Generally, in the United States, there are few legal issues if an unpaid homeowner works on a project within their own home, with some exceptions. Some jurisdictions require paid handymen to be licensed and/or insured. New Jersey, for example, requires all handymen who work in for-profit businesses serving residential and commercial customers, to be registered and insured. Often handymen are barred from major plumbing, electrical wiring, or gas-fitting projects for safety reasons, and authorities sometimes require workers to be licensed in particular trades. However, minor plumbing work such as fixing water taps, connecting sinks, fixing leaks, or installing new washing machines, are usually permitted to be done without licensing. Many handymen are insured under a property damage liability policy, so that accidental property damage from negligence or accidents are covered.
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If you can see light creeping beneath exterior doors, air is also escaping. Grab a few packages of self-adhesive rubber foam weatherstripping and go to town, sealing any and all doors that lead outside. Weatherstripping already installed but you’re still suffering from a high gas bill? It might be time to replace the strips installed by the previous owners. Check out this handy tutorial on installing weatherstripping.
A garbage disposal is a bit scary when it’s turned on and the blades are noisily chopping up kitchen waste. But, if your disposal gets stinky, fear not. It’s easy to clean out the gunk and get rid of the smell. If the splash guard needs replacing, you can do that in 20 minutes! If you need to replace the entire disposal you can replace it yourself.
Risk: The range hood sucks cooking fumes up and out of the kitchen. As grease splatters, it builds up and clogs the filter in the underside of the hood, keeping the fan from working as it should. This could cause your smoke alarm to go off, attract fruit flies, and leave potentially harmful pollutants from your gas or electric range lingering in the air. And if you have to replace the motor, it will cost around $200.
Repairs often mean simple replacement of worn or used components intended to be periodically renewed by a home-owner, such as burnt out light bulbs, worn out batteries, or overfilled vacuum cleaner bags. Another class of home repairs relates to restoring something to a useful condition, such as sharpening tools or utensils, replacing leaky faucet washers, cleaning out plumbing traps, rain gutters. Because of the required precision, specialized tools, or hazards, some of these are best left to experts such as a plumber. One emergency repair that may be necessary in this area is overflowing toilets. Most of them have a shut-off valve on a pipe beneath or behind them so that the water supply can be turned off while repairs are made, either by removing a clog or repairing a broken mechanism.
Before you go through the trouble of repainting a ceiling to get rid of a water stain, try this trick. Spray the spot with a bleach and water solution (10 percent bleach), and wait a day or two. If it’s an old stain, use a mold and mildew remover from the grocery store. You’d be surprised how often the stain disappears by the next day. It works on both flat and textured ceilings.
Workers often have strong backgrounds in some areas—say, carpentry—and know enough to do small jobs related to other trades. If your list primarily consists of projects related to one type of work, ask prospective companies if they have workers with expertise in that area. We get scads of complaints from consumers who hire jacks-of-all-trades but get workers who don’t have the knowledge or skill to complete work satisfactorily.
Risk: If your house was built before 1994 and still has the original plumbing fixtures, you’re using 30 to 40 percent more water than a comparable new home. Because about 70 percent of the water flowing through the showerhead is hot, that means higher heating bills too. A basic showerhead can cost just $15 and could pay for itself in reduced water and heating costs after just one month. Calculate your savings at epa.gov/watersense/watersense-calculator.