DIY Repairs Landlords Should Know How to Do
As a landlord, it’s always ideal to have some basic knowledge and skills to take care of the repairs that will inevitably come up in your rentals without needing to shell out for a contractor.
Let’s consider the two approaches: DIY-ing and hiring a professional. If you want to be hands-off, make sure that you have a comprehensive list of trade professionals for all sorts of home repairs—and keep them at your fingertips! But if you do the work yourself, it will reduce dependency on third-party schedules, which means jobs can get done quicker, and you can save a lot on labor costs.
Plus, there are a lot of repairs that you can definitely DIY.
Here’s a list of everything you should learn to be a handy landlord.
1. Basic Plumbing
You should hire a professional plumber if there’s no water at all, the water heater is sweating or “weeping,” the water pressure is low, or the drains won’t work. In these cases, make sure that you turn off the water to prevent further damage while waiting for professional help.
However, most of the time, your tenants will only complain about toilet backup or a leaky faucet. You can easily fix it by disassembling the faucet to replace the possible worn gasket or washer. Check the manufacturer’s website for instructions on how to do that, or search online for how-to videos.
Another common plumbing problem is clogged toilets and drains. It’s not that hard to do, plus tenants generally want them fixed immediately! Essential repairs you should learn are the following:
a. How to snake a drain
b. How to properly plunge or snake a toilet
c. How to disassemble a P-trap (the curved waste pipe that connects the sink to the sewer system)
These are the tools you’ll need for basic plumbing tasks:
a. Tongue-and-groove pliers (standard 10-inch size)
b. Compression sleeve puller (if you have copper, PEX, or CPVC tubing in the rental)
c. Adjustable wrench
d. Tubing cutter (check what material your tubing is to buy a suitable one)
e. Drain auger (or plumbing snake)
g. Hand snake (or rent one from Home Depot)
2. Basic Electrical Repair
Major electrical issues, such as dimming or flickering lights, dead outlets, and frequently tripping breakers, require a professional electrician. However, minor issues such as these can easily be DIY-ed:
a. Loose outlet plug
b. Broken light switch
c. Simple short circuit
Remember to turn off the breaker before you touch anything, and you’ll be safe. Most of the time, electrical issues only need tightening of a loose connection or a part replacement to restore power.
Here are helpful tools you’ll need for basic electrical and outlet repairs:
a. Multimeter to trace shorts or broken circuits
b. Wire stripper
c. Fish or wire tape
d. Non-contact voltage detector to trace wires in walls
e. Pliers (get a quality set of do-it-all pliers)
f. Wire crimper
Mr. Electric also has a list of the common electrical problems with short guides on how to approach them, if you want a place to start self-educating.
3. Basic Pest Control
Tenants need to do their share in keeping the rental clean and free from insects, but it’s the landlord’s responsibility to handle and eradicate pest infestations (even when they will be charged to the tenant). Pest control might require more patience, but it’s entirely doable for minor issues. In addition, learning how to DIY pest control will save you hundreds of dollars, avoiding the need to hire an exterminator with monthly upkeep fees.
Common pests you can control and eliminate are the following:
c. Bed bugs
Here are some useful tools for basic pest control:
a. Pesticide products (e.g., Talstar P or Demon WP)
b. Caulk for sealing access points
c. Household traps and bait
d. Homemade bug spray (optional) for repelling smaller insects such as ants, bed bugs, beetles, caterpillars, fleas, flies, lice, mice, mosquitoes, and moths. You’ll need:
— 16oz spray bottle
— 14oz distilled water
— 10 drops of lavender and eucalyptus essential oil
Nevertheless, suppose you sense that the pests are already putting you and your tenants in danger—and there are young children in the household. In this case, it’s best that you call up a professional to deal with the pests immediately. Larger and more dangerous pests such as rodents and wasps should be dealt with by an exterminator. Infestations can spread fast if not controlled right away.
4. Basic HVAC Maintenance
Licensed repair professionals usually repair heating and cooling systems. They inspect the systems every now and then to clean the wiring and mechanisms. But there are maintenance tasks that you can do to prevent expensive repairs and prolong the life of your HVAC systems.
Here is a list of what you can do to maintain HVAC systems:
a. Buy a high-efficiency pleated air filter and change them every three months
b. Keep the units free from many elements such as leaves, pollen, and grass
c. Inspect the refrigerant lines monthly (seasonal) and clean the coils
d. Turn off the water to the furnace humidifier during the summer season
e. Replace the humidifier filter and turn on the water during the fall season
f. Clear the unit’s condensate drain with bleach annually
For gas furnaces, learn how to change a faulty thermocouple or heat sensor
These are the basic tools you’ll need to do most of the work:
c. Crescent wrench or spanner
d. Pipe wrench
e. Battery-powered drill
5. Basic Drywall Patching and Replacement
Drywalls with water damage or mold are difficult to repair with patching or joint compound. It’s more straightforward to replace them between tenancies. You’ll save money by doing this yourself, as it’s not as hard as you might think—just a bit messy! A little patience and the right tools enable you to install a professional-looking wallboard every time.
Here are the things you’ll need:
b. Sharp utility knife with extra blades
c. Screw gun or screw setter
d. Drywall screws
e. Drywall knives
f. Drywall mud pan
g. Caulk or adhesive gun
h. A drywall router or keyhole saw (depending on the size of the project)
i. Sanding pads or blocks
j. Wallboard sheets
k. Joint tape
l. Joint compound
m. Wallboard adhesive
You can search online for videos and articles that teach you how exactly to do the job. For example, HGTV has listed its recommended method for hanging drywall by yourself. When it comes to finishing the wall, however, it’s better to call an expert (otherwise your interiors will look cheap and clearly DIY-quality).
6. Basic Roof and Gutter Repair
Roofs, gutters, and downspouts are essential parts of the drainage system of a home. Any major damage done to them will require professional help, but a landlord can do most maintenance and simple fixes. Besides, it should also be part of your routine maintenance plan as a landlord.
Here are the tasks you should learn how to do:
a. Replacing damaged shingles
b. Repairing a flat roof (where gravity won’t push off the water like a slanted roof)
c. Resolving issues with battens
d. Repairing open valley flashings
e. Repairing metal flashings
f. Unclogging the gutters
g. Realigning the gutters
h. Removing rust from metal gutters
i. Fixing leaks in PVC or UPVC gutters
j. Tightening a loose downspout
For most of these tasks, the basic tools you’ll need are the following:
b. Chicken or roof ladder
e. Utility knife
f. Chalk line
g. Flat pry bar
h. Scratch awl/punch gloves
i. Putty knife
j. Caulking gun
Home Stratosphere has instructions on how to DIY roof repairs, while Blue Barrel Systems has a list of easy gutter repairs you can learn.
Landlords need to protect their assets and keep them in tip-top shape for the tenants. Most maintenance and repairs can be done without a professional, as long as you’re willing to learn and have all the necessary equipment.
Still, it’s best that you approach each task with a bit of common sense. Consider the value of your time and the extent of repair needed to see if it’s even worth it for you to spend your hours on the project. If you don’t feel confident in your abilities, it may be worth hiring a professional. On the other hand, if the task is easy and affordable for an amateur like yourself, then, by all means, take on the challenge!
Alternatively, you can leave it to a property management company to deal with all the maintenance and repairs. They’ll know which contractor and professionals best to contact and fix up your rentals.
Any other tips for landlords trying to DIY rental repairs?
Image courtesy of Ksenia Chernaya