Repairs often mean simple replacement of worn or used components intended to be periodically renewed by a home-owner, such as burnt out light bulbs, worn out batteries, or overfilled vacuum cleaner bags. Another class of home repairs relates to restoring something to a useful condition, such as sharpening tools or utensils, replacing leaky faucet washers, cleaning out plumbing traps, rain gutters. Because of the required precision, specialized tools, or hazards, some of these are best left to experts such as a plumber. One emergency repair that may be necessary in this area is overflowing toilets. Most of them have a shut-off valve on a pipe beneath or behind them so that the water supply can be turned off while repairs are made, either by removing a clog or repairing a broken mechanism.
How to DIY it: This job can be messy, so protect nearby surfaces by covering them with plastic or cardboard. Spray the springs with garage door lubricant (about $7 at home centers). Don’t use oil, grease, or other lubricants. They may be cheaper, or you may have them on hand already, but they won’t work as well and tend to pick up dust and grit—just what you don’t want on moving parts.
Live in a condo or co-op in the city, and your monthly maintenance fee may be large enough to make you envy the owner of a single-family home. But that regular common charge means that you get to live in ignorant bliss about what it costs to keep a property functioning. You may never know when the gutters get cleaned, who gets hired to do the work or even how much the job costs. None of the details are your problem because the work just gets done whether you’re paying attention or not.
When the kitchen faucet leaks, you can’t just call the super. Instead, you have to find a handyman willing to do the work — unless you want to figure out how fix it yourself. But that would mean spending half a day at Home Depot wandering around the plumbing aisle. Buy the wrong materials and you may be back at the store a week later, or calling that handyman anyway to fix your mistake.
How well do the franchise chains perform? One Wall Street Journal reporting team did an informal assessment by hiring handymen all over the United States and asking them to fix a wide range of problems, from a relatively routine leaky faucet to a sticky door. The reporter concluded that "with few licensing requirements and standards for the industry, prices are all over the board." One quote was ten times as large as another. Further, the reporter concluded "A big corporate name is no guarantee of quality or speedy service." One corporate firm took three weeks to fix a stuck door. Service varied from spotty to good, with complaints about unreturned phone calls, service people standing on dining room chairs, leaving holes between wood planking, but liked getting multiple jobs done instead of just one. Customers liked handymen wearing hospital booties (to avoid tracking dirt in houses). The reporter chronicled one experience with repairing a water-damaged ceiling. A franchise firm fixed it for $1,530; a second (non-franchise local handyman) fixed a similar ceiling for $125. The reporter preferred the second worker, despite the fact that he "doesn't have a fancy van -- or carry proof of insurance". Tips for selecting a good handyman include: ask questions, get written estimates on company stationery, make sure handymen guarantee their work, pay with credit cards or checks because this provides an additional record of each transaction, check references and licenses, review feedback about the contractors from Internet sites. To find a competent worker, one can seek referrals from local sources such as a school or church or office park, to see if a staff handyman does projects on the side, as well as ask friends for referrals; a general contractor might have workers who do projects on the side as well. Further, one can try out a new handyman with easy projects such as cleaning gutters to see how well they perform.
This summer, they decided to paint the frames black, which cost $900. Mr. Sievers, a special-education teacher, and his wife, a doctor, could have done the work themselves, a solution that do-it-yourself enthusiasts would suggest. But the doors face the street, and the couple wanted the end result to look polished. “My dad and my uncle used to always do home repairs and everything used to come out uneven or crooked,” Mr. Sievers said. So he paid a professional.
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Ms. Artale in Westchester has a plan to fix the problem. Neither she nor her husband, Andy, 41, a program analyst, may ever learn how to repair a fence. But that won’t be the case with their 9-year-old son, Matteo. “When my son gets a little older, I’m going to apprentice him out to someone — for real,” she said. “It’s ridiculous that my husband and I don’t know how to do anything.”
Some see a benefit of franchising as "entrepreneurship under the safety net of a tried-and-true business umbrella" but forecast a 1.2 percent decrease in franchise businesses during the 2008-2009 recession. In 2005, according to a survey released by the Washington-based International Franchise Association showed 909,000 franchised establishments in the United States employing some 11 million people. Franchises offer training, advertising and information technology support, lower procurement costs and access to a network of established operators.