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Moving into a New House? Here are 20 Things You Need to Do ASAP

Use the opportunity of moving into a new home to set yourself up for years of DIY homeowner success. Check out this checklist of things to consider as you're moving in.

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Make a Prioritized ListFamily Handyman

Make a Prioritized List

The minute you walk in to your new home, your mind will be racing with to-dos. Keep this overwhelming task list at bay by keeping a notebook in a central location and write down every action item you or your family thinks of throughout the day. After 24 hours cut the list off, and prioritize each item with a 1, 2, or 3. First priority should be items completed that week - such as safety concerns, cleaning, unpacking essentials, etc. Priority two should be tasks completed within the next two months - related to organization, maintenance and remaining unpacking. Priority three tasks should be non-essentials, but improvements and projects you'd like to complete within the year - renovations, landscaping, and large purchases. Read this first-time homebuyer's guide to home maintenance to get started.

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You Can Refinish Your Own HardwoodFamily Handyman

You Can Refinish Your Own Hardwood

Intimidated by this seemingly daunting project? Don't be. If you have the will and a whole day (or two) to yourself, you can refinish the hardwood floors in the major areas of your home. You don't necessarily need to sand, but if the floor is damaged enough to warrant buffing, check out your local hardware store and rent the equipment for anywhere from 4-48 hours. Here's how to refinish your hardwood floors.

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Watch this video to learn what new homeowners should do first:


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Clean Refrigerator Coils or Pay Unnecessary Repair BillsFamily Handyman

Clean Refrigerator Coils or Pay Unnecessary Repair Bills

Refrigerator condenser coils are located on the back of the fridge or across the bottom. When coils are clogged with dust, pet hair and cobwebs, they can't efficiently release heat. The result is your compressor works harder and longer than it was designed to, using more energy and shortening the life of your fridge. Clean the coils with a coil-cleaning brush and vacuum. A coil-cleaning brush, which is bendable to fit in tight areas, does a thorough job. Look for one online or at appliance stores. For tips on repairing your refrigerator (without a service call), check out our guide

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Clean Out the Lint for Dryer Efficiency and Save up to $25 a Year

Clean Out the Lint for Dryer Efficiency and Save up to $25 a Year

A clogged lint screen or dryer duct drastically reduces the efficiency of your dryer, whether it's gas or electric. Clean the lint screen after each load and clean the exhaust duct once a year. The Linteater (shown) has an auger brush that attaches to a drill to clean out the ducts.

Electric dryers use about $85 of electricity annually. A dirty lint screen can cause the dryer to use up to 30 percent more electricity, according to the Consumer Energy Center. Lint buildup is also a common cause of fires.

Dry loads of laundry back-to-back so the dryer doesn't cool down between loads (a warm dryer uses less energy). And only run the dryer until the clothes are dry. Overdrying damages your clothes and runs up your electric bill. If you're in the market for a new dryer and already have a gas line in the house, go with a gas dryer. A gas dryer is more efficient.

The video below explains why you will want to upgrade your dryer vent too.

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Install a Detachable Toilet SeatFamily Handyman

Install a Detachable Toilet Seat

It seems like no matter how hard you try, you can never get the hinges on the toilet seat clean. There's always a bit of cleaning solution that seeps underneath and creeps out later. Installing a detachable toilet seat solves the problem. This Bemis brand seat is easy to remove by just twisting two hinge caps about a quarter of a turn. Then you have easy access to clean under the hinges. Detachable seats cost about $20. Installation is straightforward and only requires a wrench. Are your bolts rusted and stuck? Learn how to remove rusted toilet seat bolts here.

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Get-to-know-your-house

Get to know your house before making big changes

Live in your home for 12 to 18 months before undertaking any major renovations such as additions or knocking down walls. What you initially think you want may change after you’ve lived there for a while. – reader Fran Carpentier

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Renew Wood with Mineral SpiritsFamily Handyman

Renew Wood with Mineral Spirits

If the finish on your furniture or woodwork is dull and murky, it may need refinishing. But before you take on that project, take a tip from furniture restorers and clean it with mineral spirits. Mineral spirits—sometimes labeled "paint thinner"—is a gentle solvent that dissolves years of grime and residue from cleaners or polishes without harming wood finishes. Get it at a home center or paint store. Just soak a soft cloth and keep rubbing until the cloth no longer picks up grime. Work in a well-ventilated area and remember that the fumes are flammable. Hang the cloth outdoors to dry before throwing it in the trash.

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Replace the Furnace FilterFamily Handyman

Replace the Furnace Filter

One of the fastest ways to create problems with a forced-air heating and cooling system is to forget to replace the filter. Locate the furnace filter and buy replacements if the previous owners didn't leave you a stash. Replace the filter (and get in the habit of doing it every month). Here's how!

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Clean Air Conditioner Condensers and EvaporatorsFamily Handyman

Clean Air Conditioner Condensers and Evaporators

A little sweat equity now will help both your wallet and your comfort level later when summer's heat sets in. Most of the job can be done without the help of a professional, and by servicing and testing out your cooling system now, you will have plenty of time to make an appointment with an air conditioning contractor if there's any unforeseen issues. After cutting off the electricity to the unit, vacuum the outdoor condenser's exterior fins with a soft-bristled brush, and clear away bushes, weeds and overgrown grass within two feet of the unit. Indoors, replace the furnace filter on the evaporator unit, vacuum the blower compartment, and clean the condensation drain. For the full guide to cleaning the air conditioner, click here.

