Re-Keying Locks? Caulking & Refinishing Tubs? – DIY or Pro? – Part II

{ This is the second installment of my “DIY or Pro” series. Part I is here. Check out the exact hit list below to see what we have done as homeowners. }

Owning a home can be a lot of work; it seems like there’s always something (big or small) that needs to be fixed or maintained. Sometimes a light switch goes on the fritz, a false positive smoke detector that goes off at 4AM, a crazy bird that comes nearly every morning to peck at the house siding. All true stories by the way.

You are now responsible for anything and everything that comes into your home be it a stray baseball through the window or a chewed up hole in the fence from a hyperactive 8 month old puppy that was left in the yard too long.

Points at Grace

That’s just the exterior. Now work up to sealing granite counter tops, stripping16-year-old caulk from the kitchen and bathrooms…

Whenever such an issue comes up, there’s always the question I ask:

Can I fix this myself, or do I need to hire someone?

And then the follower-up:

How much is this sucker going to cost?


The Hit List!


Ant Invasion

Wasps invasion

Illegal Plumbing

Roof Vent Boot

Sink Slow to Drain




Tub Refinish

wall mounted GATE

Up Next:
















Smoke Detector




I’m just an average Joe and there’s nothing I’ve done here that another person can’t do.


Satisfaction level used below is what we use to measure how happy we were with the turn out of going with DIY project and/or experience with our professional.


Everything here was a real account of what happened to us. None of which should be taken in exchange for personal circumstance and/or professional advice.


Re-keying Locks


A few months back, Lily’s wallet was stolen from her purse as she was getting off the bus. Considering her wallet had her ID (which has our addresses) and the spare house keys as well, I decided this was reason and concern enough to change the locks. Most likely Lily’s wallet was probably just relieved of the 2 dollars in cash she had and then thrown into the trash, but I didn’t want to take the chances – especially with our AirBnB guests living in the home as well.

DIY or professional?



I identified what type of key it was and bought an appropriate re-key kit on Amazon. I looked up the instruction for the lock to see how to remove the cylinder, then followed the instructions on the re-keying kit carefully on how to open the cylinder and replace the pins.

Fun Fact: Lily knows how to pick locks and she’s very good at it. ಠ_ಠ

I thought it was going to be complicated but it was pretty simple. I have no experience with locks at all and I was still able to completed it without any issues.

Pro Tip:

  • Buy the right re-key kit for your lock type.
  • Follow the instructions carefully when dealing with something like this.
  • Keep organized throughout the entire process. Remember those itty-bitty pins and springs are important. I lost a tiny spring and it took me half an hour of fumbling to find it again in our shaggy carpet.



Satisfaction level

High! 🙂 I saved a lot of money re keying the locks myself, and I learned about how locks function in the process.  As an added benefit, I was able to reduce the number of keys I need to carry, since not all the locks I re-keyed used the same key now!


Tub Refinish


When we purchased our home, the bathtubs were visibly worn down near the drain. The bath tub in both of our bathrooms were discolored, rough, and one of them was in danger of rusting because it was so worn. We didn’t think it was a big deal at the time of the purchase so we just lived with it.

Rusty low spot – yuck!

Even when we started hosting on AirBnB we pushed off the repair. Being lazy home owners = not good, we needed a kick. That’s one of the many benefits about hosting an AirBnB – we were lazy and we thought it was just cosmetic. What snapped us out was when an AirBnB guest left a mediocre review citing the tub as a cause of discomfort and only then did we seek help. It’s one thing for us to live with a worn out tub, it’s another to expect paying guests to do so.

DIY or professional?

Professional. I looked into DIY first and spent a good amount of time researching  on my own on how to do it. There are bath tub refinish kits that go for less than $100 online, but it was a huge amount of effort to complete (cleaning, stripping, applying the new finish and keeping it nice.)

The project would take much longer for me to do myself, which now had higher opportunity cost from closing AirBnB.  Additionally, the online tub kits were just for refinishing. They wouldn’t fill in the indentation worn on the tub, which was another issue as well.

We ended up hiring someone instead who would use resin to fill in the indentation and refinish the tub at the same time.


