Simple Household Tips for First Time Home Owners
It’s that pomp and circumstance, tassel turning time of year that brings about both opportunity and challenge. For many, graduation signifies the beginning of still more education. For others it’s the chance to join the ranks of the workers of the world to pursue a career. In either case, it usually means living on one’s own for the first time and having to contend with a few “household challenges” that were taken care of by mom or dad, a dorm maintenance crew, a landlord or building super.
Although you needn’t be handy nor have lots of tools when living out on your own, having a few basic tools and a fundamental understanding of common home systems can prepare you to fix a lot of things yourself, instead of having to call a repairman for every little thing that goes wrong.
For starters, buy a 16-ounce claw hammer and a set of Phillips and slot screwdrivers. Add different types of pliers, an adjustable wrench, a putty knife, a utility knife, a cordless driver drill, bits, a flashlight and a tape measure. Then add more tools as you go –– before you need them. Avoid cheap tools, they’re hard to use, break easily and need frequent replacing. Get a tool box to store and carry your tools.
Plumbing and electrical are the two home systems that get the most use and, thus, are the most likely to require attention. Safety and energy efficiency should top and home to-do list.
No hot water? Check the power source. Most residential water heaters are fueled by gas or electricity. With gas, check to see that the pilot light is lit – it’s located at the base of the tank. To relight it, follow the instructions posted on the water heater. If it won’t relight, the thermocouple or controller may need replacement. Check to make sure that the gas wasn’t accidentally turned off before calling for help. With an electric water heater, check the fuse box or breaker panel. Replace a blown fuse or flip the breaker back into the “on” position. If that doesn’t do the trick, one or more heating elements or a thermostat may need replacement.
A running toilet is usually caused by a faulty “flapper.” The flapper is a rubber valve that seals up against the drain hole at the base of the tank. The flapper is attached to the flush lever and opens when the lever is pressed. Over time the flapper can become brittle, allowing water to leak from the tank. A replacement flapper costs about five bucks and can be replaced in just a few minutes.
Lint buildup in a cloths dryer not only wastes energy by making a dryer work harder, it can be the cause of a house fire. It isn’t enough to clean the lint filter after every load. Lint can buildup in both the dryer housing and duct. Periodically vacuum the dryer housing using a short piece of vinyl tubing taped to a vacuum hose. Clean the duct using a duct cleaning brush and a vacuum.
Smoke detectors save lives. Test smoke detectors monthly and replace batteries at least twice annually. Push the “test” button will only verify that the alarm is operating. Use “smoke in a can” or waft smoke from a snuffed kitchen match to test that the detector is working properly. Keep in mind that a dusty housing can prevent a smoke detector from doing its job. Periodically vacuum the housing using an upholstery attachment.
A leaking faucet can be the cause of many a night sleep and is a shameful waste of a precious resource. The culprit is usually a rubber washer that is worn or damaged. To replace the washer, remove the decorative cap from the handle. Remove the retaining screw and pull off the handle. Remove the decorative cover, called an escutcheon, if there is one. Unscrew the packing nut counterclockwise. Unscrew the valve stem and remove it. Remove the screw that holds the rubber washer in place. Because these washers come in many shapes and sizes, you’ll want to take the old one to the hardware store and buy an exact replacement. Be sure to buy two washers so you’ll have one for the other valve. Replace the washer and reassemble the faucet.
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