Money & Career

Five home repairs you should do yourself

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Do you end up calling a plumber every time the toilet backs up? Bringing in the professionals for easy repairs like that means you’re throwing your money out the window. There are lots household fixes you can and should be able to take care of — doing it yourself not only saves you money, it also lets you address any problems quickly before they turn into a costly repair down the road.

Below are five important repairs you should know how to do yourself. Once you’ve tackled these, you might just become a dedicated DIY-er.

Mold spots
If you have an old house, chances are you’ve had a spot of mold here and there, especially in the basement. Ignore them and the spots could grow; mold can be pretty toxic, so that’s a health risk.

The fix: Start by cleaning the spot with a water/detergent solution or baking soda, but make sure you wear a mask and rubber gloves. Do not use bleach — according to this guide from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, bleach isn’t a reliable disinfectant for organic materials like mold. Once you’ve cleaned the area, sponge it dry. Wait until it’s completely dry before you do any paint touch-ups in the area — you might even want to wait and see if mold reappears before you do any more cosmetic fixes. If the mold keeps coming back, you might have a bigger problem underneath; if that’s the case, then it’s best to call in the professionals.

Leaky faucet
You don’t need to spend money to fix that annoying drip-drip-ing in your bathroom or kitchen. This is one of the easiest repairs to do on your own.

The fix:
A washer that needs to be replaced is probably causing your faucet leak. Start by turning off the water supply (it’s the knob under the sink). Use a screwdriver to gently remove the faucet handles. Once you have them off, find and remove the old washer. Hang on to it — you will probably need to take it to the hardware store to match it with a replacement that will fit. Simply pop the new one in and put the taps back on.

The For Dummies site has this great video on how to do this repair — it’s only a couple of minutes, and it’s well worth checking out before you get started.

Holes in the drywall
If you have kids or have ever hung a picture, chances are you’ve had a hole or two in your drywall. If you don’t take care of it right away, it could get bigger — you might need to replace the wall and pay a contractor to do it. Fixing it fast is cheap and easy to do yourself.

The fix: For small holes, simply sand the area to smooth it out and then fill the hole using spackling compound. Let it dry, and then sand down any excess until you have a smooth surface. For larger holes, you’ll need to cut away the area of drywall and replace it with a new piece. Rona has a great set of instructions for fixing all kinds of drywall holes.

Stained, mildewed caulking
Old, stained caulking in your bathroom is an eyesore — and it’s the last thing you want to look at when you settle in for a nice hot bath at night. Replacing the caulking around your tub is easy to do on your own and the results can dramatically improve the appearance of your bathroom.

The fix: The hardest part of this job is removing the caulking — you need a plastic putty knife to do this. For Dummies recommends a couple of different kinds of caulking removers that can help.

Once you have the old caulking out, you need to clean the area and get rid of the mildew so that the stains don’t reappear right away. Use a detergent solution and spray it on. Make sure you use gloves to protect your hands. Let the area dry thoroughly (use a hair dryer to speed it up) and then recaulk the joint.

Before you start, tape the area carefully for a professional-looking job (about 1/8 of an inch from the joint on either side) and apply the caulking, smoothing it out with your finger or an old teaspoon. Remove the tape immediately and do not touch the area until the caulking is completely dry.

Clogged toilet
Probably the grossest home repair — but it’s always one of the most urgent.

The fix:
Start with your plunger: you should have one in every bathroom in your house. It’s messy, so wear rubber gloves and cover the floor around the toilet so the mess doesn’t spread. Make sure you plunge while flushing: that’s how you get the best suction (plunge like a pro by watching this video on how to unclog a toilet with a plunger).

If that doesn’t work, try putting a few squirts of dish soap in and a bucket of hot tap water (not boiling). Leave it to do its magic for a few minutes and then try flushing or plunging again. If you have a major clog, then you might need to borrow, rent or buy a drain snake — you can push this through the pipes to unclog any blocks that are further down.