5: Prepping Your Paint Jobs Like a Pro

Whether you want to paint a whole room or just need to cover a nail hole, nothing helps to maintain or improve the appearance of a room like paint. You haven’t owned a home very long if you don’t have paint spattered work clothes in your closet and a couple of paintbrushes in your basement or garage.

Sprucing up your rooms with paint is one of the best ways to show your home to advantage, but before you start collecting color swatches, there are some things to keep in mind. Painting, when it’s done well, can increase the value of your home and add style and flair to your space. When the job isn’t done well, and it’s easy to see roller marks, spatters, and sloppy trim paint, it’s almost as bad as leaving cracked and peeling paint on the walls.


You’ll achieve the best results when you prepare for the job. Where painting is concerned, prep is king. Good preparation takes time, but it also makes the actual painting easier.

Start by removing any fixtures or hardware that might get in the way of your project. Loosen up fixtures and remove curtain rods, switch-plates and door hinges. Yes, it does take time, but it isn’t extra time. If you leave things in place that will create obstacles for your paintbrush or roller, you will be wasting time trying to cover or paint around them later. You’ll take more time, and the end result won’t look as professional as if you’d cleared everything away to start with.

After you have an unobstructed shot at the walls, clean them with a damp sponge or a dry cloth. Grease, dust and grime buildup will keep paint from making a good bond on your walls, and could cause streaks. Give the room a once over, and be on the lookout for nail holes, gouges and other imperfections that need to be filled with spackle and rough spots that could use some sanding. Little repairs like this, especially in older homes, can make a big difference in the appearance of the final paint job. Once you’ve cleaned the walls and done a few minor fix-ups, apply primer to any sanded areas. If you’ve sanded large areas, you might consider using a paint that has primer incorporated into it and eliminate the need to prime the walls as a separate step.

Now you’re ready to mask any molding, built-ins and baseboards with painter’s tape and start laying down drop cloths. After that, painting your room will be easy.

On the next page, we’ll knock a little sense into your favorite interactive room divider, the door.

Disposing of Paint If you have leftover paint that’s in good condition, you don’t have to pitch it. Instead, why not try donating or recycling it. The folks at Earth911.com can put you in touch with organizations in your area that will find creative uses for your extra paint [source: Earth911].


Hot Glue Gun Uses: Fix Wobbly Furniture with a Penny

You can fix a wobbly bench or table with your pocket change. Add a drop of hot glue to a coin and attach it to the problem area. The coin will act like a shim, leveling out the furniture piece.

Two-Part Filler

Two-part filler has to be mixed and it doesn’t rinse off with water, so it’s not as user friendly as other fillers. However, it’s much tougher and a much better choice for any hole bigger than a nail head, especially outdoors. And it’s not just for wood?you can patch metal, fiberglass?even concrete. Here’s another option for wood filler. Buy some wood filler on Amazon now.

4. Silence creaking floorboards

(Image credit: Colin Leftley)

If a board is rubbing against a joist, lubricate it by sprinkling talcum powder around it. Knock down protruding nails that have worked loose and lost their grip.

If constant movement has caused nail heads to wear a hole in the board, put in a couple of screws, using a detector to check for hidden pipes or cables – BEFORE you begin work, always check that there are no pipes or electrical cables directly beneath them – you can only proceed safely when you have done so.

24. Repairing pipes with tape and hosepipe

(Image credit: Colin Leftley)

In very cold weather, if a cistern won’t fill or there’s no water from a faucet, it could be due to a frozen pipe, probably in the roof space. 

Examine the pipes: a bright, shiny copper split shows up on dull pipes. If split, wrap with duct tape and slip on a short length of hosepipe secured with jubilee clips or wire. This makes a great temporary repair until you can get the section of pipe replaced.

What’s Not a DIY Fix

Try the repair first if the cost of the new parts is less than half of what you’d pay to replace the product with a new one. Cost aside, here are a few instances that break that rule.

