If it's broke, fix it!

Not the handy type? From windows to stereos, rugs to tubs, there's a company for every repair you need.

By Ami Albernaz
Globe Correspondent / March 4, 2010

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

  • E-mail|
  • Print|
  • Reprints|
  • |
Text size +

You’ve almost forgotten that tear in your sofa cushion, having artfully concealed it with throw pillows while hoping it miraculously mends itself. Or maybe you’re trying to figure out if the stereo you’ve had since the advent of compact discs is worth fixing. With depleted budgets and busy schedules, those of us contending with broken or damaged household fixtures often relegate repairs to an ever-receding “someday.’’ And unless you’re extraordinarily handy, the fixes are unlikely to happen without a professional. To help make your life easier, we talked with a cross-section of local repair experts to find out how much some common household fixes will set you back. The companies listed here are just a small sampling of repair outfits out there, of course, but their insights may help you decide whether to fix something or replace it.

1 Your stereo may have bitten the dust. Maybe it was one play too many of your “Purple Rain’’ CD, but your stereo has gone silent. Want to repair it? Take the ailing unit down to Audio Lab in Harvard Square, where technicians will test the system to pinpoint the problem and help you decide whether it’s worth giving new life to. The cost ranges widely and depends on the price of the parts, though the average repair is “probably somewhere in the $100-$125 range,’’ says manager Mike Volpe. The lab charges a minimum of $35, which is deducted from the final cost if a repair is done. Units can be mailed in as well; see the website for details. Audio Lab, 36 JFK St., Cambridge. 617-864-9810.

2 Your television screen is blank. Or fuzzy. Television repair can seem a bit 1960s, but there are companies out there still in the business. But is repairing a TV set worth it, given the ubiquity of new, flashy models out there? “We deal with those questions all the time with customers,’’ says Bob Phillips, general manager of Arco TV Service Company in Haverhill. “Sometimes, the repair’s in the $200 to $300 range, but if a new TV is $400-$500, and [the set in question] is old, fixing may not be worth it.’’ Owners of pricier models from brands like Sony and Panasonic may be more apt to have them repaired, Phillips says. And sometimes, repairs are not all that expensive: A fairly simple fix may cost $125 (which includes the house call and diagnostics) plus the cost of parts, which the technicians generally have on hand. (More complicated problems are pricier to fix, of course.) Arco TV Service Company, 120 Kenoza Ave., Haverhill. 617-387-2400 or 781-321-1344.

3 The family PlayStation (or Xbox, or Wii) doesn’t want to play. The Salem-based Geeks in Minutes can repair 99 percent of the PS3s and Xbox 360s that pass through it, says co-owner Ned Cifric. Sometimes, systems go awry because of wear and tear. “[The systems] just aren’t meant to be used as much as kids use them,’’ Cifric says. Technicians reflow the consoles (meaning they run the machines till they reach a certain temperature) and change capacitors, fuses, and other parts where needed. An Xbox 360 repair costs a flat $80, while fixing a PS3 costs roughly $100-$140. Fixing Wii’s - which seem to break less often, Cifric says - costs around $80. Best part: repairs can be done within 24 hours. Geeks in Minutes, 18 Bridge St., Salem. 978-910-0500.

4 Your computer picked up a nasty virus and is now almost unusable. These days, viruses rank among the top problems computer technicians see on home computers. Unless you have great confidence in your technical abilities or a high tolerance for reading through online forums on virus removal, you may want to enlist the services of a professional. A+ Mobile PC Doctors, one of a number of computer repair services out there, generally charges around $175-$275 for virus removal, depending on the severity of the problem, says lab manager and senior technician Ivan Santucci. The price includes backing up data, reformatting the drive, and putting the data back on the computer. Other common fixes include laptop LCD screens (average cost is around $150, though it depends on factors including type of laptop and screen size) and bad hard drives (price varies). The company can also troubleshoot problems remotely, at $25 per 15-minute block. A+ Mobile PC Doctors, 316 Newbury St., 2d floor, Boston. 617-723-1986.

5 A baseball collided with your window. If you don’t want to replace the entire window, a glass shop may be the way to go. At Alliance Glass Corp. in Dorchester, new glass for a 30-by-32-inch vinyl double-hung window will cost around $85-$95 (a little less for smaller windows, and a bit more for larger ones, says president and owner Stephen Libman). The shop can typically have the window fixed the same day. Alliance Glass Corp., 902 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester. 617-265-4500.

