With Canadians spending more time at home, opportunities to level-up our living spaces continue to present themselves. You may have spent time pampering your pets, setting a new tone in the bathroom, or even performing some long-overdue home maintenance. If you’ve been considering uncharted home improvement territory, then it could be time to finish your basement. Let’s look at some key considerations to help you plan for this project.

Bedroom finished basementImage via AddiGibson, Pixabay

Is it worthwhile?

Undoubtedly this is one of the biggest projects you can undertake in your home, and it carries some risks as well as a hefty price tag. On the flipside, you’ll not only increase the livable space in your home, your property value could see a substantial boost. Whether you hire a pro to complete the work or execute this epic DIY yourself, the added value alone makes this a worthy endeavour (if approached correctly).

Besides general considerations for this project, you’ll need to assess costs. Consider a professionally finished basement will cost between $35 and $55 per square foot (0.93m2). Of course, this cost would be reduced for a DIY, but it’s a good baseline for budgeting. 

Important: If you’re considering converting to a basement apartment, consulting your municipality and a qualified professional are both key in planning for a safe and legal living space for family or tenants.

Installing wall insolationImage via Erik Mclean, Unsplash

Common pitfalls to avoid

Working without a permit: This is one of the most common mistakes when it comes to any type of renovation, causing potential financial and legal woes down the road—especially when selling your home.

Ignoring moisture: Before proceeding it’s important to confirm if conditions are suitable for finishing. Basement humidity levels must be maintained at 55% or less. Anything above 60% presents a mould risk. Tip: Taping two-foot squares of plastic sheeting strategically on the walls and floor for two-week periods is an excellent way to test for moisture penetration.

Drywall scraperImage via La Miko, Pexels

Improper flooring: Another major pitfall for finished basements is when carpet or organic flooring are laid on concrete. This can create conditions for condensation to collect, so it’s important to employ proper subflooring materials, or if possible, use inorganic flooring such as ceramic tiles.

No backup sump pump: If your basement requires a sump pit and pump to address drainage during spring or sustained rain, it’s important to maintain a working backup pump for emergencies. Tip: During dry periods, practice swapping out your pumps to avoid any panic when there’s a pump failure. 

Poor drainage: One of the most important considerations takes place outside your home. Ensure your gutters direct water at least 10 feet away from the home, and that the surrounding soil slopes away from the structure. 

Inadequate ceiling clearance: While most homeowners are not likely to attempt finishing a crawl space, it’s important to meet minimum code requirements for ceiling clearance. Clearance height may vary from city to city, but generally speaking you must keep a minimum height (below beams and ducts) of 6’11” for at least 75% of your usable floorspace.

Home inspector smilingImage via sagoodi, Pixabay

Consult professionals

This can’t be stressed enough. Even if you plan to do the finishing work yourself, it’s best to consult a professional for this type of project. A building engineer or architect can help you develop a plan to avoid missing key details, while also helping to assure building permit approval.

All electrical, plumbing, or support structure work should be performed by licensed professionals to avoid costly, dangerous mistakes.

Power drill and home plans on tableImage via, Pexels


Once you have a plan, it’s time to purchase the materials you’ll need to accomplish this project. Assuming any drainage or moisture seal issues have already addressed, here are the main materials to plan for: 

  • Treated lumber for studs (treated lumber is less susceptible to warping and rot)
  • Metal or wood furring strips to create offsets along your walls (a must for uneven walls)
  • Insulation (a solid foam insulation is recommended if it will contact the walls directly)
  • Flooring materials (subflooring, carpet, laminate or tile)
  • Drywall
  • Paint
  • Concrete sealer
  • Hammer drill with masonry bits, masonry screws or slip anchor sleeves
  • Plumbing (if you plan to install a bathroom or make changes to your laundry area)
  • Sump pumps (every sump pit should have a primary and a backup pump)
levelerImage via jarmoluk, Pixabay

Understandably, there’s a lot to consider, learn, and absorb when preparing to finish your basement. Taking the time to carefully plan out your project while being mindful of potential pitfalls will go a long way towards creating a beautiful space you can not only be proud of, but will provide years of enjoyment for your family, and those of future owners.

