Need to make a quick fix on the cheap? These are my favorite tools and supplies — Saving You Money


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Jul 24, 2023

Need to make a quick fix on the cheap? These are my favorite tools and supplies — Saving You Money

Need a quick fix? These are the products and tool I turn to.Andrea Levy, Advance

Need a quick fix? These are the products and tool I turn to.Andrea Levy, Advance local

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Life is a never ending to-do list. You fix the lawnmower, the coffee maker breaks. You fix the hole in the wall, and then you break a lamp playing fetch with the dog. Then you use the wrong soap in your dishwasher and, apparently, that will cover your kitchen floor with bubbles.

We all know someone who thinks that "duct tape fixes everything." That's hardly ever true. But having the right tools for a quick fix can be a godsend when it feels like everything is breaking.

When I need to "MacGyver" something, a makeshift solution or whatever you call it — these are the items I reach for.

Think of it like a first-aid kit for your home. I’m not anything close to a handyman. But having these tools and supplies can help you deal with your home's boo-boos.

And a disclaimer: I am not a professional. Make any repairs with safety in mind, and research is your friend.

I’m sure you all have great tips for repairs around the house as well. Email me your tips at [email protected], and I’ll share them in a future column.

Weldbond describes itself as an adhesive that "bonds most anything." And I’ve been putting that to the test.

Unlike construction adhesives, epoxy or super glue, Weldbond isn't messy or fussy to use. It comes in a squeeze bottle, like the glue you used to make crafts in kindergarten. But instead of macaroni and construction paper, this adhesive works on wood, metal, ceramic tiles and all sorts of other surfaces.

Things always break when you least expect. And when family and friends were helping paint my home, the drainpipe broke off my utility sink. The threaded connection was too rusted to screw back on.

A friend went to the store and came back with J-B Weld, duct tape and a wire brush. But instead, I put a bead of Weldbond on the pipe and shoved it into place. It's held perfectly since July.

I don't think Weldbond would recommend this, by the way. But this glue has come in handy time after time.

It dries quickly, but not too quickly. It's clear, flexible and strong enough for at least a temporary fix.

Get a single bottle of Weldbond at Ace Hardware or get a six-pack of Weldbond at Staples. You can also get Weldbond at Home Depot

If I could only have one saw, I’d choose the jigsaw.

A jigsaw is a reciprocating saw's more composed cousin. While a circular saw has a disc-shaped blade. The jigsaw has a thin, rectangular blade that moves up and down.

It sacrifices power for versatility. It's nimble enough to use in tight spaces. It can be used to cut curves. And with the right blade, it can cut most materials. Unlike a larger reciprocating saw, normally called a Sawzall, a jigsaw isn't unwieldy.

A jigsaw is helpful for irregularly shaped materials, like a PVC pipe or a piece of flooring that needs to fit around a door frame.

I’ve used a jigsaw to cut a piece of plywood into the shape of Ohio. I’ve also cut through a bike lock that I forgot the code for (long story).

While I can't recommend it, I have seen someone use it to cut down a tree branch.

There are better saws for each task, but a jigsaw gets most jobs done and is handy to have around.

Buy a jigsaw at Home Depot | Buy a jigsaw at Lowe's | Buy a jigsaw at Ace Hardware

It's great to have a portable fan on a hot day. But a box fan is also handy for repairs, especially to dry out a floor or a room.

When I put the wrong soap in the dishwasher, for example, water spilled out. The appliance has a pump installed that kicks on when water leaks out of the machine and onto the floor underneath.

The dishwasher wouldn't turn on until every drop of water was gone. Which meant pulling out the entire dishwasher, or, pointing a couple of box fans at it for a day or so.

If you’re trying to air out the smell of wet paint, or if you burn dinner, these are helpful to have around.

Get this Lasko box fan for $28.99 from Ace Hardware or this Holmes box fan for $43.55 from Walmart. Ace Hardware also has a Polar Aire box fan for $24.99.

The guy who loves all-purpose glue should probably be enamored with duct tape, right? Nope.

I won't get into too much of a tape debate, because there are several brands that make different kinds of duct tape. But I generally have never found it useful.

Duct tape is fabric tape coated with a type of plastic, which is supposed to make it waterproof. … It's not. It also has a strong, thick adhesive that can damage the surface you stick it onto to and will leave a gummy residue.

Gaffer tape is less prone to damaging surfaces or to leaving residue, because it's weaker. It is coated vinyl instead of plastic. It holds its shape better, is easier to tear and, in my experience, — easier to use.

When I’m trying to wrap something tightly in tape, I don't have much luck with duct tape. It sticks to itself and is just finnicky.

