Owning and maintaining a home isn't always rewarding in the financial sense of the word, especially if you're not the handiest person in the world. If you're reaching for the phone and flipping through the yellow pages every time there's a leak in your faucet or your gutters are clogged with leaves, odds are your wallet will be feeling a little light. Instead, become the do-it-yourselfer you've always wanted to be by making sure you know how to do these simple things that will save you a lot of headaches - and dollars - in the long run.
1. How to remove stripped or broken screws
If screws are holding things together, who cares if the heads are a little stripped and faded? Any home inspection business will care, which means you should, too. Lowes gives two options for removing stripped screws: if the head doesn't sit flush with the surface, try turning it with a pair of tight-gripping pliers. If it is flush, invest in a screw extractor. It'll drill a hole into the center of the screw and allow you to draw it out with another attachment. Or for the MacGuyver fans out there, try placing a rubber band over the stripped head and pressing a normal screw driver in that way - the rubber band might just contour to the grooves!
2. How to use a fire extinguisher
The truth is we're not all master chefs in the kitchen. Recipes don't usually call for chicken breasts to be set aflame, but it happens. Don't immediately rush for the phone and have the fire department come witness your embarrassment - grab your trusty fire extinguisher and deal with the problem before you need a home inspection to check out the fire damage. The U.S. Fire Administration has a great write-up on the different types of fire extinguishers and how to use them - make sure your extinguisher is suited to any problems you might find yourself in. For example, a Class A extinguisher won't be able to put out an oil fire, while a Class D is only suited for industrial metals and the like. For most homeowners, a combination of Class A-B-C should be enough, but consider getting a Class K for your kitchen - it's specifically formulated to put out fires with vegetable and animal oils and fats.
3. How to climb a ladder
Next to the all-purpose chamois, the ladder should be the homeowner's best friend. Dust on the ceiling fans? Climb the ladder. Dirty transverse windows? Get on up there. Leaves clogging the gutters? Let's get messy. The problem with most homeowners though is that they don't really know how to keep themselves safe while on one. It should go without saying that holding on to a windowsill with one foot on the top rung isn't the recommended safety procedure, and OSHA agrees. Whether you're climbing two feet on a stepstool or 20 feet on an extension ladder, always stay in a 3-point stance: two feet and a hand or two hands and a foot. Make sure the feet of the ladder are on solid ground and the angle from it to the surface it's leaning against is at least a quarter of its length from the wall or other kind of support.
4. How to unclog a sink
Plumbers can be a surly, traditionally unfashionable bunch. All the better to learn some quick tips on taking care of your own bathroom or kitchen sink issues than waiting all hours of the day for the van to show up outside your home. This Old House explains that while chemical solutions can do the trick for light stoppages, all they really do is chew a small hole in the larger blockage. For a complete drain, think about buying a hand snake - it doesn't need to be a professional, several-yards-long one, but just a few feet of cord could tell you if it really is a problem you can take care of yourself or if you should call in the big guns.
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