47 Home Repair Skills You Need to Survive Homeownership


Benefits of homeownership

In this post you’ll discover some incredible insights that will help you navigate the overwhelming process many face when owning their first home…

Recently, I published a similar post on home buying where I asked real estate agents to share their best tip for buying fixer-uppers as a first-time home buyer. The tips shared were absolutely priceless (you can find the post here)!

…This got me thinking – How about an in-depth tutorial outlining common household home repair problems, with QUICK fixes? And not those same boring tips from 10 years ago. But fresh and unique advice that any DIY’er can quickly put into action…

You could spend hours searching for home repair tips and you would never find so many actionable tips in one spot.

This is a 2 page series post with navigation at the very bottom.

Be sure to check out our latest: 27 Home repair tips

Have a great home repair idea to share? Leave a comment, or join our facebook group and tell us about it : )

…Without further ado:

1. How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

how to fix a leaky faucet

You’ve finally put the kiddies to bed, but a quiet house is never really quiet. Drip. Drip. Drip. The water equivalent to nails on a chalkboard. Water leakage is possibly the result of a failed washer inside a handle.

To change the washer, make sure to turn off the water supply valve under the sink. Shove a rag in the drain so you don’t lose parts, then take the handle apart. Pop the screw cover on top, remove the screw, and pull off the handle. Use a wrench to take apart the stem, and line the parts up on the counter in the order they came off, so you know how it goes back together. Observe rubber parts or plastic cartridges for cracks, and take the deteriorating piece to the hardware supply store for an identical replacement. Put back together the parts you’ve laid out, in reverse. Enjoy!

2. How to Move a Refrigerator by Yourself

magic sliders to help move heavy furniture

For anyone that has ever been stood up by their “friends” during moving day needs to invest in Magic Sliders. You will feel as though you’re Popeye and consumed a gallon of spinach the way it makes you feel powerful to move the heaviest furniture with ease. Place these sliders right under the refrigerator’s front feet (any type of crowbar or prying bar can be used to lever the front of the fridge up to glide the slider in), then pull. Most refrigerators have wheels in the back, so the whole unit should glide forward effortlessly. So thanks, but no thanks Pete (best friend from College who “forgot” to set alarm clock on my moving day), I got this!

3. Need to Dig a Hole – Wait Just a Minute…

call 811 dig safe before digging a holoe

Don’t be that guy on the block that wipes out all the power or is sent off by ambulance because he dug a hole in the wrong spot and cut through a shared power line. Call 811 prior to any digging project to notify the local utilities in your area. They will send a professional out to your home, mark any lines you have, and save you from getting electrocuted or evil glares from the neighbors when they discover you’re the reason they lost power during the last inning in the series.

 

4. Need To Find a Stud in The Wall

How to find a stud in the wall with a stud finder

Do a manual scan on the wall for electrical outlets, light switches or where a nail runs through the molding. These are all usually affixed to a stud, so if you find one stud that way, you can measure off 16 or 24 inches in either direction to find the next stud as that is the average spacing interval. Another method, include holding a lamp about an arm’s length away from the wall to scan for depressions or dimples that signify where the wall is connected to the stud or knocking lightly on the wall to listen for elevated sounds that suggest a stud. Where there’s no stud, you’ll hear a more vacant sound, If you make a error and drill in the wrong spot, you can insert a bent piece of stiff wire in the hole and feel around to find a nearby stud.

5. How to Deal with a Seized Lock

How to fix a sticky door lock

Got an old door lock that is leaving you stuck at the door and has been sticking for ages? Stop turning that key. Having some WD-40 sprayed into the keyhole will lube the mechanism quickly or try graphite lubricant. If that doesn’t do it, you may have a broken spring or tumbler and need to call a locksmith. If so, keep the new lock from locking up by giving it a yearly maintenance with a durable Teflon spray.

6. How to Check for Termites

How to check for termites around your home

For starters, crawl under your house and REMOVE every piece of scrap, anything from under your house and inspect it. Educate yourself on what to look for. If the termites want a specific piece of wood in your floor bad enough, they will form a large mound and construct their own chimney and scurry up the inside to get to it. Examine them for embossed, branchlike tubes that, when shattered open, disclose cream-colored or yellowish insects. Also, check where siding meets the foundation for speckle sized feces or small masses of dirt next to pinholes. If you spot even one, you need a licensed and bonded exterminator to kill those wood destroying insects. If you discover termites in one area, odds are, they’re everywhere in your home.

