Owning a house is an exciting milestone, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility, including taking care of your space and making sure everything’s in proper working order.
Understanding how things like plumbing, heating, and electrical systems function can help you save money on repairs and maintenance. Additionally, being aware of these systems can help you prevent potential hazards and keep your family safe.
It can be overwhelming, but don’t worry! To start you off on the right foot, we’ve pulled some questions you can ask yourself to help keep your home safe, comfortable and in good condition for years to come.
7 questions that provide a better working knowledge of your home
1 – Where’s my property line?
Knowing where your property ends and your neighbor’s begins can save you tons of headaches and legal troubles. Not knowing makes it harder to plan home improvements like fences, pools, and additions without violating local zoning laws or intruding on your neighbor’s yard. It also makes it impossible to accurately assess your property’s value based on size and use.
To figure this out yourself, check your property deed and then look for markers that indicate the boundaries, like metal stakes or concrete monuments, which may have been placed there when the property was originally surveyed. If they exist, they’ll be near the corners of your lot or along the edges.
If that fails, hire a licensed surveyor to mark and create a detailed plan of your land.
2 – Did someone just blow a fuse?
Find your electrical panel — it’s usually found in a utility room, garage, or basement — and open it up. You’ll see multiple circuit breakers designed to protect your home by tripping and shutting off the power in case of an electrical overload or short circuit.
You should know how to safely reset a tripped circuit breaker. First, turn off or unplug any appliances or devices that were being used when the circuit tripped. Then, locate the tripped circuit breaker in your electrical panel and push it firmly to the “off” position before switching it back to the “on” position.
At least twice a year, check the panel for rust or corrosion. And every five years, have it looked at professionally to ensure it’s up to code.
3 – Honey, did you use all the hot water?
If you’ve ever suffered through a cold shower, you know how important a hot water heater is. But do you know the type? There are tankless heaters that heat water as it flows through the unit, and there are traditional heaters that store heated water until it’s needed.
You can extend the life of your heater by having it regularly drained and flushed to remove sediment or buildup. And if you’re seeing the water pressure drop, hearing unusual noises, or finding the water way too hot, call in an expert. These issues often lead to more serious problems down the line, so have your hot water heater professionally inspected at least once a year.
4 – How do I turn the water off?
Everyone living in your home should know where the water shut-off valve is and how to use it. Imagine having a burst pipe or a major water leak — turning off the water supply will help prevent more damage from happening.
The shut-off is either a gate or wheel valve or a lever, which can typically be found close to the water meter or the main water line entry point in most homes. For homes with a basement, it’s usually towards the part of the building closest to the road where the municipal water line is. In condos or slab homes, the valve is usually near the hot water heater or in the garage if you have one.
To close the valve and reduce water flow, turn it clockwise. It may take a few minutes for the water to stop completely. To turn the water back on, turn the valve anti-clockwise slowly, without forcing it. Keep a wrench nearby in case the valve gets stuck and you need to act fast. If, over time, you notice the valve has corroded or is damaged, have it repaired or replaced by a licensed plumber.
5 – Do you smell gas?
A gas meter measures the amount of natural gas or propane being used by your home’s gas appliances, and it’s important to understand how your gas shut-offs work, especially in case of an emergency.
Hearing hissing sounds or smelling rotten eggs is a sign something’s wrong. The shut-off valve is typically located near the gas meter and can be turned off by rotating the valve handle 90 degrees so it’s perpendicular to the pipe.
After shutting off the gas, never try to turn it back on by yourself. Leave it to the professional to inspect your gas lines and restore service.
6 – Where’s the sewer access?
You should know where the sewer access is for two reasons. Either you have a clogged drain or toilet, or the municipal sewer system has a backup, like during heavy rainfall. Your access point is where your home’s plumbing connects to the municipal system — usually outside your home near the street or curb — so keep this area clear of plantings and debris. If you’re not sure about the location, call your local water department for assistance.
7 – Should I put these old things up in the attic?
Attic access is sometimes in the form of a hatch or pull-down stairs, but before using it, make sure it’s secured properly and can support your weight. When entering your attic, be aware of exposed nails, and if you see ripped-up insulation (which could be a sign of mice) consider wearing a dust mask. Also, if you’re using your attic for storage, try to distribute the weight evenly to prevent damage to your attic flooring or ceiling below.
If your home experiences heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer — and you think the culprit is the attic — try installing weatherstripping or insulation around the hatch. You can also buy an insulated cover that seals off the opening when not in use.
So, there you have it!
Hopefully, these tips and advice will keep your home in good shape. Just remember to keep on top of things, stay organized, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you need it. Here’s to an awesome — and worry-free — homeownership journey!