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Skills All Homeowners Should Have

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Here are 10 skills that every homeowner should know to help save yourself money:


1) REPLACE A DOOR LOCK-When you buy an existing home, you might want to replace the exterior locks due to old keys floating around. On the inside of the door, remove the two bolts holding the front and back of the lock together and take off the door. On the edge of the door, remove the screws that hold the latch in place and pull the latch out. 


To add new hardware, just reverse the order of above. Over the years, door hardware needs tightening and lubricating. By understanding how to replace a door lock, you will gain extra security.

TIP: Before buying new hardware, check the "backset" (distance from edge of door to center of hole for deadbolt/doorknob). Replacement hardware needs to match; there are some locksets that are adjustable to accommodate the two standard backsets. Hardware stores or Home Centers will be able to sky all locks alike.

2) CHANGE FURNACE AND AIR CONDITIONING FILTERS-Be sure to know where all the filters are on air returns or at the air handler, and how to change them. 

TIP: Keep a note handy with the filter sizes to make for easy changes. Learn how to clean the pipe that carries condensation from the air handler during the cooling season. Pipes can become clogged with mold and algae and the water can back up and start dripping from your ceiling. Whether your air handlers is in the attic or utility room, it should have two drains: one from the unit and the other from the safety pan under the unit.

3) KNOW THE LOCATION OF THE MAIN WATER CUTOFF-Locate the cutoff for the main water line, before a pipe bursts. Could be found in a utility room, closet, water tank, or near the meter.

TIP: Familiarize yourself with other cutoffs such as dishwasher, icemaker, gas, etc. Gas valves for example are either indoors or at the meter, and are open when parallel to the line and closed when perpendicular.

4) FIND A STUD IN THE WALL-When hanging a heavy object or installing molding or cabinets, be sure to locate a stud. The centers of studs are 16 inches apart and after you find one, you can usually locate the others. Using the tap-tap-tap routine (works most of the time) will have a hollow sound between studs and a thunk on the stud.

TIP: Look for heads of nails on the top edge of the baseboard, these are usually in studs and can be used as a guide.

5) FOR SPACES BETWEEN STUDS-Use hollow-wall anchors to mount things such as towel bars, drapery rods, etc. Make sure to match the anchor to the weight of the item you are hanging on the wall. Anchor types include (from weakest to strongest): plastic expansion, threaded drywall, winged plastic, molly bolts or sleeve-type, and toggle bolts.


When installing an anchor, you can make a small hole with an awl or sharp nail, but use a drill for larger holes.

TIP: By making a smaller starter hole, you can be more accurate when installing an anchor. When you are not going to mount something in the same spot and you need to remove an anchor, it is sometimes easier to patch over anchors such as mollys rather than remove them. To patch over an anchor remove the bolt or screw, tap the anchor lightly until it's below the face of the drywall, cover with spackling, and sand.

6) HANG A CEILING FAN-Very popular upgrade and involves skills that are also needed to replace light fixtures and receptacles. Anytime when you are working with electricity, turn off the power at the breaker box. Make sure a ceiling fan is anchored properly; if it is not anchored correctly, it can fall. If you can move the electrical box with one finger, it won't be able to support a fan. In this situation, it would be best to anchor the fan directly to the ceiling joist.


Assemble the fan except the blades. Attach the fan's ceiling bracket. Hang the fan in the bracket and connect wires (black to black and white to white) according to the directions. Attach the blades. Fans work the best when they are 10 inches from the ceiling and no lower than 7 feet from the floor.

TIP: Don't assume that your breakers are labeled correctly. Your first electrical project is a good time to make sure that everything is labeled clearly and that everything is correct. When hanging fans, light switches, or dimmer switches, make sure wires are securely fastened and do not jam wires into crowded boxes. Forcing wires may cause you to pull them apart and create a dangerous short.

7) DRIVE DRYWALL SCREWS WITH A VARIABLE SPEED DRILL-Pull the nail and drive a screw into the stud or joist a few inches away from the nail hole. Screw the head just below the face of the drywall creating a "dimple" on the surface. Cover the screw head and the nail hole with spackling, let dry and sand.


Use these screw driving skills to repair loose boards on a deck. Pull any loose nail and replace with decking screws. Be sure to use screws that are coated or galvanized for treated lumber.

TIP: Always have extra No. 2 Phillips screw bits, especially when working on larger projects.

8) MASTER A CAULKING GUN-Even though a squeeze tub may be easier, a gun's trigger gives your more control. Cut the tip of the tube off at an angle and with a smaller hole than you think you might need; you can always rim the tip again to make the hole larger. Break the inner seal. Quit squeezing before you get to the end of the area you are working in, the caulk will continue to come out. To finish, lift the gun from the surface and immediately remove the tension from the push rod.

TIP: Choose the right caulk for the job. Mildew Resistant Bath and Kitchen caulk should be used for in the tub or shower; use paintable acrylic latex for gaps between walls and baseboards. When you need to smooth caulk with your finger, resist the temptation to overwork it; only do two passes, anymore will make a mess.

9) SEAL STAINS-Quick lesson, you can't paint over crayon, ball-point pen, grease splatters or water stains without the stain coming through the new paint. There are different types of sealers and primers, but one standby is pigmented shellac.

TIP: Primers can always be tinted to make it easier to cover with the fresh paint. Some primers-including pigmented shellac-seal in odors too.

10) REPLACE THE FLAPPER BALL IN A TOILET-When your toilet leaks water from the tank to the bowl or mysteriously flushes in the middle of the night, the problem is usually a bad flapper ball (the valve that opens when you press the handle to flush). Buy a replacement, read the directions, and install it.

TIP: Make sure to pay attention to proper chain length. A chain that is the wrong size can interfere with proper operation. Clean the opening at the bottom of the tank thoroughly before installing the new flapper ball, grit and minerals build up and can keep the ball from seating properly.


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