DIY Repair & Maintenance

14 House Problems That Don’t Require a General Contractor

As most homeowners are well aware, problems can strike a house suddenly and without warning: a leaky roof or a fallen tree, a burst pipe in the basement or a boiler that conks out during a cold snap. But there is no need to panic! Many common household issues can be dealt with easily and quickly, either DIY or by calling in a handyman or specialized contractor. Start by assessing the damage and figuring out how extensive the repairs are going to be. You may be able to tackle some smaller jobs, including plumbing, electrical work, landscaping, and interior repairs, on your own. More extensive renovations, however, may require a general contractor to oversee the job. But the common repairs that follow typically do not require calling in the big guns.
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Plumbing, Part 1: Burst Pipe

A sharp dip in the temperature can cause a pipe to burst, leading to a flood in your basement or garage. In most cases, though, a good plumber can replace the damaged pipe in fairly short time and at a reasonable cost.

Plumbing, Part 2: Clogged or Running Toilet

Many toilet problems are simple DIY projects that homeowners can handle with off-the-shelf repair kits. For instance, a toilet that won’t stop running might need a new handle and chain assembly, or you may need to replace a worn or damaged flapper valve. If the toilet is clogged, a good old-fashioned plunger should do the trick. Serious clogs, however, may require the services of a plumber.

HVAC Issues

Heating and air-conditioning problems always seem to happen at the worst possible time, but fortunately, a homeowner can often diagnose and fix some of the most common issues. Both heating and air-conditioning systems can malfunction if their filters are dirty or clogged, and these can be easily cleaned or replaced. Another common issue is a faulty thermostat, which is a simple DIY replacement. If, however, the malfunction is due to plumbing issues or trouble with the ignition system (for instance, a faulty pilot light), you’ll probably need an HVAC technician to put things to rights.

Driveway Damage

Never underestimate the importance of applying a good-quality driveway sealant every few years! Off-the-shelf DIY sealants have come a long way, and regular application can help you maintain and extend the life of your driveway. To fix serious cracks, invest in a hot-melt crack filler. For more severe driveway issues, you may want to call a company that specializes in driveway sealing and repair.

Cracked Sidewalks

Sidewalks can fail over time as a result of ordinary wear and tear, especially in northern regions where ice and snow take a big toll. Cracks, chips, pits, holes, and settling can mostly be addressed by the handy homeowner with quick-setting concrete patch available at home centers and hardware stores.

Electrical, Part 1: Faulty Outlet

If you see smoke or signs of charring, or if an outlet feels hot to the touch, it must be replaced. Switching out a bad outlet is a simple DIY job for homeowners who are comfortable working with electricity. If this is a bit above your skill level, a handyman or qualified electrician can make short work of the fix.

Electrical, Part 2: Failed Circuit Breakers

Power surges, spikes, and lightning can strike your home’s main electrical panel, causing circuit breakers to fail. In this instance, it is best to call in a qualified electrician to assess and repair the damage.

Related: 11 Ways to Prep for a Winter Power Outage

Leaky Roof

Missing, cracked, or damaged shingles can become a big problem if not addressed promptly. When damage is confined to a specific area, capable homeowners can make repairs. If the damage is greater, however, contact a local roofing company to repair or replace the roof.

Downed Trees

Tree removal can be a tricky proposition. If you are dealing with a large broken limb or small downed tree, you can probably handle cutting it up and disposing of it yourself using a small chain saw. Call in a professional tree service for a large downed tree, multiple broken limbs, or trees that are leaning against the house. Never attempt to remove a tree or limb that is in contact with electrical wiring!

Related: Don’t Try This at Home: The 7 Most Dangerous DIYs

Gutter Cleaning or Replacement

Clogged, damaged, or missing gutters can cause problems both inside and outside your home. Water that isn’t properly channeled away from the roof and walls can damage the wood and lead to leaks inside; water that pours down the side of the house or pools at the base can damage the foundation or landscaping. In colder climates, clogged or damaged gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to leaks and other interior damage. While cleaning or repairing gutters is usually an easy DIY project; gutter replacement is a job for a handyman or gutter contractor.

Cracked or Broken Windows

Errant baseballs, broken tree limbs, or even small stones kicked up by the lawn mower can lead to broken windows. Fixing them quickly is important for the sake of safety and indoor comfort. Depending on the type of window, the repair can be as simple as purchasing and installing a new piece of glass, but in most instances, you’ll want the job done by a handyman or glass repair professional.

Damaged Countertops

Kitchen and bathroom countertops take quite a beating and can start to look shabby over time, full of gouges, nicks, stains, and blemishes. Take advantage of free measuring and estimating services from local retailers to purchase new countertops and replace them yourself, or hire a handyman to complete the project.

Related: These Are the Most Common Appliance Repairs

Interior Walls, Part 1: Drywall Damage

Most interior walls these days are constructed of drywall (also known as Sheetrock or plasterboard), and drywall is highly susceptible to moisture damage, holes, nail pops, furniture dents, and other problems. Repairing small holes, dents, and nail pops in drywall is a common DIY project—simply tape and spackle over the damaged area, then sand and repaint. Larger holes and moisture damage may require replacing a large section or even a whole panel, which might make it worthwhile to call in a handyman.

Interior Walls, Part 2: Stains, Scratches, and Fading

Interior walls are subject to stains, splashes, splatters, scratches, and other blemishes, and even the best paint job will fade over time. Fortunately, painting is one of the easiest and least costly DIY projects. A fresh paint job will not only get rid of unsightly stains, but also give the whole room a nice face-lift.