What every homeowner must know to protect their house

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Plan your landscape

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Planning a pond or patio? A retaining wall or planting bed? Don’t just grab a shovel and start digging. Instead, lay down a rope or garden hose to map out the footprint. Stand back, survey the shape and make adjustments. Also check the layout from your kitchen window or a second-floor room. When you’re happy with the shape, mark it with spray paint and get to work.

Use a GFCI outdoors


House chores—especially outdoors—often bring water and electricity together. The best way to make those situations safer is to use a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter). Newer homes have GFCI protection in bathroom, kitchen, garage and exterior outlets, but those GFCIs may no longer offer protection after 10 years or so. To be safe, plug your tools into a GFCI extension cord before you venture into the wet grass.

Fight closet mildew

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Because they’re dark and lack air circulation, closet walls are especially prone to mildew. Here are a few proven solutions:

  • Add mildewcide to paint or use paint that already contains mildewcide (check the label).
  • Run a dehumidifier in damp rooms.
  • Cut closet humidity. Chemical dehumidifiers are nontoxic products that absorb moisture from the air.
  • Leave closet doors open or replace solid doors with louvered doors to increase airflow.

How to water a new tree

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For the first few weeks, you may have to water a new tree every few days depending on the weather. After that, longer (deeper), less frequent watering is much better than shorter (quicker), frequent watering. To help the tree create deep roots to resist drought and wind, encircle it with a soaker hose a few feet out from the trunk and run it at a trickle for an hour. Push a popsicle stick (or your finger) 2 to 3 in. into the ground. If the soil is damp down 3 in., you’re giving it enough water. If not, water until the soil is damp but not saturated around the root-ball. Allow the soil’s surface to begin to dry out between waterings.

Save a sinking sidewalk

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Sinking concrete that’s in otherwise good condition can be raised back to its original level by any contractor who has mudjacking equipment. The contractor first drills holes in the concrete, then injects a watery mix of sand and other components called “slurry” or “grout.” The components in the slurry vary. The slurry is pumped in under enormous pressure—enough to lift sidewalks, driveways and even sinking steps. To find a contractor, just search online for “mudjacking” and the name of your city. Costs vary a lot, but most jobs are $300 to $700.

How to fix a dead doorbell

A wireless doorbell is an easy, inexpensive solution: Just mount the button by the front door and the chime anywhere indoors. But before you do that, check your existing doorbell button. The button is the most likely culprit and it’s connected to low-voltage wiring, so you don’t have to worry about getting shocked. Here’s how to do it:

  1. TEST THE DOORBELL Unscrew the doorbell button to remove it from the wall. Loosen the screws on the back of the button and disconnect the wires. Then touch the two wires together. If the chime rings, the button is bad. If not, the chime, transformer or wiring is bad.tips for homeowner (3)
  2. REPLACE THE BUTTON Connect the wires to the new button just as they were connected to the old one. Screw the button to the wall and you’re done.

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