A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

If You Know These Things, You’re a Genius Homeowner

Updated: Dec. 09, 2022

And if you don't, now you do!

Close-up Of Water Is Leaking From The White Sink Pipe

Stop leaks and drips

Two annoying causes of wasted money and water are leaky taps and running toilets. In fact, according to the United States Geological Survey, a leaky faucet at one drip per second equals a loss of five gallons of water every day! Fortunately, both of these are easily remedied by any homeowner and won’t take long to complete. Here’s how to fix a leaky faucet and repair a running toilet.

Water flushes down toilet bowl
Calvin Chan Wai Meng/Getty Images

Fix a running toilet

Fixing a running toilet will not only give your toilet a stronger flush, but it can also lower your water bill. Here are the 4 steps you need to stop a running toilet.

shutterstock_519670600 living room wood floors feet

Quiet squeaky floors

Squeaky floors can be annoying. The good news? This quick fix for silencing floor squeaks will take you just a day. Bonus: You don’t need any special tools.

white wall with cracks
komkrit Preechachanwate/Shutterstock

Patch a crack in drywall

It doesn’t matter if your son’s basketball got away from him or you nicked the wall moving a piece of furniture—at some point, you’ll be faced with a crack in your drywall. Fortunately, it’s not hard to patch a crack in your drywall. You’ll need a taping knife and utility knife, along with some drywall tape, pre-mixed joint compound and setting type compound to fix the crack so it doesn’t come back. Make sure you know the things all smart homeowners do once a year.

FH98APR_01296006 fix cracked grout
Family Handyman

Repair cracked grout

Even the best tile jobs will succumb to cracking grout at some point. If the grout between your bathroom floor tiles is crumbling, there is a quick fix for cracked grout that will save you from tearing up the floor and starting over. Check it out here.

Steady an unbalanced washing machine
Dragon Images/Shutterstock

Steady an unbalanced washing machine

You threw a heavy load of towels in the washer and now it’s unbalanced. With a level, pliers and a pry bar, here’s how to balance your washer again in five minutes.

Unclog a toilet with dish soap
Family Handyman

Unclog a toilet with dish soap

If the toilet plunger doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, try dish soap this method to unclog your toilet before you reach for the snake. Squirt about 1/2 cup of liquid soap in and let it sit for a while. The liquid soap reduces friction and will often allow the contents of the bowl to slide on through. Find out the things you should never flush down a toilet.

Relight your water heater pilot light
Family Handyman

Relight your water heater pilot light

There could be a few reasons the pilot light on your water heater goes out. A common cause is a bad thermocouple, which shuts off the gas to the pilot light. Try this simple fix to relight your pilot light, which will only cost you $20 if you do it yourself. Don’t miss these hidden home dangers you should never ignore.

Maintain your HVAC
Family Handyman

Maintain your HVAC

Maintaining your cooling system wards off many HVAC problems. If you do have a failure, you can usually fix your air conditioner yourself. And here’s how to repair your AC if it has suddenly become noisy. If it’s your furnace that needs attention, you can perform routine furnace maintenance, and make these 3 easy furnace repairs.

garbage disposal
Family Handyman

Clean your garbage disposal

A garbage disposal is a bit scary when it’s turned on and the blades are noisily chopping up kitchen waste. But, if your disposal gets stinky, fear not. Here’s how to clean the gunk out of your garbage disposal and get rid of the smell. Find out the things you should never put down the garbage disposal.

Replace your light switches

Don’t automatically avoid a project just because it involves electricity: It’s a very doable DIY project to both replace a standard light switch with a dimmer switch and swap out a three-way switch.

man repairing his deck
Family Handyman

Repair your deck

Many things can go wrong with a deck. Missing screws, warped boards, squeaky nails, wobbly railings. Fortunately, many of these problems are well within the scope of the average DIYer. Here’s how to repair the 7 most common deck problems.

Fix your windows

Obviously, you can’t glue broken glass back together. But, for windows that get stuck, let in drafts, or have moisture issues, there are DIY solutions. Here’s how you can fix old windows. Or you can find out how to glaze your windows and repair your window screens. You can also stop window drafts and learn how to avoid and remove window condensation.

replacing an old toilet
Family Handyman

Replace a toilet

Whether you’re installing a better-flushing toilet or resetting your old toilet after remodeling, these tips will help you do it faster and with fewer problems. And here’s a step-by-step guide to replacing a toilet.

fixing a loose showerhead
Family Handyman

Shore up a loose showerhead

Got a wobbly showerhead? You can fix a loose showerhead or any wobbly pipe with a few squirts of expanding foam. The foam encases the pipe in the wall and locks it into place, eliminating the wobble, so your showerhead will work like new. Check out these simple home improvements that will double the value of your home.

finding a leak in the roof
Family Handyman

Find that leak in the roof

Some roof leaks are tough to locate. Sometimes the water shows up at a ceiling spot distant from the leak. If your ceiling has a plastic vapor barrier between the drywall and the attic insulation, push the insulation aside and look for flow stains on the plastic. Often water runs to openings in the vapor barrier, such as at ceiling light fixtures.