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Updating your rental property is a delicate balance—you want the place to feel like home, but might not be keen on investing a whole lot of time and money into a place that’s not yours to keep. Plus, there’s the matter of preserving your deposit and staying in your landlord’s good graces. 

While these are responsible things to consider, you deserve to live somewhere that doesn’t feel temporary! As we weather the most indoor winter of them all, it’s important your place feels like home. Here are some damage-free, simple, and cost-effective ways to get started. 

A women painting the walls in her studio apartment

Update your paint job

A fresh coat of paint is great for morale, making your space look cleaner and brighter. Send your landlord a quick email before embarking on this one, as they may expect you to return the apartment to its original colour when you move out. If so, you may want to avoid dark colours or use them sparingly (like on an accent wall, maybe?) to avoid hassle when you repaint. Your landlord may also thank you for saving them the trouble of having to repaint themselves!

Image via []

Try a removable mural

Temporary wall treatments have been gaining popularity in recent years, meaning there’s a tremendous variety of textures and patterns to choose from. It’s easier to install and to remove than traditional wallpaper, making it a kind choice for when “future you” moves out. Temporary murals can be an excellent option for kid bedrooms too, as they can be replaced with your child’s changing interests. 

A wall of artwork

Display your artwork

Does reluctance to put holes in your walls have you putting off assembling a gallery wall?  Command strips are a great alternative to more permanent methods. Be sure to wipe your frame and the wall with alcohol before hanging, so the strip can easily adhere. You’ll also want to use a level to make sure your image is hanging straight the first time, as removing and replacing the strip onto the wall will make it less sticky each time. 

Make the most of your space

Does your rental’s layout have some quirks you could do without? A little creativity can help optimize the space you have to work for you. 

  • The addition of a butcher table to your kitchen can make a big difference for counter space, especially one with additional storage beneath. 
  • Partitioning your space with room-dividing screens can help make purposeful pockets in an open-concept space. This is especially handy for those of us working from home in terms of video conferencing. Sometimes freeing up a physical space for reading or meditation can help free up mental space too.
  • Over-the-toilet storage like this one and no-drill hooks like these can help free up counter space in your bathroom. 

A modern floor lamp

Let there be light

Lighting in a rental unit can be sparse, or just ill-suited to how you use your space. Personalizing your lighting scheme can help you see your space in a new light (pun absolutely intended). 

  • Floor lamps are an easy way to achieve both ambient and task-oriented lighting, without taking up precious space on your surfaces. 
  • An edison pendant light is a vintage-inspired option to provide overhead lighting without rewiring or changing your fixtures. 
  • Though popularized by Gen Z on TikTok, LED light strips and bulbs make it easy to change the vibe on a whim, while still looking modern and grown up. Plus, they set the mood for all your best impromptu home dance parties. 

While the apartment may not be yours for keeps, there are ways you can add your own flair and make the space feel like home. 




Since the first round of COVID-19 lockdowns in the spring of 2020, more home buyers have been purchasing properties in cottage country

Spending more time at home, and longing for additional space both indoors and out, has sent many buyers into rural markets across the country, causing sales to skyrocket in these communities. In December, the Lakelands Association of REALTORS®, which represents MuskokaHaliburtonOrillia and Parry Sound in Ontario reported new annual records for both non-waterfront and waterfront property sales, which grew by 16.5% and 44.9%, respectively.

CottageImage via Unsplash

Greg McInnis, a sales representative and REALTOR® with Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited who specializes in Ontario’s Haliburton region, says the cottage market was ‘going gangbusters’ consistently throughout 2020. With employer mindsets shifting towards more flexible work-from-home policies, providing home buyers with greater freedom as to where they can live, all indications are pointing to another strong year in 2021, he says. 

“People have been looking to get out [to] cottage country not just for the summer season, but all year long,” said McInnis. “We do see a lot of people looking at year-round places, [which] are more important to them. [A place] that they can live at, versus just being able to go away for a few days at a time.”

If you’re looking to make your first home purchase in cottage country, McInnis lays down a few crucial facts you’ll need to know before you buy. 

Looking out window at winter sceneImage via Unsplash

Consider property access and distance to amenities

Whether you’re eying a cottage by the lake or one that’s nestled in the forest, there are many unique settings to consider when buying a rural property. Your cottage’s location can greatly impact your lifestyle, especially if you decide to live there year-round.

