As our homes age, certain items tend to wear out or break down. Essential items such as appliances, faucets, light fixtures and more will need to be repaired or replaced over time. While some repairs require the expertise of a professional, many can end up on what we call the “Honey Do” list— a list of simple, do-it-yourself fixes you can handle on a Saturday morning. Here we show you some simple, common repairs that most homeowners can handle themselves without consulting a professional repair service.
The Leaky Faucet
A leaky faucet can be caused by several factors—some of which are easy to fix. First, check to ensure the screw that holds the handle on is tight. Use a small screwdriver to pop out the cap on the faucet that indicates water temperature; there should be a screw under the cap which holds the handle on. If your faucet is built differently, this screw may be located on the underside or elsewhere (and you may not have ever noticed it!). Tightening this screw is the simplest and easiest cure for a leaky faucet. If this screw is not loose, however, the repair will involve more detailed work. Removing the handle reveals the faucet cartridge. This cartridge controls the flow of water through the faucet. Remove the cartridge and verify that the O-ring or washer is intact. These tend to wear out over time, and replacing them may solve the problem. Another culprit could be a spring which is worn or out of place. If necessary, a replacement cartridge can usually be found at the hardware store. If all else fails, this will give you a good reason to upgrade to a new faucet entirely.
The Running Toilet
Most homeowners shudder when they hear the distinctive, troubling sound of water gurgling or bubbling after flushing the toilet. Sometimes jiggling the handle seems to solve the problem—but that’s only a temporary fix. To begin troubleshooting, try putting a few drops of food dye in the tank. If you see the dye in the bowl, you have a leak. Another simple indicator of a leak is a higher-than-normal water bill.
This also can be a simple fix. A toilet tank contains two valves—a fill valve and a flush valve. The fill valve does just that—fills the tank with water. When you press the handle to flush the commode, the flush valve opens to allow water into the bowl. The part that typically goes bad and causes the toilet to “run” is the flapper. The flapper is a rubber gasket which raises to allow water to flow into the bowl (flush) and closes to allow the tank to fill again. Replacing the flapper involves a few simple steps:
• Turn off the water supply
(shut-off valve is located below the tank)
• Flush toilet to drain the tank
• Disconnect or unscrew the flush valve
• Remove the old, worn flapper and replace it with a new one
Over time, the float rod, also located in the tank, may bend or not recover properly. This also may cause your toilet to keep running after each flush. Unscrewing the bent rod and replacing with a new one may solve the problem. The fill valve usually does not cause problems, but fill valve replacements are available at your local home center.
The Tricky Switch
Plumbing parts are not the only items that tend to wear out over time. Many times, electrical light switches and outlets need to be replaced. However, attempting any electrical repairs on your own requires an extra level of caution. You must turn off the appropriate circuit breaker on the electrical panel box prior to beginning your task to disconnect all electricity flowing through the circuit to avoid electrical shock. The panel box is typically located in the lower level of the home, usually on the rear wall. The circuit breakers should be labeled according to the area of the home they control. It is a good idea to periodically check that the writing is legible on the labels, and relabel them using a permanent marker if necessary.
To replace a defective switch, first remove the screws holding the switch plate cover. Next, remove the screws attaching the switch to the junction box. Pull the switch through the wall opening and carefully remove the wires attached to either side of the switch. The wires are usually black on one side of the switch and white on the other. Place the wires in the same location as before on the new switch. Attach the new switch to the junction box. Turn the circuit breaker back on in the electrical panel box and check the switch to make sure it is functioning. If everything works properly, replace the switch plate cover, and you are done. Follow the same procedures to replace a defective outlet.
These are just a few simple do-it-yourself household fixes that most homeowners should be able to handle with little difficulty. Having the right tools handy and easy access to replacement parts will make the job a lot easier. Performing your own household repairs can save you money and give you the ultimate feeling of accomplishment in a job well done.