Category Archives: Maintenance

Helping you to maintain your home to keep it in great shape and preventing break downs.

Don’t Trash Old Cordless Tool Batteries.

Do you have old rechargeable NiCad cordless tool batteries that just won’t take a charge any longer? Don’t throw them in the trash.

As Do It Yourselfer’s we like to have our tools and who wants to be limited by a power cord? But the bad part about battery operated tools is the batteries eventually get weak or die.

If you are tired of spending a ton of money on new batteries, there are a number of ways that they can be revived.

But please if none of them work for your batteries, take them to a recycling facility, they are very bad for the environment when put in the trash.

I have not tested any of these methods yet, but will let you know my results when I do.

The first thing to try if the charger won’t charge the battery and says to replace it. Try repeatedly unplugging and plugging in the charge, with the battery in the charger, until it begins to charge. Plugging the charger into an outlet with a switch will make this easier.

Here is a great video on how this works.

If this little trick doesn’t work, you basically need to “jump start” the battery. The next video will show you an easy way to do this.


Good luck with getting those batteries back up and working. Let us know how you make out with your battery repair.

7 Signs of Mold Issues in Your Home and How To Fix Them!

Owning a home is tough.

Whether it’s big or small, there always seems to be little dark corners and nooks and crannies where all kinds of gross stuff likes to gather.

It’s disheartening to move aside a piece of furniture and see all the cleaning you have to do, but it’s always better to get more gunk out of your life.

And sometimes, your health can really depend on it, especially if we’re talking about mold.

Mold looks humble. It’s the fuzzy stuff that grows across your bread when it’s been left out too long, and it might not seem like a lot, but it can actually have very powerful effects on your health.

On the one hand, penicillin, a medicine that’s saved countless lives, is made out of that very mold growing on your sliced bread. On the other, one type of mold can lead to hallucinations and, as one theory states, even led to the hysteria that left 20 people dead in Salem in 1692.

But there’s another kind of mold that might be lurking in your home right now, causing symptoms not only in your house, but also in your body.

It’s called black mold, and it is one of the worst molds you can get. It grows in damp areas, usually in areas of condensation or water damage, and it’s toxic. If you think your home may have black mold, you need to get it checked out immediately.

But how can you tell? Read on to find out, and see what you can do to stop it.

How Does Black Mold End Up In Your House?


Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Black mold (also known as Stachybotrys) likes to grow in damp places, and is most commonly found in areas where condensation has collected or where there’s been water damage.

Spores enter the home through windows, doors, and other openings, and can also be tracked on shoes and clothing.

If there’s no standing moisture, nothing will happen, but if there’s an area where moisture has collected, black mold can begin to grow.

Not all black mold is toxic, though. If you find a mold that’s black in color, immediately have it tested to see if it’s Stachybotrys.

But it often goes unnoticed for a long time, and its symptoms are often confused with other issues.

So what should you look out for?

Symptoms In The Body
Body Symptom #1: Allergy Symptoms, Asthma, And Breathing Difficulty

<u>Symptoms In The Body</u><br>Body Symptom #1: Allergy Symptoms, Asthma, And Breathing Difficulty

Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

The most common effect of mold on the body is respiratory issues.

That’s a lot of coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath, and a general feeling like you can’t breathe as well as you should be.

This is what happens when you inhale black mold spores.

Having allergy and asthma flare-ups are common, which will seem more frequent than normal, or it might even appear in people who have never had asthma or allergies before.

Body Symptom #2: Difficulty With Memory And Concentration

Body Symptom #2: Difficulty With Memory And Concentration

Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

A foggy feeling is also common when you’ve been breathing in mold spores. They’ll make you feel sluggish and thick-headed.

This is due to the toxic quality of the mold, which makes it hard for the brain to function properly.

Your mind and memory will also be operating less smoothly if your body is feeling sick and weak, too.


Body Symptom #3: Nausea And Vomiting

Body Symptom #3: Nausea And Vomiting

Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Black mold can also affect the digestive system, making you feel queasy and nauseated.

