Should I Hire A Professional?

There’s a lot of things that can go wrong when you have your own home, but the one question always comes up – should I hire a professional or can I fix it myself?

Check out some of the most common household repair questions and determine whether you can give it a go, or should hire a professional!

How Do I Replace a Doorknob?

Give It a Go. Chip says, use a long screwdriver to remove the screws that hold the doorknob in place — they’ll be tucked below the knob on one side of the door. Then, pull apart the entire doorknob assembly. Unscrew the strike plate on the side of the door, and slide out the latch (the metal bar that goes into the strike plate when the door is locked). Your new doorknob should come in a kit with all these pieces. Slide in the new latch first, then align both knobs on either side of the door and screw them in. If your new knob doesn’t match up with the old screw holes, patch them, then pre-drill new holes for the new knob and screw it in. Finish by screwing in the new strike plate.

Can I Add a Retaining Stone Wall to My Yard on My Own?

Hire a Pro. Chip says, you may think you can just start stacking stones, but if your wall doesn’t have a properly installed footing (a.k.a. foundation), it can topple over. In fact, any wall that’s more than two feet high, which is as low as most walls get, requires engineering to be supported properly. That’s why I suggest calling in a landscape contractor. He or she will make sure the wall — whether it’s made from concrete, stones or natural boulders — has a solid foundation, then they will build it up to just the height you want.

How Can I Fix Peeling Paint on Exterior Windowsills?

Give It a Go. Chip says, peeling is usually caused by exposure to moisture and sun — hard to avoid, I know. To fix it, first get rid of all the old paint. Wearing a dust mask or respirator, remove the peeling stuff with a stiff wire brush and/or a paint scraper. Fill any cracks with a paintable exterior sealant; let dry. Sand the wood, then coat it with an exterior primer. Wait a day to ensure it’s dry, then paint it with an exterior semigloss, which holds to the elements better than a flat finish. Check the forecast before you do this task. If it’s rainy or colder than about 50 degrees F, the paint won’t bond to the wood or primer and will peel as badly as it did before.

There’s a Skunk in My Backyard. Help!

Give It a Go. Chip says, before you call animal control try these tips: First secure garbage can lids to get rid of food sources that could entice the stinker to take up residence. Also, close off any dark, sheltered areas where the skunk could hide, like the space under a deck. Next, install outdoor lights on motion sensors. The brighter the bulb, the better since skunks are nocturnal and tend to stay away from well-lit spots. As a last resort, you could spray your yard with a repellent that contains dog or fox urine (But just a warning — it could smell.) If that doesn’t send him packing, set a humane trap. That’ll allow you to capture the skunk and relocate it far away from your home.

What Should I Do About Termite Damage?

Hire a Pro. Chip says, it can be hard to tell the difference between termite damage and wood decay caused by water. It’s best to hire an exterminator certified to deal with termite infestations. He or she will do an inspection and, if the damage is from termites, treat the problem with baits or termiticide, usually over a few visits. Although treatment can run in the thousands of dollars, it pays to get an exterminator in ASAP to limit the damage those little buggers can do.

What Should I Do About Scuffed Hardwood Floors?

Give It a Go. Chip says, the only way to really fix a scuff is to refinish that portion of the floor. A pro job can cost hundreds of dollars, so if the area is small, do it yourself. First, clean the spot with a degreaser. Then, sand it with a sanding sponge or an orbital sander, going from coarse grit to a fine grit. Wipe the wood with a damp cloth, then restain it by applying the stain in light coats with a foam brush then wiping with a rag. Let it dry, then use a paintbrush to apply a protective finish such as polyurethane, extending it a bit beyond the repairs so it blends in. If it looks too glossy after it dries, buff away some of the sheen with superfine steel wool.

Should I Replace a Regular Door With a Sliding Door?

Hire a Pro. Chip says, this is a fairly simple job for a licensed contractor, as long as your original doors are French or double doors. Otherwise, it will require a major renovation. Either way, if you can, buy your sliding door from the company that made your old doors, as they’re more likely to have the same dimensions. Before your contractor arrives, tape down the tarp to protect your floors. He or she will remove your old door and install the new one, as well as flashing. Make sure they offer a warranty so you’re covered in case of leaks or drafts.

Can I Replace a Cracked Windowpane?

Give It a Go. Chip says, putting in new glass is easy, especially if you have single-pane windows, which are only one piece of glass thick. To start, put X’s with painter’s tape over the cracked pane. Tap it with a hammer to free it from the frame, then wearing heavy gloves, pull out any remaining pieces. Using a screwdriver, dig out the old glazing putty and the glazier’s points, the small metal triangles that hold the glass in place. Once the frame is clear, apply a thin layer of new putty around it. Press the new pane (get one at a glass shop) into the putty knife. If you have windows with double panes, you can buy a replacement sash (which includes the glass and frame), then pop out the old one and put in the new one.

What’s the Best Way to Get Rid of a Wasp’s Nest?

Hire a Pro. Chip says, wasps can be aggressive if they feel threatened, so play it safe and hire an exterminator. To prep for the exterminator’s arrival, clear the surrounding area the best you can without disturbing the nest. After the treatment is done — it can take a few hours — wait several days before hanging out in the area so any remaining insects have a chance to buzz off.

What Should I Do About Worn Kitchen Tile Grout?

Give It a Go. Chip says, first scrape away at least 1/8-inch of the old grout with a grout removal tool— you can get a handheld one for about $5 or a bit that attaches to the end of an oscillating power tool starting at about $15 at the hardware store. Clean the area with a disinfectant to kill any mold or mildew, then start regrouting: If your tiles are spaced 1/8 inch apart or less, use non-sanded grout. Otherwise, use sanded grout. Spread some on a rubber grouting trowel, then hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle and spread it over the wall, forcing it into the gaps between the tiles. Scrape away any excess, then let the grout set for 10 minutes and wipe the tile with a damp rag. After the grout dries, spray it with a sealant.

