Talk to a Toolman: Q&A With Chip Wade of Elbow Room

Should you hire a pro or tackle that home repair yourself? Elbow Room’s Chip Wade weighs in on five common questions for HGTV Magazine.

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Q: One of my windows keeps sliding closed. What can I do?
Chip says: Give it a go.
Unless your windows are more than 50 years old (hire a pro if they are), there are springs on each side of the frame that help keep the window in place when you slide it open. One probably broke or wore out. To access it, remove the window sash—you’ll likely have to tilt it, then slide it out of its track. Unhook the broken spring from the window frame and bring it to the hardware store to get a replacement. Fit the new spring into the frame, then put the sash back in.

Q: My ceiling fan wobbles when it's on. How do I make it stop?
Chip says: Hire a pro.
Misaligned or poorly mounted blades are usually the cause of a shaky ceiling fan. To fix them, tighten any loose screws that attach the blades to the blade holder, and the blade holder to the fan’s center hub, which houses the motor. Still wobbling? Measure the distance from the tip of each blade to the ceiling. If one is higher or lower than the others, gently bend the blade holder until the blade is in line with the rest. If that doesn’t do the trick, pick up a fan-leveling kit at the hardware store. It costs about $5 and includes weights that you attach to the blades to balance them, helping the fan run smoothly

Q: My fence posts are sinking. Can I repair them?
Chip says: Hire a pro.
The best way is to pull out the posts and create new holes for them. This requires pouring concrete, so call a handyman. He’ll dig a hole about 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep for each post, tamp the soil at the bottom of the holes, then add a few inches of coarse gravel to prevent erosion. Next he’ll fill the holes almost to the top with cement and a concrete anchor, which will jut out of the ground. After about 24 hours, when the concrete is dry, he’ll fasten each post to an anchor, then camouflage the tops of the holes with soil and grass.

Q: The outdoor faucet I hook my hose up to always drips. What’s the fix?
Chip says: Give it a go.
First use a wrench to tighten the nut behind the handle. If the faucet still leaks, you most likely have a worn-out washer. To replace it, turn off the faucet’s water supply—if you have a basement or crawl space, the valve is probably there; if not, it’s likely outside the house near the faucet—and unscrew the faucet’s handle. Once it’s off, loosen the nut behind the handle, then use your hands to pull out the valve stem—it’s a thin metal rod with a ring-shaped piece of rubber (the washer) at the end. Bring the washer to the hardware store to get a matching new one. Put the new washer on the valve stem, then reattach the stem and faucet handle and turn on the water supply.

Q: Ants have invaded my kitchen. Now what?
Chip says: Hire a pro.
You can try a repellent like Raid first. Spray it along the baseboards around the perimeter of your kitchen, as well as along the outside perimeter of your house. But if the ants keep marching back, call an extermination service, which should cost about $75 per session. The pros will target the problem area, and they’ll treat the perimeter both inside and outside your house to prevent the pests from returning. In fact, you should have a service come at the start of each season. Different types of bugs show up at different times, and this will ensure you stay protected.

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