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101 Things Every Homeowner Must Know

Updated: Apr. 08, 2024

Being a homeowner has its challenges, but being a knowledgeable DIYer can make things a lot easier. Check out this incredible list of things you need to know.

clean dryer vents
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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.

Trunk Bumpers
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Trunk bumpers

Keep a couple of sections of pipe insulation or pool noodles in your trunk to protect both the car’s paint and your oversized cargo. These are the things you need to know to be a genius homeowner.

ceiling fan in bedroom of house
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Switch your ceiling fan direction

Ceiling fans should turn clockwise in the colder months, which pushes warm air back down into the room. Most fans have a simple switch that reverses the direction. Watch out for these surprising things that decrease your property value.

How to Sharpen Lawnmower Blades
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How to sharpen lawn mower blades

The hardest part about sharpening a lawnmower blade is detaching the blade safely from your lawnmower. Once the blade is safely removed and held in a vise, a good file is all you need to add an edge to the blade. Just remember to make sure that you are sharpening the right side of the blade! When detached, it can sometimes be difficult to tell which way the sharpest edge is facing.

sump pump
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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.

handy hints door painting
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Topsy-turvy door painting

Here’s how to paint a door without waiting for one side to dry before flipping it over: Drive one lag screw into the center of the top edge and two near the bottom corners. Set the screws on sawhorses, paint, flip and paint the other side.

Measuring Cup Hang-Up
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Measuring cup hang-up

Screw a couple of strips inside a cabinet door, add some hooks and you’ve got a perfect roost for measuring cups. Just make sure your cups won’t bump into the shelves. Here are some organizations tips you’ll wish you knew all along.

Stir-Stick Paint Organizer
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Stir-stick paint organizer

When you buy custom-mixed paint, the paint clerk slaps the mix label on top of the can. I always ask for an extra label to wrap around a stir stick. When I’m done with the project, I let the stir stick dry and drill a hole near the top of it. Then I label both the stick and the can with the name of the room where I used the paint. I hang the stir sticks near the cans of leftover paint. With both the color formula and a dried paint sample in view, I don’t have to pull down every can to find the right one for touch-ups.

cardboard box sawhorses
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Cardboard sawhorses

I use cardboard appliance boxes as collapsible sawhorses. They’re lightweight and plenty strong for many tasks. They hold heavy workpieces like doors without wobbling and fold up flat in seconds. You can cut them to a comfortable working height with a utility knife. Try these home decor ideas to make your home look more expensive.

Tight-Space Shelves
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Tight-space shelves

Wire pantry shelves aren’t just for pantries. They’re perfect for any wall where full-depth shelves won’t fit: garages, laundry rooms, utility rooms, etc. The perfect space-saving shelves solution. Many people still believe these myths about owning a home.

Six-pack shop organizer
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Six-pack shop organizer

Six-pack cartons are useful for storing and transporting items like spray paint, lubricants, and caulk.

pull tab frame picture hook
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Pull-tab picture frame hook

If you’re hanging pictures and run out of those sawtooth hangers, just grab the nearest pop can. Bend the pull tab back and forth until it breaks off. Then screw it into your picture frame. Bend the free end out slightly and hang the picture. —Reader Carrie Tegeler

Tape-tearing tip
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Tape-tearing tip

Here’s an easy way to tear tape and get a starting edge at the same time. Simply fold the tape under at a 90-degree angle to the roll. Then, with a snapping motion, pull the tape against the edge of the roll. The tape tears, leaving a triangular starting tab. This won’t work with plastic tapes; those must be cut. —Reader Chris Henrichs. Watch out for these signs that your home is an unhealthy place to live.

Get Rid Of Drain Odors
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Eliminate drain odor

The traps in floor drains—or for that matter, any drains that aren’t used often—will eventually dry out. This may sound harmless enough, but a dry trap can cause a room to fill with potentially harmful sewer gas from the septic tank or the city sewer system. Eliminate this problem by adding about a quart of fresh water topped with a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil. The oil floats on top of the water and seals it against evaporation. Your drain will hold water in the trap much longer.