My Bookcase Shelf is Sagging. How Can I Prop It Up?

Give It a Go. Chip says, a droopy shelf will inevitably fall, so add supports stat. Cut a 1×2 strip of pine or poplar into three pieces — one that’s the width of the shelf and two slightly shorter than the depth of the shelf. (A home improvement store can cut them for you.) Stain or paint the pieces to match your bookcase. Take everything off the shelf, then use wood glue or screws to attach the supports right under the shelf. This way, the shelf is resting on the supports instead of just the pins or pegs that many bookcases come with.

Can I Replace Missing Roof Shingles?

Hire a Pro. Chip says, in most cases, falling shingles are a sign of an aging roof, and replacing them is just a short-term solution until you can get an entirely new roof. Even if you have only a few missing shingles, you should hire a reputable roofing company to do the repair. In addition to installing the new shingles, they should do a complete inspection so you know your roof’s overall condition. Also keep in mind that no matter how good the patch is, the new shingles will look darker than the others since they haven’t been faded by the sun. That’s why this is just a temporary fix.

The Wallpaper in My House is Peeling. Help!

Give It a Go. Chip says, all you need is a tube of wallpaper adhesive (available at hardware stores). Squeeze a generous amount onto the wall under the peeling paper, and spread it out with a cotton swab. Press the paper back onto the wall, then quickly wipe up any excess adhesive with a damp rag. Apply a piece of delicate­ surface painter’s tape over the patch’s seam to help the paper lie flat while the glue sets. Let it dry overnight, then gently peel off the tape.

How Do I Add Radiant Heating to My Bathroom Floor?

Hire a Pro. Chip says, you’ll have to rip up your existing floor, so it’s best to hire an experienced tile installer. I suggest an electric radiant heat mat — which is like an electric blanket under your floor — as opposed to a hydronic system, which uses pipes filled with hot water and requires a major remodel, costing thousands of dollars. To install the heat mat, the tile pro will remove your floor down to the subfloor, then lay down a backer board, a compressed stone or fiber cement covering that shields the subfloor from moisture. Next, he or she will add the heat mat and encapsulate it in mortar. Once it’s dry, they will install the new flooring. In a standard-size bathroom, the job should take three or four days.

My Toilet Rocks When I Sit On It. What’s the Fix?

Give It a Go. Chip says, it’s possible the bolts securing the toilet to the floor have come loose. To tighten them, remove the plastic caps at the base of your toilet, then twist the nut at the top of each bolt to the right with a wrench. Make sure you don’t tighten them too much or you could crack the porcelain. If that doesn’t help, the floor under the toilet probably isn’t level. Even it out by placing plumbing shims­ — small, thin plastic wedges — in any gaps between the toilet and floor. Then, squeeze a bead of silicone bath caulk around the toilet’s base to seal it.

Can I Get Rid of a Popcorn Ceiling?

Hire a Pro. Chip says, if the “popcorn” was added before 1979, you must first check that it doesn’t contain asbestos by either sending a sample to a lab or calling in an asbestos abatement pro. Depending on the result, you should either have the asbestos expert remove it, or, if it’s asbestos-free, you can hire a general contractor to do the work. The job will be dusty and messy, so before the pro arrives, clear everything from the space and lay down drop cloths to protect your floors. The pro will then scrape the ceilings clean and apply fresh drywall. The entire process should take two days.

What Can I Do About Slippery Front Steps?

Give It a Go. Chip says, falls are one of the most common causes of injury around the house, so it’s worth it to add extra traction to outdoor steps. If your steps are a dark color, you can get away with using nonslip tape, which comes as strips of peel-and-stick black sandpaper or rubber. Just clean your steps, then apply the tape across each one about half an inch away from the edge. If your steps are a light color. your best bet is to stir nonskid additive — a sand-like material you can get at hardware stores — into floor paint in the color of your choice, then paint your steps with it. Save this project for a clear, sunny day since the paint needs 24 hours to dry.

How Do I Change Out a Ceiling Light Fixture?

Give It a Go. Chip says, this is an easy swap. First, turn off the power for the light from your circuit breaker or fuse box, and unscrew the old fixture. Before unraveling any of the wires, check them with a voltage tester to ensure they’re not electrified. Once you’re in the clear, untwist the wires and remove the light. Make sure the electrical mounting box (the metal box that houses the wires) is securely anchored to your ceiling. Then, connect the wires from your new fixture to those in the ceiling. Using needle-nose pliers, gently twist the ends of the wires with the same color coating together, then cap the ends with wire nuts. Finish by screwing the fixture into the ceiling and turning the power back on.

I Want to Replace My Front Door. Help!

Hire a Pro. Chip says, even if your jamb — the framing around the door — is in good shape, you’ll want to call a carpenter. That’s because you’ll need to chip away spaces, called mortises, in the jamb to fit the new door’s hinges, and that requires some deft chisel work. A carpenter can easily fit the hinges, screw them in and mount the door in as little as an hour. If your jamb also needs replacing, no doubt about it: You need a carpenter’s expertise.

My Electric Stove Burner Isn’t Warming. Help!

Give It a Go. Chip says, over time the receptacle that your burner plugs into can become charred or corroded, which will cause the burner to stop working. When your stove is off,
hold the burner with both hands and pull it off the stovetop. You’ll see the receptacle, which looks like a little plastic box that’s chipped or screwed into your range. Detach it and the two wires connecting it, then take it to a hardware store to get an identical replacement. Clip or screw the new receptacle into the stove, reattach the wires and replace the burner.

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