Common Home Repairs You Put Off

Is the kitchen sink leaking or did someone just drop an ice cube on the floor? Spoiler: It's almost never an ice cube.

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With something as complex and expensive as a home, it’s easy to fall into denial when things begin to fail. Most homeowners have a limited budget for repairs and refurbishments, and can’t instantly take action on every little crack or squeak. It’s called choosing your battles.

So sometimes we disregard or rationalize some early hints that there’s trouble afoot. And that can lead to real problems. Here’s a look at some of the lies we tell ourselves, and what action to take instead.

Melting Ice Cube, or a Kitchen-Sink Leak?

This one is so plausible. There’s a puddle of water on your kitchen floor — where did it come from? Refrigerator ice dispensers are notorious for spitting out more cubes than you need, so sure, maybe one of them hit the floor and melted.

But the next time you tell yourself that puddle is ice, ice, baby, open the cabinet under your sink and feel around for dampness. Under-sink leaks can go unnoticed for a long time because they may be at the back of your cabinet. If ignored, they can rot the cabinet base or the underlying floor and framing. Thankfully, there are ways to fix this and other hidden leaks, and to stop blaming the ice cubes.

Freezer Door Left Open, or Something More?

Soft-serve ice cream is delicious, but not when it’s supposed to be hard-packed. If the frozen treats in your freezer are mushy, it’s easy to blame yourself. Did I really close the freezer door all the way last night? Maybe one of the kids lazily left it hanging open.

But if it’s becoming a regular occurrence and the door always seems to be properly shut, you’re going to have to face facts. There’s likely a problem with your freezer. It could be your temperature control is off or food items are blocking the vents. Our refrigerator-repair guide offers tips and tricks for finding out what’s wrong and bringing back the big chill.

Bad Cook, or Is the Oven Temperature Off?

If your meals and baked goods constantly disappoint, don’t blame the chef until you’ve verified the problem isn’t the oven. Whether your cookies are burned on the bottom or your frozen French fries are always soggy, this could be a really easy fix. You’ll need a portable oven thermometer to investigate and adjust your oven temperature.

Old Toilet That Runs All the Time, or an Easy Fix?

The familiar sound of a toilet running and running and running is frustrating. “JIGGLE THE HANDLE!,” you yell at your kids or spouse. It’s easy to assume that the toilet is just over the hill and there’s no recourse until it finally gives up its final flush.

Surprise, fixing a constantly-running toilet is easier than you think, and you may not need to call a plumber. If it’s a new toilet giving you flush problems, with no clogs or other visible issues, there’s another remedy to try.

Need a New Dishwasher, or Are You Loading It Wrong?

If your plates and forks are coming out of the dishwasher dirty, sure, it might be time for a new dishwasher. But that’s a big expense, so don’t go there unless you have to. Your problem could be something as simple as the way you load the dishes.

Cramming the dishwasher as full as the trunk of your car on a long road trip is a bad idea. If the dishes are all shoved up against each other, the dishwasher simply can’t do its job. Plus, you might be blocking the machine’s sprayer. Load more carefully and you might never need to rewash.

Washing Machine Too Full, or Is the Machine Unbalanced?

Thump … thump … thump. During the spin cycle, your washing machine may sound as if it’s about to launch right out of the laundry room. It’s easy to blame overloading, but unlike the dishwasher problem, this might actually be something else altogether: The machine may have become unbalanced.

Have a Slow Dryer, or Is the Vent Clogged?

Does it seem as if your clothes tumble forever in the dryer yet never get completely dry? Because it’s so easy to keep pushing the button to send them around for another cycle, you may be overlooking an obvious problem.

A clogged dryer vent slows drying time and wastes energy. In a severe situation, it could cause a fire. Even if you faithfully clean the removable dryer lint filter before each use, you can’t ignore the dryer vent duct. With a few simple supplies — a vacuum with a long hose attachment, a dryer vent brush kit, screwdrivers and UL-listed metal-foil duct tape — you can clean the dryer vent yourself.

All Old Basements Smell Like This, or Is There a Moisture Issue?

Older homes have many vintage charms, and as such come with trade-offs. But there’s no need for a musty basement smell to be part of the deal.

Basements harbor moisture, and you may need to play detective to find exactly where that unpleasant smell is coming from. Look for broken seals on windows or cracks in foundation walls. Examine your gutters to see if they’re clogged.

Getting rid of the smell is a multi-step process that could take time and work, and finding the source of the moisture is the essential first step. But it’s worth it to be able to relax in your basement without drenching it with air freshener or lighting a bunch of scented candles.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, has been a journalist for 30 years. She is the co-author of two pop-culture encyclopedias, "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She lives in a 90+-year-old house in Seattle in which she does home improvement projects with her husband and daughter. Gael loves the quirkiness of old homes.