One of the first things you’ll likely need to determine when buying a cottage property is how you’ll be able to access the home. If you plan to live at your cottage year-round, McInnis says you’ll want to ensure the roads to get to and from your residence are well maintained and accessible, especially during the winter. 

How remote your cottage is will also play a role in your purchase. McInnis says the recent surge of all-season cottage buyers don’t want to feel too isolated, and want to be fairly close to neighbours in case there’s an emergency.

cottage on the lakeImage via James Bombales

McInnis explains you’ll also want to consider proximity to basic amenities, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and hospitals. Most cottage buyers prefer to be within 30 minutes of a small town where these services are available, he says, and up to three hours from a major urban centre. 

“They want to stay three hours or under away from the city, even if they are moving out or semi-permanently moving out,” says McInnis. “They still want to have access to the city for jobs or be able to go in and do whatever [they need to], so they don’t want to be too, too far away.”

Learn about rural infrastructure and home winterization

Unlike a city or suburban home, cottage properties don’t always share municipal services. Instead, cottage dwellers will have to get familiar with the rural infrastructure needed to independently manage their home’s water, heating and sanitation utilities. 

McInnis says buyers will have to be aware of the types of systems their home uses. Some properties feature dug or drilled wells, and source water from nearby rivers and lakes. Make note of how the home processes sewage, like through a septic tank, which is stored on-site and underground. You’ll also need to learn about how you can dispose of your garbage, whether a regular pick-up service is available or if you’ll be required to drive to the local dump. 

kitchen faucetImage via Pexels

If your plan is to live at the cottage all-year round, it’s vital your home is properly winterized and can withstand the cold. McInnis says to check the home is well insulated in the walls, pipes and roof, and to make sure the heating source is efficient for the size of the property. Be sure the cottage can also supply water in the freezing months with the help of a defrost line into the well or a heat trace that will keep the pipes from freezing.

cottage in winterImage via Unsplash

It’s not uncommon to get zero service bars in rural areas either—be sure to confirm you can receive reliable mobile phone and internet service at the cottage, especially if you’re working remotely.    

“Cell and internet service are obviously very important, especially for people that are doing a lot of work from home,” says McInnis. “There are some areas of cottage country that have pretty good service. There’s other areas that don’t.”

Calculate cottage insurance and upkeep costs

Just like any home, cottages come with a range of maintenance costs, though some of these expenses are unique to rural areas. 

McInnis says you’ll want to factor in long-term upkeep expenses, like keeping the driveway in good condition so it’s easily accessible. Your property may be on a septic system, which will require pumping every three to five years depending on its size and usage, which also contributes to maintenance costs. When looking at a cottage property, McInnis recommends examining the health of any trees and their orientation towards the house—cutting down sickly shrubs can get expensive. 

“Danger trees can cost $1,000 to take down, so if you’ve got a number of those that you’ve got to take down in the next few years, that can really add to the cost of your purchase,” explains McInnis.

man with chainsaw cutting logImage via Pexels

When it comes to financing your property, there are a number of factors that will contribute to your insurance rates, such as your distance from local fire stations, if your home is elevated from nearby water, and even how often the home is occupied. 

The mortgage lending process will also look a bit different from what’s involved for your typical city or suburban home. If your home meets the standards to be a primary residence, McInnis explains you may be able to put down a 5%t mortgage deposit, though some lenders could request 25%in some cases. Hence, it’s crucial to understand the different implications for each cottage mortgage provider. 

“There’s a lot of things to think about, which is probably why it’s good to have a professional real estate agent looking out for you so they can go over all of those things with you,” says McInnis.  

Enlisting the help of a local REALTOR® when buying a cottage ensures you can get the most up-to-date advice on transitioning to rural living. Connect with the best REALTOR® for your needs at, where you can find thousands of agents that specialize in Canada’s many cottage communities. 

For the original article, check out 


Congratulations, you’re a homeowner! (Or you’re a renter! Which also deserves celebration!) There’s so much to learn and explore about your new digs, but it’s important to get some basics squared away before you play. Your home will have countless surprises for you over the years—and the right time to learn how to deal with them is not when you’re smack dab in the middle of a crisis. From some emergency preparedness to basic troubleshooting, these are 50 things everyone should know about their home. While it’s not a comprehensive guide, it’s a great place to start:

The basics:

Safety first! These are the things to know to prevent everyday hazards.

