How to Fix a Door That Won’t Shut

Posted by John on January 25th, 2015

Since we just wrapped up the biggest home improvement project we’ve had in years, we decided to keep the next few jobs more low key.  There’s a laundry list of little things I need to fix around the house.  The most annoying one by far involves a couple of our interior doors.

**But if you like our furniture builds, you’ll be happy to hear we’re starting another smaller build later this week.**

But let’s get back to the doors.  We have two interior doors that have a problem.  They don’t stay shut.  One of them is our first floor powder room door.  So when we have company, somebody invariably gets a door opened on them by accident.  No fun.

To get the door to close you have to lift the door by the handle to get the lock to engage the strike plate.  It’s gotten pretty annoying.

Now if you’ve been a reader for a while, you may remember we fixed this problem before on one of our closet doors.  I’ll reuse one of the images from that post to explain how this works.  We’re going to fix it differently this time around though.

door sag

Basically, the weight of the door over time can cause a gap at the top hinge to open up and will also close the gap at the bottom most hinge.  When this shift happens, the lock no longer lines up with the strike plate.  So to fix it, you need to lift the door back up.

So how do we fix it?

Well, the first time we wrote about this we used a piece of cardboard and stuffed it behind the hinge.  That worked for a little while, but over time the door sag returned.

Here’s how we fixed it this time and for good.

How to Fix a Door that Won’t Shut

We’ll start by taking a quick look at our bathroom door jamb.  You can see the gap between the door and the jamb is pretty tight at the bottom.  It’s pretty much touching at the bottom of the door.

door jamb bottom

The gap at the top is pretty wide open.

jamb top

Alright.  So, the goal is to open up the gap at the bottom and close the gap at the top.  We can do that by taking off the bottom hinge from the door jamb and shimming it out.

Here’s the bottom hinge.

door hinge before

We’ll remove the three screws on the jamb side.

hinge removed

Then I’m going to take some stainless steel washers and set one over each of the screw holes.  If they won’t stay put for you, you’ll have to rest them on the screws.

washers behind hinge

Now I’m going to use some 1″ long stainless steel screws that I bought separately and I’ll reattach the hinge to the jamb.  I’m not reusing the original screws since now they’re probably not long enough anymore.

longer hinge screws

With the hinge back in place, I’m all done.  The door closes and latches normally.  Success!

door jamb fixed


You can even see the bottom gap has opened up, which is why the door lock has lifted.  We actually had to use two washers behind each hinge screw for our upstairs closet door.

I hope this post will help you fix any sagging door issues in your home!  If you think this post is helpful, please share it!


Posted in Repairs. Tagged in ,,

Doll House Repair

Posted by John on May 29th, 2013

A few months ago, Lisa picked up a shelf shaped like a doll house from Home Goods.  She thought it would look great in our daughter’s toddler bedroom.  It was slightly damaged so she managed to swing a decent discount on it.  Luckily, the damage wasn’t too severe.

doll house shelves

The base is MDF and it looks like a couple corners had been busted up.

doll house repair

doll house repair (2)

So, how to fix it… I thought the easiest way to repair this type of damage was just to cover it with a thin piece of wood.  We popped into Michaels a little while back and grabbed some thin pieces of Birch wood.  The wood was probably only about 1/8″ thick.  After ripping it down to roughly the same width as the bottom block, I cut it to length and gave it some miters on the chop saw and attached it with some wood glue and brad nails.  It was just easier to wrap the whole bottom section with the good wood than to just cover the busted sections.

doll house fix

We used some pink craft paint to color the bare wood and we were done.  Quick project.  Sat around much longer than it should have.

I anchored the shelf to the wall so she won’t be able to knock it over.  To do that I just used  a couple of 1/2″ thick pieces of plywood and screwed them into a stud on the wall and then screwed the shelf into the plywood.  The plywood is the same thickness as the baseboards, so I’m able to butt up the shelf right to the wall.  You can barely see the shims from one of the sides.

doll house shim

Our daughter has been keeping some stuffed animals and books in there.  She seems to like it.

doll house installed

doll house shelf

One day I’m sure we’ll either buy her or make her an actual doll house, but for now, this little shelf is pretty sweet.

Any repairs on your end?

