Updating Cabinet Hardware

Any easy way to update your cabinets and cupboards is to replace aging drawer and door pulls with new, more up-to-date hardware. It’s a simple task that can be completed with nothing more than a screwdriver and a bit of patience.

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The biggest key to a successful cabinet hardware update is getting the size pulls. Thankfully, ensuring that you purchase the right hardware is fairly easy. The first step, for hardware that utilizes two mounting points, is to carefully measure the distance between the mounting screws. Measure from the center of one screw to the center of the other screw as demonstrated in the photo below.

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Some doors and drawers utilize pulls that mount with only one screw. There’s almost no way to get the wrong hardware for single-pull doors and drawers unless the diameter of the mounting screw is too large (or, rarely, too small). It’s easy to remove one of the pulls and take it with you to the store to ensure a good fit.
Once you’ve found a style of pull that you like, check your measurements, purchase enough for all your doors and drawers and maybe pick up a battery-powered screw driver in the tool aisle to save cramping in your forearm.

Turn Off Utilities

Occasionally, homeowners encounter the need to turn off the water, gas or electricity to their entire home. When the need arises, it’s usually urgent. In this month’s Homeowner 101 article, we take a look at the typical residential shut-offs for these utilities.

There are three main utilities connected to most homes – natural gas, electrical and water. In the event of an emergency, it can be very important to turn these utilities off quickly. The first step to being a prepared homeowner is to locate the shut-offs for these utilities.

To find the natural gas shutoff, locate your home’s gas meter. Typically, the gas meter is on the outside of the home. The meter will look something like the one pictured below.

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The shutoff for your home’s gas supply will usually look like the valve circled in the photo below. (We’ve also included a close-up in the next photo.)

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To close the valve and turn off the gas to your home, place a crescent wrench on the flat portion of the shutoff and turn it clockwise to a 90° angle. The hole on the shutoff should line up with the hole on the valve. DO NOT turn off your gas unless you smell a rotten egg smell, hear hissing, notice that the meter is spinning much more quickly than usual (This means you need to look at your meter and get a sense of how fast the dials spin under normal conditions.) or if there is a large fire immediately threatening your home. DO NOT turn the gas back on yourself. Call your local natural gas utility provider for assistance.

To locate the water shutoff for your home, you will need to locate the water meter. The water meter may be inside your home or, in warmer climates, located outside your home. Regardless of the location, your water meter will look something like the one pictured below.

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In this case, the supply side of the water meter (the side from which the water flows) is on the right. The shutoff valve is on the left. The valve looks very similar to the shutoff for a hose bib on the outside of your home and operates in the same way. To shut off the water to your entire home, turn the shutoff valve clockwise until you feel strong resistance. DO NOT over-tighten the valve or you may break it. Some water meters also have a shutoff valve on the supply side of the meter. DO NOT turn off the water on the supply side.

Your water shutoff may also look like the one pictured below. If so, you simply need to move the lever into the position pictured, i.e. perpendicular to the water pipe, to shut off the water to your home.

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Last, but certainly not least, is your home’s electrical shutoff. Many homeowners are familiar with the breaker box in their home. If you’ve had any electrical work done at your home, or done any yourself, you’ve probably turned off a breaker switch to disable the electricity to the circuit on which the work was done. That same breaker box usually has the shutoff for the entire home. Normally, the whole-house breaker is at the top of the panel, as pictured below (circled in red), and is a double-throw breaker – meaning two breakers are connected by a single throw (switch).

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Most whole-house breakers will be labeled “On” and “Off” (see photo below). Flip the breaker to the Off position to kill electrical power to your entire home. To restore power simply flip the breaker back to the On position. There is no need to call your electrical utility company for assistance.

