Repairing Things Around The House

A Lot of Things Broke

January was a very busy month because things fell apart.  A lot.  Before we could get our new oven installed, our microwave emitted it’s last electromagnetic rays and then died a sudden and painless death.  After a quick google, all the advice said “don’t bother trying to fix microwaves, it’s cheaper to buy a new one”.  Figuring this advice suspect, I proceeded to tear apart the microwave and test all kinds of things with my trusty voltmeter.  Sure enough, the magnetron was shorted out.  I found a few replacement magnetrons (that’s a cool word, isn’t it?) on eBay for $50-60, which was about the price of a similar but brand new microwave from Walmart (the cheapest place we found new microwaves).  Now I know why the initial advice was “don’t bother fixing it”.  No sense in trying to repair a 13 year old microwave when a brand new one is the same price.

We ordered a new microwave and it unfortunately arrived within a couple of days.  I say “unfortunately” because we ended up permanently “borrowing” an unused (and slightly more powerful!) microwave from our family.  When the new microwave arrived, it sat in our second living room for a few weeks before I made the trek to Walmart to return it.

I wish that were the end of January’s “fixing broken stuff” saga.  But it isn’t.  Mr. RoG Jr. apparently put the laptop mouse inside the laptop between the keyboard and the screen and then proceeded to jump on the cover over and over until he bludgeoned the LCD panel into an artistically interesting but mostly useless mess.  The screen looked pretty when illuminated, however (in a modern art kind of way).  That’s why I buy low-end electronics, or, as I tell the kids “that’s why we can’t have anything nice”.  Mrs. RoG wanted to buy a new laptop because she hates the Windows 8 operating system on our current laptop (which is what all computers come with these days).  I knew you could buy replacement LCD panels for laptops so I set off to eBay to find a compatible screen.  After ordering one for $45, I didn’t feel so bad about having a laptop screen smashed by the little guy.

Not long after the laptop screen incident, I hear a crashing sound upstairs.  The two girls managed to pull the closet rod down.  Apparently 162 shirts isn’t an excessive load, but 162 shirts plus an 8 year old amateur trapezist is just enough to rip the closet rod’s mounting bracket in half.  It’s never boring around here.  And lest anyone thinks the Root of Good family lives a deprived life of barren frugality, I’ll allow the 162 shirts adorning the newly reinforced closet rod to speak for themselves.

Other than a few other minor issues like replacing the missing shingle on the roof and tightening a loose door handle, I didn’t have any more broken things to fix at my house.  Luckily I have in-laws that know how to put the hurt on clothes dryers.  I managed to fix their broken dryer after some sleuthing with my trusty voltmeter.  $15 for a replacement heater coil (thanks again, eBay!) and the dryer is like new.

Then they managed to break the other dryer they were using as a temporary replacement while they were waiting on their first dryer’s replacement part to arrive.  So I busted out my invaluable voltmeter again (I got a basic voltmeter for $6 from Harbor Freight if you are interested).  After a few minutes of diagnostic testing, I released my verdict.  The thermal cutoff sensor is busted.  I inform my in-laws that they are in luck since the replacement part is only about $5.  The underlying problem was a huge clump of lint the size of a large burly man’s clenched fist blocking the hot air exhaust duct inside the dryer.  The hot air can’t get out and the thermal cutoff acts as a fuse.  It breaks the circuit to the heater coil so the dryer doesn’t get hotter and hotter, catch fire, and burn the house down.  I cleaned out the excessive lint, and once I receive the thermal cutoff kit in the mail, they will have a nicely refurbished clothes dryer.

I’m getting to be quite the expert dryer repairman.  I have learned that the guts of most clothes dryers are very similar.  And there are youtube videos to guide you through troubleshooting and repair.  The most common parts that fail are relatively inexpensive to test and replace and you don’t need any fancy tools (unless you consider my $6 voltmeter fancy).  Next time your dryer stops working, google the symptoms and see if you can avoid blowing a couple hundred bucks on a service call and the subsequent repair.

nickel cabinet handle
Guess which one is old and which one is new.  Hint – look at the shiny one.

