Christmas lights are the best, but they can be dangerous to hang up. Whether you prefer understated and sophisticated (boring) or full-on Clark Griswold, nobody wants you spoiling the season by getting hurt.
1. Use big honking extension cords
Don’t use crappy extension cords. And yes, I know you have some in your garage or closet. Those thin, sorry little ones you got at the dollar store last year. Get rid of those.
Rule of thumb: The thicker the extension cord, the better. For those of you who know electrical lingo, 14 gauge is as thin as you want to go, 12 gauge is ideal. Your house wiring is likely 12 gauge.
2. Install lights only where they belong
There are lights made for interior. There are lights made for exterior. There are also interior and exterior. Bottom line, don’t use interior lights outside. It’s an electrical hazard. You can use exterior inside, however.
Have you ever been in the bathroom running a space heater and the lights go out? Pressure washing your house and the plugs in your garage go dead? Probably your GFI.
A ground fault interrupter (GFI), sometimes called a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), is a super sensitive electrical circuit in your home that is connected to any location that has a water source – kitchen, bathrooms, outside plugs, etc.
It’s obviously bad if an electrical plug gets wet, especially if you are holding a hair dryer when it does. The GFI is there to protect you. If it gets even the tiniest power surge, it shuts of the whole circuit immediately.
What does a GFI plug look like?
A GFI plug that has two buttons in the middle of it. One is labeled “TEST” and the other “RESET.” If your GFI cuts the circuit, press the RESET button and the power should come back on.
I don’t see a GFI in my bathroom. Where is it?
If you have more than one bathroom, it is possible to have a GFI plug in one and not the other. That is because both bathrooms are on the same circuit and you should only have one GFI per circuit, not per bathroom. Same for exterior plugs. They are usually all on the same circuit with the GFI receptacle in the garage or on the porch.
I pushed RESET and nothing happened. Now what?
Many houses have a GFI in the breaker box. If your RESET button doesn’t turn the lights back on, try that.
If the circuit doesn’t recharge after that, something is wrong. Call an electrician.
Oh, and if you own an older home without a GFI, get an electrician there now to install one.
Also, here’s a video of me talking about GFIs on TV. 🙂
Posted at 10:19 am by HomeDabbler, on September 7, 2019
Live in your home long enough and you will have to deal with wood rot.
I’m sure they will figure out how to make houses from completely synthetic materials one day, but until then wood rot will continue to me a major home maintenance issue.
There are three spots around you home that are especially prone to wood rot, the three most common that I dealt with in my home repair business. You can prevent them though.
Exterior Door Frames
Your exterior door frames are likely made of wood. Really cheap wood. You probably also have a concrete pad or a wooden deck that leads to your door. When it rains, water splashes onto the door frame, especially the bottom 12 inches, under the first hinge.
This kind of rot can sneak up on you because the frame is painted. The paint gives the appearance that the frame is solid when it is not.
Find your most exposed door. If you have a garage, this is usually the pedestrian door on the side. Crouch down and push with your index finger where the door from meets the threshold (the horizontal metal piece that you walk over to go through the door). If it is soft or your finger pushes through, you have rot.
Here’s what it looks like.
How do I fix it?
Once the rot starts, it is a done deal. You must have the rotten spots repaired. A skilled carpenter can do this, but it is delicate surgery. You are likely to end up with clunky patches at the bottom of your door frames.
You may have to replace the whole door. If you do, I recommend spending the extra money on doors with composite frames. Solve the problem long term.
How do I prevent it?
There are a few ways to mitigate and prevent this. First, make sure the eave over the door is guttered. All that roof water splashing on the door will surely rot it. Also make sure the frames are completely caulked, every crack, and painted at least every other year.
When I say horizontal trim, I mean any piece of trim that sticks out perpendicular from the wall. This is usually an exterior window sill.
These pieces essentially become a shelf for water to sit on. When (not if) the caulk fails between the trim and the window, water can leak in and rot the trim.
Looks like this.
How do I fix it?
Remove and replace the rotten material. I recommend that when you (or your carpenter) make this repair that you go back with either pressure treated lumber or a non-wood product like fiber-cement.
