Home repairs you can do yourself
Owning a home can be a dream come true, but the world of homeownership is more than just relaxing weekends on the deck and intimate evenings in front of the fireplace. It requires a commitment to keeping your private oasis safe and running smoothly. Making occasional repairs is part of the bargain, and even if you aren't a dedicated do-it-yourselfer (DIY), there are a few around-the-house fixes with which you should become familiar.
Few things will sour a homeowner's disposition faster than a stopped up toilet or runaway faucet drip, and that's just bathroom and kitchen stuff.
Roll up your sleeves and take a few minutes to master five home repairs that you can do yourself without dangerous tools or complicated instructions. Even though spending a few hours regularly on DIY home maintenance and repairs may never become your hobby of choice, knowing how to perform a few simple fixes will keep your costs down and help get the work done on your schedule instead of your contractor's.
Prepping your paintjobs like a pro
Sprucing up your rooms with paint is one of the best ways to show your home to advantage, but before you start collecting colour swatches, there are some things to keep in mind. Painting, when it's done well, can increase the value of your home and add style and flair to your space. When the job isn't done well, and it's easy to see roller marks, spatters, and sloppy trim paint, it's almost as bad as leaving cracked and peeling paint on the walls.
You'll achieve the best results when you prepare for the job. Where painting is concerned, prep is king. Good preparation takes time, but it also makes the actual painting easier.
Start by removing any fixtures or hardware that might get in the way of your project. Loosen up fixtures and remove curtain rods, switch-plates and door hinges. Yes, it does take time, but it isn't extra time. If you leave things in place that will create obstacles for your paintbrush or roller, you will be wasting time trying to cover or paint around them later. You'll take more time, and the end result won't look as professional as if you had cleared everything away to start with.
After you have an unobstructed shot at the walls, clean them with a damp sponge or a dry cloth. Grease, dust and grime build-up will keep paint from making a good bond on your walls, and could cause streaks. Give the room a once-over, and be on the lookout for nail holes, gouges and other imperfections that need to be filled with spackle and rough spots that could use some sanding. Little repairs like this, especially in older homes, can make a big difference in the appearance of the final paint job. Once you've cleaned the walls and done a few minor fix-ups, apply primer to any sanded areas. If you've sanded large areas, you might consider using a paint that has primer incorporated into it and eliminate the need to prime the walls as a separate step.
Now you're ready to mask any melding, built-ins and baseboards with painter's tape and start laying down drop cloths. After that, painting your room will be easy.
You have doors all over your home, and even though they look innocent and simple, doors need occasional maintenance and repair. From squeaks to sticking, door problems are usually minor but can be a nuisance.
In humid weather, wooden doors can swell if there isn't enough room to accommodate expansion between the door and the frame. Inspect the door to make sure there aren't any loose hinge screws or deteriorated hinges that could be causing the problem. If a door starts sticking only during humid months or during the rainy season, it may need to be planed.
To plane the door, you'll need a special carpenter's plane. A plane will scrape a small layer of wood off the door's edge the way a cheese plane removes a narrow slice from a block of cheese. Draw a line along the door at the spot where it's hitting the jamb or lintel. If the tight spot is located at the top of the door or on the handle end, you can plane the door without taking it off its hinges. Just be careful to make an angle cut first in order to avoid splintering the wood or veneer. If the tight spot is on the hinge end or bottom of the door, tap out the hinge pins with a hammer and screwdriver and set the door on its side to plane it. Since planning the hinge end may result in having to reset the hinges, make this step a last-resort option.
Sticking or binding doors can sometimes cause squeaks because they put extra pressure on the hinges. Hinges can also get noisy when they begin to oxidise. If your door hinges announce anyone entering or leaving the room, you might be able to silence them with a little lubricant. First, cover the area under the door with a cloth and then apply penetrating oil to the hinges. Be sparing at first. After applying a few drops, open and close the door to work lubricant into the moving parts of the hinge. Give it a couple of minutes, and try opening and closing the door one more time. If there's still a squeak, apply a few more drops and go through the process again.
Caulk is the bead of rubbery stuff between your tub, shower or sink and the wall, or between your toilet's outer rim and the floor. It creates a seal that protects floors and walls from moisture. It also glues itself in place, which makes applying it an easy one step process. Over time, caulk can discolour or deteriorate, leaving your home vulnerable to water damage and mould growth.
The hardest part of installing caulk is removing the residue left by the old stuff. Without completely eliminating the old caulk, the new bead won't stick, so good preparation is important. Treated caulk residue comes up easily with a putty knife. After the old caulk is gone, clean the area with paint thinner and let it dry completely. Now you're ready to move on to the installation process.
Using a caulking gun or standard tube of caulk takes a little practice. It's a bit like trying to draw a straight line using a tube of toothpaste. You have some choices here, though. Caulk is inexpensive, so you can buy extra and practice on a piece of plywood first. Be sure to cut the cone-shaped tip of the caulk cap on an angle and at a diameter that's large enough to accommodate the widest gap in your project.
Fixing a leaky faucet
Fixing a leaky faucet is one of the most common household repairs. It sounds like an insignificant problem, but all those drips add up.
You can complete a compression-type faucet washer replacement by following these steps:
Unscrew the faucet handle and remove it. The screw may be hiding under a decorative metal or plastic cap, or at the back of the handle. For aesthetic reasons, the screw is probably concealed, but it's there, so keep looking.
Remove the packing nut. You'll need pliers for this, and it may put up some resistance.
Unscrew the valve stem and remove it from the housing.
Take out the screw that holds the washer in place. If the washer has been in there a long time, you may need penetrating oil to loosen the screw.
Remove the washer and examine it. If it hasn't deteriorated too much, you can use it as a template to help you locate a replacement. If the washer fell apart when you removed it, you may have to check the valve-body to get a better idea of the size washer you're looking for. Check the valve seat at the bottom of the valve body to determine whether the washer fits into a space with straight or angled walls, too. If you've identified your faucet make and model, you'll be able to find the right washer using that information and may even be able to locate a washer made specifically for your model by the manufacturer.
Source a replacement washer at your home improvement retailer or plumbing supplier. Your retailer will also have generic washer kits that include dozens of washers in different shapes and sizes. Having a kit on hand may help with your next plumbing project.
Once you've located a new washer, reverse the steps you took to remove the old one to complete the installation.