Jau 2005 009 T 01
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Kitchen organization: Racks for canned goods

Use those leftover closet racks as cabinet organizers. Trim the racks to length with a hacksaw and then mount screws to the backside of the face frame to hold the racks in place. The backside of the rack simply rests against the back of the cabinet. Now you can easily find your soup and check the rest of your inventory at a glance with this pantry storage solution. Here’s a video on how to build this canned good storage solution yourself.

extra towel bar
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Extra towel bar

Not enough space to hang towels in your bathroom? Add a second shower curtain rod and you’ll have plenty of room. Plus your towel will be within easy reach.
S hook hang up
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S-hook hang-up

Pick up a pack of S-hooks at a home center and turn wire shelving into a rack for cleaning gear. Read up on these 50 strange things people have done to their homes.

toilet paper shelf
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Toilet paper shelf

Here’s a clever idea for a small bathroom shelf. Build or buy a deep picture frame and hang it around your toilet paper holder. It will give you two convenient shelves for small items in your bathroom where every inch of storage counts.

phone shield
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Phone shield

When you’re painting or gardening, keep your phone clean and dry by sealing it inside a zip-top bag. You can still work the buttons right through the bag.

stop losing socks
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Stop losing socks

Stuff a strip of foam pipe insulation into the space between your washer and dryer or along the wall. That way, socks can’t slip into the abyss.

no slip seat cushions
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No-slip seat cushions

The rubbery mesh designed to keep rugs from sliding works on chairs, too. These are the things smart homeowners do every year.

poop pipe
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Poop pipe

My dogs and I have an arrangement. They poop; I pick it up. But rather than make daily trips to the trash can, I built this poop pipe. It’s just a large piece of 4-in. PVC drainpipe sunk into the ground a foot or so, with a trash bag lining it and a cap sitting loosely on top. A rubber band holds the bag in place, and the cap helps keep odors at bay. When the bag gets full, I just take it to the trash bin and put a new one in the drainpipe. —Reader Kelley Griswold.

monetary measurements
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Monetary measurements

A dollar bill is 6.14 in. long. But you don’t have to memorize that; just remember that a buck is about 6 in. long and you’ll always have an approximate measuring tool in your wallet.

how to stop under the door leaks
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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.

closet nook shelves
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Closet nook shelves

Don’t let the recessed space at the ends of a closet go to waste. One of our favorite ways to maximize the space you already have is to install wire shelving to hold blankets, towels, or bedding.

Wire shelves are available in a variety of widths. Measure the width and depth of the space. Then choose the correct shelving and ask the salesperson to cut the shelves to length for you. Subtract 3/8 in. from the actual width to determine the shelf length. Buy a pair of end mounting brackets and a pair of plastic clips for each shelf. These are the things in your house a professional organizer would throw out.

wet saw marking tip
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Wet-saw marking tip

Use a crayon to draw the cutting line on tile before using a wet saw. Unlike a pen or pencil line, a crayon mark won’t wash off and is easier to see in the muddy water. —Reader Mike Winter.

test and replace batteries in smoke detectors
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Test and replace the batteries in smoke detectors

Smoke detectors should be tested monthly, and the batteries should be replaced every year, so it’s a good habit to make this part of your regular spring maintenance routine. Test the batteries by simply pressing the ‘test’ button and making sure the unit chirps. Even if it works, replace the battery (or back-up battery, if yours is a hardwired model) and re-test it. If the alarm does not pass the test, replace it immediately.

Smoke detectors have a lifespan of 10 years, so look for a ‘replace by’ sticker or date embossed on the inside of the unit to see if it needs to be replaced, even if it passes the chirp test. If you can’t find a date, replace it anyway immediately. On new detectors, make sure to write the ‘installed’ date on the inside cover on a piece of masking tape.

junk drawer in a bag
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Junk drawer in a bag

Heavy-duty zip-top bags are a versatile solution for miscellaneous junk. Unlike a drawer or coffee can, they let you visibly see and instantly find just the thing you’re looking for.

self selecting key
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Self-selecting key

Drill a second key ring hole near the edge of your house key and it will stand out from the others. No more fumbling with your keys in the dark. These are the things your housecleaner knows about you.

find a flashlight
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Find a flashlight

When the power goes out, you’ll be groping in the dark for a flashlight—unless you wrap one with glow-in-the-dark tape. The tape glows for about eight hours after exposure to light.

