Tuesday, March 02, 2010

DIY Home Repairs that Saved Us Money

For the last two years, we've seemed to have home appliance malfunction right around the holidays. Luckily, using just the model number, the Internet can provide immediate access to schematics, assembly diagrams and instructions that previously would have taken much longer to obtain. With such information, the solutions were within my do-it-yourself capabilities and I was able to do the repairs myself, which saved both time and money.

In 2008, just before hosting our first holiday party, we had two malfunctions in our kitchen. First, I knocked over a kettle of water on our gas stove. The water spilled into the appliance and caused a short in the switches for the igniter. As a result, one switch caught fire when I turned on the stove, because I hadn't waited long enough for it to dry. After putting out the flames, it was clear that the wiring and switches had been fried. Second, our garbage disposal became clogged and our sink backed up.

Since I had just completed an electrical wiring course, I decided to attempt fixing the stove myself. To get an idea of the repair solution, I checked an appliance parts website to get a list of the stove parts, and found a detailed wiring diagram. After talking to a customer service representative and a service technician, I was able to determine the parts needed and ordered them. Unfortunately, all the materials could not be delivered until after the holidays. However, based on what I learned in my wiring course, I was able to do a temporary electrical repair, which allowed the three undamaged burners to function. Later, when I received all the parts, I was able to complete the permanent repair.

Although I hadn't taken a plumbing course yet, I was experienced in disassembling drain pipes of sinks since my first house need numerous plumbing repairs. I started by removing the p-trap and found the section completed clogged with food debris from the garbage disposal. The solution was simple. Clean out the p-trap and reattach it. Thus, our sink was working in time for the party.

In 2009, as we were preparing for hosting our second holiday party, I noticed that the dishwasher spray arm was no longer well connected. Apparent the attachment bolt had sheared, leaving the spray arm just resting on the fitting. Again, I consulted with an appliance parts website to find an assembly diagram and part number. A local store had both parts, and I was able to fix the dishwasher by the same afternoon.

In general, I am confident about most doing plumbing repairs, since they are most "mechanical" in nature. My errors usually only result in a small leak that can be fixed relatively easily.

On the other hand, I am much more cautious when doing electrical repairs since an error can be dangerous. If I hadn't taken an electrical wiring course in the fall of 2008, I would not have attempted the temporary stove repair. However, the knowledge from the course gave me confidence I could safely do a temporary fix and eventually do the permanent fix correctly. And since the stove is still working without problems in 2010, I must have done the right repair :-)

For more on Ideas You Can Use, check back every Tuesday for a new segment.

This is not financial or home repair advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

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sekishin said...

Saving money on DYI home repairs ROCK ! ! ! I have done commercial/residential/industrial electrical for pay, so am comfortable re-wiring, installing lights, switches, panels etc. Plumbing is good, main thing is to have the water source turned off. I hate painting, drywall is "scary" and my carpentry skills are actually negative on a positive scale . . .

TheDebtDarling said...

Wow, that's awesome that you could fix the wiring in the stove yourself. My garbage disposal has been broken for months. I need to find a handyman! :) How much did you save by doing your own repairs? Ever thought about doing a price comparison to show the savings?

Super Saver said...

@ Debt Darling,

I estimate that I saved the cost of a service call and the addtional labor. I probably don't save on the parts, since repair companies likely buy at wholesale. In our area, a service call costs about $70 and labor is $50-$100 per hour.

An additional benefit is that I don't have to wait around part of the day for the service technician.