While we’re not neanderthal-like enough, especially in this day and age, to suggest that a man should be measured only by his tactile skills, we’re also not foolish enough to think that there isn’t tremendous value in blue-collar competence. After all (and as any homeowner can tell you), there’s always something that needs fixing.
And while it would be perfectly reasonable to call in an experienced tradesman for all your necessary home maintenance and repairs, it can also get quite expensive and might not always be necessary. In the interest of helping readers figure out the difference between a relatively simple fix and one that requires the hand of a professional, we’ve put together the following guide outlining the 15 best DIY handyman skills every man should know.
Know When To DIY
And When To Ask For Help
First and foremost: we have to give respect to all the tradesmen out there. It is not our intention to suggest that calling a plumber, carpenter, or similar a professional is entirely unnecessary. In fact, there are plenty of repairs we wouldn’t dream of attempting without the help of an expert. However, there are also plenty of much smaller jobs that pop up from time to time that can relatively easily be handled by a knowledgable denizen, e.g. the homeowner in residence, for far less money than the cost of an in-call. The trick therein is gauging the junction between your knowledge base, confidence level, tactile skills, and a reasonable acceptance of risk. That is to say: you should be reasonably sure you can handle the fix (perhaps with the aid of online step-by-step guides or YouTube videos) before even thinking about going out and picking up the necessary supplies.
If there is a doubt in your mind that you can do the work and do it well, this should give you pause and you should definitely consider calling in a professional. You can also use your online researching skills to determine the overall difficulty of a given task; just make sure you take it with a grain of salt, as the internet is full of self-proclaimed DIY experts that might not have any real proof of their knowledge. Lastly, do not — under any circumstances — let your ego get the best of you. If you think, for a fraction of a second, that you could make things worse or, god forbid, end up injuring yourself or someone else, follow your gut, stop what you’re doing, and call in a professional. Trust us, a seemingly small issue can be exacerbated tenfold by irresponsible and unknowledgeable action — and it could end up costing you far more than it would have initially.
Anyone who has ever bought a bookshelf from IKEA should be familiar with furniture anchoring, but it’s also a step that many people choose to skip. However, we think that’s a tremendous mistake because this relatively simple step can have a significant impact on the safety of everyone living in your home. The purpose of anchoring furniture to the wall is to ensure that, for whatever reason, that furniture doesn’t tip over and fall onto someone/something — potentially causing damage both to the poor victim’s body and to your property. Anchoring furniture, in concept, isn’t that different from, say, hanging a shelf or artwork, but we’d argue that it’s a good deal direr, due to the safety implications.
No, you don’t need to know how to build a house from scratch to consider yourself versed enough in carpentry to make some DIY repairs around the house. But it might be handy from time to time to have a woodworking trick or two up your sleeve. From things as simple as sanding down vintage furniture to put a fresh coat of paint or new varnish on it to actually building small projects like side tables or even chairs, basic carpentry can be extremely handy. Just remember the old adage: measure twice, cut once. We promise that’s not just something your dad or grandpa used to say; it’s legitimately one of the most useful pieces of DIY advice you can heed, especially when it comes to carpentry (although it’s a useful bit of advice for any DIY task).
Changing A Tire
Of all the skills on this list, this one might seem the most obvious. Obvious or not, it’s still an important skill to have, as you’re not going to truly understand how dire until it’s too late. Your plight — AKA being stuck on the side of the road — can be exacerbated even further if there’s inclement weather or you’re in a place where you don’t have reception. Furthermore, if you think you can replace your tire, but you attach the spare improperly, you could be putting yourself, your passengers, and everyone else on the road at significant risk — it could even be deadly in a worst-case scenario. And then there are other, more minor inconveniences you may be faced with, like discovering for the first time, on the side of the road, that you have wheel locks. Put simply: if you have a driver’s license, you should learn how to change your car’s tires.
Checking/Changing Car Fluids
It’s recommended, on average, that you change your car’s oil every 3,000 miles — although modern engines can handle closer to a 5,000-7,000-mile range. Well, if you take your car into a shop for a simple swap (meaning they drain the old oil and pop in some new oil, and that’s the extent of the work), that can cost you (depending on your car) $50-$100 every time you do it. Over time, that adds up to quite a lot of money for something simple enough that you could feasibly do on your own with just a few simple tools. It’s also quite easy to top off your wiper fluid, change your radiator coolant, and (with a little know-how) even flush your brake lines and change your transmission fluid. We’re not saying you have to do it yourself every single time and you definitely shouldn’t go into it blind, but it can help you save some money, so long as you don’t mind the potential mess and the responsibility of proper disposal (please, do not, under any circumstances, think it’s okay to flush any of this stuff down the drain).
The doors in your home serve as barriers between rooms. Most of the time, that means they can be used for privacy purposes, to shut out noises your family members and/or roommates might be producing, and (the big one) for security. But these ubiquitous devices are not without their faults — locks can jam, hinge pins can slowly pop out, and (especially in older houses) the doorways themselves might warp. Whatever the case, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of how door hardware works so you can potentially perform minor maintenance, completely remove, or even reattach a door in its proper place. It’s also a good idea to understand sliding doors and screens, so you can keep them in working order, as well.
Like many of these skills, we’re not suggesting here that you need to become a fully-fledged electrician. But it would be a good idea to know the basics so that you can perform minor maintenance that might otherwise cost you a pretty penny. This can include things as simple as, say, replacing a light switch or swapping a standard one for a dimmer. But it can also be handy to learn some troubleshooting — that way you can track down issues and be better equipped to determine whether you really need to hire an electrician to get the job done. Just be very careful when messing with anything power-related, as it is exceedingly easy to give yourself the shock of your life by being careless.
