Owning a home can be a lot of work; it seems like there’s always something (big or small) that needs to be fixed or maintained.
Sometimes a light switch goes on the fritz, a false positive smoke detector that goes off at 4 AM, a crazy bird that comes nearly every morning to peck at the house siding.
You are now responsible for anything and everything that comes into your home be it a stray baseball through the window or a chewed up hole in the fence from a hyperactive 10-month-old dog.
All true stories by the way, in our humble home. And that’s just the exterior! Now work up to sealing granite countertops, stripping 16-year-old caulk from the kitchen and bathrooms, etc.
MY DIY SKILL SET
I’m just an average Joe and there’s nothing I’ve done here that another person can’t do.
Satisfaction level used below is what we use to measure how happy we were with the turn out of going with DIY project and/or experience with our professional.
Everything here was a real account of what happened to us. None of which should be taken in exchange for personal circumstance and/or professional advice.
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1. Re-keying Locks
A few months back, my wallet was stolen from her purse as she was getting off the bus. Considering her wallet had her ID (which has our addresses) and the spare house keys as well, I decided this was reason and concern enough to change the locks. Most likely my wallet was probably just relieved of the 2 dollars in cash she had and then thrown into the trash, but I didn’t want to take the chances – especially with our Airbnb guests living in the home as well.
DIY or Professional?
I identified what type of key it was and bought an appropriate re-key kit on Amazon. I looked up the instruction for the lock to see how to remove the cylinder, then followed the instructions on the re-keying kit carefully on how to open the cylinder and replace the pins.
Fun Fact: I do know how to pick locks and I’m very good at it. ಠ_ಠ
I thought it was going to be complicated but it was pretty simple. I have no experience with locks at all and I was still able to complete it without any issues.
- Buy the right re-key kit for your lock type.
- Follow the instructions carefully when dealing with something like this.
- Keep organized throughout the entire process. Remember those itty-bitty pins and springs are important. I lost a tiny spring and it took me half an hour of fumbling to find it again in our shaggy carpet.
High! 🙂 I saved a lot of money rekeying the locks myself, and I learned about how locks function in the process. As an added benefit, I was able to reduce the number of keys I need to carry, since not all the locks I re-keyed used the same key now!
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2. Tub Refinish
When we purchased our home, the bathtubs were visibly worn down near the drain. The bathtub in both of our bathrooms was discolored, rough, and one of them was in danger of rusting because it was so worn. We didn’t think it was a big deal at the time of the purchase so we just lived with it.
Rusty low spot – yuck!
Even when we started hosting on Airbnb we pushed off the repair. Being lazy homeowners = not good, we needed a kick. That’s one of the many benefits of hosting an Airbnb – we were lazy and we thought it was just cosmetic. What snapped us out was when an Airbnb guest left a mediocre review citing the tub as a cause of discomfort and only then did we seek help. It’s one thing for us to live with a worn-out tub, it’s another to expect paying guests to do so.
DIY or Professional?
Professional. I looked into DIY first and spent a good amount of time researching on my own on how to do it. There is bathtub refinishing kits that go for less than $100 online, but it was a huge amount of effort to complete (cleaning, stripping, applying the new finish and keeping it nice.)
The project would take much longer for me to do myself, which now had higher opportunity cost from closing Airbnb. Additionally, the online tub kits were just for refinishing. They wouldn’t fill in the indentation worn on the tub, which was another issue as well.
We ended up hiring someone instead who would use resin to fill in the indentation and refinish the tub at the same time.
Our contractor (Graham @ Seattle Bathtub Solutions) was who we hired. We hired him twice for both bathtubs. He was easy to schedule, on-time and efficient. The result looks great! It took about 4 hours and the tub was usable the next day. We were back making money on Airbnb lickety-split! His services also include a free chip repair guarantee for the first chip. We did get a chip after a guest dropped a can of shaving cream on the resin finish tub and Graham honored the free repair.
Fun Fact: a refinished tub’s finish isn’t as strong as the original – so it will chip more easily. When it comes to tubs you have two options: replace one completely or do a refinish/repair which depends on the level of severity.
We sent Graham a few photos and he was honest with us. Our tub was in overall good condition besides the rusty low spot. A tub refinishes would be the more resourceful route.
Pro Tip: put double coats of clear nail polish on tub chips to prevent further damage and buy some time.
$433 (per tub)
High! 🙂 I know it seems high but the cost was fair for the work done. It took 4-5 hours per tub and our contractor even scrubbed our tub for us and re-caulked for us. I’ve never seen a 16-year-old tub so shiny! I said Graham was busting away the entire time, polishing and sanding non-stop. I’m confident that my work would not have looked nearly as good. It would be several days of frustration for me. Ventilation would have been an issue too. We didn’t have a ventilation machine to air out the noxious chemical fumes. Since this is something used by our Airbnb guests, getting it done correctly the first time was important to us.
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3. Caulking Tubs & Counters
Caulking is very important. Caulking keeps water away from areas that can be damaged. It’s applied between a countertop and the backsplash to keep water from getting behind your cabinetry. Water is the #1 enemy to a residential home because it can cause rot and mold. Although useful, caulk does get damaged and it does deteriorate over time. Re-caulking is a common checklist for good household maintenance.
