47 Home Repair Skills You Need to Survive Homeownership

26. How to Fix a Doorbell

How to fix a doorbell

A doorbell that doesn’t ring signals one of four problems or all, which are the button, the chime, the transformer or the wiring that connects them all. Here’s how to find the offender and repair it. Look through the wires for breakage. Fix the breaks with twist-on connectors. Splice in new wire to add length and allow for connections. Take off the doorbell button and disconnect one wire from its terminal and touch it to the other terminal. If the chime works, it’s the button that’s bad. Take off the chime cover and inspect for voltage while a friend or family member shoves the button.

Test out the transformer by feeling the screw terminals with a low-voltage test light. If the tester won’t light up, then it’s time to renew the transformer.

If any of these tests don’t reveal the problem, that could possibly mean that a wire is damaged somewhere inside a wall. You may be able to find and fix the break without ripping into walls, but that is unlikely. So the greatest way out is a wireless system. With a wireless doorbell, the button sends a radio signal that triggers the doorbell chime.

27. How to Open a Door With No Knob

How to open a door with no door knob

Looking to buy off some time before you buy a new doorknob?

Door latches have a spring-loaded mechanism that the doorknob turns to release it from the door’s jamb strike plate. When the knob is no longer working, the latch cannot be turned by hand and you will need to do some improvising.

You can try using the stem of a plier or use a flat screwdriver large enough to fit in the hole and turn the latch. Tape off the striker or striker plate that locks the door.

28. How to Work Safely on an Extension Ladder

how to use a ladder correctly

Too many accidents happen because of overly confident people thinking they are safe knowing the basics of a ladder.

Put the ladder flat on the ground so that its feet are facing the wall. Lift the far end of the ladder and walk it up, one rung at a time, until it’s in an upright position. Stand so that you are in the middle of the ladder and the wall, facing the ladder. Keeping the ladder vertical, elevate the upper section one rung at a time. Ladders with a working height above 16 feet will have a pulley rope. With the top of the ladder against the wall, walk the feet out and set them firmly using the rubber side for tough surfaces and the sharp side for soft surfaces. The ladder is at the proper angle when its base is 1 ft. out from the wall for every 4 feet of upright elevation to the point of support, which differs based on whether the ladder is positioned on the side of the house or extending beyond the edges of the roof.

Grasp both the rails. If you are in need of carrying objects in one hand just make sure to face the rungs when you climb the ladder up or down.

Keep your body in the center always to keep the ladder sturdy. It’s never too much hassle to climb down and move the ladder over 3 feet so don’t risk over extending your body to reach over to a window, gutter, Christmas lights, etc.

Extend the ladder up above the roofline. One of the most dangerous and scariest for some is the transitioning from the ladder onto the roof, or vice versa. To do this safely as possible, the top of the ladder should be extended 3 feet above the edge of the roof, and must be tied off securely whenever possible. Always step off the side of the ladder onto the roof; never climb over the top.

Don’t look down.

29. How to Stop an Overflowing Toilet

how to shut of a toilete valve

I’m sure everyone has or will be in this scary situation. You’re at someone else’s home when you are given no other option (or you could go in your pants) than to do a number 2 on a foreign toilet. Regretting the Mexican lunch you had, you nervously use the toilet with the only fear of the sound or smell this will produce. Everything seems to be going fine, no sound and no smell. You get up quickly to flush and try to get out as fast as you can in hopes the owner’s only suspect a number one has been committed. Flush. Oh know! Your heart starts to race as you watch the toilet water extend upwards instead of downwards taking the evidence with it. Nope. The toilet is overflowing. Damn.

To stop the Mexican lunch evidence from running over the toilet bowl and onto the floor take off the lid from the toilet tank and set it aside. Place your hand inside the toilet and push down the flapper valve that is letting the tank empty water into the toilet bowl as this will stop water from entering the toilet and if you’re quick enough, prevent sewage from overflowing onto the floor.

Stop the toilet & its tank from further filling by lifting up the float that operates the toilet tank fill valve. This will stop water from entering the toilet tank from the toilet supply line. If the water level in the toilet bowl is dropping slowly, keep holding the toilet tank float up in its highest position so that water stops flowing into the tank and into the toilet bowl. if in the next minute or two the water level in the toilet bowl slowly drops down to a normal level, you’ll be able to release the toilet tank float and let the tank and toilet bowl refill without fear of overflowing onto the floor.

