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Find Home Repairs Intimidating? Start with These 10 Easy Ones

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Have you ever moved into an older apartment or home only to discover that it could use a little TLC?

At the same time, are you the type of person who isn’t all that comfortable with repairs? In fact, do you find home repairs intimidating beyond belief?

As in, the extent of your fix-it experience might be changing a light bulb, and that’s about it?

Hey, no judgment here!

photo of hanging tools for doing home repairs
Photo credit: Katie Rodriguez on Unsplash

I was one of those people, too. For many years landlords did all the repairs for me, even the minor ones. So, I never really learned to be all that “handy.”

The terms “DIY,” “home repair,” and “home improvement” were just not part of my vocabulary.

But then times came when I just got tired of waiting around and ended up repairing some things myself. Warning: Before you do this, absolutely make sure that your landlord is ok with it. I had some very lax landlords that weren’t bothered by my tinkering with the small stuff because we had a good rapport; others were pretty strict in that they didn’t want me to touch anything. If you break something while trying to repair it, remember that you will ultimately be responsible for it.

Then, post apartment-life, I moved into our house with my husband and discovered that there were some other things that really needed freshening up since the home had been built over 20 years ago. As housing costs, along with the labor costs associated with the entire housing industry, began to heat up, hiring a contractor was really out of the question. Time to learn the basics!

All of this lead-up is to say that if you’re not totally confident with doing repairs, that is just fine and you certainly aren’t alone. But if you’d like to try your hand at them and build your confidence just a little bit (and save some money in the process), I’ve put together a list of the simplest repairs that any beginner can do.

Even if you’ve never touched a screwdriver in your life.

The good news is that most of these repairs and upgrades can be completed in just a few hours or a weekend, so your home won’t be a disaster area for long!

1. Replace Old Caulking in the Tub/Shower

Have you ever seen a tub that looks like this? Or have you just not liked the job that a previous owner or tenant had done?

photo of old tub in need of new caulking
Replacing old caulking can freshen up an otherwise dingy-looking bathtub/shower.
Photo credit: Willrow Hood on Shutterstock

Step in with new caulking.

Trust me, it is some work to do this, but no, you don’t have to be gifted with an artist’s hand, here.

The key to a good caulk job is getting every shred of the old caulk off (please don’t caulk over the old gross stuff) and ensuring that the area is prepped properly. Good prep ensures that your caulk will stick and that it will have a nice, professional-looking line.

There are a million videos out there on this, and I think I must have watched them all. But this tutorial from This Old House worked best for me.

If you want to give this a try yourself, bookmark the video, and then bookmark this page. Come back to this page after you’ve watched the video, because I have some extra suggestions below to make this process much easier for you below.

One thing that I did change from the video method is the tool that I used for scraping off the old caulk and for finishing the corners. This multi-purpose tool works extremely well and will spare your wrist.

You don’t even have to use the affiliate link; I’m just telling you to get it anyway, because it makes prying up the old stuff so easy. You can also run the finishing edge down the wet caulked corners, and you just might fool anyone into thinking it’s a professional job!

The other product that I used after the scraping process in order to get all of the stubborn old remnants of caulk off is this professional strength Goof Off.

Be very careful with this stuff and open every window you can find, turn on a fan, and wear a mask, as the fumes are caustic. But the stuff really works if you’re trying to remove all of the last traces of caulk for a super clean surface. Use rubbing alcohol to get every hint of Goo Gone off once you’re ready to start tape prepping.

Speaking of tape prep, I recommend you don’t skip this step at all. I’m sure that a lot of experienced pros may not need to use it, but, we’re not experienced pros, here! Taping is the most time-consuming part of the project, but do not give up yet.

You’ll feel a lot more at ease if you have the tape on there, and it’s a great fallback when your arms start to feel a little fatigued or if you get heavy handed with the caulk in some places.

2. Replace Weather Stripping on Doors

I feel like weather stripping on doors is the thing that gets the most neglected, especially if you live in a warmer climate that doesn’t get bitter cold winters. I’ve seen all kinds of weird stuff in homes like rolled up towels or blankets placed in front of doors, things stuffed in cracks, etc., in order to keep out drafts.

While these makeshift measures may help a little, if you are seeing literal daylight underneath and between your doors, you’re going to feel drafty and uncomfortable in your home and like you’re just heating and cooling the outdoors!