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Turning off the utilities to your home is not difficult. However, knowing where the shutoffs are located and being familiar with their operation is one of the keys to calmly addressing urgent or emergency situations that require utilities to be shut off. Locate each of the shutoffs for your home and familiarize yourself with their operation. Make sure to keep any tools necessary in an easily accessible location and inform any family members or other inhabitants of the tools’ location. Every adult who lives in your home should know how to shut off the utilities.

Toilet Troubles

Quite frequently we are called to fix a toilet problem. Often the toilet runs periodically or there is a constant trickle. Other times the toilet won’t flush or the tank won’t fill after flushing.

Most of these problems are relatively simple to resolve. Often a homeowner can take care of these problems him or herself and save the cost of a service call.

Here are a few of the most common toilet troubles and their typical fixes:

Ghost Flushing
Symptoms: Toilet flushes periodically when no one is in the bathroom.
Cause: Ghosts, poltergeists or an ill-fitting or deteriorated flapper.
Fix: Replace the flapper with a larger, higher-quality, new flapper (see photo below for location of flapper)
Tips: Make sure the chain connecting the flapper to the handle arm is neither too loose or too tight. Make sure the tank opening beneath the flapper is free of debris before installing the new flapper. Shut off the water supply to the toilet and empty the tank before installing the new flapper.

Toilet Won’t Flush
Symptoms: When the toilet handle is pressed, nothing happens; often the way the handle moves will be different than normal
Cause: Broken or damaged handle, handle arm or flapper chain
Fix: Replace handle/arm assembly or flapper
Tips: If replacing the flapper, make sure the chain is neither too loose nor too tight. If replacing the handle/arm assembly, be sure to purchase a quality replacement (We recommend one with a brass arm) that is compatible with your toilet, e.g. front flush, side flush.

Constant Trickle
Symptoms: Constant sound of water trickling into the toilet bowl, periodic Ghost Flushes
Cause: Ill-fitting or deteriorated flapper.
Fix: Replace the flapper with a larger, higher-quality, new flapper (see photo below for location of flapper)
Tips: Make sure the chain connecting the flapper to the handle arm is neither too loose or too tight. Make sure the tank opening beneath the flapper is free of debris before installing the new flapper. Shut off the water supply to the toilet and empty the tank before installing the new flapper.

Toilet Tank Won’t Re-fill After Flushing
Symptoms: Toilet flushes but tank does not re-fill
Cause: Broken or damaged float or fill valve
Fix: We’re starting to get into more advanced repairs here. One possible fix is to replace the float. Some toilets (usually older toilets) have a float as pictured below. This type of float is relatively easy to replace. Simply unscrew the float from the float arm, purchase a new float and screw it back onto the float arm. If this doesn’t solve the problem, or if you have a newer style toilet with the float on the fill valve stem, it’s probably time to call Handyman Joes.

Spring Maintenance Tips

Winter weather is hard on your home. As the weather warms up, take time on a beautiful spring day to check these items before they become major problems:

  • Roof – Look for damaged or missing shingles or flashing
  • Gutters – Check for loose, leaky or clogged gutters & downspouts
  • Chimney – Check joints for missing mortar; look for efflorescence; have chimney cleaned if you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace
  • Exterior Walls – Look for damage to siding, brick or stucco
  • Windows – Check caulk and weather stripping; look for water damage to sills, frames & sashes (inside and outside)
  • Deck & Fence – Look for water damage & heaving (frost pushing posts up out of the ground)
  • Hose Bibs – De-winterize and check for freeze damage (Place your thumb over the spigot and turn on the water. If water doesn’t push past your thumb, you may have a water leak inside your home.)
  • Foundation – Look for cracks in the foundation or settling of dirt near the foundation
  • Firewood – Move firewood away from your home – it’s a potential fire hazard and it may be filled with termites and/or carpenter ants
  • Concrete Slabs – Check for cracks or heaving
  • Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) System – Change filters, turn off whole-house humidifier, clear plants & debris away from condensing unit (outside your house); have a qualified HVAC specialist inspect

Preventing Wood Rot

Rotting wood can be one of the most expensive types of home damage that a homeowner can experience. Once rot takes hold, the only option is usually a costly repair that involves replacement of the rotted parts.

