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What basic home maintenance skills should I master and where can I learn them?

What basic home maintenance skills should I master and where can I learn them? Here are the skills I want my kids to know before they move out on their own. For about ten dollars at Home Depot, you can get a basic, hand-carry plastic tool box. Start investing in some basic tools. How to hang stuff on the walls. You might get away with a hammer and nail for a small picture frame, but if you need to hang large paintings, bathroom fixtures (like a towel bar), or shelving, there’s more to it. You need a level (they have them for a dollar at the dollar stores), a power drill, a picture hanging kit (which provides hangers that can withstand more than a few ounces of weight), mollies and screws, a stud finder, a measuring tape, and metal brackets or braces (for securing tall furniture or shelves to walls). You can learn how to secure things to the wall properly by watching YouTube videos and reading the instructions that come with the fixtures. Anything heavier than five pounds, or that might get pulled on (like a towel bar), should be secured into a wall stud, which is the wood used to build the interior of the wall. The walls are usually covered with drywall or plaster, both of which crumble under weight. So if you screw into drywall only, it is easy for the screw to loosen and pull out. If you find a stud, and screw into that wood, the screw is less likely to come out. You might need multiple screws, depending on the weight. How to paint a room, or touch up peeling paint. You need one decent brush for corners, trim, and touchups. Don’t go cheap. Cheap brushes will have bristles that fall out and poke out at angles, making tidy painting difficult. If you keep the brush clean and care for it, it will last for years. If you’re painting an entire wall or room, you need a paint roller frame, roller covers appropriate for the texture of your walls, a metal paint tray, tray liners (if you want to minimize cleanup), and an old sheet or tarp to protect your floors and furniture. Don’t go cheap on the roller covers. Cheap ones will shed all over the walls. Buy a small sanding block (a finer grade) if you have a small chip or peel to repair. Again, you can learn how to paint properly by watching videos. Prepping the surface is key. Know where your water main shutoff and gas main shutoffs are in case of emergency. You may need special tools to be able to shut these off. Keep the tools in an accessible location, known to every person in your house. Know where your electrical panel is, and how to shut off breakers. Know how to clean. This might seem basic, but dirt and dust can degrade fixtures. Using the wrong cleaners can harm finishes. And dirt can also obscure bigger problems. For example, maybe you think it’s not that important to sweep along the side of your house. You don’t go out there much anyway, so leaves, dirt and debris build up. But in the eaves on this side of the house, termites are nesting and feeding. Their droppings mix with the debris, but you can’t see the evidence of their activity because you haven’t cleaned. Those droppings are the clue you need to arrest the problem, but you don’t see them. Tent your house for termites every five years. Seriously. Most people don’t tent often enough, let alone spot treat. It might depend on where you live, but I’m in Southern California, and I guarantee every house has termites. Every one. Did you know they can hibernate for three years in new wood before becoming active? Treat. Tent. Often. How to maintain your landscape. Even if you have a gardener, it pays to know how to repair a broken sprinkler head, sprinkle some grass seed on a bare patch, or identify and eradicate pests before they ruin your plants. This is particularly important if you have fruit trees or a vegetable garden. Mealy bugs, caterpillars, and scale can kill a fruit tree before you even realize there’s a problem. Look up the plants you have on the Internet, and read about how to care for them and some of the common problems they have. Also learn how to plant new plants, and what plants best grow in your area. Your local nursery will answer any questions you have. AND, make sure you keep tree branches well away from your roof. They are a superhighway for rodents, who will get into your attic and reek havoc. How to change out plumbing fixtures. I am not talking about actual plumbing—I mean putting in a new showerhead, or replacing an old faucet. Watch videos and follow instructions with your new fixtures. It’s also helpful to know how to fix a leaky faucet (assuming you don’t want or need to replace the whole fixture). If you have hard water, install a whole house filter, and make sure you descale appliances on a regular basis. A coffeepot, your fridge ice maker, the dishwasher, and your washing machine will lose years of their lives due to scale buildup. Showerheads and faucets clog. Pools get a nice crust at the waterline. So learn to descale! If you keep up with this, you’ll head off problems and make all your appliances and fixtures last longer. Know the limits of your