The Ultimate Handyman Quiz


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Sue Barr/Image Source/Getty Images

About This Quiz

No matter what your housing situation -- owner, renter, roommate -- there's no getting around one thing: It's much better to have at least some home-repair skills than to have none. Plumbers and electricians aren't cheap (nor should they be), and often you just can't wait for an expert to have an opening in his or her schedule. 

There are also times when proper home maintenance and repair can be a matter of life and death -- or, put less dramatically, at least of safety. These include almost anything involving electricity, certain things involving plumbing and water, the correct installation of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, and baby-proofing. When you're taking on projects in these areas, you have to know what you're doing. Of course, the opposite is also true. There are times when you should hand off projects to a licensed professional, for your own safety and that of the people who live with you.

So, how prepared are you to do your own household work? We've got a quiz to help you find out. Tell us what a U-bend does, which is the quickest and easiest fix for a toilet that won't flush, and whether it's really possible to paint a window shut. Are you ready? Let's do this!

"Phillips" and "flat" are terms that apply to ....

Screwdrivers come in these two main types. A flat screwdriver has a flattened, straight-across tip, while a Phillips has a four-pointed shape, to fit in screws with cross-shaped holes.


What does a "flapper" do?

The flapper is the dome-shaped valve that keeps water from the tank out of the toilet until it's needed. This is during the flushing process.


"Claw" and "ball peen" are types of ________.

These are two popular types of hammers, but they​ are not the only ones. A "claw" hammer is called that because it's split at the opposite end of the head. This lets you pry up nails by their heads.


In which of these circumstances would you use a stud detector?

Studs are the vertical frame elements of a wall -- timbers, in other words. If you're hanging anything heavy, you need to know where they are, so you're not hanging things from drywall.


Which of these is often at fault when a faucet leaks?

A washer is a flat metal or rubber ring that helps create a tight seal. You'll use them in places other than faucets. But if your faucet is leaking, replacing the washer inside is a good place to start.


True or false: If your water is shut off, you can pour water manually into the tank and use the toilet as usual.

The toilet tank releases water into the bowl during a flush, then refills via your home's plumbing system. If the city needs to cut off your water for a time, you can simply replace the water manually after a flush. However, this requires you to have extra water on hand -- which is why emergency prep is so important!


A "U-bend" is part of what?

The U-bend is that sharply curved pipe under a sink. There's one under the bathtub, too, but you likely can't see it. These can be hard to take apart when you're fixing a plumbing problem.


"Molding" is a type of ...

Molding is decorative work that joins a wall to the ceiling, or cabinets to the ceiling. Think of it like a cummerbund in a tuxedo, making the place where two things meet look more graceful.


What are wood screws made of?

Wood screws get their name because they're often used in wood surfaces. They are made of metal, like most other screws.


True or false: Paint must be stripped off surfaces by hand.

There are chemical paint strippers that you can spray on the surface. They let you strip the paint off about as easily as shaving your face (or legs, if you're a handywoman). It may sound bad for the environment, but many are actually not.


What is the main purpose of a U-bend?

Sewers smell really awful, and plumbing pipes would give the gas that rises from them direct access to your home if it weren't for the trusty U-bend. A certain amount of water remains in the bend after you use the sink or tub, and this makes a physical barrier against the smell.


What would you use a "snake" to do?

A drain snake is your next step if plunging doesn't work. This flexible metal hose with an auger-like head will clear out clogs that are deep in drains.


A line of putty or gel that seals tile or ceramic work is called _____.

Caulking is not unlike using a pastry bag in baking. You squeeze out a line of caulk from the tube, along the border you want to seal, just as with a pastry bag, you might go around the edge of a cake.


Which of these is another name for "Allen wrench"?

Allen wrenches get this name because they are hexagonal. They fit into screws with hexagonal heads, like a key into a lock. Get it?


If a hole for a screw has become oversized, and the screw is loose, you might need a/an ______.

An anchor is a small plastic sheath for a screw. You fit it inside the hole first, then insert and torque the screw in as usual.


Which of these handyman's tools can be useful when cooking?

Turn about is fair play! If you can use a pizza cutter in home repair, why not a propane torch in the kitchen? They're just the thing for caramelizing sugars in desserts or giving dishes like macaroni-and-cheese a hot, bubbly finish. Higher-end kitchen stores sell special ones just for kitchen use, but a small one from your garage works just as well.


