DIY home repairs have two big advantages: You save time and you save money. After all, who has the leisure - or the inclination - to wait all day for an expensive repair person to stop by?
Of course, you probably shouldn't attempt to rewire your house or retile your bathroom floor without training.
What common problems will you able to solve yourself? Clearing a backed-up toilet is perhaps the most urgent repair, followed by patching small holes in drywall or plaster and recalling a bathtub.
Here are 5 simple but important fixes you can take care of yourself.
Consider the case where the water in your toilet bowl continues to rise above its normal level after you flush. This is not a pretty picture, but if you've got kids who have recently discovered the wonders of toilet paper, it may well be a familiar one.
The first move to keep a bad situation from getting worse is to remove the top of the tank and flip the rubber stopper in the bottom of the tank back over the drain hole. This will stop the flow of water into the bowl.
Next, place the plunger cup snugly over the bowl's drain opening and give it a few vigorous pumps.
The idea is to force the obstruction beyond a U-shaped section of toilet pipe, called the "trap", and into the straighter (and wider) drainpipe. The blockage should then flow away, and take with it any backed-up water.
If your efforts are of no avail, the problem may lie elsewhere in the drainage system. Now that you've rules out a simple clog, it's time to call your busy plumber. Meanwhile, don't pour caustic liquid plumbing products into the bowl. That way, the plumber doesn't have to deal with harsh chemicals when making the repair.
One way to prevent such mishaps is to make clear to your family (children especially) that human waste and toilet paper are the only things allowed in the bowl. Keep a small wastebasket near the toilet for disposal of all other items.
When sinks in the kitchen or bathroom back up, pouring liberal doses of very hot water down the drain will often help by melting greasy clogs away.If that doesn't work, place your handy rubber toilet plunger over the drain opening, and perform three or four swift pumps; then pause to see if the sink drains.
If it doesn't, try again. As a last resort before calling that busy plumber, try using a liquid drain opener. On tub and bathroom sink drains, you need to cover the overflow valve near the rim.
As you gently push the plunger down, hold a slightly damp cloth over the overflow valve.
Alternatively, pour in some of that liquid drain opener into the primary drain and cross your fingers.
If the drain opener or several short sessions with the plunger won't dislodge the blockage - or if you've noticed that several of your home's other sinks are also draining sluggishly - the problem is likely to be deep inside your main house drain and well out of your reach.
Once again, you'll need that plumber.
If your garbage disposal stops working, the good news is that most disposals have a built-in reset button.
Heavy loads will sometimes cause the motor to overheat; after switching off the disposal and waiting a minute or two, you can press the reset button (usually red) near the bottom of the unit; then restart the disposal.
Normally, if a disposal refuses to turn on - unless the drain is obviously filled up with garbage - this reset button is the quickest way to get it running again.
If this doesn't work, shut off the power to the disposal unit by either unplugging it or turning off the circuit breaker if the unit is hardwired.
Use the wrench that comes with the disposal to turn the mechanism and make sure it's not jammed (the wrench usually fits in a hexagonal recess in the bottom of the disposal).
If it won't budge, shine a flashlight down into the disposal to see if you can determine the cause of the jam. If you don't find anything amiss there, or you just see a lot of water, then insert the handle of a broom or plunger into the drain and move the handle back and forth.
This should dislodge the blade, which may be wedged against a piece of silverware, a bottle cap, or some other small item that has fallen in unnoticed. Use long kitchen tongs - never use your fingers - to pull the culprit out.
Dingy, cracked, or mildewed bathtub or shower caulk can make even a sparkling clean bathroom appear dirty and unappealing. If you've resisted replacing the caulk because it seemed like a big job, hesitate no more.
You can make this simple repair, which packs a big decorative punch, with very little effort and only minimal amount of experience.
Even the mechanically challenged can usually recaulk the right way by following a few simple steps:
Using a stiff putty knife and a small, inexpensive razor scraper, remove all caulking material around the tub.
Dig out as much old caulk as possible so that a shallow groove is formed along the entire edge between the bathtub and the tile or the tub or shower surround.
Next, thoroughly scrub the entire area with a bleach-based cleaner and a stiff brush. Rinse well, and allow to dry completely. A fan temporarily directed at the area will speed the drying process.Using a latex-based tub-and-tile caulk, in either a squeeze tube or a caulking gun, fill the shallow groove with a thin, continuous bead of caulk.
While the line of caulk is still fresh and before a skin starts to set and harden - within a few minutes, at most - moisten your fingertip and use it to smooth the caulk out and push it thoroughly into any gaps. Then carefully wipe any excess caulk with a damp cloth.
The trick is to use the least amount of caulk necessary to fill the small gap between the two different materials and surfaces.
It should be nearly invisible when complete, and not protrude any farther than the tile or the edge of the tub or shower. Otherwise, it can act as a trap for moisture and allow mildew to grow. Let the caulk set for as long as the package directions indicate (usually overnight).
Finally, you can probably avoid ever having to do this job again by regularly drying tub surfaces, shower walls, fixtures, and caulked areas with a clean towel. If stains do appear, try cleaning the caulking with a mildew-killer or other commercially available grout-and-caulk cleaner.
If you've recently rearranged the family portraits on the living room wall or reorganized the shelving in your home office, chances are you have a wall or two that is less than picture-perfect.
Yes, you could always just hang something over the holes and call it a day, but you can patch small holes in drywall or plaster them almost as easily yourself. Here's how:
Grab your vacuum and suck away any loose plaster, paint chips, or dust from the hole. Using a putty knife, fill in the hole with a premixed sparkling compound and smooth it level with the surface of the wall.
Let the compound dry thoroughly - a few hours or overnight. Then smooth it with a damp sponge and paint over the speckled area to match the color of your wall.