Left untreated, wood rot spreads quickly and may lead to very serious structural damage. Moreover, damp wood is a welcome mat for termites and carpenter ants. An infestation of these pests can quickly reduce framing and structural wood beams to a crumbling mass.

So, how can you defend your home against rot and wood-damaging pests? Two ways: Frequent inspection and preventive maintenance.

At least twice a year, walk around your home and look for signs of rot. Look for the following:

  • Peeling, cracked or bubbling paint
  • Stains under eaves, around fireplaces and on interior ceilings
  • Sagging or leaking gutters and downspouts
  • Shrubbery or tree branches closer than two feet from siding or roofing
  • Vents blocked with insulation or debris
  • Dirt, leaves or twigs between decking boards

Focus on areas where two pieces of trim meet, where pieces of siding butt up against each other or where siding meets trim. Check horizontal surfaces carefully. Water tends to sit in areas like deck stairs, window sills, door thresholds and railings.

If you find any of the conditions listed above, it’s time to probe for rot. Use a nail or pocket knife to probe the area. If the wood feels soft, rot has started. If the wood crumbles, rot has set in and is spreading to other areas.

Tips for Preventing Rot

  • Always use decay-resistant or pressure-treated lumber for decks. Wood that touches the ground should be pressure-treated that is rated for ground contact.
  • Consider replacing wood brick mold and trim with a PVC or other composite product.
  • Consider replacing wood siding with fiber cement siding.
  • Prime, stain or paint all (6) sides of exterior lumber.
  • Build sloped horizontal surfaces to augment drainage.
  • Plug fasteners by countersinking and placing a wood plug or caulking in the hole.
  • Maintain exterior paint and stain to ensure wood surfaces always have an adequate coat of protection against moisture.
  • Maintain exterior caulking to seal out as much moisture as possible but allow wood to “breathe”.
  • Repair hail and other storm damage to exterior wood as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t lean anything, such as old lumber, tools or ladders, against your siding.
  • Keep plants trimmed back at least two feet from your house’s exterior.
  • Clean your gutters regularly.
  • If you have a whole-house humidifier, adjust your humidistat as the temperature changes to keep moisture from accumulating on windows and metal surfaces. (This is probably the #1 cause of rot in windows.)
  • Adequately vent humid rooms such as bathrooms and laundry rooms.

Prepare for Winter

There’s a chill in the air these days. That cool air serves as a reminder that even colder temperatures are just around the corner. If you were freezing last winter – even inside your home – now is the time to spend a few minutes getting ready for what promises to be a bitterly cold few months.

Let’s take a look at your home and develop a checklist to get ready for winter. There are several categories of items to check and/or take care of to make sure your home is ready to keep you warm and cozy through the long, cold months ahead.

First, there are several systems that should be checked or maintained before the temperatures dip below freezing.

The most obvious system is your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC). Whether you have a traditional furnace or a heat pump, it’s a good idea to have a professional perform an annual check-up. The HVAC professional will make sure that your HVAC system is prepared to keep you warm even if the weather outside is frightful. A couple things that even the newest homeowner can do themselves are changing the filter and closing vents on upper floors. A clean filter will ensure an efficiently operating heating system. Closing vents on upper floors will help force heat down to the lower floors. Since heat rises, there’s really no need to force it to your home’s upper floors through ductwork and open vents.

Anyone who owns a home with a lawn sprinkler system knows that it needs to be drained or blown out before the ground freezes. Depending on the type of sprinkler system you have, you can either let it drain on its own or you can hire a professional to blow the residual water out of the system with an air compressor. If you’re not sure which type of system you have, it’s best to call in the pros to make sure your system is drained properly. You may also want to put an insulating blanket over the backflow preventer on the exterior of your home. It’s difficult to get all of the water out of the backflow preventer valve. Often this water freezes and damages parts in side of the valve. Alternatively, you (or your sprinkler professional) can remove the cap and internal parts from the valve and allow the water to evaporate.

