50 Things You Should Know About Your Home by Age 50
If 50 is on the horizon for you, read up!
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How to flush the toilet when the power’s out: flush with a bucket
Even if a power outage stops your well pump or the city water supply, you can still flush the toilet. Dump a couple of gallons into the bowl or fill the toilet tank. This works just as well as the usual flush, but won’t refill the bowl. Find out more ways every smart homeowner prepares for a power outage.
Locate your main water shutoff valve
In warm climates, the main water shutoff is typically outside, attached to a wall or underground. In colder climates, the main water shutoff is typically in the basement. There is also a “curb stop” shutoff that requires a special tool to operate.
Find your property lines
Iron stakes mark property lines in most communities. They’re typically located at corners and places where property lines meet. To get started, request a plot plan from city hall. You may be able to find the stakes by dragging a rake over the suspected location. But more likely, the stakes will be several inches underground. In that case, your best bet is to buy or rent a metal detector (inexpensive ones cost less than $40). When you’ve found your target, dig to make sure that it’s really a stake and not just a lost quarter.
Deal with drainage
Water has the potential to cause problems in any home, and the skills to deal with drainage issues can be a huge money saver in the long run. Extending downspouts is an easy fix, but knowing how to make a drainage plan is going to provide long-term results for minimal effort.
Adjust your water heater
If you’ve ever taken a vacation without adjusting your water heater, you’ve already lost money on this easy-to-master homeowner skill. While finding the large dial, usually at the base of your water heater, shouldn’t be hard, finding the correct temperature may be. Find out how to find and set the right temperature for your heater here. When going away on holidays, turn your water temperature down to avoid the need to maintain the temperature of the whole tank while you’re away. Just don’t forget to turn it back up when you get home!
Electrical overloads are easily created but can be incredibly dangerous for your home and everyone in it. A solid understanding of how the electrical circuits in your home function will not only make you a master homeowner, it will allow you to make as many DIY improvements as you want while maintaining the integrity of your electrical system. Here’s how. Plus, watch out for these silent signs your house has a serious electrical problem.
Test the sump pump or risk a flood
It’s easy to forget about your sump pump, but it’s important to make sure it’s in good working order. If you don’t, you could end up like the homeowner who returned from a weekend trip to discover his entire basement floor covered in 1/2 in. of water. After shutting down the power, he waded over to the sump pump and noticed it wasn’t working. Upon closer inspection, he realized that the cable attached to the float must have gotten tangled somehow. It took him two seconds to untangle the cable, and then he spent the next 15 hours dragging out waterlogged carpet, running the wet/dry vac, and moving fans around.
To avoid a similar disaster, be sure your pump has a vertical float switch. Also, check your pump at least a couple of times a year by dumping water into the basin to make sure everything is working properly.
Clean dryer vents or waste energy and risk a fire
A plugged dryer vent will cause your dryer to run inefficiently, and that’s bad. A plugged dryer vent could also cause a house fire, and that could be deadly! Dryers that are centrally located in houses are most prone to plugging because of the longer ducts. Excess lint is only one reason ducts get clogged; nesting pests and stuck exhaust hood flappers can also cause backups. Stronger odors and longer dry times are two signs your vent is plugged.
You’ll have to remove the vent from the back of the dryer to clean it. Suck debris from the ducts with a wet/dry vac, or ream them out with a cleaning kit that includes a brush on a long flexible rod that attaches to a power drill. The kits are available at home centers. If your ducts need replacing, get smooth metal ducts, which will stay cleaner longer than the rough corrugated surface of flexible ducts. Avoid plastic ducting altogether; it can be a fire hazard. Keep your dryer in working order by learning about the things that should never end up in your dryer.
How to stop under-the-door air leaks
If you can feel the breeze and see daylight under your entry door, it’s costing you big-time. It also means you need to adjust your door threshold or install a new door sweep. Door sweeps start at $10. The hardest part about replacing them is usually taking off the door.
Start by adjusting the threshold. Newer versions have screws that raise and lower them. Turn all of the threshold screws until the door opens and closes without much drag and any draft is eliminated. If that doesn’t work, or your threshold doesn’t have adjustment screws, replace the door sweep.
Close the door and pop out the hinge pins with a pin punch to remove the door. Set the door on a work surface and remove the old door sweep. Caulk the ends of the door, then install the replacement sweep. Some sweeps are tapped into place and stapled along the door bottom; others are screwed to the side along the door bottom.
How to fix a loose doorknob
Tighten a loose doorknob that has hidden screws. Just pop off the cover plate and then all you need is a screwdriver. And this is how you do it.