The Most Common Home Repairs You Can Easily Do Yourself

Your home is one of the most expensive things you’ll ever pay for, so whether you’re renting or buying, you should take good care of it. While you’ll probably be tempted to call a professional when something breaks, you can take care of a lot of problems yourself.

Most of these home repairs can be done with little to no experience. However, always be sure to do research on anything you don’t understand, particularly if you’re dealing with electricity, which can be extremely hazardous. Also, if you don’t already have a tool kit of your own, this wouldn’t be a bad time to start building your essential toolbox. Some of the repairs listed here will require special tools you may not have laying around, but we’ll list those where applicable.


Fix or Replace a Broken Toilet Lever

A broken toilet lever is pretty easy to fix. In most cases, if pressing the lever doesn’t flush the toilet, you can just pop the tank open and re-attach the chain. However, in some cases, the handle itself can become corroded or any one of the pieces that connect the handle to the flapper (including the handle, nut, metal rod, or chain) can break. All of these parts can be replaced on the cheap, though.


Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Replacement toilet lever kit (if broken)


Unclog a Toilet Drain

Before you call a plumber to unclog a toilet, there are two things you should try. The first is a plunger, though you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right one. This image shows a sink plunger (left, brown) next to a toilet plunger (right, black). Be sure you’re using the right tool for the job.

If there’s not much water in the bowl, pour enough water in to submerge the head of the plunger. Give it 8-10 good downward thrusts. Most minor clogs should clear up at this point and water should flow freely. If not, it’s auger time. Toilet augers typically cost a little more than plungers, but they can deal with tougher clogs than a simple plunger can. Run the end of the auger into the toilet until the end reaches the clog and start turning the crank. If you get a good grip on it, you should be able to pull the clog out.

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Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Toilet plunger
  • Toilet auger


Fix a Leaky Kitchen/Bathroom Pipe

The most common types of pipe leaks occur under kitchen or bathroom sinks. These tend to involve either a worn out washer or a loose or broken compression nut that’s sealing it. To fix these, first you’ll need to turn the water off to the sink. Some sinks have a shut off valve right near the sink itself, but others may be as far away as the basement. You’ll have to follow the pipes depending on your house.

 Once the water’s off, place a bucket underneath the pipe, and twist off the compression nuts (the big, white pieces you can unscrew). You can take this opportunity to rinse out the curved pipe (called a P-trap), which can get pretty grody by design. Once you’ve replaced the washer (or the entire P-trap if necessary), you can screw it back in and turn the water back on.

Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Bucket
  • Replacement P-trap or washer


Clear a Jammed Garbage Disposal

The garbage disposal is a big scary machine made of hidden blades and bad noises. However, primal fears of ominous pits aside, it’s actually fairly easy to clear up a clog. You’ll need to cut the power to the unit to prevent any accidents. Some units are plugged into an outlet in your cabinet, but others may be wired directly to the wall. Once the disposal is disabled, you can use an allen wrench to adjust the flywheel inside the disposal. Do this by placing the allen wrench in the hole in the center of the bottom of the unit (you won’t actually see the flywheel, but rotating it can help loosen any jammed food inside).

Once you’ve done this, you can then use either a wooden dowel or some pliers to reach into the top of the disposal and try to remove anything clogging the unit that may be near the top. Once you’ve cleared the obstruction, you can reconnect the power, run water through the disposal and turn it on to ensure the clog is gone.


Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Wooden dowel
  • Pliers
  • Allen wrench


Replace a Light Switch

Most electrical work in your home should probably be done by a professional if, for no other reason, than the risk of serious injury or death is much higher when dealing with electricity than a toilet or drywall. However, light switches are among the easiest to replace. If you have a switch that’s not working properly  you can do it pretty simply. Be sure to turn off the circuit breaker before beginning. Electricity can be dangerous, so take all the necessary precautions.

You can use a flathead screwdriver to remove the faceplate covering the switch. Then use a phillips head screwdriver to remove the switch from the wall. You’ll see two wires connected to screws on the switch. You’ll want to test the wires to ensure there’s no electricity running through them. Disconnect the wires and attach them to the new switch, and you’re ready to put everything back together.


Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Replacement light switch


Patch a Hole In Drywall

Holes in walls are nearly unavoidable, even if you’re only renting. However, unless you’ve done plowed a car through it, you can fix most holes pretty cheaply. The simplest holes to fix are going to be screw or nail holes from hanging everything from pictures to TVs. For holes like these, you’ll want to clean the area of any debris and wipe down the wall. Use a putty knife to press some spackle into the wall and let it dry. Once it’s done, use some fine grain sandpaper to sand it down until it’s nice and flat. Depending on how seamless you need it to be and what color you your walls are, you may need to apply a coat of paint.

Larger holes can be a bit trickier. If a doorknob or fist went through the wall, you’ll need to cut out a rectangular section of the drywall surrounding the hole. Then, cut a piece of drywall from some scraps (or whole pieces you can buy at a hardware store). You can also use a small piece of wood to brace the scrap drywall in the hole by placing it inside the wall and drilling screws into it above and below the hole, then add a third screw into the drywall patch, and add some drywall tape around the seams. Finish it off by slathering on some joint compound and using a large putty knife to scrape it down until it’s mostly flat. Just like with the small holes, you’ll finish it off by sanding it down once the compound has dried, and painting if necessary.

Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Putty knife
  • Spackle/joint compound
  • Drywall
  • Drywall tape
  • 1×1 wood board.
  • Electric drill
  • Wood screws


Loosen Up a Stuck Window

f you go too long without opening a window, it can get so mucked up with dirt and crap that it’s difficult to open it. This isn’t a terribly complex problem to solve, but it can require some elbow grease (or a more proper lubricating agent like WD-40—though be sure to research when you should and shouldn’t use it). The video above shows you how to pry the window sash away from the frame with a pizza cutter, though if you’re concerned with preserving the paint, you can use a somewhat less sharp putty knife to wiggle the edges open. Once you’ve got the window moving again, be sure to clean it thoroughly.

Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Putty knife/pizza cutter
  • WD-40 or other lubricant
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Rag

Of course, there’s no shortage of things in your house that can break, but you’ll find that a good deal of things can be fixed with just a little bit of Google-fu and a few bucks worth of supplies from a hardware store. Some things should obviously be taken care of by a professional, particularly where safety’s concerned, but if something’s broken at your home and it’s not on this list, check online before you call the repairman. It could save you a bundle.