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Top 10 Home Maintenance Skills Every Homeowner Should Master

Catherine Miller
Top 10 Home Maintenance Skills Every Homeowner Should Master
Becoming a homeowner is a big step. Now you’ve invested in a property of your own, it’s time to make sure it remains in good condition.

Regular home maintenance can save you time and money in the long run by helping you avoid serious damage to your property or belongings. It can even help safeguard your family by preventing dangerous issues with systems and appliances. 

We run down the top 10 home maintenance skills every homeowner should master to make sure their property stays safe and secure. 

1. Replacing air filters

Air filters are used as part of your HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) system to purify the air by removing unwanted particles. Over time, these filters can get clogged. It’s a good idea to change them regularly. This might need to be done every month if you have pets or allergies, or up to every six months. 

Replacing HVAC filters should make a big difference in the air quality in your home as well as saving you money on your energy bills, because when your filters aren’t clogged with dust and debris, the system won’t need to use extra energy to drag air through the filter. (Dirty filters can even lead to overheating!) If you find it easy to forget this kind of regular maintenance task, schedule a reminder on your phone. 

2. Shutting off water and gas

If disaster strikes, it could be vital to turn off your utilities as quickly as possible. A damaged water system can cause massive damage to your home, and a gas leak could even be fatal. For this reason, it’s a good idea to learn where the water and gas shutoff valves are in your home and how to turn these systems off in an emergency. 

There should be a main water valve in your home. This controls the water supply for the whole house and may be in a basement or crawl space where the water supply actually enters the house, near the water meter. There are also smaller valves where the water pipes connect to appliances in your home, which you can use to turn these off individually. For example, if you’ll be away from home for an extended period, it can be a good idea to turn off the valve that connects the water system to your washing machine to prevent leaks while you’re gone. 

Gas valves are usually outside by the meter. You will need an adjustable pipe or crescent-type wrench to switch this off. 

3. Cleaning gutters

If you don’t clean dead leaves, dirt, and other debris from your gutters, they can overflow, causing water to soak into and damage your home’s siding or even enter your home. Gutter cleaning should be done about twice a year and is especially important before winter comes. Fallen leaves are a big culprit for blockages, and if water collects and freezes in your gutters, an ice dam could form on your roof and cause serious leaks. 

You can clean your home’s gutters yourself, but you will need a ladder and protective clothing. 

Spread a tarpaulin on the ground to prevent gutter debris from getting all over your yard. A small shovel is useful for removing large bits of debris. You can also use a high-pressure hose, making sure joins in the guttering are clear in particular. 

4. Caulking and sealing

Learning to fill gaps around windows, doors, and vents, as well as any cracks in walls, will help you to prevent pest infestations and keep your home warm and dry, saving you money on your energy bills. You can also seal your bathroom fittings to make sure water doesn’t get behind them. 

Caulk should be available in your local home maintenance store. Latex caulk is semi-permanent but can be easier to apply than silicone, which tends to last longer. Your surface should be clean and dry before you proceed; try not to apply too much caulk, and spread with a finger to cover the area. 

5. Finding wall studs

Wall studs are boards behind your drywall that will support the weight of items such as pictures, shelves, and TVs more effectively than plain drywall. You can buy a stud finder for a fairly inexpensive price (around $10) to help you find out where they are. 

Wall studs are usually 16 or 24 inches apart and should make a deeper thudding noise when you hit the wall. Light switches are also usually set into studs, and windows typically have a stud on each side. This can help you find them without purchasing a machine. Before you get started hanging an item, you should test by drilling a hole into the wall; if you’re in the right place, you should feel resistance from the stud. 

6. Resetting your circuit breaker

Switched on your hairdryer and the lights went out? There’s a good chance you tripped your circuit breaker, a safety feature in many homes that cuts the electricity in one room if the circuit is overloaded. (Circuit overload can lead to overheating, causing damaged wiring and even fires.) Luckily, you shouldn’t need to call an electrician. 

One of your first maintenance tasks after moving into your new property should be locating the circuit breaker. If you trip the circuit breaker, you can easily reset it by flicking the relevant switches back into the position marked “on.” The circuit breaker usually looks like a gray panel or box set into the wall and may be located in your basement, garage, or closet. 

7. Unclogging drains

A clogged drain is a real nuisance that can stop your bath, sink, or shower from draining properly. There are several tactics you can use to try to clear the blockage yourself: a chemical drain unblocker, a plunger, or a drain snake—a tool that is wound into the drain to physically loosen any blockages. 

It could be wise to try to prevent blockages from happening in the first place, as severe instances can cause flooding. Using a drain unblocking brush regularly (for example, during weekly cleaning) will help keep plugholes clear. Additionally, using a plughole filter can prevent debris going down the drain in the first place. These small changes in routine can save you a lot of time!

8. Fixing a running toilet

A toilet that’s constantly running can be a big waste of water. To fix this issue, you will need to check what’s going on inside the cistern (the tank on top of the toilet) and learn what the parts of the toilet do. There could be a problem with the flapper that lets water flow from the cistern into the bowl, the flush lever itself, the float that lets the pump know when to start and stop, the pump itself, or the overflow tube. A part may need replacing, repositioning, or cleaning to restore the function of the toilet. 

9. Adjusting water pressure

If your water pressure is too high, your appliances may get damaged, and you could be wasting a lot of water. You can buy a pressure gauge and assess the current pressure by attaching the gauge to a faucet or spigot. Normal water pressure for a home is between 40 and 60 PSI (pounds per square inch). If your home’s water pressure is much higher, you can purchase a pressure-reducing valve. Some homes will have these installed already, so check this out before you buy one. If your pressure-reducing valve is old, it may not be effective anymore and should be replaced. 

10. Maintaining your water heater

The first thing to check on your water heater is the temperature setting. Most homes only need a maximum setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of the standard 140 degrees set by manufacturers. A lower maximum temperature could save you money on your energy bill and slow the corrosion of your heating system. 

Next, make sure you drain the sediment from the bottom of the tank once a year. Sediment deposits will speed up tank damage. Draining some water from the tank periodically will help clear this out. 

Conclusion

With a little knowledge, you can establish a maintenance routine that will keep your home safe and secure, reduce your bills, and keep your appliances working for longer. Many home maintenance tasks don’t require a lot of technical skills or expensive tools, and tackling them yourself can save you significant time and money. 

However, there are some situations that might call for a professional. If your HVAC system or a major appliance breaks down, a contractor can help get it up and running. But this can be costly. A home warranty can help cover the cost of a contractor so your systems and appliances are protected. 

The right home warranty for you will depend on how much you want to pay each month, how much coverage you need, and which systems and appliances are relevant to your home. For example, Choice Home Warranty can cover small appliances, electric system, water system, and heating system in their Basic Plan, with the option to add larger appliances too. Or, Cinch Home Services offers appliance and systems plans, plus a combo to cover your whole home. 

Even with a home warranty in place, learning how to complete small maintenance tasks can help reduce the risk of needing massive repairs. So, as a homeowner, it’s well worth taking a little time to save money and stress in the long run. 

Catherine Miller
Catherine Miller is a lead member of personal finance and pension innovator Maji, where’s she’s responsible for content creation and running Maji’s personal finance masterclass, among others. Miller also holds degrees in English and education, and worked as a teacher before moving into finance. Today, she combines aspects of education and personal finance to help readers make better decisions in finance and beyond.