Home Repair Tips – Finishing Walls

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

Walls are the first thing anyone entering your home will see. They should be kept clean and in good repair.

There are many ways to finish walls. Probably the most common is painting. Paint preserves and beautifies many objects. It protects metal from rust, wood from mildew and plastics from sun damage. Paint also makes them easier to clean.

There are many types of wall coverings. Paper, plastics, and fabrics are some. Wall coverings can be prepasted and pretrimmed. Some are washable; and some are even treated for easy removal at a later date.

Paneling is easy to care for, and there are many different types to choose from.

Whatever type of wall finish you use, the job should be clean and neat. You should also know some of the chemistry of the materials and surfaces you are working with—what will mix and what may explode.

Painters will always have work. Even if the perfect paint—one that never wears out—is discovered, there will always be someone who doesn’t like the color!

Drywall is soft. It is best held in place with large headed drywall nails, screws or staples.

To prevent nails and seams from showing, nails are dented into the walls. The dents are then filled with drywall cement. Then you cover the seams with drywall tape and plaster over with drywall cement.

Finishing drywall seams. Apply compound over the seams and nail impressions. Work the tape into this compound. Smooth over, allow to dry, and sand.

In many modern houses, interiors are finished with drywall. Drywall normally comes in sheets, 4′ x 8′, 4′ x 10′, or 4′ x 12′. It is usually 5/16, 3/8, 1/2 or 5/8 inch thick. The most common size is 3/8 inch thick 4′ x 8′.

Drywall sheets are nailed to the house joists with large headed nails, screws, or staples. Nails are driven so that a small dent is made in the drywall. This depression is then filled with a type of cement and covered over with tape

There are three basic ways to finish drywall:

• Painting

• Wallpapering

• Paneling

You may apply paint directly to drywall. New drywall usually takes two coats: one to seal it and one to present an even, finished surface.

Wallpaper is becoming popular again. It comes in rolls and is applied directly to the drywall. Before it will stick, the drywall must be prepared with a glue-like coating of sizing. The trick in applying wallpaper is to avoid bubbles and match the edges and the pattern precisely.

Paneling is glued or nailed directly onto the drywall. Panels may be veneer, wallboard, imitation masonry, or some other material.

Moldings and baseboards finish off walls and ceilings. In older homes they are always made of wood. Most new molding and baseboard is made of synthetic materials which are more flexible and less likely to crack when nailed into place.

Home Repair Tips – Heating and Air Conditioning

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair    by: ITC

Homes are heated by one of three methods:

• Hot water

• Steam

• Warm air

Hot water systems use a pump to circulate hot water from a boiler to all the rooms in a house. Keep the radiators clean and the tops uncovered so that heat can circulate. About once a year, drain the boiler and expansion tank. Turn off the burner and the water coming into the tank.

The process is the same as flushing a hot water tank. Attach a hose to the drain and open the vents on the highest radiators to let in air. After the water runs clear, close the drain and open the water supply. Relight the burner. When you hear water entering the radiators, close the vents again.

Refilling the tank will let air in. As the air rises it becomes trapped in the radiator and keeps the water from circulating. You will have to “bleed” each radiator. This is done by opening the radiator to let out the air. As soon as water comes out, close the radiator. Be careful when catching the water. It will be hot.

A hot water system is controlled by a thermostat. The thermostat controls an electric pump which circulates water throughout the house.

Bleed the radiator of trapped air by opening the knob until water just begins to trickle out. Be careful: the water will be hot.

A steam system is similar to the hot water system. It does not have a pump though, because the steam circulates freely. Noises occur when water becomes trapped in pipes that do not slope back toward the boiler. This may be cured with a block of wood under one leg of the radiator. Knocking may also occur if the steam valve is not fully open or closed.

Loose packing in a valve is often responsible for steam leaking. This can be repaired just as you would a faucet. Turning down the packing nut may stop the leak. If not, repack the stem.

Basically a warm air furnace heats air which is circulated by a blower. Warm air systems may be electric, gas, or fuel oil heated. Heated air travels through ducts and out through grills or registers in various rooms. As with the other systems, a warm-air system must be kept clean. Clean or change the filters monthly when the heater is in use. Change them at least once a year. Also clean the fan blades and vacuum around the registers. If necessary, tighten the belt.

The motors in all systems need oiling. Use a lightweight motor oil and fill the cups or filling tubes in the motor. Fans and water pump bearings need oiling as well. If pipes or ducts run through cold areas, they should be insulated.

Central air conditioning may operate through the heating ducts. However, many homes have individual room air conditioners. The main thing is to keep the filters clean when the air conditioner is in use.

