Just bought a house - what are 10 (or more) things I should know

topic posted Fri, August 3, 2007 - 8:51 PM by  stephanie
Greetings! We just bit the bullet and are in the process of buying our first home. I am looking for any suggestions as to what I should learn to do in terms of keeping repair work expenses to a minimum - and without me screwing things up by thinking I can do it. I plan on taking community ed class but would appreciate any input/advice as to what I REALLY need to know. And suggestions for tools no home should be without (have basics - hammers, screwdrivers, my drill died but will spring for a new one, plunger, etc). Thanks.
  • Unsu...
    B iiiiiiii G decision !!!!
    Ok Suggestion:

    1. stay tuned to DIY: always a varied assortment of answers, suggestion, opinions.
    2. (my 2 cents) decided if you're going to go the way of Home Depot , et al: (as in NEW EVERYTHING: tools nails, lumber,) or the way of "small footprint on the Earth", i.e., recylced, second-hand, "keep it green", etc. This goes for everything from plywood to port-a-poties and includes selecting contractors/vendors )who are "green" )for everything from appliance repair to wireless networks . . .
    3. My Home List: (since you said you've got the "basics" . . . )
    a serious plunger
    spare fuses
    crow bars
    Cordless (I went with DeWalt) screwgun, reciprocal saw, etc.
    claw hammer
    sledge hammer
    vise grips
    duct tape
    duct tape
    serious glue (some say Gorilla glue is 'It")
    One final note: I eventually went with a set of "standard" for screws, bolts, etc: ; made it easier for repairs and restocking materials (mine are "star head" 3 inch, 1 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch and 1/2 inch screws, phillips head 1/4 inch bolts and wing nuts, etc. . .)

    • One of the most used - cheapest things I got for my house was one of those big tupperware trays with a couple of every type of fastener, bolt, hook, screw, fastener, etc. made... they sell them cheap. You don't get a lot of one thing but you get a few of a lot of things and that comes in handy for repairs and needs that you don't anticipate. Hell My Grandpa spent years acquiring the babyfood jars full of little bits.

  • > And suggestions for tools no home should be without <

    hydrocortisone cream
    preparation H

    • a ladder?

      when i moved into a home I had to buy a hedge trimmr, a strimmer, a lawn mower, large rakes, outdoor brooms, snow shovel, buckets, spade and gravel shovel, wheelbarrow, hose and trolley and I had to decide where to start composting, storing, keeping "stuff", as before I didnt have that much stuff to store!

      Indoors it didnt change all that much from before,- a drill I get to borrow anytime I need one so I dont buy one, I need more light bulbs, and as I have different flooring and heating I bought slippers and warmer socks, cardigans etc.
      clip on lamp for working on areas where the previous owner maybe didnt have lighting
      metal saw for trimming pipes, poles, bars for fitting cupboards, boards, plumming
      a spirit level
      a large "clamp" fastened to a work bench
      small clamps for glueing, holding while working on etc

      In the past I have had an industrial wet/dry vaccuumer, and often I wish I still had one.. (I emptied the leafy slimey pond with that, as well as suck in builders dust..)

      and a spider catcher ;-)
  • Since I seem to often be painting or sanding stufff, I find a mask with screw-on type filters essential.
    I wear it even for just sweeping the floor in the basement, because it's so dusty down there and the stuff gets airborne easily.
    The filters will be rated for different things, like particulates or chemicals such as paint and stuff like that.
    So be sure to get the right kind, preferably one that filters everything.
    You should never smell the paint fumes, or whatever it is you're working with.
    If you do, the mask isn't fitted right or the filters aren't right somehow.

