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What You Can and Can’t Fix Yourself

August 7, 2017

Leaky faucets? Broken pipes? Overflowing toilets?

When it comes to minor –and not-so-minor tasks, a landlord’s work is never done. There’s always a rental-related issue of some kind that needs to be addressed, and if it’s not repairs –it’s maintenance!

With most repairs, it’s usually a toss-up between spending either money –or time. And your best bet is weighing up both options, to see which one’s the best choice. For example, it might make sense to hire someone to, say, mow the lawn every week. But for many one-time issues, such as a clogged shower or a leaky sink, you may want to consider fixing the problem yourself. Rolling up your sleeves can save you from having to call in the professionals every time something goes wrong –an expense that can quickly add up!

If you live near your rentals, and are DIY inclined, then this list if for you! Here’s a look at some simple, yet common problems that you should be able to fix yourself.  

DIY Repairs

  • Refrigerator Not Cooling

It may seem like it’s time for a new fridge, but you’d be surprised at how often a simple adjustment to the temperature dial can solve the problem of a fridge that’s not cold enough! Another common issue is the cooling coils which often become clogged with dust. Remove the front grill, and try vacuuming them to see if that solves the issue. According to The Family Handyman, this can eliminate 70 percent of refrigerator service calls. Check out this helpful Realtor article by Lisa Gordon to see how –and why you should be cleaning your coils.

  • Toilet Not Flushing

A toilet that’s not flushing could be something simple –like the chain has come off in the back of the toilet. If the toilet in your rental isn’t flushing, life up the lid to the tank and see if this is the case. If it’s a broken mechanism in the tank, many replacement parts can be obtained inexpensively at the hardware store and replaced easily without any trouble. Lowes offers some helpful advice on addressing some of the most common toilet issues.

  • No Hot Water

No hot water? Try checking the water heater’s pilot light; if it has one, that is! Pilot lights go out from time to time, especially on high-efficiency water heaters. If you don’t see a pilot flame, follow the instructions on the tank for relighting it, or check out Dan Robbins’ article: How to Light a Water Heater to see how.

  • Clogged Sinks

A common cause of backed up sinks is the pipe underneath the sink. Grab a bucket and a simple pipe wrench. Place the bucket under the sink, remove the pipe, and dislodge the clog. The Family Handyman offers a helpful guide that breaks down the process; showing you how to tackle clogs under the sink.

  • Leaky Valve

A puddle near a pipe could be a leaky valve. If you see water leaking out around the valve stem, it could mean that the valve stem packing nut needs to be tightened. Here’s a look at how you can tighten the nut, as well as tips for replacing the washer and packing material if they need to be replaced as well.

Leaky Pipe

Leaky pipes are a common issue. Leaks can be caused by a number of issues, but oftentimes it’s because of a seal wears out or a fitting becomes loose –issues that are easy to fix! Here’s a look at how some tips for fixing minor leaks. Just beware! If the issue isn’t properly fixed, an unchecked leak can lead to extensive water damage. Be sure to hire a plumber for all water problems that you’re not able to solve yourself!

  • Low Pressure in Sink or Shower

Showerheads and aerators tend to get clogged with minerals over time. To clean the aerator in your faucet, remove it by turning it clockwise with pliers. Rinse it out, or better yet –take it to the hardware store for a replacement part. Family Handyman offers a step-by-step guide for unclogging a kitchen faucet aerator –a fast and simple process.

  • Not Enough Heat

Aside from turning up the thermostat, if the rental isn’t getting enough heat –one of the most likely causes could be that it’s time to replace the furnace filter. Dust and pet hair clog up filters, obstructing the flow of air. Not sure how to replace one? Here’s how! Another cause of inefficient heating could be a piece of furniture that’s been placed over one of the vents.

Repairs to Leave for the Pros

While you can safely attempt some DIY repairs, keep in mind that there are certain projects that are innately dangerous. Anything that involves electricity or natural gas should be left to the pros. And if it sounds unsafe to you, it probably is. For example, if the idea of balancing on a ladder trying to fix a leaky roof makes you nervous –don’t attempt it!

Call in a Professional for:

  • Electrical Issues
  • Major Leaks and Plumbing Tasks
  • Roofing Issues
  • Asbestos Removal
  • Gas Appliance Repairs

While many projects are simple enough to do on your own, keep in mind that DIY projects aren’t always the best option. Before you dive into a project, make sure you have the skills, tools, and materials needed to do the job right. Do you know all of the steps that are required to complete the task from start to finish? Do you have all the tools that you’ll need to see the project through to completion? How much will it cost to acquire the necessary materials? If there’s a hole in the drywall, for example, that would require you to buy plaster, netting, paint, and the tools –and the local handyman can fix it for $35, it may be more cost effective to just let him repair it. Then, of course, there’s the issue of whether you genuinely want to do the task at hand. No DIY job is worth it if it’s something that you don’t enjoy!

Finally, remember that your time is worth something too. While spending evenings and weekends on maintenance is fine when you’re first starting out, if you find that all of your spare time is being spent on upkeep, it may be time to consider hiring a property manager to oversee repairs and maintenance issues for you. A professional property manager will be able to handle all of the day-to-day issues that arise, as well as more major and extensive repairs –helping to free up your time, and giving your weekends back to you!   

Which DIY repairs have you handled yourself? Do you prefer to handle repairs yourself, or call in the pros?