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I’M A WOMAN WHO WANTS TO BE HANDIER AROUND THE HOUSE. WHERE SHOULD I START?

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Most of us handymen and women started right where you are: without much of a clue.

Like we were, you’re probably a little nervous that the roof will cave in if you hammer a nail into the wrong spot. It won’t.

Bolster your confidence as a do-it-yourselfer by making your first jobs small ones that are more forgiving of the mistakes of a beginner.

Some suggestions:

Painting. You might have slapped a coat of paint on some walls or a fence in the past, but this time, paint like a pro. Before you begin, do your homework. Read the labels on paint cans, question the guys at the paint store, call the Rosie on the House show on Saturday mornings for advice, read how-to articles about painting and even talk to a painter before you start. You’ll learn that different kinds of paint adhere better and last longer, depending on the surface you’re painting and whether it’s inside or outside. Cheap paint—and cheap paint brushes—tend to leave tell-tale brush strokes on your walls—and reveal that an amateur has done the job. Investing in good tools is your first step toward doing work that looks professional.
 
Caulking.
 Caulk around the bathtub and shower doesn’t last forever; constant moisture can turn it mushy and moldy, and age can make it brittle. Learn the tricks of the trade for reapplying caulk before you start the job so your work looks clean and lasts longer. A few to count on:

  1. A caulk gun will help you do a more efficient job than working right from the tube.
  2. Clean up as you go along; it’s so much easier to wipe off moist caulk than dry. Use a sponge, not your fingers, for a finished, professional look.
  3. Remove the old, cracked caulk before applying new product, and clean the surface with acetone (yes, fingernail polish remover!). It cleans, evaporates and leaves no residue. 
  4. Don’t caulk a wet surface. The caulk won’t stick.

Stopping leaks. Leaky faucets are easy to repair: Just remove the faucet, replace the washer and put the faucet back on. Some tips for pro-quality success:

  1. Turn off the water to the faucet before you start. In fact, one of the first things you should learn in your quest to become a successful do-it-yourselfer is how to turn off the water to every faucet and to the whole house.
  2. Don’t be afraid to remove the faucet. You can simply retrace your steps to put it back together.
  3. Once you remove the washer, take it to your local hardware store and ask the guys there to help you find one that matches it so you’ll buy the right size.
  4. For a persistent leak that doesn’t respond to a new washer, call a plumber.

By the time you do these three easy repairs yourself, you’ll be well on your way to learning the DIY basics, speaking the language and feeling like you’re ready for bigger jobs.

  • Sanderson Ford

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