Home Maintenance Tips: 18 Tips to Save You Money, Time, and Stress

The Best Furnace Advice: Change the Filter

The Family HandymanClogged air filters are usually to blame when a furnace stops working. Dirty air filters are also hard on blower motors and heat exchangers, so it’s a good idea to replace your air filter before there’s a problem. It can be hard to remember to check it regularly. That’s where an air filter gauge can help; it eliminates guesswork by measuring airflow and telling you exactly when it’s time to change your air filter. Here are 10 home maintenance tasks you definitely don’t want to forget.

Check the Power

The Family HandymanMake sure the power is on! The power switch for your furnace looks like a regular light switch and can get bumped and turned off accidentally. If the switch is off, just flip it back on. See more simple furnace fixes you can DIY.

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Starting Up the AC

The Family HandymanOn the first hot day in spring or summer, what will you do if you turn on the A/C and it doesn’t work? Don’t make the mistake of calling a service technician before you check this common oversight. Move the thermostat mode switch from “Cooling” to “Off” and move the fan switch from “Auto” to “On.” Let the blower run for at least 30 minutes or until there’s good airflow at the registers. Then turn the A/C back on to test it. If it keeps working, you’ve fixed the problem yourself! For more DIY A/C repair help, check out our complete guide. Here are some ways to lower your A/C bill while still staying cool.

Glossy Paint on a Bad Surface

The Family HandymanYou may love the look of high-gloss paint, but if you apply a glossy paint to surfaces that aren’t perfect, the paint will accentuate the problems. Light reflecting off the shiny paint will highlight every defect. So if you want to paint with a semigloss or gloss sheen, make sure the surface you’re painting is carefully prepared and perfectly smooth. Here’s how to fix the eight most common interior wall flaws. And here’s how to prepare wood trim for painting.

Paint the Ceiling Without Wearing a Hat

The Family HandymanWhen you roll paint on a ceiling, little splatters of paint go everywhere and many will land on your head. Wear an old hat and expect it to be covered with paint specks when the job is done. Take it from a pro, here’s how to successfully paint a ceiling. Plus, you don’t have to paint your ceiling white—here are some nontraditional suggestions for a luxurious ceiling.

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Making Rookie Mistakes

The Family HandymanTwo common first-time painting mistakes:

1. Leaving the lid off of the paint can. The most obvious problem with this bad habit is that someone is bound to step on the lid and track paint all over. But there are other reasons to put the lid back on immediately. It’ll keep your paint clean and prevent dried-out paint crud from forming in the can or on the lid. Plus, you’re less likely to get the lids from two similar colors mixed up, which can cause hassles later. Learn which paint color can add thousands of dollars in value to your home.

2. Forgetting to lock out pets. Here’s what can and does happen—you step out of the room you’re painting and pretty soon your dog is in there sniffing around. He grabs the paintbrush handle in his mouth and carries it, dripping, across the house to give it back to you, leaving painted paw prints in his path. Avoid all pet-related painting problems by keeping your pets locked away from the project at all times.

Fertilize at the Wrong Time of Year

The Family HandymanIf you fertilize your lawn only when you think it needs it, when you have time or when fertilizer is on sale, you may be wasting time and money. Fertilizers need to be applied at certain times during the growing season. For more on when and how to fertilize your lawn, check out these pro tips. Plus, check out our guide to using non-toxic fertilizers.

Ice Avalanche

Home-Care-TipsThe Family HandymanWhen you clean your refrigerator and freezer before leaving for a period of time, be sure to replace the ice tray. If you don’t, the icemaker doesn’t get the signal that the tray is full, so it keeps making ice until the freezer is full! The next time you open the door, watch out! Also, some icemakers have a lever you can lift to make sure no ice is made while you’re away. If your icemaker needs replacing, you can do it yourself. Plus, here are some little-known uses for ice cubes.

