the ring and use only the ears.

Good Luck!

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