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Home Repairs: Knowing When You can Do It Yourself

If you're going to do any electrical work, be sure to have a voltage sniffer. "Electricity is scary stuff, and a voltage sniffer is a really safe way to know everything is off," Collier says.

There's a wealth of material online, including videos for the do-it-yourselfer.

Even unskilled homeowners should be able to do some basic appliance repairs, Collier said, such as changing a dryer belt.

And as winter approaches, homeowners can do a lot of weatherizing themselves, including adding insulation, and applying adhesive-backed, foam weather stripping to prevent cold air from seeping in around doors and windows.

Other jobs that a do-it-yourselfer can learn include repairing drywall, replacing a deadbolt, or installing a new light fixture or ceiling fan.

Here's where that voltage sniffer comes in. "If you know how to confidently turn that breaker off and you can test it to verify it, you can change that fixture," said Danny Lipford, who hosts nationally syndicated TV and radio shows and is a contributing design editor for Better Homes and Gardens.

Plumbing repairs also can be accessible even to the novice.

"A toilet is really a very simple mechanism and the parts are readily available to change out," Lipford said.

First, the cause of the problem has to be diagnosed. Find information online, in books, or talk to a worker at your hardware store.

If the toilet is running, for example, one way to figure out what's going on is to add a little food dye to the water in the tank, said Long, of Home Depot. If the water in the bowl turns the same color, the flapper valve is likely the problem. The flapper seals the tank, then lifts to allow water to flow into the bowl when the toilet is flushed. If the seal isn't tight, water will leak into the bowl.

It could be that the chain connecting the flapper to the handle is too long or too short. Adjusting that could fix the problem. Or, it could be the flapper itself. In most cases, the flapper snaps out and you can easily replace it with a new one. But first remember to turn off the water to the toilet. It's also a good idea to bring the old part to your hardware store to make sure you're purchasing a compatible new one.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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