My Story: Do It Yourself?

by Donna F. Anchorage, AK

Peruse handyman books BEFORE you need them. It's fun, really, because you start to get an inkling of How Things Work. You can look at them for free in bookstores and home centers (big, bustling home centers are best because employees don't have time to make you feel guilty, the way regular bookstore clerks do). Or you can read your way through the local library's stock of how-to books. The thing about reading them in advance is that you can recognize a problem, or be more ready to deal with a sudden emergency.

I'll give you two examples. Our toilet was lifting up slightly from the floor and leaning to one side. Because I had read one of those "Family Handyman" books from Reader's Digest, I recognized that it was probably the floor rotting out underneath. So when my husband went out of town (he's the un-handy one), my teen-aged daughter and I removed the toilet and ripped up the linoleum. Sure enough: floor rot. But the book gave step-by-step instructions, with photos, so the two of us were able to fix the problem ourselves. We used up some odds and ends of 2-by-4s, left over from when we built our deck a few years ago. As for the plywood floor patch, I went to a lumberyard and said, "I don't want to buy a whole sheet of plywood because all I need is a really small piece; do you have any scraps?" They did, and they gave them to me for free.

And I saved, big-time: A co-worker who had the same problem with her bathroom floor told me that repairs cost more than $200. Ours didn't cost anything at all because labor was free and materials/tools I didn't already have (wax ring, chisel, pliers) were bought with a Sears gift certificate my dad gave us for Christmas.

Second example: Our toaster was acting weird, refusing to heat up unless you plugged it in really firmly. Then it would up and die, refusing to heat up at all. Deductive reasoning made me realize that it probably was the plug, not the toaster innards, that was messed up. That same home handyman book had a section on replacing defective plugs; it took two minutes and one $1.39 replacement plug to fix the problem. Best of all: It was a freebie toaster anyway, given to me years ago. Now it's a repaired freebie.

So read those how-to books before you need them. Why pay a plumber if all you really need to do is replace the float?

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