If your New Year's resolution was to learn to be more self-sufficient, start with these five things every girl should know. Bonus: Guys think it's hot when you can change your own tire.
How to apply caulk
Caulk is that white stuff around the tub or shower (or toilet) that creates a waterproof seal that protects your walls or floors. Over time, it can become discolored or even start to deteriorate, which can lead to water damage or mold.
- Caulk remover
- Putty knife
- Caulk in the color that matches your bathroom
- Caulking gun
- Caulk smoothing tool
- Scrap wood or plywood (for practice)
- Apply the caulk remover to the caulk and follow the manufacturer's directions for how long to let it sit. Remove the caulk completely with a putty knife.
- Cut the tip of the caulk tube on an angle and wide enough for the area you're caulking and pierce the seal using a small wire or nail.
- Insert the caulk into the caulking gun.
- First, practice on the scrap wood to ensure you know how fast it comes out and can draw a straight line. It's called a gun because you literally squeeze the trigger, just like a gun.
- Squeeze the caulk gun with even pressure around the area to be caulked. Do small areas at a time, rather than caulking the entire room and going back.
- Using your finger or a wet smoothing tool, smooth the caulk to removed the bead-y appearance. Do so within two minutes of applying the caulk.
- Clean the tip and replace the cap.
- Wipe your hands with a dry cloth (not paper towel), then wash with soap and water.
- If you've gotten any smudges outside the normal caulking area, clean it with mineral spirits (if you're using silicone caulk) or soap and water (for acrylic).
How to install & replace toilet tank parts
Few things are as inconvenient as a broken toilet — and you could easily pay $200 or more to have a plumber fix it. But it's usually just one of the parts inside the tank that's broken. Before hiring a pro, try troubleshooting the tank parts or just install a new set altogether.
- Plastic bucket
- Toilet tank kit (which you can buy at any hardware store)
- Channel lock pliers (or plumber's pliers)
- Remove the ceramic cover from the water tank and place it on the closed toilet lid.
- Before beginning, shut off the supply of water to the toilet by twisting the knob on the valve under and behind the toilet. Flush the toilet to get rid of most of the water in the tank so you can work.
- Use the pliers to remove the water-supply hose from the tank and place the end in the plastic bucket to drain.
- Use the pliers to loosen the large plastic nut on the bottom of the inlet stem (which feeds water into the tank) and remove it with your fingers. The water will now completely drain from the tank.
- If necessary, unhook the chain from the flush lever. Remove the stem assembly (which includes at least the float that controls the level in the tank, the overflow tub and a filling valve) by lifting it from the inside of the ceramic holding tank. It may also have flapper valves and the chain attached. If not, you'll have to remove them separately. Save any rubber gaskets to use with the new kit if it doesn't already come with them.
- Assemble the new kit according to the directions on the packaging. While the parts and the way they're assembled may vary slightly between manufacturers, they're all the same size.
- Insert the fill stem into the hole at the bottom of the tank, replacing the rubber gasket in the same place you removed it.
- Place the plastic nut onto the new fill stem and hand-tighten it. You shouldn't need pliers.
- Attach one end of the pull chain to the bar that holds the float ball and the other end to the flapper valve. Adjust the length as needed by pushing the flush lever. If it doesn't fully open the flush valve, attach it a little lower. It's OK to have chain hanging off the end of one side or the other.
- Reinstall the water supply hose onto the new fill stem and tighten it with pliers. Turn the water back on and test the toilet before replacing the ceramic cover.
How to fix a squeaky door
Squeaky doors are a common complaint. But there's no need to call your man. This fix couldn't be simpler!
- Steel wool
- Small wire brush
- Penetrating lubricant (i.e., WD-40)
- Trash bags
- First, check all the screws that attach the hinges to ensure they're fully tightened. If not, tighten them with a screwdriver.
- If that doesn't solve the problem, place a trash bag under the door and place a few drops of oil on each hinge. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes, then open and close the door again. If it still squeaks, repeat the process.
- If the oil doesn't work, place a shim under the door for support and remove each hinge (one at a time) and scrub it with steel wool. Clean the pinholes with the wire brush.
- Replace the hinge and move on to the next one.
More on home improvement
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Top energy-efficient home renovation projects
DIY vs. hired help: Benefits and drawbacks