Which of these should you turn off the power before doing?

Some people suggest it is never OK to reach into a garbage disposal. However, if you've turned off the power at the box and confirmed it by flipping the switch for the disposal several times, we'd suggest you're safe. (Kids, however, should be taught the "never" rule.)


Which of these might you apply to a squeaky floorboard?

Talcum powder has a way of silencing squeaky floorboards. We don't think of something dry and powdery as a "lubricant," but experts say this is how it works in those spaces between boards, or between boards and sub-flooring, to stop them from squeaking.


True or false: A window can be painted shut.

Paint doesn't exactly strike most people as the equivalent of glue. Yet it really can keep a window from sliding up and down. A bit of cleanup with a tool called a "paint zipper" is likely to fix the problem.


Which of these should you check first if your toilet won't flush?

One very simple reason your toilet might not be flushing is that the chain has slipped off the flush handle, and isn't raising and lowering the flapper. Check this first -- nothing will make you feel stupider than calling a plumber for this non-issue.


Where would you put "bumper pads"?

A bumper pad is applied to the main frame of the cabinet, where the door touches it on closing. It lessens the noise of closing cabinet doors.


Where on a door would you find a "strike plate"?

The door jamb -- the inner-facing part of the doorway -- is where you'd find the strike plate. The strike plate is the metal plate across from the knob, around the hole where the metal tongue inserts and holds the door shut. (This is easier to understand if you go look at a doorway, we promise).


Which of these is another name for the U-bend in a sink?

It's so called because it traps water there -- and sometimes stray wedding rings. This might have saved a marriage or two.


Which of these kitchen tools can, oddly enough, help fix a stuck window?

Yep, a pizza cutter -- the hand tool with a round blade that rolls -- can stand in for a paint zipper if need be. We suspect it was a handywoman, not a man, who first used this stopgap tool.


True or false: It is dangerous to boil vinegar.

It's safe to simmer vinegar on the stove. Why is this piece of information in a handyman quiz? Because boiling vinegar is a way to absorb strong odors in a home, or to remove dried paint from brushes. Just submerge them in the simmering vinegar.


The connectors that hold an A-frame ladder together near the top are called ...

Spreaders are those little arms, joined​ in the center, that attach the two sides of a ladder to each other near the top. Technically, you can be a completely competent handyman without knowing this ... but knowing the right names for things will make you look smart in front of other handymen, contractors and so on!


Which of these laundry items is useful in re-sealing a loose tile?

When a tile comes loose, the first thing you should try is running a hot iron over its edges (on the underside, not the top). It might just stick after the iron warms up the adhesive a bit.


To which of these does "A-frame" refer?

"A-frame" is a style of house (think of a Swiss chalet, which is an A-frame with a very steep roof). But, more important to handyman work, ladders also come in "A-frame" styles, and you'll use these a lot for indoor repairs.


How often should furnace filters be changed?

It gets worse. If you own a pet that sheds a lot -- we're looking at you, Mr. Jack Russell Terrier -- then you'll need to do this more frequently. Honestly, we'd rather just be cold!


How often should gutters be cleaned?

Gutter cleaning is a pain, but getting dead leaves and gunk out of them will save you money on repairs in the long run. You can always hire someone to do this.


Which of these will quiet down a squeaky door hinge?

You probably knew that a squeaking door hinge needs to be oiled. You might not have known is that white petroleum jelly, aka Vaseline, does the same job -- and doesn't drip.


How long does most caulk require before it can be exposed to water?

Caulking is sometimes necessary, but it can be an inconvenience. If you've got a gym membership, plan to shower there. If not, maybe a friend can help you out.


Which of these tells you a power outlet has grounding?

These kinds of outlets are safer than the two-plug kind. In addition, there's less cursing and swearing to be done when you've got a device with a three-prong plug, but only a two-prong outlet to plug it into, requiring you to search the house or garage or an adapter.


Which part of a window is the "sash"?

The half-circle knob that locks the window is just a "lock," while the wide base is the sill. It's useful to know these terms if you're trying to fix a stuck window.


Which of these is most important to remember when working with a circuit breaker or fuse box?

While it's very useful to know whether you're dealing with fuses or circuit breakers, it's not as important as keeping one hand off the box. That's because if you touch a fuse or breaker with one hand and the main service panel with the other, the electricity might take the shortest path between two points -- through you!


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