In-a-Pinch Repairs

small bathroom
Time to polish your fix-it-up skills! These quick and dirty professional tips can help you perform in-a-pinch repairs on your home.

A Drywall Crack

Drywall cracks typically occur on the seam between sheets of drywall. As long as the tape is still affixed, you can simply put new drywall compound across the crack. Let it dry completely, lightly sand, wipe the dust, and paint.

Fix any holes or dings in your walls with these tips for patching a hole in your drywall.

Patch a Hole in Drywall

Watch and learn how to patch a hole in drywall with our step-by-step video.

A Backed Up Garbage Disposal or Sink

Fix-it specialists such as electricians and plumbers can be expensive, which is why if an in-a-pinch repair is simple, it pays to try to do it yourself. Most clogs can be remedied the-old fashioned way -- with a plunger -- or an inexpensive plumbing snake, sold at a hardware or home improvement store. If the sink side with the disposal is the problem, try to plunge the clog up and out, or down and through. If the garbage disposal only hums instead of turns, there might be a jam. Turn the unit off, unplug it, and insert an Allen wrench into the dispenser's bottom hole to turn the blades. If that doesn't work, check the trap for clogs: Place a bucket under the sink, loosen the slip nut on the trap, and slip off the trap. If you still haven't located the clog, feed the snake into the drain, cranking and pushing to get through corners and loosen obstructions. When done, run hot water through the drain.

Scuffed Laminate

As long as the scuff isn't too deep, floor repair putty should do the trick. Simply spread it across the scuff or scrape, filling completely and evenly. Let harden for a day.

Tub Stains

Built-up stains on bathtubs happen, especially if you miss a spot here and there. There are several options to take tub stains off. Start with an all-purpose (and inexpensive) baking soda paste (two parts baking soda, one part hydrogen peroxide); apply, let sit for 30 minutes, scrub, and rinse. Or, fill the tub with hot water to cover the stain and add several cups of vinegar; let sit for several hours and scrub.

Drafty Windows

Got drafty windows but no window replacement budget? Try a couple of simple fixes. For starters, a draft snake -- essentially a long fabric tube filled with rice -- is easy to place against the bottom sill to stop cold breezes. Plastic weather stripping along the sides can stop drafts (and make windows rattle less, too). You can also use temporary rope caulk or shrink film, both of which can be removed at season’s end.

Peeled or Bubbled Wallpaper

Peeled wallpaper is a really simple in-a-pinch repair: Simply lift the peeling spot, smooth some white glue on the wall, and, using a damp sponge, push the wallpaper back onto the spot. For a bubble or two, make two cuts in the shape of an X in the bubble. Open the four corners, insert some white glue, and push back into place with a damp sponge.

Replace a Light Switch

Sunlight and time fade light switches just as they do any other home fixture. To replace one, first switch off the electricity at the circuit breaker. Using a screwdriver, remove the switch plate and unscrew the switch. Gently pull out the switch -- you should see two or three wires. Black is hot or incoming; a black, red, or other color than green is return; and green or copper wire is grounding. Your new switch should have the same wires in the same locations; match up the connectors one at a time. To do this, strip off about a ½ inch of insulation and wrap into a clockwise loop about three-fourths of the way around the screw. Push the new switch back into the hole, reattach the screws, and reattach the plate.

A Broken Toilet Lever

A toilet isn't much good without a working handle to flush. And while replacing that handle might seem intimidating, it's actually pretty easy to do. Start by finding the model name and number, located on the inside of the tank (lift the lid to find it) and buy a replacement handle, also called a toilet trip lever, to match. Inside the tank, unhook the chain attached to the arm, then unhook the clasp that holds the chain to the arm. Use a wrench to remove the old handle (it might loosen the opposite direction of a normal nut). Remove the handle and clean off the porcelain. Insert the new handle and reattach the nut and the chain.

A Squeaky Door

Got about 5 minutes? Then you have enough time to fix a squeaky door. Start by loosening one hinge pin (use a nail to tap it up from underneath). Pull out the pin and coat with petroleum jelly; insert the pin and repeat with the other hinges, working on one at a time.

A Sticky Window Jam

Got a stuck window? It might be swollen with the weather. Simply rub some candle wax along the edge of the frame.

A Hole in a Gutter

When you're cleaning your gutters in spring and fall (you're cleaning your gutters, right?), check for any holes and patch them. You can find roofing cement and matching metal patch kits at any hardware store. Cut a piece of metal patching a bit bigger than the hole. Clean the area around the hole thoroughly with a wire brush. Attach the metal patch with roofing cement.

Chipped Paint

Chair dings, kid toys, even just daily wear and tear can give your walls a battle-scarred look. But as in-a-pinch repairs go, chipped paint is pretty easy. For starters, remove any loose paint, including flakes or peels, with a putty knife. Then, smooth and level the area to be fixed with quick-setting patching compound, applied with a putty knife (do two coats if you need to). Dry, then cover with drywall compound; dry again. Sand lightly, prime, and paint.

A Leaky Faucet

Whether it's a tiny drip or a steady flow, a leaky faucet can cause more than just an annoyance -- it can boost your water bill in a hurry. Luckily, the fix is easy: Start by turning off the water under the sink. Fully close the sink drain and cover with a towel or rag. Remove the faucet and any parts, laying them out carefully. Replace the washer and/or the O-ring (if you’re unsure of the size, take the original parts to the hardware store). Then, resecure the faucet.

Loose Laminate

A bathroom beauty tool offers the easiest way for you to fix loose laminate. Take your hair dryer and heat the loose corner (this softens the laminate's glue). Push back into place and, with a piece of wood protecting the laminate, tap firmly into place with a hammer. Stack something very heavy onto the laminate and let sit for several hours.

An Uneven Door

A door that doesn't close properly can happen for a variety of reasons. For starters, check that the latch and strike plate match appropriately; if not, you can file down the hole to be lower or higher. If it’s not the latch, try the hinges; one might be causing the unevenness. A gap on the top typically indicates a loose bottom hinge, and vice versa. To adjust, unscrew the hinge and place a thin spacer behind it to push the hinge out; screw back in and test the door.

Woodwork Scratches

A light scratch is another easy in-a-pinch repair that can help give your floor or a piece of furniture a new look. To start, very lightly rub fine steel wool, moving with the grain, over the scratched area. Using a tack rag, rub mineral spirits over the area to clean out the dust. Fill the scratch, using a putty knife and wood filler that matches the wood’s color; let dry according to manufacturer directions. Sand the filled area with light-grit sandpaper; wipe up the dust with a clean tack rag. Apply a polyurethane product that matches the rest of the wood, using a natural bristle brush.

Cracked Bathroom Caulk

Cracked bathroom caulk is as unattractive as it is nasty. Left unchecked and you can end up with a mold or mildew problem. To fix it, remove the old caulk completely using a razor scraper or utility knife and scouring pad; wipe clean and dry. Tape off around the area to be recaulked. Recaulk using a product labeled for use in kitchen or bath, but note that silicone caulk is trickier to apply than acrylic. Apply caulk evenly, using a caulk gun; remove the tape and dry according to manufacturer recommendations.

A Wobbly Toilet

It's best to fix a wobbly toilet as soon as you can, and it's often just a matter of tightening the nuts on the floor bolts with a locking pliers. If that doesn't work, you might need a new flange (don't panic -- it isn't as hard as it sounds). First, turn off the water; then remove those same nuts and lift the toilet up and off the base. If the floor feels wet, you probably need to call a plumber and might need a floor fix. If not, check the flange ring for any signs of wear and tear. Replace with a new flange and wax ring and reattach the toilet.

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