Biggest DIY Home Repair Mistakes

I don’t want to get on a high horse as some kind of “handyman know it all professional” (and trust me, I’ve met enough of those!), but there’s a few things you want to avoid doing when trying any repair job yourself. Some of these are a little more obvious than others, but it still happens!

Not Getting The Required Permits – A lot of people go into home repair thinking that anything they do is fine and kosher since it’s on their own property, but the truth is you’re going to need permits more often than not. I know, I know, it’s your land and you don’t want your money in the government’s coffers, but these really are just for the safety of everyone involved – including your neighbors. Not sure if you need a permit? I always tell people that anything more involved than painting or wallpapering probably needs one. The building department of your city is just a phone call away.

Inadequate Preparation – And I do mean for any job. Needing some drywall? Don’t be a cheapskate, make sure you have the 3/4th inch kind. Building an addition to your house? You probably don’t want the wood exposed to the elements. Got a septic tank on your property? Don’t let anyone park a big truck right over top of it. Speaking from experience on that last one.

Unsafe Conditions – Kinda ties into that last one, but make sure everything is prepared and cleaned before you start working. Make sure everyone has gloves, goggles and kneepads. Get a pouch for your nails so your roommates or dog don’t walk over them.

And the worst one of them all: lack of planning and knowledge. If you’re trying to repair something on your own for the first time, the worst thing you can do is just charge ahead without looking into it at all. This is too complicated and dangerous for someone to dive headfirst without reading the warning signs. By all means, try more repairs yourself, but make sure to at least watch something on Youtube or practice with someone else first. And if worse comes to worst, just ask someone who knows what they’re doing.

That’s all for now! Take care of yourselves, and I’ll be back soon with a new post for ya!

Biggest DIY Home Repair Mistakes

Storm Doors Vs. Screen Doors

So I got some good feedback on my post about windows which I appreciate, and I guess as soon as a guy posts about windows it makes him a home expert – or at least that’s what everyone thinks now that you’re asking me about doors! 😉

Okay, so I’ve heard people ask once or twice, you get it. Anyway, here’s old Larry’s take on the difference between storm doors and screen doors, and the different materials they use to make them!

Storm Doors

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Storm doors, for lack of a better description, are a good example of ‘function over form’. Not the prettiest windows in the world, they generally consist of a hard and nearly air-tight metal frame around a solid glass pane, sometimes with a screen behind it. Sound simple enough so far?

Typically, storm doors are designed to keep out the elements while still allowing a view. They sit much more tightly in their doorframes to prevent air and water from getting in, and are almost always metal in order to stand up to the beatings of Mother Nature.

But wait, you’re asking, don’t these sometimes have screens in them? They do, but not every storm door is a screen door, or vice versa. A storm door is great for states with more rough weather like us here in Michigan, and can actually help keep your home warmer as it allows less heat to escape, and the screens are generally given a light glazing to allow light to enter the home, but not air.

Speaking of screen doors…

Screen Doors

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Screen doors are still distinct from storm doors (to the surprise of many people) in that they have no glass and are not air tight. While some people use the terms interchangeably, screen doors have much thinner construction and a small mesh made out of of a number of materials such as aluminum to let in air and sunlight. You can get a number of different options as far as door construction and screen material, and they’re pretty cheap and easy to find.

So What One Do I Want?

Well, I suppose I’ll level with you: I feel like storm doors are the way to go for my neck of the woods, and many of yours as well. Screen doors are real nice if you’ve got a constantly nice breeze wafting through and you’re not too worried about upkeep, but keep in mind you can get screens on storm doors too. Storm doors offer much more help in keeping your house heated and safe from winter winds, and when it gets warm many of them allow you to slide a window down behind a screen. But hey? What do I know. If you’re reading this down South maybe you prefer screens!

That’s it for this week! If you want to check out some storm doors in Michigan, I’d suggest Fox Weldoor, and for screen doors you oughta go to Taylor Door Company for their nice wood options. Catch ya soon!

Storm Doors Vs. Screen Doors

Things Everyone Needs In Their Toolbox

Hey again, everyone! I’ve been spending a lot of time lately doing that most hated of chores – cleaning out my old toolboxes! I know, I know, but there comes a time when someone needs to just decide what they need to keep, and that applies to everything – even tools.

So with that in mind, as I’ve been deciding what to keep and what to toss, I’ve been putting together this list of indisposable tools that everyone should keep around!

Screwdriver

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This one seems obvious, but look: you can’t just keep one screwdriver around for everything. However, you also don’t really need to go overload with them. Keep a set around of common sizes and bit types, and you’ll be prepared for anything you may need to unscrew! Pardon the phrase. You can find these anywhere, but I tend to stick with Kobalt or Stanley (pictured).

Adjustable Pliers and Wrench

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Two of each, one large, one small. MAKE SURE THEY’RE ADJUSTABLE. Not that much more expensive than non-adjustable ones, and it’s like having several different sizes around. You’ll be shocked out of how much use you can get out of it, if you keep them.

Tape Measure

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Regular tape measure, big and metal like your dad had. A little finicky at shorter distances, but you can deal with it, right? You can get these basically anywhere, but Grainger is good for providing options.

Handsaw

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Trust me, this is much easier to store and just as useful as a power saw. Try to get one with good support, and make sure you have somewhere safe to keep it – you don’t want one of these just lying around waiting to hurt someone. As soon as you need this, you’ll love having it around. Check out Harbor Freight for some deals.

Power Drill

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Sure, this is the ultimate “I’ll just borrow my wife’s dad’s” tool, but you’ll want to have your own eventually. Different bits mean you can use them for things like sanding and grinding, and keeping a corded one means you’ll never have to buy batteries. Besides, you can even use them to grind pepper! Check out Ace for some deals.

