Since that time, Googling for answers has become my first step whenever I encounter some kind of an appliance problem. Even if you are in a new-to-you home where you have “inherited” old appliances without manuals, you can usually find a copy of the original owner's manual online which will help you to understand just how that device works, and which covers common troubleshooting steps that you can take when it decides to give you trouble. You can also do a specific search on the problem that you are having with the make/model of the appliance (for example, “Frigidaire SXS fridge not making ice”) and chances are you'll find questions posted by other users who experienced the same issue in online forums, Youtube how-to videos from handy folks who have fixed the same problem themselves, and helpful tips from the manufacturer's website.
There are lots of home repairs you can do yourself without the expense and the hassle of calling in a repairman. Here are a few DIY home repairs:
Unclogging the Toilet
So there was this time during a week-long hotel stay, that my then 3-year-old daughter put an entire bar of soap into the toilet and clogged it. It took two plumbers the better part of a day, and a complete removal of the toilet to fix the problem! But let's say that your problem isn't that “involved”– here are some steps to follow to deal with a clogged toilet:
- Use the plunger! Any home with small children should have one of these in each and every bathroom (but be warned: don't let your kids watch you plunge a toilet or they may decide that they can “help Mommy” and do it themselves. That's just asking for a big mess!) The best kind of plunger is one with a flange, because it can cover the drain hole and provide the best suction.
- Plunger didn't work? Then try “snaking the toilet“. A snake is a long coiled piece of metal that is flexible, so it can travel down the winding path through the toilet piping to help clear out whatever is stuck there. It takes a little practice to get the hang of it — but you can do it! Still can't find out what is causing the clog?
- You can also purchase a snake with a teeny-tiny camera at the end for less than $30. You hook one end up to your computer via a USB port (obviously a laptop computer works best for this!), and one end snakes down into the bowels of the toilet- allowing you a look-around at what might be stuck. If you can see what you are trying to unclog- it makes it a lot easier to remove it
Still stuck? Okay — now it's time to call in the pro …
Unclogging a Drain
Sometimes it's not the potty that's clogged … it's the kitchen sink (or the bathroom sink, or the bathtub). Now obviously the easiest thing to do is to prevent the clog in the first place by using appropriate drain covers to catch debris before it heads down the drain — such as mesh or rubber ones for the kitchen sink and small-sized holes over bathtub drains designed to catch hair. And make sure that you clean these out on a regular basis so they can do their job effectively. But if you are facing down a clog, here are some steps to take:
- Homemade drain cleaner. Try pouring a 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Let this sit for a few hours (it will foam vigorously at first) before running water.
- If that didn't solve your problem — we're going to move on to plunging. You know that little hole near the top of your sink that handles overflow if your child overfills your sink? Well, cover that up with a wet cloth first (you need to do this so that you can create suction with the plunger over the drain). Then take a clean plunger and rub a little petroleum jelly around the lip of the plunger (to create a better seal) and then plunge up and down in order to move the water back and forth in the drain. Try this several times to remove the clog.
- Still stuck? Then it's time to try a chemical drain cleaner. Follow the directions on the package and be careful that you do not splash it on yourself or your bathroom fixtures, as these harsh chemicals can cause damage!
Still stuck? Okay — now it's time to call in the pro …
Air Conditioner Window Unit Is Not Cooling
It is virtually impossible to get a good night's sleep when it is 90 degrees in your bedroom! And if your window air conditioning unit is only blowing out warm air, that's not going to cut it — so here are a few things you can do before calling in the repairman to get your unit functioning properly again:
- Change the air filter. Most of these can be accessed from the front panel and just slide into place. Pull yours out; if it is dusty, dirty, or worse — disintegrating, it's time to replace it. You can order them online for your make and model and they usually cost less than $10 each. And while you are at it …
- Vacuum the condenser coils. If your air filter was in bad shape, then chances are- the coils are full of dust and dirt as well. Using the brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner, thoroughly suck up the dust and dirt from around the coils.
Still blowing hot air? Okay — now it's time to call in the pro …
Fix a Squeaky Door
Squeaky door driving you crazy? This is an easy one! Simply spray the hinges with a little WD-40 and then swing the door back and forth a bit to give a chance for the lubricant to work it's way down the hinge.
Still making noise? Lift the pin of the hinge up about halfway and then spray the WD-40 down into the hinge as well as on the top of the pin. Slide the pin back into place, and wipe any drips with a clean cloth.
Unstick a Sliding Window
This is another simple fix that you can easily handle yourself. Purchase a can of silicone spray lubricant at your local hardware store. Spray a generous amount onto a rag, then wipe along the tracks to coat them. Then slide the window up and down a few times. It should now glide easily!
I hope that these DIY household repairs have inspired you to save some money and try to fix it yourself before calling in the repairman! And remember:
Always Google for a solution if you are stuck before calling for help!
Are you pretty handy around the house?
Image via Flickr/Shelby L. Bell