125 Things Homeowners Need to Know
Make things easier and save yourself a ton of time with these household hints. Here are 125 things every homeowner should know.
Make a Homeowner's Journal
A Leaking Water Heater is a Time Bomb
Water heaters sometimes leak from the drain valve or relief valve. Those valves are easy to replace. But if a leak is coming from the tank, you've got serious trouble. The tank is lined with a thin coat of glass. Eventually, that glass begins to crack, the steel begins to rust away and a puddle appears. Left alone, the tank will rupture, causing an instant flood. It may take months for a leak to become a flood, or it may take days. But it will happen. Don't gamble. Replace that leaking time bomb now.
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Daytime is Crime Time
Most of us think of burglary as a nocturnal activity. That used to be true. But these days, most burglaries occur between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. In many cases, the crooks get in through unlocked doors or windows. Learn how to theft-proof your home with these 13 home security tips.
Make Your Furnace Last
Regular filter replacement is the very best thing you can do to keep your furnace in top condition. And here's a way to keep track of that task: Buy several filters and label them. With some systems, monthly filter changes are best. Others can go a few months between changes.
Don't Squish Ants
Place liquid ant bait stations in areas where you've seen ants, like under the sink and along walls, to make it as easy as possible for the ants to take the toxic bait back to the nest. Expect to see more ants (initially) when you set out the bait. That's a good thing. It means more ants are taking the bait back to the colony where they'll share it with the rest of the ants, including the queen. Get the comprehensive guide to how to get rid of ants.
How to Flush the Toilet When the Power's Out: Flush With a Bucket
Shut Off the Water Before Vacation
Locate Your Main Water Shutoff Valve
Find Your Property Lines
Synthetic Soap Makes Less Scum
Synthetic soaps make cleaning your shower or bath easier because they don't contain the ingredients that create tough soap scum. Any liquid or gel soap is synthetic. Most bar soaps are standard soaps. But a few, including Zest and Ivory, are synthetic. Here's the scoop on which cleaning supplies you should be using.
Don't Leave the Remote In Your Car
A thief who breaks into your car can grab the remote for easy access to your garage. This isn't just a problem when your car is parked in the driveway; the registration card in your glove box gives a crook your address. So get rid of the remote on your visor and buy a keychain model. You can easily take it with you every time you leave the car. Home centers stock only a small selection of remotes, but you'll find many more online.
Hearing Protection: What Should I Use?
Choose Colors That Work Now And Later
R-value is a measure of the resistance to heat flow, a way of indicating insulation's ability to stop heat from moving through it. The higher the number, the better. Insulation is labeled by total R-value. Two factors determine that number: the thickness of the insulation and the insulating ability of the material. The fiberglass batts shown here, for example, are all the same thickness but differ in R-value because of their different densities.
Don't Trust Breaker Panel Labels
Inside your main electrical panel, you'll see labels or lists indicating which breaker controls which circuit. These labels are a reasonably good guide, but they're not completely reliable, especially in older homes that have been through remodeling projects.
For example, you might find that there's one outlet in a room that's not on the same circuit as all the others in that room, yet it's not listed elsewhere at the panel. That orphan outlet could be connected to almost any other circuit in your home. In some cases, you might even find wires from different circuits in the same junction box. The bottom line: Always use a voltage detector to make sure the power is off before you do any electrical work.
Galvanized Pipes Get Plugged
If you have galvanized steel pipes in your home and low water flow at faucets, chances are the pipes are to blame. Galvanized pipe is prone to mineral buildup, which eventually chokes off the water flow. The example shown here isn't unusual; any veteran plumber has seen much worse cases. Complete replacement of the water supply pipes is the best cure, but you can often improve flow a lot just by replacing exposed horizontal sections.
