15 Home Maintenance Tasks and Repairs Everyone Should Know How to Do
If you think about home repairs and the people who perform the maintenance, it’s easy to see how two different groups of people separate and tackle the fixes with completely different attitudes. Some believe they are a natural-born handyperson and can fix any household problems that arise. And then, there are others who don’t care to know if they possess any skill and hire out for every home repair, big or small.
In your home, you might be the wanna-be handyman, yet you're married to a spouse who calls in the expert. And while no combination of DIY repairs is wrong, we’ve all seen the effects of overestimated skills or the expense of untapped home maintenance talent.
Today, however, we're empowering those whose immediate response to a home repair is to call for help. Easy, step-by-step guidance is just below and written with those who shy away from tools in mind. We're setting you up for a lifetime of self-sufficiency when it comes to maintaining your home. Take advantage of this DIY knowledge and conquer 15 common household problems. You can do this!
But first, take a breath. We're letting you off the hook a little. There is always a time and a place for professionals. If your home problems fall into these categories, it’s time to make a phone call!
When You SHOULDN’T Do Your Own Home Repairs
While most little chores are fine to handle on your own, you shouldn’t try and fix everything. If the consequence could result in extra damage, cost 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 the correct and safe repairs for:
- Electrical rewiring
- Asbestos removal
- Mold removal
- Major plumbing
- Structural changes or modifications
- Pest infestation
- Water damage
Why You SHOULD Plan for DIY Home Maintenance
Life skills, right? Any skill that you pick up on your own is worthwhile and likely saving money. There’s also a good chance that learning the skills needed to care for a house are transferable to homes in the future, whether the property is your purchase or a rental.
Everyone likes to save money. Handymen and other hired professionals are expensive. The good ones know their worth and expect their clients to appreciate their experience and expertise. You are, after all, paying for years of training, not just the hour it takes to replace your overhead fan.
This expense builds your case for figuring out if you can handle the problem on your own. Typically, you’ll only pay for the supplies needed to repair the problem. Your labor is technically free, which is why DIY is so appealing.
Now then, let’s get to the DIY house fixes you are more than capable of mastering.
15 Home Maintenance Tasks and Repairs EVERYONE Should Know How to Do
Every day homeowners and renters commonly handle these tasks. A few minutes of reading or watching a video should bridge any gaps in your home maintenance repertoire.
1) Learn to shut off the main water supply.
The main water valve controls the water supply for your entire home. While it’s unnecessary to adjust for an overflowing toilet (just turn the valve located directly behind it the toilet), it is vital for emergencies. A burst pipe, leak, or plumbing repair might require you to shut off all water. To find your main water meter, start outside. An on/off connection could be attached to an outside wall. Also, look in the basement, the garage, or possibly in a utility room or closet.
2) Unclog a sink or drain.
I bet you’ve never thought to use a plunger outside of the bathroom! I don’t recommend using the same one that performs in the bathroom for unmentionable events, but a plunger is 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 everyday items. But when you don’t take care of your washer, it stops doing its job correctly, and your clothes are worse for the wear. It’s recommended you clean your front-load washer once a month. Front-load washers are a breeding ground for mold and mildew because they never completely dry after running a laundry load.
As inconvenient as it might sound to clean your washer, it’s a 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, and then let it run through the process. After, add a little water and use a scrubby sponge to wipe down the inside of the drum and rubber seal.
Dryer maintenance is even more straightforward. Aside from clearing out the dryer vent (which you should do before or after each load), you should also empty the dryer duct. Unplug the dryer, pull it away from the wall, and vacuum lint in the duct. If there is damage, the duct or tubing might need to be replaced.
Water from sinks and showers produces a lot of moisture in the bathroom. The humidity affects how effectively the caulk protects the drywall and prevents mold growth. None of us are surprised by the presence of mold and mildew from time to time. However, all caulk reaches a point when it cannot be adequately cleaned and needs to be replaced.
Remove the old caulk with a sharp tool and some mineral oil or vinegar. Next, tape the area that needs to be re-caulked (similar to painting trim in a bedroom or living space). After, with a caulk gun, apply the caulk to the desired location. Finish by smoothing the line with a gloved finger or an ice cube to get a smooth, concave surface.
5) Clean the garbage disposal.
If there’s a sickening smell coming from your sink, you’re not alone. This is a common issue. Most kitchen sinks are used and abused, so it’s essential to show them a little TLC every once in a while. And there’s no reason to call for help because the solution is so simple.
Eliminate odor by pouring half a cup of baking soda, followed by a half cup of vinegar down each side of the sink. Leave and carry on with other chores or stick around the watch to see the fizz action. Just be sure to put the stopper in before the foam spreads beyond the disposal. After a few minutes, flush everything down with hot water.
If the smell persists, try a couple of other methods like citrus peels or ice and vinegar. You might need to get your hands dirty and clear the drain too. 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 ultimately leave your dishes dirty and smelly. You must budget time to clean it occasionally. Once a month, fill a cup with vinegar, place it in a dishwasher safe container on the upper rack, and run a cycle. Don’t forget the drain. Food that is trapped deteriorates, stinks, and clogs the line.
