You don’t have to live with annoying home problems ranging from holes in screens and rusted dishwasher racks to squeaky floors and stuck drawers. And you don’t have to spend much to solve the problems yourself. The following fixes are well within the ability of most homeowners…
• Fix small holes in window screens. Home centers sell patch kits to cover holes in screens, but these patches are obvious and ugly. If the hole is small—a half inch in size or less—there’s a better solution.
Push the broken screen strands back in place as best you can, using your fingers, tweezers or needle-nose plyers. With the screen lying flat, apply a coating of clear nail polish. Let this dry for a couple of minutes, then flip the screen over and apply a second coat on the other side. The unobtrusive clear nail polish blocks bugs from entering and also holds damaged screen strands in place so holes don’t expand.
• Repair rusty dishwasher racks. The vinyl coating on dishwasher racks eventually cracks and splits, allowing the metal beneath to rust. Replacement racks can cost $40 to $100—depending on the dishwasher model. Fortunately, rusty racks can be repaired rather than replaced.
Use sandpaper to remove any corrosion and wire cutters to snip off the ends of rack tines that have rusted through. Buy a bottle of dishwasher rack coating, available in appliance stores or online. Example: Performix ReRack, around $7 for a one-ounce bottle.
Use the small brush inside the bottle’s cap to apply the coating to the rack’s exposed metal…or, if the exposed spots are tine ends, dip them by turning the rack upside down and then lifting the coating bottle up onto the troubled tines. Let the new coating cure for at least 24 hours before running the dishwasher. Applying a second coat can improve durability.
• Remove stripped screws. It happens to every homeowner at some point—the metal head of a screw gets so rusted or torn up by a screwdriver that it will no longer turn.
Position a piece of rubber band—a flat, wide rubber band, not the narrow kind—over the stripped screw head, press your screwdriver into the screwhead through this rubber band, then try to turn the screw again while applying significant force. The rubber often provides enough added grip that the screwdriver can do its job.
If this fails, you could use a small rotary cutting tool, such as a Dremel (prices start at around $40), to cut a new notch into the damaged head of the screw, then use a flathead screwdriver to remove the screw. Or you can buy a damaged-screw extractor kit, which costs around $10 and includes drill bits designed to drill into all kinds of damaged screws and pull them out.
• Eliminate floor squeaks. Floor squeaks usually are caused by pieces of wood rubbing together or rubbing against nails that are intended to hold the floor in place. There are several options for solving annoying floor squeaks, depending on the flooring and the floor’s location in the home.
If the floor is wood, sprinkle talcum powder in the vicinity of the squeak and sweep it around until there’s powder in all the cracks between boards in that area. The powder can prevent the boards from rubbing together, a common source of squeaks.
If that fails (or there are no gaps in the flooring) and the squeak is above a basement with an unfinished ceiling, locate the spot beneath the squeak…have someone walk on the squeaky spot while you search for it below…and insert wood shims between the subfloor (that’s the plywood beneath the flooring) and nearby joists (these are the wood or metal beams supporting the floor).
If that also fails, or if you don’t have access to the underside of the squeaky floor, use a stud finder on the squeaky floor to locate the nearest joist, then drive a trim screw, a type of screw with a head so small it’s hard to even notice once it’s in place, through the floor and into that joist below. Continue driving this trim screw until its head is slightly below the floor surface. Then cover the screw head with a tiny amount of a putty or wax filler that matches the floor’s color.
• Help sticky cabinet drawers slide freely. The solution to this problem depends on the drawer’s construction.
If the drawer has wood runners—that is, the wood of the drawer slides directly on the wood of the cabinet—remove the drawer and apply a coat of “paste wax” to any surfaces of drawer and cabinet that rub when the drawer is opened or shut. Make sure the paste you choose is designed for use on wood, not for auto body. Example: SC Johnson Paste Wax (around $7 for 16 ounces).
If the drawer has metal drawer slides, wipe away any accumulated dust and debris, then spray a “dry lubricant” onto the slides. Dry lubes are a better choice than oil or grease-based lubes, because unlike greasy lubes lubricating powders won’t attract dirt and dust that eventually would gum up the drawer slide…and they’re less likely to drip off onto items stored in the drawers. Examples: Blaster Advanced Dry Lube with Teflon (around $5 for 9.3 ounce can at home centers)…WD-40 Specialist Dry Lube (around $7 for a 10-ounce can.)
• Prevent picture frames from going out of level. It’s one of life’s little annoyances—every time you walk by a picture it’s hanging at a slight angle.
Apply a tiny amount of adhesive putty or mounting putty to the back of the frame near its lower corners. These putties are sticky enough to prevent frames from slipping, but not so sticky that they’ll damage the wall when pictures are removed. Example: Loctite Fun-Tak Mounting Putty (around $3 for 2 ounces).
• Stop doors from squeaking, rattling or drifting. Doors have a several ways of annoying homeowners.
If door hinges squeak, tap a hinge pin out from below, apply a very modest amount of graphite lubricant to it, return the pin to the hinge, then repeat with the door’s other hinge pins. Unlike oil-based lubes such as WD-40, graphite doesn’t attract dirt and dust that eventually would gum-up the hinge. You could spray on a dry lubricant like those mentioned above, but graphite from a tube applied to the hinge pin will stay in place longer. Expect to pay $5 to $10 for a 3-ounce tube of graphite in a hardware store or home center. Brand name is unimportant. Exception: If the hinge is above carpeting, use a silicone spray lubricant instead such as Blaster Silicone Lubricant (around $4 for 11 ounces)—graphite powder is black and could stain the carpet if any worked its way out of the hinge over time.
If a closed door makes annoying rattling noises when someone walks past or the HVAC system operates, open the door to access the strike plate—that’s the metal piece on the door frame that has an opening for the latch bolt to enter when the door is shut. Inside the strike plate’s hole, there’s a small metal tab that’s angled inward, away from the door opening. Use pliers to pull this tab slightly, or a flathead screwdriver to pry it outwards, so it’s no longer angled quite as dramatically away from the door opening. (If you have trouble bending this tab, you could unscrew the strike plate from the door jamb so you can access the tab from behind.) To see how it’s done, go to TodaysHomeowner.com/video/how-to-stop-a-door-from-rattling.This will increase the contact between strike plate and latch bolt when the door is shut, which usually eliminates rattling.
If a door drifts open or shut on its own rather than remaining right where it’s left, the door is likely hanging slightly out of plumb. Remove the pin from one of the hinges, lie the pin on a workbench (or some other flat, hard surface), strike it once near the middle of the pin’s length with a hammer using only modest force to put a very slight bend in the pin, then reinsert the pin into the hinge. You might have to use the hammer to tap the slightly bent pin back into the hinge. The slight bend in the pin can increase hinge friction enough to eliminate ghost door syndrome without causing any problems for the door. (To see how it’s done, go to Youtu.be/cE8XcWAzxrc) If it doesn’t do the trick, do the same with the door’s other hinge pin(s).