Buy Better Dust Masks
Before You Buy a Toilet
Preview a Fence
Our Favorite Floor Protector
Canvas or plastic drop cloths are slippery on hard flooring like wood or tile. For protection that stays put, you can't beat rosin paper. Just tape sheets together and tape the perimeter to the floor. Be sure to vacuum before you lay the paper; grit trapped under the paper can lead to floor scratches. A single layer will protect against paint drips, but wipe up larger spills before they can soak through. For remodeling projects, tape down two or more layers. You can find rolls of rosin paper at home centers.
Deal with Drainage
Adjust Your Water Heater
Measuring Cup Hang-Up
Stir-Stick Paint Organizer
Test the Sump Pump or Risk a Flood
Six-Pack Shop Organizer
Pull-Tab Picture Frame Hook
Eliminate Drain Odor
Kitchen Organization: Racks for Canned Goods
Extra Towel Bar
Topsy-Turvy Door Painting
Toilet Paper Shelf
Clean Dryer Vents or Waste Energy and Risk a Fire
Stop Losing Socks
No-Slip Seat Cushions
How to Stop Under-the-Door Air Leaks
Closet Nook Shelves
Wet-Saw Marking Tip
Test and Replace the Batteries in Smoke Detectors
Junk Drawer in a Bag
Find a Flashlight
Repurpose Old Jars and Containers for Free Garage Storage
Switch Your Ceiling Fan Direction
Instant Drawer Dividers
Mobile Tool Rack
Hang Ladders Low
Spray-Bottle Pipe Pump
How to Fix a Loose Doorknob
Hang a Bike on the Wall
Let Paint Dry, Then Cut the Tape Loose for a Perfect Edge
How to Sharpen Lawnmower Blades
Simple Storage Spools
Luminous Light Switch
Loosen Stuck Pipes with Heat
A Sticky Solution
Perfect Keyhole Template
Wine Cork Caulk Saver
Make the Most of Your Vacuuming
- Vacuum high-traffic areas twice a week and the rest of the carpeting and large area rugs at least weekly.
- Make numerous slow passes over the same area in all directions (fast passes stir up more dust than is being sucked up).
- Use certified True High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters to remove invisible particles and allergens. Look for the word 'True" on the label.
- If you have allergies, upgrade to a sealed-body bagged vacuum with an airtight 'sealed filtration' system that works together with a True HEPA filter. This means all of the exhaust will exit through the HEPA filter instead of leaking dust back into your house through the machine's housing. Sealed-body vacuums have rubber seals or gaskets around the lid and filter and will last 10 to 20 years. Brands include Riccar, Miele and Sanitaire.
- Buy high-quality vacuum bags. Inexpensive 2- or 3-ply paper bags leak more dust. Higher-quality cotton-lined paper bags are better, and top-quality synthetic cotton HEPA bags are the best. Bag capacity matters too. Higher-capacity bags capture more, smaller particles that would have otherwise clogged the filter.
- Clean all your bagless vacuum filters regularly and replace them every three months.
- Turn off the agitator brush on hard flooring so you're not blowing dust into the air.
- Maintain your vacuum: Empty the canister frequently (always outside) and change bags and belts when needed. Keep the agitator brush free of hair and other material, and check the vacuum for cracks and loose hinges and get it serviced every so often to keep it running smoothly.
Glove and Mitt Storage
Touch-up Without Cleanup
Dustless Drilling and Drum Sanding
Solid Cord Connection
More Shower Shelves
Don't Choose a Problem Tree
Don't Wreck an Outdoor Faucet
Here's why you end up replacing outdoor faucet washers that have worn out long before they should: When you turn off a frost-proof faucet, water continues to trickle out of the long pipe even after the valve is closed. When people see that water, they often assume the valve didn't close, so they crank down harder, which overcompresses the washer, greatly reducing its life. Patience is the key. Wait a second or two after closing the valve. The water should eventually stop (unless you've already destroyed the washer).
MYTH: Frost-proof faucets cannot freeze.
FACT: Leaving a hose attached throughout the winter could leave water in the line to freeze and cause the faucet to burst. Also, if the faucet slopes slightly toward the house, the long pipe will also hold water that can freeze.
Plus: Winter Preparedness: Handy Household Tips for Weathering the Winter