If the caulk has large cracks, water could find a way through. It is common for new stone countertops to set and disturb the caulk that was there so for new homeowners, learning to caulk is an absolute must.
- The worst part about re-caulking is removing the old caulk. Purchased a caulk removing spray to aid in this process.
- Every time I’ve done this, I’m surprised by how much work it is to strip off the old caulking. You really have to get it all off so the old caulk doesn’t interfere with the new caulking bonding to the tub/counter/tile surface.
- Make sure to wait at least 24 to 48 hours for the caulk to dry before getting the caulked area wet! Seriously. You do not want to have to do it over again.
- ONLY use 100% silicone caulk for high moisture environments like the kitchen and bathrooms.
Once all the previous caulk is removed, it’s time to apply the new. Getting consistent, even application of caulk is difficult. It doesn’t help that my cheap caulk gun doesn’t immediately release pressure on the canister as soon as I let go.
Don’t buy a cheap caulk gun. It will show in the work.
If you don’t go around in once solid bead, you need to get back to where you left off in time to connect the new bead to the old one. Either way, time is an issue. And, believe me, if you notice a spot that doesn’t look right after you’re done and try to touch it up, you’re probably just going to make it worse.
Pro Tip: When caulking the tub, FILL the tub partway with water. When a person is keeling inside the tub, the added weight sinks the tub slightly vs when no one is in the tub. The idea of putting some water in when caulking (and leaving it for at least six hours) it to get it somewhere between where it is when the tub is empty and when someone is in it. That way, neither position stretches/compacts the caulk beyond what it can handle!
DIY or Professional?
DIY – I honestly never considered going professional for this. It just seems like too common of a work item to have to pay someone every time it. If I have to recommend one skill to learn for homeowners: learn to caulk.
Less than $10 for caulk
Medium – Doing so many caulking projects on my own has certainly saved a lot of money, but I have to confess that my workmanship just doesn’t look as professional as work is done by a professional. The good news is that I’m getting more adept with it with practice, so with some more projects, I may be able to replace it with professional looking work when that time comes.
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4. Wall Mounted Gate
I think Gracie is great and all, but she was a bit of a handful when she was younger. She was very shy. She was so shy that she doesn’t want to tell us when she needed to poop. Instead, she would wait downstairs in the dark by the front door in silence and constipated suffering while we were upstairs. If we didn’t notice her downstairs quick enough, she would poop around the corner to hide it. Such great fun cleaning those up…
Our puppy just waits there in silence until she can’t hold it anymore.
The way our townhouse is designed (with open stairs and different hiding areas) we needed a dog gate to separate the different floors. I considered it important for any gate that’s blocking the top of a stairway to be secure, so I insisted on getting on that screws into the wall. We ended up getting this one. The remaining problem was installing it.
DIY or Professional?
DIY – I had plenty of time to get supplies and figure it out! A simple dog/baby gate installation seemed fairly low risk…
You need to buy drill bits to install, which isn’t a problem since those are useful to have anyway.
The gate came with four pieces of hardware to attach to the wall, two on one side to attach to the hinges to let the gate swing, and two on the other side to lock the gate in a closed position. Each of these was to be attached by two screws, which needed guide holes to be drilled.
The gate also came with convenient strips of paper marked with where to drill guide holes. I taped the guide for the hinges on the wall and started drilling the holes.
And that’s when I hit problem #1.
The drill only went a little way in before I hit something metallic. That freaked me out, especially since I was drilling very close to a set of electrical switches. I hadn’t invested in drill bits designed for metal either, so I was worried about breaking them.
I decided to wait a day and discuss with my co-worker friend who does a lot of DIY housing projects. Apparently, the metal is a drywall corner bead, and it’s nothing to worry about; it’s just there to help protect the corner from damage. He also said I should be fine drilling through it with my drill bits, so I went home more reassured in what I was doing.
I tried drilling again by putting more pressure on it and got through the corner bead without trouble then screwed the hardware in and mounted the gate; all was looking good. The only thing left was to schedule in the latch on the other side of the doorway.
And that’s where I hit problem #2.
The hardware to install on the other side to lock the door in place was blocked by the baseboard. So dumb.
I forgot I had baseboards.
I now have to redo the side I’d already completed so I could raise the gate up above the baseboards. To reduce the damage and redundant effort, I successfully reused one of the holes for each piece of hardware by lining it up so the hole I originally drilled for the top screw would be used by the bottom screw. The end result was a fully functional gate that’s slightly higher up than the instructions called for and two extra holes in the wall.
$37.22 (gate) + $9.77 (drill bits)
High – Amazon charged $90 for the setup service and I would be an un-frugal sucker if I paid for it. Although this was supposed to be a simple install for a gate it gave me a lot more trouble than I thought it would. Reflecting back now, I should have gone in with a clearer frame of mind and better planning. I also learned it’s OK to ask around for help and talk to others about it because chances are, they’ve done something similar.
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