36 Skills You Need to Survive Homeownership

mike-bell-authorBy Mike Bell  |  Read Bio

27. Paint a Double-Hung Window

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Toss the blue tape. Your number-one tool is a 1½- to 2-inch sash brush. Its angled bristles come to a point, giving you a fine line. Raise the bottom sash and lower the top sash so they’ve almost switched places.

1) Paint the exposed parts of the top sash (now on the bottom), including the muntins.
2) Carry a thin line of paint onto the glass to seal the glazing. Next, nearly close the window and
3) paint the rest of the top sash, as well as
4) the entire bottom sash, without getting paint between the sash and the stops (the pieces of wood in front that hold them in place).
5) Then paint the casing, sill, and apron. Before the paint dries, move the sash up and down. “If you can’t see a clear crack between the sash and the stop because of wet paint,” says Tom Silva, “then you just glued the window shut.”

See a more detailed step-by-step at How to Paint Doors, Windows, and Walls.

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Marence1 via flickr

28. Secure a Loose Screw

You’ll need to fill in the hole before you can get the screw back in tight. The best filler is more wood, held in place with yellow carpenter’s glue. Matchsticks, toothpicks, golf tees, packed in tightly, will do the trick. But better yet is a piece of⅜-inch dowel. First, use a ⅜-inch drill bit to enlarge the hole. Cut off a small length of dowel with a utility knife or small saw. Dab it with glue and tap it into the hole. When the glue is dry, use a chisel or the saw to slice off the excess. Then drill a new hole and reattach the hardware. And put those golf tees to their intended use.

See more at Sure Cure for Loose Hinges.

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Pafotofan via flickr

29. Repair a Doorbell

A doorbell has three parts—the switch, the bell, and a transformer between them. If you don’t hear anything when you press the button, check the switch’s wire connections (no worries the voltage is too low to hurt you). Try touching the two wires together; if the bell rings, then you need to replace the switch. If the chime doesn’t ring or makes a funny noise, check the bell. Clean it, inspect the wiring, and make sure the hammer isn’t bent away from the bell or jammed by dirt. If you still don’t hear that welcoming ring-a-ling, then it’s likely the transformer is the problem. To fix that, you’ll need an electrician. Get the step-by-step at How to Fix a Doorbell.

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Jennifer Blakeslee via flickr

30. Open a Door With No Knob

The key is engaging the spindle—the four-sided bar connected to the knob that retracts the bolt or latch. If the knob is off but the spindle is still sticking out, use pliers to grip and turn it. But if the spindle has fallen irretrievably on the far side of the door, find a suitable substitute—say, a large flathead screwdriver or even a fat pen. Fit it tightly into the spindle hole and turn.

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Josh Galloway via flickr

31. Work Safely on an Extension Ladder

Unless your last name is Wallenda, don’t try any acrobatics high up—184,000 people were injured last year working on ladders. Make sure the ladder’s rung locks (those hooks that grab onto the rungs) are anchored in place and the pulley rope is tied to a rung. Use levelers on the feet if you’re on uneven ground and a stabilizer at the top if you can’t lean on anything sturdy. To set it at the right angle, stand with your toes at the ladder’s feet and extend your arms straight out in front of you; your fingertips should brush the ladder’s rails.

Face the ladder as you ascend or descend, and never climb higher than the fourth rung from the top. Once there, keep your hips centered between the side rails as you work. This is one situation in which you don’t want to overreach.

Learn all the important points at Ladder Safety Tips.

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Collin Anderson via flickr

32. Stop an Overflowing Toilet

A toilet works by gravity: The water in the tank—just enough to fill the bowl—drops down and pushes waste through the drain. The float drops, opening a valve that lets in water to refill the bowl and the tank simultaneously. The valve closes when the float rises far enough to shut off the water. If the water from the tank can’t leave the bowl fast enough, then the refill will spill over. To stop the refill action, take off the top of the tank, grab the float, and pull it up to close the valve. That should give you time to reach down and shut off the water, or at least wait for some of the water in the bowl to drain.

Get to know your toilet better with How to Fix a Leaky or Runny Toilet.

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Gary Bembridge via flickr

33. 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.

Then make sure you get the right insurance by reading Homeowner’s Insurance 101.

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Kārlis Dambrāns via flickr

34. Shovel Snow Without Having a Heart Attack

Heart attack fatalities spike after a heavy snowstorm. Avoid early morning snow clearing; your blood clots more easily after you’ve been sleeping. And don’t drink coffee or smoke before shoveling, because caffeine and nicotine speed your heart rate and constrict blood vessels. When you do go out to tackle the white stuff, try pushing it like a plow instead of lifting. Wet snow is a lot heavier—about 20 pounds per cubic foot and won’t push well. If that’s the case, then make sure to keep your back straight and your knees bent as you drive the shovel into the snow (1). Lift with your legs (2), then walk to the place you want to dump it (3). Spraying silicone on your shovel before you use it makes the snow slide off more easily. If you get winded, take a breather, have some cocoa, and come out later to finish the job.

35. Get Free Advice from the Guy at the Hardware Store

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.

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Roger Wollstadt via flickr

36. Safely Lash Lumber to Your Car

If you must haul your stack of 2x4s home rather than wait a day for delivery (which can also put you out $50 or so), lay the boards from front to back on the car roof to minimize wind resistance. Cushion the load with cardboard so you don’t scratch your car’s paint, and stack the wood neatly. Secure it at two or more points with racheting straps, wrapping the straps through your open front and rear car doors before closing the doors over them. Bypass bungee cords, which won’t allow you to close the doors. Have an employee at the lumberyard check your work, and fasten a flag to it before you drive off—carefully.

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via imageshack