Mason Jar On Gray Background
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Repurpose old jars and containers for free garage storage

Back in the day, it was common for grandfathers to organize their hardware in mason jars. The simple practice entailed fastening the lid to a shelf bottom and simply screwing on the jar. Other useful containers for free storage include laundry soap bottles, shoeboxes, and many more. Use your creativity and keep these items out of the landfill.
Stay-put balls
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Stay-put balls

Screw flowerpot saucers to shelves so balls can’t roll off. Cheap plastic trays come in sizes to suit all kinds of balls.

instant drawer dividers
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Instant drawer dividers

Stick strips of adhesive-backed foam weather stripping to the inside of the drawer. Then cut 1/4-in. plywood strips and wedge them into place. Homeowners should make sure to check these things in the winter.

mobile tool rack
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Mobile tool rack

If you see an old golf bag at a rummage sale, grab it. It will make a great tote for lawn and garden gear.

hang ladders low
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Hang ladders low

Most people hang ladders high on the wall. But often, lower is better. It makes ladders easier to grab and, since ladders are skinny, this will leave floor space open for parking cars, bikes, or the mower.
Spray Bottle Pipe Pump
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Spray-bottle pipe pump

When soldering a fitting onto a copper pipe, you have to get the water out of the pipe or the solder won’t melt. But removing the water from vertical pipes is tricky. That’s when I grab the spray nozzle from a plastic bottle. I just stick the plastic tube down into the pipe and pull the trigger a few times. It helps to have a small cup to shoot the water into. —Reader Dean Debeltz

how to fix a loose doorknob
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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.

hang a bike on the wall
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Hang a bike on the wall

Need to hang a bike but can’t reach the ceiling? Bike hooks meant for ceilings work on walls, too. Just drive the hook in at a 45-degree angle.

fast shelves
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Fast shelves

Those plastic crates sold at discount stores make great (and colorful!) shelves. Mount them on walls, using screws and fender washers at the upper corners. Screw to studs where you can; use screw-in drywall anchors where you can’t. Here’s how to organize the messiest spots in your house.

blister buster raking leaves
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Blister buster

I rake leaves like I’m sweeping the floor with a broom. I always used to get a blister between the index finger and thumb of my lower hand. Now I just keep my thumb and fingers on the same side of the pole. You get just as much gripping power—without the blisters! —Reader Kipp Beck

flash finder
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Flash finder

When you drop something small and can’t find it, turn out the lights and shine a flashlight across the floor. Transparent items like a contact lens will glimmer. Other objects will cast a shadow marking their location.
under stink instruction manuals hack
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Under-sink archives

Don’t file away the manuals and spare parts that came with your kitchen and bath fixtures. Instead, put them right where you’ll need them, in zip-top bags hung on hooks at the back walls of cabinets.

tarp for lawn clippings
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Tarp trailer

With a big, cheap plastic tarp you can drag leaves, branches, or mulch around your yard.

gutter inspector
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Gutter inspector

Time to clean the gutters? You don’t need a ladder to find out. Attach a hand mirror to the end of a PVC pipe. Cut the pipe at a 60-degree angle so the mirror reflects an inside view of the gutter.

Let paint dry, then cut the tape loose for a perfect edge
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Let paint dry, then cut the tape loose for a perfect edge

Once paint is dry, you can’t just pull the tape off the trim. Paint forms a film between the wall and the tape, and removing the tape tears pieces of dried paint off the wall. So before pulling off the tape, cut it loose.

