Make a Prioritized List
You Can Refinish Your Own Hardwood
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
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.
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.
Get to know your house before making big changes
– Fran Carpentier
Renew Wood with Mineral Spirits
Replace the furnace filter.
Clean Air Conditioner Condensers and Evaporators
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.
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.
Inspect crawlspaces and the attic.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Add Inexpensive Door and Window Alarms
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.
Make a Homeowner's Journal
– Debora Emmert
Paying too much for your insurance? Learn how to save money on insurance here.
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.