10 maintenance skills every homeowner needs
Owning a home is one of the most satisfying parts of adulting. Maintaining that home? Not so much. But what if we told you there are ten pretty easy tricks you can teach yourself that will end up saving you money year after year?
Now that we have your attention, here are the ten things every homeowner who likes saving money should know how to do on their own.
Find a wall stud
We’re not talking about signing up for a reality show that involves roses or getting an app that involves swiping. The studs in this case are the vertical wood boards behind your dry wall. When it comes to hanging moderately to very heavy things on your wall, studs are your friends.
When you’re hanging heavy mirrors, television mounts, or shelves make sure you drive the anchor or nail into the stud, not just the dry wall. This will save you so much heartache and repair costs in the future!
So how do you find a stud? The easiest way is to make the small (about $10) investment in a stud finder, which you can get at any hardware store. Through the magic of the stud finder, you will always know the best place to put that hole in the wall instead of relying on trial and error. Knowing that studs are almost always 16-24 inches apart is helpful as well.
You know the saying “out of sight, out of mind?” That really doesn’t apply to home maintenance. In fact, the less you can see something, the more damage it may cause down the road.
That’s why it’s important to give your gutters some TLC at least once a year. If your gutters get built up with debris, water can get trapped up there, seep into your house, and cause thousands of dollars in damage.
Admittedly, this job is a bit more involved, and potentially more dangerous, than finding a stud in the wall. But if you educate yourself ahead of time, you’ll be equipped to get it done without incident.
First, you need a safe, sturdy ladder. Four-legged stepladders work for single-story homes; extension ladders are recommended for two or more stories. Make sure the extension-hinge arms in your stepladder are extended and locked before climbing the ladder.
Second, make sure you have access to a hose with a pistol-grip spray nozzle so you can control the water with one hand. Clean large debris by scooping and finish the job by spraying. The best tool for cleaning the large debris is a plastic scooping tool, available at most hardware stores. While you’re on the ladder, use the hose to spray debris off the roof before it ends up in the gutter. Protect your hands with suede gloves that are impervious to bacteria and sharp debris.
Finally, make sure your downspouts are clear by spraying the hose through the top and making sure the water runs all the way down.
Save money on plumbers by learning to unclog a drain yourself. The two most common methods are chemical cleaners, available at hardware stores and many supermarkets, and drain snakes. When using a chemical cleaner, it’s important to read the label, follow all the precautions listed, and keep the product away from children and pets.
Drain snakes mechanically clear the clog by being wound down into the drain and physically moving the substance that’s causing the clog. You can prevent clogs by fishing out stray hair on a regular basis using tools like the Drain Weasel.
Change HVAC Filters
“I just love dusting,” said no one ever. Did you know that changing out the HVAC filters throughout your home can seriously reduce the amount of dust you have to deal with?
If your home is a new construction, you’ll want to change the filters every 2-3 weeks until the drywall dust clears out. Homes with pets or family members with allergies should get fresh filters every 30 to 90 days, and homes with no pets or allergies can usually get away with every 3-6 months.
In addition to cutting dust and freshening your air supply, changing out the filters consistently will cut your energy bill and keep your HVAC system running smoothly. A happy HVAC system makes for a happy homeowner.
One simple way to make filter changing easier is to schedule automatic delivery of the exact filters you need, via Amazon or a service like EZFilter. As soon as those filters show up, it’s your reminder that it’s time to replace them.
Reset the Circuit Breaker
The circuit breaker supplies power to the lights and appliances in every room of the house, so it’s an MVP that you should get familiar with. Occasionally one of the circuits will become overloaded and shut off the power to the lights or appliances in a room or area of the house. This is when you get to be the hero!
Just open the electrical panel (most likely in a closet, garage, basement, laundry room, or sometimes outside), find the breaker that’s switched to the off position, and turn it back to the on position.
In the event that your breakers are not labeled, you will thank yourself later if you go ahead and label them before the lights go off and you’re fumbling in the dark.
Cut the Water Supply
Water can be your best friend and your worst enemy. One way to keep it from doing a lot of damage to your home is to know the exact location of the shut-off valve. A simple 90-degree turn of that valve can save you thousands in potential water damage.
Many shut-off valves are located in basements or crawl spaces but they may also be in a closet. When you find it, go ahead and label it clearly so other people know what it’s for and where to find it.
Turn Off the Gas
While it’s important to call your gas company for any and all concerns, you also need to know where the gas shut-off valve is, in case you’re ever tasked with shutting it off. Unlike the water supply, this valve is usually outside at the meter, and you’ll need an adjustable pipe or wrench to operate it. Just like water, the gas supply to your house is something you will be glad you know your way around.
Fix a Running Toilet
The first thing we will say about this one is that the water in the tank is clean. Sticking your hand into any part of your toilet is not the most fun you’ll have all day, but it’s a lot better than the hassle and expense of calling a plumber for something you can definitely handle yourself. Not to mention the money you can save on your water bill by preventing excess water from running through the toilet.
While toilets can run for several reasons, all you need to do is look under the hood (so to speak) to see what’s causing the problem. The chain may be tangled or the float may need to be reset. No matter what’s causing the problem, it’s most likely a simple fix.
Extend the life span of your appliances and prevent costly repairs by taking good care of them. First of all, make sure you have the manuals on hand. If you inherited the appliance with the house and the owner didn’t leave a manual, you can search for it online. Take a look at the information on maintenance and educate yourself about necessary upkeep.
For refrigerators, use the manual to find out what kind of water filter you need and sign up for automatic delivery to keep up with your supply and to remind yourself to change it regularly. For the dryer, keep the trap and the entire area surrounding it as lint-free as possible. Keep your dishwasher fresh by cleaning out the filter or trap. You can also run the empty dishwasher using the “hot” cycle with a cup of white vinegar to cut through grease and caked-on dirt.
Adjust Water Temperature
Most water heaters are automatically set to a maximum temperature of 140 degrees, but most families never need their water to be hotter than 120 degrees, especially families with small children. Lowering the max temperature can also slow the build up of minerals and corrosion in the pipes, as well as saving between $10 and $30 on your yearly energy bill for each reduction of ten degrees.
To change the temperature, follow the instructions in the manual. Traditional gas water heaters usually have a dial on the front of the gas control valve that can be manually adjusted. Traditional electric water heaters have a breaker that must be turned off. For double element water heaters, remove both the upper and lower access panels.
For single element heaters remove the lower panel. Remove or slide over the insulation until the thermostat is visible. You can use a screwdriver to adjust the thermostat. For tankless water heaters, you should be able to adjust the temperature using the front panel command center or a remote control.
Keep reading: Your fall home maintenance checklist