skills. Electricity is not worth messing with unless you really put in the time to learn and have the proper tools. And you might be surprised about what requires a permit in your area. Where I am, you need a permit to put in a ceiling fan! If you’re interested in learning these advanced types of skills, I have a suggestion. Let’s say you want to change a ceiling light in the bedroom to a fan. Call an electrician and ask if you can observe while he works (of course you can—he’s working in your house). Offer to pay $200 extra if you can learn from him. I don’t know any electricians that would turn this down. Feel free to ask questions as he works, but be respectful of his time also. Try to learn the whys of what he’s doing. You can read about the whats (this goes there), but the whys will help you apply the knowledge in the future. And don’t believe you’re an expert after this one lesson. But it might give you a good foundation for learning, and allow to change out fixtures in the future. There are many other things you can learn to do (tiling, or installing a wood floor), but they take the proper tools to do them correctly, and that requires an investment. But if you have the time and inclination, go for it. Just know that your first few efforts will be far from professional. Start on small, inconspicuous projects that you don’t mind being less than perfect. Learn what requires periodic maintenance, put those items on the calendar, and make sure they happen! Chimneys need to be swept yearly if you regularly use a wood fireplace. HVAC units need yearly maintenance. Air filters need to be changed. Pests need to be treated. Fences should be stained or painted. Dryer vent lines need to be cleaned. Go around the house twice a year with a screwdriver, and tighten loose door knobs and cabinet pulls. Fix sticky doors, change burned out bulbs, and replace torn window screens. If you do this on a regular basis, you’ll pay less (it’s generally less costly to clean or maintain something than it is to replace it), and you’ll relieve yourself of daily annoyances.

What are some activities during a construction?

Building Location-Site Selection, The first thing that determines what you are going to build is where you are going to build it and under which conditions by conditions I mean things such as access and egress or where on the property from the standpoint of position in relation to the sun for best passive solar benefit and lighting, soil characteristics both load bearing and swale or water shed quality. This is where soil engineering is vital to give Architects and Engineers the information they need to design the appropriate foundation and insure you aren't putting your building on top of quicksand or in a depression accumulating rain water or in the way of potential mudslides. Making the appropriate compromises between practicality and aesthetics is part of this process. The very first step of successful building is in selecting the right piece of property to begin with that takes all of these issues into consideration. DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER. STAY AWAY FROM BANKRUPTCY, LAWSUITS, NERVOUS BREAKDOWNS. PLANNING - PLANNING- PLANNING-PLANNING-PLANNING-PLANNING. Lets use China as our benchmark. If China can build a hundred story building from excavation to site preparation to occupation within 90 days. My goal for completion of an average 3000 sq. ft. single family residence is 90 days start to finish. This is about attention to the details and efficiency You don’t need a licensed architect until you have decided on all the minute details yourself and are prepared to quickly change what you want to what will conform to existing building codes. If you have special needs in the case of materials get accurate cost estimates and make the compromise beforehand. You should hand the Architect a detailed sketch with all building code listed materials and appliances approved for use by governing authorities. Basically enumerating every nut and bolt and its cost and where it is available and when. What you want is an approved set of plans and a building permit and a reputable building contractor that understands and has the capacity to build it according to plan in the 90 day time frame for the agreed price. The total price includes all labor, material, tax, City Inspection and Permit Fees. To be paid as follows 10% down to start, 40% paid on completion 50% balance to be paid in full on approval of final inspection. I am using the ideal as an example, the reality may be somewhat different due to market conditions since the debacle of 2008. The point I am trying to make is nobody receives money unless equal value is exchanged and if the contractor disappears for whatever reason you have the necessary funds in place to complete the project. Your lending institution will provide a payment dispersal procedure to protect themselves, you and the contractor.UNLESS YOU ARE A BILLIONAIRE YOU CANNOT AFFORD PLAN CHANGES. MAKE SURE THE PLANS YOU SUBMIT TO THE BUILDING DEPARTMENT ARE EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT TO BUILD. MAKE ALL PLAN CHANGES ON PAPER PRIOR TO BUILDING. BUILD ACCORDING TO PLAN