7. How to Unclog a Sink

how to unclog a sink - kitchen or bath

You could attempt a tool called a plumber’s helper, or a plunger. Go ahead and unstop the sink with that, and see if it works. Next you can try and get a bucket and place it under the P trap beneath the sink and loosen the nuts and pull the trap off and see if you can find the problem there.

If your sink is still clogged, while you have it taken apart, go to the hardware store and get a hand-snake (or makeshift coat wire hanger) and fish it through the drain line and begin attempting to dislodge the stoppage, again.

If all else fails, get that fancy smartphone out and locate the nearest plumber and pay the bill.

8. Hire a Handyman

how to hire a handyman

The local hardware store is a good place to start your search for a reputable handyman. The employees behind the counter know who’s buying supplies for paid jobs. Also ask other homeowners who they call and how the job turned out.

You should also steer clear of any handyman who declines to provide a guarantee for the price of a job or requests for payment upfront. Reputable handymen don’t anticipate getting paid before the project is finished.

9. Prolong a Light bulb’s Life

lightbulb

I don’t mean by refusing to turn on the light like your father to save on the electric bill. Did you just hear the sound of yet another light bulb blowing out?

Sockets do go bad from the expansion and contraction of heat released from the bulb, but there are a few things you can do safely while also saving money. The first remedy (with the fixture unplugged or the circuit breaker switched off) is to apply a small amount of rubbing Alcohol around the base of the bulb and the tip of the connector to clean off residue or buildup. This often solves the problem of lights blowing and it also helps to unscrew them later down the road.

The second suggestion is to buy florescent replacement bulbs. They last longer, burn less electricity and emit less heat while giving the same candlepower as the older bulbs.

Try the Alcohol first, then the florescent lights if the Alcohol does not work. If they go bad you probably need to renew the sockets, or call an electrician.

10. Get a Plumber to Show Up on a Holiday

how to call for emergency plumbers

Nobody likes to work on a holiday, well, unless their name is Scrooge, but even he had a change of heart after three annoying visits from concerned acquaintances. So if you’re in dire need of an emergency plumber, you better expect to up the tip ante, or nonchalantly bring up how you have a large bottle of aged whiskey in your liquor cabinet that you can’t seem to find a home for. Otherwise, your holiday guests may have to walk on wet carpeting from that flood. Remember, they’re interrupting their holiday to make yours better.

11. How to Remove a Stripped Screw

how to remove a stripped screw

Are you the victim of sloppy handy work? Did you over estimate how far down the screw needed to go? And now you have a problem with a stripped screw – try using a rubber-band to remove the screw…

Needle nose pliers will be your handy-tool in this scenario as well. Although tedious, but you have to handle this job slowly otherwise you could end up breaking other parts if not careful. You just want to wiggle the screw out enough to wrap the pliers around the head of the screw. Another way is to use a good manual screwdriver if it was a power drill that put too much pressure on the screw.

12. How to Avoid Stripping a Screw

Avoid stripping a screw with a power drill

There are two problems that cause stripped screws. One is of low quality tools. The other, more likely problem is a collection of operator issues. The most common mistake is working too fast. The faster you wrench, the faster you strip. Other problems include turning wrenches at an angle, using the wrong size wrenches, and over-tightening screws. Sloppy tool-work is what causes most stripped screws. These mistakes combined with cheap quality wrenches are almost guaranteed to strip a screw.
*Pro Tip – Adjust the clutch to a lower setting if you’re using a cordless power drill…

13. How to Remove the Base of a Broken Light Bulb

how to remove a broken lightbulb

Try this first..

With the power OFF first (if you can’t decide which circuit the fixture is on, turn off ALL circuits), put down a tarp to catch any remaining broken glass from the old bulb. Leather gloves are preferred if you have to touch the broken bulb base. Make sure to wear eye protection goggles, largely important if you are working on an overhead fixture. Now, using both hands, push the pliers in as deep into the broken base as you possibly can.

Spread the handles apart, exerting force against the sides of the bulb base with the tips of the pliers, and rotate counterclockwise (the pliers, I mean).

Continue turning until the base is out. If you meet resistance, turn base back in slightly and then back out. The idea is to remove the broken bulb base, not break the fixture.

…Hot potato, hot potato anyone? Cut a potato in half, push it into the bulb base, and twist it out.

*Important-Stop over tightening your light bulbs!

14. How to Drill-Through Tile Without Cracking It

how to drill through tile without damaging the tile

Whether mounting towel bars, tissue roll holders or shower grab bars, there comes a time to drill through ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tile to mount something to the wall.

