5 Simple Home Maintenance Skills Millennials Don't Know (but Totally Should)

It's tough to be a millennial in today's real estate market. Crippling student debt and sky-high real estate prices have made it more challenging than ever to save for a down payment (and no, we're not blaming the avocado toast).

Even if you're lucky enough to overcome all of that and actually buy a home, we've got some unfortunate news: Now you've got to take care of it.

It's enough to make you wonder whether you gave up renting too soon.

Generally speaking, millennials are not known to be obsessive home DIYers. In fact, as a group, they tend to shy away from serious home maintenance, says Ed Padilla, the founder of the Association of Certified Handyman Professionals. They’ll call someone to fix the problem rather than prevent the problem, he says. And yeah, those costs can quickly add up.

So now that you've finally achieved the American Dream, don't you want to rebuild your piggybank of hard-earned cash? We thought so! That's why we've ID'd a few crucial maintenance skills and repairs that millennial new homeowners should know how to tackle themselves.

Don't panic (or stop reading)! We promise they're so simple you'll wonder why you were ever Yelping a handyman in the first place. All you need is a little know-how and some elbow grease.

1. Unclog the kitchen sink

So you got a little overzealous with the coconut oil, or just forgot that you don’t actually have a garbage disposal? It happens! Just like death and taxes, it's inevitable that at some point in owning a home, you'll have to unclog the kitchen sink.

How to do it: You should start by filling the sink with water and letting it sit for one to two hours, according to Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing. The weight and pressure of the water may be enough to push the stoppage down. If not, unbend a wire coat hanger, create a small hook on one end, and start fishing. Run the hot water once you’ve extracted all the drain gunk. (Sometimes a plunger will also work.)

You can also try a mixture of equal parts baking soda and vinegar. Combine one-third of a cup of each and pour it down the drain when it starts to fizz, James recommends. Let it sit for at least an hour—ideally overnight—and flush with hot water.

Boiling water alone might be enough if you slowly pour it down your drain in two or three stages, spaced a few seconds apart.

To avoid any future clogs, rinse dishes with cold water to help the grease travel through the drains more easily. Warm water will just allow the grease to cool down in the lines, where it becomes solid and coats the inside.

2. Clear the gutters

Left alone, debris-filled gutters and downspouts can clog with rainwater, flooding your yard and wreaking havoc on your home's foundation. This is very bad.

How to do it: First, make sure you’ve located all your gutters, downspouts, and downspout extensions. Don your gloves, then use a ladder to climb up to the gutter and scoop out debris, using your hands or a garden trowel. There may be sharp sticks or other objects, so go slowly to avoid hurting yourself or damaging the gutter.

Once you’ve removed most of the clutter, use a garden hose to rinse the gutter. Make sure water flows out uninterrupted and doesn’t hit any unexpected blockages along the way.

3. Change your A/C filter

Air conditioners aren’t just a “set and forget” appliance. Changing your filters regularly will keep your unit functioning properly during those sweltering hot days, and it'll keep your energy costs down.

How to do it: First, check your current filter or the system manual for the correct size of your air filter, recommends Richard Ciresi, owner of Louisville Aire Serv. Then, make sure you insert the new one properly. “This seems insignificant, but it is crucial for your filter’s effectiveness that it is positioned properly into your HVAC system,” Ciresi says. Just follow the arrows on the filter to make sure it's facing the correct direction.

Repeat approximately every 90 days, or 60 days if you have a pet.

But don't stop there! Now you've got to make sure your A/C doesn't have too much moisture buildup, which could cause big (and gross) problems down the line.

“Your A/C doesn’t just cool your home, it also controls humidity, condensing moisture in the air and shuttling it outdoors through a small pipe called a drain-line tube,” Ciresi says. “Mucus-like algae, mold, mildew, and even ice in extreme temperatures, can build up inside your condensation drain line, forming a clog that causes water to back up into lines, your AC unit, and eventually your home.”

Try to avoid clogs by keeping drain lines (outside) angled down and clear of grass and debris. You can also pour a 50/50 mixture of warm water and bleach or vinegar through the drain line cleanout. Ciresi warns that some newer units don’t recommend bleach or vinegar, because they may oxidize and degrade the pipes, so you can also just opt for boiling water.

4. Patch a window screen

It doesn’t take a huge hole for creepy crawlies to sneak into your home. According to the National Pest Management Association, mice can squeeze through openings the size of a dime (shudder). But you can keep out those unwanted guests in just a few minutes.

How to do it: Buy some screen repair patches at any home improvement store or online. Then, cut a square around the damaged area, making sure you’re at least half an inch from the frame. Place the screen on a sheet of wax paper to prevent sticking. Center the patch over the hole and apply glue around the edges. Use a flat wooden stick to smooth out the glue and return it to the window once it’s dry.

If you suspect an infestation, though, it might be time to consult an expert.

5. Fix a running or clogged toilet

Don't let the ick factor stand in your way: As long as you've kept up your cleaning in and around your toilet, you've got nothing to fear.

To prevent problems from happening in the first place, you should show your toilet a little regular TLC. That means replacing your flappers and fill valves every few years to keep it from running continuously (that annoying constant flushing process), according to Glenn Gallas, vice president of operations for Mr. Rooter Plumbing.

If your toilet is determined to keep running a marathon, or a clog is your culprit, you'll have to get your hands a little dirtier.

How to do it: Start by turning off the water to the toilet—there's a valve near the base that you turn counterclockwise to shut it off—and then grab a plunger. We won't insult your intelligence by telling you how to use a plunger (although we will note that the Internet is divided on the best kind of plungers for different jobs, and the "correct" way to plunge). If the plunger doesn't quite cut it, you can use a toilet auger, but follow the instructions carefully and make sure to back it out slowly. Turn the water back on, then try a test flush.

Or you can try this pro plumber hack: Fill a pot with 4 cups of boiling hot water. Add a few drops of dishwashing detergent. Pour the mixture into the toilet and let it sit for 20 minutes, then try to plunge again. The heat and detergent should help break up the clog.

No matter what, the easiest way to avoid repairs is to make sure nothing breaks in the first place. Create a monthly maintenance calendar and keep an eye on all the potential problem spots around your home. It's a little work now, but we promise it'll save you loads of hassle—and cash—down the line.


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