As a renter, you probably aren't spending your day off completing apartment repairs. Your home should be low-maintenance, and any big problems can be solved by a call to your landlord.
But minor mishaps happen to the best of us, like an overflowing toilet right when you were expecting guests. Or an electric circuit that blows just when you're about to start your movie marathon on a Sunday night.
In our socially distanced world, doing these small repairs yourself has an added bonus — you no longer need to request your plumber or repairman put himself at risk by coming out for small, five-minute fixes, and you keep your own family safer.
Here's an essential guide to DIY apartment repairs for the non-DIYer. We'll walk you through easy, five-minute fixes for seven common problems, and give you a list of supplies to keep in your home, as well.
Clogged drains are inconvenient, embarrassing and sometimes plain maddening. The average repair cost is steep, too — unclogging a toilet is around $400 on average. The good thing is, you don't usually need to call the plumber.
A plunger is the first recommended purchase for any renter's repair kit. You may actually want two: a small one for sinks and a larger one for the toilet. Choose one with an extension flange for maximum effectiveness.
To use the plunger, simply plunge the drain with the flange out. This should give you a good initial seal. Then continue pumping in and out till your toilet is clear. The water in the sink or bowl should cover the plunger for maximum efficiency.
Estimated cost of fix: $25
There's only one time a year squeaky doors are in fashion, and that's Halloween. At all other times, that eerie screech is intensely annoying. Luckily, there's an easy fix. Buy a can of WD-40 at any gas station, dollar store or home improvement store.
Spray directly onto the hinge, then open and close the door a few times so that the oil coats all parts of the hinge. If the squeak remains, take the door off the hinge, spray the inside of the hinge and replace the door.
Estimated cost of fix: $15
You give up on low energy bills and keep nosing up the thermostat, but your apartment never seems to warm up. Low-quality windows often feature long cracks, gaps and holes that let out the warm air and bring cold air in. The good news: you can seal up your windows yourself, and these apartment repair supplies will pay for themselves out of next month's energy savings.
Foam tape comes with an adhesive backing and is rolled back along the top and bottom of window sashes. Felt weatherstripping can also be placed along window sashes anywhere where there's a need. If you have sliding windows, there's a special product called V-strip weather stripping which will make your job easier.
Estimated cost of fix: $75
Did you know that your home electricity has a built-in circuit breaker that turns the whole system off if too much power gets drawn at one time? Sometimes you hear a pop, sometimes you don't, but the electricity is gone, just as if someone turned a switch.
The lucky part: there's a switch, and if you know where to find it and turn it back on, you won't have to wait for an electrician to come by. Your home's circuit breakers are typically placed together in a grey metal breaker box and can be in your hall, storage room, utility room or basement.
You'll see a row of switches, most of them 'on' and the problematic switch will be somewhere between on and off. Flip it to off, then to on. If it reverts immediately, you need to talk to your electrician, but under most circumstances, you should be good to go.
Required supplies: None
Estimated cost of fix: $0
If your refrigerator doesn't seem to keep things cool anymore, the problem may be as simple as dusty cooling coils. To deal with the problem, unplug your fridge from the wall. Move it out into the kitchen so you have room to get behind it, and locate the coils. They should be visible either under the fridge or on the backside and look like coiled black metal.
A metal grille may be blocking your access, but this can be easily removed. Then, use a dust cloth, a mop or even a vacuum to clean off the dust. When the coils are clean, put the refrigerator back in position and plug it back in. You should see a noticeable improvement within a couple of hours.
Estimated cost of fix: $1
Scuffs and scratches may be one of your worst nightmares. You'll hear many suggestions for getting rid of them — toothpaste, baking soda, stove cleaner. Play cautiously: many apartment dwellers make the problem worse by rubbing the spot as if it was a burned pan. The result? A shiny spot that stays there forever.
Wall scuffs don't necessarily need that much force. Try the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner first, and if that doesn't do it, give a very gentle rub with a damp cloth.
If you've got a chip, a nail hole or an actual scratch, you'll want to use paint that's carefully color matched at your hardware store by bringing in a small chip you took from near the blemish.
Use a small putty knife to fill the hole with spackling paste, then allow to dry. Sandpaper lightly, then repaint. Repaint as small an area as possible to hide any possible differences in the paint color.
Estimated cost of fix: $35
It may be easy to ignore a dripping tap, but even one drop per second adds 17 gallons a day to your water bill. The average cost of having a leaky faucet fixed is $250. If you want to save that money, first check that all bolts are appropriately tightened.
If that doesn't seem to be the problem, it's likely to be a worn-out washer or o-ring. To solve the problem, simply disassemble the tap, change out the problematic piece and put your tap back together again.
The size and shape of the replacement piece, as well as the procedure you need to take apart and put together your tap, will vary widely depending on your tap. Be sure to look up specific details before you attack it with a wrench.
Estimated cost of fix: $50
Sometimes, the best fixes are the simplest ones. DIY apartment repair should never be complicated, but these simple fixes can help you stay confident, comfortable and productive when maintenance problems threaten to ruin your day.