Carbide-tipped masonry drill bits are the most widely known for drilling into tile. They are engineered for drilling into rock-hard surfaces, and with patience and care can be used effectively for drilling through tile without causing the tile to break. The hardest part of drilling into tile without cracking the tile is getting through the hardened, glazed outer surface. Tiles are created to be very durable and withstand tough abuse, but the features that make them durable home products also hinder them resistant to drilling.

15. Stop tearing Trash Bags Caused by Suction

drill holes in your trash barrel to eliminate suction when pulling out your trash bag

It’s happened to us all, we keep packing in the trash expecting the barrel to magically get rid of it for us — or, patiently waiting for someone else to empty the barrel… When reality kicks in, you try to pull the bag out and it feels like someone’s stuffed a couple of cinder-blocks in the bag.

…What’s the solution to this chaos?

Drill four-holes in the bottom of the barrel and eliminate the pain and heartache of ripping trash bags when pulling them out of the barrel for good : )

16. How to Hardwire a Light Fixture

How to hardwire a lamp fixture

Turn off the breaker that services your lighting. Double check to make sure your power to the light is off by flickering the light switch. Twist the bolts from the existing lighting and pull from ceiling while removing old wire nuts and untwist them. Loosen the grounding bolt and remove the grounding wire. Finally, remove the screws from the lighting plate and viola! Old lighting has been removed.
This next step is very important, decide which of the two wires is the hot wire. If it’s live you WILL GET SHOCKED. The black wire is usually the hot wire, and white wire is neutral. Some homes have only red wires this is when you will need a voltage detector.
Now decide what chord length you want and mount the lighting fixture’s metal plate to the electrical box with the mounting screws. Ensure that the wires from the electrical box are coming through from one side of the metal plate. Strip away the plastic sleeve from some of the wire to expose enough wire to twist together. Twist together the neutral wire from the electrical box and the neutral wire from the light chord. Do the same with the hot wire. Connect the grounding wire in your electrical box with the light’s grounding wire to the grounding bolt.
Lastly, twist the wire nuts onto the wire connection shove the wires and the excess chord into the electrical box, twist the light fixture into the metal plate using the connectors you have. Done.

17. How to Pick an Interior Lock

How to pick an interior lock

Your 3-year-old is in the bedroom laughing his butt off as he just figured out how to lock out mommy and daddy who want to get him ready for bed. On the doorknob, there should be a small tiny hole that’s made just for this situation. Most homes come with the key designed for this “tiny hole” but are easily misplaced. Take a slim piece of metal (moms can use a hair bobby pin–just bend it straight), such as a small pin-head nail, or a tiny paper-clip, and slip it in the hole. Compress the spring inside or slip the screwdriver head into the slot on the spring and turn. Door unlocked, toddler in bed, mom and dad out smarted their toddler. Success!

18. How to Unstick a Door

How to unstick a door

There are a few reasons for a door to stick. To identify the problem, close the door, observing it carefully to find the binding point. If there’s a gap between the door and the frame opposite the binding edge, the hinges almost certainly need adjustment. If you can’t see a gap anywhere between the door and the frame and you had to add force to the door to close it, the wood has likely swollen from extreme humidity. Other reason can be due to too much paint, which can be fixed by being planed or sanded on the trouble areas. Think of it as door liposuction.

..Now, this next one is tricky. Make sure you’re in a quiet place in your home to read what I’m about to tell you.

19. Bypass the Electric Garage-Door Opener When the Power is Out

How to open a garage door when the power is shut off

Pull the red cord that hangs from the garage door motor…

…Whew! We got through the tough one. Next.

20. Clean Stained Grout

Stained grout is something that can really corrode the appeal of a room. No matter how many times you surface clean your tile it will ALWAYS look dirty if the grout is discolored. An at home remedy to cleaning grout can be vinegar and water combined with some moderate scrubbing on your part. Another solution would be a bleaching product that is non-abrasive.

21. Know Which Breaker to Turn Off

breaker-box

Did the previous owner barely use manpower when applying pressure from his pencil onto the circuit breaker chart, instead applied TLC? Chances are the labels are now faded leaving you scratching your head as to which switch goes to which indoor switch. Once you navigate what goes to what, try labeling it with a fine tip sharpie or label machine. The future owner will appreciate this very much. In the meantime, have someone in your household help you navigate through this process by letting you know what appliance or light comes on when you switch a particular switch. I think I typed switch too many times.