NOT ACCORDING TO THE NEAT THING YOU SAW ON “ THIS OLD HOUSE” last night. If you follow the rules and have hired the right contractor and “ haven’t hired somebody cheaper “, he built according to plans which you arrived at through extensive planning beforehand and you are totally satisfied or you decided you are smarter than God and did it your way and are now in house building hell. The great wisdom in this type payment schedule is if your builder lacks the credit, skill and confidence to finish your approved plans at the price and time you specify he is not worthy of your business. The Contractor who does take the job knows the quicker he finishes the quicker he gets paid. Using money as leverage puts due diligence squarely on your contractors shoulders and ensures any inspections and corrections are expeditious. Another important consideration is selecting the best time of year for optimum weather conditions to avoid delays. INSPECTORS-BUILDERS-OWNERS There are numerous inspections and corrections taking place during the building process. All inspectors are different, some engage the owner others don’t. They are busy and have multiple projects to inspect on any given day. If you are the lucky homeowner who happens to find yourself spending a lot of time talking to an inspector don’t be flattered they probably had a cancelation at another jobsite and are trying to kill time. Some inspectors are frustrated writers and hand the builder a correction list the size of a novel after you boil down and cut with milk is routinely minor and quickly remedied by experienced contractors. On rare occasion I have had to seek a senior inspector to overrule an inspector who was inexperienced. Successful contractors conform to the building code and maintain a good relationship with building departments and inspectors. Qualified contractors know the building codes abide by them and schedule inspections when required. The key here for owners is no news is good news. Excavation-Site preparation, Before any digging takes place by law DIG ALERT must be called to notify all parties who may have any lines below grade so they can come to the property and identify the location and depth of any piping or electrical lines below the surface whose damage could cause injury or death or service interruption, work may be interrupted in rare cases to relocate affected lines. Work begins with surveying the property establishing legal property lot lines and building setbacks and location of building footprint location and corners. The access and egress and utility easements are designated. Temporary water and power are provided also location of water meter and sewer lateral or septic tank and leach field are achieved. All below surface potable water ,drain, waste, gas, electrical lines are installed and foundation forms for concrete are completed with reinforcement steel and rough plumbing and electrical stub ups completed with moisture barriers and gravel in place readied for final inspection prior to the pouring of the concrete foundation. After the concrete is poured depending on location a French drain may be required by the local building authority in order to prevent erosion and subsidence by directing water away from the foundation perimeter. Rough Framing, LET THE NOISE BEGIN ! for the coming weeks expect a never ending cacophony of hammers and saws. The objective is to get the rough framing, shear walls, sheathing, plumbing, gas, electrical, mechanical, drain, waste, vents, glazing and roof completed as quickly as possible to get the building sealed to protect against weather changes. Fireplaces are installed at this time because they are tied to the foundation and adjacent to rough framing Rough inspections includes mechanical with furnace, ductwork, water heater, vapor barriers and insulation. While everything is exposed a load check and operation test should be taken so all the electrical loads and switches are verified operable. Motors, fans, exhaust vents, pumps and heating and air conditioning systems are tested for normal operation as per manufacturer specifications and local building codes. If anything needs correcting everything is open and accessible prior to installing drywall. Interior Drywall Installation, this is the sheetrock covering the interior wall studs and ceiling that ends up getting painted or wall papered. After the final inspection of the drywall is approved. The painting, wallpapering, molding, doors, flooring and tile work takes place along with cabinets and countertops. As the finishing takes place provision is taken to prevent damage to newly installed components. Exterior and Landscaping, while work progresses on the inside, outside stucco, painting, sidewalks, driveways, patios, sprinkler systems, landscaping, Jacuzzi's, Swimming Pools, light fixtures and rain gutters are being installed. A Big part of the contractors job is making sure at every step of the building process that every segment of the inspection process is ready for inspection in its entirety. I have seen inspectors require additional permits because to much time has been consumed on re-inspections. Having a solvent, competent, experienced contractor