The end of my 2012 was flooded. Well, my laundry room was because my 10 year old washing machine broke, again. I posted my ordeal on my personal facebook page asking my community for advice, “should I repair or buy?”. Most said buy, but one said repair.That lone voice belonged to Matt Czosnek. Matt and I went to High School together at Shorewood High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We spent much time in each others’ proximity only I was on stage and he was working the crew. As is the case for many people like us we reconnected on the great alumni reunitor, Facebook. Back to my real time story. Matt didn’t just advise that the washing machine be repaired he advised that I repair it. I would have fallen on the floor laughing, but I didn’t want to get wet. However, Matt wasn’t kdding. He is a believer that we all posses the ability to step up to the plate and DIY troubleshoot many of the repairs we encounter in our apartments and homes.
Well, ultimately I did get the washing machine fixed, but I was not the one wielding the wrench. Nevertheless, I couldn’t get Matt’s words out of my head. So I reached out to him for some detailed guidnace about what I, (and all of you out there who are as repair challenged as I am), can do to step up to the DIY plate and empower myself to be more self reliant in my home.
According to Matt the first thing we have to do is gather your instruments of destruction, I mean your tools for repair. For the beginner DIY repairperson Matt suggests that your gather the following:
Building a library of reference materials is also very helpful. But your library should start with the owners manuals for your appliance and electronics. Many manuals have great trouble shooting advice included in the text. If you have lost your manual, no worries, many brands now offer their manuals in digital form on their websites. Best to keep all of your manuals together in a accordian folder or filling cabinet. The nice thing about the accordian folder is you can carry it with you to wherever your DIY project is in the house and still keep your papers together. (I find that if I take files out of my filing cabinet, they don’t always make it back. Just sayin’.) Once you have assembled all of your manuals you can fill out your library with some repair books such as these titles that Matt also suggests:
- Dare To Repair by Julie Sussman
- Home Maintenance for Dummies by James Carey & Morris Carey
- Readers Digest New Fix It Yourself Manual by Readers Digest editors
- Complete Idiot’s Guide to Simple Home Repair by Judy Ostrow
- Time-Life Home Repair and Improvement Look for the ones from the late 80s early/mid 90s. This is a series and each book is all on one subject i.e. Plumbing, Electrical, or Appliances.
- The Basic Handyman’s Guide for Home and Apartment- This one is from the 70s but could prove very useful for anyone with an older home.
- (The last two are older and a bit harder to find, but will be relevant for people with older homes. The Time-Life books are well illustrated and break repairs down into easily followed sections.)
You’ve got your tools and you’ve got your library, now you are ready to start. Matt suggests that you start with something easy like changing a toilet seat, toilet flapper, or faucet aerator. He says these are all very easy, require few or no tools and build confidence that you need to take on more challenging repairs where you might need to shut off power or water supplies (i.e. changing a light switch or faucet washers). As you inch your way into DIY repair heaven here are four things Matt encourages you to do.
- Watch and talk to your repairman, they are supposed to know what they’re doing. You can learn a lot by watching. Talk to your parents, grandparents, or friends and see if they have done the repair that you need, and then ask for their help in doing it. Not only is it a way to spend time together making memories, it’s also the best way to learn.
- If you have to take something apart lay the pieces out in the order you take them off, that way all you need to do is reverse the process and you don’t wind up with “extra parts”.
- Find a good hardware store, not a big box builders store like Lowes or Home Depot. Little neighborhood stores usually have very knowledgeable staff that loves to help people.
- Watch shows like “Hometime”, “This Old House”, and “Ask This Old House” they can give you lots of information on new techniques, products, and tools that might help you. They also might just show you how to do the repair you’re working on.
Matt goes on to warn that any and all work involving Natural gas or Propane gas (other than grills) should be left to professionals because it’s explosive, poisonous, and will kill you if the work is done wrong. Electrical work that is more than a simple light switch or 110V outlet change, call a professional. If you need to run new pipes or cut main lines for plumbing get the pros. Really big jobs that will take more than a weekend, call somebody, just for the sake of family harmony.
Matt’s big safety reminder:
“Always let people know that you’re working on a repair, post a sign by the breaker box or water main if you shut off power or water. Hammers and plumbing don’t mix ever. Don’t over tighten screws and nuts (in general you just need a ¼ turn beyond snug). Use correct wattage bulbs in lights. Don’t remove the ground pins from extension cords. And if you have to turn off the water or power always double check that it’s off before you start.”
While I am not ready to fix my washing machine, I do feel suited up to take on my loose bannisters at least. It’s not about where you start it’s only important that you start. Are you ready to take charge?
Matt Czosnek’s Biography:
I started my journey in home repair at an early age when I was drafted as my single mothers helper for a carpet removal. I continued with the usual odd jobs (lawn mowing/yard work, painting, and moving help) through out middle and high school. After high school I started working in a small local hardware store, where every day was an adventure in home repair, and where I was able to pick the brains of people who had been in the business for 20 or more years. After college I worked as an on site building manager for a small apartment building where I learned about heating systems and boilers. Currently I work as a maintenance man for a 16 floor, 250 unit retirement complex where I work on everything from plumbing to electrical systems everyday.
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