New or old, every home has its share of small emergencies. Clogged toilets, kitchen fires, and leaky faucets can happen to anyone. Are your homeowner survival skills up to the test? We recommend that every homeowner take steps to solve minor emergencies before they become big ones with a small defense of homeowner survival skills.
- Build a home maintenance manual. No, they didn’t give you one when you signed off on the mortgage. This is one manual you’ll have to make yourself. But it’s simple: just gather important home documents and keep them in a single folder for quick reference in an emergency. This includes your home warranty information, individual appliance warranties, service records, and maintenance requirements for all systems and appliances in the home. You’ll also need to collect the age of the home, roof, and systems.
- Sufficiently stock your tool kit. Some DIYers may argue that you’re never done stocking your tool kit. There’s always a reason to add a new tool over the years. But for small emergencies, homeowners can get by with the basics. Experts recommend a tape measure, utility knife, four-in-one screwdriver, hammer, putty knife, saw, wrench, pliers, light, and drill/driver. With these, you should be prepared to handle most small problems and maintenance.
- Stop and unclog an overflowing toilet. One of the most common home emergencies, but also one of the most dreaded. Who wants to fix a toilet? But the good news is that it’s usually an easy task that doesn’t require the help of a professional. Stop the bowl from overflowing by taking the lid off the tank and closing the toilet flapper. Then, use a plunger to clear the clog, creating a solid seal with up and down strokes. For persistent clogs, try a secret plumber trick: add hot water, or if that doesn’t work, dishwasher detergent. Call a professional if water is backing up into sinks or showers when you flush, as that means you’ve clogged the main line.
- Fix a leaky faucet. Drip, drip, drip, drip. That’s the sound of money going down the drain. Though small, those drops of water can add up to lots of waste on your water bill. Even worse, that small leak may grow into a real problem over time. Fix your leaky faucet by turning off your water supply, taking your faucet handle off the stem, and inspecting the o-ring and washer inside the valve seat. Replace the washer and reassemble your faucet, then turn on the water and test to see if you’ve cleared the leak. If you still have a drip, call in a professional plumber who may diagnose corrosion in your valve seat, worn out seals, or loose parts.
- Put out a fire. Large home fires are a real emergency. It’s best to evacuate and call 911 if there is a large fire in your home. But if you have a small kitchen fire, you may be able to stop it quickly on your own with homeowner survival skills. Small cooking pan fires may be stopped by applying a lid and removing the pan from heat, suffocating the fire with a lack of oxygen. A fire in the oven or microwave may be stopped the same way by closing the door and turning off the power to the appliance. Avoid applying water, or swatting the fire with a towel or apron, as you’ll feed the fire. Instead, use baking soda or salt to stop a grease fire. If you have a fire extinguisher (and you should), operate it with the P.A.S.S. technique. Pull the pin, aim low as the base of the fire, squeeze the handle, and sweep from side to side until the fire is out. If you’re not able to quickly beat the fire with a fire extinguisher or other methods, evacuate immediately and call 911 for help.
- Unclog a drain. Similar to a clogged toilet, clogged drains can happen at any time, and they have to be addressed to avoid flooding and maintain use of the sink or tub. Before calling a plumber, try flushing the drain with hot water, or a mixture of vinegar and baking soda. Try a plunger, remembering to put a strip of duct tape on the overflow drain to force air or water down the drain into the clog. For pesky clogs, use a drain snake from the hardware store, or make one yourself with a wire coat hanger. As a last resort, use a chemical drain cleaner to clear the clog, or call a plumber for help.
- Shut off water, electricity, or gas in an emergency. A burst pipe, natural disaster, or gas leak can turn into a major emergency quickly if you’re not able to shut off your utilities. Prevent flood, fires, and other major home issues by learning how to shut off your utilities in an emergency. Locate the shut-off value for your water line before an emergency, and tag it for easy identification later. Make sure that it can completely close, inspecting for rust and replacing it if necessary. Locate your electrical circuit box, and learn how to shut off your circuits. Remember to turn off individual circuits before the main circuit for safety. Contact your local gas company to learn the proper shut-off procedure for your meter, as there may be special procedures and even a specialty wrench required.
- Open your garage door without power. The power may be out, but that doesn’t mean your vehicle is stuck behind a dead garage door. You can open your garage door during a power outage by locating the emergency release cord, which is usually hanging from the garage door opener rail. Pull this cord, but be careful not to do so while the door is open, as this may cause it to come crashing down.
Are you ready for small home emergencies? Prepare your tool kit and homeowner survival skills to make sure you can take on small problems before they become big ones.