6 Your garage door is behaving erratically. As with just about any other type of repair, there are online tutorials for fixing garage door problems, should you want to tackle them yourself. If you don’t, you could call a service that will come to you. Framingham-based Door Systems Inc. charges $110 for the first 45 minutes, with an average repair price of around $120-$170 - a lot less expensive than buying a new garage door. Sometimes, it’s the door opener that’s the problem; depending on the repair needed and the age of the opener, it may make more sense to buy a new one, says Door Systems president Lars Niit. An opener may cost $300-$400, with installation. If a repair is going to cost $200, and you’ve had the opener for several years, it might be time to consider a new one. Door Systems Inc., Framingham, 800-545-3667.

7 The cat has been using your sofa as a scratching post. If your furniture comes from Ikea or Bob’s, it may be worth taking a trip back to replace damaged pieces. Reupholstering an entire sofa could run between $900 and $1,300 plus the cost of fabric, says Joanne Buoniconti, office manager of Melo and Sons Upholstering in Beverly. (All the work is done by hand.) Frames that are more than 10 to 15 years old are generally worth keeping, Buoniconti adds, because they’re of better quality than what you’d find today. For a less serious problem - say, a tear in the cushion fabric - a fix may not be all that pricey. A tear along a seam can be fixed for around $65, while cushion fabric with a tear in the middle can sometimes be replaced with fabric from the back of the sofa. (The missing fabric in back - which is likely to be up against a wall anyway - can be replaced with something simple.) This type of fix may cost around $100-$165. Melo and Sons Upholstering, 285 Rantoul St., Beverly. 978-921-6356 or 617-776-6810.

8 The dog chewed the leg of your favorite chair and your sofa springs have sprung. Refinisher and upholsterer Fix-It-Manny (named for owner Menahem Azoulay) charges around $85-$145 to fix a chair leg. To repair a saggy, sprung sofa, repairs will run you $250-$450; the job takes time, requiring fabric to be opened up and sewn back together later. Fixing a sofa is not exactly cheap but it’s less expensive than most new couches, and worth it if you’re fond of the piece. Manny also does caning. Fix-It-Manny, Newton. 617-969-7916.

9 The vanity or armoire you inherited from your grandmother looks as though it’s been through a war. Say you’ve inherited an old, well-crafted piece of furniture that would be stunning in your home if it were fixed up. Restoration, though not cheap, may be the way to go. “The quality of older pieces is often better than it is in newer pieces,’’ says Second Life owner Joe Vallone. In his Charlestown shop, the job will likely cost $420 on up, depending on the extent of repair and restoration involved. (The roughest cases may top $1,600.) If cracks in the wood need filling in, the same species of wood will be used, he says. The company also uses the same finishes originally used on the pieces, “so that you end up with something that looks the way it did 100 years ago.’’ Second Life, 50 Terminal St., Charlestown. 617-242-0015.

10 Your clock changes time zones daily. If you spent a decent amount of money on a clock or it has sentimental value, it may be worth visiting a clock repair shop. James Roberts, co-owner of The Clockfolk of New England, says that although the cost of repairs varies widely, a mantel or wall clock that can be carried into the shop may cost $60 to fix. (If you have a larger clock, you can arrange a house call.) If a clock hasn’t been maintained well or hasn’t been maintained at all the price of restoring it could run into hundreds or even thousands of dollars, Roberts says. The Clockfolk of New England, 610 Main St., Reading, 781-944-6606.

11 There’s some bad wood, or missing wood, marring your hardwood floor. You can have bad wood replaced or a missing board put in, says Tom Le, owner of Damien Hardwood Floors in Braintree. This may cost anywhere from $50-$300, depending on the extent of the job. People will often opt to refinish the floor so that the repair blends in, Le says. For jobs of at least 400 square feet, sanding and finish ing generally costs $1.50 per square foot ($2 per square foot for dustless sanding). For a smaller area, the price-per-square-foot is higher. Damien Hardwood Floors, 67 Walnut Ave., Braintree. 617-959-1877.

12 Your wall-to-wall carpet has a hole, stain, or other unsightly spot. In these cases, a piece of extra carpet or carpet from a closet can sometimes be used to create a patch. This might work better if the carpet is, say, two years old rather than 40 years old, since the older the carpet is, the more likely there is to be a noticeable contrast with the patch, says James Hesnan, who owns Wall to Wall Carpet Repair in Natick. Patching a small stain or hole might cost $100, while larger problem areas will cost more. Hesnan’s most common repair is restretching carpet that’s become loose and wavy; prices vary depending on the area and the work involved, though estimates are free. Wall to Wall Carpet Repair, Natick. 508-653-8407.

