Adopting a DIY ethos can save you money and also brings a strong sense of self-satisfaction. Live for Less contributor Nicole Lutze gets handy.

There’s no denying tradespeople are sometimes necessary for maintaining a home, but there are plenty of maintenance jobs you can take care of yourself with only a few tools and a can-do attitude.

Just remember: you must use a licensed electrician for all your electrical work and always use safety equipment such as gloves and protective eyewear for your DIY jobs. Using the right tools for the job will prevent accidents and injuries.

First, your toolkit

Borrowing tools from friends, family or Brisbane Tool Library is a superb option for tools you may not frequently use, however there are a handful of tools everyone should keep at home to make DIY jobs a cinch.

Depending on the type of home you live in, your essential toolbox will differ. However, a general list of essentials may include:

  • Screwdriver set
  • Claw hammer
  • Vise-Grip pliers
  • Adjustable spanner
  • Measuring tape
  • Cordless drill
  • Paintbrush
  • Utility knife
  • Duct tape
  • Handsaw
  • Plunger
  • Screen rolling tool (for homes with mesh fly screens)
  • Safety equipment such as gloves, protective eyewear, dust masks and a step ladder.

Instead of rushing out to your local hardware and buying every item brand new, take your time and seek quality secondhand tools on Gumtree, your local Facebook marketplace, an Op Shop, Cash Converters or community markets.

Additional useful items may include:

  • A torch
  • Socket set
  • Alan keys
  • Putty knife
  • Spirit level
  • Chisel
  • Staple gun
  • Rubber mallet

6 repairs worth doing yourself

Fix a leaky tap

A dripping tap can waste up to 20,000 litres of water a year, which is bad news for the environment as well as your hip pocket. Changing the washer fitted beneath the tap may fix the problem.

Washers can be purchased from any hardware store for a few dollars. The hardest part is knowing what size to buy. If you’re unsure, purchase a couple of options and hold on to your receipt. Unopened packets can be returned for a refund.

A printable PDF guide to replacing a washer can be found here, or refer to ifixit.com for other potential solutions.

Unblock your toilet

If the water level in your toilet bowl rises all the way to the rim before slowly draining away, you have a blocked toilet. The first option for unclogging a toilet is to use a plunger. If that doesn’t work, a plumbing snake (toilet auger) can help to remove any blockages. Both of these items can be purchased quite cheaply from a hardware, and instructions on how to use the items are available here.

Unclog a blocked sink

Bathroom and kitchen sinks can easily clog up with bits of hair, food scraps and grease. The first step to unclogging your sink requires the use of a plunger. After using the plunger to loosen any debris, you’ll need to remove the P-trap (U bend) from under the sink and give it a good clean. Vinegar, baking soda and boiling water will complete the task. The full set of instructions can be found here.

Apply new caulking

Caulk is used to form a seal around your windows and doors, and it helps keep water and cold drafts out. Winter is the perfect time to apply caulking, as the weather is typically dry, cool and humidity is low. Depending on the type of caulking you buy, you might need to borrow or purchase a caulking gun. Use a putty knife, large screwdriver and a stiff paintbrush to remove any old caulk and paint before you begin. Information about how to choose caulking and apply it are here.

Replace tile grout

Over time the grout between your bathroom and kitchen tiles will deteriorate. Replacing the grout will ensure the tiles retain their waterproof properties and also make them easier to clean. For this job you will need some specialty tools such as a grout saw, grout spreader, a vacuum and a sponge. A three-step tutorial can be found here.

Replace mesh fly-screens

If you ask me, mesh fly-screens on windows and doors are essential to Queensland homes. Replacing the mesh is a simple task and ensures your home remains free of creepy-crawlies. You’ll need a utility knife, some duct tape, and a specialty screen rolling tool (available from about $3), as well as replacement mesh. Instructions are available here.

Learn more

Get some hands on experience at Bunnings DIY Workshops, or She Skills in Yeronga offers workshop training specifically for women. Handyman Magazine and its website are also useful sources of information and inspiration.