Lead-based paint and real estate: how does it affect you?
Payson Denny Architects in Santa Monica, CA

Home repairs: should you do them yourself, or get help?

504144683_622f84f514 reader Scott Gray sends in the following:

Tackling home repairs and improvements begins with making a very personal decision. Are you capable of doing the job, or do you need help? How much help do you need? Maybe another experienced do-it-yourselfer can provide assistance, or perhaps you can take a course at your a local college or night school and learn how to do the work. Or maybe not. Professional help is expensive, but in some cases, you have no choice but to suck it up and call a repairperson.

These are the things to consider:

  • Most repair work and maintenance jobs are a matter of understanding how things work and having the right tools to fix them.
  • Anyone can learn basic painting, plumbing, masonry, electrical or construction work, but for complex tasks, consider the specialized knowledge, testing equipment, and tools that might be needed. If it's a radio, television, photographic equipment, camera, computer, or the oil burner in your furnace that's on the fritz, you should call a qualified repairperson. Even if you have the courage to try and do the work, the cost of the testing equipment and specialized tools are probably prohibitive. If you want to rewire the house, there are safety issues involved and you really should consult a professional.
  • How accessible is the item to be repaired? If it's something that is built into the house and you have to tear the wall apart to get at it, you had better know exactly what you are going to do when you get there; otherwise call a professional right away. It's probably less expensive in the long run.

Home Repairs – How to Get Started
Can you really save money after laying down what seems like a fortune for tools and materials? Yes, you can.

  • Find a safe, protected work area, such as the garage, the basement, or an insulated and well-lit shed. You need to store tools and supplies and keep them dry and safe; and you need a place to saw, sand, and basically make a mess that won't interfere with the daily lives of those who share your home.
  • Begin by stocking your work area and tool kit with the basics: You need a hammer, various sizes and styles of screwdrivers (at least four or five), an adjustable wrench, a crosscut saw, a measuring tape, two or three sizes of paint brushes, spackle paste or fill, duct tape, silicone caulking, penetrating oil and machine oil, glue, sandpaper, electrical tape, masking tape, and an assortment of screws, anchors, nails, washers, and o-rings. And that's just the start. You will need to add other items as repair jobs and home improvement projects crop up.
  • Start with the easy stuff: replace the socket on that flickering lamp; paint a small room, replace the washer and the o-ring on that dripping tap; put together an easy-to-assemble doll house. Once you master simple repair tasks, you will have the confidence to try more complex jobs.

The Sky is the Limit

  • As you become familiar with hand tools and simple home repairs and improvements, you will develop a taste for more complex do-it-yourself projects and hunger after speed and efficiency. You'll realize that it's easy to improve the resale value of your home by adding a deck, but first, you need to add power tools to your tool arsenal. And you can afford them now because you no longer throw out things that don't work and don't have to pay for professional repairs.
  • Check out Bosch cordless drills for drilling holes and driving in screws, and do some comparison shopping like reading reviews and reports on models by Hitachi, Makita, Delta, DeWalt, Ridgid, Ryobi, etc.
  • Don't think about adding crown molding to your house without investing in a sliding miter saw, and again, check major brands and read reviews before you buy.

For almost every hand tool there is a power tool, and you will love them all. And before you know it, you'll be able to assemble a doll house in no time at all.

Scott Gray is currently a home improvement handyman enthusiast and freelance writer who enjoys providing tips to consumers who are in the market for hand and power tools like compound miter saws.

photo by Andrew Johnson