13 Your lighting has gone haywire. Lately, your recessed lighting is acting as though it could have been on the set of “Poltergeist,’’ turning on and off seemingly at will. Obviously, it needs attention, says Kevin Colman, co-owner of Colman Electric in Cambridge. The first step for a professional is to take down the fixture and check how badly the insulation has been damaged, he says. This is easier if the wiring is fairly new, as it generally includes more slack than older wiring does. Simple repairs, if the wiring is good, may run you around $100-$150. If the wiring is old, repairs could go into the thousands of dollars. Colman Electric, 351 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-876-4000.

14 Your piano has been neglected. Fortunately, many problems affecting the sound of a piano are fairly easy to fix, says Chris Pleim of Chris Pleim Piano Services. If the piano hasn’t been maintained, it may have gone down in pitch; a technician can bring it back up to pitch for around $60, and then do a standard fine-tune for $125. Other problems such as sticking keys or ringing notes may cost nothing on top of a standard tuning, or it may cost an extra $30-$35 for a half-hour’s worth of work. “For the most part, you don’t need to put a lot of money into a piano to keep it going,’’ Pleim says. Many of the adjustments that would improve a piano’s sound can be done for under $50. A fine-tuning twice a year - once after the heat has come on in the house (and the piano has adjusted to the dry air) and another after the heat goes off (and the air gets more moist) - will keep the piano in good playing shape. Chris Pleim Piano Services, 65R Sprague St., Hyde Park (rebuilding facility) and 119 Braintree St., Room 511, Allston (showroom), 617-783-1030.

15 The porcelain on your tub has seen better days. Fortunately, there are companies out there that can refinish your tub for much less than you would pay to buy a new tub and have it installed. At Custom Coat and Glaze, refinishing a porcelain tub and perhaps changing the color may cost around $300-$325, provided the tub doesn’t need any repairs. (The cost of replacing a tub can climb into the thousands, when all is said and done.) The company will also refinish all bathroom tiles along with the tub for around $1,000-$1,500. Something to keep in mind if you’re still living with a 1970s color scheme. Custom Coat and Glaze, Newton and Lowell. 617-558-0042 and 978-454-1707.

16 Your radiator paint has seen better days. Sprucing up the radiator isn’t an expensive undertaking, and you can do it yourself. Everything you need can likely be bought at your nearest Home Depot or local hardware store. If you’re looking to repaint the radiator, buy some sandpaper or a wire brush to get any rust out of the nooks and crannies and make the radiator as smooth as possible. For radiators that have been painted many times, you might also need a paint stripper. Unless you have a steam radiator, you could use the same type of paint as you would use on your walls, says Karin Gorman, who heads the paint department at one of Quincy’s two Home Depots. (If the radiator is rusty, you would also want to buy a primer, which costs around $5-$10 for a quart.) Steam radiators require gold or silver paint or high-heat paint, which costs around $5 or $6 for a spray can or $12-$15 for brush-on. (High heat paint comes in limited colors, including black, white, silver, and green; you can call around to Home Depots near you to check on their selection.) Home Depot, various locations.

17 Your washing machine isn’t spinning, or your dryer is taking too long to dry clothes. A lot of common problems with appliances (including those just mentioned) are highly fixable, says Kathy Stiffler, vice president of Woburn-based Same Day Service Company, which repairs appliances throughout Eastern Massachusetts. It’s hard to estimate how much repairs might cost, given the breadth of things that could go wrong. Same Day repairs average around $150 and up but “nine times out of 10, it’s going to be cheaper to have an appliance fixed than to buy a new one and have it installed,’’ Stiffler says. If you buy a new dryer, for instance, without having had the venting system checked, venting problems could persist once the new dryer is installed. That said, fixing certain problems, such as a bad bearing on a front loader washing machine, might make less sense than buying a new one. (Same goes for rusty, beat-up appliances, depending on how much the fix would cost.) Once appliances are fixed, they should last another five years. Same Day Service Company. 800-800-1866,

18 The inside of your refrigerator feels oddly tropical. A lot of things could lead your fridge to be a bit too warm, says Shawn Dellano, manager of Dell’s Appliance Sales & Service. Though repair costs vary depending on the fridge - some have more expensive parts than others - a rough estimate is around $100-$200 total (which, of course, is a lot less expensive than a new one). Parts are guaranteed for 90 days. Dell’s Appliance Sales & Service, 147-A Highland Ave., Somerville. 617-625-1311.

(Getty Images; Globe staff photo illustration)