Microwave ovens that don’t heat: It’s too dangerous to replace the magnetron tube because of the high voltage stored.

Pressure-washers with weak flow: The pumps on $100 units are not designed to be repaired. But the axial cam or triplex pumps found on more expensive models can be replaced.

Cracks on the furnace heat exchanger: If not properly sealed, these can leak carbon monoxide and other gases into the house. Call in a pro.

Squeaky bearings on a front-load washer: This is one of the most mechanically involved repairs and warrants the cost of a service call.

Refrigerators that don’t cool: Recharging the compressor that keeps food cold requires a torch and refrigerant gauges. Hire a pro, or recycle the appliance and spring for a new one.

4. Start Small

You shouldn’t hurry while taking the first steps toward becoming able to mend things around your property. Begin with the simplest and most basic repairs that you are confident in your ability to undertake and perform. Start by tightening loose screws, leaking valves, or any other simple activities that come to mind. Do not attempt to repair electronics or other complex utilities in your home until you have earned the right expertise to do so. It is a good idea to start small and work your way up.


21. Crushed hose fitting (shown)

Hoses are most susceptible to damage at their ends, which also makes them easy to fix.

  • If you run over your hose with a car, cut the damaged end off with a utility knife.
  • Twist the right-size male or female fitting—5/8 inch is the most common—onto the opening, then tighten with a stainless-steel band clamp. $4; Home Depot

22. Sluggish power tools

Most electric power tools transfer energy to the motor through chunks of carbon called brushes, which wear down over time. If a tool stops responding or is noticeably slow, spend about $15 on replacement brushes before tossing the tool or upgrading.

  • Unscrew the large plastic caps on the outside of the motor housing to release the spring-loaded brushes.
  • Add new brushes from the manufacturer or file generic ones until they slide in freely, and reattach the caps.
  • Plan to take the housing apart completely in older drills and circular saws that don’t have easily accessible brushes—take plenty of photos to help with reassembly.

23. Broken wood handles

Don’t buy a new rake, sledgehammer, or wheelbarrow just because its wood handle is broken. Home centers stock replacement handles; you can also check the House Handle Company, which specializes in hardwood handle parts.

  • Use a hammer to knock the head and ferrule off the broken tool, or drill out the head’s rivets.
  • Add the new handle to the tool head; turn it so the straight grain faces up, for maximum strength, and drive the two parts together.
  • To fix a split handle, mist the damage with water; add some expanding polyurethane glue to fill the void, or wrap the damage with FiberFix tape ($6). If you routinely break handles, consider upgrading to tougher fiberglass.

Squeaky Doors


Most folks will grab the trusty WD-40 to tackle a squeaky door, but that’s actually not the best choice for long-term lubrication. Stick with WD-40 for cleaning metal parts and protecting against rust, and use silicone spray here instead. The odor isn’t quite as strong, and your squeak won’t come back as quickly either. Related: 3 Fixes for a Squeaky Door istockphoto.com

Diverting Gutter Runoff


If your gutters are dumping water right next to your foundation, you’re just asking for trouble. Use flexible corrugated drainpipe to lengthen and extend your gutter downspouts well away from your exterior. You can choose to bury the pipe or leave it exposed—either way, make sure the water is headed away from your house and not back into it. Related: 10 Reasons to Mind Your Gutters Year-Round istockphoto.com


2. Determine the Costs

All the same, it pays to use a credible resource that outlines the costs of such repairs in your area. As explained at Cost Shed UK, different home improvement fixes will have different costs depending on whether you hire a professional or do it yourself. If you choose to go the professional way, the overall costs will also vary. So, make sure you pick a reputed expert in the problem at hand. It pays to know what you can do and leave what you cannot to the skilled professionals (discussed lat er).

