Quick Tip Monday

This was a tip from someone else recently. Good advice is worth sharing so I was inspired to start writing my Quick Tips again.

Reader Jimmy commented on previous a post, Quick tip for Friday-Water saving tip-check your water bill “It is really important to monitor your drains and water outlet. I think it’s a good idea to have a plumber picked out before you actually need one.”  

It’s great advice and goes for other trades as well, such as electricians. Don’t wait till an emergency to be scrambling for help and get stuck using whoever is available rather than someone you know you can trust for the job!

Thanks for the good advice Jimmy!

Categories: helpful tips, home maintenance, home repairs, plumbing, Quick tip friday, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Quick Tip for Friday: 10 Things plumbers wish you knew

I got out of the habit on my Quick Tip for Friday posts, so I am going to make it up to you by sharing 10 really good ones!

There is such great advice in this article from  She Knows I had to share it. It is short and easy to read so I will count it as a quick tip still.

10 Things plumbers wish you knew.

I think # 9 should really be top of the list, knowing where/how to shut off your water is extremely important.

Anytime you move into a new home it’s a good idea to get familiar with 3 things right away:

  1. breaker box
  2. water shut off
  3. gas shut off

Learn where these are and how to use them, it will not be a waste of time.

#7 is the best explanation for why I decline certain plumbing jobs  and refer customers to a licensed plumber.

Leaks and other plumbing issues can lead to such bigger problems it is important to take care of correctly. Water damage and mold are very expensive and difficult correct.

One more just so I can make this one go to eleven:

11. Be careful what you put down the toilet. Just because it passes out of the bowl doesn’t mean it won’t cause a huge problem in the pipe on it’s journey to….um…away, wherever. I will skip mentioning some of the more obvious things we have all been warned about. However, I have heard from plumbers over the years that a lot of people flush Q-tips and those really belong in the trash can instead.

Keep your pipes happy!


Categories: DIY tips, helpful tips, Home Improvement, home maintenance, home repairs, plumbing, Quick tip friday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Change faucets for easy update

This was meant to be my quick tip for Friday, but there were some technical problems with my email I had to fix before I dashed out of town for a mini vacation. So it’s my quick tip for Monday instead! 🙂

A very effective update for bathrooms or kitchens is to install new faucets. You can get maximum impact for what is usually a pretty simple job.

This sink had easy access and good foundation pipes, so it didn’t take me long to change this faucet and it made the whole bathroom feel updated!

outdated and not working so great

outdated and not working so greatquick change made big impact on this bathroom sink!

quick change made big impact on this bathroom sink!

If you plan to do this project, one way to save money is to take your time and keep an eye out for sales, close outs and clearance shelves at the hardware stores, or shop online for the style you want at the best price.

** Important tip: Make sure you understand what you need to know about buying the right replacement. There are different hole configurations on sinks and you need to make sure your new hardware matches the number of holes and the pattern in your particular sink. Kitchen sinks tend to have far more options than bathroom sinks, but if you have any doubt or confusion at all please ask for help before you buy!

*** BEST TIP *** Take a photo with you of your current fixtures to compare.

Categories: decorating, DIY tips, helpful tips, Home Improvement, home maintenance, home repairs, kitchen, kitchen sink, plumbing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is it grout or caulking? What is the difference?

“I need re grouting around my bathtub. Do you do that?”  Very common question in my line of work. Yet, most of the time that’s not what they needed, they needed re caulking. It is a common mistake and I decided it’s time to help folks learn one from the other.

At first I was going to look up and quote a bunch of resources that would give the technical explanation of what grout does vs what caulk does, what they are made of and where/how they are used. But that is all out there for people to find on their own and get overwhelmed by it without my help!

I would rather make it simple to grasp and easy to remember. If I am not 100% ‘technically’ accurate it will not be in any way that could cause any harm or damage, I promise. My goal is to give you enough of an understanding to effectively ask for further help or research for yourself.

The purpose of today’s blog is two-fold:

  1.  Provide a simple break down on what the difference is between grout and caulk.
  2. Explain why knowing the difference can matter to you.
Grout fills in between tiles. Caulk seals the seams and corners.

Grout fills in between tiles. Caulk seals the seams and corners.

Here are the basics:

Grout is used as filler for the necessary spaces in between tiles. It is hard and ‘sandy’. It can be colored to match or contrast with the tile it is being used with. Grout itself is basically porous but is generally followed up with something to block absorption for longer wear and sanitary reasons. When grout becomes damaged will usually chip, crack or crumble.