Electronics Setup & Troubleshooting
At first glance, you might think the above skill and this one are the same, but we’d suggest differently. You see, this one is more about learning how to setup your modern electronics in the proper manner — things like knowing how to set up and place a surround-sound system, figuring out Bluetooth connectivity issues, managing your smart hub and its related devices, connecting your turntable to an amplifier and speaker setup, and more. This doesn’t require any actual electrical skills — meaning you’re probably not going to be stripping wires or worrying about grounding — but it’s still very much a handy skill, especially if you have tech-illiterate people in your household.
Fixing A Leak
Perhaps you want to install a new sink/faucet in your bathroom or, over time, you’ve noticed your shower or the pipes under your sink start to drip a bit. Well, it would be good to know how to remedy that without pulling out your wallet. Sometimes it can be as simple as tightening a nut, but it could require you to fix a seal by adding in some plumber’s tape between the nut and its connector or, in other circumstances, might necessitate full pipe replacement — which is not necessarily as daunting as it sounds. Learning a few tips and tricks in this vein can save you some money and give you a sense of accomplishment and a job well done. Just remember to wash your hands when you’re through.
It is shockingly easy to do a bad job of hanging your artwork and/or shelves. And the damage and risk might not be immediately apparent — it can take some time for your poorly-mounted pieces to pull out of the drywall and shatter on the floor. The real trick is understanding when something requires just a nail/screw, when an anchor is necessary, and when you need to mount something to a stud — which means you’ll also want to learn how to find a stud (a skill made exponentially simpler with the purchase of a stud finder). There’s not a blanket solution for every piece of art or shelving unit, but knowing the basics of hanging anything will give you a better chance of success and a smaller risk of damage.
Painting is as simple as putting a paint-covered brush to a wall, right? Wrong. If you want your walls looking their best, you’re going to need to learn a few more skills. This includes things like knowing how to properly tape off corners and borders (so you don’t end up with sloppy lines and stray paint spots on other surfaces), keeping in mind consistent strokes to get the right/intended texture, understanding when you need a primer and when you don’t, and even being aware of which kinds of tape will work for masking and which will leave you with a big mess to deal with.
As humans, we’re far from perfect in anything we do. As such, there’s always a chance that, no matter how careful you are, you’re going to end up spilling something on your apparel, furniture, rugs, carpet, or other surfaces — be that coffee, wine (or other alcoholic beverages), food, etc. In order to reduce the damage to a minimum, knowing how to treat different spills on different surfaces can be the difference between a quick fix and necessitating a replacement of some sort. For instance, if you spill red wine on a white carpet, you’re not going to want to just try and dab it out, as you could just exacerbate the stain. Rather, you can mix hydrogen peroxide and dish soap to blot the stain out. Or, if you’re very prepared, a carpet cleaner will do the trick.
Replacing Light Bulbs
While typically very simple, at least from a conceptual standpoint, changing a lightbulb can pose some unique issues depending on the circumstances. For instance, some fixtures will only accept certain kinds of bulbs and those bulbs may have to be in a certain voltage range. Furthermore, other lighting fixtures might require you to remove pieces, panels, or other bits in order to even get to the lightbulb within — which is useful knowledge to have when actually going to swap bulbs. Knowing all of this information is also helpful should you decide to switch out your existing lights for more efficient, eco-friendly options or, if you really want to get fancy with it, smart bulbs that allow for hundreds of color options accessible via an accompanying app.
Especially for homeowners, understanding minor cosmetic repairs can be hugely beneficial. For bathrooms, kitchens, and other spaces, this includes tile repair. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you find you have a loose tile or some grout (the dense mixture that fills the gaps between tiles) that’s been chipped away. That might seem like a daunting task for the uninitiated and you’ll likely jump to calling in a pro. While there’s nothing wrong with that, the repair might be as simple as re-adhering the tile in its respective slot and can be managed quickly and cheaply. But you won’t know that unless you learn a trick or two about tiling and grout repair.
Unclogging A Drain
Even if you live in a brand-spanking-new abode with fresh pipes, you’re likely eventually going to run into a clog. That is just the nature of the beast, and it’s exacerbated by repeated use. Thankfully, unclogging a stuck drain can be a pretty simple, albeit messy task. Toilets can be plunged and shower drains can be snaked. So long as you learn how to do both properly, you can fix your own issue sans-plumber quickly and easily — and without ever opening your wallet. Of course, if you’d rather call in a pro, you can expect to pay around $100 per visit — which we’d not be very excited about knowing how simple a task it can be.
Unless you live your life like an ultra-minimalist ascetic monk, there’s a pretty good chance your walls have some holes punched in them — preferably nail-sized ones from hanging artwork, shelves, or anchoring furniture and not fist-sized ones. Either way, knowing how to patch those holes is a handy skill to develop, as it can help you keep your home from looking unsightly and, especially for renters, can save you some money on repairs once it’s time to take that artwork, shelf, or bookcase off the wall. Of course, if you really want to dive into home repair and renovation, you might want to learn how to install new drywall — which can be especially useful for older houses or unfortunate instances where your drywall might be rotting (which does happen from time to time, under the right circumstances).
The 50 Skills Every Man Should Know
Around-the-house repair work is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talents one can develop. If you’re looking to expand your repertoire, check out our list of the skills every man should know and embark on a new learning journey.