Basic DIY for Homeowners

DIY Painting by Roselyn Tirado

Owning a home is a rewarding part of the American dream, but as sure as taxes come due on April 15, home maintenance tasks are a part of home ownership that cannot be shirked!

As promised in our September mailer, here are some links to get you on your way with five DIY tasks that all homeowners should be familiar with:

  1. Turning off the water, power, and gas;
  2. Repairing and painting walls and ceilings;
  3. Caulking around sinks and bathtubs;
  4. Maintaining HVACs; and
  5. Unclogging drains.

Also included are lists of tools you will need. Stock up now while you’re thinking of it so you don’t get caught when an emergency strikes!

Water, Electricity, and Gas

If a water pipe starts leaking or you blow a fuse, you need to know how to turn off three basic items: water, electricity, and natural gas.

If you have trouble locating one of your utilities, your utility company or real estate agent might be able to help.

Repairing and Painting Walls

Repairing a wall in your wall is a multiple-step job, but not as difficult as it might seem, as long as you have the right tools! Here is what you will need:

  • A putty knife;
  • Joint compound (spackling);
  • Mesh joint tape;
  • Sandpaper (fine grade);
  • A sponge;
  • Primer;
  • A paint brush; and
  • Matching wall paint.

Take a look at Videojug to see the process in action!

To repaint an entire wall or a ceiling, you’ll want to check out Home RenoVision DIY, which has some great tips for making your DIY paint job look like a professional did it. Unlike the other videos featured in this blog post, this is a long video—40 minutes! Paint lasts a long time and a bad paint job will show. Still, for a shorter video, check out Paint Life TV‘s 10-step method. Paint Life TV’s recommended tools are:

  • Dropcloths;
  • A two-gallon bucket;
  • A three-inch angled bristle brush;
  • Four-inch and nine-inch rollers;
  • A paint tray;
A paint tray by kj-styles

A paint tray

  • Spackling and a spackle knife;
  • A masker and masking paper;
  • Frog tape;
  • Screwdrivers (for outlet plates);
  • Caulking gun and caulk (as necessary);
  • A razor knife;
  • A five-in-one tool;
  • A duster brush;
  • Rubber gloves; and
  • A ladder.


Caulking around the tub and sinks eventually grows old or wears away. Before water starts leaking and you need to call in a professional to check for rot, get rid of that tired, cracked caulk. Doing this does require a somewhat steady hand and some tools. Here is a list of things you will need:

  • A caulk remover (such as a caulk scraper) and a heat gun (optional);
  • A grouting sponge and rags;
  • Painter’s tape;
  • Silicone caulk;
  • A caulk gun; and
  • A caulk smoothing tool.

See Home Repair Tutor (bathtubs) and Home & Garden for Mere Mortals (sinks) for instructions on how to get rid of that old caulk and lay down fresh caulk.

HVAC Maintenance

Known generally as HVACs (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), heating and air conditioning systems need regular care for efficiency and long life. Filters, in particular, need to be replaced regularly. Filters should generally be changed every three months, but as often as once every other month if you have a cat or dog. The main thing to remember is to make sure you insert the filter in the correct direction so that the arrows on the filter are toward the furnace, the direction of the air flow.

Every furnace is a little different. See Kay Builders for a quick video on how to change a filter.

Tip: Save money and stock up by purchasing multi-filter packs in advance.

Unclogging Drains

The bathroom sink clogs one hour before the family arrives for Thanksgiving dinner and the plumber charges triple of what is normally a high rate. Or you wake up late and are in the middle of showering when you notice the water is pooled around your ankles. Do not tempt the wheel of fortune, because eventually it will land on “clogged drain”! Instead, be prepared with the knowledge and tools you need to tackle the situation when it inevitably arises.

Tools to have on hand and videos for using them:

A pliers wrench by Yasin Hasan

A pliers wrench

Once you check each of these items off, congratulations! You’ve graduated from Homeowner 101!

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