Caulk is soft, flexible, rubbery even. It is used most often along the edges and seams where two different surfaces meet. It is water-resistant, the main purpose of caulk is to seal a space to keep water from passing through. Older caulk that needs to be replaced may start peeling away from surfaces or showing signs of mildew or mold. There are a few specialty colors available now for caulk but the great majority that most of us see is white or clear.

The descriptions above should give enough of an understanding to help you take the next step in getting assistance or doing it yourself.

Knowledge is power! What else is important about knowing the difference between caulk and grout?

Some things to know:

Removing grout even if already chipped or broken needs to be done carefully with the right tools and techniques or it can easily lead to chipped and broken tiles!

Grout needs to mixed correctly and applied with special tools. Most grout has a drying time of at least 24 hours and then should have a proper sealer coat.

Grout color can be customized.

Caulking and re caulking can be true ‘do it yourself’ tasks. The only special tool required for caulking is the dispensing gun and even that isn’t always necessary, for some small applications you can get a caulk in a tube similar to toothpaste now.

Good caulking technique can take time to develop, but even a bad or messy looking job can be effective at the very important task of sealing an area when waterproofing is more important than appearance, like inside a cabinet or under a sink.

Removing old caulk can be done without special tools and not much risk to surrounding surfaces, it is also important to do before re applying caulk to any surface. Never just try to put new caulk over old, it doesn’t hold.

Old caulk must be removed or new application will be a waste of time.

Old caulk must be removed or new application will be a waste of time.

Caulk comes ready to apply. Drying time is for caulk is generally 4 hours or less.

Once you know what caulk actually is you will see the many other places it is used besides around the edge of the bathtub or sink; it is used to seal windows, baseboards, outdoor light fixtures the foundations around your house. You may notice it inside cabinets to seal small gaps and holes.

Please feel free to ask questions or make any comments that might enhance this subject. Correct me if I am wrong. Ask me to elaborate, let me know other subjects like this you might like me to cover.

Most importantly please let me know if it helped, as that is my main goal in writing this blog!

Thanks for visiting  The Fix-It Lass!


Oh, and to answer the question: currently I do caulking but not grout….hoping to add those tools and skills to my repertoire very soon!!

Categories: DIY tips, helpful tips, home maintenance, home repairs, kitchen sink, plumbing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Contractor or Handyman (or handywoman)?

It’s been on my mental ‘to do’ list for a while now to write something to help potential customers understand when to call a contractor or when to call a handyperson such as myself.
I thought this was a decent write-up published on Angie’s List that explains most of it.
There has been feedback from some people in my line of work did not care for this article, mostly in other states. Personally I found it to be a decent overview, especially as it applies to me as handyperson in California who must adhere to the rules of not being a contractor.

Angie’s LIST Guide to Hiring a handyman

Not all home repair jobs require the help of a general contractor or specialized service provider. A handyman can be hired for a variety of small home improvement projects. The following guide explains how a handyman can fix your to-do list while saving time and money along the way.


  • What is a handyman?
  • Benefits of hiring a handyman
  • Handyman-ready jobs
  • Handyman hiring tips

What is a handyman?

A handyman or handywoman is a skilled “jack of all trades” who can be hired by the hour to complete a wide range of small home improvement work and repair.

A handyman, or handyman company, typically charges the client by the hour plus material costs, regardless of the task at hand. Many homeowners will compile a list of repairs and hire a handyman to complete the list in a single visit.

The term “handyman” is loosely defined. Some are self-trained, while others have more formal training in various aspects of construction and home repair. Some specialize in a few types of home maintenance, such as painting and carpentry, while others specialize in several areas of home repair.

There is no national standard or regulation for handymen. Licensing and regulation vary by state. New Jersey, for example, requires handymen who work for a profit to register with the state and carry insurance. California requires handymen to carry a license from the State Contractors License Board to work on any project that exceeds $500 in labor and material costs.

How do I know if I need a handyman or contractor?

The scope of the job and level of skill required to complete it should determine whether you hire a handyman or contractor.

“When trying to determine who you should hire for a particular job, consider the task,” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List. If it’s a specialized trade, be sure you hire that tradesperson like a plumber or electrician, for example. If it’s little things that you can do yourself, a handyman is probably the right way to go.”

A handyman is not the best option for a large or complicated project that could take a long time to complete and require the help of multiple workers. A contractor or specialist should be utilized for remodeling work, room additions, projects that require heavy-duty equipment or licensed professionals like electricians.

Benefits of hiring a handyman

You’ve got an ever-increasing to-do list of home improvements like changing out a bathroom faucet, replacing missing shingles on the roof and painting a kitchen wall. You could hire a plumber, roofer and painter who all would have conflicting schedules of availability and their own service charges, or you could hire a handyman to complete all three projects in one day for a single hourly rate.

