Home Repair on the Cheap: Top 7 Tips

House Repairs

Ever showered in ankle-deep water because that stubborn clog just wouldn't budge? Bombarded the house with noxious chemicals to destroy a marching parade of ants? Shelled out a car payment's worth of cash to a repairman for a job you could have done yourself?

These are common situations that all homeowners face. But keeping up a house doesn't have to be expensive, according to home improvement gurus who have an arsenal of cheap fixes to tame common at-home repairs.

"Murphy's Law applies when you're a new homeowner," said Judy Ostrow, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Home Repair." "If you don't learn things , you can really get up to your neck in repairmen."

That's what Ostrow, a mother of two grown children who said she's "old enough to know a lot about home improvement," said happened to her when she was a new homeowner with a husband and a new baby.

"I really got sick of paying $100, $250 ... and started learning some things myself," she told ABCNews.com.

Terri McGraw, aka Mrs. FIXIT, said that when she got married, she expected her husband to fix things around the house because that's what her father did. But the "honey-do" list, she said, just kept getting longer and longer.

"I truly at first had someone come to change a light bulb in a cathedral ceiling because I didn't have a ladder," she said. "I thought, 'Oh my God -- I could do this myself.'"

Now, as Mrs. FIXIT, with two books, TV appearances and a home improvement Web site, McGraw, 48, said she considers herself to be a cross between Heloise and Bob Villa.

Many of the tips offered by Ostrow and McGraw are simple and require ingredients often found in the house anyway -- things like toothpaste, mint, vinegar and shaving cream.

"Everyone lives somewhere," McGraw said. "You've got to live in nice conditions."

The Clogged Drain

Be it the shower or the sink, nasty clogs are a way of life in the bathroom, but plumbers and harsh chemicals aren't always the answer. Ostrow said her first defense against a clogged drain is simple, yet many don't think of it -- use a toilet plunger.

"What people don't often realize is to clear a clog you have to use some force, you have to use a rapid motion and you have to do it several times," she said. She also suggested simple boiling water to loosen things up.

"Hot water," she said, "will clear the dirt away."

McGraw said she uses one cup of baking soda poured down the clogged drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. The two ingredients, she said, will bubble as they work their way down the drain and can then be followed by boiling water.

"It's very inexpensive," she said. "It's a wonderful thing to do when you have a septic system."

Both McGraw and Ostrow cautioned against using commercial clog removers found on store shelves if the pipes are old or connected to a septic system.

Ants and Mice and Squirrels, Oh My!

How about DIY fixes for household pests?

"If you have it and you want to try and get rid of it, try it yourself first," McGraw said of infestation of bugs and rodents.

A tried and true natural repellent to mice and other rodents? Mint.

McGraw suggested saturating a rag with peppermint oil and stuffing it into whatever opening the mice are crawling through. It can also be sprayed around door frames. Mint leafs planted around doors can deter pests from ever entering the house.

"The added bonus is ants hate peppermint," she said.

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