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  • Writer's pictureAron Pinto

5 Essential DIY Survival Skills for First Time Home Owners

It’s done. The closing is over, the keys are in your hands and the movers are just pulling up with your stuff. For a first-time Waterloo Region homeowner move in day is a truly exciting, busy time.

As that excitement begins to calm, many first time homeowners begin to realise that they have a lot more responsibility now than they did when renting their home or living with Mom and Dad. Too bad a house doesn’t come with an owner’s manual. And a week-long seminar where you learn what every button, switch, and wire is for.

Alas, the keys to your new home come with no troubleshooting guide and it’s often not too long before you discover that there is a lot for you to learn, maybe more than you expected.

Although there are many more, as you’ll discover, here’s a look at some annoying, but simple to fix, issues that first-time homebuyers often find pop up in their new home that in the past were someone else’s problem but are now very much theirs:

Fixing a Leaky Faucet

The drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet can be one of the most annoying sounds in the world. This particular type of water torture is usually due to a failed washer inside a handle. The faucet is just the messenger, the problem lies elsewhere.

The DIY route to stopping the annoying drip is actually easier than you might think. To replace a washer, turn off the water supply valve under the sink. Stuff a rag in the drain so you don’t lose parts, then take the handle apart. Pop the screw cover on top, remove the screw, and pull off the handle.

Disassemble the stem, using a wrench, and line the parts up on the counter in the order you take them off, so you’ll know how it goes back together. Examine rubber parts or plastic cartridges for cracks, and take the offending piece to the hardware store for an exact replacement. Reassemble the parts you’ve laid out, working in reverse.

Help Lightbulbs Last Longer

There it goes again, the pop of another lightbulb burning out far faster than the package says it should have done. The cause of premature lightbulb death is usually pretty basic though. Often the little brass tab inside the lamp socket that makes contact with the bulb base is dirty or bent, interrupting the connection and causing the filament to imperceptibly flash on and off, shortening its life.

To fix this issue, with the fixture unplugged or the circuit breaker switched off, clean the tab with a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol; then nudge it up with a screwdriver so that it stays in contact with the bulb base.

Drill Through Tile Without Cracking It

You have a great shelf to hang in your new bathroom. Or a fantastic rack for the kitchen wall you were lucky enough to stumble across at a yard sale. You want to hang it as soon as possible, but you are afraid of cracking that lovely wall tile. Do things the right way though and that won’t happen.

To get started, arm yourself with a drywall screw and a hammer. Place the tip of the screw exactly where you want to drill, then tap it ever so gently with the hammer to pierce the glaze and create a little divot. Now load a masonry bit into your drill driver and use the divot to hold it in place as you start drilling. No fissures, no scratches, no fuss.

Pick an Interior Lock

When you were handed the keys to your new home, you were handed a lot of them. Some for the exterior doors that went right on your keyring, and then a bunch for interior doors that you put in a drawer, somewhere. The problem is now that your three-year-old niece was exploring your new place and has accidentally locked herself in the bathroom and is screaming blue murder.

To solve the problem right away look on the door’s knob or on the plate around it and you should see a small hole that’s made just for this situation. Take a slim piece of metal, such as a small flathead screwdriver, and slip it in the hole.

Compress the spring inside or slip the screwdriver head into the slot on the spring and turn. The door will open, the drama will be over and you’ll then be able to write yourself a memo to go through that pile of keys and finally sort out what opens what.

Know Which Breaker to Turn Off

When you finally get around to putting in that new dimmer switch for the living room, you won’t want to be bamboozled by a poorly labeled breaker box. Forget making paper charts though, write directly on the metal next to each switch with a fine indelible marker.

Have a partner, friend or other helpful soul plug lamps into all the sockets in a room and tell you via cell phone which ones go dark when you flip a switch. Then, be specific (“sofa and window walls only” or “kitchen minus fridge”) when you jot it down.

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