is your best insurance that the job is completed on time within budget. Set and Finish, Just about the time your out of gas and out of money low and behold your done. This is when all the fixtures, appliances and hardware are installed. If the contractor has done his job the last thing to be completed is the touch up painting and the carpets. Final Approval- Following final approval authorizing occupancy by the city building inspector comes the owner walk through. If the Contractor built everything according to plan it should end in celebration and happiness for a job well done. The contractor will know he is successful by the pile of referrals accumulating on his desk from friends of proud customers. Whether its a hundred story building or a two bedroom house the process is the same only bigger and more complex. PLAN THREE TIMES, MEASURE TWICE AND CUT ONCE. I hope I have provided the readers some helpful insights with my walk through 50 years of construction experience. The best advise was given by my mentor who built cities, 30 years ago, when I told him his son and I were going to build a house. , “ Are you guys nuts ? It’s to much work, go buy a house that's already built !”.

After purchasing a new home, how many things did you find wrong with the property afterward?

Likely a lot. The whole home purchasing process is broken. Let me explain: You get a few minutes in the house to decide if you want to buy it. 10–15minute tour with a real estate agent? Best case it’s empty. Not occupied. This way you get see whole house as naked as possible. Worse case the home is occupied. It is considered rude to open up every cupboard, drawer or closet. (Snooping). Or to Lift the rug to see the pee spots being hidden on the wood floors. In the area I live, homes are 1 Million+ dollars. You get 5 minutes to decide to spend a million. If you go home and think about it for to long, the house will sell to another couple with a faster real estate agent. This means we all put lots of faith in the “Home inspection”. Thing is this person usually has an angle. Most of the time, your real estate agent will ask if you have someone. When you reply, no, they will say, oh, well I know a “guy”. This person works on referrals. So a real estate agent that calls once a week with an inspection job is a good business friend to have, hence the angle. The inspector will try to find things wrong to fill up a report, but not to in depth to turn away the buyer, because the agent won’t be calling them again… You need to have a basic understanding of house ownership before buying a house. A roof will only last 20 yrs. If the house is more than 20 yrs old, you as the home owner are understanding you will need to put a roof on it after the first few years you buy it, with maximum deferral being 10 yrs (30 yr roof). Windows only last 20 years. Same rules apply. If the windows are older than that they they will begin to fail. Again budget the replacement. Doors 30yrs. Plumbing. 50 yrs. Flooring 10 yrs Paint outside 10 yrs, with a update at 5 yrs. Paint inside 5yrs (touch up required after) Concrete (driveway and backyard) 30yrs Fireplace (chimney needs cleaning every 5 yrs) old homes chimneys will crack. 10k to have them corrected. Faucets / toilets 5 yrs. Buying a used home is like buying a used a car. Lots of wear or tear items. Most of the home to be honest. Most new home owners don’t have the above basic timelines in there head. They don’t understand the cryptic language the inspector uses. Roof looks older, but no damage present. Replacement expected in the next 10yrs. This means it needs a roof today. The owner doesn’t want to do, because it will eat into the profits of the house. So they are passing it on to you! Windows seem to be single pane, era 93. All units functioning expected upstairs bathroom ( no lock). This means the windows are actually in need of replacement. Modern, cheapest of cheap windows are dual pane with a gas (argon) filled between them. The single pane windows will leak, the sliders squeak and locks will stick. Many people cannot budget money. The inability to plan for these basic parts to wear out will cause them stress. If this is you, look for a home that is less than 10yrs old. Many prior renters have a hard time paying for additional upkeep. I would to, if not for inflation. When buying a home, you need the value of the house to rise with inflation and off set the cost of the repairs. In some parts of the country this is slower than others. The risks you take on when buying a house should be inline with the historical inflation. if your buying a home for 100k and the zip code moves 1k up a year. Don’t buy a home that will need a new roof (10k) in the next 5yrs. The owner knows it, the real estate agent knows it, the home inspector knows it, but they all get paid on you following through the transaction. As I stated above. The process is broken. The best thing is to become educated about houses or hire a serious 3rd party informant to inspect the house. Not your real estates home inspector who will be greasing the wheels for a return call. Ben

Why was wall-to-wall carpeting such a selling point for a house back in the 1960s?

