2 Easy Home Fixes Using Vaseline

Posted by John on September 4th, 2013

In our home, there’s always something that needs fixing.  If it’s a big enough problem, I usually get right on it since there are some problems that are just not worth avoiding, like a leaking sink for example.  Then there are those problems that are not in-your-face noticeable, but over time drive you mad.  In today’s post, we show you two of those long, nagging issues that we quickly fixed using vaseline.

vaseline home

Quiet a Noisy Door

In a home with two little children, silence is golden.  We had a nursery room door that didn’t subscribe to that philosophy and routinely squeaked whenever it was touched.  No big deal normally, but when your five month old is sleeping and any small noises will wake her, that noisy door is suddenly a liability.

Here’s how we silenced our door.  We removed each hinge pin and one at a time coated them with a light amount of vaseline and then reinserted them back into the hinge.  It’s easier to do them one at a time like that then to remove them all at once.  Also keep in mind that we added a dollop of vaseline to some tissue paper so as to not get the vaseline contaminated with the crud that’s on the hinge pin.

To remove each pin, I used a small roofing nail to hit the hing pin from below with a hammer.

door hinge

A noisy hinge is caused from metal rubbing against metal. The vaseline gets between them and lubricates the joint. You can see from the picture of the hinge pin below that there was some metal to metal rubbing, which is why there are dark spots.

hinge pin lube

With all three hinge pins lubricated, the door is dead quiet.

Unstick an Entry Door

Since we mainly enter and leave our home through our garage door, the front door is really only used when we have company or if we get a package.  Consequently, it tends to stick after it’s been closed for a while.  It takes a good solid pull to open it.  It’s not sticking from the door making contact with the frame.  The door appears to be adhering to the weather stripping.

front door black

So, back to the vaseline.  I used another dollop of the petroleum jelly and applied a thin layer of it to the weather stripping where it makes contact with the door. I added to both sides and the top.

weater strip

That’s it.  The door no longer sticks.

That wasn’t so hard.

Do you have any home improvement uses for vaseline?

Posted in DIY Projects,Fixes. Tagged in

Fix a Sagging Door

Posted by John on April 25th, 2013

Do you have something around your home that’s been sorta broken but not quite broken enough to fix it yet?  For us, that forever broken item has been the closet door in our master bedroom.  Since our home is still fairly new (built in 2010) it’s subject to some degree of settling and movement.  Usually when people say their homes are settling, they’re talking about their foundations… but doors can sag over time too.

What are the symptoms of door sag?

– The door latch doesn’t fully engage the strike plate, so it shuts but doesn’t engage
– To get the door to latch, you have to lift it up by the knob
– To open the door, you have to lift it by the knob

Needless to say, it’s pretty annoying.  We had all the symptoms.  Here’s what’s going on with the door.

door sag

When the door drops, the latch mechanism becomes misaligned with the strike plate.  Instead of sitting in the center of the plate opening, the latch mechanism sits too low.

misaligned door knob

As annoying as this little problem can be, fixing it is fairly simple.  Now, your first instinct may be to just lower the strike plate a touch.  You certainly COULD do that if you want, but lowering the strike plate means chiseling the door jamb, possibly mucking up the screw holes and the strike plate hole.  Instead, you can just add a shim or two to the bottom hinge.

Here’s how to fix a sagging door…

interior door hinge

I remove the three screws that hold the hinge to the door jamb.  You don’t need to remove the hinge from the door, just the jamb.  Then I hold a piece of cardboard behind the hinge plate and trace the outline of the hinge and mark the hole locations.

door hinge shim

With the hinge traced, I cut out the shape from the cardboard and punch the holes with a pen tip.

door hinge shim 2

Then I place the shim into the area where the hinge sits and trim off any excess cardboard with a box cutter or scissors.

door hinge shim 3

With the cardboard shim in place, I reinstall the hinge back over the shim.  That’s it!  Now try opening and closing the door.  This worked the first time for me, but you may need to add a second cardboard shim over the first to get a satisfactory result.  The shim will compress some.

