16 Essential Home Skills to Know

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Whether you’re a homeowner or a perpetual renter, there are certain skills that are really helpful to know. Some of these you could call your super for—but really, why wait around for an entire day (or week, or longer!) when you could simply do the task yourself? In addition to saving time, it’s really rewarding to know how to tackle these life skills on your own. Read on to see how many you’ve already mastered. 

It’s easy for a kitchen sink and garbage disposal to get gunky thanks to backed up food items and even non-food items that can clog the drain and pipes. Freshening up a sink isn’t hard, but it is life-changing: Learn how to clean sink and garbage disposal to keep your kitchen constantly smelling fresh.

2. And how to un-clog any drain

3. How to stop doors from squeaking and slamming

You don’t need to let noisy doors drive a wedge between you and your roommate or significant other. Silencing squeaky hinges and tightening up hinge pins to quiet slamming doors takes just minutes.

4. How to clean your dishwasher

Food that didn’t get rinsed off plates, calcium deposits from hard water, a random straw stuck in the drain—all of it can clog your dishwasher and keep it from actually cleaning your dishes. Know how to disassemble the sprayer arms and pull out stuck gunk during a monthly dishwasher cleaning, and you’ll save yourself the headache of finding that load after load of dishes is coming out un-washed.

5. How to swap out a light fixture

Swapping an outdated light fixture for something more modern or more your style is not nearly as difficult as it might seem. Just renting? No problem! Save the old light you’re replacing and reinstall it upon moving out.

Tiny nail holes are easy to repair, but what about larger holes caused by door handles or unruly roommates? Depending on the size they can be relatively easy to patch yourself using fiberglass patches. Patching wall holes takes less than an hour to complete, with instant payoff.

Of all the home projects you can hire out for, don’t hire someone to paint a room for you! Your entire house? Okay, maybe, but if all you need is to paint one simple room, this is something you can easily do yourself. Check out our step by step video guide and helpful tips in this post. It’s really fun to see the transformation, and can be quite meditative.

8. How to fix scratches in hardwood floors

Scratches from pets, shoes, and furniture don’t need be the reason you don’t get your deposit back. You can fix scratches on your hardwood floors using a bit of sandpaper, stain, and sealer.

9. How to change your shower head

Repeat after me: I deserve more than the basic shower head that came in my apartment. You can get a luxe spa feeling at home for easily less than $100 by swapping out your shower head yourself. Stow the original one in a closet until move-out day, when you can swap them back and take your spa with you.

Get organized and look good doing it. Hanging shelves adds visual interest to a room and also helps to clear clutter from counters and desktops. You’ll need a few tools to get started, but they’re tools you should already have. Once you get the hang of it you’ll be putting shelving systems up all over your house.

11. How to maintain your furnace

Upon moving into your new home, get acquainted with your furnace. Check the filter, make a note as to the size it requires, and set reminders to regularly change it. If you aren’t comfortable learning about the furnace on your own, book an appointment with a heating and cooling expert and have them go over the different functions with you. Take notes on how to relight the pilot and other important features before your first winter in your home so you can properly care for it. 

12. How to unclog a toilet

Out of all the skills on this list, most people have likely mastered this one—but do you know how to unclog a toilet if you don’t have a plunger handy? Here are six methods to get your toilet working again without using a plunger.

13. How to replace an outlet

Do mismatched outlets and light switches drive you bananas? If you’re from the camp that believes outlets and light switches should either be almond or white, not both, I have good news: switching out outlets is very simple, costs hardly anything, and takes less than 10 minutes to do.

14. How to re-caulk a tub

Re-applying caulk to your tub once the old stuff starts to crumble is a surefire way to make your whole shower look cleaner without even trying. You re-caulk your tub in an afternoon with a total cost of about $15.

15. How to reset a tripped circuit breaker

This is something you’ll want to know how to do before it’s necessary. First: Find your circuit breaker box. It’s usually located in a utility closet, or down in the basement if you have one. Find the breaker that has flipped away from the “on” position. Check to make sure all appliances connected to that circuit are turned off, then click the breaker back to the “on” position. Go back to the room and turn on all the appliances, and if the breaker trips again, it’s probably time to call a professional. 

16. How to find the main water shutoff valve

During a plumbing emergency, knowing where the main water shutoff valve is in your home can mean the difference between significant water damage and a small bit of water to mop up with a dish rag. If you ever attempt any plumbing yourself, or have a plumber come to your home to work on the water pipes, they’ll want to know where your shutoff valve is. It’s fairly easy to find: Start by looking in your utility room, basement, then turn the lever clockwise to shut it off. If you’ve recently moved into a new home, try shutting the valve off yourself just to be sure it can still move to the off position. These can grow sticky over time, and it’s better to find out it’s faulty before you’re faced with an actual situation requiring that you to use it. 

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