More than a year into the pandemic, we're all suffering from overexposure to our own homes. We've had more time to contemplate and less motivation to tackle the out-of-whack elements in our houses and apartments - the minor repair--ripped screens, rattling bathroom fans-- that have seemingly taken up permanent residence on our to-do lists.
"During covid, people were so physically and mentally worn out trying to keep our families safe that our houses went to hell," says Caroline Carter, founder and chief executive of Bethesda, Maryland-based Done in a Day, a move-management company.
Make a list of the most annoying repairs, and address them one by one. If you're handy and into DIY, that's great. If not, many of the jobs take only an hour or two for a professional, whether that be a plumber, carpenter or handyperson.
"We get lots of calls from people who decide they want to put their home on the market right now," says Chuck Khiel, vice president of Fred Home Improvement, a division of Case Architects & Remodelers. "Instead of taking care of little things throughout the year, they suddenly decide to take advantage of a hot market and have a long checklist of home repairs."
We asked Chuck Khiel, vice president of Fred Home Improvement, a division of Case Architects & Remodelers Khiel, as well as a home inspector and a move-management expert, about minor repairs and how to address them. Here are eight of the most common issues they mentioned.
1. Tune up your toilet
The sound of water continuously running in a toilet "should annoy you, because you are wasting time and money," says Scott Robertson, owner of District Home Inspection in D.C. This is usually caused by a leaky flapper not sealing properly. Replacing a standard flapper, generally for less than $10, is relatively easy, he saysHe estimates that the job would take a novice flapper installer half an hour and a seasoned DIYer about 10 minutes.
2. Replace a broken storm door closer
If you hate how your storm door slams shut, and you've tried and failed to adjust the tension, it might be time for a new door closer, Robertson says. The most common model styles are spring (Prime-Line from Home Depot, $15.47) and pneumatic (Wright Products from Home Depot, $12.98).
3. Silence a noisy bathroom fan
"Fans get clogged and caked with dust particles because nobody ever takes off the cover to clean them," Khiel says. . If the fan is not too far gone, he says, it's often possible to replace the motor in the models by popular makers, such as NuTone, Broan and Panasonic.
4. Diagnose the door that sticks
Doors tend to shift over time, and the cause could be humidity, an out-of-kilter latch, just plain age and more. "If it's a really old house, things move around, and that can throw something out of whack," Khiel says. "Sometimes, people lift up on a door to be able to close it without scraping it, and then that can loosen the screws on the hinges." The solution could be using longer screws on the hinge, Kheil says, or it could mean removing the door and cutting or planing it. The job, if you can't do it yourself, could take an hour or two for a pro; hourly rates range widely, depending on expertise and location.
5. Upgrade a dingy laundry room
Carter suggests adding brighter lighting. Refresh the area by replacing a plastic laundry sink with a vanity that has both a sink and storage space. (She likes Glacier Bay's stainless-steel laundry sink and storage cabinet from Home Depot for $179.) Paint a concrete floor cobalt blue or red. (Concrete paints by Behr or Rust-Oleum are good options.) And install a proper clothes drying rack, so you aren't hanging delicates from doorknobs or pipes. (Carter's choice: a 40-inch indoor/outdoor white retractable wall-mounted drying rack from Home Depot for $74.22.)
6. Add circuits
Have you ever tried to use, say, a space heater and hair dryer at the same time, only to have the breaker pop and shut everything down? This means your appliances are sharing a circuit, a common situation in older homes. If this happens with some frequency, it should be addressed, because it's a safety hazard and an annoyance. This is not a DIY project; a licensed electrician needs to do a diagnosis, Khiel says.The situation could require a "heavy-up" - a costly project (about $3,000 to $4,000, he says) that increases the amperage going into the house.
7. Repair damaged screens
Older homes often have windows that are painted shut, which is a fire hazard, or screens that are full of holes. If you want to let fresh air into your house but haven't had the bandwidth to pry open the windows or fix the screens, it's time to act. Although getting windows unstuck may require skill and brawn, you should be able to fix those screens with less effort. To make the repair, Carter says, you will need spline (a type of cord that holds a screen in place), a spline roller (one by Saint-Gobain ADFORS at Home Depot is $5.98) and some screening. (Amazon sells 59-by-100-inch Pazaka fiberglass screen mesh for $13.99.)Watch this video by Saint-Gobain ADFORS on the Home Depot website for instructions.
8. Replace dated kitchen cabinet knobs
Carter, author of "Smart Moves: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life," suggests looking for value packs in chrome or brushed nickel, such as the Essentials three-inch stainless-steel bar drawer pulls by Liberty from Home Depot ($17.60 for a pack of 10).