    A big box fan I find essential for cooling the house on summer evenings , and ; I can sometimes position the fan to blow paint fumes away from me, if I'm painting outside, and forego wearing the mask that way.
  • Unsu...
    Oh, I just bought an older home too! *eekk* It's actually the third time I've gone through this process, and yes I am familiar with getting cozy with the home improvement and upkeep chores. Just a few things come to mind, in addition to the other great suggestions already made.
    ~ Many home improvement/supply/hardware stores (Home Depot? Lowes? OSH? etc.) put on weekend DIY sessions and how-to's with hands on little projects and training.
    ~ Yes, Craigslist for tools is a great place to try and save a buck.
    ~ Get the word out to friends and family; perhaps they would be willing to "barter" tasks for something that you're good at that you can do for them in exchange for their handyman expertise.
    ~ Keep a calendar/schedule (google calendar is great) to keep track of recurring tasks or maintenance.
    ~ Thesedays, many home purchase transactions include a home warranty. Did yours? If so, most things are covered if they break within the first year.
    ~ Always remember... SAFETY FIRST. We may be tempted to trot around on the roof or crawl under the house or do just a little light electrical work, but always defer to the safest way to do it, or else put it off until you can.
  • •water damage is insidious and may not reflect the path it took to get there
    •it is good to get to know your neighbors, esp for borrowing tools you may not have
    •water filters are awesome
    •wheelbarrows are handy for many things
    •automatic irrigation systems actually save water and plant material
    •double-paned windows rock
    •so do on-demand (tankless) water heaters
    •gloves are handy, so is protective eye and earwear
    •(I hate home depot) ~ if you are looking for quality and service, find a small local supplier of materials
    •smoke alarms can save your life, just don't put them within 10' of where you sleep due to their radioactivity.
  • I have only three things to offer for consideration, but I feel they are important, having worked on at least a dozen houses in my lifetime.

    The Number One thing you should know about- what condition is your roof in? If the pitch isn't too steep, or if you're into climbing and have ropes, get up there and check it out. Look for gaps, shrunken tar joints, rotting wood trim, damaged or missing shingles, and damaged or missing flashing....and if you have rain gutters, check them out too. If your roof leaks during a heavy freaky rainstorm, it will do a lot of damage really really fast and be really really really expensive to rip out drywall, insulation, and soggy wood. I speak from experience. It sucks.

    Number two: look for drips under your sinks, behind your toilets, near your bathtub and shower, and washing machine hookups. if there are any serious damp areas, think about learning how to do plumbing...or call a licensed plumbing contractor.

    Number three: Do your lights flicker? Are there receptacles that you try to plug stuff into that seem loose? They are fires waiting to happen. Get yourself a good electric multi-tester and a home wiring book, available at any hardware stores. Make sure it's got lots of pictures and easy to understand definitions. And do NOT work on live wiring. It hurts real bad, and that's if you're lucky.

    I don't know much about HVAC (Heat, Ventilation, Air Conditioning), except that if your system isn't working properly, it's wasting your money.

    There is nothing more important than all the mechanical aspects of a home. The pretty stuff can wait.

    A good rental yard is your friend for power tools, unless you are doing a remodel or are going to use them frequently, then by all means buy. Buy good quality hand tools- Hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, etc.

    Congratulations and good luck with your new hobby ;-)
  • And here's my two cents.

    It's your house, you don't have to go with the standard renters paints any more (cigarette stained off white aka white that is so cheap it tends to yellow so has a couple of drops of yellow pre-added to it). Don't be afraid of color! It can really liven your life.

    You also don't have to go with renters grade items when you need to replace something (from your fridge to carpet to anything). Renters grade usually means the absolute cheapest home depot has. Even if you want to go thrifty, remember it is more expensive to replace something that costs $50 and has to be replaced every year than something that costs $100 and will last 10 years.

    If you're in the Bay Area: Cresco Rents is great for renting big tools.

    All contractors are crooks. Don't hire any of them, they're purpose in life is to get as much money out of you while doing as little work as possible. And never hire anyone who goes door to door and approaches you about work. There's a reason they have to be so aggressive to try and get work when they have none. If you want something done right, do it yourself. If the project is to big, hire a skilled laborer to help you with your task (ie. mason if you are working in concrete, carpenter if you are re-doing your cabinets, plumber if you need to do that), and be very specific and provide the materials!