Not too hard right?  I can’t take credit for this tip.  I saw it on an episode of This Old House several years ago.  I don’t remember what Tom Silva used for a shim, but cardboard seems to work fine.

Any minor annoyances hanging out at your home?


Posted in DIY Projects,Fixes. Tagged in ,,

How to Replace a Broken Sump Pump

Posted by John on December 3rd, 2012

Hey everybody!  Sorry if I’ve been AWOL lately.  Work has been pretty crazy and I’ve been unable to read or comment on my regular blog reads.  I’m hoping to set aside some time in the next day or two to get caught up.  In the meantime, I’ve also been busy with annoying, but necessary repairs around the house.  This past week I had to replace our sump pump.  As far as technically challenging repairs go… on a scale of 1 to 10, this one is around a 3 or a 4, where changing a light bulb would be a 1 and replacing a furnace is a 10.

So, we’ve lived in our current NJ house for a little over 2 years now and we’ve never, ever heard our sump pump run.  Even during and immediately after hurricane Sandy it was quiet.  About a week ago, Lisa had been noticing this recurring humming noise coming from the basement.  In typical, ‘you’re probably hearing things mode’ I blew it off as just typical furnace noise.  Then a couple days later I was in the basement grabbing some tools and I heard it first hand.  Crap.  The sump pump was running for 30-45 seconds, would stop for 30-45 seconds then would run again.  It wasn’t raining, and it hadn’t rained heavily for a couple weeks.  Something is wrong with this picture.

If you don’t have a sump pump or are not sure how it works, I can explain.  Most new home foundations and a lot of existing homes are outfitted with a perforated plastic pipe that wraps around the outside perimeter near the footer or the base of the basement wall.  It then gets covered in gravel to prevent sand and dirt from clogging its slits.  This pipe, which can be sometimes referred to as a “weeping tile” (ala Mike Holmes) then runs into the basement into a large bucket.  The bucket is equipped with a sump pump that evacuates the water back outside, except it does so away from the house, keeping the foundation dry and less likely to settle further or become disturbed from water erosion.

Here’s what our bucket and evacuation pipe looks like…

sump pump (2)

The small pipe on the left is the condensate discharge from the central air system.  The larger pipe on the right is the outlet pipe from the sump pump.  These systems are also vented and may have two large pipes as opposed to one.  We DO have a vent in this system it’s just hidden in the basin.

That large plastic box is a check valve.

sump pump pvc check valve

The check valve prevents the water that was just pumped out from coming back down the pipe and back into the sump bucket.  It’s just a little rubber gasket that only opens in one direction.  When this pump was continuously running, the first thing I assumed was the check valve wasn’t sealing and it was constantly sending the water back into the basin only to be ejected again.  After taking the check valve apart, cleaning it, putting it back together and then plugging the pump back in, it was still running constantly.

Time to investigate further.  So, I disconnected the check valve, slid the AC discharge pipe out of the way and popped off the cover to the basin.  Couple things I noticed:

1.  there wasn’t much water in the bucket, only a couple of inches.
2.  there was a spider in there with a leg span about as long as my thumb and with WAY more hair on its legs than mine.  I’m generally not afraid of spiders.  I was afraid of THIS spider.

Sump pumps usually have some type of float mechanism so when the bucket fills high enough with water, it will switch on.  This pump was running AND the float was a couple inches above the water.  This thing is straight up broken.  Now I could try to repair the switch mechanism or I could just go out and buy a new one, a new shiny one that didn’t have giant banana spiders hidden inside.  I think you can guess which way I went on this.

old sump pump new sump pump

They even sell these in stainless steel!  As if it were going to be on our kitchen counter next to the toaster.

The replacement went pretty easy.  I disconnected the old sump pump at the check valve union and just pulled it out of the sump bucket.  Easy.  The new sump pump and the old sump pump have different PVC fittings.  Take note, the one on the right has a fitting that goes OVER the threads.  The new one is a female type connection, where the PVC will need to go INTO the pump.  So much for reusing that pipe.

