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One of the greatest addictions is binge watching hour after hour of home improvement shows on networks like HGTV. The problem is that these shows can make our expectations REALLY unrealistic.
If you’ve found yourself feeling inadequate because you just watched a contractor on TV renovate an entire bathroom in a day, and you can’t unclog a drain in your bathroom, don’t fret.
Here are quick and easy home repairs you can make that’ll give you the confidence boost to handle bigger projects. These can be done with basic tools and without breaking your bank.
1. Fixing a Stuck Window
Now that we have air conditioning to bless our lives, we tend to lock ourselves inside with the windows shut most of the time. If you do want to open them up, air out the house, and let the breeze in, then you may find that your windows have become stuck.
If you find yourself with a stuck window, you should first spray the channels with lubricant. Then, use a utility knife to slide all the way across the window frame, removing any built-up paint residue that may be causing the jam. Be careful not to cut the wood too much as you go.
If the window is really stuck, go outside, tap a couple of drywall knives under the window and tap gently with a hammer, alternating back and forth to keep from busting the window.
Once you open the window, use a toothbrush and paint thinner to clean out excess paint that should make the window open and close more easily from now on. If necessary, you may need to sand down the window sash to help it move more easily.
2. Fixing a Door Strike Plate
The strike plate on your door is the metal part on the door frame that the door bolt actually slides into. Every time you shut the door (or worse yet, slam it) you’re putting a little wear and tear on the strike plate. Eventually, it may become loose.
If this happens, use a screwdriver to tighten the screws in the plate. But over time, these screws may not go back in easily. If this is the case, you should remove the screws and strike plate and then use a small dowel (3/16 inch) to cut down ¾ inch plugs.
Put a strong glue on the plugs, such as Gorilla Wood Glue, then tap the plugs back into the screw holes. Once you’ve done this, tap the plugs into place and let them stand until the glue dries.
Next, tape your strike plate back up into place and mark off where you’ll drill using a center punch. Then, reattach the strike plate using your hand electric screwdriver or drill and the wood should be strong enough to help hold the screws in place and keep the strike plate from sliding around.
3. Straightening Mini Blinds
If you have cats or dogs, you probably know they can be a bad mix when it comes to mini-blinds. Often times our pets (and sometimes our kids) want to look outside so desperately that they push aside the blinds and cause them to bend, looking misshapen.
In the past, you usually had two options: either replace the blinds entirely or just live with the malformation until it became so bad that it caused the metal blinds to snap off. Now, you can use a metal mini-blind repair tool that can straighten these out and return them to their original shape.
If you place the mini-blind slats into the tool and squeeze for a few seconds, your blinds will return to their original position. You can also keep them thoroughly cleaned by using regular kitchen tongs and attaching a cut up piece of rag or cloth to the ends of them. Then, pass the tongs over the slats like a duster to get rid of any residual dust or animal hair.
4. Fixing a Hole in the Wall
Speaking of animals and kids, if you have either then you probably have to do a good bit of home repairs. One thing that always seems to come up with little kids is a hole in the wall.
Be it a toy that gets thrown by a mischievous child or a stray ball that bounces and knocks something through the drywall, your walls can wind up with chips, dents, and outright holes.
To repair a small dent or ding in the drywall, just use a little spackle to cover up the damaged section and let it set for twenty-four hours. When you’re done, sand it down until it’s even with the rest of the wall.
For outright holes, buy a self-adhesive mesh patch kit and place the patch over the hole. Then, cover the patch with a joint compound using a drywall knife.
Be sure to use a crisscross pattern when applying the compound while tapering the compound so that it thins out along the edges and is as even as possible with the original drywall.
After you finish this, let the compound sit until it is dried and then sand it down smooth. Unfortunately, this will mean you’re going to need to repaint the area (or even the whole wall) so that the patch job doesn’t stand out and look so obvious.
5. Evening Out a Table
One of the banes of my existence is going out to a restaurant and finding a table that is wobbly. Usually, a couple of sugar packets under the table leg can do the trick. But if you’re at home, you don’t want unsightly packets sticking out from under the legs of your tables.
Instead of having to take the time to measure out a shim, here’s an easier solution—simply use a strong adhesive like an epoxy glue to place a penny or two underneath the shorter of the table legs. You can add more pennies as needed without worrying since this repair project literally only costs a few cents.