Utility Knife

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This, almost out of everything here, is the one I would recommend the highest. It’s not the flashiest or fanciest or most expensive (although you really don’t want to cheap out on this), but in the words of an ancient credit card commercial “don’t leave home without it”! (But don’t take it anywhere where you couldn’t take a knife, like on a plane or anything).You’ll always have a need for this, and if you don’t have a need I’m sure you’ll find one. I’m a big Milwaukee fan, and you can get a good deal on them at the Toolbarn.

I hope you all learned something here! Does anyone here remember the terrible old Super Mario movie? It’s like the man says, “your tools are your friends – treat them well and they’re always by your side!”. Or, at least, the ones you really need.

Things Everyone Needs In Their Toolbox

Choosing Windows

In my time spent doing various home-improvement gigs, I’ve put in a window or two and I’ve always been getting the same questions: “Do you think these are good windows? Should I have gotten something else?”

I’m not a window expert, but I’ve picked up a few things here and there (whether installing, or modifying, or whatever) about the different sort of windows you might want, and why you’d pick one over another. So without further ado, here’s Larry’s Guide to Replacement Windows!

Wood Windows

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Gonna start right off with the “top shelf” stuff here. Wood windows were basically the only kind installed in site-built houses up until like 1995 or so, at least at time of construction (Mobile homes? That’s a whole other post!) and they’ve still got their fans and uses.

Wood windows, for starters, have been proven a few times by universities and independent groups that wood windows hold up the longest out of any available window type. Better longevity means less replacement, right? Better yet they’re the best insulator out of the three of them, which could give you some long-term heating savings. But still, the initial installation price might be a bit off-putting to some. You should really ask yourself this: are you more concerned with price and function, or are you worried about keeping your home’s resale value? If you decide wood is the way to go for you, I’ve usually pointed people towards Caswell Window and Door Co. in White Lake.

Vinyl Windows

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Alright, I can already see a few of you rolling your eyes right now, but hear me out.

Vinyl windows had kind of a bad reputation after they were introduced in the 70s, but they’ve really come a long way. Now, full disclosure, I do have vinyl windows in my house and have installed a few here and there, but I’m being as fair as I can here.

Vinyl windows right now offer probably the most flexibility and highest value. They can be manufactured and cut to nearly any size and opening, and while they don’t insulate as perfectly as wood you can actually get filler material to tuck into the hollow parts that trap heat really well. Better yet? Much cheaper than any other kind! Longevity and house-value is a bit of a problem, but honestly you can’t beat the price for all the good they’ll do you. I tend to go to Wallside Windows for a lot of my clients who look for vinyl, they manufacture in-house which is nice.

Fiberglass Windows

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So, admittedly, I have the least experience with these, but I’ve heard nothing but good things. Fiberglass, from what I understand, is kind of a midway point between wood and vinyl. A bit more expensive than vinyl, but not as expensive (or hard to install as wood), fiberglass gives good insulation and is much easier to paint/decorate but still won’t cost you an arm and a leg. At least that’s what I’ve been told. There’s a few manufacturers you could call for more information, but the big name around here is Majic Window.

As always, I hoped you guys learned something! I’m always open to discussion or further advice if someone has a comment. Talk to you soon! 🙂

Choosing Windows

A Few Repairs You Can Do Yourself

Hey all, my name’s Larry Campbell and I’m here to talk to you about home improvements and repair! I’ve been something of a handyman in the Detroit area for the past 15-20 years, and I love my work enough I wanted to try to open up a blog to get some thoughts and ideas out there that might save you some money, or at least prove informational!

With that in mind, I would like to make a list of the most common home repairs (that I’ve seen), and how you can do them yourself without wanting to call the professional! Of course, you’ll still want to call them sometimes, otherwise I’d be out of a job! 😉

Replacing a Light Switch

Alright, forget what I said a second ago – you really should call a professional when it comes to most electrical work, since there’s a much higher risk of injury or death when it comes to this sort of thing. But if you take the needed precautions, you can totally replace most light switches by yourself, so long as you remember to disconnect the power! All you need otherwise is both a flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver, and a little patience.

Applying Caulk

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I know, you’re all laughing about the name, but caulk is serious stuff ok? 😉 Honestly, most anyone can reapply caulk (and with the ages of some of the bathrooms I’ve seen in Michigan, it’s a skill most of you out there need!) just so long as you have a steady hand. My dad told me stories about having to get rid of old caulk with a razor scraper, but these days you can get by with some cheap caulk remover and a drywall scraper. As soon as that’s done, all you have to do is lay down a new line and you’re all set! I’ve posted a picture of my favorite Milwaukee-brand caulk gun here, but you don’t need anything fancy. As far as remover goes, I prefer the Goof-Off brand remover, which you can find here if you need some. (And no, I’m not getting any money from Home Depot!)

Patching Drywall

I’ve seen plenty of mysterious fist-sized holes in walls in my time, and as glad as I am for the business it’s something a lot of people could do without having to get help (or have to explain to people what happened!). Honestly, a lot of time if the hole isn’t too big you can get away with some spackle and a drywall knife (I tend to use the DAP Vinyl compound myself), but if it’s on the large size you might have to do some cutting and replacing with drywall scraps/sheets. Still nothing someone couldn’t handle on their own!

Replacing a Screen (Door/Window)

Maybe a bit of a scarier one, but really not a big thing so long as you take your time and come prepared. Looking a little further into what kind of door you have and what kind of screen you’ll need will save you a lot of headaches. And if you want to hear a secret from an old hand? DIYNetwork has some great tips on it.

I hope this proved helpful for anyone who reads, and I’ll be back soon with some more information!

A Few Repairs You Can Do Yourself