Here’s a closer shot of the fittings…

in vs out

So, after assembling a few pieces to the new pump, I glued on the male fitting to a small section of 1 1/2″ PVC pipe.  Lowes and Home Depot sell certain diameter pipes in larger 8′-10′ lengths and a few at 4′-5′ lengths.  Since this is a smaller section, I opted for the car friendly 5′ piece.

To glue on the male fitting (which I fitted up to the display pump at Lowes to make sure I had the right one), I just placed my pipe on a stable surface to start.  You’ll need both the purple primer and the PVC glue for this part.

pvc glue and primer

I applied the purple primer to both pieces and then the glue to both.  You need to put these two piece together within a few seconds once you apply the glue or it will harden prematurely.

pvc primer

To glue them together, place the male fitting over the pipe, hold it steady for a few seconds, then try to give it a very slight turn.  If you get resistance to the turn, you’re good.  I like to hold the piece onto the pipe for maybe 30 seconds to a minute before letting go.

pvc glue

Okay.  The new pump was then connected to the pump and placed into the basin.  I marked both the new pipe and the old pipe for length taking into consideration a gap for the new check valve.

To cut the new pipe to length, I just used my miter saw.

cutting pvc

With the new pipe cut, I added some thread compound to the male fitting and reinstalled the pipe to the new sump pump.

thread compound

To cut the existing part of the discharge pipe that was hanging from the basement wall, I used a hack saw.  You could also use a reciprocating saw, aka a Sawzall, but I find they shake the pipe too much.

The new check valve is a flexible rubber boot style and it slides over the pipes and gets clamped down.  You just need to leave some extra room between these pipes for this valve.

sump pump check valve

Sorry that photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea.

After the new valve was installed, I plugged it in and tested it by lifting up the float.  Success!

new sump pump

The flexible check valve let’s you get away with the pipe being slightly misaligned, which is nice.

So, that sucked.  Any annoying repairs in your future?  Any 8 legged monsters?

Posted in DIY Projects,Fixes,Plumbing,Repairs. Tagged in ,, , , ,

How to Clean Black Shower Mold Permanently

Posted by John on November 28th, 2012

Keeping with our bathroom theme… Unless you routinely scrub your tub or shower, you’re bound to get a good amount of black moldy build-up in those tough to clean areas. We’ve all seen it. Sorry if I’m starting to sounding like a commercial. It happens. It comes from years of trying to sell my ideas to Lisa. So, our master bathroom shower has seen some better days. Surprisingly, we actually DO clean it often enough that we shouldn’t have any issues with black staining mold or hard water stains, but nonetheless we do. Here’s how I was able to get our shower mold free and looking new.

How to Clean Black Shower Mold Permanently

First, I always start with a cleaning product that contains bleach. We typically use Tilex. The chemical odor can be pretty overwhelming, so whenever I use it, I try to keep the windows open to let some fresh air in and I wear a mask.  I aggressively work the cleaner into the problems areas with a stiff bristle brush.  If you still have some black mold after this step, then you’ll need to remove and replace the caulk.

Here’s what our shower looked like after the best cleaning it’s ever gotten.

shower mold

shower mold 2

black shower mold

Still pretty gross. To remove the moldy caulk, I used a box cutter with a sharp blade and a flat bladed box cutter, which is like a window scraper, to score it. Once all the caulk was scored, you can usually peel it out. Be sure to get all of the caulk out of the joints. Some of the more stubborn caulk may harden to the point that it’s like grout. The hardened stuff may need some more persuasion. I used a flat head screw driver. You do need to be careful that you don’t damage your tile or shower basin. Also, wear safety glasses. Proceed with caution and at your own risk.

