Handyman: What to do about cracking sounds

July 11, 2014 

Q: My house was built 10 years ago. During our first winter and spring we heard loud cracking sounds. They seem to occur when there is a significant temperature change.

I checked for cracks in walls and ceilings but did not find any. I checked the basement, and the support posts seem fine. There are no major cracks in the foundation or floor.

We have gotten used to these sounds, but I am concerned.

The cracking sounds are still occurring during major temperature changes. When we run the central air conditioning in the summer we do not hear these cracking sounds.

What is causing this, and do you have any suggestions on how to correct it? Can anything be done to fix it?

A: Your house is talking to you, and you are getting only some of it. The wood is expanding when it warms up, as in the spring, and contracting when it cools off, as in winter. This is all natural and harmless. Some of the big beams in the cellar may crack, and that is harmless, too.

Smelly disposal

Q: I have a disposal that is about six years old. There has been a musty smell coming from it near the sink drain. I have used baking soda and white vinegar, ice cubes, hot and soapy water, Drano and other products. I also cleaned the black rubber flaps near the opening.

It is fine for a few days and then the smell comes back. Do you have any other suggestions?

A: Carefully add a cup of bleach, then run the disposal with the faucet on. If that doesn’t work, call your appliance dealer.

Stained dishwasher

Q: My new stainless-steel dishwasher has stains inside the door. The stains are white and obviously from something that dripped off dirty plates. I’m hesitant to scrub too hard for fear of scratching the door. Any suggestions?

A: Try rubbing the stains with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. If that doesn’t work, go to a hardware store and ask for stainless-steel polishing lotion or cream.

Toilet keeps running

Q: My toilet runs and runs for hours, and no amount of jiggling the handle stops it. How can I fix it?

A: Turning off the valve under the tank will stop the water, but that won’t fix the problem. When this happened to me, I opened the tank cover and found that the chain that raises and lowers the rubber stopper at the bottom of the tank had gotten hung up on the handle. I released it and all was well.

Hotton: photton@globe.com

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