Facet #7 – How to Do Basic Home Repairs and General Maintenance

Basic home repairs and general maintenance happens almost without thinking about it for me. I grew up with a father who was very handy with tools. He taught us at a young age how to use a hammer. In fact, for Christmas the year I bought my first house, he gave me a tool box filled with all the basic tools I might possibly need – including a plumber’s wrench and drain snake. I still have both the box and the tools, and they are well used by now.

cardboard cut-out of a home, level, screwdriver, measuring tape, assorted nails and screws

The Country Boy and I rarely call a professional. We do as many of the home repairs and general maintenance on our home as possible. Since we live in an old house, this has saved us a lot of money, as we don’t have to call a professional every time a light blinks.

Some simple home repairs and general maintenance are super easy to do. Others require a solid knowledge and understanding of what you are doing. If you have never done it, it is best to ask someone to teach you first. This way, doing your own home repairs and general maintenance doesn’t cause even bigger, more expensive issues.

Simple Home Repairs and General Maintenance

There are simple home repairs and general maintenance things we can do to help maintain our homes. Got a lose screw? Tighten it. Is the hole stripped out? Squeeze in some wood filler and let it dry. Then put the screw back. It may only be a temporary fix, but more often than not, it will hold quite a while.

But it doesn’t stop there. Here are a few home repairs and general maintenance you can do to keep the cost of hiring a professional at bay:

Electrical Repairs

white socket being replaced

Disclaimer: Before you go any further with home repairs and general maintenance that involves electricity, be sure you have a solid understanding of electricity. It is best to leave this portion to a professional until you know with absolute certainty what you are doing. Keep pets and small children away from electrical panels, plugs and switches while you are working – even if you have thrown the main breaker. A wag of a tail or a poke of a small finger can be just as harmful or fatal.

The first thing you need to do when attempting electrical home repairs and general maintenance is know where the electrical panel is in the house. The electrical panel – also called Fuse box or distribution center – is where all the power comes into the house.

Once you find that, open it up. You will see a configuration made up of a large ‘box’ and smaller ones. The large box (usually at the top of the panel) is considered the Main. If you flip the switch on the Main, you will kill all the power to the house.

The smaller boxes look like rectangles. Mine look as if the rectangles are laying on the long side. Some may have a switch. Older panels may have what looks like a small glass knob. These are called ‘fuses’.

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Smart homeowners label all of the switches, so they know at a glance which switch or fuse feeds which area of the home. If I have to change out plugs or light switches, I err on the side of caution and flip the main breaker.

Before you do any electrical work, again, make sure you are absolutely certain of your abilities. The first few times, have someone who is knowledgeable standing by to guide you through the process. Once you learn all the intricate details, you will be able to do small electrical repairs, such as replacing switches, plugs, and installing or changing out ceiling fans.

 What a Drip

dripping faucet with vintage white knobs

When you learn to do your own basic home repairs and general maintenance, you will be able to fix that leaky faucet yourself. Working with plumbing isn’t quite as dangerous as working with electricity, but it can still be harmful (cutting yourself on a rusty pipe) or messy (gushes of water escaping from the pipes).

Most times your plumbing fixes consist of replacing a washer (gasket), and those are simple to replace. Sometimes, it is a bit more.

A clog may be loosened with by simply adding 1/4 cup of Baking Soda into the drain. Pour in a few Tablespoons of Vinegar, and the mixture of the two will begin to bubble furiously. But if the clog is stuck, you may need to do a bit more.

Get a plumbers wrench and learn to use it. These are used for the pipe underneath the sink. Once the pipe is removed, you can clear out the clog (or rescue the ring that dropped down the drain), and replace the pipe.

If you find that the clog isn’t in that section of pipe, invest in a drain snake. Insert the  ‘ball’ into the pipe, and work it down until it begins to loosen the clog. Eventually you will be able to break the clog free.

A couple of things to remember:

  • Sometimes, your clog may be further down the pipes. If this is the case, you may need to rent a larger snake from a DIY store, or call a plumber. But see what you can do first. It really could be a simple fix.
  • Always remember to have a bucket underneath it to catch the water that is still in the drain, and towels and rags handy. When the toilet is constantly running or won’t flush, it’s usually a simple matter to replace the guts. A visit to the hardware store will get you everything you need.

Some home repairs and general maintenance jobs, such as replacing the wax seal on a toilet is a little more difficult, but still doable. Get a home repairs and general maintenance how-to book that can show you step-by-step how to do most small maintenance jobs yourself. Learn to do as much as you can, and save the professionals for the big jobs. Simple home maintenance isn’t difficult, and the savings can be considerable.


assorted paint chips and small cans of paint in shades of green

When it comes to home repair and general maintenance, painting is one of the easiest for a homeowner to do.