22. Dry Out a Flooded Basement

How to dry out a flooded basement
Basement flooding is a catastrophe for any homeowner. Besides making your basement unusable, a basement flood can destroy many items and can cause a serious safety hazard. In a severe, basement flooding situation consisting of water covering the basement floor to a depth of an inch or more, it’s best to stay out of the basement until the water is pumped out. Standing water in your basement can hold harmful bacteria. If you have to go down into a flooded basement, make sure to wear waterproof rubber boots. Steer clear of touching or using electrical devices (except for a battery-powered flashlight) because this puts you at high risk of electrical shock or electrocution. Your local Basement Systems dealer can suggest a professional who will pump standing water out of your basement, and perhaps help you deal with water-damaged items and materials as well.

23. Make Friends with the New Neighbors

meet-the-neighbors

If you’re the hoarder type or your “Sanford and Son” tendencies begin to flare up, you will want a neighbor that will NOT be quick to phone in the home association or code enforcement. We are all guilty of a few annoying habits that will get any neighbor rolling their eyes at the thought of having to fake wave each morning as you leave for work, the trick is to cushion it with good redeeming qualities. For instance, when they first move in offer a cold beer to mom and dad and a few popsicles to their kiddies will start you off on the right track. This way, when you have your beat up (hobby car) junk car in the drive way missing the rear wheels, your neighbor won’t have your car reported to the HOA.

24. How to Paint a Double-Hung Window

how to paint a double hung window

Leave both sashes slightly open. Then use a brush (angled 1-1/2 inch sash brush) with very little paint on it to coat the vertical, outside edges of the sash. The dry-brush technique prevents paint from running into the crack between the sash and the stops, where it may cause the window to stick. Now wait for the paint to dry before bringing the opened sashes to its originally position, but DON’T shut the sashes completely, just yet. Then paint the remained portion of the outer and inner sash without painting the sill, which needs exterior paint.

You will need to change to a wider sash brush, 2.5 inch angled sash brush is ideal. This brush is to finish off the casing. Work from the corners out using as little paint you can and reapplying a light coating on your brush as needed. You don’t want too much paint on your brush that will cause dripping or a thick puddle being painted on hard to reach areas. Cut in the casing where it meets the wall then paint the stool and do the stops. The stops form the inner edge of the channel for the inner sash. Once the sash dries you may now paint the channels. Slide the sash down to paint the top of the channels and wait for it to dry before sliding the sash back up to paint the bottom. Don’t paint the weather-stripping.

25. How to Secure a Loose Screw

How to fix loose screws and door hinges

Now don’t go throwing away perfectly good furniture or items because there’s a loose screw.

First you will need to remove the screw and wipe away any sawdust, drywall or other dust from the hole. Then replace the screw if it looks stripped. Wrap some twine around the screw to give the screw more width and add some glue to the string and re-screw it in. Another option to try if the screw is being used to carry very heavy objects is to increase the size of the hole where the screw was placed, originally. Ensure that it is large enough to insert a 1/4-inch dowel rod into the hole. Create the hole to be as deep as the screw you will be inserting in the hole. Saw a piece of the dowel to be identical to the size of the screw. Now add some wood glue to the exterior of the dowel, and shove it into the hole. Wait until the glue dries, and screw the screw into the wooden dowel. You can also substitute dowel rods with: Match sticks and toothpicks.

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Comments

  1. Awesome tips for new homeowners. I stumbled upon this site after buying a ” fixer upper” and love the tips given. Or was it the image of the cute cat pawing at the faucet? Either way, nice tips and I will make sure to implement them into my new house.

    My hubby will be ecstatic that I’m taking the iniative to home repairs!!

    Any tips about conquering linenoleom floors? (Sp?)

    • Thanks and I’m glad to have helped in some way 🙂 And yes, I can put Lineoleom flooring into a future post..

  2. You never ever use WD-40 in a lock as suggested in #5 unless you intend to replace the lock. WD-40 is not a lubricant, is displaces moisture or water. Using WD-40 ensures you that the lock will be gummed up in the future. Graphite is the way to go.

    • You’re right to a point. However, by the time your lock seizes up, don’t you think it’s time to replace? Furthermore, most people have WD-40 kicking around and want to get into their house fast until they can call a locksmith.

  3. Anything you take apart, use your fancy phone to take pictures along the way so you’ll know how it’s supposed to go back together.

    • Great tips, Laura. In fact, as a contractor myself, I do this a lot. It’s a perfect way to remember each and every step in case sh** goes bad : )

  4. when drilling tile ,to avoid having the bit wander first take a glass cutter and place the wheel at the point you want to drill apply some pressure and just spin the tool a few times and it will score through the glaze giving you an exact starting point for your drill bit never fails, BILL the handyman

  5. I have an almond colored Roman style bathtub with a small hairline crack. We’ve had it tested for leaks and there are none. Any idea on how to make it less obvious…like invisible?
    LB

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