If you’ve primarily been renting your entire life, transitioning into owning a home can seem like a lot of responsibility. It used to be that when something broke, you called the landlord, and they would send someone out to fix it.
Guess what, you’re the landlord now! Even if you are going to call someone to fix things, it is still wise to know who to call, when to call, and have enough basic information on things to not get taken advantage of by unscrupulous contractors.
I suggest you buy a book about basic home repairs even if you don’t plan on fixing too many things yourself. Youtube can be helpful, but half of the information is right, half is wrong, and its hard to tell which half if which until its too late.
We suggest a book like:
by the Family Handyman
by Creative Homeowner.
The downside to these books is that they are written on a national level, and some things don’t apply to every part of the nation. However, the nature of building in the US is such these days that for the most part, the basics are pretty much the same all over. Specific drywall finishes and cinder block wall construction, pest control, and other very regional concerns I will try to cover a bit in this article.
One of the easiest ways to turn a small problem into tens of thousands of dollars of damage is a flood.
Therefore, you need to know how to shut off water in the case of an emergency.
They share a common type of shutoff valve. This will need to be turned off (clockwise) in case of an overflow or if you need to work on them or replace them. They usually look like this:
Unfortunately, especially on older homes, these things break. Which means when you need it most, you go to turn it and the water does not shut off.
On the exterior of your home, where the water main comes into the house, you can check if the home has a shut off valve installed.
They probably look like this:
which you shut off by turning clockwise.
or possibly like this:
in which down or up is open, and perpendicular is closed.
If you don’t have one of these shut off valves on your main suppply coming into the house (and a lot of houses don’t) you need to have one of these tools handy.
They are called “water shut off key” and they cost about $15. You should buy one now! When you need it, you need it right away, and it can save you thousands of dollars if water is actively running inside your house.
Go out to where the water supply that’s coming into your house meets the street, and look for this kind of box with a lid. It could be in the gravel or the grass.
Put the tool on the thing it looks like it goes on and turn clockwise until the two holes line up
You should be able to hear the water going through the line and gradually get lower and lower until the holes are totally in line. These can be difficult to turn, but they usually work, especially if you have the tool. In an emergency you can try to put a wrench with a hole in the handle and turn something in the hole, but let me just recommend that for $15 you buy the proper tool for this since these rarely get used and can be very difficult to turn.
Fun fact: The water authorities will put a lock through these two holes if they are shutting your water off.
If this thing breaks:
Call the water provider ASAP so they can come shut off the next valve somewhere up the water line.
You’ve got an outlet that doesn’t work, or lost power to a section of your home. Occasionally you may need to replace an outlet or breaker at the box, but more commonly, you need to look for a GFCI.
GFCI: Ground fault circuit interrupter
Codes require these to be placed in every circuit that is near a water source. But, confusingly, they aren’t always in the room where the water source is. They just have to be on the circuit somewhere. This means that the GFCI can be anywhere between the outlet and the breaker.
Most commonly, though, they are nearby. If the GFCI is tripped, you just need to push the red button until it clicks.
This will reset the circuit. If it immediately trips again, something is shorting in the circuit and you will most likely need to call an electrician to figure out where the problem is.
If you’ve lost power to a section of your home, you’ve most likely overloaded a circuit by having too many appliances on that circuit. Inside of the home, it can be impossible to tell which outlets are on which circuits until you trip a circuit breaker with a vacuum.
If you don’t know where your box is, it is probably on the exterior of the front of your home.
It looks like this
When you open it it will look like this:
If one circuit is tripped, it will be in the middle, no longer in line with the rest of the breakers.
Flip it toward the outside (off) then all the way back to the middle (on).
If it keeps continually tripping, you will likely need to call an electrician.
This is one of the most common repairs a homeowner will have to do, and, in the case of resale, it really hurts the value of the home of there are really bad drywall repairs since it just makes it look like the homeowner was cheap and its actually such an easy fix.
If the hole size is less than the size of a pencil, you can probably fix it with painters putty. The putty is available at all hardware stores. This will fix holes from things like nails, small screws, and thumbtacks.
For larger holes, such as if you move a towel holder or need to access the wall for any reason, you will need to cut out the damaged section and replace it. Hardware stores sell all kinds of patches and kits for this job, but I don’t recommend using any of them since they always protrude from the surface and it’s nearly impossible to hide them. It’s actually easier just to do it the right way.
I hope this article explains just a little bit of the things you will need to know now that you are your own landlord. In the future, we will continue expanding this section with helpful tips and tricks and how to take care of your home. Have something specific you would like to see? Let me know!