Read about some minor repairs you can do by yourself in an apartment

Read about some minor repairs you can do by yourself in an apartment

No matter what the lease says, and no matter what your building superintendent says, the day will come when you will be forced to unpack the tools you need in an apartment. Exactly what you need will depend on what repairs you are permitted to make in your apartment. But a basic toolbox will keep you from feeling stranded and helpless in your own home.


  • Hammer and nails: Assuming that you are permitted to hang pictures and mirrors, you need a hammer. Experienced tenants will tell you that you cannot satisfactorily hit a nail with the heel of a shoe, the empty wine bottle left from your open house brunch, a scrap of wood you found in the hall or a stapler. A hammer and nails are probably the most important of the tools you need in an apartment.


  • A rigid-bladed spackling knife or thin-tipped chisel: To loosen a stuck window, examine the frame carefully to locate places where the frame and sash are painted together. Insert the knife/chisel in the painted area, aligning the blade with the sash. Tap gently with the hammer. When you have separated all the painted-together spots, wrap the wood scrap you found in the hall in a couple of paper towels, lay it against the sash and tap again.


  • Other uses for that knife/chisel: Your knife can be used to retrieve tiny objects from floor cracks. Sewing needles are the toughest. You can also use it to find tiny beads or fragments from the glass you dropped, the screw from your glasses and those earring backs. Use your knife to spread quick-dry spackle on a miscalculated nail hole. You may also use your knife to remove previous-tenant gunk from the stove and refrigerator. ~


  • Screwdrivers, both Phillips and flat-blade, large and small: This seems like a quantity of screwdrivers, but it is axiomatic that whatever you buy there will be certain screws that need something different. You are likely to put all four to good uses. A flat-blade screwdriver is just that; a Philllips screwdriver has a star-shaped tip. A small assortment of all-purpose screws will probably let you replace or install curtain rods, tighten a cupboard hinge and put a new screw in the slightly-wobbly medicine-cabinet door.


  • A small hand-drill or a small electric drill, with an assortment of bits:
    Screws need holes. Assembly-required furniture sometimes needs new holes in new places.


  • Pliers: Standard, needle-nosed and clamping: Standard pliers can do several things like extending your reach or holding a nail so you don’t bash your fingers. Needle-nosed pliers do those things and more in tighter quarters. Clamping pliers (vice-grip or grip-tight) can be adjusted to hold steady and can be the ultimate answer to “here, hold this.”


  • Metal or plastic measuring-tape:  Use the measuring tape for measuring everything from inches to yards, mounting the soap dish or shopping for carpet. And once you’ve measured, write it down. The maxim “measure twice, cut once” wasn’t just made up to annoy people.


Completing Your Tool Kit


  • Masking tape:  Mark a straight line, and cover the spot where you plan to drive a nail.


  • Sandpaper, single sheets of several grades: Smooth out life’s little snags, and reserve a sheet to sharpen your chisel.


  • All-purpose oil (like 4-in-1): De-squeak door and cupboard hinges — doorknobs and handles, too.


  • All-purpose glue: Have a small bottle on hand. You never know. 


  • Scissors: You never know.


  • A bucket: This is to keep everything in and empty out when you have a leak.


This assortment should cover most minor repairs. Home, sweet home!