    Know your city codes. Sucks to be halfway through a project, and find a building inspector telling you that you now have to get a permit for that work, plus pay 3x the cost of the permit, plus have it done a completely new way. Not to say that you should always get a permit, but if you do not get a permit, then a) know when you do and don't need one, b) build in a way that would be to code, so that if you get caught, you don't have to tear down and re-do (plus, the codes are usually just so that people will build to a minimum building standard, and there is often a reason people need to build to this standard), and c) know you are doing something without a permit and don't get caught (don't bother building without a permit on the front of your property, do it quick, and don't leave signs of construction around for months).
    • I've been in my first house a little over a year. These are my favorite tools so far:
      cordless drill/screwdriver (with 2 rechargeable batteries)
      small electric sander
      protective glasses

      The best advice I recieved was to live in the house for a few months before deciding on major changes. Repair what you must, but get to know your home and great renovating ideas will take shape over time.
  • Two things no one has mentioned yet: a snake and a rotary tool.

    The snake is obvious. It's gross but will save you money every time you have to use it. The rotary tool is worth its weight in gold. I don't know why they keep being marketed as only for crafts. They can cut through a steel cable (I had to rescue a computer once from a cable lock down I didn't have a key for) and rip through plastic without destroying it. I love my reciprocating saw, but I can't use it for either of those things.

    Oh, and a reciprocating saw.
  • Most important....look under every single sink, and plumbing drain. Check where "P" trap connects to drain pipe. If the nipple is galvanized iron , REPLACE it IMMEDIATELY, these galvanized iron pipe nipples are total crap, and will corrode to zero in 30 years, save you great headache and replace all galvanized iron nipples
  • Take care of the obvious things first.

    1) Make absolutely sure you can shut off the water. Don't just know where the valve is, check it and make sure that when you turn the water off it actually goes off. In some locations the only way to turn the water off is at the meter at the street. If you need a special tool for this make sure you have it and that it NEVER gets buried. I have seen many cases of bad water damage that could have been solved by a simple twist of a valve. Looking for the valve at 2 am after a pressure line blows is no fun; likewise finding that it doesn't work.

    2) Make sure that you know where your gas, heating oil, and electrical shut-offs are. Test them yourself and make sure they turn everything off. Buy a $10 current detector at your local hardware store for this purpose.

    3) As others have said check the function of all your drains and water stops under every sink and next to every toilet. Water stops with a white nylon handle and threaded copper riser should be considered suspect.

    4) Make sure you know where your furnace and AC system filters are. Go buy a stack of clean filters or better yet a washable filter for these. Haveing extras on hand means you will change them out when you notice the system is suboptimal. Then inspect them every time you pay the power bill.

    5) Have your ducts tested for your heating system or inspect them carefully yourself. Blowing hot air into the attic or subfloor makes for an expensive winter. Likewise look to adding some blown insulation to your attic if possible.

    6) Know where your septic line cleanouts are. You do not want to be looking for these at 6 pm on a Sunday with your $150/hr emergency plumber.

    7) Look at the date on your water heater. If it's more than 9 years old just replace it. Exceptions are if you live where your water comes from a granite drainage. That's San Francisco, New York city and bits of Colorado. Everybody else can count on haveing 5 gallons of sludge in a 40 gallon unit.

    8) Clear any debris away from your foundation. Make sure you can see the first 8 inches of foundation all the way around the house. Make keeping this clear a religion. Termites don't sleep.

    9) Roof, gutters, flashing. Your house is only as good as it's roof. Make sure that the gutters stay clear and that leaves and pine needles don't ever rest on your roof. Leaves and especially pine needles left in roof valleys eat roofs wholesale.

    10) Compact Flourescent bulbs. If you put them in now they will start saving you money and continue for years. It's always harder to do this bulb by bulb later.

    Enjoy your house.

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