7) Clean gutters and downspouts.
Gutters exist to collect rainwater and direct water away from the roof and foundation. However, when they’re clogged with leaves or debris, they won’t function correctly. The result is a rotting or damaged foundation, which allows holes for pests to make a home in your home.
A couple of 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.
8) Install household weatherproofing.
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.
Gaps around windows and doors in your home operate in the same way. They’re certainly not as obvious, but they allow the loss of the precious cold air that you’re paying for and, more noticeably, the heat in the winter. If you feel a cold draft when you walk past the front door, you likely have a gap and need to install weather stripping.
Here are more home maintenance tips for the colder months: Winter Home Maintenance Checklist: 10 Tips to Save Money
The hardest part of installing weatherproofing products is knowing which kind you need. There’s a variety of items, including strips, sheets, and putty. This article by This Old House helps to sort out the options. 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 these drawers. It needs an extra strong yank, a rattle, or a push, then a 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 of your time.
The first thing to try is wax. Paraffin wax is located near 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 sticks. If that doesn’t work or the drawer starts to catch again after some use, purchase 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 we frequently 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?
It’s imperative to replace air filters (including ground-level return air vents) every 30 days. If they work with your system, look for filters that have a 90-day life-span or are reusable, assuming you’ll clean them regularly.
11) Patch a hole in the wall.
Wall scrapes, dings, and even holes are common nuisances in a home. Rehanging pictures, moving furniture, and playing a little too hard inside the house all promote wall damage. If it’s just a small ding or hole from a screw or nail, you can use quick-drying spackle to fill, sand to smooth, and cover with touch-up paint.
If it’s a larger hole, head to the hardware store to buy a patch kit. They’re easy to purchase and simple to install. You’ll spend less than an hour to get the hole covered, but you’ll have to wait to paint until the spackle is dry.
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.
To start, shut the power off to the fixture. Since it shouldn’t require any rewiring, this is a simple matter of matching connections and securing the fixture to the ceiling. For a detailed step-by-step checklist, check out The Art of Manliness. They provide photos to guide you along the way.
13) Pressure wash.
Have you ever used a pressure washer? The cleansing effect is impressive, and while it can be time-consuming, it’s well worth your effort. If a friendly neighbor isn’t available to borrow from for the first time, home improvement stores often rent the machines by the hour or day.
Pressure wash your fence, siding, driveway, patio, or deck and watch the transformation from dirty and gray to clean and bright! This type of wash is popular to remove outdoor mildew stains as well.
14) Replace a window screen.
How many times have you needed to repair a torn or broken window screen? It’s a very common household chore. Dogs, kids, and even rogue birds easily puncture and tear a screen. Luckily, it’s a repair that you can do yourself without breaking the bank.
Remove the old screen from the frame, cut the new screen to size (leaving 2 inches wider than the frame), and pull the screen tight over the edge. Next, push the excess screen into the channel using a screen roller. Last, push the spline into the channel to secure the screen and finish by trimming the extra material.
15) Replace outlet covers.
Replacing outlet covers isn’t necessarily fun, but it can be! And it’s as simple as unscrewing and replacing a few screws. Outlet covers are often updated after a paint refresh. For a fast and inexpensive upgrade, either repaint the outdated cover color to coordinate with the new color or purchase entirely new covers with a modern style.
More Home Maintenance Advice From a Military Spouse
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 understand how to do things myself. With a busy schedule and finances budgeted for other, more fun adventures, I’d rather know how to keep my home running on my own accord, relying as little as possible on hired help.
Who hasn’t had to reschedule their life in accordance with the cable guy or repair person? Your time is valuable!
BUT! For any solo military spouse pulling a deployment duty at home alone, the name of the game is survival, so pick and chose which tasks you prefer to take on and then ask for neighborly or professional help with the rest.
To give you a solid foundation and a leg up on home maintenance, here’s a collection of information to have on hand when the inevitable home maintenance issues arise while you’re on your own.
- YEAR ROUND MAINTENANCE Keep up with home maintenance chores all year long with this checklist.
- SPRING HOME MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST Spring brings with it unpredictable weather. Use this checklist now to avoid problems later.
- SUMMER HOME MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST Summer is the perfect time to pay attention to inside and outside household chores.
- FALL HOME MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST Fall maintenance is important because it’s the foundation for securing your home against rain, snow, and dipping temperatures.
- WINTER HOME MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST Time to prepare and get your home winter ready.
It’s time to take your handyman off speed dial and take on a few home repair projects yourself. You may be surprised by your newfound freedom and independence! Just remember that not everything is intended for DIY. Be sure to evaluate the cost and risk associated with any home repair before deciding to tackle it yourself.
Need a confidence boost to start the home maintenance momentum? Try Home Organization: A Beginner’s Guide.