If the water level in the toilet tank is not going down, after a minute continue to hold up the toilet tank float while you close the toilet supply valve located by the floor or in the wall behind the toilet. Still holding up the float so that the toilet tank stops filling, reach down and carefully turn off the toilet fill valve. Turn the handle clockwise to close the valve. Now you can let the float drop and let the toilet tank fill. Try using a toilet plunger to see if you can clear a blocked drain.

Now think of what to say when you walk out that bathroom door.

30. Pick Up a Big Paint Spill on Carpet

how to remove paint spills on your carpet

Uh oh! Somebody spilled a can of paint over onto your carpet, no time to point fingers or get into a screaming match. Acting fast is in everyone’s best interest here.

Cut two pieces of cardboard from a leftover box. Use the edges of the cardboard to collect the massive puddle of paint. Now you will use the pieces of cardboard to form a scoop, and lift the liquid back into the bucket. When most of the liquid has been cleared, get two more buckets one with fresh water and the other keep empty. Saturate the remaining spill with the clean water, then scrape and scoop it up with a fat spoon and put it in the empty bucket. Don’t doddle with this project you need to act FAST! Never let the carpet dry so make sure to keep put water on the carpet until you can get a steam machine. If you don’t have one most stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot offer steam machine rentals at affordable cost unless you prefer to call in a professional, up to you just do it quick!

31. How to Pull Out a Nail Without Dinging the Trim Up

how to remove a nail without damaging the wood trim

Force the claw of your hammer into the nail shank and rock it sideways using the claw edge as a pivot point. Keep doing this process until you pry out the nail. This technique gives the highest pulling power with little stress on the handle. Lay the hammer on a small block to protect finished surfaces. For a straight pull, size the block so the pivot point is as close to the nail as possible.

Run the claw of a cat’s paw under the nail head and pry it out. A cat’s paw can grasp buried nail heads. Hit finish nails all the way through with a nail set or pin punch so you don’t have to pull them. This technique works best on finish trim that’s less than 5/8 inch thick.

Seize the finish nail on the backside with nippers and pry the nail out. Its head will pull through with little breakage to the wood.

32. How to Deal with a Downed Power Line

How to deal with a downed powerline

Never believe a downed line is dead. When I was a kid my mom killed a bee that was buzzing right at me, being a brat, I decided to mock the bee that tried to sting me. I picked it up by its stinger –and it stung me… OUCH! One of the biggest lessons I’ve ever learned as a child, don’t assume ANYTHING! To finish the bee story, the bee may be(e) dead, but their stinger still fights back. Just 100 volts can deliver a lethal jolt, and residential power lines carry 7,200. So please stay far away as you can from any downed line, and call your electrical provider to turn it off ASAP.

33. How to Hang Heavy Objects on Drywall

how to hang heavy stuff on the wall

Drywall is a surface that can handle a very large amount of weight, IF properly hung. The key to hanging heavy objects on drywall is using the right hardware on both the wall and the frame.

Use at least two studs if hanging a T.V mount with lag bolts. Toggle bolts are fasteners that have small, wing-type metal bars that open up once inside the wall and can hold a heavy load. The toggle bolts typically come in two parts the toggle that gets inserted into the wall and the bolt that screws into the toggle. You will need to drill a hole in the wall to insert the toggle bolt.

Or, you can rip a piece of plywood down the middle with a 45 degree bevel to the desired length and attach them just like in the photo…

34. How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

how to use a fire-extinguisher

Pull the pin-This releases the locking mechanism that allows you to discharge the extinguisher

Aim the nozzle at the base of the flames

Squeeze the lever slowly

Sweep-Sweep the spray from side to side

*Remember that the fire extinguisher has 8 seconds of life support so make sure to be READY to aim at the base of the fire and NOT at the flames.

35. Dispose of Leftover Paint

how to dispose of leftover paint

I recently finished painting a baby nursery and a tree house and have plenty of left over paint to dispose of. If you’re in the same boat and need a safe way to dispose of your paint, dispose of the paint by placing it in a plastic container filled with kitty litter or paper scraps, letting it dry, and throwing it away with the trash. NEVER pour paint into your sink drain as this can harm the water supply and your pipes. NEVER pour over the earth’s ground, as the paint is harmful to the grounds soil. I recommend donating the paint or giving it to a recycling program.