Wait for the paint to completely dry at least 24 hours, then use a sharp utility knife or box cutter knife to slice through the film. Start in an inconspicuous area to make sure the paint is hard enough to slice cleanly. If you cut the paint while it’s still gummy, you’ll make a mess. As you cut the paint, pull up the tape at a 45-degree angle.

simple storage spools
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Simple storage spools

Cut up cardboard to make handy spools for holiday lights, string or cords.

unclog claw drain
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Clog claw

Every homeowner should have a flexible-shaft pick-up tool for grabbing stuff out of hard-to-reach spots. They’re also great for yanking clogs out of drains!

closet bracket bike rack
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Closet bracket bike rack

Brackets designed to support closet rods make a brilliant bike rack. Add some adhesive-backed felt or hook-and-loop strips to prevent scratching your bike.

luminous light switch
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Luminous light switch

A dab of glow-in-the-dark paint means no more groping for the light switch in the dark. You can buy glow-in-the-dark paint at hardware stores and home centers.

pinecone scooper
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Pinecone scooper

My pine trees drop cones all summer long, and my old back doesn’t like me bending over a lot to pick them all up. I don’t have a dog, but a pooper scooper has turned out to be this man’s best friend! Gently squeezing the handle opens its jaws, allowing me to pick up pinecones with no back pain. —Reader Don Greer.

Loosen stuck pipes with heat
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Loosen stuck pipes with heat

When a threaded connection won’t budge, heat sometimes does the trick, especially on ancient connections that were sealed with pipe dope that hardened over time. Be patient. Getting the metal hot enough can take a couple of minutes. Protect nearby surfaces with a flame-resistant cloth. This method is for water and waste pipes only, never for gas or fuel lines.

sticky solution
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A sticky solution

To keep my square from sliding on slick material when I’m trying to mark with it, I stick vinyl picture-frame bumpers on the back. This holds the square in place while I draw a pencil line. —Reader Kelly Hicks

dust catcher
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Dust catcher

Before drilling or cutting into a wall, tape a bag below the work zone and it will catch the falling dust.

perfect keyhole template
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Perfect keyhole template

When you’re mounting something on the wall with keyhole slots, lay paper over the slots and make a template by rubbing with a pencil. Then level your template on the wall and you’ll know precisely where to position the screws. These are the things professional organizers would never do in their own homes.

Wine cork caulk saver
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Wine cork caulk saver

Synthetic wine corks are great for sealing partially used tubes of caulk. Drill a 5/16-in. hole into the cork about 1 in. deep. The cork fits perfectly and makes an airtight seal. —Reader Susan Claussen

Make the most of your vacuuming
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Make the most of your vacuuming

The right vacuuming technique, combined with the right filters, bags, and machine, has a significant impact on how much dust remains in your carpeting. Keep the following tips for how to clean dust in mind:

  • Vacuum high-traffic areas twice a week and the rest of the carpeting and large area rugs at least weekly.
  • Make numerous slow passes over the same area in all directions (fast passes stir up more dust than is being sucked up).
  • Use certified True High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters to remove invisible particles and allergens. Look for the word ‘True” on the label.
  • If you have allergies, upgrade to a sealed-body bagged vacuum with an airtight ‘sealed filtration’ system that works together with a True HEPA filter. This means all of the exhaust will exit through the HEPA filter instead of leaking dust back into your house through the machine’s housing. Sealed-body vacuums have rubber seals or gaskets around the lid and filter and will last 10 to 20 years. Brands include Riccar, Miele and Sanitaire.
  • Buy high-quality vacuum bags. Inexpensive 2- or 3-ply paper bags leak more dust. Higher-quality cotton-lined paper bags are better, and top-quality synthetic cotton HEPA bags are the best. Bag capacity matters too. Higher-capacity bags capture more, smaller particles that would have otherwise clogged the filter.
  • Clean all your bagless vacuum filters regularly and replace them every three months.
  • Turn off the agitator brush on hard flooring so you’re not blowing dust into the air.
  • Maintain your vacuum: Empty the canister frequently (always outside) and change bags and belts when needed. Keep the agitator brush free of hair and other material, and check the vacuum for cracks and loose hinges and get it serviced every so often to keep it running smoothly.
Glove and Mitt Storage
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Glove and mitt storage