While we’re on the subject of water systems, it’s a good idea to winterize your hose bibs at the same time that you winterize your sprinkler system. At a minimum you should disconnect any hoses from the bibs and drain the water out of the hoses. Storing the hoses inside (in the garage is fine if you have an insulated garage) will help them last longer. Some hose bibs have an internal shutoff. If yours are so equipped, turn off the water and open the valve on the exterior spigot.

Another major area for winter home preparation is cold air ingress prevention. Windows, doors, outlets and switches on external walls and a lack of insulation in many Midwestern homes’ attics are some of the biggest problem areas for cold air ingress. The best way to identify your home’s cold spots is an “energy audit”. When Handyman Joes performs an energy audit, we utilize an infrared thermometer to measure the temperature in the areas of your home that typically allow cold air into your home’s interior. As we identify potential issues, we discuss them with you and walk through the options to reduce the amount of cold air entering your home. Solutions run the gambit from simple fixes like weather stripping and caulking to replacing doors and windows. The good news is that these projects will pay for themselves in reduced utility bills – in both winter and summer.

Another idea for winter prep is to place reflective “staffs” at the edges of your driveway and sidewalks. These small diameter poles help guide you while doing snow removal and help guide visitors when they’re entering and exiting your driveway. This reduces damage to your lawn, landscaping and sprinkler heads. Saving one sprinkler head will easily pay for the cost of the markers. Most hardware and home improvement stores carry these markers. They’re easily installed by tapping them into the ground before it freezes. Once the ground has frozen, installation becomes much more difficult.

Finally, it’s important to make many of these improvements while the weather is still nice. Caulking, painting and installing weather stripping with self-stick adhesive strips all need to be done when the temperature is warm enough to allow the paint, caulk or adhesive to bond and for the paint and caulk to cure properly. Don’t put off these projects until after the first snow flies or the ground freezes!

How to Paint a Room

Almost everyone has a pretty good idea of how to paint a room but quality painting is an art. Here are a few tips to help improve your painting skills.

Clean Up Before You Start Up
Make sure the surface being painted is clean. We often utilize a product called TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) by SAVOGRAN. TSP comes in powder form and can be found at most home improvement stores in the paint section. Mix up enough TSP to cover the surface you intend to paint. Use a sponge to quickly remove years of buildup from virtually any surface. TSP does not require rinsing. As you clean, TSP will slightly etch the paint which will help the new paint form a better bond. Be sure to wear rubber gloves and be careful that the TSP does not run down onto your arm (cuff the gloves to catch runs and drips).

Strain the Paint
For truly smooth walls, pour paint through a paint strainer or an old pair of pantyhose. Place the strainer over a bucket and pour the paint through the strainer. This will remove the small chunks and clumps present in even a brand new bucket of paint. Straining is even more important as paint ages and buckets are opened and closed.

Tip: Mix in a paint extender if you intend to store paint for a long time. This will save you time and money when you need to touch up or cover a patch later on.

Learn the Cutting-in Technique
Taping is one of the most time-consuming jobs for the average do-it-yourself painter. Most DIY painters haven’t attempted, let alone mastered, the art of “cutting in”. Cutting in allows you to paint along trim, ceilings and other edges without taping off the area not being painted. Use a high-quality tapered paint brush. The angled bristles should uniformly unload the paint as you follow the edge of the trim, ceiling, etc. Dip the brush in the paint then tap each side against your paint container. DO NOT wipe the brush on the edges of the container. Brush the paint in on the wall about 1/2″ from the trim, ceiling, etc. Make a second pass right up next to the edge. Avoid “pushing” the paint with your bristles or you’ll leave a ridge. Apply just enough pressure to allow the bristle ends to glide next to the edge. To help keep the brush steady, keep your arm straight and move it from your shoulder rather than your elbow.