36. Should you Cut Down that Big Tree

how to cut down a big tree

Simple. Don’t do it. Unless you’re extremely comfortable with an ax, chainsaw, hatchet and familiar with the term “timber!” I suggest you call a certified arborist to help with the job before you injure yourself or an innocent party. So if the tree is larger than a Christmas tree, don’t play “Jack the Beanstalk.” If you insist on doing it yourself, make safety your number one priority.

Supply yourself with a logger’s helmet to protect you from falling branches, a major cause of logging injuries. A logger’s helmet to protect you from falling branches, a major cause of logging injuries. Kevlar chaps, which will stop a chain instantly should you happen to drop the bar against your leg. Earmuffs and a face screen protect your ears and eyes to name a few safety precautions.

37. How to Solder a Copper Pipe

how to solder a copper pipe

There are two common gas regulators: One with an automatic igniter and one that requires a striker or match.

Ream the inside of each fitting with a circular wire brush. Clean, grease-free connections make certain you have a good seal. Use emery cloth or steel wool to clean the outside of the pipe. Use a de-burring tool or the handle of a pair of pliers to de-burr the inside of the pipe. Take caution, as the edges may be sharp. Add a fine coating of lead-free soldering paste to the end of the pipe using a flux brush. The paste should cover about 1 inch of pipe. Place the pipe into the fitting. Make sure the pipe is strongly tight against the base of the fitting. Twist the fitting slightly to spread the flux.

You will need 8 to 10 inches of the wire extended from the spool. Bend the first 2 inches to a 90-degree angle. Light the propane torch. Hold the tip of the flame against the middle of the fitting for 4 to 5 seconds or until the soldering paste begins to sizzle. Heat the opposite side of the fitting to ensure the heat is evenly distributed. If the solder melts, the pipe is ready to solder. Quickly insert 1⁄2 inch to 3⁄4 inch of solder into the joint. Capillary action will draw the liquid solder into the joint. An adequately soldered joint should show a thin bead of solder surrounding the fitting. Remove the excess solder with an old towel. The pipe will be hot, so be careful while grasping it. After the pipe and fitting have cooled down, turn on the water and examine the pipe for any signs of leakage.

If the joint shows signs of a leak, take it apart and repeat the solder process.

38. How to Deal With the Strong Smell of Gas

how to deal with the smell of gas

Don’t deal with it–GET YOURSELF AND EVERYONE OUT OF THE HOUSE. Immediately call the Fire Department and your natural gas supplier if you smell gas from an unlit burner or anywhere in the home.

In its natural state, gas is colorless, nonpoisonous and odorless. The “rotten egg” smell you associate with gas is a chemical added by gas companies to make a gas leak easier to detect. Listen for the “hissing” sound a gas leak will make. Just make sure to remove yourself from the home before you investigate any further.

39. Stem a Flood and Save Your Wiring

how to shut off a homes water supply

Locate the main shutoff valve before an emergency occurs so, when you’re in an actual emergency, you know exactly where it is located. This valve is most commonly located in the basement or on an outside wall in a utility area of the house. The main shutoff valve allows a full flow of water through the pipes channel when it’s open. Turning off this valve (by turning it clockwise) stops the water supply to the entire house.

There are two separate designs, one is the Ball valve, a house with plastic or copper main water pipes leading into the house may have a full-flow ball valve. This valve is open when the handle is aligned with the pipe. To close it, turn the handle clockwise quarter turn so that it’s at a right angle to the pipe. Then there is the Gate valve, which is very dependable and long lasting, but they become hard to turn after not being turned for a long time. If you haven’t closed the main shutoff valve since you moved into your house, do it now it may be rusty and hard to shift during an emergency, so loosen it up now before an emergency arises. It’s preferred that you to discover early on that you can’t turn it with your bare hands than to wait until you’re standing in 5 inches of water.

The most important valve is the key to ending many plumbing disasters, like a burst pipe. Please ensure that everyone in your home knows where this valve can be found and knows how to turn it off. Turning the valve handle clockwise closes the valve. You need to turn the handle a few turns to close a gate valve fully.

40. How to Spot Asbestos

how to spot asbestos on your basement pipes

If your home was built before the 1970s I would recommend you have your home inspected for asbestos. A carcinogenic mineral fiber can be discovered in metal used for pipes and furnaces, as well as in other kinds of insulation, artificial ashes in gas fireplaces, ceiling tiles, cement siding shingles, textured paint, patching compounds, and vinyl floor tiles made before 1986. Unfortunately, to irrefutably recognize asbestos within your home, a properly trained professional should reach this conclusion as it can be extremely dangerous to you and your family, once this carcinogenic mineral fiber becomes airborne, which then gets into your lungs and could eventually lead to cancer. Not something to take lightly.