This brilliant storage idea can be used for gloves, hats, and even lost socks. It’s also great for drying out damp items before stashing them in a drawer or cabinet.
Touch-up Without Cleanup
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Touch-up without cleanup

No need to mess up a brush to fix a wall wound. Just dip an old washcloth in the paint and throw it away when you’re done. A washcloth leaves the same texture as a paint roller, so your repair will blend nicely.

dustless drilling and sanding with vacuum
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Dustless drilling and drum sanding

Whenever I have curves to sand, I chuck a sanding drum into my drill press. The only problem is that the sawdust flies everywhere. I wanted to catch the dust with my shop vacuum, so I made a bracket to hold the nozzle. I glued together two 3/4-in.-thick pieces of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and cut out the curved shape with my jigsaw. When I want to use it, I just clamp it to my drill press table. I made the hole just big enough so that the tip of the nozzle fits snugly. —Reader Doug Kaczmarek.

Pocket Storage
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Pocket storage

Hang-up shoe organizers are the fastest way to add easy-access storage just about anywhere. Plus pocket storage can organize just about anything. Find them at discount stores. These are the secrets of people who always have a clean house.

cabinet slots
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Cabinet slots

A metal file organizer is perfect for storing flat kitchen gear like cutting boards or cookie sheets. To keep it in place, set it on a pad of rubbery shelf liner.

Screw loosener
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Screw loosener

When you’ve got a stubborn Phillips head screw that you can’t get loose, try this. Place the screwdriver in the screwhead and strike it sharply with a hammer. This helps break the initial friction that locked the screw in place, and it embeds the screwdriver point completely into the screw slot for a better bite.

Solid cord connection
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Solid cord connection

A knot keeps cord ends from pulling apart as you drag them around.
more shower shelves hanging with knobs
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More shower shelves

Those shelves that hang from a shower pipe are fine, but you have only one shower pipe. To hang more shelves, mount cabinet knobs on the wall using No. 8-32 hanger screws and screw-in drywall anchors.

pre-paint lotion
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Pre-paint lotion

Coat your face and arms with lotion before painting and the splatters will wash off effortlessly.

Don't choose a problem tree
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Don’t choose a problem tree

You’ll be living with this tree for a long time, so make sure you plant one you won’t grow to detest in a few years. Trees to avoid include cottonwoods, which have invasive root systems, messy mulberries, and stinky female ginkgoes. Before you buy a tree, research its benefits and potential negatives so you won’t resent it later on. Contact your local extension service for a list of recommended trees for your area. Here are some brilliant organizing shortcuts you’ll wish you knew all along.

Don't wreck an outdoor faucet
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Don’t wreck an outdoor faucet

Here’s why you end up replacing outdoor faucet washers that have worn out long before they should: When you turn off a frost-proof faucet, water continues to trickle out of the long pipe even after the valve is closed. When people see that water, they often assume the valve didn’t close, so they crank down harder, which overcompresses the washer, greatly reducing its life. Patience is the key. Wait a second or two after closing the valve. The water should eventually stop (unless you’ve already destroyed the washer).

MYTH: Frost-proof faucets cannot freeze.

FACT: Leaving a hose attached throughout the winter could leave water in the line to freeze and cause the faucet to burst. Also, if the faucet slopes slightly toward the house, the long pipe will also hold water that can freeze.

Before you call an electrician
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Before you call an electrician

“I can diagnose about 30 percent of electrical problems over the phone. I play a game of ‘Twenty Questions’ to see if I can avoid making a trip to the house.” Here are some of the most common complaints electrician Al Hildenbrand gets, and the questions he asks:

“I screwed in a new fuse but I still don’t have any power.” Are you sure you used the same amperage fuse as the one you replaced? Is the fuse good? Is it screwed in tight?

