New homeownership is exciting but also full of responsibility. As a first-time homeowner, you'll need to educate yourself on several DIY home maintenance tasks to avoid making various calls to maintenance professionals...and paying their service charges. Here are some of the most common home maintenance tasks every new homeowner should know how to do.
Install a New Thermostat
If your new-to-you home is older and still has a dial thermostat, it's a good idea to install a programmable model to boost your home's energy efficiency. Start by turning off the breaker to your furnace and A/C and remove the old thermostat, leaving the wires in place. You'll be able to tell what kind of digital thermostat you can purchase by the number of wires (two or four) coming from the wall.
Locate Wall Studs
Drywall isn't a very sturdy material, especially if you want to hang a heavy mirror or piece of artwork. You can find a stud the old-fashioned way by tapping on the wall; when you hear a solid thud, you've found a stud. Or, grab a magnetic stud finder from your local hardware store.
Before starting your drill, be careful not to hang items on the same stud as electrical outlets to avoid doing extensive electrical damage.
Properly Clean Hardwood Floors
- For basic care - Vacuum floors with a floor-brush attachment, followed by dusting with a mop treated with a dusting agent or disposable electrostatic cloths.
- For deep cleaning - Use a wood-cleaning product, like Murphy's Oil Soap, diluted according to the label's instructions.
Unclog a Drain
Skip the chemical drain cleaners; they're not likely to solve the entire problem. First, check the P-trap (the U-shaped pipe beneath the sink) by placing a bucket underneath and then unscrewing the pipe and clearing the blockage. If there isn't evidence of a blockage, there is most likely a lot of residue. Invest in a hand snake to clean out the inside of the pipe.
Repair Drywall Holes & Dents
Damage to your walls is inevitable. For dents in drywall, simply scrape away any uneven edges of the dent, patch with spackle and a putty knife, allow it to dry and then sand away excess. For small holes, like those from a door handle, you can purchase a patch kit from any hardware or home improvement store.
For bigger drywall holes, you'll need to use the California patch method, one of the most common ways for repairing medium-sized holes in drywall. Here's a step-by-step for reference.
Install a Ceiling Fan
Any savvy homeowner knows that installing a ceiling fan is a great way to cut energy costs all year round. Make sure you choose the correct fan for your room size; too small of a fan won't make a difference and too large will feel like hurricane winds in your living room. After removing the old light fixture, follow the manufacturer's instructions to properly connect wires. Here's a great how-to for general installation.
Note: If you want to install a fan where there was no existing fixture, you'll need help from a certified electrician.
Stop a Continuously Running Toilet
Commonly the issue with a toilet that won't stop running is a worn flapper that can't seal properly and allows water to constantly fill the bowl. Identify the cause by pressing lightly on the flapper with a yard stick; if the running water stops, you know that's the cause. Before replacing the flapper, check for mineral deposits on the rim where the flapper rests. Scrub any deposits with an abrasive sponge and replace the flapper.
Shut Off the Main Water Supply
A burst pipe can cause substantial damage in a matter of minutes. Identify where your shut-offs are located for each room with water, as well as the home's main valve. It's a good idea to make sure that the valve turns properly as shut-off valves go unused for years at a time and develop mineral deposits, making them impossible to close when you really need them to.
Paint like a Pro
Prep work is a key indication of whether your painting was DIY or professional. To get a blank slate before painting your interior, dust and clean your walls with a towel or vacuum cleaner. If painting in a kitchen or bathroom, wash walls with a solution of 3 teaspoons of laundry detergent in one gallon of water.
Use painter's tape, not masking tape, to tightly seal around baseboards and windows. When it comes to application, don't cut costs by skimping on high-quality brushes and rollers. You can use the most expensive paint in the world and it won't perform to its optimum if applied with a cheap brush. See here for more painting mishaps to avoid.