Back at my own house, we just installed brand new cabinet hardware in the kitchen.  Our old cabinet handles weren’t very pretty.  That’s not why we replaced them though.  They were dangerous.  The old handles have little prongs protruding from each side and frequently catch on our clothing.  When Mr. RoG Jr. fell in the kitchen and almost impaled his eyeball on the part of the handle that juts out (he still got an ugly black eye), I knew it was time to make the upgrade.  We looked at the usual places – Lowe’s, Amazon, eBay.  Those places wanted $50 or so to replace the 33 cabinet handles.  Then we checked  They had the lowest prices by far.  All 33 handles delivered for $25.  They were the exact same model of handle offered at Lowe’s but at a third of the price!  Moral of the story – shop around a bit.  I don’t like to spend money on merely cosmetic upgrades, but I think it was time to let our antique cabinet handles go since they were a little dangerous.  And the new handles are all shiny and make the kitchen look slightly more like something from the 21st century (and they make Mrs. Root of Good happy).

Next up – the dishwasher.  It’s not draining completely after each cycle and it makes a weird noise during part of each cycle.  Hopefully I can fix it and avoid replacing it since it’s only 4-5 years old.  But I’ll leave that repair job for another day.



Are you a fixer upper or do you have the repairman on speed dial?  Or maybe nothing ever breaks at your house?  



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    1. So far, so good. I still have the in-laws’ dryer to fix, but it’s like 15 minutes to replace the thermostat and thermal cutoff (just a couple of screws to turn). And when the new laptop screen arrives, there’s a few more screws to turn. The hard part is finding the right parts and diagnosing the problem in the first place, plus not breaking whatever it is you’re working on.

  1. Glad to hear you’re so handy, makes it easier to survive in early retirement! I’ve done a ton of home improvement projects over the last 10 years, large and small. At the moment, though, I’m of the opinion that I need to outsource more while I’m working 2 jobs and blogging. Otherwise the projects never get finished!

    1. I know what you mean. I just kind of laughed when all this stuff kept breaking. Just glad I didn’t have to squeeze in all the repairs on the weekends. Nothing’s worse than coming home on Friday knowing you have a weekend full of DIY tasks.

  2. I’d like to be more handy around the house…definitely need to learn some of those skills. Fortunately for me, I live in an apartment so I’m not responsible for fixing anything. And my 7 month old is still too young to jump on my laptop…though he was recently banging on the keys and change some settings which I had to fix =)

    1. Our old laptop died from a combination of baby vomit and spilled wine leaking inside the guts. Those were two separate incidents, and the wine didn’t make the baby vomit or anything. One of the hidden costs of kids I guess. That’s why I tend to not spend too much on something easily broken by kids – it makes it easier to not blow a gasket if they destroy something. 🙂

  3. Got to love the instinct to repair instead of replace. I made my first foray into dryer repair over Christmas at my mom’s. The culprit: a $10 rubber belt. Easily avoided $100 in costs, or more, depending on how shady the repair man would have been. We cleaned out the system from lint, too, and did the same when I got home on our dryer. I was amazed at how simple a system they have…not a whole to them.

    1. A dryer might be the easiest thing to fix. Amazing how simple they are inside. And all the models I’ve seen are fairly similar. Maybe the internal layout is different, but the systems are the same – heat, controls, spinner, exhaust.

  4. There are some things I (try to) repair without batting an eye – electrical work: yep! plumbing: not so much. I weigh my known skills against the cost/risk of screwing something up before I try it. And lately, there’s been a toddler underfoot that has limited time for DIYing…

    1. I’m a little hesitant about plumbing (like redoing piping/drains) but I just need to get over it and figure out how to do it. Water/sewer flows down hill so how hard can it be, right? 🙂

      We have the toddlers underfoot issue here, too. And it’s hard to use power tools to do my fixing when he’s asleep.

  5. Wow! You have been busy. I guess that’s why they say “when it rains, it pours!”. Hopefully that will do for a bit. Believe it or not, l am the handy person around the house. Have fixed the toilet handle thingie (even though you have to push it up instead of pulling down., but it works). I’ve painted, patched the roof, sanded , stained etc. I will try it first before l find a repair person. My husband always thinks l’m nuts until it works..cracks me up!

    1. Hey, nothing wrong with that! Mrs. Root of Good is pretty handy herself and doesn’t mind helping me out when I’m working on a two person job.

