The average homeowner approaches the subject of household repairs and maintenance with considerable skepticism. He is well aware of the fact that he knows nothing whatever about plumbing, heating systems, carpentry or any of the other branches of husbandry. He is in the class of the gentleman who once announced that he could keep his entire house in perfect order and excellent repair by using only one instrument - the telephone. There is plenty of humor in that, but little help in keeping the repair and maintenance bills down to a minimum. Nevertheless it is a fact that the average man can do a most excellent job in keeping his home in repair if he is willing to spend a few of his leisure hours in studying and learning the techniques and procedures which are used by the professional handyman or mechanic. You can take our word for it that there is absolutely nothing mysterious, complicated or beyond ordinary understanding, in anything that has to do with homebuilding, or with home maintenance. If the average citizen would only put his undivided attention to work on the subject, he would find that he could manage to do most of the small repair jobs around the house with very little trouble. When he becomes proficient at repairing leaking faucets, replacing broken window panes and cleaning out gutters and downspouts, he will find that his ambition increases, and before long he will be painting his own house from top to top torn. Not all at once of course, probably the doors and frames during one week-end and the window frames and sash the following week. In a month or so he will be doing the walls in sections. A job that would cost him $400 under normal circumstances, will have been accomplished for the cost of the paint alone, probably some $60 worth.
The technique of good painting should be first practiced indoors where ideal conditions prevail, and where outside influences such as weather, wind and dust are not a factor.
A few weeks ago, we were considerably amused by an incident which bears out the point we want to make.
Plain carpentry, such as beads, moldings, window cornices, and shelves, are childs-play to the amateur who will take his time and study the problem he wants to finish nicely.
One of the executives of a large textile company was telling us that he had just received an estimate from a carpenter for making about a dozen wood cornices for the tops of his living room and dining room windows. The estimate was $129 for making and installing them without painting. We suggested that he do the job himself; and after some conversation about it he decided to try it. To make a long story short, this man bought about $10 worth of one by eight finishing strip and nice molding; took his time making careful measurements, and in about a week's time, working in the evenings, he produced as nice a job as anyone could wish for. It is true that the first cornice he made was pretty bad, so he took it apart. The second try produced a better one, but by that time he was really interested in what he was doing, so he took that one apart too. The third attempt was good, and with that as a pattern he went ahead. Here is a typical case of where a man without any knowledge whatever of carpentry or cabinet-making, managed to do a nice piece of work in his house, and save himself over $100 in the bargain. The last we heard of him, he was about to take down the front door and saw it in half, so as to convert it into a dutch door. Of course that is the most simple of jobs, as he need only install two additional hinges, one above and one below the cut, and nail a narrow drip-molding across the door above the cut. A new dutch door would cost about $50, whereas altering the present door is a matter of $2 for hinges, ten cents for the molding, and two hours of the homeowner's time.
There is hardly a home in the country that does not have constant need of repair or adjustments of some kind or other. Windows suddenly refuse to open or to shut, doors will not close tightly or will refuse to stay closed.
Locks will not work or sinks will not drain off. Pipes will start to drip and heating plants will run continuously without heating the house properly. There is a simple answer for each and every difficulty, and we repeat that the homeowner can remedy ninety percent of the trouble himself if he wants to put his mind to it and learn to use his hands. When you call someone in to ease up a window or rehang a door, you are going to pay four or five dollars for his services. You can do it yourself, for nothing, if you simply take the trouble to learn how. When the heating plant does not function properly the chances are that it needs to be cleaned. It might well cost you $10 to have it done; but the man who will do it is not going to use any method which you yourself are not perfectly capable of using.
Many of the so-called large improvements which the owner may want to moke around the house, will turn out to be a very simple matter after he has thought out the procedure. The average solid or half-glass door is a prospective "Dutch."
A lakeside house of certain vintage has been cleverly converted into a solid, modern and beautiful residence. The changes were not too great, but the convenience and actual value of the structure are tremendous. (See Chapter I.)
The room above and the room below, are one and the same. In the first picture you see an old fashioned comfortable living room, but in the second picture you see a thoroughly smart and bright living room which is just as comfortable. (See Chapter I.)
The average owner may throw up his hands in despair at the kitchen shown above; but actually, without any great structural change, or relocating of a single door or window, the kitchen was modernized to excellent effect. (See Chapter I.)