7 Household Repairs You Can Master (and 3 You Should Leave to the Pros)
It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a basic set of tools and a willingness to try. Here are a handful of household jobs you can do yourself, and a few situations that are better handled by the pros.
1. UN-CLOGGING A BATHTUB DRAIN: FIX IT
Over time, hair, soap, and other runoff will accumulate in your bathtub drain and solidify, forming a mass that blocks the drain and keeps the tub from emptying. This fix is gross, but it’s over quickly: Simply remove the drain cover and pull out the clog with pliers.
2. STOPPING A RUNNING TOILET: FIX IT
There are a few reasons for the water in your toilet to be running. The water level in the tank might be too high, or there might be a problem with the toilet’s stopper or fill valve. All of these repairs can be done in a matter of minutes if you know what to look for. If you’ve tried everything and your toilet is still running, it’s time to call a plumber.
3. FLICKERING LIGHTS: CALL SOMEBODY
It’s easy to get used to it, but the lights in your home are not supposed to sputter when you start the microwave (or plug in that hair dryer). Flickering or dimming lights suggests a problem with the wiring, which is most definitely a job for a professional.
4. LEVELING A WASHING MACHINE: FIX IT
If you’ve ever heard a shuddering sound and discovered the washing machine several inches away from where you left it, you’ve got an unbalanced machine. A height imbalance will make your washer less efficient and can even stop the wash cycle altogether. For this repair, you’ll need a carpenter’s level, an adjustable wrench, and a bit of upper-body strength.
5. FILLING SMALL DRYWALL HOLES: FIX IT
There’s no reason to call a contractor for something so easy to fix. For really small holes like those made by a nail, rubbing a bit of white bar soap over the spot should do it. For slightly larger holes, try cutting a makeup sponge to size, pushing it into the hole, and covering it with spackle.
6. RESCUING SOMEONE FROM A LOCKED ROOM: FIX IT
You don’t need a set of lock picks for this one, just a bobby pin and a metal nail file. The locks on interior doors in modern homes have a safety feature on the outside doorknobs, usually a hole or a slot on or just below the knob. To refine your technique, watch one of the many video tutorials online.
7. TROUBLESHOOTING A WATER HEATER: CALL SOMEBODY
There are so many ways for a water heater to break. Unless you’re really good with water heaters (something of a niche talent) or you don’t mind ice-cold showers, you’re going to want to call a plumber for this one.
8. REVERSING A CEILING FAN: FIX IT
The direction of a fan’s blades can make a huge difference in the temperature of your home. In the summer, they should rotate clockwise, and the reverse is true in the winter. This fix is so easy it’s almost silly: Just get on a ladder and flip the direction switch on the head of your fan.
9. WARM LIGHT SWITCHES: CALL SOMEBODY
Do not mess around with warm or hot switches or any electrical element that’s given you a shock. Any of these problems indicate a serious and dangerous problem with your wiring. An electrician will know what to do.
10. REMOVING A BROKEN KEY FROM A LOCK: FIX IT
Good news: If you can see the key inside the lock, you probably don’t have to call a locksmith for this one. Spray the lock with lubricating oil and use a pair of needle-nose pliers to extract what’s left of your key.