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Gutter Brush

How to Remedy Sticking Doors

. We are advocates of getting to the root of a problem. For instance, with sticking doors, we've suggested adjusting the floor to re-align a door. That's because doors rarely move in their opening. Loose or stripped hinge screws are the cause once in a while, but door and frame shifts usually result from house movement.

Having said that, we must admit that we have found that most folks don't have the time, experience, inclination or money to perform a floor adjustment, even a minor one at least not for the purpose of preventing a door from rubbing or sticking. Most folks prefer to make minor adjustments to doors and windows that restore them to operational status. The door repairs we suggest apply to most hinged windows as well.

First, check the hinges. A loose hinge can cause a door to shift in the opening and bind so tightly that it takes two hands to open the door. To find out if a hinge is the culprit, open the door slightly about an inch or so, grip the door at the knob and apply upward then downward pressure. At the same time have someone observe the hinges at the pin side to see if there is movement between the hinge and the door or frame. Even the slightest motion at a hinge can cause a door to stick.

Repairing a loose hinge is easy. Sometimes the repair is as simple as tightening the screws. More often though, the screw holes are stripped. This requires the use of longer screws or repair of the screw holes. Using longer screws is an easier solution than fixing the stripped holes.

There is a special problem associated with screws that hold a hinge to the door frame. Only one or two of them, depending on the hinge style, can be replaced with longer screws. The reason for this is that the screws nearest the hinge pin normally align with the wallboard. Wallboard has little or no holding power. If the screws at this location are loose, the proper repair is to mend the screw holes.

This repair involves filling the screw holes with toothpicks soaked in wood glue. Stuff the toothpicks in the holes, break off the excess length and wait for the glue to dry. CAUTION: This repair will not work if the screws are reinstalled while the glue remains wet. Finally, reuse the old screw for a like-new bond. This repair is easier if the hinge is removed, but removal is not essential.

Another method. If a gap exists at the hinge side of the door, opposite the location where the rubbing is occurring try bending the hinge to move the door. This can save the mess and work that results when a sander or plane is used. It's easy. Remove the pin from the hinge opposite the rub. Using a small crescent wrench, bend the rungs on the hinge connected to the door frame in the direction that you want the door to be moved BEND FRAME RUNGS AWAY FROM THE RUB.

Alternatively, you can bend the rung of the hinge attached to the door toward the rub BEND DOOR RUNGS TOWARD THE RUB. There is potential for error here. Be careful! With cheap doors, attempting to bend the hinge rungs could actually rip the hinge and the screws off the door.

Sanding, planing or shaving the door edge should only be undertaken when the hinges can't be adjusted. Unfortunately, sanding or planing is frequently the prescribed repair. Whatever repair you choose, be prepared to deal with it again as seasons change and as your home slowly settles into a different position.

Fixture Choices

. It has many names, throne, john and pot among them. But, to most it is known as the toilet; a modern convenience often taken for granted. Before the days of indoor plumbing, the call of nature necessitated a trip to an outhouse.

Where most homes then were equipped only with one outhouse, it is not unusual to find two or more toilets in today's homes. And, according to real estate and remodeling industry statistics, a bathroom addition to a one bathroom home is rated as one of the most cost-effective and comfort-enhancing home improvements.

The bathroom has evolved from being a convenience to a means for homeowners to express their desire for heightened comfort and decorating flair. A tub, toilet and sink remain standard equipment in most bathrooms. However, today's bathrooms feature larger, more luxurious tubs, oversized stand-alone showers, double sinks and stylish toilets.

Most design-conscious homeowners are opting for color-coordinated plumbing fixtures that incorporate a shared style. Plumbing-fixture manufacturers refer to these as "suites." Each of the plumbing fixtures in a suite contains a design element that is common to all of the others. For example, the pedestal supporting a lavatory and the base of a toilet can share the same design. The same can be true for the shape of the lavatory and the shape of the tub. The goal is to create a bathroom that appears less cluttered and more appealing. Layout, style and color are a few of the means that accomplish this.

