Getting To Know Your Home!
New Homeowner Orientation
If you are a new homeowner or just want to be a better one, you really should take some time to get to know your home. Where are the controls for water, gas, electricity and sewer? Where are the access points to all the “hidden” spaces of the home? How do things turn on/off, open/shut, raise/lower, and lock/unlock? A good place to start is to take a look at this list of things every homeowner must know. Another good resource is our Glossary. In the glossary you can find the meaning of often used home terminology.
Where are your appliance and equipment manuals? Are they someplace they can be accessed easily? Where is your hot water heater, furnace, air conditioners and other equipment located. Where are your fire extinguishers, gas shut-off wrench, utility meters? Who are your utility providers, who will be your service providers and even where will you go to get groceries, pharmacy items and hardware? Where is your family emergency plan, go-bag and safety/survival kit?
All these things and more are important and should be part of a new homeowner orientation. Start with understanding some basic anatomy and terminology of your house, then follow up with a thorough walk-around and inspection.
Anatomy Of Your Home
Listed below are some structural parts of your home you will want to get to know. These are numerically matched to the diagram above. This is especially helpful if you are a brand new homeowner and need to communicate with contractors, service people or designers and architects. Learn these things right away.
For more detail the parts below are linked to other areas of this site.
Parts of your home
- Rim joist
- Floor joist
- Wall stud
- Cross brace
- Exterior sheathing
- Air and moisture barrier
- Shingle siding
- Horizontal lap siding
- Gable vent
- Door/window casing
- Ceiling joists
- Ridge beam
- Eave block
- Roof sheathing
- Roof paper
- Roofing material
- Plumbing vent
- Valley flashing
- Boot/jack flashing
- Splash block
- Barge rafter
- Eave block
- Wall/step flashing
New homeowner orientation checklist:
Take a walk around your home and look it over closely. Use some binoculars and examine the roof. Make note of anything that you don’t know or if something looks strange or is obviously broken.
Do these things first to get to know your home:
- Download and print the MY HOME forms so you can fill out the important information specific to your home to keep on hand.
- Create and post a vendor list of service and other key providers for the home and keep somewhere easily read.
- Perform the balance of this checklist item by item. At the end you should have a good handle on your home.
Doors and locks
- Take a walk all around your house and operate all exterior door locks. Lock and unlock both key-in-knob and deadbolts.
- Learn where to get extra keys made and always have another set or two handy and labeled.
- Some sliding glass patio doors have primary and secondary locks that may require special instructions.
- Check the operation of all the windows and their locks.
- Locate and label all the main shut-offs for water, gas, and electric. Learn and map out where they are, how they turn on/off and when you might need to do this.
- Gas Shutoffs: Locate, label and cycle these to be sure they can be operated smoothly without excess efforts.
- Water Shutoffs: Locate, label and operate these valves.
- Electric Shutoffs: Locate and label the main panel, all sub-panels and breakers.
- Collect and read appliance manuals and learn to operate and service the appliances.
- File for any time sensitive appliance warranties and registrations.
- Locate, inspect and understand how to use your fire extinguisher.
- Learn how to use and service your Sink faucet (including spray unit, aerator and filter).
- Learn how to use stopper(s) for sink draining.
- How to reset the food waste disposer and how to un-jamb with specialty tool.
- Learn where the water shut-offs under the sink are located.
- Learn where GFCI’s receptacles are located and how to test and reset and where to purchase new.
- Try and operate all Switches for lights.
- Test and reset the GFCI receptacles.
- Learn how to use the sink faucet and stopper.
- Find your sink traps and learn about how to service them if needed.
- Learn how to operate your toilet and how to remove lid for inspection.
- How to service and operate exhaust vent fan.
- Find and operate angle stop water shutoffs for sink, tub and toilet.
- Learn how to operate the shower valve and any shower door or curtain.
- How the door operates and locks.
Other interior spaces-check in each room for
- Check operation of all switches for lights.
- Location of each electrical receptacle some may be hidden or in unexpected places like drawers or in cabinets.
- Location of cold air returns (never cover them).
- How to operate and inspect the floor or wall heat registers.
- Learn how windows operate and lock and how screens are removed and replaced.
- How doors and locks operate.
- Learn where all attic/crawlspace access hatches are located and how to use them.
Other items to be located
- Find your thermostats and learn how to operate and program them properly.
- Locate all smoke detectors; know how/why they work, how to test and how to replace batteries.
- Identify and locate all carbon monoxide detectors; know how/why they work, how to test and how to replace batteries. Check to see if any have been recalled.
- Locate and know how to use any fire extinguisher(s).
- Find your fireplace damper and learn how to operate.
- Locate all water filters and record the size and type of each filter. Get and keep spares on hand.
- Find and operate the light switch for the garage.
- Locate all GFCI receptacles in garage and test/reset.
- Locate all GFCI exterior receptacles on house and test/reset.
- Operate garage door and keypad (including the lock system). Learn how to operate it without power.
- If you have a driveway gate, do you know how to operate it with and without power.
- Learn location and how to operate and program irrigation controller.
- Learn the locations of outdoor flood lights and their switches and illumination patterns (find any blind spots)
- Locate crawlspace access hatches and learn to use and seal them properly.
- Do a walk around and look at all the various parts. Note anything in poor or broken or questionable condition.
- Locate water heaters, learn to service, set temperature, inspect and determine age.
- Find you main sewer connection and clean-out plugs.
- Locate all furnaces, learn filter sizes, service needs and how to shut them down.
- Find all air conditioner compressors and where power shut off is located.
- Locate refrigerator, learn to service coils, inspect seals and clean drip pan and filters.
- Find dryer vent/duct and learn to inspect and clean lint trap.
- Learn to service and clean cooktop hood filters and fan.
- Locate and learn to service water filters throughout the home.
- Learn to program and use the garage opener/remotes and emergency disconnect.
Learn as much as you can about your home because it is a huge and worthwhile investment. The more you know about it the better care you can provide for it. Set up a housekeeping plan and a maintenance strategy and utilize these checklists to carry it out.
www.homepreservationmanual.comis the place to visit if you want information on: maintaining your home; how to improve air quality; ways to improve the real value of your home; what are the best housekeeping services; the problems with handymen services; how to plan and execute home renovation and home improvement projects; tips for spring cleaning; tidying up a messy house; and generally how to be a better homeowner.
Make sure you download your monthly maintenance checklistfor this month.
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