Essentially, mold affects your body like a poison, but because the symptoms are so common, mold is the last thing that people think of when they feel sick to their stomachs all the time, which is totally understandable.

Body Symptom #4: Weakened Immune System And Chronic Sickness

Body Symptom #4: Weakened Immune System And Chronic Sickness

Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

The most telling symptom of black mold is the feeling of being sickly all the time.

If you notice that you’re suddenly always feeling under the weather, it might be your house.

It’s also especially important to look out for chronic sickness in young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems, since the effects from mold can have serious complications for these people.

See Symptoms In Your Home on the Next Page


Before Calling a Service Man, Check These First.



You wake up one morning and realize, it is a little colder in the house than usual. You go check and find out the heating system is not working. 

To save yourself some time and money, here is a list of things to check before calling the service man.

Some of these things may easily solve the issue and get your system back up and running in no time. While other will help you explain to the service company where the issue is. This will help you also understand the some basics to keep you from ripped off.

While checking a gas system, if you smell gas, leave the house immediately, do not anything electrical, such as light switches, etc. Get out, then call 911.


  • Check the thermostat first. Is it working? If digital, is it displaying numbers? Do you see a low battery warning? Change batteries and see if that restores heat. If you have an old fashioned thermostat, check that it seems to reflect an approximate temp based on how you feel in the house. Yes, $3 in batteries can save you $100 house call. I replaced mine this week when I dropped it and cracked the LED screen – don’t do that!  How to replace a thermostat. It is a bit dorky; excuse my bad singing but you’ll get the point.
  • Check the circuit breaker box (or fuse box for those oldies but goodies). Make sure all circuits are on. Hopefully the heater is labeled. When in doubt, push all switches firmly towards the ON position. Power is needed for electric base boards of course, but it powers all the other furnaces too.
  • Check the fill gauge on your oil tank. Keep a record of when you order oil and about how long it lasts so you can avoid running out especially in frigid cold weather. Make a simple chart and hang it by the tank. Mark your calendar so you can order on time.
  • Check that the switch on the furnace is ON. Sometimes things just happen and someone flipped a switch by accident. Hate to see you pay service crew to flip a switch!  IMG_20141211_174408086
  • If you have natural gas heat, make sure the emergency gas supply switch is ON. This switch is often located in a stairwell and labeled with a red plate cover. Kids play with switches just for snorts and giggles! Mine did. So be sure to look before calling your pro.
  • If you don’t know where such gauges and switches are, be sure to ask your HVAC person to give you a walk through when he/she comes for service. It is your equipment, ASK questions.
  • Look, listen and feel before calling. Do you hear the unit firing up, can you see the pilot flames in the furnace, can you feel air blowing from vents, do you hear water hissing in radiators pipes? Give the pros as much info as you can. Some great advice from

Hanging with the service man and asking some question is always a good idea, but don’t be a pest. A good technician will explain to you the issue and what needs to be done to fix it.



Replacing a Refrigerator Door Gasket

All doors on a refrigerator have a molded gasket around the outside edge of the door to seal in the cold air. Over time the gasket can get torn or with age it becomes old and stiff. Making a visual inspection of your refrigerator door Gasket on a regular basis is a great way to save money. A leaking refrigerator door gasket can waste hundreds of dollars a year.

Things to look for during an inspection, tears in the gasket, bends or creases in the gasket, condensation around the outside or moldy areas. If you discover any of these issues it’s probably time to replace the refrigerator door gasket. Another test you can perform opening the door placing a piece of paper in the door in closing you can easily slide the paper out the gasket is not sealing properly and it’s time to invest in the new gasket.

In order to purchase the correct gasket for your refrigerator, you’ll need the make, model and serial number off of the refrigerator. This information can usually be found on the inside of the door or along the inside edge of the refrigerator. Once you know that information you can take it to your local appliance supply store or online.

