9 fixes every homeowner should know

Not every home's a fixer-upper, but all houses need occasional repairs and maintenance. Here are a few tips to know when it comes to minor repairs around your house.

Toilet triage

In the life of every homeowner, there will be some clogged toilets. But they're simple to fix with a plunger, an auger, rubber gloves, and a bucket. If the bowl is in danger of overflowing, shut off the water supply valve behind the toilet and empty out half of the water. Try a plunger first, but if that doesn't work, grab an auger.

 

Clearing out the gutter

Even the ladder-averse can clean the gutters twice a year to prevent pests and ice dams. Remove leaves by hand or with the assistance of a leaf blower, garden hose or wet-dry vac. When you're up on a ladder, be sure to use a stabilizer. If sticking to ground level is more your style, you can still get the job done if you have special attachments for your leaf blower or wet-dry vac.

 

Stopping the drips

Leaky faucets can be fixed with a little elbow grease and know-how. First, turn off the water to the sink and stop the drain with a rag so you don't lose any small parts while you're dismantling the faucet. A compression faucet needs a new rubber washer to seal the valve, and a drippy washerless faucet can be stopped up with a new O-ring.

 

Warming up to furnace filters

The simplest way to maximize furnace efficiency is quick, easy, and all-to-often forgotten: Make sure to change your furnace filter every two months. Choose the right filter for your model, turn off your furnace, and remove the service panel to swap out the old filter for the new one. Each furnace is different, so consult your manual first.

 

Caring for hardwood floors

Hardwood floors are often a home's most inviting feature. You can keep them that way with proper care. Use cleaning products designed for hardwood -- other cleansers can cause damage. A little water on a cloth works wonders on spills, but too much water will damage the wood. For fabulous floors, vacuum frequently using a hardwood floor attachment to grab dust from between boards without scratching.

 

Replacing a shower head

Replacing a shower head is a small project with a big impact. Remove the existing shower head, then lay thread seal tape at the base of the shower arm before screwing in the new piece. Don't fasten it too tightly. Replace the shower arm if you like -- they're often sold separately.

 

Installing a new thermostat

A programmable thermostat is a big step toward energy efficiency, and it's easy to install. Turn off the breaker to your furnace and air conditioner, then remove the old thermostat, leaving the wires in place. The number of wires (two or four) will help determine which type of thermostat you should buy. Either way, you're on the road to easier heating and cooling.

 

Putting in a ceiling fan

Ceiling Fans need a different light box than other fixtures to support their extra weight. After removing old fixtures, install the new electric box and follow manufacturer's instructions to connect the wires and install the fan. Always remember to cut the power before performing electrical work.

 

Building a low-cost trellis

A rustic trellis can be fashioned from green saplings, dry wood or bamboo poles fastened together with garden twine. You can make a trellis in whatever dimensions are necessary to accommodate your garden's climbing plants, but for a larger trellis, you'll need to figure out how to stake it securely into the earth.