101 Things Every Homeowner Must Know
Being a homeowner has its challenges, but being a knowledgeable DIYer can make things a lot easier. Check out this incredible list of things you need to know.
Clean Dryer Vents or Waste Energy and Risk a Fire
You’ll have to remove the vent from the back of the dryer to clean it. Suck debris from the ducts with a wet/dry vac, or ream them out with a cleaning kit that includes a brush on a long flexible rod that attaches to a power drill. The kits are available at home centers. If your ducts need replacing, get smooth metal ducts, which will stay cleaner longer than the rough corrugated surface of flexible ducts. Avoid plastic ducting altogether; it can be a fire hazard. Plus: Slash Heating Bills
Switch Your Ceiling Fan Direction
How to Sharpen Lawnmower Blades
Plus: Tune Up a Lawn Mower
Test the Sump Pump or Risk a Flood
To avoid a similar disaster, be sure your pump has a vertical float switch. Also, check your pump at least a couple times a year by dumping water into the basin to make sure everything is working properly.
Topsy-Turvy Door Painting
Plus: How to Install a Door
Stir-Stick Paint Organizer
— reader Perry Parson
Here are 8 Great Painting Tips.
I use cardboard appliance boxes as collapsible sawhorses. They’re lightweight and plenty strong for many tasks. They hold heavy workpieces like doors without wobbling and fold up flat in seconds. You can cut them to a comfortable working height with a utility knife. — reader Guy Lautard
Plus: Savvy Sawhorse Tips.
Six-Pack Shop Organizer
Pull-Tab Picture Frame Hook
Here’s an easy way to tear tape and get a starting edge at the same time. Simply fold the tape under at a 90-degree angle to the roll. Then, with a snapping motion, pull the tape against the edge of the roll. The tape tears, leaving a triangular starting tab. This won’t work with plastic tapes; those must be cut. — reader Chris Henrichs. Plus: How to Tape Drywall
Eliminate Drain Odor
Kitchen Organization: Racks for Canned Goods
Extra Towel Bar
Plus: Here are 10 tips for cleaning your whole house.
Toilet Paper Shelf
Here are more DIY bathroom storage solutions.
Stop Losing Socks
Here’s how to Organize a Laundry Room.
No-Slip Seat Cushions
My dogs and I have an arrangement. They poop; I pick it up. But rather than make daily trips to the trash can, I built this poop pipe. It’s just a large piece of 4-in. PVC drainpipe sunk into the ground a foot or so, with a trash bag lining it and a cap sitting loosely on top. A rubber band holds the bag in place, and the cap helps keep odors at bay. When the bag gets full, I just take it to the trash bin and put a new one in the drainpipe. — reader Kelley Griswold
How to Stop Under-the-Door Air Leaks
Start by adjusting the threshold. Newer versions have screws that raise and lower them. Turn all of the threshold screws until the door opens and closes without much drag and any draft is eliminated. If that doesn’t work, or your threshold doesn’t have adjustment screws, replace the door sweep.
Close the door and pop out the hinge pins with a pin punch to remove the door. Set the door on a work surface and remove the old door sweep. Caulk the ends of the door, then install the replacement sweep. Some sweeps are tapped into place and stapled along the door bottom; others are screwed to the side along the door bottom. If a drafty sliding patio door is your problem, here’s how to fix it.
Closet Nook Shelves
Wire shelves are available in a variety of widths. Measure the width and depth of the space. Then choose the correct shelving and ask the salesperson to cut the shelves to length for you. Subtract 3/8 in. from the actual width to determine the shelf length. Buy a pair of end mounting brackets and a pair of plastic clips for each shelf.
Wet-Saw Marking Tip
Use a crayon to draw the cutting line on tile before using a wet saw. Unlike a pen or pencil line, a crayon mark won’t wash off and is easier to see in the muddy water. — reader Mike Winter
Test and Replace the Batteries in Smoke Detectors
Smoke detectors have a lifespan of 10 years, so look for a ‘replace by’ sticker or date embossed on the inside of the unit to see if it needs to be replaced, even if it passes the chirp test. If you can’t find a date, replace it anyway immediately. On new detectors, make sure to write the ‘installed’ date on the inside cover on a piece of masking tape. Get all the info you need on installing smoke alarms here.