Posted in Carpentry,Home Decor,Repairs. Tagged in ,, ,

Fix a Broken Ektorp Couch

Posted by John on January 6th, 2013

Last week we started discussing our plans for the sitting room immediately attached to our Master Bedroom.  Over the weekend we managed to knock a few items off of our to-do list for this space starting with the couch.  Lisa’s parents generously bought us a beautiful couch for Christmas from Ikea!  We did a walk through of the show room in South Philly a couple weeks before the holiday and picked one out and then just scheduled the delivery in the store.  Do I have great in-laws or what?  Thanks mom and dad!

Did you know Ikea delivered?  I had no idea.  I never actually thought about it since I’ve had my Jeep for years and never needed anything from Ikea delivered before.  Now that we have our Jetta, I’m going to need darn near EVERYTHING delivered at this point!

Lisa and I picked the EKTORP three seater sofa and got a cover in Svanby Brown.  After opening up the box (yes, it comes in a box; yes, assembly is required), I immediately noticed a problem.

ektorp in box

There is a long 2×4 board down the length of the couch that has three metal brackets with wood screws.  The wood screws had been torn out of the 2x causing some damage.  Probably happened during delivery or shipping.

ektorp supports

broken ektorp

ektorp popped screws

ektorp broken

Bummer, right?  So, I either send it back, which is a GIANT pain since it was delivered or I can try to fix it.  A little while back we did a post on repair screw tear outs on one of our kitchen cabinet doors.  This is essentially the same type of repair.  All I need to do is get a longer and wider screw and I should be good.

Here’s how to fix a broken Ektorp couch:

Here’s the screws…

ektorp screws

The screw on the left is the fastener that came with the couch, the same one that got ripped out.  This screw is a size 6 and it’s 1″ long.  Wood screws diameters are sized by even numbers up until a 14, which is 1/4″.  After that point, they are sized pretty normally (3/8″, 1/2″, etc).  So, an 8 is wider than a 6 and so on.  The screw in the middle is an 8 and is 1 1/2″ long.  The screw on the right is a 10 and is also 1 1/2″ long.  My goal here is to use as big and as long a screw as I can.  I was able to get away with using a #10 x 1 1/2″.  I’m not sure why Ikea didn’t just use a 1 1/2″ long screw to begin with, quite honestly.  The board is a 2x, which is 1 1/2″ thick anyway.

At this point I just replaced all the popped screws with the longer, wider size 10s.

ektorp repaired

All good.  The rest of the assembly was a snap.

This particular cover is a little on the coarse side, but still comfortable.  We really like it’s casual look.

coarse fabric

Underneath the cover is just an underpad.  There is no other “couch” underneath the cover, so you DO need some type of cover.


So far, we love it.  Great couch.  I could’ve done without the repair, but it wasn’t a big deal.

ektorp side view

ektorp couch

We pulled the permit for the electrical work involved with hanging the flat screen and we’ve been talking a lot about the other furniture we’d like.  I’m hoping Lisa lets me build a couple pieces in here instead of buying them.  It would be fun.

Show of hands… who else has Ikea sofas?  Do you like them?

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Home Decor,Repairs. 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 ,, , , ,

Quick Kitchen Cabinet Repair

Posted by John on August 24th, 2012

So things have slowed down a little bit around here since we knocked dragged out our dining room wainscoting and gussied up our front door.  It’s going to pick up again soon though.  Plus, in the fall I’ll be taking another grad school course.  Before we know it, we’ll be busy like crazy.  We do have a couple more projects that we already finished and we’ll probably post about those next week.  Since it’s Friday, I thought it would be a good opportunity for a quick post on a kitchen cabinet repair we did a few days ago.  You’d think owning a new home would negate the need for annoying repairs.  Nope.  Apparently the cabinet door on our lazy susan decided it had enough and busted out from the hinge.


Double crap.

It looks bad, but in reality, this is an easy fix.  Now, if you think you can just re-screw in the old screws and it will hold you’d be wrong.  You need to step it up.

The door is 3/4″ thick.  The screws that were in there are 1/2″ long.  That means I can use a longer screw.

Here’s the screw that popped out next to the screw I’m going to use.  The screw on the left is the 1/2″ fastener.  The screw on the right is 3/4″ long.  I also decided to go with a beefier screw.  The 1/2″ screw is a size 6.  The 3/4″ screw is a size 8 (they only come in even sizes).  So, I’m using a longer and a wider fastener to make the repair.  There are a ton of “that’s what she said” jokes here, so I’m being careful with my word choice.  🙂

The larger screw went into the old holes like butter and seem to be holding very well.

That wasn’t too bad.  Fastest. repair. ever.


Is there anything broken in your place that you need to fix?  Have a great weekend!!


