Installing an Exterior Outlet – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

With the recent holidays, I’ve decided I no longer want to run the power for my Christmas lights using an extension cord that has to be run under my garage door. Is there an easy way to add an outside outlet?

I’ve been through the same frustration as you have, so I’m happy to tell you that adding an outside outlet usually isn’t a difficult task. If you have to have the outlet in a particular location, it could be more difficult, so being flexible will help you a great deal.

The easiest way to add an exterior outlet is to tap into an interior outlet along an outside wall. In other words, look for outlets along an outside wall in the front of your house and determine if you can find a location that if a plug were located in the same place on the outside, it would be convenient to plug your lights into. Once you’ve found the spot, you can tap into it and install the new exterior outlet. This can be done no matter where the interior outlet is, as long as it isn’t through a foundation wall. NOTE: Also, you don’t want any phone lines, gas lines, air conditioners, etc., to be in the way.

Once you have your interior outlet location chosen, turn off the power to this outlet. Then remove the outlet cover and verify that the power is off. Then drill a hole through the back of the electrical box to the outside. The hole will need to be about 3/8” wide in order to fit the romex wire through the hole.
Using 12 gage romex wire, feed the wire through the hole, giving yourself about one foot outside the hole and one more foot of wire on the inside. If the original wires you see are silver colored, then you have aluminum wiring and you’ll need to add an “anti-oxidant joint compound” to any wires which touch copper wires. For exact wiring information, see previous articles concerning outlets and GFCI’s in past Post Dispatch articles.

If your interior outlet is a GFCI you can install a regular 3-prong outlet on the exterior. But if the interior outlet is not GFCI protected, you will need to install a GFCI outlet of the outside. Attach a weather proof box to the outside of the house, then install your new outlet to the box and wire it accordingly. It is also a good idea to install a “perpetual cover”, which will allow you to keep something plugged in and still have the outlet covered.

You will be amazed at how often you will appreciate having this outlet!

Get It Done
Ask THE Handyman St Louis

Laundry Room Shelving – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

I want to install some shelving in my laundry room and perhaps a closet. Is the wire shelving easy to install?

Installing wire shelving for your closet or laundry room is fairly easy. It does take some purchase planning however.

Begin by measuring how long you want your shelf to be. Also, consider how deep you want the shelf to be. You may want the closet shelf to be deeper than a shelf over your washing machine, which will just hold detergent, etc. Usually, the wire shelves come in 12” or 16” deep. Chances are that you will have to cut the length of your shelf to fit the space, so if you go to purchase the shelving with the length measurements in mind, the store can cut the shelves for you and save you time.

Besides the shelves, you’ll need some support and anchoring items. Where the shelf touches the wall, clips are made to fasten the shelf to the wall. I recommend getting the type of clip that has two screw holes. The clip is installed over the wire which touches the wall, and two screws are better than the other types which only have one screw. There are clips available which have their own wall anchors attached to the clip. I don’t recommend these, as it is very important to be securing these clips into the studs of the wall, rather than just to the drywall.

In addition to the clips, you will need some support bars. I suggest having one bar each two or three feet of shelving. The support bar attaches to the outside edge of the shelf, then is anchored to the wall, about one foot below the shelf.

Once you have your materials, use a stud-finder to find out where the studs are in the area that you want the shelf. Mark the location of the studs with a pencil. Next, draw a horizontal line where the shelf will be. You’ll then be able to hold the shelf (if it is short) and start installing the shelf clips. If the shelf is long, you may need a second person to hold it, while you put the clips into the studs. I would recommend installing one clip per each stud (either 16” or 24”). After the shelf clips are installed, then install the support bar, also being sure that it is secured to a stud.

That is basically it. You can buy rubber end caps if your shelf doesn’t go all the way from one wall to another. You can also buy the wire shelf that is designed to hang clothes on. It’s just a matter of deciding what you want.

Get It Done
Ask THE Handyman St Louis

Washer Noise in Pipes – Ask THE Handyman St Louis – Get It Done

What can we do about “hammering” in our pipes? It occurs primarily when the washer is filling up, but has happened other times. The washer fills with intermittent temperature changes, so the noise can really shake the house.

For this problem, I consulted with Jeff Bopp, Bopp Plumbing (314-822-2677), who had some great suggestions. Never be afraid to ask an expert!

Generally, there can be several reasons for this noise. One possibility is the solenoid valve in the washer. This is the unit that sends water into the machine when the cycle calls for it. It is similar to that of an ice maker in the refrigerator and can be replaced by an appliance repair company.

Another possibility is that the hot water line is anchored inside the wall too tight or too loose. When a hot water line first gets hot from the water, you can sometimes hear a small “ticking” as the pipe expands. If the anchors are too tight, this can make louder noises than just a ticking sound. Unfortunately, you can’t solve this problem without opening up the wall (which is easy enough, but repairing the wall is more difficult).