Junk Drawer in a Bag
To clean-up that junk drawer or any space in your home, here are 18 easy organization tips.
Find a Flashlight
Repurpose Old Jars and Containers for Free Garage Storage
File by Grit
Instant Drawer Dividers
Mobile Tool Rack
Plus: Get more tool storage hacks here.
Hang Ladders Low
Spray-Bottle Pipe Pump
When soldering a fitting onto a copper pipe, you have to get the water out of the pipe or the solder won’t melt. But removing the water from vertical pipes is tricky. That’s when I grab the spray nozzle from a plastic bottle. I just stick the plastic tube down into the pipe and pull the trigger a few times. It helps to have a small cup to shoot the water into. — reader Dean Debeltz
How to Fix a Loose Doorknob
Hang a Bike on the Wall
If you want to build your own shelves, learn how to build DIY box shelves here.
For more simple life organization hacks click here.
Here’s how to Install Gutters.
Let Paint Dry, Then Cut the Tape Loose for a Perfect Edge
Once paint is dry, you can’t just pull the tape off the trim. Paint forms a film between the wall and the tape, and removing the tape tears pieces of dried paint off the wall. So before pulling off the tape, cut it loose.
Wait for the paint to completely dry at least 24 hours, then use a sharp utility knife or box cutter knife to slice through the film. Start in an inconspicuous area to make sure the paint is hard enough to slice cleanly. If you cut the paint while it’s still gummy, you’ll make a mess. As you cut the paint, pull up the tape at a 45-degree angle. Get more secrets of professional painters.
Simple Storage Spools
For more holiday storage hacks click here.
Closet Bracket Bike Rack
Luminous Light Switch
My pine trees drop cones all summer long, and my old back doesn’t like me bending over a lot to pick them all up. I don’t have a dog, but a pooper scooper has turned out to be this man’s best friend! Gently squeezing the handle opens its jaws, allowing me to pick up pinecones with no back pain. — reader Don Greer
Plus: Easy Lawn Care Tips
Loosen Stuck Pipes with Heat
A Sticky Solution
To keep my square from sliding on slick material when I’m trying to mark with it, I stick vinyl picture-frame bumpers on the back. This holds the square in place while I draw a pencil line. — reader Kelly Hicks
Plus: Learn how to Hang Artwork and Wall-hangings Straight and Level.
Having trouble with dust in your home? Here are Cleaning Tips to Reduce Household Dust.
Perfect Keyhole Template
Plus: How to Hang Shelves.
Wine Cork Caulk Saver
Synthetic wine corks are great for sealing partially used tubes of caulk. Drill a 5/16-in. hole into the cork about 1 in. deep. The cork fits perfectly and makes an airtight seal. — reader Susan Claussen
Plus: Tips for Caulking
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.
Touch-up Without Cleanup
Dustless Drilling and Drum Sanding
Here are other woodworking projects.
Plus: 9 Simple Cabinet Repairs
More Shower Shelves
For more bathroom storage ideas click here.
Here are more of our best painting tips and tricks.
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.
Before You Call an Electrician
“I screwed in a new fuse but I still don’t have any power.” Are you sure you used the same amperage fuse as the one you replaced? Is the fuse good? Is it screwed in tight?
“I’ve checked the circuit breakers, but the outlet still doesn’t work.” Some outlets are protected by upstream GFCIs or GFCI circuit breakers. Look in the circuit box for a GFCI circuit breaker and in bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms for GFCI outlets. Test and reset them. This may solve your problem.
“I replaced the lightbulb but the light fixture still doesn’t work.” Are you sure the new bulb is good? Try it in another light fixture and make sure it’s screwed all the way in.