How do I prevent it?
Like most exterior effort, caulk and paint regularly. And keep the water away. This is usually done with gutters.
I predict that over time this type of rot will be less of a problem. The builders are using more resilient materials than they used to for house trim, like pressure treated and fiber cement.
Here’s the trim on my parents’ house. It’s made of pressure-treated lumber and will last till the cows come home.
Under Your Sinks
This is the most insidious of all because, seriously, who ever checks for leaks under the sink? We just grab the next bar of soap and shut the cabinet door.
But you should check every once in a while. There are two main ways water will leak under your sink and cause rot. First, your faucet supply lines can (and over time, likely will) start a slow drip. Second, your drain seals can fail.
This leak is insidious because it is one drip at a time – no sound, behind the scenes. Until one day you do look under the sink and see black mold everywhere and have a puddle (and rotten wood) in the bottom of your sink cabinet.
How do I fix it?
First, diagnose the problem, supply lines or drain. If it is the supply lines, you will see dripping water even if the sink is not running. For drains, it will only drip when water is running through the drain.
Only one way. Look under your sinks ever month or so. Another trick is to put a dry paper towel under your sink. If there is even a drip, you will see it immediately without having to crawl under there.
A little prevention goes a long way
I know it’s a pain to add more maintenance tasks to your already busy list, but repairing these three common wood rot issues is really expensive.
You can check and prevent these in less that three hours a year vs. hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars in repair.
Painting is a chore. You have to move the furniture, mask everything off, watch for splatters. Standing on ladders in awkward positions. And the clean up. Ugh.
So when the paint companies announced “one-coat” paint (aka paint-and-primer-in-one), I was jubilant. Yes, I would pay extra money for reduced effort. I fell to the temptation.
Obviously, I was not impressed. No matter how thick I applied that one coat, it was insufficient. I saw the old color peeking through. Less of the old color than with traditional paint, but nonetheless.
One-coat paint is basically one-and-a-half coat paint—which is two-coat paint—just more expensive.
There’s no getting around it. Make up your mind to apply two coats of color for every paint job (with one rare caveat, see P.S.).
Oh, and don’t let your contractor use it either if you hire out. He’s going to have to do two coats in the end and it will cost you.
P.S. – Caveat: if you are repainting walls the same color as the previous paint job, you can usually get away with one coat. If there are no scuffs or patching to be done. But only then. Just paint two coats.
I discovered lightweight spackle when I had my home renovation business. I was using wood putty to fill nail holes in finish carpentry (or caulk in a pinch) and drywall joint compound to repair small wall blemishes.
Wood putty is clumpy and hard to spread. Joint compound takes forever to dry. Caulk is messy as all get out. It was a dark time.
And then, well, I was delivered. Lightweight spackle was here.
First, it’s really light (truth in advertising), the consistency of good butter cream icing. That’s important for getting into the tiniest cracks where not even joint compound dares go. It also has the perfect moisture content so you can apply it with a putty knife or your finger. Oh the versatility.
Its lightness matters in another way. If (when) you drop a bit on the floor it won’t stick unless you step on it, not even on carpet. How does this magical substance cling to a wall but not the berber? Sorcery? Don’t question it friends.
But what of dry time?
Lightweight spackle dries quickly, like 15 minutes quickly. Also crucial if you want to patch and paint same day (and who doesn’t?). By the time you schmear the last nail hole, the first one is ready to sand.
After its negligible dry time, lightweight spackle is sandable to a silken finish, making it applicable to drywall and fine moldings alike.
As with many precious materials, it spoils quickly once exposed to the environment. It is best fresh, so buy it in small containers, like caviar.
Now don’t use lightweight spackle for big cracks or holes, more than 1/8 inch. It doesn’t want the showy repair, the drywall crevasse. Lightweight spackle is a specialist, the closing pitcher. Literally made for finishing touches and final flourishes.
Am I being dramatic? Maybe. But fill nail holes with caulk or wait 24 hours to paint a small drywall patch and you’ll see. You’ll see.