The gasket on most refrigerator doors are held on by one of two ways. If you pull out slightly on the inside edge of the gasket it will either be attached by in a groove under the door liner, or you will see a row of bolts which hold a retaining bar that keeps the gasket in place.

On the next page you find two videos explaining the two different ways of replacing your refrigerator door gasket.


Buying Power Tools – How Cheap Can You Go?

With all the different models of power tools out there, how do you know which to buy? You want to buy the best but your budget doesn’t always allow it and the situation doesn’t always warrant it.

If you are purchasing a tool that you need now for a specific project, great. But ask yourself how often you will use it later. If the answer is rarely, why spend a lot of money on it? Buy the cheaper version if it will get the job done.

Be aware that when you buy cheaper tools, they often have their limitations. Don’t over heat them and work it to death and expect good results. But even the best of power tools need a little TLC to keep working properly.

Here is a little advice on buying power tools.

A good power tool – if treated properly – will last for many years. They all need to have some maintenance done from time to time to keep them running at peak performance.

Garage sales and pawn shops are great places to find tools you will not use a lot and don’t want to spend a bunch of money.


Safety Tips Around the House

We all love to save money. Doing projects around the house ourselves keeps us from paying out big money for the things we can do.

Being handy around your home, you can keep things well maintained to help them last longer and run better.

Maintenance is an important part of owning a home, but while doing it, your safety is way more important.

The family handyman lets us know things you need to be aware of when doing work around your home.

I plugged a radio into the outlet and switched off breakers until the radio died. I figured it was safe to work in the box and proceeded to disconnect the wires from the outlet. Suddenly, I was knocked back by a jolt of electricity shooting up my arm. It turns out there were two circuits connected to the outlet and only one had been turned off. It’s dangerous to make assumptions about electricity. Always check the wires with a voltage tester and double-check all the wires in the box with a noncontact voltage tester before doing any electrical work. Elisa Bernick 

Dangerous sawdust

Our crew did a lot of new-home framing, and the last step was the roof sheathing. That involved lots of cutting up there: skylight and vent holes, gable ends, etc. I insisted on having a push broom on the roof and lectured the guys about sweeping the dust away after each cut. The young guns, of course, thought they were bulletproof and wouldn’t always do it. Then it happened. Joey’s feet went out from under him and he found himself tobogganing down the 5/12 slope and over the edge, then performing a perfect two-point plant on the ground. He was lucky we were building a single story! The broom got used religiously after that. Travis Larson

Travis Larson tells this ladder story: “I had a six-foot stepladder and I needed an eight-foot one. What to do? I know—I’ll rest it on planks that are resting on sawhorses. Brilliant! Nope, turns out it was really, really stupid. When I climbed nearly to the top, the planks slipped right off the horses like the undersides were greased. Of course, the ladder went down too. The saving grace was that I was near enough to the gutter so I could grab it before I followed the ladder. Fortunately it was strong enough to support my weight. I hung there and bellowed for help until my wife came out to see what the rumble was. She set the ladder back up—on the ground this time—and steadied it so I could ‘dismount.’” Ladders are one dangerous DIY tool. But you can avoid most accidents by following good ladder safety techniques—and using a little common sense.

Wrapped up and reeled in

I was using a large hole saw to drill plywood and leaned in close to apply pressure. The hole saw caught my T-shirt. In my panic, I accidentally pressed the trigger lock (I usually cut the trigger lock button flush to the tool to minimize this problem, but didn’t on this drill). The hole saw reeled in my shirt and climbed my chest. Luckily I escaped major injury, but I got some nasty spiraling teeth marks and a shredded shirt before I was able to turn off the drill. I learned two lessons: Avoid loose-fitting clothes around power tools, and be wary of trigger locks.

Jeff Gorton

These great tips will help keep you safer doing those projects that need to get done.

Forced Air Heating System Tune-Up

As the temperature starts to drop and winter heads our way, it’s time to check the heating system.

These are maintenance items that every homeowner can do to get their heating system ready for the days of cooler weather.

