Do It Yourself Home Repair

Home Repair For Absolute Beginners

Anyone should be able to do simple home repairs, securing the wobbly shelf, replacing the towel rail, dealing with the cupboard door hanging drunkenly on one hinge. All of these are quite possible for even the most impractical person, provided that you have the correct tools. And, perhaps, a basic knowledge of how to use them.

For less than $90 (£50), you can buy the basics:

An electric drill. Preferably one that can drill through both masonry and wood.

Some drill bits, for both wood and masonry – pick these up when you get the drill, if they don't come included.

A hand drill – not essential but better than an electric drill for very small, delicate jobs.

A set of screwdrivers, with both straight heads and crosscut heads

A pair of pliers

A light hammer, maybe – you don't want to become hammer-happy.

A spirit level and a sharp pencil

A selection of screw and rawlplugs – DIY stores have boxes of different sizes – very useful for the beginner.

A tube of a proprietary plaster filler, if your walls are plaster, wood filler if they are wood.

Sandpaper, both coarse and fine grain

Before You Start:

You need to know how to use the drill. Open and close the dies into which you put the drill bit by rotating the two parts of the head against each other. Put the drill bit in and tighten the dies. Now use the chuck key, the detachable, t-shaped tool, to tighten them as hard as they can go by putting the key into the holes in the head and turning it. Make sure you put the chuck key back into its holder on the drill's handle – always –every time.

Practise drilling holes in a bit of scrap wood (not the dining table), which needs to be held firm in some way or it will rotate with the drill.

The Wobbly Shelf

With a screwdriver, undo the screws that hold the shelf brackets to the wall. Turn them anti-clockwise to undo them. Analyse the problem. You may have to drill new holes if the original ones have been damaged. Clean out the original holes and fill them with filler, smoothing the surface with a knife. Let it dry and sandpaper it if it is a bit rough. If the shelf needs to go back in exactly the same place, it should now be possible to drill new holes through the filler. It is preferable, however, to move the brackets a little and drill into a new part of the wall.

Hold the bracket against the wall. With the spirit level, check that it is vertical. With a pencil, mark the wall through the screw holes. On a plaster or concrete wall, put a piece of clear sticky tape over the pencil mark before drilling. This prevents any cracking of the area round the hole. Now drill the holes, using a wood drill bit for wood or plaster, but a masonry bit for concrete (wear ear protectors and goggles if you are drilling into concrete). For a wooden wall, the drill bit should have a gauge one size smaller than the screw you are using. The gauge is the diameter, so if you are using screws 2in X 5mm, you need a drill bit of 4mm. For plaster and concrete it should be one gauge more. In a plaster wall, push a rawl-plug into each hole, tapping it in lightly, very lightly, with a hammer until it is flush with the wall.

Put the bracket against the wall again and put in the screws – clockwise this time. Don't screw any of them tight until you have all the screws in – then screw them all up tight. If you are screwing into wood, it is often helpful to oil the scews lightly before fixing them – don't overdo it – you don't want a trail of oil down the wall! If the shelf has two brackets, you now need to put the second bracket against the wall, place the shelf on top of the brackets and check that it is horizontal with the spirit level. Put in the second shelf in the same way as the first.

If you are replacing a shelf or a towel rail on a tiled wall, there is always a danger of cracking the tiles. Do as you did with the plaster, covering the drilling area with sticky tape, in this case using several bits, vertical, horizontal and diagonal. Use a masonry drill bit on tiled walls and always insert a rawl plug.

Once you have successfully completed one simple repair, you will find that you can apply the same techniques to others.