Our household troubleshooting guide will get you out of all-too-common jams around the house, whether they’re true emergencies or everyday annoyances.
Use a thin flat bar to gently pry off the end cap on the stair tread, which will expose the mortise that holds the baluster. Insert a shim to push the baluster tight against the banister on top. Then reattach the tread cap.
Chuck a drill bit into your driver and zip through the dried-up gunk in the tip.
Start with toilet cleaner and scrub in circles. If that doesn’t work, try Bar Keepers Friend, which contains pumice, a mild abrasive. If that doesn’t work either, wet the sink and use a pumice stick; it’s the most aggressive technique that’s safe for porcelain. If that also fails? Sorry, you’ll need a professional refinishing.
Trapped air can cause a hot-water or steam radiator to stay cold at the top. Releasing the air restores efficiency. On a hot-water unit, let the air out through the bleed valve, a square nut located near the top of the unit. Using either a special valve key or a flathead screwdriver (depending on your model), open the valve a quarter turn until you hear hissing. When water begins bubbling out, close the valve again. Steam units trap air if the valve’s air vent is clogged with paint or dirt (or not pointing up). With the heat off, clean out the little hole at the top of the valve with a wire, or just replace the whole thing. But with either system, warns This Old House plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, “be careful with those valves. That radiator is way older than you are, and if those threads break, you’ve got a big problem.” For a stubborn valve, he recommends holding the outside nut with a crescent wrench as you turn the valve. You can also use WD-40, but not too much elbow grease: Better to leave a bubble than to bust a radiator.
So long as there’s an existing light fixture, this job is a cinch: Kill the power, remove the old unit, and wire up the new one, says TOH‘s go-to master electrician, Scott Caron. “Hot” black wire to black, neutral white to white, and don’t forget to connect the green ground to the bare copper wire wound around the ground screw. “Really,” he says, “the most important thing is to buy a high-quality unit.” Sophisticated circuitry guards against false triggers, and you can adjust the sensor to ignore animals—or not. “I like to know when our neighborhood skunk is around so I don’t get surprised,” Caron says. Set the light to test mode and aim the sensor so that it doesn’t pick up traffic or pedestrians. Or late-night hot-tub action.
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