1. Your exit plan

First and foremost, one of the most important things you should know about your home is how to get out of it. In case of a fire or another emergency, how are you going to get to safety? (Every sleeping area should have at least one exit identified, either a door or a window that leads directly to the exterior.) What about for natural disasters? You should have a solid exit plan for all scenarios— has great planning resources for both domestic and external emergencies.


2. How your smoke detectors work

According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost three out of five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. The best way to prevent this? Check to make sure your smoke detectors are working monthly.

Had them for awhile? It may be time for a replacement. According to Welmoed Sisson, home inspector at Inspections by Bob in Frederick, Maryland, and author of “101 Things You Don’t Want In Your Home,” they should be replaced every ten years.


3. How your carbon monoxide detectors work

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 150 people in the United States die annually from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. While you’re checking your smoke detectors, give your CO detectors a good press, too. Many devices will have an end-of-life alarm, but many, including those by First Alert, recommend replacing them after five years.

4. How to use your fire extinguisher

Sure, you may have received a fire extinguisher from your parents as a first apartment housewarming gift, but do you actually know to use it? Peruse the National Fire Protection Association’s guide for a quick how-to. Also, if you’ve never used it (other than as a doorstop), Allstate has a nifty blog post about how to effectively inspect your extinguisher.

5. If you’re at risk for radon

When you were going through the home inspection process, it’s likely your home was tested for radon exposure—aka what happens after the natural breakdown of uranium in rock, soil, and water. However, if you live in an older home in the Northeast, Southern Appalachia, the Midwest, or the Northern Plains, you should test for radon if you haven’t in awhile or if you’ve just done a major home renovation. The New York State Department of Health recommends every couple five years in different seasons.


One of the first things experts recommend doing when moving in a new house is changing the locks—but why spend the additional money hiring a locksmith if you can easily do it yourself? (Here’s an easy DIY from This Old House!) If you don’t want to change all the locks themselves (cause that’s still pricey!) but still want the added security reassurance, you can also use a re-keying kit, which runs about $9 (but is a little more difficult to install than an entire new unit).

7. How to change your garage access information

Here’s a tip: Default isn’t safe. Take a cue from Jill Schafer, an agent with Kentwood Real Estate in Denver, Colorado, and learn how to change your garage keypad stat.

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8. How to spot (or smell!) mold—and what to do with it

The CDC says that whenever you spot mold on a hard surface, you should deal with it immediately. However, some molds can require more intensive removal. One in particular is Stachybotrys chartarum (aka toxic black mold) and it grows wherever water or moisture shouldn’t be. Though it’s black, green, or gray, chances are you’re going to smell it before you see it since since it’s usually stuck in the pores of water-damaged drywall, carpet, or other flooring. Most of the time, a surface cleaning won’t do anything—you’re going to have to get rid of the materials entirely and address what was causing water damage in the first place.

9. How to deal with pests

Speaking of living things in your home: You should know what pests are common in your area and potentially may encounter in your home. From insects, like silverfish and even—god forbid—bed bugs, to bigger uninvited guests, like mice or other wild animals, you should know what to do if you see one as well as ways to prevent an infestation.

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10. Where the main electric shut off is—and how to turn it off

Generally, it’s good to locate where your breaker box is (and have it appropriately labeled).


“It may be in the main panel in the basement, but in some houses it’s in the garage or outside near the electric meter,” says Sisson.

While you’re most likely to interact with it after you trip a circuit breaker or blow a fuse, you should also know how to turn off your home’s electricity flow for maintenance and safety reasons. If you’re installing something electric (i.e. a light fixture or any appliance that’s more complicated than just plugging something in), you’ll need to turn off the individual circuit breaker. If there’s a local fire, too, (i.e. if your microwave catches fire) or if there are sparks coming out of your outlet—you should run to the breaker, too.


11. Where the main water shut-off is—and how to turn it off

According to Mr. Rooter Plumbing, your main water shut-off valve is most likely located close to your water heater and has a bright red handle. A strong clockwise turn is all it takes to turn it off.

