How to fix a shower door, refinish parquet floors

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By Jeanne Huber
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, January 21, 2010

Q: We live in a house built in 1937. In the basement is a corner shower stall with a door that will not close firmly and doesn't seal tightly at the bottom. This causes much water to leak through, and if you happen to hit the door, it flies open. I think the best approach is to the replace the door, but if it can be repaired, that would be better. Is this something we can do ourselves?

Arlington

A: The leak at the bottom is probably easy to fix by replacing the rubberlike sweep, which is supposed to act like weatherstripping and keep water from pouring out. You might be able to just pull out the old sweep from the side opposite the hinge. Sometimes there are a few screws to loosen first. Take the sweep to a hardware store and buy one the same height. It'll probably cost about $3. Trim it to the length you need and slip it into place.

Adjusting the door so it stays closed is more complicated. The door has probably sagged, leaving the latch lower than the slot it's supposed to hook into. Open the door slightly and place wooden blocks topped by a few tapered shims underneath to hold the door at the proper height. If you have a frameless door, loosen the hinge screws and push in the shim closest to the latch edge enough to raise that side of the door to the height you need. Re-tighten the screws.

The procedure for a framed door is similar, except that you loosen screws in the frame. There is often one at each corner. After you shim the door higher, re-tighten all of the screws before you remove the supports. Some frames have elongated holes for the screws, which allows for adjustment but also lets screws slip out of place over time. To lock in a position, Tom Huck of Shower Door Experts in Frederick County (301-850-4520) recommends drilling through the frame (beyond where the glass fits) and adding a few new screws. He uses stainless-steel screws because he has found that the aluminum screws typically used on shower doors are too soft.

As with many repairs, this one sounds simple. But it can become frustratingly difficult if the old screws refuse to budge and you wind up stripping the slots. In that case, you can call someone who installs and services shower doors. Some glass companies in the Arlington area will adjust only doors they've installed, but one without that restriction is ABC Glass & Mirror in Manassas Park (703-257-7150, http://www.abcglassandmirror.com). Its minimum service fee is $240. But that's still far less than a new door, which starts at about $600, with installation.

Your turn

A reader from Oakton responded to a question about refinishing parquet flooring (Dec. 10): "About 35 years ago, my husband and I used a tiny hand sander to sand the horrible parquet flooring in our first little home in Fairfax. I can't say our handiwork was an improvement. After about two years, we hired the pros and the floors looked brand new.

"Please encourage that Falls Church homeowner to have the pros do the job the first time. Then they can be enjoying it for years, instead of hating it and wishing they had spent their money with the pros in the first place.

"To reduce costs, the owners might want to move out all of the furniture themselves. Be sure to tell all the companies this so the bids are fully competitive."

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Please put "How To" in the subject line and tell us where you live.


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