Do you know how to basic maintenance on your home, or do you call someone else for everything?

I'm a big believer in knowing how to do the basics, leaving the bigger stuff for the professionals.  That actually ties in with the first thing I want to mention:  Be aware of what you feel you can and can't do.  If you think the job is too far above your skill level, by all means, call in the pros.  The cliché about a homeowner trying to save money by doing their own repairs, only to create a bigger mess (and a bigger bill) exists for a reason.


flood in the bathroom, the water over the edge

Basic plumbing doesn't have to be a nightmare.  The first step is always the same:  Shut off the water.  Make sure you know where all the shutoff valves are located, both for the fixture in question and just in case, the main shutoff for the house.

With only a little instruction, preparation and planning, just about anyone should be able to:

  • Fix or replace a faucet
  • Disconnect and replace a water heater
  • Replace parts of a toilet (remember, there's nothing disgusting about the water in the tank, it hasn't been used yet)



I get it, you don't want to mess with electricity.  Besides not wanting to get shocked, there's also the looming thought in the back of your mind that if you do a bad job, you could start a fire.  I will freely admit I would rather pay someone else to install a new light fixture or outlet rather than do it myself, but I could do it if I really needed to.  Probably.

The advice I can offer here is the same as for plumbing.  Always, ALWAYS turn off the power first.  Know where your breaker box(es) are and be sure that the breakers are accurately labeled.

Some basic skills here are:

  • Replace breakers
  • Replace outlets
  • Install light fixtures
  • Remove broken light bulbs from fixtures (use half of a potato)
  • Make your own extension cords.  Yes, the premade cords are great, but sometimes you find yourself needing a custom length.  Besides, being able to repair a damaged cord is cheaper than throwing it out and buying a new one.


Stove. Cook stove. Modern kitchen stove with blue flames burning.

This is one I will ALWAYS leave to the professionals.  At the very least, I know how to shut it off in case of a problem.

Notice a theme in my advice?

HVAC (Heating / Ventilation / Air Conditioning)

A stockphoto
A stockphoto

This has got to be pretty high up there on the list of things you don't think about until they stop working.  At the bare minimum, know what kind of air filters your system needs and change them every two or three months.


The staff at your hardware store of preference will be of invaluable assistance in helping with your projects.  Be sure to make use of such a resource, and ask if they offer DIY workshops on the subject in question or know somewhere that does.  There's also the Internet.  Just remember what I said earlier:  Know when to call in the professionals.

What I wrote about is the bare basics of what I consider essential skills.  Other people have different ideas of what is essential, important, or just handy to know.  Here are two such lists, from PBS' This Old House and Bob Vila.

So what do you consider to be essential skills for homeowners?

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