9 Basic Home Maintenance How-tos Everyone Should Know

How many of these home maintenance tasks have you mastered?

Whether you're moving into your first apartment or have been living in your home for decades, there are some basic home maintenance how-tos you need to know. From what to do when you trip a circuit breaker to how to paint a wall, here are some essential home tasks worth remembering. These are the type of super-simple how-tos you'll wish they covered in your high school home economics class—but it's never too late to learn.

01 of 09

Reset a Tripped Circuit Breaker

If you're trying to blow dry your hair, watch TV, and run a window AC unit all at the same time, you ought to know what to do if a circuit breaker trips. The first sign of a tripped breaker: Everything will shut off.

Familiarize yourself with the breaker box in your house or apartment (if you have access to it). Open the cover and look at the grid of breakers. One might now be switched to "OFF" or may display a red marker window that indicates it's been tripped.

Turn off all the lights and appliances connected to that breaker. Then, flip the tripped breaker to the "ON" position (some models will need to be switched fully off before turning them back on again). If the lights and appliances now work—ta-da, you did it! If it trips again, consult an electrician.

Safety first: You're dealing with electricity here, so be mindful never to touch the breaker box with wet hands or if there is water on the floor.

02 of 09

Turn Off the Water

In case of emergency, know where your home's main water shut-off valve is located. Some have round wheel handles; others have lever-style handles. If you have a wheel-style handle, you'll turn it to the right (clockwise) to shut off the water. Lever-style handle? Turn the lever a one-quarter turn, so that it is now perpendicular (rather than parallel) with the pipe. If you're going away for a while, consider shutting off the water in your house in case of a plumbing leak.

03 of 09

Hang a Painting (or Shelf)

If you're hanging anything with some heft to it, whether an antique painting or a floating shelf, first locate a wall stud. Studs are the vertical boards that hold up the walls from the other side, forming the framing elements of a house. Drilling a nail into the part of the wall with a stud behind it is more secure than drilling into brittle drywall. The easiest way to locate a wall stud is to use a store-bought stud finder.

Some stud finders use magnets to find nails or screws in the stud, while others (including stud-finding apps) look for disruptions in magnetic fields. If there isn't a stud in the spot you'd like to hang the shelf, use a drywall anchor or a molly bolt (found at the hardware store). Essentially, the anchor goes into the wall first, then you attach the screw, helping to create a more secure hold. Follow the package instructions for the step-by-step.

Safety first: Before you start drilling, be mindful of the placement of electrical wires and pipes so you can avoid hitting them. Be especially careful when drilling in the bathroom or kitchen and steer clear of the area around outlets.

04 of 09

Paint a Wall

Painting a wall is a basic home project almost anyone can tackle. The secret: A flawless finish is as much about prep work as it is painting. Follow our complete how-to to learn how to clean, tape, prime, and paint your way to a beautiful wall.

05 of 09

Snake a Drain

Even if you're careful about what you pour (and don't pour!) down the drain, the occasional clog is bound to happen. Luckily, an inexpensive drain snake and a plunger may be all you need to fix it. To unclog a drain, start with the easiest method first.

06 of 09

Fix a Running Toilet

A toilet that won't stop running can waste a lot of water over time—not to mention the annoying sound it creates. Fortunately, you may be able to fix this issue yourself (no plumber necessary) by replacing the flapper located inside the toilet tank. Home Depot has an online step-by-step guide.

07 of 09

Patch a Small Hole in Drywall

Whether you're a renter on move-out day or a homeowner, knowing how to patch holes in the wall can come in handy. To fill in small holes left behind by nails or screws, fill the hole with spackle and level it off so it's flush with the wall. Once dry (check the package instructions for dry time), sand until smooth. Touch up the spot with matching paint. Voila—good as new!

08 of 09

Fix a Squeaking Hinge

To silence that squeaky door, spray some WD-40 onto the hinge as you move the door back and forth slightly. If you don't have any WD-40 on hand, even some petroleum jelly can do the trick.

09 of 09


If a small piece of caulk comes undone around your bathroom sink, you can easily fix it yourself and prevent water damage. All you need is a tube of caulk and a caulk gun (less than a $5 investment at the hardware store). Using a utility knife, cut the tube at a 45° angle. The closer to the end of the tube you cut, the smaller the line of caulk will be. Load the tube into the caulk gun, and you're ready to carefully apply caulk to fill in the missing area around your sink. Smooth out the caulk and allow it to dry.

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