NINE-TENTHS of the trouble caused in the average house by faulty and worn locks,. hinges, electric lamp fittings, etc. is due to lack of regular inspection and, with regard to fittings having moving parts, lack of lubrication. It is a good plan to go right through the house every six months with a screwdriver and an oil can, and to inspect and attend to every fitting from the padlock on the garage door to hinges on the skylight.
In general, screws should be inspected to ensure that they are secure. All moving parts such as hinges, window catches, etc., should be lightly oiled or greased and any metal parts, in places where corrosion is likely to occur, should be regularly examined for rust. This is particularly important with chromium fittings and an occasional touch of oil rubbed into angle corners of the form of the fitting will prevent deterioration of the chromium plating. Regular, systematic care means that not only will the house be free from irritating noises, but the bill for replace- ments will be small. In this article, imagine a tour of inspection and maintenance is being carried out, and the most likely places in which to look for signs of trouble are suggested.
Begin at the front door of the house, and examine first the hinges. These will usually be three-inch or four-inch cast iron butt hinges, and will have four screws in each wing of each hinge. Take the screwdriver and test each screw for tightness. It may be found that one or two of them, particularly in the upper hinge, will not tighten at all; they may just turn round and round without gripping the wood. The hinge may even be quite slack, allowing the door to sag forward.
Remove one of the screws, take it to the ironmonger’s, and purchase new screws of the same thickness but½ in. or 1 in. longer. These will bite into new wood and tighten satisfactorily. If for some reason it is impracticable to use a screw of extra length, such as would occur if there is insufficient thickness in the door frame, it will be possible to get over the trouble either by using the old screws again after first slipping a wallplug into the screwhole, or by cutting wood plugs for the holes.
If you choose the latter method, use a piece of dry timber for your plugs so that they will not shrink and become loose. Dip the end of each plug in lead paint before driving it home. The paint will act both as an adhesive and a preservative. To effect this repair it will be necessary to remove all the screws from one wing of the hinge and fold it back clear of the recess in the door or door frame, so be careful to support the door by wedging it up from the floor before releasing the screws. When you are quite sure that all the screws are holding tightly, oil each hinge. There are several brands of oil sold for domestic use and most of them are sold in tins complete with a spout for easy application. The next thing to inspect is the bolt. It may be difficult to shoot the bolt home because settlement of the house structure or sagging of the door has thrown it out of alignment. If the door is hanging satisfactorily, take off the socket, plug the screwholes and refix it in its proper place. Lastly, smear the barrel of the bolt lightly with petroleum jelly.
The spring flap of the letter box will work all the easier for its ration of oil; also examine the bolts and nuts which secure it to the door for signs of slackening.
Fittings on Sash Windows
These consist of the sash cords, pulleys and the catch which is fitted to the centre or meeting rails. The pulleys will normally only need a little oil but it will be advisable to check the tightness of the screws. A little tallow rubbed into the sash cords, especially when they are new, pays dividends in preserving the cords and easing their operation. If the cords show signs of wearing or fraying, they should be renewed; the directions for effecting this repair will be found in the entry referring to WINDOWS. The catch needs lubricating and may also need adjustment. This adjustment will usually take the form of a little packing of stiff card introduced under one half of the catch to compensate for shrinkage in the wood.
Deal with the hinges exactly as with those on the doors. This is especially necessary in the case of the upper hinges as any slackening here will allow the sash to sag forward and so give rise to endless trouble. Check the adjustable casement stays and the catch for adjustment and again use the oil can.
Watch for Rot and Rust— These are the two most common defects, and the metal of windows and frames is usually the first point of attack. Therefore, while checking the fittings and fastenings, examine the lower parts of wood sashes for rot. Pay particular attention to the end of the stiles or side members of the sash frame and make a note of any part which is bare of paint. Examine carefully the edges of steel casements for signs of rust, and as a first precaution, smear any such places with oil. Later at a convenient opportunity, clean off the rust with emery cloth until the metal is bright and clean, then apply two coats of paint.
Only too often these are completely ignored until something goes wrong. Regular checks would not only prevent trouble, but would enable such adjustments, replacements or repairs to be undertaken at a convenient time, instead of causing an emergency that has to be dealt with by candle-light at midnight. Take a small screwdriver, a pair of pliers and a roll of insulating tape, and carefully check the electric fittings in one room at a time. Do the job in the daylight and do not forget to turn off the electric supply at the main switch before beginning the inspection. Examine the flex at its point of entry at all fittings especially at ceiling roses and lamp holders. These are the points where fraying is apt to take place. If there are any signs of fraying, detach the flex, cut back to sound wire and rc-connect. Be careful never to suspend heavy shades from the flex. Diffusion bowls in particular should be independently hung, and special plates may be bought to fit over or in place of the ceiling rose and furnished with three stout hooks for this purpose. A point worth mentioning in this connection is the advantage of so adjusting the height of lamp bulbs and diffusion bowl that the line of light thrown by the edge of the bowl coincides with the line of the picture********** rail or paper border. The maximum reflection from the ceiling is thereby obtained. Test the screws in all fittings for tightness and keep a sharp lookout for places where the covering of wires is faulty and the bare wire liable to be exposed. Cover this with insulating tape. Check all portable equipment such as fires, irons, vacuum cleaners, etc. Make provision for possible emergencies by laying in a supply of fuse wire, together with an electric torch or a box of matches and a candle. Store this equipment in some accessible and convenient place. A small shelf near the fuse box is idea?. Then, when a fuse blows (and they seem always to blow at night) it will be possible to find the things needed for repair, without fuss or annoying delay in the dark.
Carry out an occasional check of the gas installation, particularly for leaks; see also HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES. We have all heard the old joke about looking for escapes of gas with a match, but make sure you know how to look for one, or even how to find out if there is a leak. The small dial set above the other three is intended to register a very small consumption of gas, as little as five cubic feet per revolution. Turn off hard every gas jet in the house and note the exact position of the pointer on the small dial. At the end of an hour or so examine it for any change in the reading. The slightest passage of gas through the meter will be red-lettered, and movement of the pointer will indicate leakage of gas. To locate the leak, the best guide is still by sense of smell. The usual places where leaks occur are at the joints of pipes, the junction of pipes with fittings, and in the fittings themselves. To locate the exact spot, make a thin solution of soap and water, smear it on the suspected length of pipe and the escape will bubble up through the soap film just as it would from a punctured cycle tube. A temporary repair may be affected by covering the place with very thick grease or soap, the pipe being bandaged with rag firmly secured with string. The gas company should then be informed so that they can send the fitters to make a permanent repair.