6 Things Homeowners Should Know

It can be exciting and highly rewarding to be a homeowner. Not only can you decorate your own space however you like, but it’s also somewhere you can call your own. However, owning your own home comes with a lot of responsibilities, as well.

Whether it’s your first time owning your own place or you’ve purchased several houses throughout your life, there are a few essential things you should know. Here are six tips to help you better protect and care for your home.

1. Basic Troubleshooting

Every homeowner should know basic troubleshooting, such as how to unclog their drains, shut off the toilet, change the air filter in their HVAC system, and how to mend small tears in their window screen. If you have hardwood floors throughout your house, you should probably learn how to clean those properly, too. (Hint: You shouldn’t use water.)

Speaking of cleaning, knowing what materials countertops and fabrics are made of will help you determine the right products to use and how frequently they need cleaning.

If you’re unsure how to master the basics, you can always look up easy DIY instructions or videos online to guide you. Otherwise, investing in some simple tools — hammer, screwdriver, wrench, pliers, and flashlight — may come in handy.

2. The Layout of Your Electrical Panel

Have you ever plugged too many things into an outlet at one time and blown a fuse? Standing in a dark bathroom midway through drying your hair is not a fun experience.

It’s a good idea to know where your breaker box is for situations like this. In many houses, breaker boxes are located in the garage or basement, or near your electric meter. When you find it, you should learn the basic layout and label it appropriately.

Although you’ll most likely use it to flip the lights back on after tripping the breaker, it’s important to know how to turn your home’s electricity off for changing light fixtures, appliances, or doing other types of maintenance. You’ll likely have to flip individual circuit breakers off and on for these instances.

3. How to Shut Off Your Water

Homeowners should know where to locate their home’s water shutoff valve in an emergency. Typically, the valve is located in the basement or a utility area. When open, water can flow through the pipe to the rest of the house. You can turn the water supply off by turning the valve in the opposite direction.

Shut off your water valve when you have a broken pipe or leaky faucet or showerhead. Shutting off your water is also critical in preventing frozen pipes from bursting in the winter, such as outside faucets and sprinkler systems.

Additionally, you should turn your water off before going away on vacation. A great vacation can quickly turn sour if you arrive home to find a flood or other water-related damage.

4. How to Deal With Pests

Pests can be a real hassle for homeowners. In 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau reported about 124 million cases of roach sightings and 14.8 million sightings of mice or rats in homes. Household pests pose a serious health risk for homeowners, so become aware of the types of bugs, rodents, and other wild animals that are common to your area.

It may be a good idea to have your chimney inspected if you suspect squirrels are living inside it. Signs that you have squirrels may include sounds like jumping, running, or gnawing. Take a look at your fireplace to spot squirrel droppings, as well.

While setting up ant traps can help rid your home of a few pesky bugs, calling a professional is the best way to get rid of more significant rodent and pest infestations.

5. Know Your Community

As a homeowner, you may be surprised how your home relates to your neighborhood and where you live. Make sure you have a copy of your block/lot map if you plan to add fencing, a pool, or an addition to your house. You’ll need to reference it before starting construction.

Knowing your local permitting requirements is also helpful to ensure you meet the standard height specifications and building codes to avoid fines.

Other vital information includes knowing where the nearest hospital is, the utility companies that service your home, and what day of the week garbage and recycling pickup is.

Perhaps most importantly, get to know your neighbors. Everyone should do their neighborly part and look out for one another, so trade phone numbers with those nearby in case of an emergency.

6. Make an Exit Plan

Your exit plan tops the list of all the things you should know when owning a home. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, one- and two-family houses accounted for 63% of all residential fires between 2017 and 2019.

Identify possible exits for each room in the house, including doors and windows. Whether it’s in the case of a fire, a natural disaster, or a burglary, you will want to have an evacuation plan ready to get you and your family to safety.

Make sure you can easily collect any essential items in a pinch, such as medications, clothing, and your phone charger. If you need guidance for creating an exit plan for your household, Ready.gov has several resources to assist you.

Be a Smart Homeowner

Many joys come with owning your own home. Educating yourself on caring for your house and personal belongings properly can make living in your own space more manageable and enjoyable.