Once all the moldy caulk was scraped out, it looked better.

caulk removed

after removing shower caulk

removing shower caulk 2

With all the caulk removed, it’s time to prep for the new caulk. Be sure to clean up the area where the caulk was previously. It will also need to be nice and dry in order for any caulk to adhere well.

Now, if this were a latex based painter’s caulk, I’d dive right in. The latex caulks are pretty easy to work with and are fairly forgiving. However, your shower and bathroom applications require a silicone based caulk. Silicone caulk is notoriously difficult. So, to make it easier on ourselves, we’re going to use some painter’s tape to mask off the area. I leave a good 1/4″ gap in the area where the caulk will be applied.

tape caulk joints

tape the joints

Once the tape is in place, we’re set.

Now, you can buy high quality silicone caulks that are specifically designed for a shower or bathroom application, as opposed to a window or door for example. The caulk we used for this repair guarantees several years free of mold. Hopefully, with normal cleanings, we won’t need to repeat this procedure.

Here’s a link to the caulk I’d recommend if you are considering this project.

The caulk can be applied in a thin bead and can then be smeared with your finger.

apply caulk

smear the caulk

While smearing, I try to get a seamless look. Pull your finger smoothly across the caulk line and don’t stop until you get to a corner. Once you’ve smoothed all the caulk, remove the tape. Very gently, re-smooth out the caulk lines again. You’re done. Let it dry according to the caulk manufacturer’s directions. You usually need to wait around 8 hours after you apply the caulk until you can shower.


clean white silicone caulk

fresh shower caulk silicone

Now, my assumption is the builder didn’t use a high quality caulk the first time around. We’re going to be more vigilant this time and hopefully can clean the shower with a less caustic cleaner, but I’m hoping I won’t need to repeat this for a long, long time. And if you do spot some small black mold spots in your caulk, don’t fret. Try letting the Tilex cleaner soak for a little while (few minutes) before you plan on re-doing it.

The hardest part of this whole process is removing the old caulk. Plan on this whole fix taking at least a couple of hours. It will be time well spent.

Anyone else dealing with some crappy caulk? I wrote an entire post about caulk and didn’t make one juvenile joke. #itskillingme’

This post contains one Amazon affiliate link, but feel free to purchase caulk wherever you’d like. :)

Posted in DIY Projects,Fixes,Plumbing. Tagged in ,, , , ,

How to Repair Rust on a Car

Posted by John on October 23rd, 2012

Hey guys!  Lisa and I are planning getting a new car very soon and we’re pretty excited about it.  We’ll fill you in on the details once we make a decision.  We’re still looking, but I think we’ll be driving something new in the next couple of weeks!  In the meantime, we’re getting the Jeep ready to be traded-in.  It’s got 160,000 miles on it and could use some TLC.  In this post, we’re going to repair some rust that has been plaguing the driver’s side wheel well.  The basic rust repair process in this post should be the same for most cars.

Howto Repair Rust on a Car…rust-on-jeep-1-1024x682


Doesn’t look so hot, does it?  I’ve tried to repair it a year ago and it didn’t hold up longer than a few hours.  This time is going to be different.  I’ve learned the error of my ways.

Close up.close-up-of-rust-1024x682


To start, we’re going to mask off the door into the car to keep rust, paint and body filler dust from getting inside.masking-before-work-e1351047925279-682x1024


Then we sand off the old paint to get down to the rust and bare metal.  Make sure to wear a mask.   You can see that the area is pretty beat up to say the least.  The goal here is to remove as much of the really rusted out metal.  You can use a small hammer or a screw driver to knock it loose.rust-before-1024x682


If you tried to apply a body filler material right over the rust, you’d get crappy results.  You’ll need to apply a rust converter first and then clean the surface.  The rust converter chemically bonds to the rust and makes it a paintable or body filler compatible surface.  I didn’t do this step the first time I tried this repair last year.  The rust converter and wax and grease remover are all sold at local car parts stores.  Be careful with the rust converter, it’s pretty noxious stuff.  Read the warning label!!rust-neutralizer-e1351048334265-682x1024