“I’ve checked the circuit breakers, but the outlet still doesn’t work.” Some outlets are protected by upstream GFCIs or GFCI circuit breakers. Look in the circuit box for a GFCI circuit breaker and in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms for GFCI outlets. Test and reset them. This may solve your problem.

“I replaced the lightbulb but the light fixture still doesn’t work.” Are you sure the new bulb is good? Try it in another light fixture and make sure it’s screwed all the way in.

“This outlet used to work. Now it’s dead.” Check all the switches in the room. One of them might control the outlet.

instant mini bins
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Instant mini bins

Plastic junction boxes for electrical work are cheap and easy to mount anywhere. Get them at home centers.

tablecloth drop cloth
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Tablecloth drop cloth

Vinyl tablecloths—the kind usually used on picnic tables—make great drop cloths. They’re tougher than plastic sheeting, and if you put the smooth side face down, they don’t slip around on hard flooring the way canvas drop cloths do. On carpet, put the smooth side face up. These tablecloths are cheaper than drop cloths, too. You can get a 12-pack of table cloths for $12 on Amazon.

door organizer
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Store on a door

A door that opens into a closet or utility room provides a handy surface for hang-up storage. The trouble is that most doors don’t offer a flat, solid surface for fastening hooks or racks. The solution is to screw 3/4-in. plywood to the door. (On a hollow-core door, use screws and construction adhesive.) Then you can mount as many hooks or racks as you like.

keep pictures level
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Keep pictures level

A pinch of mounting putty (that sticky stuff used to hang posters) prevents picture tilt without harming walls.

Fix loose joints with epoxy resin
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Fix loose joints with epoxy resin

Epoxy is one of the few adhesives that can fill gaps without losing strength. That’s why it’s perfect for repairing loose-fitting joints in furniture. If you have only one or two repairs to make, buy a small quantity of epoxy in a double syringe at a home center or hardware store. Read the instructions on the label and make sure the epoxy is formulated for wood repairs.

Brush a layer of epoxy onto both parts to be joined. Assemble and clamp the parts if necessary. Then wait the specified time for the epoxy to set up. Read the instructions to determine how long the epoxy should cure before you use the furniture. Even five-minute epoxy may take an hour or more to reach full strength. If you’re repairing a valuable antique, you may want to avoid epoxy repairs because the result is irreversible.

screw is tightened by electric drill
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Fix a loose screw

This is an old carpenter’s trick. If you have a screw hole that’s too big, just wrap a bit of steel wool around the screw before you drive it in. It provides just enough friction to hold the screw firmly in place and takes less futzing than trying to fill a hole and re-drill.

No-mess epoxy mixer
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No-mess epoxy mixer

For quick, thorough mixing of two-part epoxy, put the components in a bag and knead them together. Punch a small hole in the bag to make a neat dispenser. These are the things you need to do when you move into your first home.

wet dry vacuum drain clogs
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Suck out drain clogs

A wet-dry vacuum slurps clogs out of plugged drains. Even plumbers use this trick sometimes. If you need to increase suction, seal around the nozzle with a wet rag.

closet with double bars
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Add-on clothes rod

Here’s an easy way to add space for hanging clothes (or at least clothes that don’t require a tall space). Hang a second clothes rod from the upper rod with a lightweight chain. Attach the chain to screw eyes directly or use S-hooks or carabiners. Carabiners make adjusting the height of the extra rod a snap.

Hide wires
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Hide wires

You can keep phone lines, speaker wire, and coaxial cable out of sight and safe from the vacuum cleaner by installing them before you put in carpeting. Just staple the wire every 3 to 4 ft. alongside the tack strip. Run it around the perimeter of the room, but not across doorways or other pathways where foot traffic will damage it. Most important, don’t use this trick to hide extension cords or electrical wiring.

mirror and message board
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Mirror and message board

My family is always on the go, so staying in touch with one another can be tough. We thought about putting a whiteboard near the door so we could write messages, but we wanted something better-looking. So we bought a full-length mirror, turned it on its side, and mounted it on the wall. Now we can write on it with dry-erase markers and give ourselves one last look before heading out for the day. — Reader Matthew Kelly

trim a tree with long shears tree pruning
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Long reach shears

Slip PVC pipes over the handles of your pruning shears and tape them in place to extend your reach and clip high branches without a ladder. Avoid these things that you’re doing to your home that a real estate wouldn’t.

secret lock code
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Secret lock code

If you have trouble remembering your combination, try this: Pick a secret number and add it to each of the combination numbers. Mark the resulting higher numbers on the lock. When you need to unlock, just subtract your secret number from the listed numbers to determine the combination.