You may think this is an easy peel-and-stick exercise, and for the most part it is, but where you can mess this up is buying the wrong size of weather stripping. Too thick, and you won’t be able to close your door. Too thin and drafts still come through.

photo of weather stripping
Replacing worn and torn weather stripping is the simplest way to keep drafts out from doors.
Photo credit: Ustun Ibisoglu on Shutterstock

If you are unsure of the exact size, just pull off some of the old stripping and take it into the store with you. There are only a few different sizes anyway, so if you aren’t sure, you can always grab one of each.

When I replaced my weather stripping on my apartment door, that bitter cold draft that made me shiver in my living room went away. No more rolled up towels or goofy contraptions and probably a big difference in the heating bill.

3. Repair Damaged Drywall

When we adopted Psycho Kitten about 7 years ago, he bit a hole in in our living room wall, all the way down to the cardboard base of the drywall. I didn’t even know cats could bite holes in walls, but I guess he was channeling his inner dog at the time?

At some point we had to fix it.

I know what you’re thinking. If I can paint my own nails and apply false eyelashes while half asleep, patching and painting should be a snap, right?

You may be on to something.

photo of drywall patch repair
Patching and painting a wall isn’t difficult, but you must take your time to get it smooth.
Photo credit: Midwest Space on Shutterstock

But the real skill lies not in the paint job itself, but in the smoothness of the patch. Your paint is actually much more forgiving than your patch.

Think about when you paint your nails. What is the giveaway that it’s not perfect? It’s the irregularity of the surface and how that irregularity reflects in light. That same smoothness is what you’re trying to achieve here.

There are different products on the market that every YouTuber/DIYer is going to recommend. Different kinds of joint compound or “mud” (quick-dry, regular dry…it just goes on and on). I’m here to tell you that most of that doesn’t make a discernible difference in your results.

There are, however, a few things and steps that you don’t want to skimp on, and this video explains the whole repair process very concisely.

Ensuring a smooth patch means is that you really need to take your time. Take a day to finish the patch, rest, come back and look at the patch, and if you’re not happy, sand some more, apply more mud, sand again. I just use my hands and feel along for dents or raises until I’m satisfied with it.

The plaster must be sanded to perfection when it dries and be very flush with the rest of the wall. Just like your nail polish, when that little bump shows in the light, that is the giveaway that something wild must’ve happened with that wall…you know, like a demon-possessed kitten once mistook your wall for cat treats.

Once you have the patch finished, your painting of the wall is going to be a snap.

If you don’t know yet how to cut a straight line with paint, learning how will save you tons of time and the hassle of applying tape. The secret is in the brush type (I like 3-inch angle brushes for walls) and saturating the brush with just the right amount of paint.

Huh. I guess it is a lot like painting your nails.

4. Adjust Cabinet and Door Hinges

Live anywhere long enough and this is going to happen.

Gravity. Shifts from temperature changes. Stuff sagging or getting loose.

Door and cabinet hinges can loosen over time, and they’ll sometimes produce a bit of a lopsided effect where the doors become uneven, difficult to close, or rub against each other.

This is an easy I’m-bored-on-a-Snow-Day project (kids can help, too). Just look for anything loose and tighten at the hinges with a screwdriver. That’s mostly it.

photo of man repairing hinges of cabinets with a screwdriver
Tightening the hinge screws on cabinets can oftentimes bring them back into alignment.
Photo credit: audiznam260921 on Shutterstock

Voila! No more crooked cabinets!

5. Pressure Wash the Grime

If you’re living in an apartment, this isn’t an option, obviously.

But if you’re in a home, this can refresh your place more quickly than you think.

It’s surprising how much dirt and grime can age a place. Keep an eye out for garage doors and downspouts of gutters that tend to harbor a lot of the green stuff.

photo of vinyl siding being pressure washed
Pressure washing the grime off siding, garage doors, and gutters, can make a place look almost as good as new.
Photo credit: Diane Friend on Shutterstock

You can purchase small pressure washers for less than $200 and they’re well worth the investment. You don’t need anything bigger or more powerful than those in that price range.

6. Replace an Old Thermostat

For this one, I’m not giving any recommendations with regard to the newer WiFi thermostats.

Frankly, I just can’t justify the higher cost of them, or even the time it takes to fiddle with the installation (I’ve heard some rather frustrated-sounding stories). That said, we’re pretty happy with our standard programmable thermostat.

