Fix It Yourself and Save
Repair a Small Crack in Drywall
Time: 30 minutes of active work, plus 25 minutes of drying time.
What you need: Spackle ($4, homedepot.com), a putty knife ($8, lowes.com), a fan or hair dryer, fine-grit sandpaper, interior-latex primer, a small paintbrush or roller, and paint (ideally left over from when you painted the room).
Step 1. Scoop enough Spackle on the putty knife to cover the crack. Spread it over the flaw completely. Do not scrape away the excess.
Step 2. Aim a fan at the spot or blast it with a hair dryer set on low for 10 to 15 minutes to expedite drying.
Step 3. Once it’s dry, sand the surface lightly with sandpaper until the patch is smooth and flush with the wall.
Step 4. To disguise your handiwork, apply a thin coat of primer using a small brush or roller. Run the fan or hair dryer for three minutes to promote faster drying.
Step 5. Apply two coats of matching wall paint. Use the fan or dryer for two to three minutes after each coat.
A pro charges: $75
DIY cost: $0, after the initial $12 for supplies
Fix a Faucet That Spits
What you need: Two rags, an adjustable wrench or pliers, painter’s or masking tape, dish detergent, a sponge, and a wire brush.
How-to: Chances are you have a dirty aerator―the mesh piece located inside the tip of the faucet. All you have to do is take it out and clean it. (If it’s beyond repair, buy a replacement at a hardware store.) Before you start, place one rag over the drain to catch any falling parts and spread another on the counter so you can lay the pieces on it. Cover the jaws of the wrench or pliers with tape to avoid scratches. Unscrew the tip of the faucet, turning it counterclockwise with your fingers or, if it’s on too tight, one of the tools. The aerator may be made up of several components. Set them down in the order you remove them. Wash each with warm water, dish detergent, and a sponge; use a wire brush for caked-on grime. Reassemble the parts in the reverse order, screw the unit back on―and overflow with pride.
A pro charges: $100
DIY cost: $0
Replace a Doorknob
Time: 10 minutes
What you need: A Phillips screwdriver, a doorknob set (which comes with screws; $20 and up), and a thin nail or paperclip.
How-to: The directions that follow are for doorknobs with hidden screws. See screws on the outside of the knob? You’re in luck: Yours will be even easier to install than the model shown here. Jump down to the note below.
Step 1. Look for a small hole on the outside knob (A). Push a nail (or a paperclip) into it and the inside knob (B) should come off, revealing a faceplate (C) secured by screws. Remove those and the faceplate and the outside knob will come off.
Step 2. Unscrew the latch plate (D) and remove the latch assembly.
Step 3. Insert the new latch, curved side facing the direction in which the door closes. Fasten latch plate with the screws.
Step 4. Position the new faceplate on the inside of the door and the outside knob on the other side. Thread the spindle (the finger-length shaft) through the faceplate and latch and into the knob.
Step 5. Drive the screws through the faceplate and the latch and into the base of the outside knob.
Step 6. Slide the inside knob onto the other end of the spindle. Turn until it clicks into place.
Note: For doorknobs with exposed screws, undo the screws and both knobs will come off. Unscrew the latch plate and remove the latch assembly. Insert the new latch and fasten, as in step 3 above. One knob will have a spindle attached to it. Thread the spindle through the door and latch assembly so it pokes out the other side. Slide the base of the second knob onto the end of the spindle. Fasten with the screws.
A pro charges: $75, plus the cost of a new knob
DIY cost: $20 and up for a new knob
Secure a Window That Slides Down
Time: 30 minutes.
What you need: A ruler or dowel, a pair of window controls ($7, hardwaresource.com), box nails (from $1.50, lowes.com), a hammer, a measuring tape, and a pencil.
Step 1. Push up the window as high as you will want it to open; use a ruler or a dowel to hold it in that position.
Step 2. Place a window control in the channel on one side. Align the top edge of the control with the bottom of the sash; nail it into place. (The wavy part of the control holds the window up and, when pushed in, allows the window to slide over it and close.)
Step 3. Measure the distance between the nails and the sill and mark the same distance for the other channel. Nail the second control into place.
Step 4. Remove the ruler or dowel and lower the window.
A pro charges: $75
DIY cost: $8.50 for supplies
Replace a Torn Window Screen
Time: An hour for a first-timer. (It will go quicker after that.)
What you need: A flathead screwdriver, scissors, a utility knife, mesh-screening material ($3 for a small roll), spline ($4), and a spline rolling tool ($3.50; all available at lowes.com).
Step 1. Remove the screen (on its frame) from the window. It usually pops out, or it may be held in by clips. Place it on a flat surface and use a screwdriver to pry off the spline―the strip of rubber or plastic that holds the screening in the frame.
Step 2. Align the new mesh on top of the frame, keeping the grid straight. With scissors, cut the replacement screen to the size of the outer edge of the frame. Cut a small square from each corner (about the width of the frame) to prevent the material from bunching where the edges meet.
Step 3. Starting in one corner and working your way up one side, push the screen into the channel with the convex (pointy) end of the spline rolling tool. The goal is to achieve a slight indentation; no need to jam it in.
Step 4. Before moving on to another side, insert the spline. Use the concave end of the spline rolling tool to push the cord into the channel over the top of the screen; hold the screen as you go so it doesn’t bunch. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for the remaining sides.
Step 5. Push the spline into the corners with a screwdriver. Cut the spline overhang with scissors. Use a utility knife to trim the excess screen around the frame.
A pro charges: $75, plus $14 for supplies
DIY cost: $10.50 for supplies