But why should you know how to turn it off? According to Ben Creamer, co-founder and managing broker of Downtown Realty Company in Chicago, Illinois, quickly turning off the water in a plumbing emergency will alleviate potential water damage in the home.

“A cracked pipe, a leaky shower, or a broken sprinkler head can all cause serious and costly damage if you don’t stop the water flow quickly,” Creamer says.


12. Where the gas shut-offs are

For safety reasons, you shouldn’t try to shut off your gas main on your own—leave that to a professional, reports Katie Johnston at the Boston Globe. And if you smell gas in your home, leave and call 911 immediately.

However, if you need to turn off a gas-powered appliance, like a stove or water heater (for installation or maintenance purposes), look behind the machine for the valve and turn clockwise. For more detailed instructions, check out SoCalGas’s how-to.


13. How your home is ventilated

There are multiple ways to ventilate a home—and they all require their own type of upkeep. To prevent harmful pollutants and/or unwanted moisture to accumulate and wreak havoc on your health and home, make sure all exhaust vents are unobstructed and all mechanical systems are serviced yearly.

The nuts and bolts

Numbers and metrics are specific to your home.

14. Your experts

If a pipe breaks or the furnace poops out, who will you call? Keep a list of recommended plumbers, carpenters, electricians, contractors, handymen, and exterminators on your refrigerator to call in a moment’s notice.


15. The lifespan of all the components of your home, their warranties, and their maintenance schedules

Fun fact: Nothing in your home lasts forever—and even if something is made to last for a very, very long time, it’ll require regular upkeep to ensure you squeeze out every last potential year of your appliances and building materials. Knowing how old everything is in your home, the last time everything was serviced, if it’s still under warranty, and any major issues in the past will help you plan out just when you’ll need to perform maintenance (and save up for it.)

“Get a sense for the remaining lifespan of the roof, furnace, air conditioning condenser, and other mechanicals,” says Brian Davis, a real estate investor and co-founder of “These are expensive to replace, and homeowners should know if they need to expect a $15,000 roof bill next year or ten years from now.”

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16. Where your wall studs are

For anything weighing over a pound, use a stud finder to drill or hammer into the studs. Just $7 can save you from expensive damaged drywall, says Davis.


17. What type of insulation you have

“It’s important to understand the type of insulation that runs throughout your home,” said Bridget Rooney, a home renovation and safety expert. While all insulation types have their own benefits, risks, and maintenance routines, some are more dangerous than others. For example, if your home was built before the 1980s, it’s possible that your home has asbestos insulation. Asbestos is not dangerous if it’s contained, but if “friable” (easily crumbled by hand) and its fibers or dust are inhaled, it can cause abestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. This is a common risk in older homes and, surprisingly, according to the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center, there are no federal guidelines for home inspections around asbestos, and many inspectors don’t check. However, in many states, sellers are required to disclose any known asbestos products in the home.

“Replacing this insulation sooner rather than later with a non-toxic alternative such as paper insulation will ensure your home is a healthy place for many years to come,” Rooney says.

18. Your home’s electrical load/capacity

Want to add another appliance or make a modernization update? Make sure your circuit can handle the additional load so you’re not constantly running down to reset your breaker, says Allison Chiaramonte of Warburg Realty in New York City.


The Spruce has a helpful article on how to calculate your home’s electrical capacity yourself, or you can hire an electrician for a comprehensive analysis.

19. Your water pressure

You can check your water pressure using a pressure gauge from a home improvement store. (This $6 one is top-rated on Amazon as well.) According to Mr. Rooter Plumbing, an ideal water pressure reading is between 45 and 55 psi. Any higher means you risk overloading your pipes and hoses, which can result in flooding. Any lower means a disappointing shower. You can easily fix any problems in pressure by installing and tightening/loosening a regulator. If it’s a problem directly from the municipal system, you can add a water pressure booster—but they’re somewhat pricey.

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20. Your proper light bulb wattage

“Overlamping, or using a light bulb with wattage too high for a given outlet, can easily result in a home fire,” said Craig Gjelsten, vice president of operations at Rainbow International. “Simply locate the proper wattage on each fixture outlet. If the fixture is unmarked, stay under 60 watts to be safe. Avoid using [compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in any lighting unit where the base of the bulb is enclosed by the fixture, such as with track and recessed lighting.” Instead, Gjelsten recommends a cooler option, such as LED.


