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home  ⟩  5 fast facts

5 fast facts: 5 tasks new homeowners should know how to do

I’m not particularly handy, but I’m great at ignoring problems. So when it comes to my fix-it skills around the house, my expertise is limited at best (and embarrassing at worst).

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5 tasks new homeowners should know how to do? That’s it?

Well, no. There are actually a lot more. But I thought I’d start with the basics.

I’ve learned the hard way that pretending something will never happen doesn’t actually prevent said thing from happening. (Case in point: I never even opened any of the “homeowner how-to” books my dad gave me when I moved out of my parents’ house. So it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that once my husband came home from work to find me standing motionless in the basement, ankle-deep in rain water that was gushing out of our sump pump, a baffled look on my face and a hammer dangling uselessly from my hand.)

When you own a home, you’ve made an Investment with a capital “I”. That means you need to pay attention to all the things your landlord (or parents) took care of, probably without you even noticing. You should know exactly what you need to do to keep up on the maintenance of your home. And how to fix common problems that are likely to occur — before they end up costing you excess time and money, or worse yet, negatively impacting the value of your home.

So here’s a primer for you: 5 tasks that new homeowners should know how to do right off the bat.

They’re easy to learn. Even I can do them. All of these topics probably have dozens of instructional YouTube videos out there, too, if you need a little more hand-holding.

1. Change the locks (and get a spare key)

This should be one of the very first things you do as a new homeowner. It’s easy to switch out the doorknobs and locks for your front and back doors, and a basic set won’t cost you a lot of money. At the same time, get an extra copy of your new key made so you have a backup after you (inevitably) accidentally lock yourself out.

2. Unclog a toilet

This is an essential skill when you’re the parent of a 3-year-old who thinks it’s hilarious to unravel the entire toilet paper roll, stuff it all into the bowl and repeatedly flush.

First, grab a plunger. But before you actually take the plunge, make sure there’s enough water in the bowl to cover the rubber top of the plunger. If there isn’t, DON’T FLUSH. That will cause the toilet to overflow, and you’ll have a mess on your hands (and feet). Instead, put some water from the tub or sink in a bucket and use that to fill the bowl. Place the plunger over the drain and push down, inverting the rubber cap against the bottom of the toilet. When you release the plunger, it will create a vacuum and suck up air and water with it. If a single plunge doesn’t work, try again (and again).

If this doesn’t fix your problem, you might need to pick up an auger (also known as a “toilet snake”). Or just call a professional plumber.

3. Take care of the air

It’s easy to forget about cleaning or replacing appliances and equipment that move air in and out of your home. This includes:
•    Replacing furnace filters
•    Dusting vents
•    Cleaning out air registers
•    Clearing the vent on your clothes dryer

Ignoring these items means dust and other allergens will build up over time and circulate throughout your home. This is the air you and your family breathe in all day — you want it to be clean and fresh. Don’t forget to regularly vacuum above molding or trim, in ceiling corners, under beds and heavy furniture, above ceiling fan blades and behind the refrigerator.

4. Seal cracks and gaps

Caulking can seal certain areas in your home where cool air can sneak in, like window frames and electrical outlets. Wait for a warm, dry day, then clean the area to be caulked. Hold the caulking gun consistently at a 45-degree angle and apply the caulk in a smooth stream without stopping.

5. Shut off your water

Don’t wait until you have a flooded kitchen floor to learn where your water’s main shut-off valve is. Look close to the perimeter of your house at ground level nearest your water meter. The shut-off valve might be in a basement, crawlspace, closet or garage, but it should never be covered with drywall. There should be an access panel or hose faucet. You can also shut off your water from the outside water meter if it’s an emergency, but you might need special tools for this.

Source: bobvila.com