Tape Only Horizontal Trim
If you’ve mastered the cutting-in technique, you can skip almost all of the taping done by most do-it-yourself painters. Only tape horizontal trim and baseboards to keep roller spatters and drips from getting onto the trim. Remove the tape before the paint dries to avoid pulling off chunks of paint along with the tape.

Groove Textured Ceilings
The best way to get a smooth, strait edge next to texture ceilings is to knock off some of the texture prior to painting. Utilize a putty knife. Hold the knife at a 45° angle to the ceiling and run the blade along the edge. This scrapes away the texture leaving a small groove that can be utilized as a guide when cutting in paint near the ceiling. Be sure to clean out the groove with a dry paintbrush before painting.

Keep a Wet Edge
When transitioning from edging or cutting in to painting larger, adjoining spaces, it’s important to ensure that the edging is still wet. Likewise, don’t stop in the middle of a wall and allow a partially painted wall to dry before returning to finish. Wet paint and dry paint don’t blend. Attempting to paint over a dry edge or continue painting a larger space with already dry new paint will result in a rough-looking paint job with hard edges in places you don’t want them. If you’re working alone, alternate between edging and rolling. Never edge more than one wall at a time. This is why professional painters often work in pairs. One person does the edging while a second person paints the larger areas.

Paint Edge-to-Edge When Doing Large Touch-ups
If you’re touching up a relatively large area (more than the size of a half dollar), paint from edge-to-edge, i.e. paint the entire wall. Paint oxidizes over time, fades, gets dirty and otherwise changes slightly. Painting an area on a wall will leave an obvious spot of new paint. If the entire wall is painted, the transition from new paint to old paint won’t be nearly as noticeable because of the angle of the walls.

Getting Ready for a Remodel

Remodeling a home is exciting and rewarding. As a homeowner, you get to see your dreams come to life over just a few days or weeks. However, there are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about remodeling. There’s nothing like a solid beginning to make for a smooth finish when it comes to your remodeling project.

Planning
As with most things, a good remodeling plan leads to the best outcome. Every plan has three basic components: time, cost and quality. By establishing a timeline with your contractor, a budget with your spouse (if applicable) and documenting the features of your remodel, you can put together a pretty solid plan. Fortunately, there are many tools available to you for little or no cost to help you put your plan together.

Be sure to establish a priority order across the components of your plan. For example, is time more important than cost? Is quality (the features you want) more important than cost or is your budget the highest priority of all? Only you can decide which is of the primary importance, secondary importance and tertiary importance. Communicating your priorities to your contractor will help them implement your plan and deliver a satisfactory project.

One of the simplest and best tools is a sketch pad with a grid. Often called “graph paper”, you can pick up one of these pads at virtually any big box retailer or office supply store. The grid, when combined with a ruler and a pencil, makes drawing out your floor plan relatively easy. It doesn’t have to be perfect but even a simple sketch can help communicate your ideas to your contractor.

Pinterest is another free tool that makes collecting your design ideas easy. It also makes showing them to your interior designer and contractor very easy as well. If you have a laptop, smart phone or tablet of some sort, you can save your ideas on your Pinterest account and pull up the pictures when discussing your project. Pinterest is also a great place to find ideas for your project.

The more detail you include in your plan, the better. From things as significant as the floor plan to as insignificant as the pulls on drawers and doors, the devil is in the details. What may, on the surface, appear to be relatively insignificant may, in fact, turn out to have a major impact on your project’s timeline or budget.

Speaking of interior designers, give some consideration to hiring one to help you with your plan and the project as a whole. A good interior designer should ask lots of questions, listen even more than they talk and come back with ideas that fit with your concept of the remodel. Many interior designers also have a network of contractors with whom they have worked on previous projects. They should be able to give you a list of reputable contractors to help jump-start your contractor selection. Although … finding a good interior designer can be just as difficult as finding a good contractor.

You’ll also want a timeline as a part of your plan. This should be developed jointly with your contractor. As you develop your plan, remember that there are two types of plans: Those that have failed and those that may fail. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid putting a plan together. It means that you should build some cushion and flexibility into your plan. Don’t let your contractor give you the “just two more weeks” line, but also recognize that unexpected things can and do happen and that your plan should have contingencies in it to allow for these events. As with most things, the more detailed the questions, the more detailed the design and the more detailed – and unexpected event proof – the plan. (See the Contractors section for more on details.)

Preparing
Once you have a plan in place, it’s time to prepare.

First, prepare yourself mentally. Most kitchen and bathroom remodels take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Your kitchen or bathroom will be out of commission throughout most of this time and … yes, it’s true … your house will be a little bit of a mess. If you’re a “foodie” and you love your kitchen, think about how you will need to adapt while your kitchen is inaccessible. If you’re remodeling a bathroom, give consideration to everyone’s schedule so the members of your household can utilize the remaining bathroom(s) without causing an all-out family feud.

Now that you’re mentally prepared, follow up on the functional preparations necessary to accommodate your family’s needs during the remodel. Will you need a bathroom use schedule? If so, draw one up and let all of your family members have input. Will you need to eat out more, order in or cook meals in the microwave in another room? Gather up take-out menus, coupons for your favorite restaurants and make the necessary space preparations. Move the food in your cabinets, refrigerator and freezer to its temporary location. Remove the toiletries and supplies from the bathroom and store them in other bathrooms, linen closets or the like.

Contractors
With a plan in place and your preparations made, contractor selection is the final critical element in ensuring a smooth remodel.

Let’s start with the basics of contractor selection. A great way to find a great contractor is by talking to your friends, relatives and neighbors who’ve had similar work done on their homes. If you don’t know anyone who has had remodeling work done recently, Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau are good places to start your search. Other online search engines and tools can also be helpful. Take a look at potential contractors’ websites. If their site is well-designed and professional, it’s a pretty good sign that they will also be professional. After you’ve found a few prospective contractors, check their credentials. Do they have liability and third-party loss insurance? Are they bonded? Are they licensed for the kind of work you plan to have done? How about their hiring practices? Do they conduct background checks and drug screens prior to hiring employees? Are their vehicles clean and in good repair? All of these factors tell a story about the contractor.

It should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. Choose a contractor who is familiar with remodeling and, specifically, your type of remodel. There are remodelers and then there are contractors who occasionally “remodel” a room. Some contractors focus on kitchens and baths, others focus on new additions and still others focus on finishing basements. How do you know if your contractor is truly a remodeler? Ask them for references. Ask them for pictures of previous remodels. Pay attention to the questions they ask as they’re putting together your bid. Are the questions detailed in nature or are they very general. Contractors who ask detailed questions will pay attention to the details of your project.

This leads me to the second consideration when choosing a contractor. Look for a contractor who will give you a fixed bid and document the scope of the project. Many contractors will provide an estimate based on generalities. Invariably, those estimates change. Other contractors will provide “allotments” or “allowances” for certain features or the remodel. If you know you can stay within the allowances, that’s fine. If you aren’t up to speed on the price of your materials and your contractor’s labor costs … you might want to avoid the allowances route. A contractor who provides a fixed bid should discuss their policy for scope changes with you. That way you know how they handle changes to your project and the associated costs.

Purchasing your own materials, if you understand how to estimate the amount necessary, can be a way to save a little bit of money on most remodeling projects. However, most good-sized contractors will be able to purchase materials at a discount. While it’s usually necessary for the contractor to mark up the materials to recoup their costs for purchasing and hauling them, you may only break even (or possibly end up spending more) in the long run if you’re not very familiar with estimating the amount of material necessary for a particular job.

