Household Repairs You Can Totally Handle Yourself

Household Repairs You Can Totally Handle Yourself

Ah, the joys of owning a home: wonky doors, stuck windows. These projects are annoying, but all too easy to ignore in favour of the big stuff — but you can probably handle them yourself in a single weekend. Here are nine common household repairs and how to fix them, no experience necessary.

Image by VoodooDot (Shutterstock) and David Sawyer

We’ve talked before about home plumbing projects and outdoor home repairs you can handle on your own, and now it’s time to tackle general household repairs. The projects we’re covering here deal with repairing things like scratched tables and misbehaving doors. These are mostly beginner-level projects that are fairly easy to do and can save you a lot of money if you tackle them yourself.

Fix A Door That Doesn’t Close Easily

We’ve all had a door at one point that you had to shove closed, or lift a bit to get it to close properly. As shown in the video above from MonkeySee, a door that doesn’t close easily is usually the result of one of three problems:

  • The strike plate may need adjusting. The latch may be hitting the strike plate instead of latching, or may not be fitting properly into the latch plate. First, check to see if the latch plate is loose and if tightening the screws will solve your problem. If it doesn’t, you may need to replace the strike plate with one that fits better or grind out the existing plate a bit with a metal file or rotary tool.
  • The stop moulding is out of shape or alignment. The stop moulding is the piece of trim that the door rests against when closed. If it’s warped or out of alignment, the door may not close all the way. You can try forcing the moulding into a better position by striking it with a hammer. If that doesn’t work, you may need to sand down and refinish the moulding where the door is striking it.
  • The fit between the jamb and door is too tight. If the door doesn’t have enough of a gap between the door jamb and the inside edge of the door (next to the hinges), the door won’t close properly. You can often fix this by putting a small shim under the hinges to reposition the door.

Chances are, you’ll be able to fix this quite quickly — provided you have the right tools for the right task.

Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Screwdriver (Phillips)
  • Metal file or rotary tool like a Dremel (if strike plate needs adjustment)
  • Hammer and block of wood (if stop moulding needs adjustment)

Fix A Door That Sticks

The video above, also from MonkeySee, shows us how to fix the opposite problem: a sticky door. The most common reason a door sticks is that the hinge screws have come loose. If so, tighten them up first and see if the door behaves better. If you find a screw hole that’s been stripped (the screw just turns but never tightens), you can use a longer screw or you can solve the problem using toothpicks or a golf tee.

If the hinge screws aren’t the problem, you’ll need to close the door and see where it is rubbing against the door jamb. You can solve this problem by trying to adjust how the door hinges fit or by sanding and refinishing the edge of the door where it rubs.

Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Screwdriver (Phillips)
  • Power drill (optional)
  • Sandpaper and refinishing supplies (if necessary)

Fix A Sliding Door That Sticks

If you have a sliding door that doesn’t slide well, the first thing to try is lubricating the track and rollers with a good silicone spray, which is great because it won’t collect dirt. That may be enough to get the door moving easily again. More likely, though, you’ll need to pop the door out, give the track and rollers a good cleaning, and then lubricate them well, which the video above from doublewide6 shows.

Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Screwdriver (Phillips or flat)
  • Silicone spray lubricant

Fix Or Replace A Screen On A Window Or Door

If you have a screen with a small rip or tear, it’s in your best interest to go ahead and repair it now because the problem can get worse quickly. Whether you need to do a quick repair or replace an entire screen, the video above from doitbest shows you how.

Before you get to repairing your screen, first determine whether yours is made from fibreglass or metal. You can fix very small holes or tears in metal by applying a bit of household cement or in fibreglass by simply sewing it up.

If you have a hole or tear up to about three inches in a metal screen, you can get good results by using a patching kit. You can find kits with precut shapes or a sheet of screening that you can cut yourself. Applying a patch to a metal screen is simply a matter of cutting it to a size a little bigger than the hole, bending the ends of the patch so that you can insert it into the screen, and then folding the tips into the existing screen so the patch stays put.

