How to: fix household problems yourself

How to: fix household problems yourself

When something breaks around the house, instead of calling in the (expensive!) experts, fix it yourself!

It’s tempting to just pick up the phone and call the professionals when something goes wrong in the home, but you can actually take care of a lot of the problems yourself. No experience required!

Leaky taps

NB: Always research anything you don’t understand, and leave electrical issues to the experts!

For the sake of our planet – and your rising water bill – fix all leaky taps in your home as soon as you notice them.
What type of taps do you have? If you have two handles – one for hot and one for cold – then you have a compression tap, which will probably need the washer replaced. If you have a mixer – one handle – then there
will probably be a cartridge that needs replacing. If you’re unsure about your make and model of tap, the best thing to do is take a photo of the unit with your phone and show it to the assistant at the hardware store. They
should be able to advise you on the type of washer or cartridge needed.


NOTE: Before attempting to fix a leaky tap, turn off the water (both hot and cold) to the sink at the shutoff
valve underneath the sink.

Fixing compression taps…

  1. Carefully pop off the decorative caps on top of the handle by very gently using a screwdriver. This will expose the screw holding the handle in place.
  2. Using a screwdriver, remove the screw and pull off the handle to expose the stem assembly.
  3. Use pliers to remove the nut that holds the stem in place.
  4. Check the washer on the end of the stem assembly. If it’s damaged, remove the screw and replace the old washer with a new one.
  5. Reassemble the tap by dropping in the stem assembly and tightening the securing nut with pliers. Replace the handles and decorative caps.

Fixing mixer taps…

  1. Once the water supply has been closed off, put the plug in the sink and turn the leaky mixer tap on.
  2. Expose the tap’s screw by removing the hot/cold cover on the tap. Do this by gently using a screwdriver as a lever. Once removed, undo the exposed screw and remove the handle.
  3. The cartridge should now be visible. Using a spanner, remove the dome cover and the securing nut (holding the cartridge in place). Gently remove the cartridge and replace with the new unit. Refit the securing nut, the dome cover and the handle. Return the hot/cold cover.
  4. Turn the water back on and check that the tap no longer leaks.

Broken toilet handles

Remove the old handle…

  1. Shut off the water valve to the toilet and flush to drain any water from the tank.
  2. Remove the lid from the tank. Unscrew the wing nut that holds the tank lever to the back of the handle. Set it aside for reinstallation of the new handle.
  3. Unscrew the nut from the back of the holder. Turn the nut clockwise to remove it, using your fingers (if the nut is plastic) or a wrench (if the nut is metal).
  4. Pull the handle through the front of the tank and remove the nut and washer from the back of the toilet tank. Discard.

Installing the new handle…

Remove the old handle…

  1. Unscrew the washer and nut from the back of the new handle.
  2. Push the stem of the new handle through the hole on the side of the toilet tank.
  3. Slide the washer over the stem and screw the nut back into place.
  4. Lift the toilet lever up and push the end down through the hole at the end of the stem.
  5. Screw the wing nut to the end of the toilet lever to hold it in place.
  6. Turn on the water valve to refill the toilet tank and flush the toilet to make sure the new handle works. Replace the toilet tank lid.

Broken wall tiles and regrouting

To remove a broken tile…

  1. Use a grout rake to remove the grout from around the edge of the broken tile.
  2. Weaken the tile surface by drilling a number of holes through it. Note: Make sure there are no water or
    electrical lines running underneath the tile. If you suspect there are, it’s best to call in a professional.
  3. Use a club hammer and chisel to remove sections of the broken tile.
  4. Once it’s all removed, apply tile adhesive to the back of the replacement tile using an adhesive spreader. Position the tile, ensuring that it sits flush. Use spacers to maintain grout gaps. Once dry, remove the spacers.


Revive tired grout…

  1. Use a grout rake to remove old grout from the joints, being careful not to damage the edges of the tiles.
  2. Vacuum out the joints in order to remove all dust and debris.
  3. Regrout the joints using a grout spreader and sponge off the excess.

Water in your dishwasher

The most common cause of water remaining in a dishwasher is a blockage. Your first course of action is to check
the filter in the sump…

  1. Remove the lower basket from the dishwasher.
  2. Remove the central filter by twisting it anticlockwise and lifting it out. The larger mesh filter should
    now lift out.
  3. Give all the filters a thorough clean, removing any food and grease with warm, soapy water.
  4. Next, have a look in the sump where the central filter was sitting, and check for debris. Clear any
    noticeable blockages.
  5. Replace filters. Still not draining? It’s possible that the outlet pipe may also be blocked. While it’s unlikely that any large pieces of food debris have made their way down the outlet, over time grease and fat travelling along the pipe can begin to solidify and cause a blockage. You’ll need to disconnect the outlet pipe to find and clear the blockage.

NOTE: Before working on your dishwasher, turn off the power to the machine by unplugging it or switching off the circuit breaker at the main power panel.

Squeaky door hinges

Spray Q20 (a household lubricant) onto the hinges while moving the door back and forth to work in the lubricant. Alternatively, you can try rubbing the hinges with petroleum jelly or even some coconut oil. If neither of these options works, lift the hinge pins halfway and lubricate them more with your chosen lubricant. Use a cloth or paper towel to clean excess drips, alternatively place a sheet of newspaper underneath the door to catch excess spills.

Squeaky floorboards

Wooden or laminate floorboards can, over time, become squeaky. For a quick fix, sweep some baby powder into the joints of the floorboards that are rubbing against each other.


Joni van der Merwe

About Joni van der Merwe

Your Family’s Digital editor. Avid retweeter. When I’m not scrolling Instagram you’ll find me in my garden. Keen on DIY and I don’t believe there’s anything that can’t be fixed with some chalk paint.


Send this to a friend