How-to: Unstick furniture with this simple trick

A few weeks ago, all our friends simultaneously decided to spontaneously have dinner at our place. As we went to expand the table from 4 to 12 seatings we found out the extension had become really hard to install.

We would usually quickly slide the two sections of the table apart and fit the extension in the middle, but it was now extremely sticky and we had to wiggle for 5 min before we finally got to the extended position.

If you are familiar with this situation, here is a simple trick you can use to smooth the slides.

You can use this trick on any sliding wooden part.

Why does it stick?

Temperature and humidity affect the wood and any variation will change its shape. You might find that the drawer of your buffet opens easily in the summer but sticks in the autumn. To simplify, it contracts in hot and dry settings and expands with humidity. Because the piece fits so neatly in its track, the slightest change will be noticeable.

In our case we have recently changed flats. The higher humidity level of the new flat has expanded the wood enough that it did not slide well anymore. If we were to move to the south of Spain I am confident the table will slide open without effort again. But we chose a single glazing appartement in the rainy North of France ;).

Using Candle and Soap

This trick works almost all the time. Take a candle or a bar of soap and slide against both the wood and the tracks. The candle/soap will remove the friction and help the parts slide smoothly.

Sanding

The soap will not work if the wood has expanded too much that it is simply does not fit the track anymore. In such case, you will have to sand it. By sanding you will slowly remove enough material to make it fit again. Be careful since this cannot be reverted. Do it by hand, work slowly and test fit often.

A medium paper (between 80 and 100) will work fine (the higher the number is, the finer the finish will be).

This way we were able to accommodate our 12 hungry friends, and so will you! 

How-to: Move Heavy Furniture

Watching a professional mover work, you would be amazed at how they easily move heavy pieces of furniture without breaking a sweat. It is not that they are all super strong, but the key is in the experience and knowledge. Proper technic often beats sheer force.

In this article, we will teach you the different methods the pros use to move heavy furniture. Follow these tips next time you will have to move your antique buffet and you won't end up with back pain.

The whole article could be summed up by this simple rule: do not lift when you can push, do not push when you can roll.

Of course the furniture will often dictate what the appropriate method is but keep this rule in mind and look for ways to roll or push as much as you can.

First, let's state the obvious.

To move a heavy furniture easily, make it lighter. The lighter it is, the less effort it will be.

It is obvious, yet many people overlook this step. By unloading the furniture as much as possible, you will dramatically reduce its weight.

Remove cushions from sofa, empty the furniture from books, magazines and miscellaneous (even the small items add up), remove the drawers and doors if possible etc.

If you cannot remove the drawers and doors, strap them so they stay in place.

It is also wise to plan the route beforehand. Know where it lands and how you will get there. Clear the path.

Now move it!

Here are your options by order of priority: Roll, Push, Lift.

1. Roll

The best option is to roll the furniture. If your are lucky, the furniture is already on wheels (quite common with fridge). Otherwise your weapons of choice are:

  • a dolly
  • a hand truck
 
 A dolly

A dolly

 A hand truck

A hand truck

 

A dolly is a platform (wooden board or otherwise) mounted on 4 wheels. It is the cheapest option. This one costs less than 20 euros and can hold up to 200kg. It is particularly useful for bulky items such as a couch and a buffet. If need you can slip several dollies under the furniture.

A hand truck is a two-wheel platform with a handle. It is a bit more expensive, around 40 euros but it is also more manoeuvrable. It is used for more compact items, such as a washing machine or a safe.

Another difference is that the hand truck will require you to support part of the weight when moving, while with the dolly once the furniture is loaded, all you need to do is roll.

2. Push / PULL

 Furniture sliders

Furniture sliders

A furniture slider is essentially a piece of plastic that you slip under each corner or each leg. Its helps to reduce the friction which allows you push the furniture with minimum effort. The sliders above costs around 25 euros.

If you are on the budget you may replace them with pieces of cardboard or slip a blanket under the furniture.

Be extra careful on hardwood floors.

3. Lift

Sheer force should only be used at last resort.