A homeowner can save money on home improvement projects by hiring a handyman because it eliminates the need for multiple service providers and contractors. Many handymen charge by the hour so a homeowner only pays for one worker who can complete a wide range of projects. A service charge from a plumber or roofer to come to your home could equal or even surpass the price to hire a handyman for a few hours.

Hiring a handyman also prevents waste and overcharging, as the handyman will only charge you for hours worked. A contractor or specialist is more likely to price a job based on the estimated amount of time it will take to complete it. Handymen are able to keep their rates low because they don’t have to pay additional workers and have lower overhead costs than contractors or large companies.

Many homeowners turn to handymen when they have a job but don’t know who to call. Handymen have been known to do all types of work from setting up playground equipment and gas grills to hanging holiday lights and decorations.

Handyman-ready jobs

Handymen are best utilized for small, “honey-do” types of home repair work. The following projects are ideal for most handymen.

  • Minor plumbing work

Many handymen are capable of completing minor plumbing work like installing new fixtures or repairing a leaky faucet. However, complex projects or jobs that require plumbing to be moved within the home should be left to a licensed plumber.

  • Caulking

Adding a fresh application of caulk to gaps between windows, doors and siding is a great way to improve energy efficiency and lower utility costs.

  • Decks and porches

Over time, weather can take its toll on wooden decks and porches. A handyman can replace broken boards, apply a finish or sealant and make general improvements or repairs to upgrade your deck or porch’s safety and appearance.

  • Gutter cleaning and maintenance

Although it’s a simple enough task, cleaning gutters is messy and involves climbing on the roof. Avoid the risk of injury by hiring a professional handyman with the right equipment and experience for the task. A handyman can also install gutter guards to prevent seasonal clogging.

  • Home exterior repairs

If you have minor damage to your home’s exterior, such as a loose piece of siding or a missing shingle, hiring a handyman to repair those items may prove to be more cost-effective than hiring a specialist.

  • Painting and touch-ups

A handyman can be hired to repaint a wall or garage door, touch up trim and scoff marks and repair small holes with spackle. Remember, a handyman typically charges by the hour, so larger jobs are better suited for a professional painting crew.

  • Hanging window treatments, pictures and mirrors and installing light fixtures

These small tasks can be easily accomplished by a homeowner, but a hiring a handyman with the right tools and experience can help ensure these wall-mounted items are hung correctly without damage.

Handyman hiring tips

Homeowners should take the time to interview several candidates before making a hiring decision. A handyman will be working closely with you in your home so you want to pick one that you feel comfortable around. The following handyman hiring tips can help ensure you pick the right candidate.

1. Define the project. Start by compiling a list of the home repairs you would like completed. Remember, a handyman is best utilized for small jobs such as installing light fixtures, patching drywall and interior painting. If the job requires pulling a permit, or moving plumbing or electrical wiring, you should consider hiring a contractor.

2. Shop around. Check Angie’s List reviews and interview a minimum of three handymen. Ask about years of experience and areas of specialization, and request references from homeowners who worked with the handyman in the past. Make sure the potential handyman has the skills and experience to complete your project.

3. Watch out for scams. You want to avoid handymen who contact you with unsolicited phone calls or visits to your home. You should also avoid any handyman who refuses to guarantee the price of the job or asks for payment upfront. Reputable handymen don’t expect to get paid before the project is completed.

4. Get it in writing. Insist on a written agreement laying out the job details, costs and a payment schedule. Be clear about the times you expect the work to be started and completed. It’s extremely important to get all guarantees in writing.

5. Ask for a guarantee. Many handymen will guarantee their work for up to one year. Ask about guarantees before you make a hiring decision, and of course, make sure the guarantee is in writing.

6. Inspect the work. Inspect the completed work before making payment. Make sure that everything has been done to your satisfaction and at the agreed upon price. Most handymen will be happy to explain the finished work because they want you to be satisfied.

Categories: Checklist, custom work, hanging pictures, hanging shelves, helpful tips, home maintenance, lights, organizing, painting, plumbing, repurposing, safety, work I do | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is DIY costing you more?

Is DIY costing you more?.

Just happened across this article and could not resist sharing it here.  Simple and well written food for thought.

By Liz Weston, MSN Money

Sometimes, certain jobs are best left to the professionals, whether it’s a home-remodeling project or a task involving your finances.

Bathroom remodel © Digital Vision, Photolibrary

Do-it-yourselfers’ tales of disaster aren’t hard to find.