Once the rust converter is applied, the rust turns to a dark black color.rust-sanded-1024x682


Now we can add the body filler.  The most common product is the Bondo brand.  It’s a two part system consisting of the filler and the hardener.  You add roughly a pea sized amount of the red hardener to each golf ball sized amount of filler and mix on a hard surface until it’s the same color as the applicator.  Then just apply liberally to the affected area and smooth with the applicator.  You’ll need to act quickly as it hardens in minutes.bondo-1024x682





Once the Bondo has hardened about 20 minutes after you’ve applied it to the car, you can take a sander with a course grit sandpaper and smooth out the body filler.  If you have a lot of rust on the section you’re working, you’ll probably sand off some of the rust converter in the process.  This sanding will expose the rust and will require another coat of the rust converter.  If the repair looks good at this point, you can pretty much sand with a 220 grit paper or add more body filler until you’re satisfied.

Since I needed a little more filler, I used what is basically a skim coat to glaze the area.  It’s the same process as the body filler, only it’s a little more runny.bondo-glaze-1024x682


After that coat was applied and sanded up to 220 grit, I added another coating of the rust converter and then cleaned off the excess with the wax and grease remover.2nd-coat-1024x682


Then it was time to prime.  I used a grey colored auto primer, which you can get at any auto parts store.  The primer is where you’ll be able to see any imperfections in the body filler you might have missed otherwise.  If you don’t like your results, you can add more filler and sand, etc.  Since this is a trade in, I’m not beating myself up to get it perfect.  It just has to look rust free.  A close inspection reveals the metal is a bit lumpy looking.primer-1024x682


After it’s been primed, I switch to my finish paint color.  I bought a spray can online from a company that matches OEM car colors. You just go to their website and enter in your car’s make, model and color and you can select from a variety of different options.  I picked a regular can of spray paint, but you could get a quart and use an HVLP gun like the pros.  After the matching color, I add a couple coats of a clear gloss finish.  Still not done though. You need to wet sand whatever you painted with a 1000 and 1500 grit wet/dry sandpaper to get the clear coat smooth enough where it will feel like the rest of the car to the touch.  If you skip the wet sanding, you get rough spots that attract dirt.  I actually have one of these dirty spots from my first repair attempt last year.  I haven’t sanded this one yet either, but I’ll be taking care of that this weekend.

The finished product is okay.  It’s not great, but like I said, we’re trading it in and I knew the rust was going to be a hit on our trade in value.clear-coat-2-1024x682



Not bad for a few hours worth of work.  If you had a body shop do this kind of repair it could set you back a couple grand.  It’s nice to know it’s not that challenging.  Of course, the body shop guys are usually highly skilled and you may not get a perfect result compared to them until you really get the swing of it.  Hopefully we won’t need to do this to our next car.

Anyone else living with rust on their car?

Posted in Car Stuff,Fixes,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, , , , , ,

Headlight Restoration

Posted by John on September 30th, 2012

Hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend!  Lisa and I caught up with some old friends and spent a good amount of time with both of our families.  Overall a great weekend.  I was also able to squeeze a couple hours of car work to do a 3M headlight restoration kit on our Jeep.

I’ve been meaning to try this restoration process on my now 8 year old SUV for a while.  If you’re not familiar with this whole headlight improvement thing, I’ll fill you in.  Headlights tend to yellow and haze up after a few years on the road.  The haze can reduce the light output and looks pretty crappy.  To correct it you have a couple options.  You can replace the headlights, but that can be a couple hundred dollars.  The other option is a restoration kit.  The kit I used cost $30.  It basically involves using a drill with a variety of sanding pads to scour and polish the plastic headlight housing to restore it’s clarity.

I’m not going to show you the step by step process of this particular product, but here’s a great video that shows you the procedure.

Here’s how it worked for my car.

The before:

Not too bad.

Here’s what the kit looked like.

