Not all of us can be that super-cool, bearded hipster carpenter dude who can fix anything around the house, from rehanging a busted door or removing a cammed-out screw to tightening a wobbly coffee table leg or swap out a leaky disposal in five minutes. But as long as you have a bit of manual dexterity and a semi-coherent brain, most repairs and maintenance challenges around the house aren’t that tough to tackle.
It helps if you already have a few decent tools sitting around to facilitate your handyman fumbling—screwdrivers, drill, drill bits, vice grips, hammer, saw—but, if not, most local hardware stores sell an all-in-one set that can get you started on most simple tasks. Other essentials for quick and easy upkeep and fixes around your home or apartment include WD-40, silicone lubricant, cream of tartar, baking soda, and expanding foam. Follow these tips and tricks the next time your home needs repair or maintenance and then bask in the subsequent feeling of accomplishment.
1 Stabilize a wobbly showerhead
If the pipe coming out of your shower wall ends up getting a little loose, an easy fix is to pull back the flange and apply some expanding foam into the gap around the shower arm. As the stuff dries, it will fill the cavity and keep the pipe in place, eliminating any wobble.
2 Keep floors quiet
Squeaky floors can be a super-annoying problem in your house, whether under carpet or a hardwood floor. To get rid of noises under carpet, use a stud finder to find a floor joist near the squeak and then use a drill to drive in a low-profile trim screw (without threads near the head) through the carpet and pad and into solid wood. Drive in more if it still makes noise. For wood floors, it’s even simpler. Just sprinkle a good amount of talcum powder (you may know this by its common name: baby powder), on to the cracks near the squeak. Use a broom to spread the powder around and to get in down into the gaps, and the noises should cease. Then you can work from home more peacefully.
3 Shut up loud door hinges
When door hinges start to squeal, you can spray some lubricant like WD-40 into the middle of the hinge to quiet them. If that doesn’t work, try knocking the hinge pin up about halfway with a screwdriver and hammer, and then rubbing some lubricant like 3-in-one oil on it. Tap it back down and then move the door back and forth, and your squeak should be gone.
4 Buff out scuffs
Hardwood floors will eventually collect a bunch of scuffs from hard-soled shoe traffic, but there’s a novel way to get rid of them: Use a tennis ball. The felt-like surface of the ball will quickly remove any scuffs, as long as you rub it vigorously over the mark. If you don’t fee like getting on your hands and knees, cut a small X into one side and then poke a broom handle into it for back-saving buffing.
5 Make your tub sparkle
After a few years of daily use, the minerals in water—not to mention dirt and sloughed off skin cells—can make any tub look stained and dingy. Instead of reaching for some harsh chemicals, mix up equal amounts of baking soda and cream of tartar (found in your grocery’s spice section) with lemon juice until it forms a paste. Apply to stains and rub in, then wait about an hour and rinse.
6 Smooth out sticky windows
Windows that stutter and skip and stick when you try to open for a bit of fresh air are extremely annoying. Trying to force windows open when sticky can also stress the window and cause damage over time, so next you feel resistance, spray a bit of silicone lubricant on a rag and then lightly coat the guides. This works for plastic, metal, or wood.
7 Clear up water stains
Leaks in roofs or ceilings will cause brown water rings on drywall, but before you assemble everything you need to paint over them, try spraying a mix of 10% bleach to water on them. Wait 24 hours and more often than not, those unsightly brown spots will have disappeared. This will clear up most stains on flat or popcorn ceilings, just be sure to protect your eyes and anything close by that could get bleach on it.
8 Patch small holes in drywall
Inevitably the walls in your home will get a few holes in them from hanging pictures or mirrors. This is annoying; when you want to change things up, there are ugly holes peppering the drywall. Thankfully, this is an easy fix: just pick up some spackle from the hardware store and scrap into the hole. Let dry, then lightly sand and paint to make any holes vanish.
9 Seal up a wallpaper seam
If you have a seam that’s coming apart, 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.
10 Repair a leaky hose
Hoses only seem to last a few seasons before they spring a leak, and they aren’t cheap, so fixing dripping hoses is a smart move. Hardware stores stock hose repair kits and pieces, so whether water is coming out of the connector or somewhere in the middle of the hose, all you have to do is cut off (or out) the leaky bit and reconnect with the new hardware.