Toilets come in more shapes, sizes and styles than ever before. Accordingly, you can pay less than $100 or more than a $1000 for a toilet, depending on your needs and budget.

One element that has impact on the price and appearance is the number of pieces. In days gone by, toilets consisted of two pieces - a tank, mounted high on the wall above the toilet, and a bowl bolted to the floor. A brass pipe traveling from the bottom of the tank to the top of the bowl transported water, creating a flushing action. The modern version has no trace of the brass pipe that previously connected the two components. What's more, the tank has moved from its previous location high on the wall to rest snugly upon the bowl. This is referred to as a "close coupled" freestanding toilet. There are many variations of the two-piece toilet.

For those with a bigger budget, the one-piece toilet is a favorite. In contrast to the two-piece model, the tank and the bowl are united. One-piece toilets typically sport a lower profile and have an elaborate flush mechanism that produces a more quiet flush.

Insignificant as it might seem to some, the shape of the bowl is another design element. A round bowl is the standard, less expensive choice. An elongated bowl is two to three inches longer than the round bowl, creating an oval-like shape. The elongated bowl is a popular choice for people looking for flair. It generally is more expensive than a round one and is not always an option with some models.

Bowl height, the distance from the floor to the top of the toilet bowl, is an element of growing concern especially for the older set. Studies by plumbing-fixture manufacturers demonstrate that lower bowl height can be difficult and dangerous for people with back and leg problems or other physical ailments. In fact, some manufacturers classify their products as "elderly" or "handicapped."

An alternative to the traditional freestanding toilet is the wall-hung model. Instead of being anchored to the floor, this model attaches to a metal plate that is affixed to the wall framing. This configuration is rare for residential use, but is the primary installation method for commercial restrooms. The main advantage of the wall-hung model is that it makes housekeeping around and below the toilet far easier. Also, a wall-hung toilet can be mounted at virtually any height to suit the specific needs of the owner. On the other hand, the plumbing for a wall-hung toilet is slightly more complex and wall-hung models can be considerably more expensive.

The building code requires that a toilet have a minimum of 15 inches of clearance from its center to a permanent structure at either side. Also, the code requires a minimum clearance of 24 inches from the front of the bowl to an adjacent structure. We suggest that, whenever possible, these minimum requirements be exceeded to heighten comfort. Where space is at a premium, a corner toilet might be the answer. It has a right angle at the rear of the tank that allows it to be positioned snugly into a corner.

Here come the fall leaves, so choose a weapon

Ah, those beautiful fall leaves—beautiful as long as they are on the trees, that is.

Left to pile up on the ground, leaves can provide the perfect environment for fungus growth, which can attack turf and shrubbery. Leaves piled high against a home's foundation or siding can lead to mold, mildew and rot.

Not to mention the fact that vermin and other pests love the protection that leaves provide up against a home. And fallen leaves slick with rain or ice can result in a nasty fall.

But you've got plenty of ways to take care of the problem.

As low-tech as it sounds, a rake is still a great weapon. It's environmentally friendly and gets the job done thoroughly.

Wood handles have been largely replaced with lighter, more user-friendly metal or composite materials. Some brands have padded grips and are ergonomically designed for a good grip and fewer back, neck and shoulder injuries.

Rakes are now available in a host of shapes and sizes to get between ornamental shrubbery without the least bit of damage.

If you want to go with something that provides more power, you have plenty of choices.

Electric and gas powered leaf blowers have become increasingly popular over the last couple of decades. The power blower moves the leaves into a pile which, as with using a rake, must be placed into garbage bags or cans for disposal.

Many power blowers can also be used to vacuum leaves. This can be an especially tedious task if you have lots of leaves since the bags are small and anything larger would create too much weight to tote the device. And some are adopting ordinances against leaf blowers due to the noise and air pollution that they create.