6. Upgrading Your Door Locks
Security is so important these days. If you really want to make sure your home is secure while not giving up convenience, you can easily upgrade your security using a keyless door lock system. This allows you to create a 4 digit PIN that’ll open your door without a key.
It’s a great idea for kids who may forget their house key and it allows you to change the code after visitors come through, keeping yourself secure. After you buy the new lock kit, remove the old dead bolt replacing it with the new one so that it matches the existing hole in the door.
Then install it to the deadbolt hole with the bolt fully retracted.
Next, install the keypad to the outside of the door using the mounting plate. Connect your wires to the system’s battery and tuck them inside the cover plate.
Before you shut the door, test the locking mechanism to ensure it works smoothly. If it doesn’t, take the lock set back apart and start over—the last thing you want is to get locked out.
7. Replacing a Light Switch
If you’ve lived in one place for years, you may start to notice that some of the fixtures are losing the color they once had. An easy place to spot this would be on the light switches in your rooms. Although some people try to remedy this with a quick swap of the light switch plate, the switch itself will still be old and discolored.
To fix this, you’ll need to buy a new light switch. To install the new switch, you first need to cut the power to the light switch. If you’re worried you haven’t killed the juice to that particular switch, check it with a voltage meter.
Now that it’s safe to work on the switch, unscrew the plate and take it off. You should see two to three wires going to the switch mechanism. One of these is the hot wire (usually black), a return wire (usually black or red) and possibly a grounding wire (usually green or sometimes copper).
Take a picture of how these wires are attached to the switch. This’ll be necessary when you wire up the new switch. Unscrew the wires, remove the old switch and then start connecting the wires to the new one using needle nose pliers.
Then, push the mechanism back in place against the wall and screw it back in place. Once you’ve done this, put on the new faceplate and you’re all set!
8. Replacing a Shower head
Many homes come with a basic shower head that does its job without a lot of flair or style. But if it begins leaking or you want something with a little more panache, you’re going to want to install your own shower head.
Start this project by buying your new showerhead based on what you want—something that’ll conserve water or something that can help massage all the aches and pains out of your joints.
Once you’ve got it picked out, take off the old showerhead using a wrench to loosen it and then take it off with your hands.
Next, clean off the exposed pipe to remove any debris or dirt that may be covering it. Then, wrap the pipe’s threads with a few layers of plumber’s tape. Once you’ve wrapped it a couple of times, smooth it out as much as possible.
Now, you can attach the new head by hand turning it to tighten up as much as possible. Don’t use a wrench unless you absolutely have to as you can easily crack the head and possibly the pipe.
Finally, turn on the shower and see if the new head is leaking. If a leak occurs, hand tighten the shower head again and test it out until you’re leak-free.
9. Replacing a Toilet
If you’re tired of having a dingy worn-out looking toilet and you want something nicer (or more water efficient), you’re going to want to replace the existing toilet. The first thing to do is measure from the wall to the hold-down bolts on the toilet.
This measurement should be about 12 inches. If it’s not, then you may need to get a specially sized toilet instead of the usual standard sized.
After you’ve done this and purchased the right toilet, remove the old one by taking off the old hold-down bolts. If these are stuck on from years of corrosion, use a close quarter hacksaw blade for the job.
After this, you should place the toilet carefully and lock the bolts in place. Most bolts are longer than you actually need, so you’ll have to use your hacksaw to cut them down. However, wait until everything else is done before you do this.
You should push down on the wax ring so that the toilet is in place flush (pardon the pun) with the floor. Do this by sitting on the toilet with your weight straight down on the ring.
Next, connect the water, being sure not to over tighten it (usually just hand tighten and then add a quarter turn with your pliers). Finally, test it out with a few flushes to make sure you don’t have a leak around the ring and flanges.
10. Clearing a Clogged Drain
If you have a drain that’s completely clogged or draining slowly, here’s a few things you can try. Start with the basics by using a standard plunger to work the clog loose and down the drain.
Fill the sink or tube with just enough water to cover the rubber portion of the plunger. Make sure that this portion (called the bell) totally covers the drain. Then begin to work the plunger up and down, gently at first, but more forcefully as needed.
If water splashes out, add more to keep the bell covered. If this doesn’t work, it may be time to purchase an industrial strength pipe cleaner but be careful. It’s usually a good idea to pour this in and let it sit before trying the plunger again. When you do, be sure to wear protective goggles because the plunger can throw back chemicals into your face and cause burns.
