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Remove black marks from wood floors

I tried to remove black marks from wood floors with Bar Keeper’s Friend recently, and I’m happy to report it worked pretty well.

Here’s the story: I had some mysterious black ring-shaped marks on my hardwood floors. I traced them to metal ends of furniture legs. The long-term solution is to put the furniture on leg cups, but one still has to contend with the damage.

The pros use a floor bleach whose active ingredient is oxalic acid, but finding it is hard, and finding it in household quantities is harder. But there’s a cheap, readily available household alternative: Bar Keeper’s Friend. It costs a couple of dollars and you can buy it at big-box stores like Home Depot, hardware stores, grocery stores, and even some discount stores. It’s usually in the cleaning aisle next to the Comet. It’s good stuff to have on hand anyway, because it does a great job of cleaning up pretty much anything you’d use Comet on, but it literally eats rust spots for lunch so it’ll take care of chores Comet doesn’t.

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Why accordion-style flexible drain pipe is against code

From time to time I see accordion-style flexible drain pipe (also sometimes called flexible waste pipe) in use, much like the one below. St. Louis County inspectors take an exceptionally dim view of these, and I always wondered what the big deal was, since literally every hardware and home-improvement store in St. Louis County sells them. Why would they sell something if it isn’t okay to use it?Read More »Why accordion-style flexible drain pipe is against code

How I accidentally fixed the garage door

My garage door wouldn’t go down. You know the drill–you push the button, the door goes down for a few seconds, then reverses course, and maybe your opener blinks at you a few times. Not all garage door openers do the blinky thing though.

The reason is simple. The safety sensors couldn’t see each other, so they assumed something, or worse yet, someone, was in the way, in danger of being hit by the door, and made the opener reverse course. As annoying as a door is that won’t close, a door that mashes stuff is a lot worse.

My sensors couldn’t see each other because we’d moved some stuff around and, I guess we bumped one of them.Read More »How I accidentally fixed the garage door

How to repair a dryer

The other night I had a dryer go out. I had a few surprise expenses this month, so I really didn’t want to replace a dryer on top of the other things, so I looked into how to repair a dryer.

I learned quite a bit, but the most important thing was that I fixed a $200 dryer with $7.50 worth of parts, and it only took a few minutes.

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My counterpoint to Forget Frugality

I saw a reference this week to an editorial by Ramit Sethi called Forget Frugality. While he has some good points, I think some of his advice is counterproductive and even contradictory. He argues that you should focus on earnings and negotiation instead of trying to actively cut costs.

I really think you have to do a combination of the three, and you should start with what you have the most control over, which is your own budget. Here’s what I have to say about his seven strategies.Read More »My counterpoint to Forget Frugality

How I fixed an Americana (GE) anti-tip bracket that didn’t work

I’m fixing up a house that has an Americana (a GE budget brand) gas range in it. One of the last things I did before getting the St. Louis County inspection was to check to see if it had an anti-tip bracket installed. It did, so I didn’t worry about it. The house failed inspection based on two things, basically–a dead battery in the smoke detector downstairs (funny, I installed that about two months ago), and the anti-tip bracket.

The bracket that came with this range is a little different. Rather than grab the leg like most anti-tip brackets, this one grabs a hook on the back of the stove. The problem with mine was that the bracket couldn’t reach the hook on the back of the stove. The gas line comes through the floor about an inch from the wall, so the stove can’t sit close enough to the wall for the bracket to catch. Further investigation revealed that even if the bracket could have reached, it wouldn’t have done much since it was only screwed into drywall. The stove’s weight would have pulled it straight out.

But the remedy was simple and only involved a two-foot scrap of 2×4.

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How I freed a seized-up garbage disposal

I’m sure all landlords have a story like this, but let me tell you my garbage disposal story. I don’t know what the last occupant put in that disposal, and I don’t want to know. What I do know is that it was completely seized up and wouldn’t run.

The motor hummed, which I know from years of tinkering with old Lionel and Marx electric trains that meant the motor wasn’t completely dead, so I had to find a way to free up whatever was keeping the motor from turning.

The usual fix is to use a garbage disposal wrench (which is really just an allen wrench–so you can use any allen wrench that fits) to spin the motor in both directions until it turns freely. There’s a little key in the center of the underside where the wrench goes. Mine wouldn’t budge. I wasn’t being wimpy either–I’d lean on it to the point where the disposal itself was shifting in its mount, but the motor stubbornly refused to go anywhere.

At this point I’d about written it off. A 1/3 horsepower Waste King Legend disposal costs around $55 online, and sometimes you can get their low-end half-horse unit for around $5 more, so I figured I didn’t have a whole lot to lose, and I knew I couldn’t make the disposal any worse.

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