If the simple programmable thermostat is more your speed, with a screwdriver or drill you can switch from an old one to a new one in a few minutes. The instructions are very easy for a novice to understand. I think it took me less than an hour and this was my very first install.

photo of a programmable home thermostat being replaced
An old thermostat can be replaced with a standard programmable one in no time, even for beginners.
Photo credit: LA Hazelet on Shutterstock

For renters, I don’t recommend doing this task at all because it requires shutting off power. Let your landlord do this one, please.

7. Whitewash or Paint an Old Fireplace

I’m a firm believer that a lot of stuff can be improved with just paint.

If you’re moving into a place that has a lot of orange-y red brick (usually found in 70s or 80s decor), just give it a quick whitewash for an upgrade. Nothing against red brick, but if you have a place that doesn’t get a lot of light, it can darken the place pretty quickly.

White washing simply involves the watering down of white paint to create a very subtle white finish, but you can also go with full bright paint color, too, if you prefer.

I’ve used inexpensive chalk paint for my fireplace projects, and it works well.

I realize that painting your fireplace is not a traditional “repair,” but if your fireplace has noticeable flaws or staining on the decorative parts, this is a quick way to bring it back to life.

photo of a freshly painted white fireplace
Adding paint to the exterior of a fireplace can camouflage staining or other flaws.
Photo credit: Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

8. Wash Windows

I know this fits more into the cleaning category, but is it oh-so-important.

Window cleaning can also involve taking off detachable window grilles (if your windows have them) so it can get a little more involved sometimes.

Many landlords or home sellers don’t really care about whether your windows get cleaned before you move in. Because you’ll pay anyway, right?

So, it’s probably up to you to wash them. But did you know that there’s a “right” way? It’s not just spraying on a bit of window cleaner and wiping with paper towels. If you have caked-on grime or years of dust, you are going to have to target the mess with warm, soapy water first, and then you’ll finish off with a window cleaner.

For an all-natural window cleaner that also smells great, check out Item #6 of this post.

In the end, you’ll be surprised at how new and fresh it makes your place look. And did I mention, more light for your houseplants??

photo of window with potted houseplants on the sill
Washing old dust and grime off of windows can actually bring a bit more light into your place.
Photo credit: Nathan Fertig on Unsplash

Caution: If it requires the use of ladders, please, pretty please do not attempt this on your own.

9. Paint the Front Door

If you have a simple wooden or fiberglass door, this is a one-day project that will give your place instant curb appeal and freshen up a weather-worn old door.

photo of two brightly painted front doors, one yellow and one turquoise
Adding paint to a weather-worn old door makes it good as new. Photo credit: Christian Stahl on Unsplash

The one challenge you’ll have is painting around irregular shapes like door knobs, etc. Be sure your painter’s tape is applied pretty precisely or it may look like kindergarten finger-painters got their hands on your door!

A few more tips:

  • This is not a good project for cold, high humidity, or extreme heat. Fall is probably the best time to do this for most climates in the U.S.
  • Use drop cloths or towels everywhere–and more than you need–for the thresholds of both sides of the door and all flooring. Even the most careful painter will inadvertently splatter paint, and paint is very hard to clean once it dries, especially on brick or concrete.
  • Make sure the coats are completely dry before starting the next coat. If not, you’ll end up with a pilling effect.
  • Anything that isn’t taking on the new color (edges of the door, door knocker, glass) must be covered and/or taped well. There should be no gaps where even a small amount of paint can seep through or drip down, as gravity is invariably going to create a few drips.

10. Vacuum Vents and Underneath Appliances

Do you think your landlord or the home seller made the extra effort to do this before you moved in?

Maybe, but I’d place a small bet with you that they probably did not.

It’s worth a check anyway, because, in the case of dusty vents, who needs more dust spewed back into your home?

There is also a valid case for checking for dust and debris under and behind your appliances (refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher, beside or behind stoves). My cats have managed to drag out some dangerous poisonous stuff, like insect traps laid by prior tenants. And a couple of Christmas ornaments, too!

Curious children with tiny hands can get into these things as well, so it doesn’t hurt to have a look under there and use the wand attachment of your vacuum cleaner to clear out dust, dirt, crumbs, and pet hair.

How do those repairs sound? Pretty doable, right? Are you on your way to being a home maintenance pro, now?

Let me know what kind of repairs that you discovered you needed when you moved into a new place! Tell me in the comments! I would love to know.

Want to know which items you can maintain easily on your own and save a lot of money over time? Check out this post.

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