Chris Hubbard of Thousand Oaks, Calif., recalls when he and a friend decided to change the oil of his first car when he was 18.

“Well, we drained the oil just fine, but didn’t know where to put the new oil. We thought it should go in where the dipstick goes,” Hubbard wrote on my Facebook fan page. “Turns out we used the wrong dipstick and put the oil in the transmission fluid. I drove the car for 3 days with no oil and oil in the transmission fluid. Ended up costing several hundred dollars to fix and later got my engine rebuilt by my mom’s boyfriend.”

Lindsay Cowdin of Fort Worth, Texas, thought she and her husband could remove the old acoustic ceiling tiles in their family room, replace the old drywall, install new insulation and put in can lighting. They thought it would take them one or at most two weekends to get the job done.

“We quickly realized our miscalculation by how long it took to remove the ceiling tiles,” she wrote. “Several weeks later we gave in and called a contractor. My husband is completely capable but had to bow to the clock. We just couldn’t live with our family room in disarray for so long. The contractor knocked it out in two days like it was his job — because it was!”

After 25 years of being a part-time mobile DJ, Steve Stewart of Saint Peters, Mo., opted to do one of his own events.

Liz Weston

Liz Weston

“I decided to do the set-up and tear down of my equipment FOR MY OWN WEDDING RECEPTION,” Steward wrote. “Luckily I have a few DJ friends who were happy to take the mic and run the show so I could enjoy myself. Not a disaster but definitely not recommended DIY.”

Sometimes, doing it yourself makes a lot of sense. You save money and get satisfaction from a job well done. So how do you know when DIY is a good option, and when you’re about to get in over your head?

Whether it’s a project involving your house, your car, a big event or your finances, you should think twice if:

Your attitude is, ‘What could possibly go wrong?’

If you can’t list several ways your project could go awry, then either you don’t know enough about the task to attempt it or you’re not thinking clearly about what’s involved (sound familiar, Steve?). You may get some insights by talking to more-experienced DIYers or doing more research. If large sums of money or legal documents are involved, it usually pays to consult a professional.

You could kill yourself.

Courting death or serious injury in pursuit of thrift . . . yeah, not such a great idea. That’s why projects such as tree trimming, asbestos and lead paint removal, and anything involving natural gas lines or 220-volt electric lines are best left to the pros. Most financial decisions aren’t going to get you killed, unless you borrow money from a mobster you can’t pay back. But you could effectively kill your financial stability by taking excessive risks, such as putting most of your money in a few stocks or falling for get-rich-quick schemes.

You could do a lot of damage that would be hard or expensive to fix.

I learned about this one the first time I turned on a floor sander and promptly gouged a big divot in a friend’s hardwood floor. He “fixed” it by positioning a piece of furniture on top. Plumbing repairs are another DIY project that can go expensively bad, since even minor leaks can cause water damage and mold that cost thousands to fix. For similar reasons, you’ll probably want to consult a fee-only planner a few years before you retire. Mistakes made in the early years of retirement — such as withdrawing too much money, taking too much or too little risk, or taking Social Security too soon — often can’t be fixed and could cause you to run out of money before you run out of life.

The job requires skills you don’t have and couldn’t acquire easily.

It’s not hard to learn how to patch a hole in a wall or change your car’s oil (if you take the time to read the manual, right, Chris?). If, on the other hand, a job is typically done by a highly paid tradesperson, you might want to think twice before tackling it. Electricians, plumbers, mechanics, masons and even drywall hangers don’t learn their trades overnight, and neither will you. By the same token, taxes and estate planning are two complicated areas of finance best left to those who make these fields their life’s work. You can DIY if your situation is dead simple, but as soon as there’s real money at stake, you should call in some help.

You need expensive tools you don’t already have.

If you can’t borrow or rent what you need, consider carefully whether you want to make a big investment versus hiring a pro to do it for you. Even if you can rent a tool, the project may take longer than you think, wiping out any savings from doing it yourself.

Somebody else could do it a lot faster and a lot better.

Painting is often offered up as the perfect DIY project, since most people can do a decent job as long as they do the prep work and have good tools. If you’ve ever hired a professional painter, though, you know the difference between a pretty good DIY job and what a pro can accomplish in a fraction of the time. The pro has already made all the mistakes you’re going to make, learned from them and improved. The pro starts with all the supplies needed, so there’s no running back and forth to the hardware store. The pro does all the cleanup, which, if you’ve dealt with the aftermath of a DIY, could be reason alone to hire one.

You really don’t want to do it yourself.

