Hiring professional contractors costs $40-$150 per hour, depending on their specialty. Why not keep that money in your pocket by doing the work yourself? Here are five common DIY tasks with clear how-to steps and your potential savings.

 

1. Replacing deck planks

As cedar and pressure-treated decks age, the planks are prone to splintering and cracking. Replacing a few broken planks is a DIY job you can handle.

What you’ll need: New planks, circular saw, straight edge, tape measure, power drill and deck screws

How to replace a deck plank:

  • Use the power drill on reverse to remove the original deck screws

  • Pull up the old plank

  • Measure the length of the old plank

  • Measure and mark the new plank on both sides where it needs to be cut to fit

  • Use the straight edge to connect the marks to create a complete line across the width of the plank

  • Elevate the end of the plank you’ll be cutting, and support it with something sturdy

  • Hold the plank firmly on the part of it you will install, and use the circular saw to cut along the waste side of the plank

  • Lay the plank next to the gap, and mark on it where the underlying trusses are

  • Place the plank in the gap, and fasten it to the trusses using the power drill on forward and deck screws

  • Pro tip: If the screws are difficult to install, drill 1/16” pilot holes first


Potential Savings: $40-$60 per hour, replacing three to five planks per hour. Most deck contractors will charge a minimum of $100+ for their trouble.

 

2. Clean central air conditioner coils 

HVAC coils accumulate dust and yard debris. The results are that they lose efficiency and work harder producing higher utility bills and more mechanical breakdowns. Coils should be thoroughly cleaned every two years.

What you’ll need: Screwdriver set or electric driver and bits, shop-type vacuum, firm nylon brush, garden hose.

 

How to clean AC coils:

  • Pro tip: For identification, the coils have a surface like a radiator with rows of small fins that expand surface area to effectively transfer heat

  • Remove the housings to expose the coils

  • Use the vacuum with a brush head to go over the coil fins very thoroughly

  • Use the nylon brush to loosen tough material, and vacuum agai 

  • Rinse the outdoor coil only with a garden hose and water

  • Each time you mow the yard, rinse off the outdoor coil with the hose – no need to remove the housing to do so

 

Potential savings: AC cleaning by a professional technician costs $75-$125

 

3. Replace a leaking compression valve

A leaking compression valve under a sink or toilet can drive up the water bill and cause water damage. This is a quick, easy repair.

 What you’ll need: Two adjustable wrenches or one and a pair of pliers, small container to catch water, new compression valve, flange tables sheet (found here)

 

How to repair a compression valve:

  • Shut off the main water supply, and turn on a faucet at the lowest point of your home in order to relieve water pressure

  • Position the small container beneath the valve

  • Use the adjustable wrench to loosen the nut on the water supply line, remove the line and drain it into the containe 

  • Loosen the nut that holds the compression valve to the water pipe, and slide the old compression valve off the pip 

  • Place the new compression valve pieces over the pipe in the order indicated in the directions

  • Hold the body of the valve in place with a wrench or pliers 

  • Finger-tighten the valve nut until it is snug

  • Use the wrench to tighten the nut 1/4 turn 

  • Pro tip: Over-tightening the nut will damage soft copper pipe, so proceed with caution 

  • Reattach to water line, finger-tighten the nut and then use the wrench to tighten it another 1/4 turn

  • Turn the water back on, and open the valve you just installed

  • Pro tip: If either of the nuts leak, slowly tighten them with the wrench until the leak stops

Potential savings: Most plumbers have a minimum service fee of at least $100, and that’s what you’ll save with DIY compression valve replacement.

 

4. Replace a Light Switch or Outlet

Electricity is dangerous, but when the power is turned off, the risk of shock is eliminated.

What you’ll need: Common sense, a screwdriver, electricity tester and the new switch or outlet

 

How to replace a light switch or outlet:

  • Turn off the circuit the switch or outlet is on

  • Pro tip: Tell others in the home that you’re working on the electricity, so the circuit should not be turned on. As an alternative, close the electrical box once the circuit is off, and put a lock on the box

  • Remove the face plate

  • Use the tester, and follow directions, to make sure that power is not running to the switch or outlet

  • Remove screws holding the switch or outlet in place, and pull it out of the electrical box

  • Use your phone camera to take a picture of the wiring on the switch or outlet, or mark the wires with labelled tape

  • Loosen the screws holding the wiring, detach them and discard the damaged switch or outlet

  • Attach the wires to the new device using the picture you took for guidance

  • Install the screws holding the switch or outlet in place, and replace the face plate

  • Turn on the circuit, and try the switch or outlet

  • If it doesn’t work, call an electrician because the problem might be a bad circuit or something else that only a certified electrician should repair

Potential savings: While the repair takes just a few minutes, most electricians charge a minimum service call fee of $125 or more, so that is what you’ll save with DIY light switch or outlet replacement.

 

Watch videos

You’ll find videos online for virtually every repair in your home, like this one for replacing a light switch. With a brief video tutorial from a pro or experienced DIY homeowner, you’ll be making successful repairs and saving a ton of cash!