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The nuts and bolts of screws

doityourself

No one likes to hear that they have a screw loose, so let's look at some ways to tighten them up.

If your screw isn't being relied on for structural purposes - it isn't holding up a chandelier, for instance - the quick fix is to remove the screw, insert one or two wooden toothpicks in the hole and replace the screw. Professionals call this "adding a shim". If it's to tighten up a piece of furniture, you should dip the toothpicks in wood glue, and after the hole is filled, allow the glue to set up overnight. Replace the screw when the glue is completely dry.

If the hole is too big to patch up with toothpicks alone, you could take the old screw to a hardware shop and look for a similar one that is bigger and longer. This will depend on aesthetics, if it's an exposed screw, and functionality. If you're putting a larger screw into a loose hinge, you have to make sure the head of the screw will recess enough for the door to close. Have the measurement of the wood with you so that you don't get a screw that's too long and will poke out the other side.

Chopstick fix
Now, if the screw is falling out of the wood, then the entire hole should be patched up. First, decide if the wood is hardwood or softwood. Measure the size of the hole - adding 2 to 3 millimetres depending on how damaged it is. Remember that the threads of the screw have dug out the wood wider than the visible hole size. The hole will then need to be filled with a dowel, or as they call them here, chopsticks.

Take-away chopsticks are made from bamboo and are about 4 millimetres in diameter. They will work for softwoods. There are also softwood chopsticks that are tapered if you need them to be larger or smaller. For hardwoods, try to find date palm chopsticks, which are dark brown with a wide grain. Tapered chopsticks will give you options for what size hole you need.

Drill out the hole to the same size as the dowel and the same depth as the screw length. Cut a section out of the chopstick that will fit snugly in the hole to its full depth, dip in glue and tap into the hole. When the glue is dry, drill a hole smaller than the diameter of the screw threads and replace the screw.

Sometimes plastic screw anchors will wear out due to the repeated back-and-forth movement of a door or if they are supporting something heavy such as a large picture or mirror. If this is the case, then it's best to remove the old anchor, patch the hole and replace with a new anchor. Plastic anchors work by putting pressure on the sides of a hole when a screw is inserted.

Over time the hole can become cone-shaped from the cement flaking out near the wall surface. Using a needle-nose pliers, pull out the plastic anchor. If it is stubborn, you may have to drill it out.

Wall surgery
Go to a hardware store and find the right size plastic anchor for your screw. It should be very snug on the screw but not so small that it will split when the screw is all the way in. Buy a small amount of white cement, which is what they use to install toilets and sinks. You may have to go to a brick, sand and cement seller for this.

Blow all of the debris out of the hole. Spray the inside with water so it's damp but not dripping. Mix up enough white cement to fill the hole and fill it half full. Insert the plastic anchor until it is flush with the surface, and then level off the area around it with the remaining cement. The next day, it should be completely set, and you can replace the screw, sound and secure.
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If you have any questions about keeping your house in order, email Jet at diy@phnompenhpost.com

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