If you were lucky, you grew up with a parent who was handy with tools and knows how to fix just about anything around the house that stopped working or needed updating. However, not everyone had such good fortune. Remember that old joke: How many parents does it take to change a light bulb? Two: one to buy a new bulb and one to call the electrician. If that’s a perfect description of your parents, it doesn’t bode well for your own skills around the house.
Luckily handyman skills aren’t genetic – they can be learned. They’re not gender-specific either, so both men and women can learn to tackle home repair projects. All it takes is a quick course at a home building store, a friend to show you the ropes, a YouTube video, this blog post or a combination of all of these.
Read on to learn some of the basics that you should know how to tackle.
No, this isn’t a bar-hopping skill. Studs are the vertical beams that support the walls in a building. They are solid and usually spaced anywhere from 16 to 20 inches apart and can generally be found on either side of windows and next to the electrical outlets.
Why should you care? If you plan to hang art on your walls or secure bookcases, you’ll want to attach them to studs, which can handle their weight and offer stability.
There are expensive tools that hardware stores sell for stud finding, but it can be accomplished much more easily and cheaply. If you have an electric razor or a magnet, you’re all set. Turn on the razor and drag it flat across the wall; when it encounters a stud, you should hear the razor’s tone change pitch.
Otherwise, take a strong magnet, attach it to a piece of twine and drag it along the wall. Drywall is generally only about 3/8 to 1/2 inches thick, so the magnet should cling to the metal in the studs behind it.
If you have hung photos on the wall using nails, you’ll want to close those holes before you move or consider painting the room. It’s an easy fix. Get yourself some spackle, a putty knife and sandpaper – they’re useful items to keep around. Clear away anything protruding from the hole or any loose pieces inside it.
Using the putty knife, spread a thin, smooth layer of spackle over the hole. Since it shrinks, it’s okay to leave a bit extra over the hole. Let it dry for a few hours and add a second layer, as needed. Once it’s dry, use fine-grain sandpaper to smooth the area until it’s flush with the rest of the wall. You can then paint the affected area to match.
Unclogging a Drain
Before bringing out the heavy artillery, try a basic home remedy. Mix vinegar, hot water and baking soda together and pour it down the affected drain. It should disperse grease or product that is blocking the passage. However, if this doesn’t work, use a sink plunger, which is similar to a toilet plunger. (Don’t use them interchangeably – it’s not sanitary!)
Fill the sink halfway with water and apply the plunger, pumping the rubber attachment to create proper suction. It should disperse the blockage.
If that fails, it’s time to clear the trap – the curved piece of pipe that connects your sink to the vertical pipe. First, place a bucket under the pipes so that you don’t simulate Noah and the flood on your floor. Next, unscrew the trap by hand or by using a pipe wrench. Empty the water within and clear out the interior of the trap. Put it back in place, reattach the pipes and run the water to ensure that the blockage is cleared.
Painting Like a Pro
Painting isn’t as scary as it looks; you can do a solid job without years of experience. It’s a great skill to have when you want to update the look of your abode or freshen the interior.
Get started by repairing holes in the wall – see #2, above – and protecting the furniture with sheets or drop cloths. Remove electric switch and outlet covers and cover those openings with masking tape.
Sand your walls to ensure that the paint sticks better, using a pole sander and 120-grit sandpaper. Once you vacuum up the dust, wipe the walls with a damp sponge or cloth.
Next, apply a coat of primer, which will cover all the spackle marks and help the final color look brighter. Once the primer coat is completely dry, you can apply your main coat of paint. First, use an angled brush to paint strips along the corners and at the edges of each wall. Then, break out the roller and wet it before dipping it into the paint. Roll it in the paint tray until it’s completely coated. Paint the walls and let them dry thoroughly.
So, you’re off to a good start! As you encounter other issues around your home, you’ll undoubtedly have opportunities to add to your new handyman skills.