All forced air systems have a filter installed somewhere on the unit. This filter needs to be changed on a regular basis. A dirty filter will cause the furnace to work harder but also not provide you with the heat you want.

Keeping the inside of the furnace clean is also very important as this will allow the air to flow properly. Proper air flow helps your system work efficiently, which we all love.

Inspecting the flue pipe for leaks and rust is also an important item to do at the start of the heating season. Leaks can allow deadly gasses to enter the house.

You will also want to check for any leaks in the duct work so the heat goes to the rooms you want it to go and not empty spaces in between the furnace and the destination.

Check out the video below for how-to tips on getting your heating system ready for winter.

Easy Way to Clean Grill Parts

Easy Way to Clean Grill Parts

Summer is such a wonderful time, with backyard BBQ’s and family gatherings.

With all that wonderful grilling, comes the not so much fun task of cleaning the grill.

Someone needs to do it, because a dirty grill can become a fire hazard really fast.

Cleaning grill parts doesn’t have to be a back breaking experience though. And it can be done without burning up all of your expensive fuel.

Here is a great tip from grandma on how to clean grill parts the easy way.

Pour 1 cup ammonia in a thick garbage bag, place your BBQ grates inside the bag and seal tightly. I used a rubber band to seal my garbage bag. It is important you seal the bag tightly. It is the fumes from the ammonia that loosens all the gunk on your grates. If you do not seal your garbage bag tightly the fumes will escape and your grill will be difficult to clean.  It was a very sunny day today and I had a hard time getting a good picture with my white trash bag on the concrete. So I set my bag on the grass to get a good clear picture. Because ammonia is a toxic substance to animals, grass and plants  I made sure the bag was sealed tight enough that no ammonia would leak out and cause any harm to the surrounding environment.


Clean Your BBQ Grill

Be careful to turn your face away when you open your garbage bag the next day. The fumes will be strong and can make your eyes burn. Remove your grills from the bag, scrub them lightly if needed and rinse them off until the clean.

Great tip from This grandma is

Why Is Condensation on Ductwork a Problem?

It might not seem like a big deal, but condensation on ductwork can be a major issue. The constant presence of condensation could cause damage to drywall, insulation and framing. It will also create the perfect environment for mold growth, which if left untreated will become a major health issue.

First let’s talk about why you have condensation on your ductwork. Condensation is the result of moist warm air cooling as it hits the cold metal of the duct. Therefore if you don’t have adequate insulation on your ductwork, or if there is excessive moisture in the air, you will end up with condensation on your ductwork.

Many people do not even realize this is happening until it is too late. Checking things out before it becomes an issue is an important thing for all home owners to do.

The ducts may be in the attic, basement, garage or crawl space. Removing excess moisture will be the first step. Inspecting them for proper insulation is the next step.

Head over to the Next Page to see how to solve these issues.


Setting Water Heater Temperature

The temperature on a water heater can be adjusted to the temperature of your choice. The issue becomes what temperature to set it at. The setting for a dishwasher to properly clean the dishes is higher than you want the the temperature for showering. You may need to adjust the heater a few times to get it to the temperature you are comfortable with.

There are codes that specify the requirements for professionals to set a water heater at. As the home owner you are free to set it where you would like. Just be aware that  setting it too high can cause someone to be scolded by the hot water.

Each unit is a little different in were the controls are to set the temperature.

A standard tank gas water heater will have the temperature control knob on the gas valve on the front of the unit. It will be a big turn knob.

An electric  tank water heater temperature control will be inside a cover that is screwed to the side of the heater. You will need to remove the cover to access the heating element and thermostat.

On-demand units, also know as tankless water heaters, will have temperature control buttons on the front of the unit. Most will have a digital display showing what the temperature is set at.

Setting a water heater to the correct temperature is important so you don’t get burned by water that is too hot. But if it is too cold, it could grow bacteria.

See the video below to find out how to set your water heater properly.