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How to Solve Common Household Problems

Kitchen Image

Owning a home is all about surprises — some pleasant, some not. Dealing with home repairs and other frustrations ― clogged toilets, frozen pipes ―may seem intimidating, but it’s essential for a comfortable, well-maintained home. With a little know how and the right tools, you can save time and money. Use this guide to handle some of the most common homeowner frustrations.

 


1. A Clogged Toilet

Plunger

How to fix it:

Time to break out the plunger. If the toilet bowl is empty, add water. Extra water will help the plunger form a tight seal with the drain hole. Work the plunger up and down vigorously for 10 or so strokes.

  • If the water disappears, you're done plunging. Flush the toilet or refill the bowl to test that the drain is clear.
  • If water remains or the refilled bowl doesn't clear when you flush, plunge several more times.
  • If the  toilet is still clogged, try using a toilet or closet auger.


2. A Clogged Sink

How to fix it:

Using drain cleaner or adding a half-cup baking soda followed by a half-cup white vinegar may improve a sluggish sink, but a truly clogged sink needs to be taken apart at the J-trap beneath the sink.

 



3. Frozen Pipes

hairdryer on exposed, frozen pipes
How to fix it:

Turn the faucet on to release any steam or pressure that will be created as you thaw the ice to get water flowing again.

Thawing the ice:

For exposed pipes under a sink or in the basement, thaw with a hair dryer. Move the hair dryer back and forth to break up the blockage.

For pipes concealed in a wall, set up a heat lamp or small space heater 12 to 18 inches from the wall containing the frozen pipe.

Open the faucet to release any steam. Reposition the heater every 10 to 15 minutes and watch that the heat doesn't damage the wall surface.

heater on concealed, frozen pipes

After you thaw a pipe or faucet, prevent future freeze-ups by wrapping the pipe with fiberglass insulating tape or heat tape that plugs into a nearby outlet. Look for pipe-wrapping kits in the Lowe's Plumbing Department.



4. Kitchen Fires

Fire extinguisher
How to fix it:

Only attempt to extinguish small fires. If the fire is spreading quickly and could block your exit, leave the room immediately and close the door behind you. Call for emergency help.

Extinguishing a fire successfully is all about cutting off oxygen to the flames.

  • Smother a small grease fire with baking soda. Never pour water on a grease fire; doing so will send hot oil splattering and may spread the fire.
  • Put a lid on pan fires. You can always use a larger lid to cover a smaller pan.
  • Mount a multi-purpose Class ABC fire extinguisher in an easily accessible spot. Stand five feet away from the fire and spray at the base of the flames.
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda


5. Gas Leaks

How to fix it:

If you smell gas or sulfur, leave your home immediately, and call a professional. Gas smells indicate a build-up of highly flammable gas in your home, while causes of a sulfurous smell can be difficult to diagnose.



6. Broken or Cracked Window Panes

Storm Window with ShuttersHow to fix it:

A cracked window where the glass is still intact can remain in place temporarily. Carefully apply duct tape along the crack inside and outside.

If the pane has shattered and pieces have fallen out, wear leather gloves to pick up the shards. Gather pieces in a paper grocery bag for safer disposal.

If possible, remove the entire window frame containing the broken pane and release all remaining glass. Purchase new glass cut to the appropriate size.

While awaiting your new window pane or entire window, you can cover the open space by boarding it with plywood.



7.Stained Carpet or Upholstery

Carpet Buying GuideHow to fix it:

Stains like oil, wine, blood and dirt may look horrible, but they're generally easy to fix when the stain is fresh. Dried and set stains may require deep cleaning and tougher cleaners. Consider purchasing a steam cleaner for carpet or upholstery. You can also rent a Rug Doctor steam cleaner. Visit the service desk at your local Lowe's for more information.



8. Power Failure

circuit breaker boxHow to fix it:

Don't fret. One room or outlet was probably pulling too much power, causing a circuit breaker to trip or a fuse to blow.

If you have a circuit breaker box, reset any tripped breakers, including the main breaker — the larger breaker, usually located above the smaller room breakers. Here's how:

  • Depending on the type of breaker you have, you may need to press and release the breaker to reset. Or you may need to pull the breaker in one direction and then the other.
  • If the breaker keeps tripping, you may be overloading a specific circuit. You may not be able to run multiple items that pull a lot of power — such as appliances, irons, space heaters and air conditioners — simultaneously.
  • If a breaker continues to trip, consult an electrician.

If you have a fuse box:

  • Examine the fuses with a flashlight. The little window on the face of a blown fuse appears cloudy or blackened.
  • Use a plastic fuse puller to remove cartridge fuses or unscrew single terminal fuses. Don't touch fuse ends, as they can be hot and potentially shock you.
  • Insert a new, identical fuse. The Lowe's Electrical Department can help you identify the right fuse.
  • If the fuse continues to blow, consult an electrician.