It can be overwhelming to own a house if you aren’t used to fixing things yourself. As a renter, you know you can call the landlord to diagnose and fix problems, and even front the bill.
Normal wear and tear can take a toll on a home, and all of a sudden, you may find yourself looking around at a bunch of different tasks that need doing. Don’t get overwhelmed, as the majority of home repairs aren’t always tricky, nor are they time-consuming.
Here are nine home repairs you can do in just a few minutes that will leave you satisfied, and proud of your handy work.
1. Fix Window or Door Screens
Fixing ripped screens or ones with holes in them is easy and affordable, with a sense of accomplishment waiting for you in no time. Rolls of screen are available at any hardware shop, so do some measurements of what you need before heading out.
Gently take off the broken screen from its home in the window so that you can access the weather stripping that holds the screen. It’s normally black so that it blends in with the screen. Find the end and gently peel it out of the groove, and remove the broken screen.
If it’s not in complete disrepair, use it as a measuring guide to cut the new screen. Lay the old one on top of the new roll, and make a small cut with the scissors as a marker.
Take the old screen off, and using a straight edge like a ruler or level, continue to cut the screen. The ends will be hidden, so you may not need a straight line exactly, but the guide can help so that you don’t end up with a wonky edge.
Then, simply place the newly cut screen onto the frame, and press the weather stripping back into the grooves, making sure the edges of the screening are pressed into and held in place. Put it back into the window frame, and admire your new view.
2. Fill Wall and Trim Holes
Large holes in walls are an eyesore, but small ones can annoyingly catch your eye, too. If you’ve moved a painting or frame, or just installed new trim, filling these tiny holes takes no time and little skill.
There are a few different hole fillers on the market, but don’t bother with the heavy-duty stuff like drywall mud or compound, as these require sanding and the use of drywall knives.
Dry Dex is a great product used exactly for the purpose of filling small imperfections quickly. It dries in minutes (or less) and can be smoothed out with your finger. Take out a small amount and put just enough on to fill the hole with a bit overlapping the surface.
Rub the spot with your finger, or you can sand it if you want to get the product level again with the wall. It’s paintable, but if your walls are white, the pinkness fades when it dries, and blends in perfectly with white trim and walls.
3. Diagnose a Running Toilet
A running toilet is a major nuisance, as it’s not only irritating, it’s also expensive to lose all of that running water. Turn off the water supply after you flush, as that will save it from constantly running.
Diagnosing what the problem is isn’t that tricky once you know what you’re looking for. There are only a few reasons why your toilet might be running, and all of them can be found by lifting off the tank lid.
Nine times out of ten, it’s a problem with the flush valve (sometimes called a flapper). The unit itself needs replacing every now and then, but before you go buying another one, check a few things first.
With the water turned on, make sure it isn’t rising over the top of the refill tube, which is designed for overflow, and will send the excess water back into the toilet bowl. Check that the float ball is aligned and working properly so that it closes the flush valve properly. You may also have a worn gasket between the tank and the bowl.
If none of those things seem to be the problem, then look at the flush valve itself and see if the chain is the right length. If it’s too long or short, it won’t let the valve close tightly. If the chain looks right, then it may be that you simply need to install a new flush valve.
Thankfully flush valves are readily found in home hardware stores and come with easy-to-understand instructions.
4. Replace Tub Caulking
Depending on how bad the tub caulking is, this job may take more than a few minutes, but no longer than an hour. The benefits are well worth every minute spent, as old caulking can breed mold which looks ugly, and can become a health concern.
Caulking that’s torn or lifting up will also allow water to get in behind the tiles and tub, which can severely damage the tub surround and cause mildew to spread.
Invest in a good utility knife and put on some safety gloves. Gently and slowly slice under and over the caulking lines to uproot it from the tub. Be very careful not to cut into the tub or tiles as it’s very hard to repair. You don’t need to get all of it this way, just the majority of the old caulking.
There will be some residue left over, which you can rub off with a cloth and silicone remover, or a plastic putty knife. Make sure no little bits are left behind because they will show up in your new bead and cause mayhem.
When the tub and tile are clean and dry, slowly apply a new bead of silicone. Choose a kind that’s waterproof and rated for bathrooms. This stuff is very sticky and will only tolerate one wipe after it’s been applied, so do one area at a time.
If you aren’t sure how much you need to fill the space, start smaller rather than bigger, as you can always apply more once it dries, but you don’t want to have to remove it again. Opt for a small tube that has a built-in applicator rather than a big tube that needs a caulking gun.
Cut the tip of the tube on an angle and apply a steady thin bead along the tub and tile with the applicator. With a wet finger, slowly wipe so that your finger covers the whole bead and creates a seamless, smooth line. Have a wet cloth ready to wipe up any excess right away.
5. Skip the Drano
If your sink is draining slowly or not at all, there’s no need to call a plumber. You can even skip pouring expensive, environmentally unfriendly chemicals like Drano down the drain. Most sink clogs are from a build-up of grease and food that collect over time and can be fixed with some quick and easy solutions.