If you have a large yard, you might want to consider a large walk-behind vacuum. It's a mini street sweeper and can be used on paths, patios, driveways, streets and turf. It has a huge bag that can be emptied into garbage bags, trash containers or, better yet, your compost pile. One caution: vacuuming up wet leaves can make emptying the bag a huge challenge.

But here's our pick: Try a mulching mower. It mulches the leaves and grass and shoots the material back into the turf for nutrients. An optional bag can be used when you have more leaves than you need mulch.

A battery operated mulching mover is effective and environmentally friendly.

Regardless of how you gather leaves, one of the best things that you can do is to utilize the leaves as part of a mulch pile. You can recycle the leaves with other organic materials to create rich nutrient that can make your garden both healthy and the envy of the neighborhood.

Conserving Water

. Water is wasted during: landscape irrigation; hosing down walks and drives; washing automobiles; dishwashing; washing clothes; flushing toilets; showering and overheating by a water heater. It's also wasted when pressure regulators are set too high.

Most water gets used in the bathroom, so that is where you have to be most careful. Don't flush water away unnecessarily. Most toilets installed before the early 1980s used five to seven gallons of water per flush. Those installed after that time disposed of 3.5 gallons per flush. Today almost every state is mandating the use of 1.6 gallon toilets. If you are like most people, toilet use in your house accounts for 40 percent of water use. Converting from a 7-gallon toilet to a 1.6-gallon one could reduce overall water use by 25 percent or more. A leaky toilet can cost you 50 gallons of water or more per day regardless of its size. To find out if your toilet leaks, remove the tank lid and add about 7 drops of red or blue food coloring. Do not flush for about 15 to 20 minutes. If the water in the bowl colors, a leak exists.

Low-flow water fixtures also save on waste, especially at the showerhead. You may have a showerhead in your home that allows a flow of 7 gallons per minute. A five-minute shower can use 35 gallons of water. A low-flow showerhead (3.5 gallons per minute) can reduce the water used in a shower by half.

There is another hidden expense when one showers, and it manifests itself each month when you get your gas and electric bill. The less water you use for a shower, the less hot water needed to get the job done. And, by the way, low-flow showerheads are aerated and feel similar to a shower you might take with an old-fashioned showerhead.

Water heating is an important issue. The hotter the water in your heater, the more cold water it will take to cool it in a mixing situation (clothes washer, shower, etc.). Bleed your water heater every six months or so. Air in the tank will cause overheating, and might result in water being lost through the pressure-overflow valve. The easiest way to bleed the water heater is to open the drain valve at the bottom until the water coming out stops sputtering. Usually two to three gallons are lost. A bucket, eye protection, rain gear and heavy rubber gloves will help. Remember the water that will come out is hot.

The kitchen and laundry also can be waste centers. Dishwashers and clothes washers can use 15 to 50 gallons of water per load. Be a good manager and only run full loads. For clothes washing, cut down on recommended detergent levels (approximately 20 percent), and eliminate extra rinses. Use completely full loads or adjust the water level, if your machine allows.

During the summer, outdoor water use skyrockets. Washing an automobile can use 100 gallons and washing down a sidewalk easily can use up 60 gallons or more.

Another way to save water is to precisely control water pressure as it enters your home. This, appropriately enough, is done with a water-pressure regulator. If you have a regulator, adjust it so that the pressure does not exceed 60 lbs. If you don't have one, buy a water-pressure gauge (about $12) with a garden-hose fitting. Hand screw it onto the faucet closest to where the main water line enters your home. Turn the faucet on with the gauge in place and read the number behind the needle. Regulator or no, it is wise to make this pressure check. High water pressure not only is wasteful, but can do damage to dishwashers and washing machines, as well. Many appliance warranties are voided when pressure exceeds 100 lbs. Unfortunately, hiring someone to install a water-pressure regulator can cost several hundred dollars.

Conserve and save.