Additionally, make sure all of your light bulbs are the same type and wattage—this is a common staging trick as uneven lighting can make a space appear smaller.

Basic troubleshooting

21. How to shut off your toilet

Look, shit happens. But don’t let your bowl runneth over onto your sparkling clean floor just because your tank won’t stop running. Turning off your toilet water valve (it’s the silver almond-shaped handle right under or behind the toilet) will stop messes before they happen.

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22. How to stop a dripping faucet

That plinky leaky faucet is not only driving you crazy, but it’s costing you money. Learn how to take off the faucet and replace the rubber washer—here’s an easy how-to.

23. How to unclog a sink drain

Forget those hazardous chemicals. Instead, turn off the water, place a bucket underneath the sink and unscrew the U shaped pipe underneath. Most likely, what’s causing the clog is in there.


24. How to unclog a shower drain

Slow shower? Try one of these 10 methods for how to unclog a drain before calling the plumber.


25. Where your water heater is, its capacity, and how to flush it out

Your home should be a no-cold shower zone—so you should know how much hot water your heater can contain. And step one in enacting that rule is knowing where your water heater is to check its size, but also in case of any on-the-ground troubleshooting (Spoiler alert: It’s usually tucked away somewhere and likely around the other utility hubs.) And while we’re talking about water heaters, remember that yours needs to be flushed every year. Sisson says you can do that using the faucet at the base.

Looking for your water softener? It shouldn’t be that far away from the heater!

26. What type of waste system you have, how it works (and where your main-line clean-out is)

The closer you live to an urban center, the more likely you are to have a direct connection from your home to a municipal sewer system. All pipes in your home most likely connect to the city system via a main-line, which can occasionally clog (and cause sewage water to seep up from floor drain. Yuck!) Thankfully, there’s a clean-out—usually outside the home and close to the foundation—that can easily solve problems. However, if that clean-out is blocked, the problem becomes harder and more expensive to fix.


If you’re in a more rural area, you may be dealing with a septic tank. Aaron Hendon of Christine & Company of Keller Williams in Seattle says there are many different designs of tanks and each has its own needs and ways to care for it. Hopefully you won’t be dealing with it all that often, but for emergency situations, you should know where in your yard your system and tank is buried. Not sure how to figure that out? According to FloHawks Plumbing and Septic in the Pacific Northwest, system diagrams may have been included as part of your home inspection, but you can also use country records to find the “as-builts” for your property (they usually contain the diagrams as well.)

27. Which air filter your HVAC system uses

While changing your filter every month may be overdoing it for those without pets or allergies, you should at least change it seasonally to ensure your AC isn’t working overtime. But these filters aren’t a one-size-fits all deal. Marla Mock, vice president of operations at Aire Serv, a Neighborly company, says you can figure out the right filter size by looking at the existing filter or consulting your HVAC manual.

“Write this number down to ensure you get the proper size,” she says. “Having the correct size increases effectiveness and helps lower your electricity bill.”


28. How to open and close your fireplace flue

If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace—and use it for more than just decoration—you should know how to open and close your fireplace flue to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide buildup, says Roxanne Little, chief executive officer of HAFKAR Solutions in Atlanta, Georgia. She also recommends getting it (and your chimney, if you have one) cleaned and serviced at least annually.


29. How to clean your dryer vent ductwork

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are an estimated annual 2,900 fires, 5 deaths, and 100 and $35 million in property loss injuries due to clothes dryer fires every year. Yes, much of this is due to not cleaning off the lint catcher after every load, but did you know it’s also important to clean out your dryer vent ductwork every year too? Remove the hose behind the dryer, and take a brush and vacuum to remove any lint pileup. Not only will it reduce your chance of fire, but it will improve your dryer’s energy efficiency, too.

30. How to patch a window screen

Have a hole just big enough in your screen for a bug to crawl through? You can use clear nail polish to easily patch them right up. Bigger holes can be repaired with sewing, patches, or with a duct tape-like adhesive.


31. How to replace a circuit breaker fuse

Sometimes your fuse won’t have to be reset—but actually has to be replaced. Here’s the easy (and safe!) way to replace a circuit breaker fuse by yourself.