Our contractor (Graham @ Seattle Bathtub Solutions) was who we hired. We hired him twice for both bath tubs. He was easy to schedule, on-time and efficient. The result looks great! It took about 4 hours and the tub was usable the next day. We were back making money on AirBnB lickety split! His services also includes a free chip repair guarantee for the first chip. We did get a chip after a guest dropped a can of shaving cream on the resin finish tub and Graham honored the free repair.

Fun Fact: a refinished tub’s finish isn’t as strong as the original – so it will chip more easily. When it comes to tubs you have two options: replace one completely or do a refinish/repair which depends on the level of severity.

We sent Graham a few photos and he was honest with us. Our tub was in overall good condition besides the rusty low spot. A tub refinish would be the more resourceful route.

Pro Tip: put double coats of clear nail polish on tub chips to prevent further damage and buy some time.


$433 (per tub)

Satisfaction level

High! 🙂 I know it seems high but the cost was fair for the work done. It took 4-5 hours per tub and our contractor even scrubbed our tub for us and re-caulked for us. I’ve never seen a 16 year-old tub so shiny! Lily said Graham was busting away the entire time, polishing and sanding non-stop. I’m confident that my work would not have looked nearly as good. It would be several days of frustration for me. Ventilation would have been an issue too. We didn’t have a ventilation machine to air out the noxious chemical fumes. Since this is something used by our AirBnB guests, getting it done correctly the first time was important to us.


Caulking Tubs & Counters


Caulking is very important. Caulking keeps water away from areas that can be damage.  It’s applied between a counter top and the backsplash to keep water from getting behind your cabinetry. Water is the #1 enemy to a residential home because it can cause rot and mold. Although useful, caulk does get damaged and it does deteriorates over time. Re-caulking is a common checklist for good household maintenance.


If the caulk has large cracks, water could find a way through. It is common for new stone counter tops to set and disturb the caulk that was there so for new homeowners, learning to caulk is an absolute must.

Pro Tip:

  • The worst part about re-caulking is removing the old caulk. Purchased a caulk removing spray to aid in this process.
  • Every time I’ve done this, I’m surprised by how much work it is to strip off the old caulking. You really have to get it all off so the old caulk doesn’t interfere with the new caulking bonding to the tub/counter/tile surface.
  • Make sure to wait at least 24 to 48 hours for the caulk to dry before getting the caulked area wet! Seriously. You do not want to have to do it over again.
  • ONLY use 100% silicone caulk for high moisture environments like the kitchen and bathrooms.

Once all the previous caulk is removed, it’s time to apply the new. Getting consistent, even application of caulk is difficult. It doesn’t help that my cheap caulk gun doesn’t immediately release pressure on the canister as soon as I let go.

Don’t buy a cheap caulk gun. It will show in the work.

If you don’t go around in once solid bead, you need to get back to where you left off in time to connect the new bead to the old one.  Either way, time is an issue.  And, believe me, if you notice a spot that doesn’t look right after you’re done and try to touch it up, you’re probably just going to make it worse.

Pro Tip: when caulking the tub, FILL the tub part way with water. When a person is keeling inside the tub, the added weight sinks the tub slightly vs when no one is in the tub. The idea of putting some water in when caulking (and leaving it for at least six hours) it to get it somewhere between where it is when the tub is empty and when someone is in it. That way, neither position stretches/compacts the caulk beyond what it can handle!

DIY or professional?

DIY – I honestly never considered going professional for this.  It just seems like too common of a work item to have to pay someone every time it. If I have to recommend one skill to learn for home owners: learn to caulk.



Less than $10 for caulk

Satisfaction level

Medium – Doing so many caulking projects on my own has certainly saved a lot of money, but I have to confess that my workmanship just doesn’t look as professional as work done by a professional. The good news is that I’m getting more adept with it with practice, so with some more projects, I may be able to replace it with professional looking work when that time comes.


Wall Mounted Gate


I think Gracie is great and all, but she was a bit of a handful when she was younger. She was very shy. She was so shy that she doesn’t want to tell us when she needed to poop. Instead, she would wait downstairs in the dark by the front door in silence and constipated suffering while we were upstairs. If we didn’t notice her downstairs quick enough, she would poop around the corner to hide it. Such great fun cleaning those up…

Our puppy just waits there in silence until she can’t hold it anymore.

