Monday, November 14, 2011

How Do I Fix A Broken Doorbell?

That was the question I was asking myself last week. Initially, my solution was to add it to my husband's "honey-do" list, but that was back in April, and we're currently in November. Obviously, it's time for a new solution - mostly because my doorbell looks like this:

I took a deep breath and put on my big girl pants and decided to tackle home repair myself. After all, I'm the one who changed out every single doorknob - and more relevant - every single light switch in my house before we moved in. Surely I can fix a doorbell, right?

I quickly learned some important things. First, doorbells appear to come in a standard size, so my very careful measuring of both the doorbell and the screw holes was not necessary. I also intended to cut the power to the doorbell to ensure I didn't get shocked, but I wasn't sure which fuse connected to the doorbell. After some quick googling, I discovered that the voltage that goes through the doorbell is so low that disconnecting the power isn't necessary, especially if you don't have the wires touch. (And yes, I verified this at the home improvement store, though I don't think it's a bad idea to cut the power anyway!) This is a one tool job; all you need is a flat head screwdriver, something every house should have lying around.

This is my type of home repair.

Wanna learn how?

First, shut off the power, just to be completely safe even though the nice people at the hardware store assured me that it's not necessary. It's fun to go through your house and check what each fuse does then label it on your fuse box anyway. Someday it will come in handy, and you'll be glad you've done it.

Unscrew the doorbell from the house where it's attached - using that flat head screwdriver. Gently pull it a few inches from the house so that you can turn it onto its back and see the wires that provide the power required for it to ring.

Carefully loosen the screws holding the wires in place. Once they're loose enough that you can move the wires, pull the wires away from the broken doorbell using the coated portion of the wire, not the exposed copper portion. Make sure you keep the wires in their curved shape, as you'll need to wrap them around the screw again on the new doorbell.

Once you have the old doorbell completely unhooked, you will reverse the process to attach the new, working doorbell. Simply loop one wire on the screw and then tighten the screw so that it holds the wire in place. Repeat with the second wire on the second screw. You want the screws tight enough that the wires will stay put but not so tight that they'll damage the wires, so don't go crazy.

From there, you want to gently tuck the wires - again, only touching the colored coated parts - inside the housing of the doorbell so that you can place the doorbell flush against your house. Make sure that all the wires are on the inside before you screw anything in. Because the screw holes in the same position, you want to ensure you line the screw up with the existing hole (as in the picture below).

When you screw the doorbell back to the house, you want to tighten the first screw a few twists then start the second screw, alternating which one you tighten until they are all the way tight and the doorbell is flush with the house. If you don't, it makes it a lot harder to tighten the second screw and more difficult to keep them aligned - just a general recommendation whenever you're tightening something that has multiple screws.

You want to be sure that it's completely flush with the house to help keep water from getting inside. Water and electricity - even at such a low voltage - aren't a good combination. Plus, water getting inside the doorbell is going to shorten its life and also damage the house where water sits against it as its collected inside the doorbell if it has a gap between it and the house.

And voila, you have a brand new doorbell. If you're anything like me, you'll want to test it out once or twice to make sure it works - although you'll know it's working even before you reattach it to the wall because the button you press will glow once you've correctly attached the wires and power is flowing through them.

Five minute fix. Hours of pride. And my UPS man is very happy, although Mr. Fed Ex unfortunately hasn't yet realized the doorbell works and is still knocking. Next task? Fixing up the cracks in the wood so that no water seeps in and starts rotting them.

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Sandra November 15, 2011 at 12:08 AM  

You're awesome. I would have been stumped and too lazy to find out how to do it. But I did change a door knob all by me-self once! Kudos to you!

Melisa Wells November 15, 2011 at 7:56 AM  

Wow! So impressive!!! Nice job on that. I love the feeling of being able to fix something that I never thought of attempting before. Now I feel like I need to find something around here that needs repair. (I shouldn't have to look very hard.)

ttmillers November 15, 2011 at 9:00 AM  

I'm so proud of you! I too have a honey-do list that is so long...
Yes! I too tackle some of the things on the list. I've already installed a new hallway and kitchen lights. (I don't mean just replacing the lightbulb. LOL) I've hung new closets shelves, built a stone wall around the pond... Oh! I could go on! ;-)

Pat November 16, 2011 at 5:11 PM  

You are so handy! You could start your own doorknob/light switch/doorbell replacement business!

My husband does all those things, so I'll probably never have to do that unless he precedes me in death. He's the least procrastinating person I know. One time we were sitting at dinner and I mentioned that the light switch in the bathroom wasn't working. So he got up right then, went and got his tools and a new light switch we had lying around and he changed the switch! So now I don't mention things like that at dinner.

Michelle November 28, 2011 at 3:58 PM  

Sandra - If you can change the door knob, you can change a doorbell. It's less complicated, actually (yes, I've done both)!

Melisa - I know! I just got really tired of it not working, especially at Halloween. It's amazing how good a motivator irritation is ;)

ttmillers - Go you! That's an impressive list, too. I need to tackle some more things, I think. I have some lights I'd like changed out.

Pat - Ha! Somehow, I don't think I'd get a ton of business with that one, but it's a great thought. It must be so nice for you to have a husband who procrastinates over nothing... most of the time. There's always a happy medium, right?

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