“This outlet used to work. Now it’s dead.” Check all the switches in the room. One of them might control the outlet.
Instant Mini Bins
Plus: Build your own customizable garage storage wall.
Tablecloth Drop Cloth
Store on a Door
Fix Loose Joints With Epoxy Resin
Brush a layer of epoxy onto both parts to be joined. Assemble and clamp the parts if necessary. Then wait the specified time for the epoxy to set up. Read the instructions to determine how long the epoxy should cure before you use the furniture. Even five-minute epoxy may take an hour or more to reach full strength. If you’re repairing a valuable antique, you may want to avoid epoxy repairs because the result is irreversible.
Fix a loose screw
This is an old carpenter’s trick. If you have a screw hole that’s too big, just wrap a bit of steel wool around the screw before you drive it in. It provides just enough friction to hold the screw firmly in place and takes less futzing than trying to fill a hole and re-drill.
Suck Out Drain Clogs
Add-On Clothes Rod
Mirror and Message Board
My family is always on the go, so staying in touch with one another can be tough. We thought about putting a whiteboard near the door so we could write messages, but we wanted something better looking. So we bought a full-length mirror, turned it on its side, and mounted it on the wall. Now we can write on it with dry-erase markers and give ourselves one last look before heading out for the day. — reader Matthew Kelly
Long Reach Shears
Plus: How to Trim a Tree
Secret Lock Code
Replace loose, popped nails
One way to make sure your gutter doesn’t fall off the house is to install fascia hanger brackets. Installation is simple: Just hook the bracket under the front lip of the gutter, and then screw the other side of the bracket to the fascia. Leave the old spikes in place—a spike head looks better than a hole in the gutter.
If your shingles overhang your fascia by a few inches or you have steel roofing, buy the brackets with the screws built in (the type shown here). They cost more, but the head of the screw remains a couple of inches away from the fascia, making them a lot easier to install.
Overhead Ladder Rack
Make the Most of Skinny Spaces
Robin Hood Curves
When I build woodworking projects with curves, I often turn to my trusty homemade curve tracer. It’s made from a long, 1/4-in.-thick strip of straight-grained, knot-free wood with a 1/4-in. hole drilled in one end and a narrow V-notch cut into the other end. I tie mason’s string to the drilled end and bend the strip to whatever size curve I need, tying a knot in the string that I slide into the V-notch. Then I just hold the bowed wood on top of my workpiece and trace the curve. Leave it unstrung between projects or it’ll become permanently bowed. — reader Bruce Philbrook
Plus: Woodworking Projects
Clean Hard Floors Faster
Create Secret Storage
If you’re stashing valuables in secrets spots, watch this video on home security to beef up your defenses.
Fix a Wobbly Ceiling Fan
Sizing a Ceiling Fan
Placement of a ceiling fan for adequate air circulation is 7 ft. above the floor with the blades 8 to 10 in. from the ceiling. And to move more air at low speed, a fan with five blades is best.
Regarding energy savings, research has proven that ceiling fans can save energy during the cooling season by creating a gentle breeze. You get your savings then by raising your thermostat by a minimum of 2 degrees. This decreases air conditioning energy used by 10 to 15 percent, or 5 to 8 percent per degree. By reversing your fan (so it runs clockwise) during winter, you pull heat from the ceiling and push it down to the floor for more even heat.
Vertical Cabinet Space
Learn how to increase kitchen storage by building under-cabinet drawers.
Coffee Bag Ties
Small bags of fancy coffee have heavy-duty ties to keep them airtight. The ties are handy for securing small coils of electrical cable and rope. They’re usually fastened to the bag with just a dab of glue, making them pretty easy to pull off. — reader Joe Gemmill
Tennis Ball Parking Guide
Here are 11 Easy Garage Space-Saving Ideas.
Joist Space Storage
How to Seal Outlets and Ceiling Boxes
The tiny gaps around outlets on exterior walls and ceiling boxes let cold air in (and warm air out). Sealing these areas takes just half a day and will help cut down on drafts (and your heating bill!).