Lifting heavy loads requires a proper technic which most of us do not have. Most people just bend over and lift with their arms and back. This can lead to injury. Instead you should squat and lift it up with your legs while keeping your back straight. Yes, as you would do at the gym. Keep the item close to your body, your head straight and walk carefully to the landing spot.

If you have someone helping you, which is wise, you can use the high and low method. It is particularly useful with tall items such as a shelving unit or a bookcase. It works this way: stand in front of the furniture and tilt it at a slight angle so the helper can grip the bottom while you carry the top. This allows to center and better balance the weight. Carrying this way also makes the unloading safer.

 High and Low method

High and Low method

I hope thid helps!

How-To: Replace a Fluorescent Light (Tube)

 
neon-tube-269365_1920.jpg
 

While most people feel confident changing a standard bulb, a fluorescent light (sometimes improperly called neon tube) might be intimidating. Even I, although I rarely look for instruction, did a bit a research the first time I replaced one. The research did not last long though and you too will be amazed at how straightforward it is.

Be very careful not to break the tube, old or new, in the process. The chemical inside (mercury) is toxic. It must be disposed of properly.

1. Switch off

For safety reason, switch the light off. While you do not need to switch the entire power supply off for this operation (the light wall switch is enough, or if available the switch on the device), if you have any doubt I suggest you to do so.

2. Get a stepladder

It is likely that you will need a stepladder to reach the light. Even if you can touch it standing on the floor, it is better to make yourself comfortable and get a good look at the device.

3. Remove old tube

Reach for the tube and gently grip it with both hands. Now rotate for a quarter turn until it stops. This will rotate the socket in which the prongs sits and allow you to slide the tube downward.

Here is how the mechanism work:

 

 
Fluorescent light
 

 

The old tube is now removed. Please note the fluorescent tube are harmful to the environnement so avoid breaking it and dispose them properly (check with your local recycling service).

4. Install new

Slide the prongs new tube in the now open socket. Both sides at the same time. When it is in place, rotate the tube for a quarter turn to lock it in position.

5. Switch on

Now you may switch on the light (either at the device, wall or general power supply) and bask in the light your achievement.

How-to: Zen and the Art of Assembling IKEA

Zen IKEA Le Handyman
"Assembling of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind" - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig.

This advice is given by Phaedrus, the main character in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, during a discussion about instructions. Phaedrus argues that to assemble is to test our own serenity. If we do not have it when we start a project and maintain throughout the task, we are likely to build our own personal problems into the machine, or furniture in our case. The furniture cannot be right or wrong: its Quality lies within our relation with it. Or simply put, the satisfaction it gives you.

Later in the book, the author Robert Pirsig explains that to maintain that serenity, one must be aware of gumption traps and avoid them. He defined gumption trap as an event or mindset that can cause a person to lose enthusiasm for what she is doing and become discouraged from starting or continuing a project.

To simplify there are setbacks, which are cause by external events (i.e. you are missing a piece) or lack of knowledge, and hang-ups, which are internal factors that distract from the job (i.e. you got impatient and damaged a piece).

Before we get too philosophical, here is some down-to-earth advice to avoid falling into these traps when assembling IKEA furniture. It's all about the preparation.

You might find some of the advice here a bit excessive but remember the goal is to retain peace of mind. And I guarantee it works.

 

1. Choose the right box

It seems obvious but if you chose a dented package there is a good chance the furniture inside is damaged/scratch. The packaging is very thin, only a cardboard, and does not offer much protection to the pieces inside. Since you have made the trip to Ikea, you can choose the package yourself so carefully inspect them and pick the right one.

2. Bring it home Safely

Once again, because of the low protection you will need to be careful when loading/unloading the package in your car. Do not force it. (If you happen to live in Lille, we provide a pick-up service).

3. Know Thyself

Although IKEA is known for designing easy-to-assemble furniture, I have witnessed a great sophistication in their method lately. If you adventure above your current skill level, which I encourage, you should expect to experience setbacks.

