This is a fun one. Composite wood paneling may have been all the rage in the 60s and 70s, but unless it’s still in perfect condition and painted white, it’s probably an eyesore. Popping off this decorative paneling can take minutes, and is seriously satisfying. Just be ready: you never know what condition the wall is in underneath. Be prepared to do a little plaster repair and, of course, repaint. Click here to learn how to prepare a wall for painting.
Many people can do common household repairs. There are resources on the Internet, as well as do-it-yourself guide books, with instructions about how to complete a wide range of projects. Sometimes the fix-it skill is seen as genetic, and people lacking such skills are said to "lack the handy-man gene". One trend is that fewer homeowners are inclined to do fix-up jobs, perhaps because of time constraints, perhaps because of lack of interest; one reporter commented "my family's fix-it gene petered out before it reached my generation."
Depending on where you live, national averages can seem like a steal. Rene Artale’s four-bedroom house near Newcastle, in Westchester County, N.Y., suffered some damage during a storm last winter. A tree fell in the yard, damaging her fence, arbor and retaining wall. And heavy snow caused her roof to leak. The repair bills just kept piling up. Removing the tree, $3,800. Repairing the wall, $4,000. Fixing the roof, $3,800. Fixing the picket fence, $2,800. “It’s obscene,” Ms. Artale, 47, said.
Perhaps the most perplexing repairs facing a home-owner are broken or damaged things. In today's era of built-in obsolescence for many products, it is often more convenient to replace something rather than attempt to repair it. A repairman is faced with the tasks of accurately identifying the problem, then finding the materials, supplies, tools and skills necessary to sufficiently effect the repair. Some things, such as broken windows, appliances or furniture can be carried to a repair shop, but there are many repairs that can be performed easily enough, such as patching holes in plaster and drywall, cleaning stains, repairing cracked windows and their screens, or replacing a broken electrical switch or outlet. Other repairs may have some urgency, such as a broken water pipes, broken doors, latches or windows, or a leaky roof or water tank, and this factor can certainly justify calling for professional help. A home handyman may become adept at dealing with such immediate repairs, to avoid further damage or loss, until a professional can be summoned.
You’ve got an ever increasing to-do list of home improvements like changing out a bathroom faucet, replacing missing shingles on the roof and painting a kitchen wall. You could hire a plumber, roofer and painter who have conflicting schedules and their own service charges, or you could hire a handyman to complete all three projects in one day for one hourly rate.
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.
Before you go through the trouble of repainting a ceiling to get rid of a water stain, try this trick. Spray the spot with a bleach and water solution (10 percent bleach), and wait a day or two. If it’s an old stain, use a mold and mildew remover from the grocery store. You’d be surprised how often the stain disappears by the next day. It works on both flat and textured ceilings.
When that happens, all you can do is pay up, as happened with Jason Hark and Kenneth Larivee. In 2016, the couple got hit with a $28,000 assessment to replace the siding on their West Orange, N.J. townhouse in a condo association. This cost came on top of their $610 monthly association fee. After speaking with siding companies, Mr. Hark estimated that if his unit had been a stand-alone property, the project would have cost closer to $7,500. “But we couldn’t fight it,” said Mr. Hark, a director at WCBS-TV.
When a home is sold, inspections are performed that may reveal environmental hazards such as radon gas in the basement or water supply or friable asbestos materials (both of which can cause lung cancer), peeling or disturbed lead paint (a risk to children and pregnant women), in-ground heating oil tanks that may contaminate ground water, or mold that can cause problems for those with asthma or allergies. Typically the buyer or mortgage lender will require these conditions to be repaired before allowing the purchase to close. An entire industry of environmental remediation contractors has developed to help home owners resolve these types of problems.
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.