DO IT YOURSELF
There are many good things about owning a home, but paying for repairs isn't one of them. By some estimates, homeowners spend 1 to 4 percent of a home's value on maintenance and repairs every year. That's as much as $500 a month for a house worth $150,000. While there are certainly projects too big or dangerous for the typical homeowner to take on without a professional, you can save money by learning how to handle a few common repairs and maintenance projects yourself.
If the dryer isn't working as well as it used to, there may be lint in the vent that's restricting airflow. The folks at Repair Clinic, an online replacement part store, say you can clean out the dryer's ventilation system with a dryer vent cleaning brush that costs less than $20. If the dryer isn't spinning or heating at all, you may need a new thermal fuse. A fuse costs as little as $9 and takes a half-hour to replace.
LIGHT FIXTURE AND SWITCH REPLACEMENT
While electrical work can be tricky, replacing faulty light fixtures and switches is often a simple enough task for amateurs. The likes of Home Depot and Lowe's have helpful videos online that can walk you through the process safely. Installing new energy-efficient lighting also saves money.
CEILING FAN INSTALLATION
Ceiling fans provide year-round comfort and savings. They can cost thousands of dollars, but basic models can be found in the $30 to $250 range. After picking the correct size for a room, installing a fan is much like replacing a light fixture, although you may need to install a new electrical box that can handle the weight and vibration from the fan (starting as low as $5).
SUMP PUMP REPLACEMENT
Small and usually hidden away, sump pumps prevent flooding in basements and crawl spaces. John O'Brien, a lawyer from Chicago with experience doing his own home repairs, told Cheapism he was surprised how easy it is to replace the pump. New pumps start at less than $100, and all he needed was a screwdriver and a pipe to disconnect the old pump and install a new one.
When caulk begins to deteriorate or discolor, it needs to be replaced. Removing old caulk is usually the most laborious part of the job, but special caulk removal tools (starting at about $5) make it easier. Pre-shaped caulk strips that are pressed into place (also starting at about $5) make installing caulk a snap.
Judy Crocket shares a few DIY painting tips gleaned while working for her husband's interior painting company in Manistee, Michigan: Although it can be time consuming, prep work is the key to a professional finish. Be sure to scrape imperfections on the walls with a putty knife; wash to remove dust; and vacuum ducts, electrical boxes, and floors before starting to paint. Take your time and watch for drips as you go.
Crocket told Cheapism about a job where an electrician had moved a few outlets in a home and left holes in the wall. The homeowner wasn't able to find a drywaller willing to do such a small job, and the Crockets couldn't paint until the holes were patched. After a bit of studying and asking for help at the local hardware store, they were able to patch the holes themselves. It was easy enough that Crocket recommends that homeowners learn this skill as well.
REPAIRING A LEAKY FAUCET
A faucet with a drip is annoying, wasteful, and costly. Often a failing washer is to blame. Check the manufacturer's website to find out what type of replacement washer you need and turn to YouTube for instructional videos. The repair involves taking apart the faucet using a screwdriver and pliers. Washers can be found at hardware stores for less than $2 each, and sets of assorted washers cost about $7.
REPAIRING A LEAKY PIPE
Like a leaky faucet, a leaky pipe under the sink often can be addressed without calling a professional. Generally, you just need a new washer or nut, but in some cases the entire p-trap (the curved section) has to be replaced. The parts should be $5 to $15 at a local hardware store, depending if they're plastic or metal. Be sure to turn off the water flowing to the sink before taking anything apart.
UNCLOGGING A GARBAGE DISPOSAL
A clogged drain is never fun, especially when there's a disposal involved. With a bit of preparation, though, a homeowner can make a DIY repair. Kathryn Lagden of Burlington, Ontario, said that after watching an instructional video on YouTube, all she needed to clear a clogged disposal was an Allen wrench, a flashlight, tongs, and 15 minutes. There was a time she had limited experience with DIY home repairs, but watching instructional videos has helped her fixed her vacuum, laptop, and dishwasher without hiring a professional.