Less expensive and less maintenance, to hide damage of neglected hardwood floors. In the 1960’s we started changing the way we build homes. Instead of hard woods and stained finishes, we switched to carpets and linoleum and that’s also around the time mops took off. It kept costs down, and it was sold as a selling point instead of fixing damaged 19th century hardwood floors in the average home. Carpeting for the first time was affordable in middle class homes. This was not the expensive “oriental rugs” of the 19th century. The thinking was, why put money into refinishing 100 years old hardwood that’s all scratched up and faded when I can buy a new shag rug for under $20 In many houses today that you see on HGTV, “fixing up” old homes. It involves white washing home interiors. Notice the landscape today and you can drive down any neighborhood. Take a Sunday drive, I look at architecture styling quite frequently during my free time. Very rarely do you see earth tones anymore. Here is what I’m talking about… The last photo is my neighbor. Wood is brown, brown represented shellac stained trim made of old growth Walnut, Mahogany, Oak, and Cherry. The woods used in those times simply highlighted earth tones. Theses resources started becoming more scarce, and as a way to slow down deforestation in the industry they turned to cheaper methods as prices on real woods went up for the average homeowner. So what did they do? They switched to latex paints instead of oil finished woods. Notice that most trim in a home built around that time period that you want to buy today has a white trim painted interior. This was used to coverup damaged wood beyond repair. Instead of taking time to replace house trim, they just paint over it. Wood is not meant to be painted with acrylic paints, it’s meant to be stained properly by an oil based finish. Hence why it’s easy to peel. They switched to drywall to hide damage instead of keeping the oringal wallpaper covered plaster. The industry vanished windows made of dark woods in favor of PVC plastic, and gutted many historic homes that had original brown wood shutters. They make doors out of fiberglass and particle board instead of solid woods, hence why we went from door knockers to door bells. Door knockers would very well leave dents in a modern fiberglass door. They switched from wood shingling to aluminum and then vinyl siding that runs sideways. Or even worse, the previous home owners painted over wood shingling with latex paint over the original stain. Which would explain why you need to repaint your house every year. This is all used to cut costs from carpets to siding, less costly to coverup than repair old wood. You should never have to repaint a home every year. Succo over the siding, granite counters and stainless in the kitchen, pergo over the hardwood ect. ect. ect. Windows are also smaller than they used to be on American homes, the reason fireplaces went out of the style from a lack of ventilation. Most homeowners don’t bother replacing a window wood structure. They are encouraged to buy replacement windows that are filled with gas insulation because they don’t have storm windows and it saves them money. They are always white because they are made out of plastic not old-growth woods. That’s also why you don’t see brown and avocado colored outlets anymore. Remember those??? You only see white outlets, because outlets have to match the trim around it. Another reason you don’t see brown or tan radiators or other appliances painted brown anymore. All white colored or stainless steel. It has less to do with styling, and more to do with functionality. It’s so much easier just to paint over old rotting wood to hide damage, so white matches the latex paint and life goes on. We ran into this exact problem in my home. Latex paints and plastic windows were used to hide rotting structure that was originally stained brown. Take a look at these photos of the original architecture of my home. In 2019 this year my family emptied their life savings to remove the entire wood structure from my childhood home built in the 1920’s, because the owners before us painted over and covered all of the damage that later rotted away in front of us. This is a common problem. We had carpenter ants and termites that had eaten away at the rotting structure under the carpets. You can see the original stain under the peeling paint. We have still not touched the interior, which has been drywalled over the original