Vanity Drain Clogged – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis

PtrapMy vanity sink drain get clogged on a fairly regular basis.  Is there anything I can do to prevent calling a plumber every time this happens?

A vanity drain is the most frequent drain clog to happen,  and fortunately, is usually the easiest to fix.

The simplest and quickest way to attempt to unclog a vanity drain is to start under the sink by locating the “pop-up” arm.  This is the device which raises and lowers the stopper.  Connected to this vertical arm is a horizontal rod that goes into the drain.  Just where it enters the drain is a retaining nut. 

Loosen this nut (it can usually be done with your fingers) and let the arm come out of the drain.  Now, above the sink, you should be able to lift the pop-up out.  When you do so, it may have a lot of hair and gunk attached to it. 

Do not use the sink to wash it out, as you have not yet connected the arm back to the drain!  Instead, use a paper towel to clean off as much as possible.  If need be, take it to another sink and wash it.

Next, use any type of hair removal/drain auger tool to see if there is still anything in the pipe that you can get to.  If you can’t get to it, or don’t have any type of auger/hair removal tool, you still may be able to get to it by going to the next step. 

Loosen the nuts on both sides of the p-trap.  This is the pipe that has a 180 degree bend under the drain.  Have a bucket under this pipe as you loosen the nuts and remove this pipe.  There will be water in it, so be careful to do it over the bucket. 

If there is debris in this pipe, take it to a different sink, one that does not use the same drain.  Wash the inside of the pipe out, but be careful not to let all this debris go down the drain.  Throw the debris away instead of letting it go back down another drain.

You’ve done it!  Put the drain back on, tighten the nuts, and put the pop-up rod back in and tighten that nut as well.  Keeping the bucket nearby, run water in the sink and make sure there are no leaks.

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Home Repair Book & Tools – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

Tool boxI’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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Replacing a Screen – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

ScreenHow do I replace the screen in my sliding screen door?

Replacing a screen in a sliding door is similar to that of a window and can be easily done.  You’ll need to buy some screen, some spline, and a screening tool to work the spline and screen into the groove of the door or window.

First you have a choice as to what the screen is made of: aluminum or fiberglass.  Each one has its advantages.  The aluminum is slightly stronger, but if someone throws a ball or object against it, it may cause a wrinkle that won’t go away.  While the fiberglass isn’t quite as strong, it is more forgiving when tree limbs or balls hit it.  Although I prefer the fiberglass, each situation is unique.  If you have cats or dogs which scratch the screen, go with the aluminum, or possibly a third choice, pet screening.  Pet screening is great, but it is thicker, and may not fit into the groove of your door.

You’ll also have a choice of coloring:  either silver/aluminum or charcoal/black.  I prefer the charcoal as it doesn’t reflect the glare of the sun.

Before you buy your screen, take the old screening out, along with the rubber spline which holds the screen in.  First, take the door off the track by lifting it up slightly, inserting a screw driver or putty knife under the wheels, then pull the door out from the bottom.  You’ll want to lay the door onto a flat surface such as a deck, driveway, or a basement floor.

Then locate where the ends of the spline meet (or a place where it seems loose) and with needle-nosed pliers pull the spline out.  The old screening can then be lifted off the door frame. 

Take a piece of the spline with you to the hardware store, as there are several thicknesses and you want to have the same size.  You will also want to buy the spline tool which lets you roll the spline over the screen and into the groove along the perimeter.  Be sure to measure and take the dimensions of the screen with you.   A few inches should be added to the width and height when purchasing the screen.  You’ll trim off the excess when you’re done installing. 

Once you have your supplies you’ll be ready to GET IT DONE.  With the door off and the screen removed, lay the new screen over the frame of the door, overlapping it evenly on all sides.  Starting at one corner, take the spline and spline tool and work the screen and one end of the spline into the groove of the door.  Take your time and be careful not to cut the screen with the tool.  As you work the spline and screen into the groove, make sure that the screen is still somewhat even where it overlays the other sides of the door.  Continue this process all around the door until you reach the starting point.

All you have to do now is take a razor blade tool and cut off the excess screen.  When doing this, be certain to cut above the spline, not under it, or else you’ll be cutting the screen and will have to start all over, with new screen.  When you’re done, reinstall the door, go inside, sit down, and admire your beautiful screen.  You can also feel good knowing that you’re the talented person that made the repair!

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Great Projects for Under $100 – Get It Done – Ask The Handyman St Louis

FaucetThere are so very many things we can do to class up our home.  Some projects can be expensive.  But there are many which don’t cost quite so much that can leave a lasting impression.  Here are a few ideas that can make a difference.

Replace the door knobs and hinges on the interior doors with bright brass fixtures.  The cost of a bright brass interior lock is about $15 – 20, and the hinges are about $5 each (a door will need either 2 or 3).  The time to replace them would take about one hour per door, including the hinges.

Paint your front door.  A fresh coat of paint on your door will make it look as if it were new.  If you add a color besides white, you can really make a statement.  One gallon of paint will cost about $25 – $45, and it would take about one hour.

Add a door knocker and kick plate to your front door.  This also will create a classy look, especially if you use bright brass.  These can be seen from a long way away, making the front entrance welcoming.  The cost for a door knocker is about $15 – $20 and the kick plate would be about the same.

Replace ordinary toggle switches in the public rooms with dimmers.  You will be amazed how a lower level of light can create a wonderful effect.  If you have different lights on different switches in the same room, you can decide which part of the room you want to accent just by increasing that level of lighting.Dimmer switches run between $10 to $30, depending upon the style.  One note to make however is that if you use the compact florescent bulbs, you will need a special dimmer, and maybe special bulbs.

Replace a kitchen or powder room faucet.  A new faucet makes things sparkle and can really make a difference in the looks of things.  Be sure to use a brand name faucet and not a cheap brand.  These are readily available for under $100.

Create a new effect by mounting picture rails in public areas.  These rails are easily mounted to the walls and can hold several framed pictures.  Another trick would be to occasionally swap out the pictures, keeping visitors on the lookout to see what you have added.

Painting Paneling – Ask THE Handyman St Louis – Get It Done

PanelingOur house was built about 1978, and we still have the original paneling in our family room.  It is a manufactured paneling and has grooves, knot holes, and indentations.  Also the flat surface is rather slick.  We are considering what to do with this and have considered painting it or wallpapering with a plain colored vinyl paper.  What would you suggest?  What do we have to do to this to prepare the surface?

Painting over old paneling is an excellent way to freshen up a room, especially if the old paneling is a dark color.  It isn’t hard to do, but with any painting job, preparation is in order.

First, you need to get rid of the shiny surface of the paneling.  This could be done with sandpaper, but there is an easier way.  There is a product called “Liquid Sand” (there may be other names as well) which will do the job.  This is a liquid which will dull the finish, making the primer adhere to the surface.  Follow the directions, but it is basically wiping it on and wiping it off.

Once the paneling finish is dulled, you’re ready to prime the paneling.  Priming will seal the surface, as well as provide be bond for the final paint.  If you’re not familiar with primer, it goes on just like paint, even looks like paint, but it still will need a final coat of paint.  In some cases, the paneling may need two coats.  You will be able to tell after the first coat if you can still see the color of the paneling.  Talk to your paint provider to see if the new primer/paint combination will work.  This is a newer product, that could perhaps, allow only one coat of the mix. 

For the final step, paint the paneling with your choice of colors.  Usually, a latex is best, as it is much easier to clean up, and the odors are less.

Depending upon the color you choose, you may find that you need much less light in the room.  One word of caution – when you complete a project such as this, and it has such a drastic effect, you may want to start painting in other rooms as well!