Wooden Dock Planks Background
Deanna Kelly/Getty Images

Replace loose, popped nails

Decking swells and shrinks as it goes through repeated cycles of wet and dry seasons. This frequently causes nails to loosen and pop up above the deck boards. You can drive them down again, but chances are that’s only a short-term solution. They’ll probably pop up again after a few years. The long-term solution is to remove the popped nails and replace them with deck screws.

loose gutters
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Loose gutters

Years ago, spikes and ferrules were a common method for hanging gutters. They do the job all right, but eventually, the spikes work themselves loose. Pounding them back in is a temporary fix at best.

One way to make sure your gutter doesn’t fall off the house is to install fascia hanger brackets. Installation is simple: Just hook the bracket under the front lip of the gutter, and then screw the other side of the bracket to the fascia. Leave the old spikes in place—a spike head looks better than a hole in the gutter.

If your shingles overhang your fascia by a few inches or you have steel roofing, buy the brackets with the screws built in (the type shown here). They cost more, but the head of the screw remains a couple of inches away from the fascia, making them a lot easier to install.

overhead ladder rack
Family Handyman

Overhead ladder rack

For those folks who have some height, a rarely used ladder doesn’t have to take up valuable storage space on the wall. Build simple racks by screwing 2x4s together, then screw the racks to the ceiling joists. Be sure to position the racks where they won’t interfere with the garage door. Secure the ladder with an elastic cord so it can’t fall off.

hidden remotes
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Hidden remotes

Adhesive-backed hook-and-loop strips let you stick remote controls under an end table. They’ll always be handy when you’re ready to watch TV but won’t clutter up tabletops.

draft dodger
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Draft dodger

My house has round ceiling registers for the air-conditioning system. In the winter, we’d get cold air falling from the registers. Rather than put up with the drafts, I sealed the registers with those clear plastic saucers that you put under flowerpots. I temporarily glued them in place with White Lightning SEASONSeal Clear Removable Weather Stripping ($10). It’s a rubbery sealant that you apply with a caulk gun and peel off in the spring. —Reader James Herrrenknecht.

hair dryer being used to remove sticky painters tape
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Heat up sticky stuff

A hair dryer softens the adhesive under tape or bumper stickers and makes them easy to pull off. A dedicated heat gun also does the trick, if you have one.
Household hints vertical kitchen cabinet storage
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Make the most of skinny spaces

In a small kitchen with little storage space, you can make even narrow filler spaces work harder by installing a vertical pegboard rollout. Kitchen designer Mary Jane Pappas typically recommends 18- to 30-in.-wide rollout drawers for cabinets: ‘Any larger and they’re too clumsy. Any smaller and too much of the space is used by the rollouts themselves.’ But there is one type of rollout that makes good use of narrow spaces, even those only 3 to 6 in. wide. Pappas says that pullout pantries– single tall, narrow drawers with long, shelves, drawers, baskets, or even pegboard – can be an efficient way to put skinny spaces to work. Shown is the 434 Series 6-in. Base Filler with stainless steel panel from Rev-a-Shelf, the perfect pull-out drawers for cabinets.

robin hood curves
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Robin hood curves

When I build woodworking projects with curves, I often turn to my trusty homemade curve tracer. It’s made from a long, 1/4-in.-thick strip of straight-grained, knot-free wood with a 1/4-in. hole drilled in one end and a narrow V-notch cut into the other end. I tie mason’s string to the drilled end and bend the strip to whatever size curve I need, tying a knot in the string that I slide into the V-notch. Then I just hold the bowed wood on top of my workpiece and trace the curve. Leave it unstrung between projects or it’ll become permanently bowed. —Reader Bruce Philbrook.

cleaning wood floors
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Clean hard floors faster

If you’re still using a regular old mop for everyday cleanup of your hard-surface floors, there’s a better way. Save the mop for really dirty or muddy floors and simply spot-clean using the tool the pros use.

