Locks and keys

Get your life back
Common projects you can do in 2 hours or less

Want your weekends back?

The two-word phrase, the deadly combo (with or without fries), the description that makes the end of the week suck for many of us – “weekend project” -- is innocuous in pronunciation and almost un-American to deride. Why, we’re all dying to cram in 40, 50, or 60 hours during weekdays so we can come home and fix plumbing, teeter atop ladders fixing gutters and tend to the lawn.

Lawn. Whose idea was that, anyway? Where is it written that in front of the house must be the lawn, and yea, the lawn must be not washed out but of a vibrant green, free of intruders of any other color or texture, of exactly the same height, edged, and all of this must be done prior to 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. on weekends, accompanied by a leaf blower that could keep a four-person plane in the air for 40 minutes, whether it is needed for the job or not?

And if the outdoors is so swell anyway, then why did God make an indoors? Anyhow, that’s not what we’re here to discuss. We’re here to give you your weekends back.

Stop thinking about the things you have to do around the house as “weekend projects.” In reality, and with a couple understandings up-front, many of the jobs you need to do are two-hour fixes. That means you can get home on weekdays, have dinner around 6 p.m., get started around 7 p.m. and still get to watch “X-Files” at 9 p.m.

And the weekend suddenly opens up.

Two hours and under
Mike Frentz identified several jobs around the house that you probably have to do, or have been putting off, that can be done in two hours or less. However, he attached a couple conditions to that statement: First, be honest with yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to take off all your clothes and stand in front of a full-length mirror. It means you know, deep down, whether or not you scoff at Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, or if one day you hope to be as good as he is.

But if you can follow fairly simple directions, be coordinated enough to envision the project and get to the hardware store to get parts during the day, say on your lunch hour (and thus save yourself that trip in the middle of the project), have basic tools and a little patience, you probably can, on a weeknight:

Install a new garbage disposal. We’re talking a basic swap out here, bad for good, not a completely new installation. This is largely due to Plastic P piping, which you can cut with a hacksaw and tighten by hand.

“Under most conditions, plastic is fine,” Mike says, meaning it isn’t necessary to go for metal because while the water is going to get hot, it isn’t going to heat up enough to melt the plastic, unless you’re working on a commercial project.
Estimated time – two hours.

Replace a sink faucet, again because you don’t have to use metal piping. The Reinforced Faucet Hookup Tube, as it is properly called, is almost as long as your arm, already has the proper connections on the ends, and bends like a Gumby. If you buy one and it’s too long, you just tie a loose loop in it, thus no cutting needed. Estimated time – about an hour.

Install a new fill valve on a toilet. It’s all one piece now, and connected by a Reinforced Toilet Hookup Tube (not kidding).
Estimated time – under an hour.

“Now you can always run into problems,” Mike says, which is why a) it’s a good idea to do your work when Frentz is still open, and b) that’s why Frentz stays open until 9 p.m. (They don’t want to miss “24” either.)

Change the air filter on your furnace. It’s probably the same gray as Regis Philbin’s complexion. This is a small but important job, particularly if someone in your home has asthma or allergies. Frentz has two types of special filters that catch the mold and pollen, one made by American Air Filter, called the Dirt Demon, and the other by 3M, called Filtrete, which says its electrostatic fibers catch particles of less than one micron.
Estimated time: 5 minutes.

Put in a window air conditioner. Start it up before you haul it into the window, just to make certain everything’s working well, and get a new filter. Mike says if you use a window air conditioner regularly in the summer, he can’t see going through the season without changing that filter at least once. Otherwise, you’re blowing around a lot of nicely chilled bacteria and other goo. “When you have little kids and you send them to bed in the summertime, air conditioning is a must,” Mike adds.
Estimated time: under two hours.

Change a lock. Again, we’re talking a one-for-one swap, not doing something like replacing a skeleton lock with a new Kwickset. Something you may not know – if you’re a landlord, or if you were just out late last night and deeply, deeply regret giving someone a key to your house, take the lock out of the door and bring the entire mechanism to Frentz. For $6, they will repin the lock (most incorrectly call this process rekeying a lock), which means they will put in new pins and cut you new keys, because the old ones won’t work now. Even with travel time, repinning and replacing the lock when you get home, the estimated time is still two hours.