Home Upkeep Tips

Read these 27 Home Upkeep Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Senior tips and hundreds of other topics.

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How can I prevent theft of newly purchased items?

Don't advertise expensive purchases

When purchasing expensive electronics, appliance, etc, that come in boxes, be *sure* to break-down (flatten) the boxes they come in before placing out front for 'pick-up'. Otherwise, we will only be alerting thieves that we have something inside for them to steal! Now you know why those strange cars drive by on 'trash-pick-up' times!

   
How can I maintain a healthy environment in my home?

Aerosol sprays vs 'pump'

Aerosol cleaning sprays are not only unhealthy to our bodies, but can be unhealthy to carpeting, vinyl, wood, and our total home health environment. When buying cleaning supplies, opt for the 'pump' type.

   
What is a good safety precaution for icy wooden decks?

Ice on wood decks

You can add safety to icy wood decks by sprinkling them with cornmeal...adds traction and easily swept away without harming the wood, lawn, or plants.

   
Why do I have trouble with my gas heater/furnace?

'Healthcheck' for gas heaters

Gas heaters should be checked before each winter; soot can build up at the outlets causing problems and may need cleaning. Proper ventilation and clean filters are important. Call your gas utility or manufacturer/installer for information.

   
What type of paint should I use on walls, ceilings and trim?

Types of paints

We'll find our finished paint efforts more rewarding if we use the right type of paints. Here's a basic list:
-Latex, that is available in flat or semi-gloss finish; can be thinned with water and is washable; is odor free and quick drying; good for ceilings, walls and woodwork.
-Polyurethane, that is available in satin or high gloss and very durable; can be thinned with alcohol; good for floors and wood surfaces.
-Oil-based paint, high gloss that can be scrubbed; can be thinned with mineral spirits or turpentine; best for trim, kitchens, bathrooms, childs' room.

   
How can I best prepare for painting walls and ceilings of my home?

**Preparation

Depending on the extensiveness of painting our home
interior, consider the following preparation:
-Be sure that all surfaces are clean.
-Repair any wall or ceiling damage.
-Scrape away loose plaster or other problems; be sure surface is smooth.
-Place furniture to center of room and cover with drop-cloth; cover floor or carpet with plenty of newspaper.
-Remove light fixtures and wall plates.
-Be sure your paint is not old. You can make your paint can dripless by punching nail holes around rim edges.
-Leave painting of trim, woodwork, and windows to last.

   
How can I protect my floors/carpet from discoloring marks?

Spots on carpet/floors

Humidity can cause furniture casters to discolor wood flooring or carpeting underneath. This can be prevented by spraying clean casters with shellac or clear urethane. Remember to have good ventilation when spraying these solvents. In a bind, place stiff pieces of clear plastic under the casters or legs of furniture.

   
Who do I contact for appliance repairs?

Save the booklet!

Any time you purchase a large (or small) appliance you get a booklet with the product. These are most important when you need repairs. I have a file set up for 'large' and 'small'; not measured just by size, but by cost. Every piece of paper I have on that product goes into the file. I've written date of purchase and cost (a sales slip or invoice attached is good!) and I've written the model and serial numbers on the front of the booklets. All the information I need on my built-in or large appliances are at my fingertips when I need it. Take time now to find your paperwork and file all in one convenient place (if you haven't already); you'll never regret the time spent.

   
What can I do about ice-covered doorsteps in wintertime?

Icy doorsteps

To avoid icy doorsteps in wintertime, add Dawn dishwashing liquid to warm water, then pour all over the steps. This will thaw ice and prevent refreezing.

   
How can I protect my wood furniture in wintertime?

Use Humidifiers

Humidifiers in the home not only soothe sore throats, prevent dry skin, and alleviate congestion, but are wonders for our wooden furniture! Yes, wood dries...humidifiers protect! Especially in wintertime.

   
What is necessary to maintain my heater/air conditioner?

Checking Heater/A-C Filters

An important part of keeping a healthy home is the cleaning of heater/A-C filters. Some filters just need cleaning, some need replacing...on a regular basis. This not only affords better air circulation, but can lower utility bills.

   
How can I clean my paint tools or spills?

Cleaning of brushes and spills

Cleaning of brushes, rollers/tray, pads, and any paint spills should be done immediately using proper solvent. Latex - water; Polyurethane - alcohol; Oilbased paint - turpentine or mineral spirits. Wet paint is much easier to remove.

   
How can I get more relief in summer heat?

Help to keep house cool in summer

Some summer days it's just downright ~HOT~, and the airconditioner or fans work overtime. Here's a way to get more relief: about 4pm, when sun is getting its hottest, water down the roof with your water-hose. Yes, it does work! Thoroughly water the roof, and if in a brick house, water the brick as well. I've had many a summer day of 110 deg., and by watering the roof, the house got 4-5 degrees cooler without puting a strain on the A/C. My neighbors have seen me doing this, and picked up the practice; try it. But don't stay out too long in the heat!!

