By Kate Meyers
It’s impossible to live in a house and not have a fix-it list. But small home repairs quickly add up, particularly if you hire someone to do them for you.
The solution: DIY.
“I save hundreds of dollars a year by doing repairs myself,” says Leshel Pond, a handy mom from Louisville, Colo. Fortunately, there are many at-home jobs that require little in the way of tools or know-how.
These six under-an-hour fixes will save you money and enhance your home repair skills.
1. Clogged Commode
For many clogs, a $4 plunger and a little arm strength should do the trick. If a few strong plunges don’t provide the power to get things running smoothly, you may need a toilet auger (about $40). Place the auger end into the bowl and hold the tool shaft steady as you crank and push down on the handle. You’ll feel the cable snake its way along. Continue cranking until you’ve used the entire cable, about 3 feet, then retrieve the cable by simultaneously cranking and pulling up. Finally, flush the toilet to clear out the drainpipe.
2. Crumbling Caulk
“This is a must fix, and not just for cosmetic reasons,” says Deb Snoonian, senior editor of This Old House. “Cracked caulk allows water to seep through, which can turn wallboard and framing mushy and allow mold to grow.” Acrylic latex caulk (caulk and gun together are about $11) is best because it’s easy to smooth. First, clear out old caulk with a narrow-bladed screwdriver. Next, dip a cloth in rubbing alcohol and clean scum and grime from the surface. Allow a few minutes to dry, then trim the caulk nozzle at a 45-degree angle near the tip and apply steady pressure to the trigger as you move the gun smoothly along the entire seam. Smooth out with a wet finger.
3. Sticky Door Lock
Squeeze powdered graphite (under $3 at a hardware store) into the key slot and turn the dead bolt with a key to distribute the powder. As a preventive measure, do this every couple of years to keep the locksmith at bay.
4. Door Knob Dent in Drywall
If a door is flung open with too much spunk and you’ve got a big dent or a hole, the easiest solution is a protective wall guard plate or shield ($3 to $5). These adhesive-backed plastic discs come in different diameters and are tough enough to withstand any doorknob crash. Simply remove any loose bits around the damaged area, then peel off the backing paper from the disc and press the disc to the wall directly over the dent.
5. Loose Cabinet Hinges
The small screws that secure kitchen cabinet door hinges tend to get loose over time, and unless they’re tightened immediately, the screws will enlarge and strip the holes, making it impossible to tighten them. A quick cure: the common toothpick. Remove one loose hinge screw. Dip five toothpicks into woodworking glue and then stuff them into the hole. Break the toothpicks off at the surface and replace the screw. If the holes are larger than about 1/4 inch, use wooden matchsticks instead.
6. Window Screen Tear
For very small holes (about the size of a pencil eraser), use a dab of clear nail polish or rubber cement to repair the tear. If the hole is bigger, you’ll need to replace the screen.
Pond recommends buying pet-proof screens if you live with pets.
You’ll also need a spline roller ($2 to $5) to re-attach the rubber cord that connects the screen with its frame. Measure the screen and cut a new piece with an extra inch on all sides. Then use a screwdriver to slowly remove the spline around the old screen but maintain its shape. Remove the old screen and lay down the new one, and push the screen and spline partly into the frame with a screwdriver, all the way around. If it looks even, start using your roller to push the spline all the way down. Go slowly and check frequently that the screen is taut and even. Trim off excess with a utility knife.
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