The first easy thing you can use is a combination of baking soda and vinegar. These harmless chemicals will react inside the drain, cleaning out sticky residues and freeing items that are stuck. Pour half a cup of baking soda in first, then half a cup of vinegar. Let that sit for 20 minutes and rinse with hot water.
If that doesn’t work, most households have a plunger, and if you don’t, invest in one, as they can be used for any drain clogs in the house. These tools have a rubber gasket on the bottom of a long wooden handle which creates a suction over the drain when pushing downward. Do this a few times, and you should hear a satisfying sucking sound, followed by the quick draining of any standing liquid.
A snake is another common tool used by plumbers to get at more stubborn problems. If something has really clogged the drain, a snake can be pushed down gently to poke at, and dislodge an item. Rotating it can help collect loose hair.
A simple plastic snake can be all you need for most clogs, but sometimes an auger type snake is what you need for really bad ones, as they are much more powerful. They will be more expensive, but less money than calling an emergency plumber.
6. Install Downspout Diverters
One of the worst things for foundations is rainwater running directly into them. This can cause flooded basements, or general dampness as water seeps in behind the walls. This problem can be easily fixed with a few downspout diverters.
Take a walk around the perimeter of your property and check where all of the downspouts are sending water runoff. If the ends are too close to the house, first think about where they should go and how long of a distance.
Don’t buy downspout attachments before you do these easy calculations, as there are different kinds that will serve different purposes. Some are flexible and can be extended or tightened back up, and are great for getting around or over steps and other obstacles.
Others will be straight aluminum and come in longer sections so that you can send water even further away from the house. These are great choices for areas near a lawn or driveway where you want to get the water to a natural slope.
Remember, downspout diverters can also be used in conjunction with rain barrel systems and rain gardens. Check local rebates to see if you can get the costs covered.
7. Replace Light Bulbs
Lighting is so important in a home, yet most homeowners don’t think about it as much as they should. It doesn’t help that there seem to be thousands of different light bulbs to choose from when you go to the hardware store.
Make the switch to LED’s instead of incandescent light bulbs, as they will last longer, while using less energy. That said, some people swear by the warm light of incandescent bulbs, and would rather have them in their home.
This is a personal choice, of course, but before you go buying a twenty pack of the cheapest ones of either, think about how the lights are used in your home.
LED’s now come in warm and cool light, which will make a difference in comfort and also brightness. 60-watts is generally enough for most room applications, but you may want more illumination in some spaces like hallways, basements, or kitchens.
If you have dimmable switches, make sure to get bulbs that are, too. If you have a room with a lot of plants, you may even want to invest in some fluorescent lighting.
While this light can be harsh for humans, it gives plants a boost of supplemental lighting during dark winter months. Use it in conjunction with other room lighting so that plants and humans are happy.
Make a plan for updating and properly illuminating the whole house, removing light bulbs that burnt out along the way.
8. Fix Sticky Door Handles
Does your front or back door stick when you try and open it? While it may be problems with humidity and the door jambs being too tight, often it’s a problem with the door handle itself. Older handles will get clogged with dirt and grime over the years, which can cause them to stick.
Take the door handle off with a screwdriver or drill. Lay it on newspaper or somewhere outside and spray it with WD-40 or other lubricants like it. Do this a few times and wipe away any gunk that you can see. Spray the handle latch as well as the lock itself.
Put the door handle back on the door, and the latches and handles should work perfectly. Feel free to lubricate hinges, and the rest of your door handles around the house at the same time to keep everything working smoothly.
You don’t have to take everything off for this, you can spray directly into lock holes, bolts, latches, and hinges as preventative maintenance.
9. Remove Scratches on Wood
Scratches are a common problem on wood floors and furniture, and tend to happen on newly installed flooring or after you've just assembled a new piece. Don't fret, there are a few ways you can get out wood scratches within minutes.
Before a trip to the hardware store, try a half-and-half solution of cooking oil and vinegar. Dip a rag in the solution and wipe into the scratch. Let it sit for a couple minutes, and wipe away the excess mixture.
Do this a few times until you get the desired results. You may still see and feel a slight mark, but it will be a lot better.
The other option is to get a marker from the hardware or paint store and fill in the scratch. This method is good for larger scratches as the marker fills in the space a bit more, and they come in different colors to match your wood finish.
Some will be better quality than others, so if you have an expensive piece that you want to restore rather than hide, opt for a marker that specifically has wood stain in it, not just ink. These are usually made by stain companies, and will be worth it.
Fixing anything larger means you will need to start looking at wood filler and staining, which is a bit more involved.
Your home is your sanctuary, until things start to break and annoy you. Get on top of these small tasks, and feel the sense of accomplishment of fixing things yourself.
Preventative maintenance is always recommended, but sometimes things happen, and a fix is needed. Thankfully, these common home repairs can be done in just a few minutes and with minimal tools.