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Avoid Costly New Homeowner Mistakes

New Home Image

After you purchase your first new home, things may not go as smoothly as you'd like. Even if your first home is brand new, there will be times when things don't work perfectly. When moving into your new home, learn how to avoid mistakes that can be costly, and in some cases, dangerous.

Mistake #1: Letting the Toilet Run

Repairing a Running ToiletA constantly running toilet can waste hundreds of gallons of water a month, literally flushing your money down the drain.

The Fix: 

Thanks to toilet repair kits, this is one fix even first-time do-it-yourselfers can manage. The solution may be as simple as adjusting the float ball and tightening a few screws in the lift arm. Or you may need to simply replace the rubber flapper. You can complete these tasks and others with a screwdriver, wrench and pair of rubber gloves.

Mistake #2: Making Electrical Repairs With the Power On

Circuit Tester

Swapping out a light fixture or adding a dimmer switch is surprisingly easy, but don't let your enthusiasm for electrical upgrades get the best of you. Work smart to avoid electrocution and fires.

The Fix:

Always turn off power to the circuit you'll be working on. Do this at your main electrical box and switch off the breaker or fuse labeled for that room. Then confirm that the power to the outlet, switch or fixture is off with a circuit tester, an inexpensive device that is a must-have for all new homeowners. If the contents of your electrical box aren't labeled, you'll need to check each circuit. To save time in the future, spend an hour one weekend labeling your breaker box.

After you turn off power, double check any wires you're working with by touching them with an inexpensive current tester, which signals whether there's still power flowing in the line.

Mistake #3: Skipping Fire Safety

Fire Extinguisher

According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 400,000 United States homes caught fire in 2008, resulting in more than $8.5 billion of damage.

The Fix:

A one-time investment of less than $100 can dramatically boost your home's fire safety:

  • Install smoke detectors and keep the batteries changed. Hang at least one detector on each floor and one unit in or near every bedroom. Consider purchasing detectors that monitor both smoke and carbon monoxide. Learn how to detect and prevent carbon monoxide in your home. 
  • Purchase fire extinguishers and know how to use them. A kitchen extinguisher is a must, but consider storing extras in the garage, basement and laundry room. Watch our video on choosing and using fire extinguishers. 
  • Outfit second-story bedrooms with escape ladders that unfurl from windows. 

Mistake #4: Assuming Windows and Doors Are Energy Efficient

Sealing Windows

Doors and windows are your home's prime spots for wasting heat in winter and cooled air in the summer.

The Fixes:

Light a candle and slowly draw the flame along all window and door seams. If the flame wavers or sputters at any point, you've discovered an air gap and should do the following:

  • Apply caulk around door and window frames.
  • Attach metal and rubber sweeps to seal gaps under doors.
  • Add spring metal weather stripping to frequently opened windows.
  • If funds are tight, you can use adhesive-backed plastic or foam weather stripping around doors or windows that aren't used often.

Mistake #5: Not Maintaining Your Washer and Dryer

Washer and Dryer Maintenance

Water and smoke damage are two of the most common home insurance claims. But you don't need to live in a flood zone or survive a fire to experience these problems — just look in your laundry room.

The Fixes:

  • The rubber hoses that supply water to your washer can become brittle over time. Avoid kinking, cracking and flooding by replacing hoses that feel stiff or dry at a cost of about $20. When purchasing new hoses, invest in stainless steel-clad hoses or, for a little less cost, hoses with mesh-wrapped ends. Both types are sturdier than un-reinforced hoses.
  • Also, keep your washer at least four inches away from the wall so hoses have enough room to bend.
  • When it's filled with lint, your dryer's exhaust is a serious fire risk. Every three to six months, disconnect and clear out the exhaust pipe. Run a long, flexible dryer vent brush through the tube. Make sure the outdoor area where the tube vents is free of obstructions as well.

Mistake #6: Not Asking for Help

Lowe's Associate Doing it yourself doesn't mean you have to go it alone.

The Fix:

Even if you're new to the home improvement scene, there are sources you can tap into. Check with friends, family, coworkers — and your associates at Lowe's — when you're unsure of what to do next.