Do It Yourself: With short screws, it may be time to plug holes

SUNDAY, JUNE 12, 2011

Q. When I tried to replace the top hinge in a heavy door between our attached garage and the living area, the screws were so loose on the jamb side that they fell out. I tried screws more than 2 inches long, but they wouldn’t take hold either. Now what?

A. You can determine how long the screws have to be by poking a piece of stiff wire into the screw holes until you hit solid wood. The solid wood will be the framing of the house, usually 2-by-4s.

Then measure the length of the wire that was needed and add 3/4 inch to get the length of screws you need to sink into the house framing, which will give the door good support.

Many doors used for new construction are pre-hung in a wood frame, usually 3/4-inch thick, with hinges already in place, and it is common for door installers to shim a door frame to make it plumb.

The shims leave a gap between the door frame and the house framing. This gap is concealed with trim around the door. However, it is rather unusual for the gap to be so wide that screws more than 2 inches long won’t reach the house framing.

If you need screws that seem too long to be practical, an option is to plug the oversized holes in the door frame so that shorter screws will hold the hinge.

There are several ways to plug the holes, but the best is to cut pieces of dowel to fit the holes. Coat the dowel pieces with wood glue and tap them into the holes. Give the glue plenty of times to dry and cut any protruding dowels flush with the frame surface.

Drill pilot holes slightly smaller than the screws you will use to attach the hinge. The dowels might split when you drive in the hinge screws, but that is not a problem as long as the screws are tight.

Incidentally, loose hinge screws, often in the top hinge, are responsible for many doors scraping the floor when opened. Just tightening the screws will often solve that problem.

Q. My concrete driveway is crumbling for about 18 inches at the entrance. I’d like to fix it but not have to have the whole driveway done. I plan to sell the house soon. Any suggestions?

A. The crumbling concrete can be removed and fresh concrete poured at the entrance only, but you might want to give the entrance a special treatment that will enhance its appearance and possibly make the home more attractive to potential buyers.

This could be done by cutting off the damaged entrance for a few feet and installing concrete pavers or Belgian blocks. Do not try to use any material, such as ordinary bricks, that is not designed for paving and supporting heavy loads, or it will soon crumble like the concrete.

I have seen several driveways that were deliberately constructed with a paved section, then concrete or asphalt, and they are very attractive.

Q. I have well water that is very hard and leaves awful deposits in my fiberglass tub and shower. I have tried different cleaners, even abrasive pads, and it doesn’t help. Any ideas?

A. The first thing you should do is have your well water tested to learn exactly what minerals are causing the deposits.

Calcium compounds and iron are common culprits, but these can usually be removed with cleaners like Zud and Lime-A-Way. You should never use abrasive cleaners on fiberglass surfaces.

You can find a water-testing laboratory under Water Analysis in your yellow pages. Be wary of water-softener companies that offer free testing, because you are likely to get a hard sell for a water softener. However, a softener, which filters some harmful minerals from water, might be what you need.

Testing can also be wise from a health standpoint, since there might be toxic material in the water such as lead, mercury and harmful bacteria.

If you can’t find a suitable lab in your area, you can get a water test kit from companies listed on the Internet. One source is H2Okits.com; a kit costs about $30.

You can find other testing sources by searching with the words Well Water Testing Kits.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at gaus17@aol.com. Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

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