However, the third and most likely problem, according to Jeff Bopp, is solved by installing a water hammer arrester which can take care of this issue. The noise you hear is the result of water moving under pressure that has suddenly been stopped by the closing of a valve (inside the washing machine). This water hammer arrester is a small device which you attach to the washing machine supply valve or directly to the washing machine. It has a built in air chamber, which cushions the water pressure and prevents the noise. The cost of the arrester is about $15 and is available at most hardware stores.

If you have ever sweated copper pipes or have worked with galvanized pipes, installing the water hammer arrester would be fairly simple. There is a chance that the valve screws in to an adapter, rather than being sweated in. If you look at the water valve that you’re washing machine is hooked up to you’ll see the difference. If it is a screw type, you may be able to do this yourself, even if you aren’t familiar with sweating pipes.

However, if your experience of sweating pipes is limited, I would suggest contacting a plumber. Sweating pipes is something that takes practice, and experience is something you want when it comes to working on the pipes in your home.

It’s probably best to try the water hammer arrester first. If this doesn’t work, then you can investigate the other possibilities.

Get It Done
Ask THE Handyman St Louis

Repairing Floor Squeaks in a Hardwood Floor – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

In a recent column, we discussed repairing the annoying floor squeaks when there is carpeting on the floor. In this column, we’ll address what to do if you have hardwood flooring.

If you have an unfinished area of the basement underneath the squeaky area, it is easiest to attack it from here. Identify the area that is squeaking by having another person walk on the area above. When you have the general area located, look to see if there are any gaps between the top of the joist and the subfloor. If there are, shims can be inserted into the gap. Apply glue to both sides of the shim and tap it in, only enough to fill the gap. Pushing a shim in too far could raise the floorboards, so use caution here.
If you don’t see any gaps, you’ll need to try installing some blocking or bridging. Steel bridging are metal “arms” that stretch from the bottom of one joist over to the top of another joist. By installing two of these in each joist cavity, they will form a cross, adding strength for under the flooring. The metal bridging can be purchased at most hardware stores. Some of these have metal prongs on the end that simply require they be hammered into the joist, while others have holes in the ends to use screws or nails to attach them to the joists.

If you can’t find the bridging, you can use wood blocks the same dimension of the joists. Cut these pieces so they will fit inside the joist cavity at a maximum distance of 6’ apart. Stagger them so that you can screw the block into the joist from either side.

If the area below the hardwood floor is not accessible, you’ll then need to pre-drill small holes in the flooring. Using a small head screw or a finish nail, drill into the floor and subfloor in the areas around the squeak. If you used a nail, drive the nail down beneath the floor, using a nail-set so that the hammer doesn’t scuff the floor. If you’re using a screw, use a counter sink device first so the head of the screw goes beneath the surface of the finished floor. Either way, you’ll then need to putty these holes. Many times, you can get putty which is the same color of the floor. If you’re not able to, use a stainable putty, then touch it up with a matching color of stain, along with a polyurethane.

Silence is golden.

Get It Done
Ask the Handyman St Louis

Removing Wall Tile – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

I live in a 95 year-old house and have several damaged wall tiles in the house’s original bathroom. Miraculously, we also have some spare tiles that have been handed down from owner to owner, so it is possible to replace the damaged ones. I am sure the original ones are set in concrete, so removing them is not going to be easy. Do you have any recommendations on how to get this done? I have a full complement of power tools, including an air chisel, if that helps.

It is a wonder that you still have some of the original tiles! That will make this job much easier.

To remove the cracked tiles, begin by placing a drop cloth or blanket inside the tub or shower. Next, remove the grout around the tiles to be replaced. A hand held grout saw will be fine for this. It just requires “scoring” the old grout until it is completely gone. To get the tiles out without damaging the surrounding tiles, you need to create more cracks in the bad tile, so that it will come out in pieces. A masonry drill bit and drill can work, as well as a hammer and chisel. Be patient and be careful. Sometimes you will want to just break the whole thing in one good swing of a hammer, but this can cause more damage, so just take your time. Also, be sure to wear goggles, and the tile chips can fly into your face.

Once you have the tile removed, you’re going to need to remove some of the mastic or cement that was under the tile, to get the area smooth and level. Otherwise, the new tile won’t lay exactly flat. To do this, a cold chisel is perhaps the best tool, along with a hammer. Again, take your time. You’ll want to remove enough cement so that when you simply place a new tile in this spot (without any mastic), the tile should lay flat and slightly further into the wall than the surrounding tiles. This way, when you add the mastic, the tile will then lay even with the surrounding ones.

Once you have all of the cracked tiles out, use mastic and a notched trowel to install the new tiles. Normally, the mastic is applied to the wall, then the tiles are put in place. In this situation, you may not have enough room to do this, so you may have to apply the mastic to the back of the tile, using the notched trowel. Next, put the tile in place, slightly turning it as you do. Use a slight amount of force, getting the tile in enough so that it is even with the surrounding tiles. You may want to buy some tile spacers, which go between the tiles temporarily to be sure the new tiles are straight and that you have a uniform space between them. Be sure to wipe up any excess mastic that may have come from behind the tiles.

After all the tiles are in wait at least 24 hours, then apply the grout, following manufacturer’s directions.

Get It Done

Ask THE Handyman St Louis