Home Maintenance Skills You Should Really Know
Home Maintenance Skills You Should Really Know

Home Maintenance Skills You Should Really Know

Studies show that Millennials know next to nothing about caring for a home, mostly because their over-worked parents never had the time to teach them how to muck out a gutter, change a furnace filter or other homeownership 101 skills. But never fear, we're here to help to explain how to perform the tasks that every new homeowner must know.

1. How to clean a gutter

This gunky chore is vital to keep water flowing through your gutters and downspouts and away from your home's foundation. If gutters are clogged, water can seep under eaves and into walls—a very bad thing that could promote mold growth, not to mention create drips and ugly wall stains.

Clean your gutters at least twice a year, at the end of autumn and spring when tree leaves and blossoms fall into gutters. Always wear work gloves and eye protection when mucking out a gutter, because sharp twigs can poke hands and fly into eyes.

After you've scooped out debris, run water from a garden hose into the gutters and make sure it flows out downspouts. If the water just pools at the bottom of the spouts, attach extenders that will direct water away from the house, or regrade the soil around your foundation so water flows away from the house.

How to clean a gutter

2. How to maintain your garbage disposal

That little machine under your kitchen sink quickly gets rid of kitchen scraps. Moen's GX PRO Series 1/2 Horsepower Garbage Disposal, for instance, is strong and compact, which results in less jamming and a longer life. But you've got to treat your disposal right to get the most out of the machine.

Always use cold water from your kitchen faucet when running your disposal. Cold water makes it easier to grind up fats without them melting and clogging the mechanism.

Don't stuff the disposal. The motor will have to work harder to chew up an overfilled disposal.

Do not grind anything that can get tangled in machine teeth, like celery, corn husks, and onion skins. Also avoid grinding egg shells and any high-carb foods like pasta and rice, which can become pasty and clog the works.

Don't pour any corrosive cleaner down the drain, which can shorten the life of your disposal.

How to maintain your garbage disposal

3. How to locate the main water supply

Want to feel panic? Watch a burst pipe pour water into your home while you search for the main water shut-off valve. That's panic.

If you were smart, you asked the builder or previous owner to locate the shut-off value and show you how to work it. Usually, it's a lever in the basement, 3 to 5 feet from where the main water pipe enters the house, though sometimes it's located in crawl spaces in older homes.

If you've got a round valve, turn the wheel clockwise to shut off water; if you have a lever, push it slowly until it's no longer parallel to the pipe and the water stops flowing.

Most important, know where the main shut-off valve is before water starts climbing your basement stairs.

4. How to change a furnace filter

It's not the sexiest home maintenance chore, but changing or cleaning furnace filters is important to keep air clean, especially during high-pollen months.

If you're living in a newly-built home, you may have to change filters every couple of weeks until drywall dust is totally sucked out of your home. Hay fever sufferers should change filters monthly in spring and summer. For the rest of us, filter changes every 3-6 months should do the trick.

Basically, you pull and replace paper filters; you clean metal filters by spraying with water and drying before reinstalling. You can find both at big box hardware or home improvement stores.

6. How to unclog a drain

Clogged bathroom or kitchen sinks can slow or stop water from flowing down the drain.

Some clogs, like wads of hair, are soft and easy to fish out with the hook end of a straightened wire hanger. But some clogs are rock-hard and coat pipes like plaque coats arteries. These clogs need to be dissolved.

You can use commercial drain cleaners to dissolve clogs, but many experts say they'll eventually wreck your pipes. A less corrosive solution is to pour boiling water down the drain, add ½ cup of baking soda followed by 1 cup of distilled white vinegar.

Cover the drain with a plug, and let bubble power dissolve the clog. After about 10 minutes, pour another pot of boiling water down your cleared drain.

How to unclog a drain

7. How to fill small drywall dings

In the life of every wall a few dents and dings will happen. Filling small imperfections (we're not talking about hulking holes here) and making the wall look like new is a great skill to learn.

First, remove any loose drywall or gypsum powder surrounding the hole. Then cover the imperfection with spackling paste. If one coat doesn't fill the dent, let the spackling dry, and apply a second coat until it's level with the drywall.

Let the spackling dry for a day, and sand smooth with 120-150-grit sandpaper. Clean the surface, prime, sand again, then paint.

8. How to weatherproof windows and doors

Air leaking around windows and doors makes your house feel drafty and your wallet feel lighter, as your energy bills rise.

To find escape points, light a candle and walk it around windows and doors; when the flame flickers, you've found a leak.

Patch leaks around window and door frames by running a bead of sealing caulk along frames. You can also buy foam weather stripping that's easy to install and provides an efficient barrier between inside and outside.

Owning a home is a life-long learning curve. Before long, you'll be a pro at maintaining your most valuable asset.

How to install a towel bar
How to install a towel bar

9. How to install a towel bar

Towel bars create extra storage space that comes in handy, especially in small bathrooms. Not only can you hang damp towels on them, but you can throw on a few S hooks, and hang baskets and buckets that can hold all the little items that make you beautiful each day.

Moen's Hotel Towel Shelf not only lets you hang several towels at once, but you can stack them on the bath shelf, too.

First, fold your longest towel in half and measure its length to determine the minimum height you must hang the towel bar (add about 6 inches, because you don't want the towel hitting the floor). The most secure way to install a towel bar is to screw brackets into a wood, wall stud, which can take a lot more weight than plain drywall. It's best to mount both sides of the bar into studs, but if you can't swing that, make sure at least one side is screwed into a stud.

Use an $17 stud finder to locate the studs, then grab a drill to drive two pan-head screws through the holes in the mounting bracket into the wall. Chances are you'll have to use a wall anchor to mount the other bracket. Anchors prevent drywall from turning into loose gypsum powder and keep screws secure.

Once you've mounted the brackets (use a level to make sure they're straight), attach the holder to the brackets with mounting screws and a hex wrench, which usually come in the box. Test your install by lightly pushing the bar up and down to make sure the brackets catch the bar securely. Now hang your towels. If that sounds a bit complicated, take the low-stress route and choose a product with Moen's Press & Mark technology, which makes hanging accessories easy with a 3-step process.

10. How to swap out a showerhead

Replacing a showerhead is one of the quickest ways to upgrade your bathroom, especially if you select Moen's Velocity collection of rainshower showerheads (so luxurious!) or our Magnetix collection of handshowers (so practical!). Happily, changing a showerhead is an easy DIY project.

Don't forget to turn off the water first. Remove your old showerhead by giving an adjustable wrench a few counter-clockwise turns (remember: lefty loosey; righty tighty). Once removed, clean the mounting pipe of gunk, dissolved gasket and plumbers tape. Wrap the threads with new Teflon tape, then screw on the new showerhead.

Road test your handiwork by turning on the water and searching for leaks. If you see water dripping around the edge of the head, tighten more and test again.

How to swap out a showerhead