32. How to replace a light switch

Whether it’s broken or just kind of gross, installing a light switch is easier than you think it is. (And so is installing a dimmer!)

Having one outlet that just doesn’t work, is too loose, or just doesn’t look nice isn’t something you have to live with. And, quite frankly, it’s pretty easy to fix! Here, how to replace an electrical outlet.


34. How to seal up drafts

It may be an important step in winterizing, but covering up any poorly-insulated areas will lower your cooling bills in the summer, too. “As structures shift and settle over time, insulation, caulking, and other protective materials slowly lose their protective powers,” says Larry Patterson, franchise owner of Glass Doctor, a Neighborly Company. Here’s a full guide to insulating your entire home against drafts.

35. How to take off (and reinstall) your shower head

Your shower may be spotless—but, chances are, there’s one thing you haven’t cleaned in awhile: The shower head itself. At least once a year, you should remove it and give it a good cleaning. Or, while you’re at it, upgrade to an entirely new (and more luxurious) head, too.

36. How to care for your hardwood floors

Keep those hardwood floors as beautiful as they are today. According to the National Wood Flooring Association, you shouldn’t use water on them when the floor gets dirty. Instead, start cleaning your hardwood floors by using a dry cloth to promptly mop up spills and use wood-friendly cleaners on a monthly basis.

37. What your countertop materials are made of

Countertops can look like one thing and actually be another—which spells trouble when it comes time to clean and perform maintenance. “Natural stone that is proud, like marble, needs to be sealed annually and cleaned with a solution that specifically formulated to not harm the stone,” says Rainey Richardson, of Rainey Richardson Interiors in Houston, Texas. “Other materials like quartz and Neolith that are composites require much less maintenance.

38. How to clean a gutter

Be careful, but you should get up there and get out all the gook and the leaves and sticks. A clogged gutter can cause damage to your roof and leaks inside the walls. Here’s an easy guide to cleaning your gutters.

39. Where your manuals are

Gone are the days where you’d have to keep a zip-lock bag full of the user manuals for your toaster, fridge, and washing machine. Today, Schafer says you can find most of them online—just make sure to download and save a copies to the Cloud (may we suggest a dedicated folder?) so you always have access to them.


Contextual information

How your home relates to your neighborhood and the city where you live

40. Where your block/lot map is

“The map shows right-of-ways for utility companies and the county,” says Richardson. “This is important when you want to add improvements like a deck, fencing, an outdoor kitchen, or a swimming pool.”

41. Know local permitting ordinance requirements

Take a trip over to your local building department. “Learn the ordinance requirements so that any future additions or modifications are not the source of upset or extra expense,” said Hendon. “Height restrictions, setbacks, and building codes can change and you want to be clear that any future plans are allowed.”


42. When waste pick-up is (and what you can leave out)

Not only do different areas have their different days, but what can be left out as garbage, recycling, and compost (and how it should be presented) can vary wildly as well. Check with your local sanitation department to get the low-down and avoid any pricey fines.

43. Your neighbor’s contact information

We all have to look out for each other! Have your neighbors contact information on file in case of an emergency (or simply to invite them over for dinner one evening!)


44. Non-emergency numbers

911 should be kept for emergencies only. Use this number for all non-urgent matters—and only if you can’t resolve the issue yourself.


45. The noise curfew

Summer parties are fun—but your neighbors won’t appreciate your speakers blasting until all hours of the night. (And I’m sure you won’t like if a neighbor is mowing the lawn too early, either!)

46. The nearest hospital, 24/7 emergency clinic, and vet

It’s a great thing to know in case of an emergency. (It might be worth checking to see which is the closest ER that accepts your insurance, as well.)

47. Your polling place

Voting is your civic duty—locate where you need to be on election day.


48. Your elected representatives

It’s important to know who is doing the work for you and your community (and if they’re doing a good job.) Want to become a more informed citizen? Set a Google alert for their names.

49. The nearest donation center

There’s no reason to throw out old furniture or clothes when you can donate it—and often when someone will swing by to pick it up! Locate your nearest donation center (like Goodwill or the Salvation Army) and research what they can and can’t accept.

50. Who services your local utilities

Who provides internet, electricity, gas, and water in your area—and how can you contact them in an emergency?


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