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Open and Shut Case

The Family HandymanIf your gas clothes dryer isn’t getting your clothes dry, the culprit is often a lint-clogged vent. Use a vacuum and/or a brush to clean out the lint and the dryer should work fine, unless you accidentally shut off the gas valve. Service technicians see this all the time. Someone gets in there and cleans out all of the lint, pushes the gas valve closed without knowing it and ends up calling a technician. All they have to do is reach in and turn on the valve, and charge you for the service call. This guide to clothes dryer repairs helps you fix most problems yourself. Plus, here’s the real reason your clothes shrink in the wash, and how to get it to stop.

Check the Thermostat Batteries

The Family HandymanIf your home is still chilly after turning up the thermostat and checking to make sure the furnace is on, try changing the thermostat batteries before you call a technician. Programmable thermostats have batteries and it’s easy to forget to replace them regularly. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat and would like to install one, here’s a step-by-step guide.

Forgot to Read the Installation Manual

The Family HandymanAfter installing a garage door opener, and spending hours trying to figure our why it wouldn’t work, one frustrated DIYer learned a tough lesson. His neighbor came over, picked up the manual that came with the opener and called the manufacturer’s help line. After one simple question, the customer service representative solved the problem. He asked if the cover was on the opener because it won’t work until the cover is on. That was the problem. The lesson? No matter what you’re installing, read the manual, keep the manual and use the customer service help line if you have any problems. For additional advice about installing garage door openers, check out these pro tips. Plus, learn the 13 secrets a handyman won’t tell you.

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It’s a Load-Bearing Wall

The Family HandymanIn older frame houses homeowners are often tempted to remove walls and create a more open floor plan. The danger is, if the wall that’s removed is a load-bearing wall, the second floor might end up falling onto the first! If you’re not sure, have an inspector determine if it’s safe to remove the wall. And, learn much more about wall removal and replacement here.

Follow the Instructions

The Family HandymanInstalling a new garbage disposal is a perfect DIY project. You don’t need lots of tools, you get the satisfaction of solving the problem without hiring a pro, plus you save a bundle of cash. There’s just one very important thing that may not be mentioned in the installation instructions: You have to remove the factory plug from the drain line that runs to the dishwasher. If you don’t remove this plug, your dishwasher won’t be able to drain. Check out 14 additional ways to avoid leaks and mistakes when installing a garbage disposal.

Cut Off the Wrong End of a Door

The Family HandymanThis is a classic mistake. You have a door that needs to be trimmed to clear new carpet or some other flooring change. You remove the door, put it on sawhorses, measure carefully and make the cut. When you go to reinstall the door you realize you’ve cut off the top of the door instead of the bottom. Always put a mark on the bottom of the door before you remove it and look for that mark before you start to cut. Use this guide if you want to cut off the bottom of a door without splintering.

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The Toilet is Too Big

The Family HandymanReplacing a toilet isn’t difficult and it’s a standard part of any bathroom upgrade. But a word of warning, especially for small bathrooms: Carefully measure the amount of space between the toilet and the door as it closes. More than one DIYer has installed a new toilet, with the door open, and found out later that the door would no longer close because it was blocked by a toilet that protruded farther than the original. Once you’re sure the toilet is the right size, follow this guide to a trouble-free, leak-free installation. Here are some great tricks to make a small bathroom look bigger.

The Door Won’t Open

The Family HandymanWhen you remodel a bathroom, carefully measure to make sure your new lights and medicine cabinet work well together. One example of this mistake happens when you replace sconce lights with an overhead fixture. If you install the light too low, you may not be able to open the medicine cabinet door. Are you thinking about remodeling a bathroom? Check out all of these clever ideas and step-by-step how-to articles.

“Call Before Digging” Number

The Family HandymanDid you know there’s a nationwide number you can call before you dig? Call 811 to have your underground utility lines marked—for free. We recommend calling before starting any project that requires digging, even small projects like planting shrubs. Hitting an underground utility line with your shovel can knock out power to your house or neighborhood, and it can cause serious bodily harm—even death—not to mention a rather large bill from the utility company.

When you call 811 from anywhere in the country, your call is routed to affected utility companies, which send out a professional locator to mark the underground lines, usually within a few days. For more information, visit call811.com. The other one-call referral system number we’ve featured, (888) 258-0808, can still be used to have your underground utilities marked.

Next, learn 12 simple, cost-effective ways to add value to your home.


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