fixing leaky sink with wrench

5 Home Maintenance Tasks You Can Do Yourself

You’re washing dishes when your kitchen faucet springs a leak. What do you do?

Learning how to fix common household problems like this is not only empowering but could also save you lots of time and money, says Beth Allen, a contractor and DIY expert in Pennsylvania. “With a little bit of knowledge, you may be able to skip calling the pros for everyday hassles,” she explains. “Plus, you’ll get the fixes done faster and more affordably.”

Here are the five of the most common problems she gets asked about.

Running Toilet

toiletWhen water is continually leaking from the tank to the bowl, it’s a waste; plus, the noise can drive you crazy. A part called the flapper—the round rubber stopper, often red, that sits at the bottom of the toilet tank and is attached to the handle chain—is usually to blame. If the flapper is covered with mineral deposits or is misshapen, you’ll need to replace it, she says.

  • Stop the water supply by turning the shut-off valve beside the toilet
  • Flush the toilet to empty most of the tank.
  • Inspect the chain to make sure it’s long enough to let the flapper close fully but not long enough to get caught under it.
  • If the chain is the right length, remove the flapper by gently unsnapping it from the hinges, says Allen, and take it to a home center to buy a replacement that’s the same size and shape.
  • “Pop the new one on, connect the chain to the handle, turn the water back on, and flush!” Allen says.
GEICO can help with home insurance.

Leaky Faucet

sink“Most faucets have a metal or plastic cartridge inside the base of the handle,” says Allen. “Over time, these can rust out from mineral buildup or just break with age.” If you see water leaking from the handle onto the sink top, or if a faucet doesn’t turn off completely, you’ll likely need to replace the cartridge.

  • Determine the make and style of the faucet to buy the proper replacement cartridge.
  • Shut off the valves under the sink. Remove the decorative cap and screw, then the faucet handle, to expose the cartridge.
  • With an adjustable wrench or socket set, unscrew and remove the cartridge.
  • “Now you’ve got an empty hole,” says Allen. “With a toothbrush and a little bit of vinegar, scrub away any mineral deposits. Then put a paper towel in and clean out the well,” she says. “This way, you know that when you put the new cartridge in, it will fit snugly.”

Clogged Drain

clogged drainWhen sinks and tubs drain slowly or back up, something’s in the way. When that happens, Allen recommends spending a couple of bucks on a drain-cleaning tool from the hardware store. It looks like a thin plastic twig dotted with barbs, and you just snake it down the drain. “I love this thing,” she says. “It‘ll pull up all the clumps of hair and gunk that build up in the pipes.”

  • For a tub or sink that has a drain screen, you may have to unscrew it to insert the stick.
  • For a pop-up drain, you can usually pass the tool around it.
  • After using the tool, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, suggests Allen, followed by a cup of vinegar.
  • Close the drain and allow the cocktail of ingredients to fizz for 10 minutes.
  • Pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain. “This disinfects, deodorizes and cleans your drain without any toxins,” Allen says. “Plus, it’s cheap!”

Hole In Drywall

spackle bladeIf the hole is smaller than a green pea, it’s easy to fix with spackling paste.

  • Sand the area of the wall half an inch around the hole with smooth-grit or drywall sandpaper.
  • Apply a layer of spackling paste with a spackle blade held at a 45-degree angle to the wall, swiping from top to bottom and left to right until the area is smooth and even, says Allen.
  • Allow it to dry completely for two to three hours. “The biggest mistake people make is not letting it dry. If you’re impatient, use a hair dryer set on medium heat, slowly passing it over the patch,” Allen says. (High heat will cause cracks.)
  • Be sure to prime the area before painting it with the color topcoat. “Paint dries differently on fresh spackle than it does on a primed wall, so you’ll have a blemish if you forget to prime,” she says.
  • Finally, use a mini-roller to apply the topcoat. “If you brush paint on, it almost always looks different than the rest of the wall,” Allen advises.

Replacing A Door Lock

doorWhether you’ve just moved into a new place or want to swap out your existing knobs, tackling a lock change doesn’t have to be difficult, says Allen.

  • To begin, remove the screws that are holding the knob in the door and pull it out—one section from each side.
  • Near the latch, remove the screws along the edge of the door. Here you’ll find the locking mechanism; pull it out.
  • Check to see if the new lock holes line it up cleanly with the edge of the door. “If not, you may need to chisel out a space so the latch sits flush against the surface,” says Allen.
  • Put in the new mechanism from the skinny side of the door, says Allen, and tighten the screws. “It’s like making a sandwich,” she explains. “Knob, mechanism, knob.”
  • On the doorframe, inspect the latch plate before removing, suggests Allen, as you may be able to get away with keeping the same one in place. “You don’t have to change the plate if the color and shape are similar, but you won’t know until you try to shut the door,” she says.
  • You can keep the hinges, says Allen, or brush them with metal enamel paint if they’re a different color.

By Patrick Rogers

What’s even easier than unclogging a drain? Calling the GEICO Insurance Agency for a free quote on homeowners insurance or renters insurance.

Read More: How To Build Your First Tool Kit

GEICO can help protect your home.

    Leave a comment

  1. Bernard says,

    I have a leak at the kitchen sink that you mention. I spoke to the super about. Said he would get to it. That was at least two week +. I am very handy with this work, so I will now tackle it myself. Thanks for the push.

  2. Helen C Cashwell says,

    This is the BEST reason that I have changed insurance coverage to your business. I live alone and am 90 and very active and I can do all the things suggested. Keep the suggestions coming.

  3. Elizabeth says,


  4. Carol Cone says,

    I am a single Senior and this has been so helpful! I hope you will post more DIY repairs and fixes! I will be repairing my leaky toilet tomorrow! I looked it over and found all the parts she talked about! Something I thought I would need a plumber or handyman for is now something I can do myself!! What a great feeling and the money i’ll Be saving is a! Thanks again and keep ‘me coming!!

  5. Bejamin Bagot says,

    On clog drains, if you use draino on a regular baices, you can keep your drains running free. Also in the kitchen sink use a drain catcher for food excess instead of letting it go down the drain, and clog it up after a time. You can take the drain catchet and dump it in the trash. Keeping the drain open .

    • Tom moore says,

      Use of “draino” or any other acid is not a good idea under any circumstances.if you have cast iron drains it accelerates the deterioration process plus even with plastic pipes you are still sending acid to the water treatment plant.a much better choice would be a bacteria or enzymes.( not the junk from Home Depot or lowes which has a low concentration and is usually only a single strain bacteria- like rid-x…try one similar to bio clean)

  6. Princess F. says,

    Great advise and very useful. These ideas are great!!! Especially when you’re on a budget.

  7. L. Abrsmi says,

    I’m going to be your follower n best fan ever … u explain w easy instructions… don’t stop explaining !!

  8. Jackie Carr says,

    Thanks right now I have a clogged Shower drain. Im on my way to the hardware store.
    What a joy. Jackie Carr

  9. C. Santa Barbara says,

    Really good ideas. But, it’s still a man’s job to try to fix and most women ( maybe in my age bracket anyway) wouldn’t try to do any of them. But thanks anyway for such good advice.

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