Some people love spending hours fiddling with their investments, researching exactly the right backsplash material or tracking down parts for their vehicles. Others would rather eat glass. If you’re approaching a DIY project with dread and apprehension, pull out now. Paying someone else to do the job will almost always be better than forcing yourself to do something you hate just to save a few bucks.

Categories: DIY tips, helpful tips, home maintenance, home repairs, kitchen, kitchen sink, lights, painting, plumbing, safety | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I love it when my customers introduce me to new products!

I just installed a HydroRight Dual Flush converter today and must say how impressed I was! My customer bought it and asked me to install and although I had never seen this product before I plan to buy 2 tomorrow for both of the bathrooms in my own house.

It was SO easy to install. The most time I spent was removing the old flush handle that was very calcified onto the tank! The whole process probably took 15 to 20 minutes because I very carefully read the instructions. Twice, actually, because it seemed too simple.

Once it is installed you can easily see the water savings by using the Quick Flush; the tank only drops about a 1/4 but the bowl completely empties (they even have you test it with a square of paper). Very efficient. Seems to me like every home should have these!

What a great reward for working on a Saturday to discover a new product that I am really excited about! My customers will be getting this recommended to them by me now, that is for sure.


Dual Flush Converter – Dual Flush Valve, Water Saving Toilet Parts by MJSI.

Categories: DIY tips, helpful tips, home maintenance, home repairs, plumbing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Home Renovation Checklist | Real Simple

This is a good list from Real Simple.

Home Renovation Checklist | Real Simple.

Here are a few items I would include to be considered.

Regarding budget and planning:

  • Does this work require permits? Will the contractor be responsible for permits and inspections? Make sure this is part of the discussion.
  • If the work is a major renovation consider the possibility you may have to spend a night or two away from the house depending on the job. I suggest an extra fund be set aside for unexpected hotel costs just in case of emergency.
  • This might sound like a small thing to consider but your water and utility bills will increase. A very large, long-term renovation or remodel may have an impact more than you think it will. Something to keep in mind as part of that extra 10% of budget.

The wish list idea is a great suggestion and goes hand in hand with research. Knowing you want that amazing state of the art appliance that may or may not fit in the budget isn’t enough. What is your 2nd or 3rd choice if you can’t have your first pick?

And of course don’t forget to do the research about new appliances etc. Consumer Reports, read reviews on various websites, ask friends, family and neighbors what they like and don’t like before deciding on your wish list.

Once you are ready to start take a deep breath, and try to enjoy the adventure without getting too overwhelmed or stressed! Think how nice it will all be when it is done!


Categories: Checklist, helpful tips, home maintenance, home repairs, organizing, plumbing, safety, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One easy way to prevent clogged toilets.

There are some great tips here. And he talks about more than one way, actually. 🙂

One easy way to prevent clogged toilets..

Categories: helpful tips, home maintenance, plumbing, safety | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Location of a drip is not the source of the problem

A recent communication mix up with a customer made me think of some good information to share.

The customer’s original written request for service asked to “repair leaking bathtub nozzle” among other items.

When the resident of the unit (not the person who sent original request) showed me the tub  nozzle she pointed out the diverter to make the water come out of the shower head was broken.

Replacing a tub spout because of a broken diverter is such a common and frequent  repair that I quoted and proceeded with the job of repairing the bathtub nozzle…not for leaking, but for the broken diverter handle without even realzing my mistake!

When I was contacted the following day to be notified the tub nozzle was still leaking could I go back and take a look. ‘Leaking?’ I thought, ‘I didn’t fix any a leak, I replaced a broken spout’

Right away I looked back at the original written request and saw exactly what I had done. Opps! I had let my mind fixate on the words ‘bathtub nozzle’ and when it turned out the nozzle ALSO had a broken diverter valve I forgot the work ‘leaking’ ever entered the conversation (obviously a relatively minor drip, but still my mistake).

The point of my story is to help people know what I should have remembered!

The exact place where you experience a drip is rarely ever the place that is the cause of the problem.

Water dripping from a faucet is caused by it not being able to shut off completely. It’s the handle that needs repair, not the nozzle or spout.

If you have a faucet that develops a drip try to get it fixed as soon as possible and resist the urge to simply turn the handle tighter.  Attempting to turn the handle more forcefully can result in the further wear of  parts, causing a worse leak and potentially a greater problem than you had.

Until you have the time to fix it yourself or call in a professional to fix it for you try putting a bowl or pitcher under the drip and use it to water plants. No need running up your water bill too when you need to pay for parts and  repairs!

Categories: helpful tips, home maintenance, home repairs, kitchen sink, plumbing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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