There are two different types of people when it comes to home repairs. The ones who believe that they are a natural-born handyman and can fix any household problems that arise. And others who don’t care to know if they possess any skill and hire out for every home repair big or small.
You know these people. You might be one yourself or maybe married to one. And while neither are wrong, we’ve all seen the effects of both. How many of you know a do-it-yourself advocate who often tackles a project that’s just a little too big? You watch what should have been a day repair turn into weeks and even result in further damage requiring a professional, which ends up costing more than if you would’ve called one in the first place!
And you’ve seen the frustration associated with the people who call for every minor issue that comes up and often spend more money when, if given proper guidance, they could’ve fixed it themselves.
Home Maintenance Tasks and Repairs EVERYONE Should Know How to Do
Your time is valuable. Whether you work full-time, stay at home with your kids, or are active in your local community, there’s no argument of how much your time is worth. So why, if given the opportunity to have something taken care of for you, would you want to stop and do it yourself?
- Save money. Handymen and other hired professionals cost money. While you only pay for the supplies needed to make a repair when you do it yourself, you wind up paying for supplies and time when you hire a professional. Although I think we can all agree that in some cases, like water damage, electrical work, and pest removal, the extra expense is well worth it. However, there are plenty of times that we can easily avoid those extra expenses by tackling the repair ourselves.
- Be self-sufficient. I don’t know about you, but as a military spouse who often sees things fall apart immediately after my active duty spouse leaves, I feel it necessary to know how to do things myself. With a busy schedule and finances budgeted for other, more fun things, I’d rather know how to keep my home running without the assistance of others.
- Your timeline. Raise your hand if you want to reschedule your day for a handyman? None of us! We’ve already established that our time is valuable. Instead of rearranging your to-do’s for someone else, do the repair yourself when you have some time already built into your day.
15 Essential Home Maintenance Tasks and Repairs
1) Shut off the main water supply.
The main water valve controls the water supply for your entire home. While it’s not necessary to adjust for an overflowing toilet (just turn the valve located directly behind it the toilet), it is necessary in emergencies. A burst pipe, leak, or plumbing repair might require you to shut off all water.
To find yours, look for your water meter. Your valve could be located in the basement, on the side of the house, or even the garage.
2) Unclog a drain.
I bet you’ve never thought to use a plunger outside of the bathroom, have you? I don’t recommend that you use the same one that’s used in the bathroom for unmentionable events.
But, a plunger can be a useful tool for a clogged sink too!
3) Clean front-load washers and dryers.
Unless you’re Monica from "Friends," you probably don’t think about cleaning the appliances that clean for you. But when you don’t take care of your washer, it stops doing its job properly and your clothes can come out smelling icky. Front load washers, especially, are a breeding ground for mold and mildew since they never completely dry after running a load of laundry. So it’s recommended that you clean your front-load washer once a month.
As inconvenient as it might sound, it’s fairly a simple and quick process. Simply set your washer to the hottest, longest cleaning cycle (some washers have a self-cleaning cycle), add two cups of vinegar and a quarter cup of baking soda then let it do it’s thing. Once that’s done, grab a little water, a scrubby sponge, and wipe down the inside of the drum, and rubber seal. That’s it!
And dryer maintenance is even more simple. Aside from clearing out the dryer vent, which you should do before or after each load, you should also clear out the dryer duct. Unplug the dryer, pull it away from the wall, and look for lint in the duct. The duct might need replacing, or you might be able to get away with vacuuming.
Showers, while they do their job well, tend to hold a lot of moisture. None of us are surprised by the presence of mold and mildew from time to time. However, the caulking reaches a point where it’s beyond cleanable and needs replaced.
You’ll want to remove the old caulk with a sharp tool and some mineral oil or vinegar. Next, tape the area you want caulked (this ensures that the caulk only goes where you want it to). Then, using a caulking gun, apply it to the desired area and finish by smoothing it out with a gloved finger or ice cube to get a smooth, concave surface.
5) Clean the garbage disposal.
If there’s a yucky smell coming from your sink, you’re not alone. Our kitchen sinks are used and abused so it’s important to show them a little TLC every once in a while. And there’s no reason to call for help.
Eliminate odor by pouring half a cup of baking soda, followed by a half cup of vinegar down each side of the sink. Leave it and carry on with other chores or stick around the watch to see it fizz. Just be sure to put the stopper on before the foam spreads beyond the disposal. After a few minutes, flush it down with hot water.
If the smell persists, feel free to try a couple other methods like citrus peels or ice and vinegar, then get ready to get your hands dirty and clear the drain, not just the disposal. You can either try to clear the drain trap yourself or call a professional.
6) Clean the dishwasher.
It’s normal for food and grease to leave a residue in the dishwasher. But that residue will wind up leaving your dishes dirty and smelly, so it’s crucial that you budget time to clean it occasionally. And all it takes is a cup of vinegar and the run of a cycle.