To stop radiator pounding make sure the pipes are level so water is not trapped. Also try adjusting the valve.

Make repairs with the furnace off and the boiler cold. If steam leaks out the radiator valve, tighten the packing nut. If that doesn’t work, remove the packing nut and repack the stem with packing cord. Reassemble the valve.

A warm air heating system heats air and blows it through heating ducts. The air can be heated by oil or gas burners.

Home Repair Tips – Water Heater Systems

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

Some older houses still heat water by running it through coils in an oil furnace. Some very modern homes use solar energy to heat the water. The most common water heaters are gas or electric.

Regardless of the type, all water heaters require some maintenance. A leaky water heater should be replaced by a new one. But other problems can be avoided or cured. They include:

• Build up of sediment in the heater

• Top fittings that leak

• Leaky pressure relief valves

Rust or other sediments can build up in the tank. You should drain the tank about once a year to remove them. Turn off the heat, and shut water entering the heater. Open any hot water faucet in the house to let in air so the tank will drain. Attach a water hose to the drain spout of the water heater. Wear gloves because the hose will be too hot to handle. Drain the water into a floor drain or a pail that is lower than the tank spout. When the heater is empty, run more water into it. Keep draining it until the water runs clear.

If the fittings at the top of the tank are made of different metals, electrolysis may cause them to start corroding. An insulated fitting should have been used. Sometimes the fittings can be replaced in time.

Pressure relief valves keep the tank from bursting. A leaking pressure valve may mean that the water pressure is too high. This happens when the water is too hot or when there is no regulator between the meter and the house. A leaking pressure relief valve may also be worn out and need replacing.

Gas and oil heaters have some particular problems. If the flame is not a blue color, call the gas or oil company to come and adjust it.

When the pilot light in a gas heater goes out, turn off the gas. Clean around the pilot light and burner with a stiff brush. Vacuum the exhaust vent and underside of the heater. To light the pilot again , set the dial to PILOT. Hold the dial or button down, and light the pilot. Keep holding it down until the pilot stays lit. Then turn the dial to ON and set the thermostat.

Water heaters can be made more efficient by wrapping them in a special thermal insulating blanket. You can also save hot water by making sure none of your faucets are leaking.

Open a hot water faucet to let air into the water heater. Drain and refill the tank. Continue until the water runs clear.

Pressure relief valves are spring valves that leak when there is too much pressure in the water heater. This usually happens when there is too much heat or the local water pressure is too high. The cure is to lower the water temperature or install a water pressure regulator between the meter and the house.

Occasionally the pilot light on the water heater goes out. Turn the control to OFF and wait five minutes for any free gas to escape. Then turn the dial to PILOT. Hold the red button down (or the dial if there is no button) and light the pilot. After about a minute the pilot will continue to burn when the button is released. Turn the dial to ON, and the heater should operate normally.

Home Repair Tips – Sewage Systems

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

Sewage lines have only two parts:

• Drain pipes

• Vents

Fixtures drain into a straight pipe which empties into a larger pipe. The larger line is made of 4- to 8-inch pipes laid on a slant to carry water and waste into the sewer.

Vent pipes are installed at each drain to let air into the system. Without vents, water would drain very slowly and be pulled out of the traps. Vents also release sewer gas above the level of the house.

To clean a clogged vent, inspect the vent at the roof. Sometimes birds build nests in vents. If that is the case, it is simply a matter of removing the nest. You may have to run a rod or auger down the vent to clear it. Use a cone- shaped cover to keep things from falling in the vent pipe.

Sewer lines have one or more clean- out plugs that can be removed. If the clog is near the clean- out you may be able to remove it with a wire or sewer rod. Sometimes a garden hose will work if the water is turned on full force. You can also use an auger. Heavy-duty ones up to 100 feet long can be rented.

The drain system is set up to remove waste quickly and thoroughly. Vertical pipes are placed as straight as possible. Horizontal pipes are slanted toward the sewer.

Air vents keep water in the traps and help speed up drainage. They also release sewer gas.

Occasionally tree roots are attracted to the water in a leaking sewer line and grow into the pipe. You can clear the line with a motorized, heavy-duty auger. First estimate the distance from the center of the street (where the main sewer line is) to the cleanout plug that is most distant. This is the length of the rooter you will need. Feed the cable until it meets the roots. Then feed slowly as the blade cuts the roots. Flush with a garden hose and run the rooter through again. Remove the rooter and replace the cleanout plug.