Posted in Carpentry,Kitchen,Repairs. Tagged in ,, , ,

How to Fix Large Holes in Drywall

Posted by John on May 7th, 2012

Another weekend come and gone.  They always go too quick!  Luckily, we managed to finish one project and make some progress with another.  We finally finished our cabinet drawer additions!!  Been a long time coming!  We’ll show you the details later this week.  In the meantime, in today’s post we’re showing you how to fix large holes in drywall.

In the dining room, we’ve finished the electrical work.  We have an inspection later this week and then we can begin the part I’ve really been looking forward to: building and installing the frames for the paneling.  Before that though, we had to repair the walls from our trim removal and the wall surgery we performed last week.  We had some major holes in our walls.

Here’s how I made those repairs… btw, there are a LOT of pictures!  This is basically a general how to on fixing large drywall holes.

So, every hole will get a small piece of drywall inserted into it.  The drywall needs something to screw into.  If there’s nothing there, you need to add something.  You could also use one of those metal mesh screens, but I’m personally not a fan of those.  I think you get a better result using the method that follows.  You can see in the photo below that the top hole has a piece of 2×4 that I’ve added.  It’s only held in place by the screws directly above and below it.

With the 2×4 in place, now you can add the drywall.  The drywall plugs I used are the very same ones I removed when I cut the holes.  I didn’t throw them out because I knew they would go right back in!

To get that small 2×4 in the wall, it needs to be just a little bit longer than the opening.  Any longer and you’ll have a hard time inserting it into the wall.

I used a set of channel locks to hold the piece in place while I screwed into it.  I even made the hole a little bigger to accommodate the channel locks.  Definitely worth it.

One the drywall plug is in, I add the mesh tape.  You could also use paper, but the procedure would be slightly different.  Plus, I think the mesh works better for repairs.

I could probably add some spackle to that hole below before I cover it with mesh, but it’s OK to skip it.  If it were any bigger, I would open it up and use a bigger piece of drywall plug.

I’ll also need to cover that white strip below with spackle.  The chair rail molding was there and when it was removed along with the caulk, it tore some paper.  The future raised paneling will should cover it, but I thought I should repair it anyway, just in case.

My first coat of spackle on any large repair job or drywall installation for that matter, starts with setting type joint compound.  This type of spackle is a powder that gets mixed with water and then chemically hardens in a certain preset amount of time.  It comes in 20, 45 and 90 minute periods last time I checked  The beauty of this product is that it sets so quickly, you can apply multiple coats and finish an entire room in one day.  The air dry type stuff requires at least an overnight before you can sand it and apply another coat.  One bag of this powdered stuff goes a loooonnggg way too.  I’ll use about 2-3 cups of this compound for the first coat of this repair job and because it’s a powder, I can store it and use the rest whenever.

For the first coat, you just want to make sure all the tape gets covered.  It’s not going to look good, but that’s OK.  It’s going to take at least three coats.

For my second coat, I’m switching to an air dry type joint compound.  The advantage of the air dry stuff is you have a little longer to work with it.  I’m also going to use a wide knife.  The one below is about 6″ wide and has seen plenty of action if you can’t tell.

There are two basic ways to apply joint compound.  The first is shown below.  You load up your spackle knife and apply it to the wall in one or two passes.

You repeat that until the entire area you’re working in is covered.

Then, you run the knife the other way in long, slow strokes.  You want to try to feather the compound out at the edges.  Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but you want to try to avoid major lines.

The other method it to apply and smooth it out in one stroke.  This is a little trickier, but can be a little faster.  When I load the knife up for this type of application, I try to keep the compound away from what will be the bottom edge, so it won’t drip onto the floor.

You can either start high or low and then draw the knife across the area.

Same basic finished look.

Once that coat has dried (at least overnight), it’s time for the last coat (you can do a 4th if you want).  For this last coat, I bring out the big guns.  This knife is 12″ or 14″ wide.  I first use the knife to knock down any raised edges or dried blotches of compound.  You don’t want to gouge the wall, but if you do a decent job of knocking down the lines you won’t need to sand.

This third coat also uses the air drying compound and the basic approach is the same as the last coat except for this application, the joint seams are much wider.  Generally, you want your application area to be about twice the width of the knife you’re using.

After three coats of spackle on the holes and two on the chair rail section, this wall is ready for paneling!!  I’ll probably do some light sanding where the top of the paneling will be, but that won’t be too hard.

Any wall repairs in your future?  I sure hope not. 

Posted in DIY Projects,Repairs. Tagged in ,,

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