Just put a cup of vinegar in a dishwasher safe container on the upper rack and run it. Feel free to do that once a month. And on a regular basis, be sure to clear food from the drain.
7) Clean gutters and downspouts.
Gutters exist to collect rainwater and direct water away from the roof and foundation. However, when they get clogged with leaves or debris, they don’t function correctly and can result in rot, foundation damage, or become a home for pests.
A couple times a year, especially after fall, clear your gutters using your hands, leaf blower, or wet-dry vac. If you’re not comfortable using a ladder, you can find attachments for your leaf blower to reach the gutters with both feet firmly planted on the ground.
Related: Fall Home Maintenance Checklist
8) Install weather stripping.
Ever hear your parents say, “I’m not paying to air condition the whole neighborhood!” growing up? That comment was often made after a door was left open in your haste to play outside or run inside for a snack.
Well, gaps around windows and doors in your home can work the same way. They’re certainly not as obvious, but they can cause you to lose the precious cold air that you’re paying for and, more noticeably, the heat in the winter. Ever feel a cold draft when you walk past the front door? You probably have a gap and need to install some weather stripping.
Never done it before? That’s okay. Actually, the hardest part of weather stripping is knowing which kind you need. There’s a variety, but this article by This Old House can help you sort it out. And if you’re still unsure, strike up a conversation with the department experts at Lowe's, Home Depot, or your local hardware store.
9) Fix sticky drawers.
Everyone has had one of those drawers. It needs an extra strong yank, a rattle, or a push then pull. If you’re fed up or your technique no longer works, you can fix this minor issue with a small purchase and a few minutes.
First thing to try is some wax. You can find paraffin wax with the canning supplies at the grocery store (or order it online now while you’re thinking about it). Just rub the wax on the edges of the drawer where it gets stuck and you should be good to go. If it doesn’t work or the drawer starts to catch again after some use, purchase some nylon tape and run it on the drawer or the shelf where it rubs.
10) Replace air filters.
Replacing the air filter is that annoying chore that we constantly forget to do. And maybe that’s because we don’t think about how important it is. Did you know that air filters help support the longevity of your A/C unit, the energy efficiency of your home, and prevent mold?
With that being said, it’s extremely important that you replace your air filters (including ground level return air vents) every 30 days. However, some filters have a 90-day life-span or are reusable, assuming you clean them regularly.
11) Patch a hole in the wall.
Wall scrapes, dings, and even holes happen. From things as simple as rehanging pictures to moving furniture to playing a little too hard inside the house, wall damage is a given.
If it’s just a little ding or hole from a screw or nail, then you can simply use quick-drying spackle to fill in the hole, sand to smooth, and cover with touch-up paint. And if it’s a larger hole then head to the hardware store for a patch kit!
12) Replace a light fixture.
Brass, brushed nickel, shiny silver… these hardware finishes come and go out of style and whether you want to simply update the fixture or it’s broken and needs replacing, it isn’t something you need to call a handyman for.
First and foremost, you’ll want to shut the power off to the fixture. Since it shouldn’t require any rewiring, this is a simple matter of matching connections and securing to the ceiling. For a detailed step-by-step checklist, check out The Art of Manliness which provides photos to guide you along the way.
13) Pressure wash.
Have you ever used a pressure washer? The effect is amazing, and while it can be a little time consuming, it’s well worth your time to do it than pay for a professional. Pressure wash your fence, siding, driveway, patio, or deck and watch the transformation!
14) Replace a window screen.
How many of you have had a torn or broken window screen? I hope all your hands are raised, but it’s entirely too common. Luckily, it’s a repair that you can do yourself without breaking the bank.
Take down the old screen from the frame, cut the new screen to size (leaving 2 inches wider than the frame), pull the screen tight over the frame, then push it into the channel using a screen roller. Next, roll the spline into the channel to secure the screen and finish by trimming the excess material.
15) Replace outlet covers.
Outlet covers don’t need to be fun…but they can be! And it’s as simple as unscrewing and screwing a few screws.
When You SHOULDN’T Do Your Own Repairs
While most little things are good to handle yourself, you shouldn’t do everything. If the consequence could result in extra damage and wind up costing exponentially more, or you could severely injure yourself or the house, it’s better to let a professional handle the repair.
You also have to ask yourself if it’s worth your time to learn something new rather than pay for the services of someone who already knows
- Electrical rewiring
- Asbestos removal
- Mold removal
- Major plumbing
- Structural changes or modifications.
Time to take your handyman off speed dial and take on a few home repair projects yourself. You may surprise yourself with your newfound freedom and independence!
Just remember that not everything is intended for DIY. Be sure to evaluate cost and risk associated with any home repair before you decide to tackle it yourself.