Book with key in cut out compartment.
David Malan/Getty Images

Create secret storage

Whether you purchase boxes made to look like books or use our instructions for creating your own, carving out a secret hiding spot in your office is perfect for valuable items or smaller office supplies—not to mention chocolate!
open fridge
Family Handyman


It’s hard to believe, but six simple maintenance steps will prevent almost 100 percent of refrigerator breakdowns and eliminate those service calls. Take these steps and you can forget about spoiled food, lost time waiting for repair people, and shelling out $70 an hour plus parts for the repair itself. In this story, we’ll show you how to keep your fridge humming and trouble-free. And we’ll also tell you what to check if a problem does occur.

Handyman installing a ceiling fan
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Fix a wobbly ceiling fan

Ceiling fans often wobble for reasons other than balance. Although a slight wobble (1/8 in. on high) is normal, anything more than that is annoying and potentially dangerous.

Install Ceiling Fan
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Sizing a ceiling fan

Ceiling fans can save energy and money for heating and cooling. A quick rule of thumb for sizing them matches the diameter of the fan with the largest dimension of a room. For 12 ft. or less, use a 36-in. fan. For 12 to 16 ft., use a 48-in. fan. For 16 to 18 ft., use a 52-in. fan. And for dimensions larger than 18 ft., install two fans.

Placement of a ceiling fan for adequate air circulation is 7 ft. above the floor with the blades 8 to 10 in. from the ceiling. And to move more air at low speed, a fan with five blades is best.

Regarding energy savings, research has proven that ceiling fans can save energy during the cooling season by creating a gentle breeze. You get your savings then by raising your thermostat by a minimum of 2 degrees. This decreases air conditioning energy used by 10 to 15 percent, or 5 to 8 percent per degree. By reversing your fan (so it runs clockwise) during winter, you pull heat from the ceiling and push it down to the floor for more even heat.

vertical cabinet space
Family Handyman

Vertical cabinet space

Cookie sheets and pizza pans are easier to store and easier to access if you store them standing on edge. To create vertical space, install a vertical panel and shorten the existing cabinet shelf.

Coffee bag twist ties
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Coffee bag ties

Small bags of fancy coffee have heavy-duty ties to keep them airtight. The ties are handy for securing small coils of electrical cable and rope. They’re usually fastened to the bag with just a dab of glue, making them pretty easy to pull off. —Reader Joe Gemmill.

garage parking tennis ball
Family Handyman

Tennis ball parking guide

If you have ever wondered why a tennis ball was hanging from your friend’s garage ceiling, here’s why. To park your car in perfect position every time, hang a tennis ball from the garage ceiling so it just touches the windshield. It will show you precisely where to stop. No guesswork!

Joist space storage
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Joist space storage

Don’t waste all that space between joists in a basement or garage. Screw wire shelving to the underside of the joists. An 8-ft. x 16-in. length of wire shelving and a pack of plastic clips (sold separately) costs about 20 bucks. Don’t forget that wire shelving also shines on walls.
Seal outlet boxes
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How to seal outlets and ceiling boxes

The tiny gaps around outlets on exterior walls and ceiling boxes let cold air in (and warm air out). Sealing these areas takes just half a day and will help cut down on drafts (and your heating bill!).

preserve lawn supplies
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Preserve lawn supplies

Lawn products like seed and fertilizer soak up moisture in damp garages. To keep them fresh, store them in giant zip-top bags (available at discount stores). Now, read up on the things you should know about your home by age 50.
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Originally Published on The Family Handyman