If you can’t see any telltale flow marks, and since the stain is fairly small, look at the underside of the roof for “shiners.” A shiner is a nail that missed the framing member, in this case when the carpenter nailed the roof sheathing to the rafters. Moisture that escapes into the cold attic from the rooms below often condenses on cold nails. Sometimes you can spot this if you climb up into your attic on a cold night. The nails will look white because they’re frosted. When the attic heats up a bit during the day, the frost melts and drips, then the nails frost up at night again and so on. The solution is to simply clip the nail with side-cutting pliers.

lubricate a lock with a pencil
Family Handyman

Unstick a lock

Don’t give up. You can fix a sticky lock with a pencil! Simply rub the teeth of your key with the pencil, coating it generously with graphite. Insert the key in the lock, which will deposit the lubricant inside. Repeat as needed until the key glides in smoothly.

Swap out a broken light fixture
Family Handyman

Swap out a broken light fixture

Replacing a light fixture is one of those DIY jobs that’s theoretically quick and simple, but often becomes a three-hour series of problems. We talked with two of our master electricians and they’ve seen all of those frustrations. Here are their tips to help DIYers replace a light fixture quickly and safely.

Fix a shutoff valve
Family Handyman

Fix a shutoff valve

There’s nothing worse than starting a sink or toilet repair only to find that the shutoff valve won’t shut off. Some shutoff valves are easy to replace. For those that aren’t, here’s how to fix a leak in a water valve. First, turn off the main water valve, remove the packing nut, and then unscrew the stem and take it to the hardware store to find a replacement washer. Clean any grit out of the valve body and pop on the new washer. The valve will work like new.

Man cleaning an air filter
Family Handyman

Clean an air filter

It is instinctual for homeowners to contact an HVAC tech when they notice irregularities in their cooling or heating system. These irregularities could be a direct result of a dirty or clogged air filter. We encourage homeowners to check their filters and replace if necessary. Here’s how to clean an air filter. It’s also beneficial for homeowners with pets, carpet, or for homes near fields or construction zones to have multiple filters for convenient replacement.

Pro Tip: Mark your calendars! 1-in. filters should be changed every month, 2-in. filters should be changed every 2 months and 4 to 5-in. filters should be changed every 6 to 12 months.

Washing Machine And Cloth In Basket. Loudry Concept
Werayuth Tessrimuang/Getty Images

Repair your dryer

Most dryer problems can be fixed in an hour with a few basic tools and a continuity tester or multimeter. You can do the work yourself with this clothes dryer repair guide.

fixing a faucet
Family Handyman

Unclog a faucet

When a kitchen or bathroom faucet loses pressure or starts spraying to the side, it’s usually due to a dirty aerator screen. Luckily, it’s an easy job. Here’s how to clean a faucet’s aerator screen. Start by closing the drain plug (so you don’t drop parts down the drain). Then remove the aerator using a rag or masking tape so you don’t mar the finish with your pliers.

To remove the sand and other deposits, soak the aerator in vinegar, then scrub it with a toothbrush. This usually solves the problem. If you have to disassemble the aerator to clean it, lay out the parts in the order you removed them so you can reassemble them correctly.

tweaking oven temperature
Family Handyman

Tweak your oven temperature

If your oven cooking times are off, recalibrate your oven temperature to match an accurate oven thermometer. The procedure is in your oven’s instruction manual.

fixing an electric stove
Family Handyman

Fix an electric stove

You can solve most electric range burner problems yourself and avoid the expensive service call. It’s quick and easy to replace a burner or bad burner socket. Here’s how to repair your electric stove.

removing carpet inside home
Family Handyman

Remove carpet yourself

Depending on where you live, an installer will charge $3 to $5 per square yard for tear-out. By removing the carpet yourself from a 12 x 15-ft. room, you’ll save $60 to $100 for an hour’s work. Here’s how to remove your carpet. Talk to your installer to find out exactly what you’ll save by doing it yourself.

man finishing hardwood floors
Family Handyman

Refinish your own hardwood

Intimidated by this seemingly daunting project? Don’t be. If you have the will and a whole day (or two) to yourself, you can refinish the hardwood floors in your home. You don’t necessarily need to sand, but if the floor is damaged enough to warrant buffing, check out your local hardware store and rent the equipment for anywhere from four to 48 hours.

