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Renter Mentor

Are you renting a condo you can’t afford to buy? Leasing a house you can’t legally own? In either case, after a lengthy stay there no doubt is some damage due to accidents, rowdy parties, or normal wear and tear. If you want to make some simple repairs without need to empty your wallet or involve your landlord, here are several tips for the do-it-yourselfer.

Did a party guest put his fist into your wall? Or perhaps you were moving some furniture and a chair leg accidentally made a hole. If the hole is small enough (fist size?), you can buy a few simple items to fix the damage. You will need enough mesh to cover the hole, a small amount of spackle, a tool for applying the spackle, paint and primer, and a paint brush. If a larger hole, buy a larger piece of mesh and more spackle. Smooth out the damaged surface as best you can, then put the mesh in place and cover it with spackle. When dry, sand it smooth and apply primer before painting with a matching color.

Got a stopped up drain or toilet? When you don’t have the time to call your landlord and wait for him to call his plumber and then wait for the plumber, you can just unclog it yourself. A clogged sink or shower can usually be cleared by simply pouring some hot water into the drain followed by adding about a half cup of baking soda. Wait a few minutes, then pour in a cup of hot white (clear) vinegar and cover with a drain plug. After 10 minutes, flush with hot water. If that doesn’t do it, use a plunger, tightly fitting the rubber over the drain hole to create a vacuum as you quickly press and release the tool several times. If still no success, try a commercial drain cleaner or call your landlord.

When it’s your toilet that’s plugged up, do not flush; that may cause the contents of the bowl to overflow onto the floor. Instead, reach for a plunger. Push it through the water, allowing air to escape from the plunger body. When the plunger is sealed around the drain outlet in the bottom of the bowl, plunge up and down rapidly until the clog is broken and the water level drops. Then pour some water into the bowl and ensure it goes down. If not, repeat the entire process. If still not clear, use a toilet auger. If that doesn’t work, call your landlord.

Another common problem shared by renters is broken tiles. If it’s just a matter of a tile becoming loose, clean the adhesive or grout off the back, apply new adhesive and insert the tile. If the tile is broken, take it to a home improvement store and find a match. Again, apply adhesive and insert the new tile, pressing hard with your hand to get rid of any air bubbles.

If part of the broken tile is still attached, don’t force it off. Instead, use a preheated iron to heat up the glue holding it in. When it’s warm, gently pull it off with a scraper. Use a cloth, mineral spirits and scraper to clean the back of the tile before coating it with adhesive and setting the new tile in place.

Wobble & Shake
Remember Tango Redd’s “Wobble & Shake”? If the song title describes your ceiling fan, here’s the fix. First determine if any of the blades are loose or if there’s a loose connection between the rod and the body of the fan. If not, ensure the mounting is secure. If it all checks out and your fan has four blades, visually verify that opposing blades are in a straight line. If so, you probably have a balance problem; if not, you have a bent blade and need to correct it by bending it back to normal. For five-blade fans, see if you can detect a blade out of place.
Now go to a hardware store and get some 1 cm flat washers, clothespins, and tape (about 5 cm wide). 
Ceiling fans that are balanced while going in one direction will usually be a little different when run in the opposite direction. When the fan turns counter clockwise, the high edge of each blade is catching air and the low edge is deflecting air. When reversed, it's just the opposite; the low edge now catches and the high edge deflects. So if one blade is a little higher or lower than the others, it will catch more air in one direction, but when reversed, the other three will catch more air than it does. If all the blades track the same then, after balancing, it will be the same in either direction.

Set the fan to blow down (counter clockwise). Clip a clothes pin half way out on the lower edge of any blade (blade #1), then run the fan at high speed. Does the wobble get worse before reaching high speed? If so, turn the fan off and move the clip to the next blade (#2) and repeat the step. Do the same for each blade. Observe the amount of wobble as each blade is tried; one way will be better than the rest; that is the blade on which you will tape a washer where the clothespin was. If still wobbling, put the clip back on the blade where you put the first weight, then see if it is still wobbling. Move the clip to the blade on the right, then on the left. One of these three will be better than the others. Put a weight on top of the blade at this point. Repeat the process until the wobble is stopped. Normally one to three weights will suffice, but if it’s really bad it may take six or seven. If the wobble gets worse with the clothespin than without it, then you have too much weight on already.