5 Skills Every Homeowner Needs to Master

Home maintenance

Owning a home comes with a lot of responsibilities. The learning curve can be fairly steep, expensive and sometimes even dangerous, but you don’t need a contractor’s license to handle everyday maintenance, small emergencies, and chores. Whether you’re buying your first home or your fifth, these tips can help you work like a pro.

#1: Open a Clogged Drain

A drain isn’t just a drain. Different clogged drains need a different approach. If you’ve got a clog at your double-basin kitchen sink, a plunger won’t work by itself. What it will do is send water up and out the adjoining drain, probably soaking your shirt in the process. Plug one drain with a rubber stopper before using the plunger, preferably with the help of a second pair of hands.

Clogged toilets need a special plunger that’s bulb-shaped with a flange or short sleeve on the end. The flange fits around the toilet drain at the bottom of the bowl. Push down carefully to seat the flange over the drain opening, prevent splashing and to create a vacuum seal. Then pull back on the plunger to dislodge the clog.

#2: Turn off Water Valves or the Main Supply

If there’s a leak in the house, knowing how to shut off the water can keep a trickle from turning into a flood. In many modern homes, every fixture, such as the tub, shower, sinks, and toilets have their own shutoff. To stop the water flow, turn the knob clockwise, not counterclockwise.

If you have no idea where the leak is located or you can’t find a shutoff inside, you’ll need to shut off the supply at the main. According to Family Handyman, most homes have a valve on the main water supply line just before the meter and another just after the meter. Turn the valve handle closest to the house clockwise several times to shut off all water.

Home maintenance

If the breakers in your panel aren’t labeled, consider that a top-priority project.

#3: Shut off the Main Circuit Breaker

To change an outlet or install a new light, you’ll flip the breaker that feeds the circuit. But what if you need to cut power to the whole house? Don’t call the power utility company, just flip the main breaker.

On most breaker panels, the main is located at the top of the panel. Flip the breaker to the off position as you would any other breaker. Use caution, as flipping the main only shuts off power from the panel to the rest of the house. Power is still fed to the panel from the pole outside, which means the panel is still technically hot. To cut all power from the pole to the house, such as for major work like replacing the whole breaker panel, you’ll need to call the utility company.

#4: Hang a Heavy Mirror or Picture Like a Pro

How many times have you hung a picture or mirror and found it on the floor a day later? Most walls in modern homes are hollow. For moderately heavy items, a heavy nail or screw driven through the wallboard and directly into a stud is the way to go. Unfortunately, studs are rarely where you need them to be.

For very heavy things, such as oversize mirrors, a French cleat gives you the support (and the location) that you want. In short, French cleats anchor one long strip of wood to the wall and another strip to the back side of the mirror or picture. The picture cleat rests on the wall cleat, which gives you maximum support. Popular Mechanics breaks down the project here.

#5:  Use Caulk and Silicone a Cleaner Way

Gaps around the bathtub and shower let water seep inside. Gaps around window and door jambs make your heating and air conditioning bills higher than they should be. Fortunately, caulk and silicone make short work of sealing gaps. Installing these sealants the right way helps them perform better, last longer and clean up easier.

First, remove old caulk or silicone to help the new sealant stick. Apply two strips of painter’s tape along both sides of the gap. When you squeeze out the caulk and smooth it, excess will smear onto the tape instead of the surrounding surface. Peel off the tape and you’ve got a clean, tidy line. This works for silicone, too, but silicone poses another problem: it sticks to everything, including your hands. Mist it with denatured alcohol before smoothing and it won’t stick to your fingers.

One of the best books money can buy for new and seasoned homeowners is the Reader’s Digest New Complete Do-it-Yourself Manual. Generations of homeowners have relied on advice and step-by-step instructions in this regularly-updated book. If you don’t own a copy, make it a gift to yourself before you move in.

If you’re looking for a home inspector to investigate the home of your dreams, Hire an Inspector can help. With our network of professionals, we’ll find a qualified home inspector near you.