Five Skills You Need To Survive Home Ownership. Hurray! You own The House! Look at you! Now, stuff starts falling off The House and you go to work to buy The House a new roof. Or an air conditioner. Or <shudder> a sewer line.
There’s always going to be upkeep, but there’s some simple solutions that’ll create a small oasis of sanity when something goes wrong. Here are solutions to five of your biggest home ownership challenges:
1–Pick Up a Big Paint Spill on Carpet
Cut two pieces of cardboard from a box. Use the edges of the cardboard to corral the pool of paint. Then use the pieces to form a scoop, and lift the liquid back into the bucket. When most of the liquid has been cleared, get two more buckets—one with fresh water and one empty. Saturate the remaining spill with the clean water, then scrape and scoop it up with a fat spoon and put it in the empty bucket. Work fast and continuously, replenishing the clean water as necessary. Rent a carpet cleaner to follow up; just be sure to keep the paint spot wet until it gets there.
2–Catalog Your House for Insurance
What should make the master list? Whatever’s not nailed down, from furniture and rugs to furs, dishes, and jewelry. If you kept the receipt when you bought these items, great; jot down the value. If not, note where and when you got it.
Then photograph, or better yet, video every room, from every angle. Burn the information onto a couple of disks and send one copy for safekeeping to Aunt Becky on the other side of the country. A tip: Go to knowyourstuff.org for free software that lets you create a virtual replica of your home online and then tally the value of what’s in it.
3–Get Free Advice from the Guy at the Hardware Store
The Todd learned this one early–he’s so in love with the guys at England Plumbing that I’m secretly relieved there’s no girls there for him to marry. Like a wise neighborhood pharmacist who dispenses free advice, your local hardware store clerk is a pro on demand—and in demand. So don’t wait until you’re renovating to get on his radar. Make his place of business a regular pit stop for essentials on the way home from work or in the afternoon; avoid Saturday mornings. Make friends in his down time, and you’re guaranteed special attention when you need it. “A lot of people start a project and get in over their heads,” says John Olson, owner of Home Hardware, a 53-year-old business in Waldwick, New Jersey. “We’re happy to help out. And if they’re a regular, we’ll open up a tab and guide them from demolition to finishing.”
4–Fix a Leaky Faucet
This particular type of water torture is likely due to a failed washer inside a handle. The faucet is just the messenger.
To replace the washer, turn off the water supply valve under the sink. Stuff a rag in the drain so you don’t lose parts, then take the handle apart. Pop the screw cover on top, remove the screw, and pull off the handle. Use a wrench to disassemble the stem, and line the parts up on the counter in the order they came off, so you know how it goes back together. Examine rubber parts or plastic cartridges for cracks, and take the offending piece to the hardware store for an exact replacement. Reassemble the parts you’ve laid out, in reverse. Then revel in the ensuing peace and quiet.
For more detailed diagrams, check out Fixing a Leaky Faucet
5–Locate a Stud
(Heeheeeheeeheheee…locate one and you don’t have to do all this stuff! Sorry, I couldn’t stop giggling as I wrote this.) Say you want to hang a shelf. Knuckling the wallboard can pinpoint a stud. But to better the odds when your electronic stud finder’s gone missing, use deductive reasoning. Most studs are placed at 16-inch intervals, so once you know where one is, you can usually find the rest.
Start at a corner, where there’s always a stud. Or take the cover plate off an electrical outlet and find out on which side it’s mounted to the stud. From there, measure 16, 32, 48 inches, and you should hit a stud at each go. Eliminate all guesswork by using a thin bit to drill a test hole at the top of the base molding, which you can easily repair with a dab of caulk.
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