21 Things Every Homeowner Must Know
Essential tips and tricks to save money, solve problems, and improve your home. Get more tips in our new book, 100 Things Every Homeowner Must Know.
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.
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.
Flush With a Bucket
Even if a power outage stops your well pump or the city water supply, you can still flush the toilet. Dump a couple gallons into the bowl or fill the toilet tank. This works just as well as the usual flush, but won’t refill the bowl. Still clogged? Here’s our guide for how to unclog a toilet.
Shut Off the Water Before Vacation
Locate Your Main Water Shutoff Valve
In colder climates, the main water shutoff is typically in the basement. There is also a “curb stop” shutoff that requires a special tool to operate.
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?
Of the carpenters we talked to, some preferred earmuffs, others liked plugs, but they all said the same thing: “I hated them at first—uncomfortable, inconvenient, a #&%* nuisance. But after a day or two, I got used to them. Now I actually like them. Can’t stand the noise without them.” Give hearing protection a try, and you’ll like it too. Here’s how to pick the best hearing protection products.
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
Don’t Fall Off the Roof
Personal fall arrest systems used to be for pros only. But prices have fallen?so now you can afford them too (search online for ‘roof harness’). Whether you have a major roofing job planned or just need to clean the gutters, it’s a smart, safe move. Here are 11 other ways to work safely by yourself.
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.