plaster that is hiding cracked damage. This is a modern trend. So that is why you don’t really see earth tones anymore. This has led to a modern trend, where white trim and plastic siding have taken over including carpeting on the floor. An old home with the original hardwood floors in good condition have become more sought after today for their rarity. Too many generations before neglected them. There is no right or wrong way, it’s just a styling preference. Vinyl and latex paints and carpets can last longer with less upkeep and never rots away. In the end styling trends save costs, majority of homeowners want the best value for their money in this economy. Sources; A revealing look at windows: Aluminum, vinyl and fiberglass replacing wood Don't Buy Replacement Windows For Your Old House https://concordma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/3777/Should-Your-Old-Wood-Windows-Be-Saved---Fine-Homebuilding-Magazine-PDF Repair, Don't Replace, Old Wood Windows Painting Stained Trim: Modern Look Sells Homes Quicker AFTER YOU REMOVE CARPET, WATCH OUT FOR WHAT'S BELOW 9 Ways You're Ruining Your Hardwood Floors (Without Even Realizing It) History Underfoot: Flooring in the 19th Century Home paint to cover brown stained wood trim

Do you regret selling your house to the people who bought it?

Yes. Technically I didn’t sell it - my parents did. But we ,all ,regretted it. None of us regret ,leaving,, or moving where we did. But ,who we sold it to, ,we all regret. You have to understand that my parents took a bland raised ranch on some bland acreage and turned it into a park. Landscaping. Flowers. More flowers. A small orchard. Gravel access road to the woods. Miles of trails winding through well-maintained woodland. They removed light-blocking trees, removed poorly graded areas, replaced bland rocks with shrubs and foliage, added an arbor, maintained the pool, repaired and updated the decks, ,and ,replaced the roof - upgrading from aging asphalt to crisp, tasteful metal. And that’s not even counting inside. They converted the two-car garage to a heated, insulated, thoroughly finished living space… complete with carpeting and a gas fireplace in the corner. They finished the unfinished basement, upgrading the laundry room and installing a full bathroom. The final touch was the brand-new kitchen. Basically, the projects were done. It was time for a new frontier. They listed it, and found a lovely home in need of much work. There was an offer on that home, and time was important. An acquaintance called up and wanted to purchase our home - sight unseen - for her daughter who was moving from out of state. So we sold it. On the week we left, we finished re-painting part of the finished garage living space… just to make sure it was perfect. On the day we left, my Dad invested in fresh chlorine and diatomaceous earth for the pool, and made sure it was sparkling. Fast forward a few weeks. The pool is empty, sagging sidewalls testifying to a ruined liner. My parents have fielded a call from the new owners who wanted to know what was wrong with a certain aspect of the faucets. (All of which were in perfect order when we moved.) The park-like backyard has electric fencing going up around it. The flowers are dying. By a few months later, the orchard and rolling grassy lawns are a muddy, trampled horse pasture. The carefully and seamlessly converted to living space garage has a massive garage door again; I can only imagine what it was like ripping the four year old fireplace out to make room for cold concrete and metal doors. The new metal roof has given way to shingles again - part of the process of adding on ,above ,the garage (presumably to replace the lost extra living space in the already-spacious house). And then the town put water down that winding country road. The rows of pine trees lining the front yard gave way to muddy ruts. An un-landscaped trench, never replanted with grass, stretched from street to house. The boulders surrounded by flowers and plants are now unsightly obstacles. The pond is more like a puddle, dwarfed by catttails. The small barn now sprawls across the backyard. It is a redneck average lot with a characterless house. But I have to admit that the fresh, red siding is an improvement. It’s been nine years since we locked the door for the last time, and my heart still dies a little inside when I drive past this park-turned-redneck-playground.

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