Home Repairs: Knowing When You can Do It Yourself

Home Repairs: Knowing When You can Do It Yourself

By Carole Feldman, Associated Press

In times of economic hardship, "do-it-yourself" is a tempting mantra for many homeowners with dripping faucets, running toilets, leaky windows or sticky locks.

The savings can add up when you don't have to call a repairman, especially for things like painting, plumbing and appliance repair, said Ken Collier, editor-in-chief of The Family Handyman. "Parts are a small part of the cost. Labor is huge," he said.

And if things go wrong? With a small job, Collier said, "Worst case, you have to hire a pro and eat some crow."

There are some home repairs, of course, that an unskilled homeowner should avoid, among them "situations where having heavy equipment makes the job go much better, especially outdoors," Collier said.

Avoid jobs where you could injure yourself or damage property.

Chris Long, a member of the Home Depot do-it-yourself team, recommends calling an expert to replace a tub or shower valve, or do more involved electrical work. And while "any reasonably careful person can hang drywall," Collier said, taping it to cover the seams and joints is "very much an art where a practiced hand makes a huge difference."

But many other household repairs and projects can be tackled by a do-it-yourselfer who takes the time to learn what's required.

David Frank of Libertyville, Ill., does just about all his own home repairs and remodeling — "from electric to plumbing to concrete. Any of it can be done." He started working on his first house, a fixer-upper he bought in college, to save money. "I had to learn to do it, or it wasn't going to get done," he said. Over the years, he has taught himself by reading books, watching home-improvement TV shows and talking to experts.

Besides the money saved, there's "definitely a sense of accomplishment" in doing the work himself, he said.

His advice to beginners: Use common sense, take your time and read as much as you can. "The Internet is unbelievable," he said.

When taking on a project, begin by finding out where in your home you turn off the water and gas, and how the circuit breakers work. If you need a professional to show you, hire one.

You'll also need a good set of tools. Collier recommends such things as a 20-ounce straight claw hammer, a utility knife, linesman's pliers, a flexible putty knife, a four-in-one screwdriver, a cordless drill-screwdriver, a 25-foot measuring tape and an adjustable crescent wrench. Add to that a plunger, groove-joint pliers and duct tape.