   
How can I lengthen the burning life of my candles?

Extending candle life

Place all candles not being used in the freezer; this will cause candles to burn slower and extend the burning time. Or place them in freezer 10 hours before lighting them.

   
Who do I contact for appliance repairs?

Save that booklet

Be sure to save the accompanying brochures when buying small appliances; good information on the product. Immediately mail in the 'warranty' card supplied.

   
How can I prevent bad falls on basement stairs?

Basement step safety

For those who have basements in your home, paint the lower step of the stairs with white enamel. Much easier to be seen and could prevent bad falls.

   
How can I best paint the walls of my home?

Painting walls

When painting walls of our homes, it is much easier to use a 'roller'; use motions in a V or M shape, then go back over to cover completey with paint. To protect window glass, trim or ceilings of different colors, use a cardboard shield or masking tape at areas to be avoided.

   
How can I remove marker/dye staines from my counter tops?

Marker stains on counter tops

To remove permanent-marker stains from appliances/counter tops (yes, the store-receipts blue!), clean with rubbing alcohol on paper towels.

   
How can I raise the pile of my carpet?

Raise pile of carpeting

To raise pile of carpet, hold your steam iron over the area, but do not let the iron touch the carpet. Brush the pile back and forth lightly with a dry scrub-brush.

   
How can I lessen soot build-up in my fireplace?

Lessening soot in fireplace

If you have a fireplace, you know how soot can build up. Soot build-up can cause house fires! To lessen the amount of soot build-up, carefully toss table-salt on logs every so often during burning. A professioinal cleaning of the chimney/flue is necessary every 2-4 years, depending on how often the fireplace is used.

   
How can I save on repairs of my large appliances?

Cost of repairs

When you bought your new central heat/air-conditioning unit, did you think about repairs? Were you offered a one- or two-year extended warranty? I've found these to be a cost-savings proposition. But, read these warranties carefully. The cheaper is not always the best. Things to watch out for are: is the parts cost in the coverage; is the labor covered; is there a basic or extended maintenance coverage included. Some warranties are excellent, some not worth the paper it's written on. So read carefully and weigh the various factors. But do consider taking the warranties on your most expensive appliances.

   
How can I avoid my bathroom mirrors from becoming ´foggy´?

Avoid bathroom mirror fogging

To avoid those fogged-up bathroom mirrors after a hot shower: once (or so) a week, spray foam shaving cream (about half-dollar size 'blob') on mirror, spread cream over the mirror with paper towel, then re-wipe with clean paper towel to clean mirror of the shaving cream. Your mirrors will no longer fog up!

   
What type of brushes, rollers, or pads should I use when painting?

Brushes, rollers and more

When painting the interior of our homes, here is a list of brushes, rollers/tray, pads and their uses:
-Small brush (1" to 3") for trim or woodwork
-Large nylon, all purpose, brush (4" to 6") for walls, ceilings, even interior masonry.
-Deep nap roller with tray for stippled sand finish surface.
-Regular nap roller with tray for walls, ceilings, doors, floors and masonry.
-Small paint pad for cuttin-in at wall/ceiling corners.
-Large paint pad for walls and ceilings.

   
How can I use a thimble that is too large for my finger?

The thimble fits!

When mending, and it's necessary to use a thimble that is too large, this will help: the thimble will hold tighter if you wet your finger first.

   
What is the best detergent to use in my laundry?

Prevent cracked foundations

In hot or dry weather, where the ground around our house gets little water, we should be careful of the foundation of our house cracking; especially a slab foundation. To prevent this from happening, be sure to include the base of your home when watering the yard; this should be done ALL around our homes. If you experience water-rationing, attempt to let the washing-machine water run outside; the hose placed just to the outside part of your 'dryer vent' works well, but be sure it is secured. Soapy water never ruins grass, but may get rid of a few bugs at the same time!

   
How can I make my home safer from burglars?

Preventing Burglaries

To help prevent burglaries in your home, here are a few helpful hints:

1. "Case" your own house! Yes, that`s right. Look around your home to see if there are any easy ways for a burglar to enter. If there are, you should consider security doors, windows, gates, deadbolt locks, or better yet, a security alarm system. The harder you make it for burglars to get in, the faster they will become discouraged and leave your premises. Also, check to see if your valuables are visible from the street through your windows - if so, move them.

2. Leave a light on. Even if you are only making a quick run to the store, keep your home well lit inside and out.

3. Prune trees and shrubbery. The perfect hiding place for burglars is in overgrown bushes!

   
Which should I paint first...ceilings or walls?

Where to start

When painting ceilings and walls of our home interior, start with the ceiling first. Paint wall/ceiling corners with a small brush or paint pad, then use larger brush or roller (carefully) to complete ceiling.

   
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Guru Spotlight
Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.