Cleanout plugs provide access to drain lines. If water leaks out when you open the plug, the clog is farther along the line. If water does not run out, the clog is between the fixture and the cleanout.

An auger or snake may be used to break up the clog. A power auger is needed to clear tree roots from a sewer line. Estimate the distance to the main sewer line so you will have an idea of when the rooter has run the entire length of sewer pipe.

Home Repair Tips – Meter Reading

Filed Under: DIY Outdoor, Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair    by: ITC

Every house has an electrical meter. The meter keeps track of the electricity used. By reading the meter regularly and keeping records, you can get a good idea of when and where you are using the most electricity. For instance, when the air conditioner is on, you will use a lot more electricity than when it isn’t. Leaving a color television on for a long time will make a big difference too. The electric company reads this meter to determine your electric bill.

You will notice that some of the dials on the meter read counterclockwise. To read the meter, start from the left. The dial hand is usually between two numbers,. Write down the smaller number. Continue reading each dial the same way. Remember the numbers on the second and fourth dials run counterclockwise. The final number completes your reading and tells you how many kilowatt-hours you have used. A kilowatt-hour (abbreviated kwh) is one kilowatt of electricity (one thousand watts) being used for one hour.

If you read the meter the next day and subtract the first day’s reading, you will know the total number of kilowatt-hours used during that day,

The hands on the dial faces turn the same direction as the gears under the dials. So every other dial is numbered backwards or counterclockwise.

Each dial hand is usually between two numbers. To read the meter just read the lowest of the two numbers on all dials.

A 100-watt light bulb will take 10 hours to burn 1000 watts (one kilowatt). A thousand-watt toaster burns one kilowatt (1 kw) in one hour.

Home Repair Tips – Fluorescent Light

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair    by: ITC

Fluorescent lights use less electricity and give off less heat than regular lights. They also last much longer and provide more light. Fluorescent light fixtures now being used include two basic types:

• Starter-type fluorescent tube The starter-type fluorescent fixture has a fixture ballast, starter, and the tube itself. Rapid- start fluorescent fixtures do not have a starter.

If a fluorescent light goes out, check the house fuse or circuit breaker first. If a light blinks on and off, tube and check that the pins on the ends are straight and clean. Straighten the pins with needle-nose pliers. Clean the pins with sandpaper and brush them clean.

In a starter-type system, it is most economical to replace the starter first. Some starters have a button to reset them manually. However, the most common type must be replaced. Turn off the electricity and remove the fluorescent tube. Turn the starter counterclockwise to remove it. Be sure the replacement starter has the same watts rating as the Old one. Most new model fixtures do not use starters anymore.

If replacing the starter doesn’t work, try a new tube. Sometimes the light from a new tube swirls and flickers. This is normal and will stop in a few hours.

Finally, if the light still does not work, replace the ballast—the most expensive part. Insulation tar leaking along the ballast indicates a faulty ballast. Be sure the ballast has the same rating as the old one. Replace the ballast carefully, one connection at a time. You may decide to replace the entire fixture for a little more than the cost of the ballast.

Noisy fixtures may have loose connections. A special low-noise ballast is also available to make the fixture quieter. Discoloration at the ends of the tubes is normal. If the ends of an old tube are very dark, the tube is worn out. A new tube that turns black indicates a bad starter.

Most fluorescent lights won’t work at temperatures below 50°F. If you need one for a cold area, such as a garage, you can buy a special cold-temperature fixture.

Screw-in types of fluorescent fixtures are also available. The entire fixture is screwed into a regular threaded light socket.

Home Repair Tips – Doorbells

Filed Under: DIY Outdoor, Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair    by: ITC

The doorbell system has four working parts:

• Push button


Electromagnet and striker

• Bell or chime

A doorbell push button is simply a switch with a spring inside. Pressing down on the button completes the circuit. When you release the button, the spring pushes the contacts open and cuts off electrical flow.

A transformer is a device that changes voltage. There are two basic types of transformers:

• A step-up transformer, which increases voltage

• A step-down transformer, which cuts down voltage

A doorbell transformer is the step-down type. It takes 110-volt current and reduces it to a low voltage of 8 to 20 volts. This low voltage output operates the doorbell. Eight to 20 volts is relatively safe. The high voltage wired into the other side of the trails- former is dangerous.

When you push the doorbell button, electricity flows through an electromagnet which attracts a striker. As the striker moves, it hits the bell or chime.

If the doorbell is not working, first inspect the wiring. Splice any broken wire or replace it with No. 18 bell wire.