The way our townhouse is designed (with open stairs and different hiding areas) we needed a dog gate to separate the different floors. I considered it important for any gate that’s blocking the top of a stairway to be secure, so I insisted on getting on that screws into the wall.  We ended up getting this one. The remaining problem was installing it.

DIY or professional?

DIY – I had plenty of time to get supplies and figure it out! A simple dog/baby gate installation seemed fairly low risk…


You need to buy drill bits to install, which isn’t a problem, since those are useful to have anyway.

The gate came with four pieces of hardware to attach to the wall, two on one side to attach to the hinges to let the gate swing, and two on the other side to lock the gate in a closed position.  Each of these was to be attached by two screws, which needed guide holes to be drilled.

The gate also came with convenient strips of paper marked with where to drill guide holes.  I taped the guide for the hinges on the wall and started drilling the holes.

And that’s when I hit problem #1.

The drill only went a little ways in before I hit something metallic. That freaked me out, especially since I was drilling very close to a set of electrical switches. I hadn’t invested in drill bits designed for metal either, so I was worried about breaking them.


I decided to wait a day and discuss with my co-worker friend who does a lot of DIY housing projects. Apparently the metal is a drywall corner bead, and it’s nothing to worry about; it’s just there to help protect the corner from damage. He also said I should be fine drilling through it with my drill bits, so I went home more reassured in what I was doing.

I tried drilling again by putting more pressure on it and got through the corner bead without trouble then screwed the hardware in and mounted the gate; all was looking good. The only thing left was to schedule in the latch on the other side of the doorway.

And that’s where I hit problem #2.

The hardware to install on the other side to lock the door in place was blocked by the baseboard. So dumb.

I forgot I had baseboards.


I now have to redo the side I’d already completed so I could raise the gate up above the baseboards. To reduce the damage and redundant effort, I successfully reused one of the holes for each piece of hardware by lining it up so the hole I originally drilled for the top screw would be used by the bottom screw. The end result was a fully functional gate that’s slightly higher up than the instructions called for and two extra holes in the wall.


$37.22 (gate) + $9.77 (drill bits)

Satisfaction level

High – Amazon charged $90 for the set up service and I would be an un-frugal sucker if I paid for it. Although this was supposed to be a simple install for a gate it gave me a lot more trouble than I thought it would. Reflecting back now, I should have gone in with a clearer frame of mind and better planning. I also learned it’s OK to ask around for help and talk to others about it because chances are, they’ve done something similar.

{ This is the second installment of my “DIY or Pro” series. Part I is here. Check out the exact hit list below to see what we have done as homeowners. }


What was the most adventurous DIY project you’ve undertaken?  Was it successful?

28 thoughts on “Re-Keying Locks? Caulking & Refinishing Tubs? – DIY or Pro? – Part II”

  • Oh man. I have a list like this for our house! We bought a 1970s house, with little to no updating done. I grew up in a DIY household, as my parents have always done construction. So I was so excited about the projects. Hubs, not so much. Our list hasn’t gotten much shorter in the 3 years we’ve lived here, but every time we do something it feels so nice! Now I want to keep a running tracker like this! 😁

  • I’m awful at DIY repairs and use professionals most of the time. I just feel that my quality of work is not very good and I end up spending too much time trying to fix things (after factoring in research time).

    • Oh no, you sound just like Hubby, he’s a total perfectionist! After he was done caulking he told me to judge it in the most guilty voice. I thought it looked great! I honestly didn’t know until I read this that caulking was that hard. I thought you use it like Elmer’s Glue!

  • I did the EXACT same thing when I was installing a baby gate for our mini weeiner dog when I was living with then-boyfriend 😛 Poor pup had just gotten spine surgery and barely walk, but insisted on doing the stairs when we weren’t home cause he loved us so much. I installed it all and went to put it on – and remembered the baseboards. Damn! Hopefully anyone reading this post won’t make the same mistake!!