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Locate Your Home's Main Water Shutoff Valve

Locate Your Home's Main Water Shutoff Valve

Know where you main water shutoff valve is in case you need to shut off the water to your entire house. Almost all homes have one main shutoff valve directly before the water meter and another directly after. Where the meter is located depends on the climate in your area. In cold climates, the meter and main shutoff valves are located inside, usually in a basement or other warm area to prevent freezing. In milder climates, the meter and its two shutoff valves may be attached to an exterior wall or nestled in an underground box with a removable lid. Between the water main in the street and the meter, there's also usually a buried curb stop valve (accessible only by city workers wielding special long-handled wrenches) and a corporation stop, where your house water line hooks up to the water main. Your city absolutely doesn't want you messing around with these valves. Turn your water off or on using the main valve on the house side of the meter. This valve will normally be a gate-type valve, with a round knurled handle, requiring several full clockwise rotations to turn off. In newer homes, it could be a ball valve. Find out more about main water shutoff valves here.

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Locate the Electrical PanelFamily Handyman

Locate the Electrical Panel

Find the electrical panel so you know where to shut of the power to you whole house or an individual circuit. You'll usually find the main circuit breaker panel—a gray, metal box—in a utility room, garage or basement. Don't worry about opening the panel's door. All the dangerous stuff is behind another steel cover. Behind the door is the main breaker for the entire house (usually at the top of the panel) and two rows of other breakers below it, each controlling individual circuits. If you're lucky, there will be a guide that indicates which outlets and receptacles are served by each circuit. Learn more about circuit breakers here.

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Inspect Crawlspaces and the AtticFamily Handyman

Inspect Crawlspaces and the Attic

It's good to familiarize yourself with the farthest corners of your home. Check for leaks, bugs, mold and other issues that you should address sooner rather than later. If your crawlspace doesn't have a vapor barrier, learn how to install one here.

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Make One Room a SanctuaryFamily Handyman

Make One Room a Sanctuary

You won't be able to make all of the home improvements you want to make right away and it's best to live in your home for at least a couple of months before starting any major projects. Something that seems like a must-do when you first move in may quickly fall to the bottom of the wishlist after you've actually lived in your home for awhile. So, choose one room that doesn't require too much work and make that space your new-home getaway. You'll have a place, in your colors and style, where you can relax and dream about the day when every room in your home is just the way you want it. Like the wall panels shown here? Here's how to create this look in one weekend.

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Meet the NeighborsFamily Handyman

Meet the Neighbors

It's wise to reach out and extend a friendly gesture to your neighbors as soon as possible. You want to know those around you so that everyone can look out for each other. It's hard to know if a situation is suspicious if you don't know the people involved. Establishing yourself in your neighborhood can also give you access to inside information, like who's the best plumber in the area and which roofing company to avoid. Even if you're an inrovert, you'll be happiest if you're in good standing with your neighbors. Want to replace your front door to make it more welcoming? Here's how to do it yourself.

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Check Smoke and CO Detector Dates and Replace, as NeededFamily Handyman

Check Smoke and CO Detector Dates and Replace, as Needed

It's important that you know where your smoke and CO detectors are located and that you make sure they are working. Smoke alarms may be the cheapest, easiest and most effective means for protecting your family and your home from a fire, as long as they're functioning. Learn where smoke detectors should be located, how to maintain them, when to replace them and some cool new options available for homeowners here and here.

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Test your sump pump before the beginning of the rainy seasonFamily Handyman

Test your sump pump before the beginning of the rainy season

Pour water into it to make sure it works. The most common time for a sump pump to fail is the first heavy rainfall after months of not being used. The submerged or partially submerged portions of cast iron pumps can rust and seize. And they'll burn out when they switch on. Don't get caught with your pump down and the water rising. After a long dry (unused) spell, pour a bucket or two of water into the sump to make sure the pump kicks on. And do you have sump pump backup? A good sump pump installation should include a backup system for breakdowns and power outages. Learn the pros and cons of four pump backup methods here.

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If You Don't Have Keyless Entry, Hide a Key

If You Don't Have Keyless Entry, Hide a Key

If you don't have keyless locks, be sure to hide a house key so you don't get locked out. Consider a location other than under the welcome mat, like in a garden hose or under a flower pot. For hiding valuables inside your home, check out this collection of tips.

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Add Inexpensive Door and Window Alarms

Add Inexpensive Door and Window Alarms

Keeping doors and windows locked is your first line of defense. Make wireless alarms your second. Burglars hate noises, so even a small alarm usually sends them running. The alarms are available at home centers. The alarms don't provide the same security as pro-installed monitored systems since the wireless devices are activated by doors or windows opening (not glass breaking). Use the alarms for doors and windows in 'hidden' areas of the house where you don't normally gather and that are often dark. Attach the alarm to the door or window (with a screw or double-sided tape) alongside the magnetic contact strip (they don't have to be touching, but within 1/2 in.). When the door or window opens, breaking magnetic contact, the alarm shrieks (these little units have a piercing alarm). The door alarm has a delay feature, giving you time to set the alarm and leave, then open the door and deactivate the unit when you come home, without setting it off. The window unit has an on/off switch. The alarms will work on any door or window, and the batteries last two to three years.

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Make a Homeowner's JournalFamily Handyman

Make a Homeowner's Journal

Buy a ring binder and keep insurance papers, repair receipts and all other paperwork pertaining to the house in it. Storing all your house information in one handy place makes life easier for the homeowner and can be a sales 'plus' when selling the house later. – reader Debora Emmert Paying too much for your insurance? Learn how to save money on insurance here.

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Within the First Six Months:Family Handyman

Within the First Six Months:

These are additional things you don't need to do immediately, but doing them keeps you ahead of potential problems. Install a whole house surge protector to prevent your plug-in electronics from voltage surges. Replace traditional rubber washing machine hoses with no-burst hoses to prevent a costly flood. Flush the water heater to remove sediment that reduces efficiency.