We often underestimate of the amount of time a job will take. When doing something for the first time, we are likely to make mistakes or at least be quite slow. As a result we first become impatient and then plainly angry. Which inevitably leads to more mistakes.

A simple solution for this is to approach to task with modesty, allow more time and if necessary break the job into smaller parts.

This one holds true for any DIY project.

If you feel it is just too difficult for you, hire a pro.

4. Make Space

Clean the room you will work in to have as much floor space as possible. This will allow you to have a good overview of all the pieces and easily move around them.

5. Gather the Tools

While Ikea is known for providing the tool, I would recommend you get your own. It will save you a lot of time while being more enjoyable as well.

Ikea commonly require hex bits. Their hex key (little bended tool) can be useful at the end to hand-tighten but you should do most of the work with a proper screwdriver, or even a electric screwdriver. It will be way easier.

A screwdriver with interchangeable bits will be your best allie here. It is commonly sold with all types of bits, including the hex ones (we recommended this one in a previous article).

Another tool you might also need is a rubber mallet. Simply put, it is a soft hammer, allowing you to push the pieces in place without damaging them. If you do not have a rubber mallet, you can also wrap a towel around a regular hammer.

6. Layout everything

Layout all the pieces on the floor, arranging them by category. Check the inventory. There is nothing more frustrating than realising you miss something when you are way further into the process. Be careful not to damage the pieces, the wood -melamine- is fragile.

Open the plastic with the hardware and display them in a white plate or bowl. This allow you to quickly identify the one you need. And also not to lose them. It is okay to have leftovers.

7. Read the instructionS

I would advise to first check that the pages are in the right order and re-arrange if needed. Read it from start to finish to get a good understanding of the tasks.

What can be frustrating about instructions is that it implies there is only one way to assemble the furniture. It is done this way so it fits most people's logic but we are not all wired the same way. The key is to understand how the different parts relate to each other. Therefore instead of following closely each step, you can proceed in the sequence you feel is the most appropriate.

8. Start Assembling

Now you may start assembling.

How-to: Replace a shower head

showerlehandyman

Replacing a shower head is the simplest renovation you can do to upgrade your bathroom.

There are a few reason why you might consider changer a shower head. 

  • Your old shower head did not age well. Limescale is created by heating hard water. If you - or the previous owner/renter - did not clean it regularly, it accumulates over time and looks dirty.

  • You want to dramatically reduce your water consumption. Most recent shower head use a low-flow technology that reduce the amount of water running per minute.

Since your are working after the valve, you do not need to shut the entire water supply. You are not taking too much of a risk by attempting this operation either. Your are essentially just plugging a hose on a tap. As long as the valve is shut you can work freely; if you see leaking when the valve is opened just turn it back off while you fix it.

Tools:

Most of the time you do not need tools at all.

If you do need some assistance (old shower head tied too strongly for instance) here are the tools you can use:

How-to:

The same instruction applies wether your are dealing with a fixed mounted shower head or a hand-held showerhead.

1. Remove old shower head

Grip the shower head with your hand and turn counter-clockwise to remove it. It should come off easily.

If it was too tightened and you are unable to remove it by hand, wrap the towel around the piece. Now adjust your crescent wrench around it and unscrew. This should give you the extra strength necessary.

The towel improves traction while also avoiding scratches, in case you want to re-use the old piece.

Clean the dirt or any excess material on the pipe before moving to the next step.

2. Wrap with the teflon tape

The teflon tape seals the installation so it does not leak.

Cut a section a teflon tape and wrap it clockwise around the thread three times. When the tape is in place, press with your finger to smooth it in.

3. Install the replacement

Take your new kit and screw it onto the arm. Do not force too much, a careful hand-tightening is enough.

Even if you had to use a crescent wrench when removing the old one, stick to hand-tightening.

4. Check your installation

Open the valve and check for leaks. If you find any, start by tightening the head a bit more. If it persists, remove the shower head, improve the sealing with the teflon tape, place it back on and check again.

If there is no leak, congratulations you have succeeded!