If you have holes bigger than three inches in a metal screen or anything more than a tiny hole in a fibreglass screen, you’ll need to go ahead and replace the screen. Buy a roll of screen that’s the same material as the screen you’re replacing. You’ll need spline (or screening line), which is a vinyl, foam or rubber cording that fits into the channel around the screen and holds it in place. And don’t be afraid to take your old spline, screen or even window down to the hardware store with you so you can get the right supplies. You’ll also need a spline tool (or screen rolling tool) to press the spline into the channel.

Remove the spline from the old window or door, pop out the existing screen, measure and cut the new screen, stretch it over the window, and use the spline tool to press the new spline into place. You can see details about how it’s done in the video.

Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Screwdriver (Phillips or flat)
  • Household cement or superglue (for small fixes on metal screens)
  • Sewing kit (for small fixes on fibreglass screens)
  • Utility knife
  • Tape measure
  • Screen patches (for hole up to three inches in diameter)
  • Needle nosed pliers
  • Roll of screen (if replacing the screen)
  • Spline (if replacing the screen)
  • Spline tool (if replacing the screen)

Fix A Sliding Window That’s Stuck

If you have a sliding window that’s stuck, it’s usually pretty easy to fix. The one thing you don’t want to do is try using excessive amounts of force because you risk damaging the window or breaking the glass. A stuck window is usually the result of paint that is sealing the window to the frame or swollen wood in the frame or window that’s rubbing too tight.

As shown in the video above from expertvillage, use a thin flat blade (a putty knife is ideal) to work your way around the frame. This will loosen any paint that may be holding the window shut and also help you find areas where the window and frame may be too tight. After you’ve gone all around the window, you should be able to get it open. It may take a couple of tries, but if you still can’t get the window open after this, you may want to call a pro.

If you can get the window open, go around the frame with some sandpaper to remove whatever is catching and causing the window to stick. Lubricate the frame with some paraffin or candle wax when you’re done to help keep things sliding well.

Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Putty knife or other thin flat blade
  • Sandpaper
  • Paraffin or candle wax

Fix A Wooden Drawer That Sticks

As with doors and windows, wooden drawers tend to stick because of wood or paint rubbing against wood. If you can get the drawer out, it’s usually not too hard to spot the problem, as the video above from Ron Hazelton shows:

  • If there’s paint around the edge of the drawer that’s preventing the drawer from sliding smoothly, you’ll need to remove it. The easiest way to do it, especially if it’s latex paint, is with a heat gun and a stripping tool like a putty knife. If you don’t have a heat gun, you might be able to make the job go a little easier with a hair dryer, but you’ll still be putting in more work with the scraper and some sandpaper.
  • If the drawer sides are rubbing against the frame, you’ll need to sand them down with some course (around 60-grit) sandpaper at the points where the rubbing happens.
  • Most wooden drawers have a groove that runs along a wood runner in the drawer frame. This source of friction can also cause drawers to stick. Check out the groove and runner for any signs of damage and try sanding them smooth. Then, apply a lubricant like paraffin, candle wax, or just a bar of soap.

Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Heat gun (optional and if you need to remove paint)
  • Putty knife or other flat blade (for removing paint)
  • Coarse (60-grit) sandpaper
  • Paraffin, candle wax or bar soap

Repair Minor Scratches On Wooden Furniture

Repairing minor scratches on wooden furniture is a pretty simple fix, as shown in the video above from ehowathomechannel. All you need to do is apply a matching stain to the scratch, rub it off with a towel, and apply a bit of finish (such as polyurethane) that matches what’s used on the furniture. The only real trick is making sure that you wipe any excess stain up really well so it doesn’t mar the finish that’s on the rest of the piece.

Also keep in mind that this is intended for fixing minor scratches and, unless you find a perfectly matching stain, you’re still going to be able to see the scratch if you look closely. If you have a piece of furniture that’s particularly valuable or important to you, consider having it looked at by a pro.

Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Stain that matches the wood closely
  • Finish that matches what’s already used on the furniture
  • Small paintbrush
  • Shop towel

Lifehacker’s Workshop column covers DIY tips, techniques and projects.

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