Probably the most common problem with doorbells is the push button because it must stand up under constant use and weather conditions. To check it, remove the mounting screws and inspect the back. Clamp a piece of wire with alligator clips across the contacts. If you don’t have alligator clips, hold a piece of wire by the insulation and touch the bare ends of the wire to the contacts. If the doorbell rings, the push button is faulty. First try cleaning the contacts with steel wool or fine sandpaper. If that doesn’t work, replace the push button.

When you bypass the switch and the doorbell still does not ring, the problem is somewhere else in the circuit. Next test the transformer at the low voltage side. This is the side connected to the wires that run to the push button and the bell. Test it with a low voltage circuit tester. A 110-volt tester will not work. If the circuit tester lights, the transformer is working and the problem is with the doorbell or chime itself. If the tester does not light the transformer is bad and must be replaced with one of the same voltage. Turn off the electricity. Loosen and remove the locknut behind the transformer. Replace the trans voltage. Remove the wires and attach the new transformer in the same way the old one was attached.

If the doorbell or chime itself is the problem, you may be able to fix it. Check the wires connected to the bell or chime unit to make sure they haven’t come loose. You may have to bend the striker slightly so that it will make contact with the bell. If the chime unit has a plunger, cleaning the plunger may help it move more freely. Do not oil the plunger because oil will attract dust, and before long the plunger will be sticking again. Lubricate with silicone spray or graphite. If you cannot repair the chime or bell, it is easy and economical to replace it.

There is a locknut at the back of the transformer. After you have turned off the electricity, loosen the locknut by tapping with a hammer and screwdriver. Then unthread the locknut by hand. Be sure the replacement transformer has the same voltage.

Doorbells and chimes have the same basic working parts. A bell, though, also has a set of contact points that are pulled apart each time the electromagnet draws the striker. This opens the circuit. A spring pulls the contacts together again and the cycle repeats as long as the pushbutton is held. This is why doorbells keep ringing and chimes only sound once.

The input side of a transformer is connected to the 110-volt house current. The two contacts on the output side give 8 to 20 volts to operate the doorbell.

The doorbell push button is a spring switch kept in the open position. Pushing down on the button completes the circuit and sounds the bell or chime. Doorbell push buttons are for low voltage. Do not use a doorbell push button in a high voltage circuit. Ithom can arc and start a fire.

Home Repair Tips – Wire Splices

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

Most home wiring can be joined with splices. A splice is made by twisting two or more pieces of wire together. All wire splices must be made in an electrical box. The three splices most often used in home repair are:

• Pigtail splice

• Tap splice

• Western Union splice

The pigtail splice is a quick and easy way to connect two wires. Twist the ends of the wires together. Then tape the end or attach a solderless connector. The pigtail splice is weak. Use it only where the wires will not be pulled.

The tap splice joins a cut wire to a continuous wire. Remove about an inch of insulation from a midpoint in the continuous wire. Then wind the tap (cut) wire around the exposed portion of the continuous wire. Insulate the splice with tape.

The Western Union splice is the strongest splice. It conducts electricity well and withstands strain. The secret is to wrap the end of each wire around the body of the other wire. Use tape to insulate it.

A fire from bad wiring usually starts at a splice or outlet connection. When splicing wires, scrape the wires clean and twist them snugly. If you don’t, the splice will get hot. Soon it may arc and you will have a bigger problem to solve than bad wiring—a major fire in your home.

Other methods of joining wires are:

• Mechanical connectors such as electrical clamps

• Soldering

These methods are not used in most home repairs. However, soldering strengthens the joint and helps prevent corrosion.

Be careful when removing insulation. Cut at a 30° angle so you do not nick or cut the wire. A damaged wire will not conduct electricity well and may break.

In a tap splice the free end of one wire may be connected to the middle of another wire.

The Western Union splice is the strongest. It is used where the connection may be pulled. First twist the wires for 1 to-2 inches at the center. Then tightly wrap one end five or six times around the other wire. Do the same with the other end.

Tape a Western Union splice in this way. Keep the tape tight as you wind it around the wire.

Home Repair Tips – Outlets and Switches

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

Two electrical devices in the home are in constant use. They are:

• Outlet receptacles

• Switches

Roth of these devices are housed in electrical boxes made of etal or plastic. In the box, the outlet r switch is attached to wires that carry the house current.

An outlet receptacle includes one or more electrical sockets connected to the wires inside the box. A two-prong plug inserted into the outlet connects to two hot wires. This permits electricity to flow through the amp or appliance.

If a receptacle breaks or wears out, it must be replaced. Test the outlet a circuit tester. If it does not light, replace the outlet.

First turn off the electricity by removing the fuse or turning off the circuit breaker. In some cases you may want to turn off all the electricity at the main switch.

Remove the outlet from the box. Many outlets are connected by two wires. Others, the grounded type, have three wires.

The electrical box often contains an outlet receptacle. Lamps and appliances can be plugged into these outlet receptacles.

A broken or worn out outlet receptacle cannot be repaired. Test for electricity by inserting the two prongs of a circuit tester into the two slots of the outlet. If it lights there is electrical flow. If not, replace the outlet.

Remove the face plate and unscrew the outlet from the box. You can sketch a rough draft of how each wire is connected to the outlet. Label each wire with a letter or number on masking tape before you disconnect the wires. Be sure to mark the letter or number on your rough draft. Sometimes receptacles seem to have more wires than they need. This is because the receptacle itself makes the connection and continues the circuit to the next outlet somewhere else in the house.

Attach the new outlet according to your rough draft. Be sure all wires are bent properly and screwed down tight. Loose wires cause sparks, and sparks can cause fires.

The outlet receptacle has slotted holes at the top and bottom.

This is so you can hang the outlet straight even if the box is crooked. When you replace the face plate, no one can see that the box is not straight.

There are many types of switches, but all of them work by opening or closing a circuit. Electricity will not flow through an open circuit. Switches in outlet housings usually control lights, air conditioners, and other built-in house appliances through in-wall wiring. Sometimes the switch will control outlet receptacles elsewhere in the room or in the same housing

Sometimes outlets are wired to one another. Instead of continuing straight through, e line stops at one set of screws on the outlet.Both screws on the same side of the outlet are onnected so that the next set of wires carries electricity just as if A was connected

The simplest switch is a single pole single throw switch. This switch is marked ON and OFF. In the ON or up position, the circuit is closed and electricity flows through the switch. In the OFF or down position, the circuit is opened, stopping the flow of electricity.

•Do not install a switch upside down.

Two three-way switches are used to control a circuit from two different locations. They are used in hallways and stairways, for example. Three-way switches are not marked ON/OFF.

Other special switches are used for safety. Dimmer switches can be used to brighten or dim the lights by turning a knob. Mercury switches, which don’t spark, are used where inflammable or explosive materials might be present. They will not work if mounted upside down. Outdoor switches and outlets should be grounded and sealed against moisture

Replace a switch the same as you do an outlet. Turn off the electricity by removing the fuse or opening the breaker. Remove the cover plate. The switch cover plate is attached by two screws instead of one. Rough draft the connections and tag the wires. Install the new switch and replace the cover plate.

Home Repair Tips – Appliance Wire

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair    by: ITC

Appliance wire is a good conductor, but it pulls apart easily. The wires inside most electrical cords are in strands. They are not solid like permanent wiring in the walls. The insulation around the wires is strong and helps hold the strands together. The wire usually breaks before the insulation does and you will not be able to see where it is broken. When the wire breaks, the lamp may go out entirely. If you move the cord or hold it a certain way, the lamp may go on again.

To check a lamp cord, plug it in and use a circuit tester to test the ends of the wire closest to the lamp. If the tester lights, the circuit is complete and there is nothing wrong with the cord. Most likely, the lamp socket is defective. If the circuit tester does not light up, flex the cord and see if this makes the circuit tester flicker. Be very careful while the cord is plugged in.

If the cord is bad, remove it. A replacement cord has a molded plug at one end and bare wires at the other. Be sure to replace the cord with one exactly the same. Heating devices especially require a special type of cord. Attach the new cord exactly as the old cord was attached.

If the cord is good, but the lamp still doesn’t light, the problem is usually the lamp socket, which contains the switch. The lamp socket has four basic parts:

• Cap

• Socket

• Cardboard liner

• Outer shell

When you buy a new socket, be sure to get the same kind. Although they may look alike, sockets come in different sizes and types.

Before working on the lamp socket, unplug the lamp and remove the bulb. On the outer shell there is a spot marked PRESS. By pressing and wiggling it, you can remove the outer shell and the cardboard liner. Unless the cap is damaged it probably does not need to be replaced. In the cap, the wires are tied in an underwriters knot. Examine the wires. If the insulation is brittle, cut back the wires or replace them. Tie an underwriters knot. Then attach the ends of the wires to the new socket just as they were on the old socket. Set the socket back in the cap. Replace the cardboard liner. Plug in the lamp and test it.

So they will be flexible, most lamp d appliance cords are made of hair-like strands metal in an insulated shell.

A wire may break or burn through _nder the insulation. Broken wire can cause sparking that will burn the insulation.