  • Well done. I think I probably would’ve outsourced the same tasks that you did. I consider my self very handy (the list of things I’ve done is quite long), but I don’t think I could have repaired a tub either. I’m actually in the middle of a bathroom re-model, but the tub is not currently in the scope of the project – yet. 😉
    Chris recently posted…How to Prioritize Your Financial Goals and Build Wealth

  • I love this! Sometimes you just need to get a professional, after all. We wasted a lot of money DIYing things around our house before realizing that you need to get a professional sometimes. For me, that means electric, A/C, and plumbing are usually best handled by pros.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend! July 30

  • I used to be horrible at caulking, but thanks to YouTube I know what I’m doing now. This is one of those maintenance things you have to do quite often because areas are cracking all the time. And I’ve been living in my home for almost 7 years and still haven’t purchased a drill. Good ole 6-piece craftsman screwdriver set does all the jobs I need it to do……so far 🙂
    SMM recently posted…How to Deal With Financial Regrets

  • Good work on all of the updates!

    I probably wouldn’t have considered to re key the locks. I tend to just go out and buy new locks…… unfrugal as that is.

    I also don’t know if I would have done the refinish. I don’t AirBnB so I would probably be able to live with the tub until I replaced it all together. Probably wise on your part to have it re done.

    My best tool for the caulking situation is an electric caulking gun. I do so much better since I got it and have no issues with it. Definitely a nice addition to my set of battery powered tools.
    Save Splurge Deny Debt – Cameron recently posted…Comment on Another Month, Another Summer Savings Challenge! by Cameron Luth

    • It’s really easy to rekey locks! Out of all the projects, that one is Hubby’s top 3 simplest money savers.
      Oh cool!! An electric caulk gun sounds like a valuable tool! O_O! I think I need to pass this info on!

  • Jared rocks! Great call on all your DIY projects. The only one I wouldn’t have tackled is the one you didn’t–the tub refinish. When you’re dealing with cleaning, stripping, and resins, it’s best to hand it off to the pros. I tried refinishing a tub back in New York and it was a disaster. Thanks for the update, guys. Looking forward to the next round of DIY projects.
    Mr. Groovy recently posted…If You Want To Be Happier, Create Something

    • Ohh great tidbit Mr. Groovy! Were you able to successfully refinish it or did you call in a pro?

      I’m here in place of Hubby as thanks (he is currently vomiting into the toilet thanks to a bout of food poisoning.)

  • I love this series! You guys offer such great advice on how to DIY on the cheap and when to seek professional need when the task is not so easy. I haven’t had these problems at our house yet, but I’m sure they will show up at one point.

    Grace is such a cute dog! I know many dogs refuse to wait and just decide to relieve themselves when they feel like it. I’m glad there’s a great solution that works for all of you now! 🙂
    Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…6 Unexpected Benefits Of Personal Finance Blogging

  • Your advice to get a pro for bathtub refinishing makes sense. There’s a point where the time investment of a diy makes it not worth it. I mean, as it stands a refinishing is already a lot cheaper than a replacement

  • My friend taught me how to rekey locks. I used to think locksmith work is really complicated. I mean, some of it still is..but changing a lock and the average can totally be DIY. I’m starting to do more myself lately. Save some money 🙂

  • I’m taking a sick day at home…what’s one of the first things I do besides blow my nose 38974239874 times? Hit up the Frugal Gene!

    I had to come and check out your DIY or Pro Series you mentioned Lily! Is part III coming Jared or did I miss it?!

    I was grimacing right along with your ant and wasp stories…I can’t remember the exact ant traps we used, but it happened to us in both houses we lived in! The first was a yard problem….like all of the sudden we started getting HUGE embarrassing ant piles and the next was within all the cracks in the flooring of our garage. We were like, “was this house built on something decomposing?!” I’m not sure if it was the bait traps that worked to take the poison back to the queen, or the excessive amounts of raid we pumped into the earth, or combo, that finally did the trick.

    Our dog turned out to be allergic to wasps! He was bit in the lip and on the paw once; he swelled up like he had rabies and was foaming at the mouth. It happened when I was walking him a mile from home, and he gets bit and collapses. Next thing I know I’m bawling and parks and recs ground crew maintenance are trying to help carry my 70lb out of the park to a vehicle. Luckily, Mr. DS was quickly able to arrive on the scene with his vehicle where we rushed him to the vet.

    They gave him benadryl. And he was fine. Lessons learned…wasps are nasty mofos and shouldn’t be messed with…and keep benedryl on hand.

    OMG – there can be a whole series on dog orbaby proofing. They same amount of effort, skills and frustrations are required. I did all I could not to grab a shot of brandy while I was reading your baby gate story as it brought back “wonderful” memories. Oh what the hell, I’m off today. Cheers!

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