15 Must-Have Tips For First-Time Homeowners

APRIL 22, 2019

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If you are a first-time homeowner, chances are nobody presented you with an intensive homeowner’s manual or invited you to watch a “How to Be a Successful Homeowner” video after you signed the mortgage. You simply signed the paperwork, cringed a bit as your pockets became lighter, maybe through a little housewarming party, and began your life in your new home.  There are many things first-time homeowners learn the hard way. We’d like to help you start homeownership off on the right foot and protect your major investment by giving you a few tips that our team members have picked up over the years. 

1.     Know Where Your Emergency Water Shut Off Valve Is

Home water damage prevention is what we do, so we especially want to point out the need to know where your emergency water shut off valve is! The emergency water shut off valve is what cuts off water supply to your entire home. Meaning, if you have a pipe that just burst and is spewing out water, you can cut off water supply by using your emergency water shut off valve, which could end up saving you thousands of dollars in water damage. All homes are different, but the emergency water shut off valve is typically found near the mechanical equipment like the HVAC and water heater. But they can also be found in the basement, under the kitchen sink, or somewhere else. Ask your home inspector to point it out to you. Then label it appropriately when you move in so you don’t forget.    

Our product, DriBot, offers options for an automatic emergency water shut off valve. This means leaks will be detected for you and your water shut off valve will turn off automatically, giving you a chance to make the repair before it causes significant damage and costs you big bucks.  


2.     Open & Close Your Water Valves Every 4-6 Months

In addition to knowing WHERE your emergency water shut off valve is located, you should also plan to rotate that valve every 4-6 months. This prevents the valve from sticking. There’s nothing worse than needing to turn off your valve but not being able to because it is stuck! You also have other water valves in your home. Under your sink, you will likely see 2-3 valves for your sink and your dishwasher. You should plan to open and close these too. 


3.     Test, Maintain, and Monitor Your Sump Pump

Again, we are experts in home water damage prevention, so trust us when we say that if you have a basement or crawlspace with a sump pump, you need to keep an eye on it. Water damage caused by a failed sump pump could cost you thousands of dollars, and there are many reasons why sump pumps fail. Products like ours make it simple to test, maintain, and monitor your sump pump. Plus, we give you the highest standard of protection available on the market today. Our DriBot Home Flood Prevention Appliance has automatic monthly pump testing that sends you reports letting you know if your pumps are functioning normally. Plus, we have maintenance plans, including a lifetime warranty option that covers pump replacement. In fact, we replace your pump before it fails by predicting its useful life with a custom algorithm. Finally, DriBot monitors your sump pump and sends you notifications via text and our mobile app.  Even if DriBot doesn’t sound like a product you want to invest in, you should absolutely do a manual test on your sump pump and purchase some type of sump pump monitoring device so that you can receive an alert if your sump pump stops working. You will be glad you did when you realize how much money a flood could have cost you.  Another note on your sump pump system – if you don’t have a backup sump pump system that is capable of running while your power is out, get one! This is critical as flood events often happen during a power outage. We’re sure you are wondering, can DriBot help with that too? The answer is yes. DriBot has dual backup battery capabilities to keep your basement dry even during a power loss. 


4.     Test and Change the Batteries in Your Smoke Detector

Many of us are guilty of it – we live busy lives so when we hear that annoying chirping noise coming from our smoke detector, it is tempting to disconnect it or muffle the noise instead of replacing the batteries. Don’t do that. Run to the store, grab some batteries and replace them. Conduct regular tests on your smoke detector too. It is a small price to pay for protecting your home and your family. 


5.     Replace Your Furnace/AC Filter Monthly

The furnace and/or AC filter collects all the dust and other junk in the air being sucked in by your return duct and keeps it from being recirculated by your furnace or AC. Note that depending on how your HVAC system is set up, you may have multiple air return ducts that would require you to change a filter in more than one place. Over time, so much dust can collect on the filter that it makes it difficult for air to be passed through. This could lead to problems that would cause your furnace or AC to stop working, possibly causing serious and irreversible damage that will cost you big bucks. We recommend you change your filters monthly. Set yourself a reminder on your phone or subscribe to have your filters delivered through Amazon or another service like Filter Easy.


6.     Have a Fire Extinguisher Handy

Chances are if you are a first-time homeowner, you are going to be trying a lot of other things for the first time too. Like using a grill, or _____. It’s always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher somewhere in your home that is easy to access. While hopefully you will never have to use it, keep in mind that fire extinguishers have an expiration date so be sure you replace it in order to keep a house fire from spreading. Use the acronym PASS, recommended by the fire equipment manufacturers’ association, to remember how to use a fire extinguisher: Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle from a safe distance, Squeeze the handle slowly, Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side until the fire is out. 

7.     Know the Difference Between the 5 Types of Fires

While we are on the topic of fire, homeowners should also be aware of the different types of fires as defined by X and how to stop those fires from spreading. Let us start by saying, if you feel unsafe, you should not attempt to put out a fire and should instead leave and get to safety. A home is replaceable. You are not.  Fire is classified by the agent that fuels them. There are Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class K fires (Why no Class E? We don’t know. We don’t make the rules). Trying to put out a fire using the wrong method could actually make it worse. 