If your drain isn’t flowing at this point, you may have to do some basic plumbing work. Take off the P-trap under the sink making sure you have a bucket underneath to catch water when it drains out. (If you’ve used a chemical, then be careful as some of it may still be in the water.)
Then, use a plumber’s snake to twist down into the drain. Make sure to go in a clockwise direction if you hit something that you need to work through.
When you remove the snake, clean off anything sticking to it with a rag and then put the P-trap back in place. Be sure to tighten the bolts well so that you don’t have any leaks.
11. Caulking a Bathtub or Shower
The caulk along the tile of your bathtub or shower can eventually become a repository for mold. Not only is this ugly to look at, but it can be downright unhealthy, especially if the mold gets behind the tile and into the wall itself.
Thankfully, caulking a tub is relatively easy. First, use a utility knife to scrape all of the existing caulk away from the tile. Next, you want to clean the tile to remove all traces of the caulk and any mold that has accumulated.
There are lots of different home recipes for this, or you can use a professional grout cleaner.
After that step, use a cloth rag to dry everything out thoroughly and then tape off the area placing the tape about 1/8 of an inch from the seam.
Once you’ve done this and have the caulk gun loaded up, move along the seam with the caulk gun, putting steady pressure on it as you go. Take your time with this step and don’t feel like you have to hurry.
Then, take an ice cube and run it along the joint to squeeze out the extra caulk. Finally, take off the tape and wait twenty-four hours before you try to use the tub or shower.
12. Fixing Your Garbage Disposal
Regardless of what creepy horror movies may tell you, there’s nothing to fear about the garbage disposal as long as you follow some common-sense rules when repairing it. If your main problem is an odor, use a commercially available disposal cleaner.
To make sure that it really cleans up the disposal, dip a tooth brush in an antibacterial degreaser and then brush around the splash guard that covers the disposal. Be sure to get the top and bottom of the guard to get rid of food and grease buildup.
If the disposal is no longer working at all, you can fix it but you first need to turn off the power to the disposal. You do not need to lose a limb while fixing things!
Unplug the unit and take out the rubber baffle. Then use a flashlight so you can look around and find anything blocking the blades. If something is blocking the blades, remove it and put everything back. You should be all set.
If it has overheated, let the system cool down and then hit the reset button at the bottom of the disposal. If all of this fails to fix the problem, then you can purchase a brand-new disposal kit at any hardware store that’ll come with everything you need to make the repairs.
13. Cleaning A Smelly Dishwasher
Sure, you’ve probably heard that you need to thoroughly wash a dish before you put it in the dishwasher. But this just seems to defeat the purpose, doesn’t it?
The problem with not getting the food off of the dishes is that it can accumulate over time at the bottom of the dishwasher and cause a serious odor issue. In order to fix this, pull out the strainer screen from the bottom of the dishwasher and rinse it off.
Do the same for the sprayer arm and the edge of the door as these can be areas where debris can accumulate.
After you have done this, run the empty dishwasher through one cycle using a dishwasher cleaner and disinfectant. Voila!
14. Greening Up Your Lawn
Not all home repairs take place inside the house. Your lawn’s also an important part of the home that you want to keep looking nice. If your lawn is looking spotty and not as lush as you want, there are a few things that you can do.
If you’ve had a heavy winter build-up of snow, you’ll want to spread gypsum around on your lawn using a broadcast spreader. When you’re first cutting your grass for the season, you may not realize that it’s possible to “stress out” your grass by over cutting it.
You should only cut 1/3 of the grass blades. So, if your grass is three inches tall, you want to only cut off the top inch. After you cut your grass for the first time, you’ll need your spreader again to add fertilizer to your yard.
Two weeks later, add soil activator to the lawn. Finally, be sure to water your lawn regularly in the morning time. If you water it at night, the water can sit too long and cause problems, while watering during the day will cause the water to just evaporate before it can do your lawn any good.
Doing simple home repairs doesn’t have to be a pain in the neck. If you allow yourself plenty of time and go slowly and methodically, you aren’t likely to become frustrated, throw up your hands, and call for a professional contractor.
If you take your time and follow the directions carefully, you’re more likely to have a successful outcome and feel more confident about tackling bigger projects in the future. Who knows, maybe you’ll be ready for your own kitchen or bath renovation project soon!