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Frugal Find: Be Your Own Handyman

   Posted On: June 28, 2013  |    Posted In: Saving  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

There I was standing in the shower rinsing the shampoo out of my hair and I could feel the water level rising around my ankles. By the time I finished shaving it was halfway up my calf. 30 minutes after showering the tub finally drained and I proceed to pour some Drano down.

Last night, my tub not only rejected the Drano but proceeded to gurgle and vomit up water for the entire night. I tried plunging. I tried scooping the water out in a vain effort to get clean water to stand in while I showered. I tried begging. The pipes were having none of it. So, I did what any rational renter would: frantically called and texted my landlord then headed to work in a bit of a panic.

I arrived home from work and discovered my landlord, his wife and a crotchety plumber who eyed me up and down, then glared at the bottle of Drano and then proceeded to slowly eviscerate me with his eyes.

Here is what I’ve learned today: DON’T USE DRANO!

Drano corrodes pipes and makes them weak, so when the plumper started to use his heavy duty tools to snake our drain he promptly put a hole in the pipe.


(Mom, I promise those stains were not there before! I keep it clean!)

For the frugal find: learn basic handyman skills. Luckily, I’m a renter so my landlord is on the hook for this expense for the plumber and broken pipe, but in the future I would rather know how to be “Ms. Fix It.” Snaking the drain from the start could have prevented the punctured pipe.

As a true millennial, I took to Twitter to find out what handyman tasks should be on my “Fix It Yourself” list. So far I must learn how to:

  • Snake a drain
  • Tile a floor
  • Change oil in a car
  • Change burnt out head and tail lights
  • Replace a car battery
  • Change a tire
  • Cabinet replacement
  • Basic electric work (admittedly, this one makes me nervous.)
  • Change light switches/outlets/toilets
  • Change a flat tire
Know how to unclog a toilet and stop the water from running (I’m sure there is a technical term for “keep the water from running.”)

A lot of basic handyman skills can be learned via YouTube, Google or just asking a friend. I should’ve just watched this “How to snake a drain” video last night instead of getting Drano happy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to bathing in my kitchen sink.


What else should be on the “Fix it yourself” Guide? Have any DIY fix it horror stories? 

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29 responses to “Frugal Find: Be Your Own Handyman

  1. Great post! And yikes, I can’t believe that he poked right through the pipe! Must have been 50 years’ worth of people using Drano and similar stuff.

    Since you mention car stuff, I’d add to your list being able to change your own stereo equipment. Unless you’re making super-complex changes, most of the installation is laughably easy and definitely worth doing to save the $50 to $100 per hour you could get charged at a shop.

    1. Hmmm, stereo equipment is a good tip. Once I’m back in car ownership land I’ll have to check it out.

  2. Yes, Drano is terrible for pipes. But snaking your pipes is sooo smelly. The smell is strong when you pull up a giant hair ball! I have my fiancee do that for me as it is gag inducing. By the way, your drain hole looks sunken… any of those junk stores that sell all sorts of random crap in your outer-boro hood sell these little mesh caps that can collect hair after every shower (and then you just clean it after every shower) so you don’t have to worry about the hair going down the drain. something like this:

    1. Oh right. I knew I was forgetting something. Getting a mesh drain will mean your hair will get clogged in it where it can be reached rather than inside the pipe where you can’t get to it. Very good call

    2. Not a super accurate picture. That was taken after everything was removed from the tub. We do have a drain cover which does a decent job of catching hair, but we also plan to buy another cover to avoid future incidents! I already have something to snake the drain when it gets clogged again.

    1. Haha at least you are honest indeed. Because my mom was the handyman in my house I’m pretty determined to be able to do everything myself. Also just a bit of my stubborn nature.

  3. I definitely need to learn some more DIY skills. I’m a renter too so I don’t really have the need. Had the same problem with my shower and used Drano…super did not like it, but no hole in my pipe when he snaked it. I’ve read that you can used household products like baking soda, vinegar instead which won’t damage the pipes…and even Coca Cola (I’m not drinking coke anymore!). But I guess for the bigger clogs, this might not work.

    1. I think I just need to suppress my hatred of hair and deal with snaking the drain next time! Nice to be able to work out the kinks as a renter for when I become a homeowner.

  4. Oh wow, good lesson to learn. Yeah I’m incredibly un-handy around the house. I think I’ve used white vinegar and baking soda to unclog a shower drain one time. No idea if that’s bad for the pipes. I do think that most of this stuff is probably pretty easy to learn, and definitely useful. I’d like to learn how to change my own oil for sure.

    1. I doubt white vinegar and baking soda is even does a fraction of the damage drano can. That plumber seriously gave me quite the evil eye. However, my landlord used it a second time before he called the plumber. Probably readied the pipes to get punctured.

    1. OH GOOD ONE! I think it’s a great feeling of empowerment when you can do handyman things yourself.

  5. Oh, that sucks! I like your ingenuity with shaving in the sink. 😉 I know I saved $200 when I watched a couple of Youtube videos and replaced my side mirror on my car. Worked like a charm!

  6. There is so much I still have to learn when it comes to handyman/home repair stuff. Was fun tweeting with everyone about it last week tho! It’s too bad that the pipe got punctured :/ I hope that it gets fixed quick!

    1. Thankfully got fixed within 24 hours. Got really nervous we would have to go the whole weekend without a shower. I already had confirmed shower options with friends who live nearby!

  7. I had someone teach me how to change my oil one time; after we bought supplies it was only a couple of dollars cheaper than taking it in somewhere. So I just take it in. I, in theory, know how to change a tire, but I’m never strong enough to get those dang rivets off. I learned that at most auto supply stores, if you buy a battery they’ll install it for you for free. I do the headlights thing, though! And the toilet! I’ve gotta learn some of that other stuff and never use Drano. I’m pretty good at figuring out how stuff works so I can fix it when it breaks, but my biggest problem is I’m a huge procrastinator and never seem to get around to doing it. I’m a renter, too. :p

    1. Good to know about the car battery! I don’t have a car now (no point in NYC) but when I go back to being a car owner I’ll have to remember that. I’ve never tried changing a flat so in theory sounds nice to be able to do, but I foresee rivets being a fierce adversary.

  8. Everyone should have WD-40, duct tape and a Swiss Army knife on them at all times. You can do just about anything with those 3 items include building a fusion reactor.

  9. My garbage disposal backed up like crazy the other day. Is this a simple fix? If all I have to do is remove the disposal and clean it out, I can do that. Would there be a chance that the plumbing is wrecked worse?

  10. It sounds like your experience with do it yourself plumbing was less than ideal. I admire your initiative in trying to care of it yourself, but I’m glad that a professional was able to help out in the end. I would be too scared to try to do it myself in the first place, so I will definitely call in a plumber from the start if this ever happens to me.

  11. Good to know Draino can really ruin pipes! I’ll have to stop using it. Learning as much DIY handyman things as you can will really save you some money. And with YouTube its so easy to learn! Thanks for sharing!

  12. How was the feeling bathing on the kitchen sink? I’ve never tried it, though 😉 Anyway, it’s good to learn DIY handyman things by reading this good article.

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