What is a GFCI? Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

We’re getting ready to sell our home and had a pre-sale inspection.  The inspector says that we need GFCI receptacles in a number of different places, required by electrical codes.  What are these for and can I do it myself?

A GFCI stands for a Ground-fault circuit interrupter.  This is a receptacle that has a “test” and “reset” button in between the areas where you insert a plug.  To combat the danger of a combination of water and electricity, a GFCI is required in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, workshops, and outdoor areas.  Basically, a GFCI monitors current flowing through the hot and neutral wires.  In normal situations, the current is the same in both wires.  Any change in this will cause the GFCI to cut the power in a fraction of a second to the protected receptacles.  In most cases, pushing the reset button will restore power.  If it won’t reset, the GFCI should be replaced.

Most homeowners don’t realize that a GFCI In their bathroom will likely be connected to other outlets in the house.  In other words, if the bathroom GFCI fails, you might find that an outlet in the kitchen, garage, or outside may also be inoperative.  So, if you ever find an outlet in the house that is not working, go and check all of the GFCI’s in your home, including the garage and outside.  See if any of them have tripped by pushing the reset button.

A tricky part about installing a GFCI in your kitchen where you have more than one outlet near water, is that, depending upon the wiring, one GFCI may protect the others.  However, this is not always the case, so I would recommend contacting a qualified company to have this work done.

A GFCI is the only way to convert a 2-prong outlet to a 3-prong outlet by code.  If your home is not grounded and you need a 3-prong outlet for a computer in your bedroom, a GFCI is the only legal way to do this.  However, having a computer plugged into a GFCI can cause problems if the GFCI trips.  Therefore it is always best to have your computer plugged into a surge protector with battery back up, with the surge protector plugged into the GFCI.

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Ask THE Handyman St. Louis

Cold Air Coming Into the House – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis – Get It Done

When it got cold a couple of weekends ago, I had cold air pouring into my house.  Is there one type of weather stripping I can use?

The recent cold air has brought the weather stripping issue up once again.  There are many ways in which a homeowner can help minimize cold air drafts

Exterior doors will usually have two forms of weather stripping.   One will be for the bottom of the door and the other for the sides and top.  Most newer doors will have a “kerf-style” weather stripping along the sides and top.  This is a piece of vinyl which fits into a groove, or kerf, cut into the framing of the door jamb.  If this has deteriorated, it is easy to replace.  The replacement weather stripping can be obtained at most hardware stores, and usually comes in a 7’ strip.

With a pair of pliers, pull out the old kerf style and insert the new.  You may need a small screwdriver, just to get the new weather stripping tucked into the groove.  Older doors may have a bronze “V” shaped weather stripping.  This type will usually last the longest, but occasionally will need to be adjusted.  This can be done by using a screwdriver or putty knife to spread the top part of the “V” out a little more, causing it to come in contact more with the door and the framing.  In most cases, it is the area where the handset or deadbolt go into the jamb which will have air coming through, mainly because the bronze weather stripping doesn’t cover this area.  Use a foam type of weather stripping for this small area.

The bottom of the door can also have different types of weather stripping.  Most new doors will have a rubber type of seal which is either nailed or inserted into the bottom of the door itself.  Although this type can be replaced, it will require taking the door off of the hinges, and usually going to a specialty store that handles door parts, such as Genesco or Treecourt Builders Supply.  If you have a metal threshold in the doorway, many times these have a vinyl gasket which can get worn.  If you find the correct size of gasket, they are fairly simple to replace.  Some older doors will have retrofit weather stripping at the bottom, such as a door sweep or door shoe.  These are usually easy to replace by simply removing the screws and installing the new one.  Most hardware stores will carry a variety of these, but they will usually have to be cut down to the width of the door.

Weather stripping can greatly reduce the drafts in your home and is worth the time and expense that you invest in the project.