repairing roof vents
Family Handyman

Repair roof vents

Check for cracked housings on plastic roof vents and broken seams on metal ones. You might be tempted to throw caulk at the problem, but that solution won’t last long. There’s really no fix other than replacing the damaged vents. Also look for pulled or missing nails at the base’s bottom edge. Replace them with rubber-washered screws. In most cases, you can remove nails under the shingles on both sides of the vent to pull it free. There will be nails across the top of the vent too. Usually, you can also work those loose without removing shingles. Screw the bottom in place with rubber-washered screws. Squeeze out a bead of caulk beneath the shingles on both sides of the vent to hold the shingles down and to add a water barrier. That’s much easier than re-nailing the shingles.

sanding and buffing stainless steel appliances
Family Handyman

Sand stainless steel appliances

Ugly scratches in your shiny stainless steel appliances can be buffed, using fine sandpaper and rubbing compound.

man fixing wallpaper
Family Handyman

Fix a wallpaper seam

Wallpaper coming apart at the seams? Here’s how to repair a wallpaper seam. Reactivate the paste around the gap with a rag soaked in warm water. Hold the rag over the area for a minute or two, and then carefully open the gap a little larger so you’ll have more room for the sealer. Squeeze seam sealer (white glue works in a pinch) into the gap, and press the paper to the wall with a roller. Clean off the excess sealer with a sponge.

straightening a bent blind
Family Handyman

Straighten a bent blind

Unmangle mangled mini-blinds with a mini-blind slat straightener. Just slide it over the damaged slat and squeeze. The product, called the MiniBlindRx, works on once-inch metal slats and is available for about $10. Check out some more simple home improvement ideas that won’t break the bank.

patching a wall
Family Handyman

Patch a wall

Drywall is everywhere and it is surprisingly easy to damage. The good news is that you can easily patch the average drywall ding or hole. There are quick fixes for cracks in drywall too.

A man fixing a door
Family Handyman

Fix a door

A variety of problems can befall your home’s doors, especially older doors that may start to sag, stick, develop drafts or experience other issues. Fixing a sticky door or replacing a door is well within the capabilities of most homeowners, especially if you have a partner to help out. From installing new weather stripping to replacing the lock, you can handle it. Watch this video to see how simple it is to replace an interior door yourself.

repair a chair
Family Handyman

Repair a chair (easily!)

Trying to keep a rickety old chair together without going through the trouble of taking it apart and re-gluing it? Just drill pilot holes and drive trim-head screws through the bottom of the rungs and into the legs. Here’s how to fix a wobbly chair.

stripped screw
Family Handyman

Extract a stripped screw

A stripped screw can turn a ten-minute fix into a two-hour nightmare. One of the best investments a DIYer can make is a screw extraction kit. It comes with three different size bits and costs about $20. One side of the extractor bit reams a hole into the screw, and the other side has reverse threads that dig into the screw as you turn it out.

Patch holes in siding
Family Handyman

Patch holes in siding

Nail holes in aluminum and vinyl siding are tough to repair without replacing the entire piece, but here’s how to patch the hole in your siding. A squirt of color-matched caulk from a siding supplier will solve the problem for a lot less money and aggravation.

Caulking the bathtub
Family Handyman

Caulk your tub

It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s caulking. Dirt or mold creeping underneath the clear caulk in your tub? Cut it out and re-caulk your tub. Gaps in old molding got you down? Add white caulk for a smooth finish. Cheap and easy, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be doing this yourself.

Stainless steel refrigerator with a magnetic dry erase whiteboard

Fix a broken refrigerator

Simple fixes for the four most common refrigerator problems: An ice-maker breakdown, water leaking onto the floor, a cooling failure, and too much noise. Chances are, you can solve the problem yourself, save some money and avoid the expense and inconvenience of a service appointment. Here are simple solutions to repair the most common refrigerator malfunctions.

stripped screw holes
Family Handyman

Fill holes on kitchen cabinets

If a screw turns but doesn’t tighten, the screw hole is stripped. Here’s a quick remedy: Remove the screw and hardware. Dip toothpicks in glue, jam as many as you can into the hole and break them off. You don’t have to wait for the glue to dry or drill new screw holes; just go ahead and reinstall the hardware by driving screws right into the toothpicks. Here are some more simple home repairs anyone can do.

repair leaky bathtub
Family Handyman

Repair a leaky bathtub

You don’t have to put up with the slow drip from a leaky faucet, nor with the growing stain it often leaves in the tub or shower. Here’s how to fix your own bathtub and save on your water bills. The entire job, with special tools, may set you back a bit of cash. But doing it yourself is a lot cheaper than hiring a plumber, and usually much cheaper and easier than tearing out the old faucet and installing a new one. Next, learn the things every smart homeowner needs to know ASAP.


The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman