Ten Things a Home Owner Should Know

This Old House has a great article on 47 things you need to know as a home owner.  I want to corral ten of the best ones for you today.  It’s good stuff, so hop over to see the rest!

1.  Pick Up a Big Paint Spill on Carpet

Cut two pieces of cardboard from a box. Use the edges of the cardboard to corral the pool of paint. Then use the pieces to form a scoop, and lift the liquid back into the bucket. When most of the liquid has been cleared, get two more buckets—one with fresh water and one empty. Saturate the remaining spill with the clean water, then scrape and scoop it up with a fat spoon and put it in the empty bucket. Work fast and continuously, replenishing the clean water as necessary. Rent a carpet cleaner to follow up; just be sure to keep the paint spot wet until it gets there.

Oh boy have I done this.  In our last house I spilled almost an entire quart of BLACK paint on carpet.  It took me lots of paper towels and cleaner.  This method sounds a bit easier.

2.  Clean Stained Grout

(The) secret weapon: a steam cleaner, which brings most any stain to the surface so it can simply be wiped away. Brushing on a penetrating sealer will keep the grout stain-free.

We all know that sooner or later it’s time to clean the grout.  This would have come in handy at my last house.

3. Keep Grout, Cement, or Plaster from Roughing Up Your Hands
Clean your hands with lemon juice or vinegar. The acid neutralizes the caustic alkalinity in these materials and keeps skin from drying out.

I always get dry hands if I don’t wear gloves when working with spackle.  Maybe this will help!

4.  Pull Out a Nail Without Marring Trim

Use a block of wood as a fulcrum under the claw of your hammer. The additional height will give you more leverage and the hammer head will push against the block without damaging the trim.

This also helps when nailing things in if you don’t want to risk marks.

5.  Hang Heavy Objects on Drywall

Those thin cone-shaped plastic anchors aren’t for wallboard; they’re meant to sink into plaster. A toggle bolt provides the best holding power in drywall. The metal bar folds or pivots to go through a hole in the wall, then flips open flat against the back of the board to brace whatever’s screwed to the front of the wall.

This really comes in handy when there just isn’t a stud where you need one.  Hercules hooks do work well but aren’t always useful if you just need to screw something into the wall.

6.  Hardwire a Light Fixture

Anything powered by electricity requires that the current make a full circuit to and from the main box. So all the wiring in a house has two lines: one that brings in the electricity (the hot wire) and one that carries it back (the neutral wire). Connect hot wires to each other and neutrals to each other. And just make sure you don’t become the conduit in between.

The hot is usually black and the neutral white. But if yours look different, use a circuit tester. With the electricity on, touch one node of the tester to the wire and the other to something metal—that is NOT touching you. If the light goes on, that’s your hot wire.

Turn off the electricity and connect the black ("hot") wire to the black wire or the brass screw on your fixture and the white (neutral) to white wire or silver screw. If your fixture has two like-colored wires, the grooved one always goes to the neutral connection. Be sure to connect the copper grounding wire from the cable to the green grounding screw in the junction box, then to the grounding wire coming from the fixture, if there is one.

This is one of the most searched for things on my blog.   You are bound to change out a light fixture in your home.  And, yes, you can do it yourself.  So, save this information.

7.  Drill Through Tile Without Cracking It

Go get a drywall screw and a hammer. Place the tip of the screw exactly where you want to drill, then tap it ever so gently with the hammer to pierce the glaze and create a little divot. Now load a masonry bit into your drill driver and use the divot to hold it in place as you start drilling. No fissures, no scratches, no fuss.

8.  Locate a Stud

Most studs are placed at 16-inch intervals, so once you know where one is, you can usually find the rest.

Start at a corner, where there’s always a stud. Or take the cover plate off an electrical outlet and find out on which side it’s mounted to the stud. From there, measure 16, 32, 48 inches, and you should hit a stud at each go. Eliminate all guesswork by using a thin bit to drill a test hole at the top of the base molding, which you can easily repair with a dab of caulk.

This comes in handy whether you are hanging heavy art, installing a curtain rod or putting up shelves.  I just had installers put curtains up in a client’s home.  It was an older home and unexpectedly, there was not a stud in the corner as there should have been.  The tip of a hold at the baseboard would have helped us not to have to repair a larger hole.

9.  Avoid Stripping a Screw

That’s what the clutch, that sliding ring of numbers on a drill/driver, is for. It stops the bit from turning when the motor feels a certain amount of torque, or twisting resistance—less at lower numbers, more at higher numbers. As a rule, set it low for small screws and high for large ones. But use a low setting when putting up drywall, so you don’t sink the screw’s head too far and break the paper. When dealing with hardwoods, a higher setting may help get the screws in, but first drilling a pilot hole is even better.

10.  Remove a Stripped Screw

Hey, even TOH master carpenter Norm Abram has been there. He recommends a hand screwdriver appropriate for the screw and a double dose of elbow grease to fix this unfortunate bit of handiwork. Gently hammer the screwdriver into the head. Then use as much downward force as you can while you slowly back out the screw.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve stripped screws.  Another great tip.

I hope you enjoyed these tips and learned maybe one or two things in the process.  I know I did.  So glad for articles like this!  Check the article out for the rest of the tips.



  1. I wish I would have known that first one awhile back! Thanks for sharing!

  2. These are great tips! (but you missed number 4! ) :)

  3. Great tip on the grout! Definitely going to have to do that in our bathrooms eventually!

  4. that terrible paint tragedy happened to us. A decorative painter was doing some striping on our bedroom walls and knocked over a quart of the darker paint. She did exactly what you described with the card board and the other tips. It worked! And the carpet was a cream color….ugh! Love all these tips!

  5. Kristy you are the best!! Terrific tips!

    Art by Karena

  6. these are amazing tips, kristy! need to bookmark this entry FOR SURE!

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