Fix a leaky P-trap under the kitchen or bathroom sink

Most minor pipe leaks happen around the P-trap, and are usually caused by a worn out washer or a loose or broken compression nut. To fix it, you’ll need:

Before you do anything else, turn the water off to the sink. Some sinks have a shut off valve right near the sink itself, but others may be as far away as the basement. Once the water’s off, you’re good to get started.


This one is very easy, as you can see in this how-to video from Jeff Ostroff on YouTube:

All you have to do is twist off the compression nuts holding the P-trap in place so you can replace them and the worn-out washers. As Jeff mentions in the video, this type of fastener is designed to be hand-tightened because PVC pipe can crack under too much pressure; if whoever installed your P-trap over-tightened the nuts anyways, a 3-way plumber’s wrench can help you loosen it up.


1: Unplugging a Clogged Toilet

Nobody likes it, but sometime or another, every homeowner is faced with a toilet that backs up. Consider it a rite of passage. Toilet problems are stressful because there’s usually some urgency involved.

The first order of business is not to panic. Instead, become a detective and determine whether or not any foreign object may have ended up in the toilet bowl by accident. Households with young children are very prone to toilets that play host to all manner of toys. If this is the case, you may be able to put on some sturdy gloves and just fish the object out. You can also try waiting for the water in the toilet to drop to a normal level and then pour a bucket of water into the bowl. The added pressure will often dislodge blockages and send them on their way.


If that doesn’t work, use a plunger to clear the toilet. Flanged plungers are best for toilet clogs because they make a better seal and increase the amount of pressure you send down into the discharge siphon tube. Accordion style plungers are effective, too. Just make sure that the suction cup is completely covered with water before you start plunging. Add water to the bowl if you have to.

Another choice for clearing clogs is to dislodge them using a plumbing snake, or closet auger, a length of coiled metal that you can thread from the toilet bowl down through the serpentine piping of the toilet to free anything trapped there. Snakes are relatively inexpensive options that are available at your home improvement outlet.

If these options don’t work, most plumbing supply stores carry compressed air or carbon dioxide cartridge delivery tools that will provide stronger pressure than a standard plunger to clear clogs. They’re more expensive than plungers, but are a lot less costly than hiring a plumber.

As a last resort, you can uninstall the toilet, upend it and get at the clog that way. There’s definitely a gross out factor involved here, but it might be better than a large plumbing bill.

Actually, most toilets are relatively easy to disconnect. After you’ve unbolted the tank from the bowl, the bowl is typically attached to the floor with hold down bolts and sits on a wax collar. Once the bolts have been removed and you’ve removed the caulk around the base, it isn’t hard to get the toilet off the collar and onto a plastic tarp for easy access.

Cushion the area under the tarp with an old blanket to avoid cracking the toilet when you set it down, and cover the drain opening to keep gas from escaping into the room. You’ll also want to replace the wax collar before reinstalling the toilet. Toilet removal isn’t complicated, but toilets are heavy, so make sure you have a helper.

Loosen a stuck window

If you go too long without opening a window, it can get so mucked up with dirt and crap that it’s difficult to open. This isn’t a terribly complex problem to solve, but it can require some elbow grease. You’ll need these tools and supplies:

Physically unsticking the window from the frame is a pretty good place to start. This video from ForRent.com shows a few different techniques:

If prying and (gentle) hammering aren’t doing the trick, you might need to get chemicals involved. Paint thinner can help loosen stubborn painted-shut windows, and WD-40 or a silicone lubricant can help the window slide in its tracks again. Just keep in mind that WD-40 will gum up vinyl windows; you can use a little to dissolve rust, but don’t spray it all over the tracks.


There’s no shortage of things in your house that can break, but you’ll find that most of them can be fixed with some hardware store basics and a little Googling. If something breaks in a non-life-threatening way, check online before you call a professional. It could save you a bundle.

This article was originally published on October 15, 2013. It was updated on May 14, 2021 with new links, updated information, and to meet Lifehacker style guidelines.



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