Before you start to paint:

  • Remove any small items from the room. Push larger pieces to the center, and cover with a tarp.
  • Repair any damaged areas or fill holes. Allow repairs to dry completely, if necessary.
  • Wash down any and all surfaces that will be painted. A mild detergent mixed with warm water should do the trick. You can also use vinegar and warm water.
  • If you are washing down walls, you can either use a step ladder for the higher places, or try using a sponge mop. Just make sure you use fresh water/detergent mixture for each wall, and then another fresh bucket for trim and window sills. Allow at least 2 to 3 hours for everything to completely dry before trying to paint (If it is a hot day in July and you have the windows open, it may not take quite that long.)

Once the cleaning and repairs are done, the next step is to tape off anything you do not want painted. This is especially true with walls vs trim. Paint that goes on the wall is a different type than that which goes on the trim and sills. It is even more important if you are using different colors.

Remember: walls first – trim second. I find this is easier for me, as it takes less time for the walls to dry, and longer to paint the trim, as this step requires a trim brush.

white bucket of paint, paint brushes, trays, and other wall painting supplies

Before you start to roll on paint, it is smart to ‘cut in’ – or paint the areas around the trim and the space where the ceiling meets the wall first. Paint at least 6” into the area where you will be rolling. A 2” to 3” brush works well for this.

From there, you can begin rolling the paint on the walls. Paint in a ‘W’ fashion, in 3’ to 4’ sections at a time. Then use your roller to fill in any gaps before moving to the next section.

Once the walls are painted and completely dry, remove the tape from the trim and sills. Give it a little more time to dry, then re-tape to allow you full access to the trim. Or, if you have a very steady hand, you can forgo taping – but my hand just isn’t that steady.

Use an angled brush designed specifically for trim work. Keep a damp cloth handy to wipe up any splatters on your freshly painted walls as it happens. Remember, paint dries quickly, and you don’t want to spend a lot of extra time doing touch ups.

If touch ups are necessary, consider using an art brush. These have smaller areas to hold paint, and can be dabbed or brushed on in tinier increments – just enough to cover up the splatter.

Before you put furniture back in place, make sure the paint is completely dry. Depending on the temperature in the room, this could take a few hours or even a full day. It is better to be patient than to have to pull everything back out to make touch ups.

Car Maintenance

small ice chest, jug of water, engine oil, coolant and other supplies for car maintenance

Home repairs and general maintenance also extends outside your home. It also includes doing general and preventative maintenance on your vehicle.

It’s not my favorite thing to do, but I am able to do simple things to keep my car running smoothly. There are things we all can do – keep the windshield wiper fluid full; check and add oil; put antifreeze/water in the radiator; check all fluid levels; even change a tire, or check the air pressure and add accordingly.

Changing the oil takes a bit more time, and is a dirtier job, but it can be learned. Doing these simple tasks helps keep your vehicle in running order. When there are bigger problems, you can either do them yourself, ask your spouse (The Country Boy does most of our maintenance), or shop around for a trustworthy, reasonably priced mechanic.

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If your car is under warranty, you may have no choice but to take it to the dealer. But if it isn’t, keep in mind that a dealership charges upwards to three times more than a qualified mechanic, and from past experience, the dealerships don’t do as good or thorough job.

Keep an emergency kit in the back of your car. I have a few tools, jumper cables, some extra water and radiator fluid, windshield cleaner, a roll of paper towels and a quart of oil, transmission and brake fluid. I use a plastic milk crate to keep all my stuff in. Since we live in such a rural area, I often drive for over an hour to shop. My trip takes me through areas that are unpopulated for miles. For that very reason, I also keep a small ice chest filled with water and a snack – just in case.

And having an emergency toolbox on hand for your vehicle might just be the difference between ten minutes on the side of the road and waiting hours for a tow truck. In fact, keeping a toolbox handy for all home repairs and general maintenance is good to have.

open red tool box; in front of it are wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers, and other tools

The Bottom Line

Learning how to do the little home repairs and general maintenance to your home helps keep the big things from occurring. And if you do end up having to call a professional, you will have the peace of mind knowing that you did all that you were able to do.

Ready for More Facets of Homemaking?

Keep reading!

8 Facets of Homemaking

Facet #1 – Clean your Home

Facet #2 – Planning Meals

Facet #3 – The User-Friendly Kitchen

Facet #4 – Finances and Frugal Living

Facet #5 – Gardening

Facet #6 – 7 Smart Reasons to Can your Own Food

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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