Home fixes and lifestyle tips

Check out our handy tips to help make sure your home stays comfortable

One of the windows in my home is stuck – how do I open it without damaging it?

Use a plastic knife or a putty knife to gently score the line between your window and the frame, applying gradual pressure to prise the window open. Once the window is open, apply a thin layer of para‑n wax – if you don’t have wax, rub soap around the edges.

I’m getting a musty odour in my home. How do I get rid of it?

A musty smell is generally associated with the presence of mould, when humidity is higher.

  • Inspect all pipes for leaks. If you find damp spots around the house, call a reliable plumber to take a look.
  • If you’ve been away, the drain pipes may have dried up allowing sewage gases to seep into your home. Pour water down all drains if the odour seems to be coming from them.
  • Setting your air-conditioning to low in the summer can cause excessive condensation in the inner walls, leading to mould growth in and around the duct chambers. If the odour is coming from the AC vents, call a reliable service provider to inspect the vents.
  • Indoor plants can release odours as they rot if they have been overwatered or not been tended to. Prune any rotting parts of your indoor plants.

How do I fix a dripping tap?

  • After shutting off the main valve, take off the handle’s cap and unscrew the bolt beneath it.
  • Now remove the tap handle and inspect the washer at the bottom – if it looks worn out, replace it and reassemble the tap.
  • If this doesn’t stop the dripping, one of the pipe gaskets may need a replacement; call a reliable service provider to handle this.

My bathroom exhaust fan’s blades spin too slowly. How do I increase the speed?

The location of the exhaust fan, along with exposure to heat and moisture can cause dust to stick to the blades, weighing it down and hampering proper operation. Clean the fan periodically by running the nozzle of your vacuum over the grills of the exhaust outlet. If performance does not improve, call a reliable electrician.

I’m unable to slide my balcony doors easily. How do I make them glide smoothly?

  • Clean the balcony door’s metal tracks with a toothbrush to remove any accumulated dust and grime.
  • Once the debris has broken free of the tracks, vacuum and spray the surface with a silicone-based lubricant (available at hardware stores).
  • If you’re still having difficulty moving the doors, call a reliable service provider to investigate.

The circuit breaker in my home keeps tripping. What can I do to stop it?

If your circuit breaker repeatedly trips, remember that it is a safety device and this is an indicator that something in your home isn’t running within the recommended load.

  • Inspect all your electrical devices for frayed wiring or contact pins that may have loosened.
  • If you’re running many high-wattage appliances on the same circuit, it could be overloading the outlet – plug them to other outlets or move them to a different room.
  • If you saw sparks when the circuit tripped, a short circuit could be the cause. It is highly recommended that you call a certified electrician to investigate if this is the case.

Mildew spots keep appearing on my bathroom grouting. How can I put a stop to this?

  • Areas that trap high levels of humidity and heat provide ideal conditions for mildew to develop. Ensure that your bathroom exhausts are turned on after showers for proper ventilation. Periodically wiping your bathroom tiles with a three per cent solution of hydrogen peroxide also helps prevent the growth of mildew.

How do I increase the flow pressure of water coming from my taps?

If your taps are not equipped with aerators, fitting them on all your faucets will help increase the pressure and also decrease water consumption. Simply unscrew the spout and screw the aerator onto the tap. If you already have aerators, unscrew them and clean with vinegar to get rid of any blockage.

The caulking line in my kitchen/bathroom is beginning to crack. How do I reseal it?

If you do not wish to call a service provider, you can caulk the edges yourself with some caulk and painter’s tape (available at hardware stores).

  • Apply two lengths of painter’s tape above and under the edge, leaving a thin strip of the edge exposed.
  • Apply caulk evenly over the exposed strip, and press to flatten the paste.
  • After 5-10 minutes, gently peel off the tape. Allow caulking to dry overnight without allowing water near it.

My kitchen fills with smoke quickly while cooking, even with the hood turned on. How do I resolve this?

  • Ensure that your kitchen chimney hood’s grill is clean as oil residue can build up over time and hamper operation.
  • Use dishwashing solution to clean the metal grill – hot water can also help melt grease deposits and aid cleaning.
  • Ensure that the chimney hood is completely dry before you attempt to operate it again as moisture can attract dust and exacerbate the problem.

I see damp spots on my walls/ceilings. What can I do about it?

It’s quite likely that you have a water leak. If the pipes are visible and it’s a pinhole leak, you can try to rectify the issue yourself using epoxy putty on the visible hole–don’t attempt any repairs if the pipe is cracked. If you see damp spots on the ceiling, reaching these pipes will require professional expertise. It’s best to call an experienced service provider to handle the problem if this is the case.

One of the electrical outlets in my unit is not working. How do I fix it?

  • Check if it is connected to a wall switch that may not have been turned on.
  • Once this is determined, inspect the circuit breakers and reset any that may have turned off.
  • A blown fuse may have also disrupted power to the outlet. Do not attempt to insert any long artefacts into the outlet – call a reliable electrician if you are unable to resolve the problem.

One of my drains appears to be blocked. What should I do?

Most blocked drains are caused by accumulated fats and grease that may have solidified and can be easily rectified.

  • Try pouring detergent and hot water down the drain to help melt the grease.
  • For blockages that are not too deep, unravel a wire coat hanger and twist it around inside the pipe until the block has been cleared.
  • For tougher blockages, use a plunger to force the debris clear. The pumping action of the plunger alternatively increases and decreases the pressure inside the pipe, helping dislodge any debris.