Sticking Door – 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 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.  Now you have the arm muscles and the know-how to fix a sticking door.

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Tools Every Homeowner Should Have – Ask THE Handyman St Louis – Get It Done

I’m just about to purchase my first home and want to be able to make minor repairs on my own.  I don’t want to spend a fortune on tools.  Can you recommend which ones I should invest in?

Congratulations on your home purchase.  No matter what the age of the house, there will always be something which needs to be done, and if you want to do as much as possible, tools will be a requirement.

One of the first things I suggest you purchase is a book for home repairs.  Home Depot has one, Lowes has one, and I know bookstores have a wide variety.  These books are invaluable in gathering information either for repairs or for project planning.  They will usually cover all of the basics, plus give you information on larger items which you probably will get a professional repair person for.  I would suggest getting one which has ample illustrations, as these can be extremely helpful.  You’ll learn how to fix a toilet, replace an electrical switch, and so many other things!

In getting yourself equipped with tools, I would make a couple of suggestions.   You could go and spend a lot on a tool chest filled with hundreds of pieces, but I would pass on this:   start with a few simple tools such as a small hammer , a good set of screw drivers,  an adjustable wrench (perhaps a smaller one and a larger one), pliers,  a drill, a tape measure, putty knife, safety glasses, and a utility knife.  You may want to get an inexpensive tool box as well.

A couple of other things to think about are a step ladder, drop cloth, duct tape, a paint brush, extension cord,  a pair of work gloves, as well as a flashlight (at least one).

When purchasing tools, you can get the cheapest or the most expensive.  My philosophy is if you’re not sure how much you’re going to be using the tool, then don’t start with the most expensive.  Spend less and if you find you’re using the tool all the time, you can then look to replace it, and at that point you’ll have a better idea of what you want.  I could go on and on about tools that you might want, but I think it best to start with the basics and add on as you go.

If you have some large projects in mind, you don’t necessarily need to buy the expensive tools to get started.  Many hardware stores rent tools which you might need, such as a circular saw, tile saw, hammer drill, table saw, and pneumatic nail guns and compressors.  You will save a lot of money renting these items if you don’t think you’ll ever use them again.  And, you’ll have less clutter in your garage or workbench area.

Good luck!


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Adding Attic Insulation – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

I think I’m finally ready to do something about adding to my attic insulation.  How do I begin and how much do I need?

The cold weather is bringing many questions such as yours.  Checking your attic insulation for the correct R-factor is easy to do, and adding additional insulation is also easy.

With a flashlight and tape measure, go in to your attic and measure the depth of the insulation.  If it is a loose fill cellulose, you multiply the depth of insulation by 3.5.  So, if your depth is 8”, you have an R-factor of 28.  Iif you have a fiberglass batt (fiberglass that has been rolled out), multiply by 3.2 per inch.  So, if you have rolled fiberglass insulation, and it is 8” deep, your attic has an R-factor of 25 (3.2 x 8).  Most experts would recommend having an attic R-factor between 40  to 50.

If you need to add more insulation, there are basically two types of insulation to choose from.  One is to use a loose cellulose type, which requires a blower (and is usually rented free with a certain number of bags of insulation).  However, this also requires a second person to help with the blower.  The other  type of insulation that is readily available is the fiberglass batts.  This type can be done with one person.

If using the loose cellulose, the blower is placed outside and a hose is run through the house up to the attic, where someone will be dispensing the insulation as it comes through the hose.  The person outside has the job of filling the hopper with the insulation.  If you are wanting to increase the R-factor of your attic by 20, you’ll need to add about 6 inches more.  The person in the attic does need to be careful of distributing the insulation in an even method, so that there aren’t any raised piles.  They also need to be sure not to get the insulation too close to the perimeter, where gaps are needed for proper air flow.

If you’re going to use the fiberglass batts, be sure to use the “unfaced” insulation.  This is the type that does not have a Kraft paper on one side.  This paper serves as a moisture barrier, but since you already have one on the insulation when the house was built, adding a second barrier will only collect moisture, so be sure NOT to use the fiberglass insulation which has one side with Kraft paper.  Laying the batts down is simple, but be sure to lay them perpendicular to the existing rolled insulation, or across the floor joists.  In both cases, be sure to wear long sleeves, have a respirator mask and gloves, along with some sort of utility knife (if using the batts).

After adding insulation, you will probably notice the difference is the summer as well as the winter.  There are many other things you can do to seal your attic and home, but this will help the most.