      I always figure if we try it ourselves and screw something up a little, it’s no big deal because the thing was broken anyway. Except with our cars – I’ll usually leave the heavy duty repairs to others since cars are pretty expensive to replace if you destroy one. 🙂

  6. Wow, what a busy month. We have a bunch of DIY projects lined up too, but I’m putting it off until summer. We also need to replace the HVAC and I’ll probably call someone for that.

  7. I am not very handy myself, but want to learn. I have not needed to fix much since I live in an apartment, but I like the sense of independence being able to DIY provides. This is the one big aspect of life that scares me about my millennial generation. I feel like none of us know how to fix much if it isn’t on a computer. My dad added a sun room on our old house when I was a kid and he also can fix about any issue on a car and is currently redoing some plumbing and wiring in their old house. I only hope I can learn as much as possible from him! How do you guys learn how to do this stuff? You tube? Friends who are mechanically inclined? etc? I want to at least learn how to learn this stuff before I actually need it, if that makes sense.

    1. Mostly youtube for specific problems. Most recently, I watched a number of videos on dryer repair, roof repair, and laptop screen removal/replacement for specific issues I was dealing with. I also spent some time watching youtube vids and surfing around to research asphalt shingles vs. metal roofing since I’m planning on replacing the roof in the next year or two (and need to know which material will work best for my house and which is easier to install and maintain/repair).

      I also chat with friends about how they did a specific project. Maybe some day I can set up a “barn-raising” culture among friends where I help them fix something and they help me fix something. Like if we both need new siding, we can work together and do our 2 houses at the same time. Share tools, resources, and expertise.

        1. I saw that article, too. It sounds pretty ideal, and I think we are leaning toward the metal roofing. My only concern is maintaining it long term. Asphalt shingles are pretty easy to pop out and replace, and I don’t know much about metal roofing to know whether repairs are similarly easy.

  8. We just bought a house and have a bunch of DIY projects lined up. We called the garage door repairman to align our garage door. 20 minutes and $125 later I realized we need to figure out how to do our own stuff. Thankfully, we have our parents still. When my parents come to visit, I’m going to get my dad to fix the furnace. It’s not heating properly so we haven’t been turning on the heat on these cold nights. We have a little heater than pumps up heat in our master bedroom. Works. I just stay in the master bedroom a lot during this winter.

    1. As soon as we moved into our fixer upper, I had to replace the furnace, but I knew that going into the deal. The old unit was really inefficient, possibly due to being 3 decades old and being flooded once or twice. After the replacement, the energy consumption dropped by 2/3, so we have saved $10,000 over the last 10 years from reduced energy use. Getting an efficient furnace or keeping the one you have tuned up can be a money saver.

  9. Fixer upper! I had a great high school education with all those AP/IB classes but I can’t tell you how smart taking auto shop was. I only regret not taking it my senior year because of all those other pesky AP classes.

    Plus it had a direct route out of school for those days you just had to ditch. #donttellmymom

    1. I didn’t take auto shop but kind of wish I did. I’ve read “Auto repair for dummies” or something like that and it was helpful in giving a solid overview of the various parts of a car. Which means auto shops can’t BS me, and I at least understand enough to diagnose a likely problem (even if I can’t fix it due to lack of experience or lack of tools).

      I did take an electronics course in middle school, and that has proven helpful fixing things, and even in my professional career (repairing some circuit boards in some proprietary devices instead of paying the manufacturer $125×5 to repair them for us – only 2 solders per board to repair).

  10. Lowe’s usually will beat anyone by 10%. They did that for me when I was buying kitchen appliances, the stove was cheaper somewhere else so the employee looked it up and gave it to us for 10% below the other place! And if I remember correctly we still got the 5% off with Lowe’s store card (not sure on that part though). 🙂

    1. I have asked if they could offer me a discount before and I’ve received 10% just for asking. It helps if the item isn’t on sale or if you’re buying items in bulk like 100 2×4’s.

  11. I live in a 90-year-old house so things break… I give everything a try (except main gas and electricity), then escalate to youtube videos (gotta love youtube). When I give up I call the expert. When the expert comes I shadow them and ask about everything they do. Most are willing to share!

    1. I do that too with the experts. Had to call a plumber a few times last year to knock out a few things I couldn’t handle. Great way to learn for free (or at least no additional cost) from an expert.

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