10 - 2008

Do it yourself and save money

Ever since my plumbing fiasco, I’ve had the philosophy that we should try to manage home repairs ourselves — and if we fail, THEN we’ll call in the pros.

By simply taking the bull by the horns, I’ve installed ceiling fans and at least five light fixtures. Sure, once the wires crossed, caused a huge spark, and required Donna the Electrician’s help to sort out my mess (cost: about $50, and I learned what NOT to do). But unless it involves 220 (where the current is too hot to handle) I’m going to try it myself first.

When we replaced our dishwasher last fall, I installed it myself, with the help of some brute strength from Mr. Cheap.

This year, inspired by my sister’s successful (and far more ambitious) forays into bathroom renovation, I took that philosophy into plumbing. I’ve fixed a leaky toilet, replaced a j-trap on a sink, and most recently, I redid the bathroom sink myself, my first larger venture into plumbing. I even resolved a tricky stuck shutoff valve, although I nearly had to call my plumber in for a consultation. (A last-ditch online search revealed that I needed to back flush the pipes, although I wish I’d seen this dime tip … instead I made Mr. Cheap hold his bigger thumb over the faucet, and I got a mild drenching.)

All in all, I’m confident that I’ve saved about $700 — and of course, gained that incomparable feeling of accomplishment.

Naturally, then, this article about DIY furnace maintenance impressed me. I change the furnace filter regularly, and I installed a programmable thermostat at our old house. (If you don’t have one, they cost about $35 and take about 15 minutes to install – SUPER easy! Do it this weekend!) I explored our furnace when a part went out a year or two — resulting in my realizing I couldn’t fix it, but I could tell the repair guy just what was wrong so he could bring the right part out on the first try and fix it in a jiffy on a freezing cold Sunday afternoon.

Whatever goes wrong, whoever you are, I encourage you to take a deep breath and dive in. At least pull out the owner’s manual and explore. Get to know your house, see if you can fix it yourself — and then call in the experts if you need to. Just remember to be safe and careful. And of course, share your best “I did it” story here!

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