41. Catalog Your House for Insurance

catalog everything in your home by taking pictures for your insurance

Expect the unexpected by attentively making a catalog of all your important possessions that hold monumental value, mostly for insurance purposes. Photograph and make a list of your household valuables, along with estimates of their worth. In this digital day in age, everyone should make digital footprints of costly items.

A much more effortless approach can be the method to catalog by walking around your house and video record everything (kind of like how new home listings do virtual tours of the homes for sale). Take time to video (or to snap pictures) of everything in closets, drawers, attic, and basement. Just think of the worst case scenarios and plan for it (theft, house fire, other disaster) your insurance company will have a difficult time denying the fact that you owned what you say you owned. Save the electronic photos and/or videos on more than one location (your laptop, a USB thumb drive) and it is better to keep a copy offsite too with the help of a trusted family member or safe deposit box at your local post office.

42. How to Shovel Snow Without Having a Heart Attack

how to shovel snow the right way

Refrain from shoveling snow after you eat, as the heart has to work much harder to pump blood to the gastrointestinal tract to help with digestion. Shoveling right after a meal puts more strain on the heart. Refrain from drinking alcohol before and after shoveling snow as alcohol can enhance a person’s feeling of warmth and cause them to not notice the extra strain their body is under in the cold. Do not smoke before or while you shovel or do anything else that involves speeding up your heat rate, especially, don’t drink energy drinks. This may give you a temporary spike to your energy levels that you feel you need before taking on the strenuous task of snow shoveling, but the speeding up of your heart constricts your blood vessels and you need to save all your heart’s energy for the snow shoveling.

There seems to be many things to avoid before shoveling, which will leave anyone worried, but just pace yourself and never over exert and take extra breaks.

43. How to Keep in Contact During a Blackout

how to use a phone when the power goes out

Think old school on this one. Old-fashioned telephones will become super handy in a blackout versus a cellphone that requires electricity or generally any cordless phone. Keep contact numbers of all family members and emergency numbers. Do reserve calling 911 for emergencies ONLY, and not for up to the minute updates on the blackout.

44. Fix a Hammer Mark on Trim

how to fix dinged wood

Is your hammer aiming skills off a little? You accidentally missed your target and caused a ding on your wood trim, no problem. Since water causes wood to expand, take a sharp needle and poke holes in the ding itself and pat it with a damp cloth. The moisture from the wet cloth will cause the wood to expand and smooth out the mark your hammer made. Damp up the area with a little bit of water and rest an iron over a metal bottle cap — make sure to concentrate on the actual mark itself.

45. How to Reuse Paint Thinner

how to reuse paint thinner

Soak the brushes clean, then give the dirty solvent time to sit throughout the night. The paint sludge and coloring solids will fall to the bottom of the jar, leaving a layer of clear thinner on top. Carefully pour the clear thinner into a second clean jar and reseal it for future use. Cover the jar of paint sludge tightly and keep it for the future use. When the jar becomes too full I recommend you bring it to a hazardous-waste-disposal site, as you should NEVER dispose of it down the drain or on the earth’s ground.

46. Get Free Advice from the Guy at the Hardware Store

home repair tips

Start buddying up with your local hardware shop owner, not the stock boy–even though they learned a few things on the job–stick with the main man. You will learn tips and tricks for your every home remodeling or repairing projects and can help you reduce cost. Also, do what you’re doing RIGHT NOW, reading up on tips on the vast array of remodeling and repair websites that can be found.

47. Safely Secure Lumber to Your Car


Lay the boards from front to back on the car roof to lower the winds resistance. Supply your rooftop with cardboard so you won’t scrape your new paint job, and layer the wood neatly on each one another. Fasten it at two or more points with ratcheting straps, wrapping the straps through your open front and rear car doors before closing the doors over them. Drive careful.

…Wow! That was one heck of a list of home repair TIPS! I hope this will be a valuable resource for those looking to their home and save a few bucks…

If this post helped you – be sure to share it with your friends and family!

Now it’s your turn – do you have a home repair tip to share? What was your BEST takeaway from these tips? Share your comments below:

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  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?

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