Home Repair on the Cheap: Top 7 Tips

As far as tools, Ostrow said every home needs a lightweight claw hammer, a good pair of scissors, flathead and Phillips screwdrivers, a small adjustable wrench, pliers and a good putty knife.

"Tackle a small repair when you first notice it," she said. "It always gets bigger."

Ostrow also recommends keeping the handbook for every appliance in the house, so simple, yet often forgotten. Those booklets, she said, often include troubleshooting tips for the most common problems, yet homeowners often spend money needlessly by having their appliances serviced when they don't need it.

"And then they say, 'Oh, you didn't plug it in ... and it's $100," she said. "You need the information at your fingertips. It's a really good money-saver."

When to Call the Professionals

While Ostrow and McGraw are all for giving it a shot on your own, sometimes the job just needs a pro. Both recommended calling a professional right away when dealing with any sort of electrical problem or advanced plumbing.

"You can hurt yourself," Ostrow said. "You can also hurt your house, but yourself is the most important thing."

Ostrow said she also tends to call in the pros if the equipment to fix the problem costs more than $25, a sign it might be too labor intensive.

Even if a professional is needed, McGraw recommended learning as much about the problem as possible before the repairmen get there. People who can call and intelligently describe the problem and suggest what may or may not work to fix it, she said, are less likely to be ripped off by unsavory professionals who may look to take advantage of an uninformed consumer.

"And watch them when they're there," she said. "Ask questions."

After all, she said, you may be able to fix the problem yourself the next time.

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