I mentioned the mess associated with most remodels earlier. Talk to your contractor about how they will minimize the mess and what they will do to clean up when they’re done, both at the end of each day and at the end of the entire project. If you don’t want your contractor to leave tools and supplies at your house during the project, it’s only fair to let them know that at the outset. It takes time to break everything down at the end of every day and set it back up again the next.

Summary
Yes, a remodeling project is a lot of work. Yes, it will make a mess of your home and your life for a while. In the end, however, you’ll enjoy the fruits of those labors for years to come and you’ll increase the value of your home along the way.

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

  • Check exterior basement walls for cracks
  • Caulk exterior basement wall cracks or schedule repairs
  • Inspect for peeling paint
  • Check for signs of rot
  • Inspect roof for missing shingles
  • Glean gutters & down spouts
  • Inspect garage door weatherstrips
  • Inspect driveway for cracks
  • Inspect entry door weatherstrips
  • Check caulk around windows & doors
  • Change furnace filter
  • Schedule heating system check-up
  • Change batteries in smoke detectors
  • Inspect supports, railings & stairs on decks
  • Drain & coil garden hoses; winterize hose bibs
  • Inspect for signs of pests & insects

Don’t “Dis” Your Disposal

Remember the days before garbage disposals? Food remnants actually had to be carried out with the trash. Those were difficult times. If you want to avoid such struggles, you need to treat your disposal with a little respect.

Your garbage disposal may very well be the hardest working appliance in your kitchen. Most of the time it takes whatever you give it, shreds it up and sends it on its way down your drainage system. Treating your disposal with a little bit of respect will help it to keep doing its job for years to come.

Respect

  • Always run cold water when running your disposal.
  • Keep your garbage disposal clean. Pour a bit of dish washing detergent down the drain and let your disposal run for a minute or so.
  • Use your disposal frequently. This prevents rust and corrosion and keeps food particles from building up and clogging the drain.
  • Occasionally grind ice cubes in your disposal. This creates a scouring action that cleans the disposal’s walls.
  • Grind peelings from citrus fruit in your disposal once a week or so. This helps keep your drain smelling fresh.
  • Cut larger items into smaller pieces. Put them in the disposal one at a time instead of shoving them all in at once.
  • Allow the cold water to run for 15-30 seconds after grinding is complete.

Disrespect

  • Never put anything in your disposal that is not biodegradable – no glass, plastic, metal or paper.
  • Never grind anything combustible.
  • Never grind cigarette butts.
  • Never pour grease, oil or fat into your disposal.
  • Do not use hot water when running your disposal. Hot water may cause grease to liquify and then accumulate on the drain pipes as it cools. This can cause blockages.
  • Do not grind fibrous materials like corn husks, celery stalks, onion skins or artichokes.
  • Do not turn off the disposal until grinding is complete.
  • Do not put potato peels in your disposal. The starch will turn into a paste that can cause the blades to stick.
  • Do not put foods that expand, like pasta or rice, into your disposal.
  • Do not grind large animal bones.
  • Do not put coffee grounds in your disposal. They can cause clogs.
  • Do not use harsh chemicals like bleach or drain cleaners. They may damage blades and pipes.
  • Do not put gelatin or whipped topping in your disposal. They will cling to your pipes and cause blockages.

Safety

  • Always unplug your disposal before performing any work on it.
  • Water and electricity are a bad combination. Turn off the breaker for your disposal before performing any work on it.
  • Never stick your fingers or hand into the opening of the disposal unless it is unplugged.

Repairs

  • Most disposals come with a reset button. This serves as a fuse, of sorts, when the disposal is overloaded. If your disposal stops working, clear the blockage (see Safety, above) and press the reset button.
  • Almost all disposals can be rotated manually to assist in clearing blockages and jams. Some require an Allen Wrench to be rotated manually. Others require a special tool. Insert the Allen Wrench or tool into the corresponding opening on the bottom of the disposal to rotate the grinder.