There are many brands of duct tape with different coatings, glue and other qualities. And duct tape tends to be cheaper.

Gaffer tape tends to be more expensive. It's most used in the entertainment industry, where it holds wires and cables onto the floor. Or in whatever makeshift fix the camera crew needs that day.

I bought Tape King Gaffers Tape on Amazon. It's cheaper, and may not be as good as other tapes, but that's my recommendation.

Get Gaffer Tape from Walmart | Get Gaffer tape from Staples

Cable ties, more commonly known as Zip Ties, are the quick fix that needs no introduction. They’re cheap, easy to use, can hold up for long periods of time and are easy to cut when you find a more permanent solution. Anytime you need to tie one thing to another thing, a cable tie comes in handy.

My only advice is to buy the longest ones you can find, and to have plenty of them around.

Get all sizes and quantities of zip ties at Home Depot. Walmart also has a wide variety of zip ties. Check out Lowe's too which offers different-length zip ties.

Anytime you need to hide or fill a gap, having a caulking gun and a tube of paintable caulk is handy.

You can seal around windows to stop drafts. Or you can fill the gap between the wall and the bathtub in the shower. Fill a nail hole. Fix a crack in your driveway. You can even buy adhesives in caulking tubes.

Different jobs call for different caulk, but they come in standard sizes. You can also get caulking in a squeeze bottle if you need it for a quick fix, but don't have a caulking gun.

Get 10 ounces of caulk at Lowe's for $3.58; 10 ounces of caulk at Walmart for $2.97; or get GE brand caulk for $11.98 at Lowe's.

A pair of multi-grip pliers, although you probably know them by the brand-name Channellock, are especially handy. They’re half pliers, half adjustable wrenches.

They can take off bolts, loosen or tighten the hoses on your washing machine or remove a pipe. They’re most commonly used for plumbing.

Like everything else on this list, there are tools that do some jobs better. I would grab a socket wrench if I needed to remove several bolts. But if there's just one or two, or an awkwardly shaped thing to tighten, I reach for multi-grip pliers.

Shop for pliers at Home Depot, Lowe's, Walmart and Ace Hardware

When the wind blows your vinyl siding off, or when the Ikea furniture you bought starts falling apart —things get loose or fall off. The quick fix is usually a screw.

I try to keep screws of varying sizes around the house. I like having 1¼-inch, 2½-inch and 3-inch screws lying around. And I like having screws that are "self-tapping," which means they’re designed to drill their own hole. Drilling a pilot hole never hurts, though.

Deck screws, like the DeckMate brand, tend to work well. They’re self-tapping. And instead of a Phillips-head (the cross-shaped indent that you put the screwdriver in), they use a Torx-head (shaped like a star.) This change helps the screws go into material more easily. But you need to hang on to some star-shaped screwdrivers or drill bits.

They aren't the prettiest screw, since they’re colored to match a deck, but the almost always work out for quick fixes or rough construction.

A list of every tool you might need can go on forever. Here are some honorable mentions.

A short PVC pipe: You can put a plastic pipe over the handle of your socket wrench. This gives you a longer handle, which gives you more torque and helps you loosen tight nuts.

PB Blaster: You already know about WD-40. But Cleveland-based Blaster Products makes PB Blaster Penetrating Oil. This spray helps loosen up bolts and nuts that are rusty.

Hose clamps: This is basically just a steel band wrapped in a circle that you can tighten by turning a screw. You likely have one holding your exhaust line to your dryer.

White-distilled vinegar: I don't want to be the old lady who tells you that vinegar is magic. But it is.

If your coffee maker is broken or acting up, running a 50/50 mix of water and vinegar through the machine can clean it and remove minerals that have built up over time.

A sink or shower head with low water pressure may also by a mineral build-up problem. You can soak it in vinegar by tying a sandwich bag around the spout.

A drain snake: Things get clogged. If you can snake your own drain, its much cheaper than calling a plumber.

Shims: A shim is a thin piece of wood or plastic that's smaller on one side than the other. This means you can shove them in a gap and keep pushing until the shim fits perfectly.

These are used in construction. But if you have a wobbly table or appliance, you can use shims keep it level.

Spackling paste: I may be the only person who didn't know this. But if you have a hole to fix, spackling paste dries much, much quicker than joint compound.

DIY can save you money, and that doesn't just need to be quick fixes around the house. If you want to learn more about home maintenance, consider reading my past column about two local nonprofits that teach residents how to be handy.

Saving You Money is and The Plain Dealer's column about saving money. We want to know how we can help you save money. Send your questions and comments to [email protected].

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