I grew up in a really old house-I'm talking built-in ice boxes around the outside because refrigerators weren't really a thing yet. Needless to say, I witnessed a lot of handiwork being done. And while I've never been a homeowner myself, I learned early on the amount of work that goes into keeping a house in good shape.
If you're making the transition from renter to homeowner, there are certain skills you'll want to make sure to master. Gone are the days of simply calling your landlord to mend a leaky faucet-now, it's either you or the handyman, and there's something oh-so-satisfying (and oh-so-much-cheaper) about fixing stuff yourself.
To get started taking care of your new digs, read up on these eight skills every homeowner should know know.
1. Get Acquainted With Your Breaker Box
One of the first things you should do when you move in is make sure every switch in your breaker box is correctly labeled. Enlist a helper to go around telling you what turns on or off when you flip each switch, and note it either directly on the switch or with a little label to the side. It's much easier to take the time to do this early on than to try and figure it out later when you're, quite literally, in the dark.
2. Learn Your Way Around a Tool Kit
A good toolbox should include all the gadgets you'll need for basic home repairs. However, simply having one is not enough-you're also going to need to know what everything is designed to do. There's really no excuse anymore for not knowing the difference between a Phillips head and a flat head screwdriver or how a vice grip can help you out in a pinch.
The good news is, About.com's straightforward guide will tell you what you should include in your toolkit, as well as a quick rundown of what each tool's purpose is.
3. Become a Painting Pro
One of the things I'm most looking forward to about owning a house one day is getting to paint every room the color I want it (and not have to speedily paint the walls back the day before I move out). If you've never painted a wall in your life, check out Buzzfeed's list of paint hacks for some genius tricks, and Family Handyman's mess-free paint tips to learn how to avoid inadvertently splattering paint everywhere.
When you're done painting, visit earth911.org for info on how to recycle the leftovers (don't just toss the cans in the trash-the solvents in paint can contaminate water).
4. Drill With Confidence
I'll admit, I've happily practiced this skill on rentals to hang pictures or shelves (sorry current and past landlords), and I've learned a few tricks (and, yes, messed up quite a few walls) in the process.
One of the best tricks I picked up is to put a dab of toothpaste on the back of whatever you're trying to hang, then press it to the wall-the toothpaste will leave an easily-washable mark telling you exactly where to drill.
If you chose to actually listen to your landlord's request not to poke holes in the walls and aren't sure where to start, pick up a basic guide to drilling and read This Old House's slick method for locating studs behind drywall using only a lamp. And remember, spackle is your friend when you're faced with a drilling fail.
5. Study Up on How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
If your new home doesn't already have a fire extinguisher or if it looks a little aged, head to a hardware store and pick one up immediately. It's really not one of those things you can put off buying until you need it. Once you have it, read up on everything you'll need to know about actually using it.
6. Embrace Your Inner Plumber
Unfortunately, plumbing issues are just one of those things that you'll have to deal with eventually. The good news is, leaky faucets, clogged shower drains, and constantly running toilets are all pretty easy to fix on your own. It's cheaper than calling in a costly plumber-and you'll be amazed how empowering it feels to solve these problems by yourself.
7. Learn to Spot Dangerous Mold
All homes have some mold somewhere; it's hard to avoid, considering all it really takes is a little moisture. What not every home has-and what can be seriously detrimental if not taken care of early on-is toxic mold.
Found a questionable furry growth in your home? You'll need to call in an inspector to tell you definitively whether the mold you have found is toxic or not, but early warning signs can be mold that smells or is greenish-black in color. To get started, read up on the eight most common places for mold growth as well as some tips for determining if the mold you've found is toxic.
8. Find a Good Handy-Person
Not every problem can be fixed easily or by a non-professional, and it's very possible that eventually you will need to call in somebody with experience (for example, if your furnace breaks or you have flooding damage). When the time comes, a site like handyman.com or Handybook can easily connect you with a skilled and insured expert. Word of mouth is also a great tool for finding a reputable handy-person, so if you're friendly with your neighbors, ask them for recommendations.
The most important skill you can learn as a homeowner, though, is confidence that you can take care of little problems on your own (and the ability to do a solid internet search for extra help on the solution). Just know that, if all else fails, you can always skip to skill number eight to get the job done.
This article was originally published on The Daily Muse. For more on moving to a new home, check out:
- What You Should Know Before Buying a Home
- Make Moving Suck Less: Your 12-Step Plan
- Revamp Your Bedroom for Just $150
Laura Drucker grew up in Chicago, Illinois and currently lives in Miami, Florida with her boyfriend and their awesome puppy. She is a proud law school dropout, and the editor of Tails Pet Media Group, Inc.