June 23, 2013 in Features

Do It Yourself: Shower doors easy to install

Gene Austin McClatchy-Tribune
Tool tip

 Several years ago I scoured home centers in my area for a couple of new utility knives to replace my aging knives with their wobbly, exposed blades. I couldn’t find anything I liked, so I bought new blades and continued using the old knives.

 But the knife problem was solved when I recently discovered a new series of three utility knives by Irwin Tools. These knives fold up like jackknives when not in use. Folding hides the blade safely in the handle. Utility knives are one of the most-used tools, and these are the finest I have ever seen.

 Each of the new models folds into a compact unit about three inches long and can be clipped on a belt or dropped into a pocket or toolbox. The one thing missing that I’d like is a small loop at one end of the knife to let it hang on a pegboard hook.

 Irwin calls the knives the FK series. Prices range from about $11 to $16 at tool dealers, home centers, and on the Internet. More expensive models include blade storage in the handle and the top of the line FK250 also has a folding Phillips screwdriver.

Q. I’ve had a plastic curtain on my bathtub-shower for years, and I hate it. I would much rather have the classy sliding doors I’ve seen on some tub-showers. Are they hard to install?

A. These doors are not especially difficult to install if you have basic do-it-yourself skills and a few tools. If you install a typical kit with glass doors, you need to build a metal frame, using the pieces supplied in the kit. The frame consists of a bottom strip that is generally fastened to the rim of the tub with adhesive. This strip might have to be cut to the exact length of the tub, using a hacksaw.

Vertical ends to the frame are screwed to the wall; how easy this is depends on the construction of the wall. If you have to drill through ceramic tiles to insert the screws, you might need a special bit for a power drill. You can buy the bits at most home centers.

A top rail sits on the side rails and will hold the sliding doors on built-in tracks. The top rail must be level or the doors might slide to one end of the tub without being pushed.

The tub and wall rails should be caulked with a mildew-resistant, waterproof caulk at their joints with tub and walls. My glass shower doors slide very easily; a finger-touch will move them. When the top rail is level and secured, the doors are lifted to the rail and hooked over their respective tracks.

Glass doors are rather heavy and some people might need help to lift them to their tracks. The doors have some bonus features, besides good looks and water retention. Most have at least one full-width handle on the outside that can be used to hang a damp towel or washcloth to dry. The top rail, if securely installed, can also be used as a balance bar to get in and out of the tub.

The doors can be kept virtually free of soap scum and water stains from showers if a squeegee is hung inside the tub and used to wipe the inside surfaces before leaving the tub after a shower. This takes less than 30 seconds with a good squeegee and can save a great deal of difficult cleaning later.

Tub-shower door kits come with instructions; consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for additional cleaning and maintenance information. Prices for tub-shower doors cover a very wide range, but good-looking doors are available for $250 to $400. Some home centers also provide installation at extra cost.

Q. Our double-hung windows stick badly so that it is very difficult to open them for ventilation in warm weather. How can we make them slide more easily?

A. Rubbing auto wax or soap is sometimes recommended, but I think this causes a buildup in the window tracks that can make opening even more difficult.

I think the best bet for any type of window is to lubricate the tracks with a little silicon spray or a “dry” lubricant, both of which are sold in spray cans at most home centers and hardware stores. In a pinch, you can also use WD-40, another spray lubricant.

To avoid getting too much lubricant in the tracks, spray some on a clean cloth and wipe it on.

If you have wood windows, the cause of the sticking might be a buildup of paint in the tracks. This is another problem, and you might have to sand or scrape out some of the paint to make the windows slide (paint used before about 1980 might contain lead and should not be sanded or scraped).

When painting wood windows, don’t put paint in the tracks.

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

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