Insider shares in-depth details on US fire classification and how to put them out. Here is our summary… 

Class A:Involving solid materials like wood, paper, plastic, or clothing. These fires are typically the easiest to put out. Examples of an intentional Class A fire could be lighting a candle or starting a bonfire. An unintentional Class A fire could be accidently knocking over a candle or a spark from a fire catching clothing on fire. How to Extinguish Class AWater or foam fire extinguisherClass B: Involving flammable liquids likeoil, alcohol or gasoline. If you have a gas fireplace, or other gas appliance, you should know how to extinguish Class B fires. How to Extinguish Class BWater should never be used to put out a Class B fire. These fires are stopped by stopping the oxygen supply. Foam, powder, or carbon dioxide extinguishers are best for stopping this type of fire. Class C: Involving electricity, this type of fire can be common in homes with old wiring in the walls, worn-out breaker boxes, or faulty appliances.How to Extinguish Class CYou should never put out an electrical fire with water or a foam extinguisher. Using these could lead to electrocution. If it is safe to do this, the first thing you should do is unplug the item that is on fire from its electrical source. The best method in this scenario is to use a carbon dioxide or dry powder fire extinguisher.

Class D: While these are rare, a class D fire occurs when metal ignites.How to Extinguish Class DYou will probably never experience something like this in your home, but if you do, you should use a dry powder extinguisher only. 

Class K: Involves cooking oils like animal fats or vegetable oil and are often started when a pan is left unattended.How to Extinguish Class K: Never try to put out this type of fire with water. This could create an extremely dangerous splatter effect and spread the fire. Instead, use a wet chemical extinguisher.  

8.     Leave Sinks Dripping and Cabinets Open in Low Temperatures

If you live in a region that experiences freezing or below freezing temperatures, you will want to take measures to keep your pipes from freezing. You can do so by leaving your faucets dripping. You should also open the cabinets that hold the pipes so that the warmer air produced by your HVAC system can reach them. 


9.     Don’t Just Drill or Put a Nail into Walls

One of the most exciting things about buying a home is being able to decorate it! But let us caution you not to just start drilling and driving nails through walls. There are water lines and wiring throughout your home that you do not want to accidentally damage. Instead, purchase a stud finder. A stud finder will identify the best place for you to drive a nail – through a wall stud. Zirconsells an extensive selection of stud finders of various price ranges. There are several price levels, but a stud finder priced at around $25 is reasonable for an average homeowner. 

10.  Don’t Just Go Digging in Your Yard

Before starting any yard project that requires digging (starting a garden, putting up a fence, planting a tree, etc.), do yourself a favor and call 811. This number is free to call and it allows you to notify your local utility companies to come put flags or paint down on gas lines, etc. That way, you can avoid them as you dig.  


11.  Inspect Thoroughly for Water Damage

It is common for home sellers to slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls in order to make it look more appealing to buyers. It is also common for signs of water damage to be painted over in an attempt to let any necessary repairs fly under the radar. If your home inspector did not inspect for mold, you may want to consider hiring a professional mold inspector. Mold, if it goes untreated, could cause severe health problems for you and your family. If, as a homeowner, you experience water damage, repair it. Don’t be the jerk that paints over it later just to sell it! 


12.  Just Because There is a DIY Guide Online, Doesn’t Mean You Should DIY

We like saving money just as much as the next person, but we should advise you that saving money by DIY’ing an important home project may not be worth the risk. Most plumbing, electrical work, and work involving altering the structural integrity of your home should be left to the professionals. Some home projects require a permit. If you don’t know how to get a permit or if you even need one, it’s safe to say you should hire a professional.


13.  Understand Your Circuit Breaker and Label it Correctly

Circuit Breakers are rarely labeled well or correctly. If you have an organized and easy to understand circuit breaker, consider yourself lucky! If not, you should relabel the circuit breaker upon move in. This is best handled by recruiting an assistant. You should flip the breakers off one by one and have your assistant tell you what turns off in the house. If you find that only one item turns off, that means you discovered a dedicated circuit. All major appliances like ovens or fridges (and sump pump systems), should be on their own dedicated circuit. 


14.  If You Paint Your Walls, Make a List of What Color You Used

This tip is a must! Color-matching paint on a wall is a nightmare if you don’t know the paint you used. If you re-paint your new home upon move in, make sure you make a list of the colors you used in each room. This will save you lots of time and headache if you ever have to get more paint for a touch-up or repair. 


15.  Clean Your Dryer Vents

Not cleaning your dryer vents can be a serious fire hazard. If you notice your dryer is not drying clothes as quickly as normal, then check your vent and clear any obstruction. If there are no improvements, you may need to check for clogs in the dryer hose. And, if you don’t do this already, you should clean your lint trap between every load!

Your first home is something you will always remember.  Our goal is to help you make happy memories in your home and not look back wishing you someone would have told you “this” or “that.” 

We hope you enjoy homeownership and implement the tips we have shared!

If you want more information on the best ways to prevent your home from water damage, we are your champions on the topic! A member of our team would be happy to chat with you.