The first step is to clean the headlights with soap and water and then tape off the area around the headlight with painter’s tape.

I thought using a pneumatic sander would be a better option than a cordless or corded drill, but it didn’t work as well as I’d like, so I switched back to the cordless drill.

The after:

So, overall, I’m pretty happy with the results.  The headlights look considerably better.  They don’t look brand new, but this process was unlikely to restore them to that level anyway.  If you want headlights that look brand new, you may be better off buying new ones.  These kits also can’t cure discoloration or staining that’s inside the headlight.  To remedy those stains you may need to remove the headlight and manually wash it.

So, we’re slowing crossing off items on our car’s to-do list.  There are still a number of projects left, but we expect to be done with them by the end of October.

What needs work on your car?  Is there anything you’d like to see done?

Posted in Car Stuff,DIY Projects,Fixes,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,,

How to Fix a Leaking Sink

Posted by John on September 10th, 2012

So, last week as you may recall, we added a reverse osmosis system (ROS) to our kitchen sink.  How do we like it so far?  We love it.  The water tastes great and we don’t have anymore plastic water bottles collecting dust all over the house.  Wasn’t terribly difficult either, although there were a few tricky steps, like drilling through the stainless steel sink and adding a section of pipe for the drain.

Now, I’m generally a cautious guy.  Whenever I mess with plumbing, I usually keep an eye on it for a little while to make sure it doesn’t leak.  With the water supply lines, you usually don’t need to do that.  They are pressurized and they’ll either leak immediately when the water is turned on or not at all.  They CAN have a slow drip, but even those usually materialize sooner than later.IMG_4509-1024x682


The drain pipes on the other hand, can take a while.  They aren’t under any pressure and leaks can be painfully slow to develop.  The photo above is our kitchen sink the day after I installed the ROS.  See that paper towel and the water pail?  Yep.  We sprung a leak.  The entire left side under our sink had a nice puddle of water in it.  The culprit?  The right side p-trap.  What’s weird about that?  I modified the left side p-trap in our ROS install and didn’t even touch the right one.  Apparently, I must have bumped it or something when I was messing around with the left side.

How to Fix a Leaking Sink

After a close inspection, I was able to feel a lot of water around the topmost p-trap fitting.  So, the first thing I did to remedy this whole situation was to just put some muscle into that fitting and crank it down tight to see if that helped.  Since this is a slow drip, I put a dry piece of paper towel under the p-trap and left it alone for a couple minutes.  After a little while, I noticed the paper towel had some wet spots.  Crap.IMG_4510-1024x682


The only real option I have at this point is to replace the p-trap and the maybe the tall pipe that has the dishwasher port on it.  They readily sell these at home supply stores and they’re very inexpensive.  I paid under $10 for both of these parts.

I started the fix by removing the old p-trap.  It comes out very easy.  You just loosen the two nuts that hold it in place.  They’re almost always hand tight.  You don’t really need to use a wrench for any of this.IMG_4511-1024x682


That long pipe came out next.  Same deal as the p-trap.  Once it was out, I laid it next to the new one and marked the new one so it had the same length.  To cut it, I just used a pair of tubing cutters, but you can also use a hack saw.IMG_4512-1024x682


With the straight pipe cut to the correct length, it gets installed the same way the old one came out.IMG_4513-1024x682


With the straight pipe in place, the new p-trap is up next.  Very simply installation.IMG_4514-1024x682


So our finished photo looks identical to our first photo.  Only difference is this one doesn’t leak.  To be sure we corrected the problem, I left another piece of paper towel underneath the sink.  This time, I left it under there for a couple days.  No drips!

What was wrong with the old one?  Hard to tell.  It’s possible it got bumped and then maybe messed up one of the seals.  Who knows?  I’m not losing sleep over it.

So, that wasn’t very exciting, but hopefully you learned something about your sink!!  Fix ay problems at your place lately?

Posted in Fixes,Kitchen,Plumbing. Tagged in ,, , , ,

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