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Three essential DIY Skills every Homeowner should know

by Lorenz Prem
published on February 11 2011 8:06 pm

A home requires constant maintenance. Every homeowner knows that. We all know that maintenance can get expensive really quick, especially if you hire contractors to do the work. Fortunately you can save big money by doing the simple tasks yourself. Let's take a look at the top three DIY skills every homeowner should learn.

Clearing a drain backup

Backups are a frequent occurrence in most homes. Most often the clog is located in the p-trap of the plumbing system, an easy spot to clear it from. The p-trap is design to be the weak spot in the system. It is easily accessible and the clog is cleared in minutes. If the clog is located deeper in the system, a drain snake will often be enough. There is no reason to call a plumber for these tasks.

A sewer contractor or plumber will charge for travel time and a minimum on-site time; even if the backup is cleared in minutes. Often the time it takes to hire the contractor over the phone is longer than it takes to clear the clog yourself.

Over your lifetime chances are you will see many dozens of backups. Hiring contractors every time quickly adds up. Add the time required to mange and supervise the contractor. The earlier you learn how to clear backups in your home, the more money you are going to save.

Backups tend to happen at the worst time. Thanksgiving dinner is in stove and the toilet is backed up. In this scenario you will end up paying double rates for the emergency call on a holiday. Better be prepared.

Repairing drywall

Most homes in the United States use light-weight stick frame constructions. The common material used to cover the framing are drywall sheets. While drywall is an economical way to create a finished wall, the resulting wall is not very durable. Dents and holes are inevitable. Even if you are careful and don't bump into your walls, cracks are going to develop as the home settles. That's normal and expected. To the homeowner this means more work to do.

Fixing drywall requires two or more coats of drywall mud. Each coats needs time to dry. The handyman you hire for this job will be at your home literally watching the mud dry on the wall. There is very little skill involved. Mistakes sand right out. Professionals will be more efficient, but don't necessarily produce better results.

Again this is a task that the homeowner can do in the time it takes him or her to hire a contractor. Mudding entire rooms or even a house is best left to the professionals. The dozens of small repairs your walls are going to needed during your lifetime,you can safely and easily do yourself.


Once the walls are repaired they need to be painted. A painter will charge a hefty premium for small jobs. Most jobs require 2-3 coats of paint with time to dry in-between. Travel time will add up quickly.

Besides repairs, one or the other individual room will need a new coat of paint every other year. Interior paint will last about 10-15 years. More likely the homeowner will want to refresh the look we'll before that time. Outdoor paint last 7-10 years.

Finding a good paint contractor can be hard. Painting as a profession does not attract many long term employees. The painter doing the work may just be a college student with little more experience than the homeowner. A professional will complete the work faster, but not necessarily better than the homeowner. Painting can be messy, but it is not hard to do.

On a typical paint job the materials needed are an insignificant line item on the bill. Labor is everything. To the homeowners this means big savings, if they opt to do it themselves. Jobs that run in the thousands of dollars can be done for a few hundreds in materials.You must, however, be willing to spend the time.

Even if the homeowner contracts out the big jobs like the outside of the home, the small jobs will quickly add up. Learning how to paint and taking care of these jobs yourself will save you big money.


The three tasks I have laid out have a few of things in common. They are all small repair jobs that happen very frequently. In the time it takes to hire a contractor and supervise him at the job site the homeowner can easily finish the repair himself. Very few tools and very little skill is required to do a perfect job.

Even if you feel overwhelmed by the idea to paint your own room or unclog your sink, think about what you can save over your lifetime? It may take three times as long as it should the first time you try doing things yourself, but you will have learnt the skills necessary to do it better the next time. The saved time and aggravation that comes with hiring a contractor alone are a good enough reason to learn these three essential DIY skills of a homeowner.

About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."