Student Apartment Maintenance: DIY or Leave it to the Pros?

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For many of us, going away for college is the first time we moved away from home and the first time we actually have to take care of some “grownup” things on our own. For the first time, you are truly responsible for the condition of your apartment and its regular maintenance. And for the first time, you realize that maintenance includes more chores than vacuuming and folding clothes. However, you are also probably a tenant and not the owner of the apartment, so you have to be extremely careful not to damage anything and consult your landlord about any bigger projects. Here’s a list of maintenance chores you can do, and the ones that require the assistance of a professional.

DIY: Recover and Paint Old Chairs
The simplest way to save money when moving into an apartment is to keep the furniture the landlord has left, instead of buying everything from scratch. However, sometimes, when the place is being rented for years, the furniture is old and worn out. You don’t have to throw it all away; just refresh it a bit. Take the old dining room chairs, apply two coats of paint (let it dry overnight) and refresh the existing cushions by replacing the fabric.

Leave to the Pros: Installing a Gas-Fueled Appliance
So, you bought a new appliance (water heater, oven, clothes dryer) and you’re eager to try it out? Don’t do it. Any mistake with connecting gas lines can lead to gas leaks and build-up which can eventually spark and explode. This is a job that should be left to the professionals. So, either ask for installation to come with delivery or call the pros after the appliance is at your address.

DIY: Paint the Place
There’s nothing like a little paint to introduce life in a gloomy apartment! Of course, before you decide on the color and start your little project, consult your landlord. After you get his seal of approval and find the necessary equipment (paint, paint roller, painter’s tape, rags) you can get down to business. If the painter’s tape is applied firmly (and straight), you should have no problems getting professional results.

Leave to the Pros: Plumbing Issues
You may be able to unplug a clogged toilet or a sink if the problem is not very serious, but any other plumbing issues should be left to the professionals. Working with plumbing involves a lot of leaks that can cause mold, structural problems and other damage. Professional plumbers can solve breaks and leaks without worsening the problem.

DIY: Clean the Fridge
Every so often, the fridge must be cleaned from the inside out. It’s not a very pleasant chore, but you can do it by yourself. Toss out the food that has outlived its shelf life, take out all the food in your refrigerator, and put it aside. Take out shelves and drawers and wash them in the kitchen sink. Wipe the inside of the fridge with an organic cleaner (such as baking soda + hot water). Dry the shelves and drawers, put them back into the fridge, and reintroduce the food.

Leave to the Pros: Electrical Wiring
Any work with electricity, other than replacing a light bulb, should be left to professional electricians. Working with the apartment’s electrical system can be very dangerous and it doesn’t matter if you are fixing a problematic circuit or installing new wiring – you are at risk of electrical shock in both situations. Also, installing new wiring is determined by the local codes, so you need to know all about them, have a permit and be prepared for your work to be inspected.

Maintaining the apartment includes a lot of chores. Some, like dusting, are basic day-to-day actions, while others are monthly or seasonal duties. There are also unexpected repairs and home-improvement projects that may seem overwhelming to you, but in time you get used to them. However, it’s still important to distinguish the ones within your power from the ones that should be left to the professionals.

This article was contributed by guest author Chloe Taylor.

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