Author Topic: Soon-to-be homeowner, what do I need to know?  (Read 1310 times)


  • Handlebar Stache
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Soon-to-be homeowner, what do I need to know?
« on: December 22, 2018, 12:44:40 PM »
Probably a question frequently asked, yet I can't find it on the forum. Feel free to redirect me if I've overlooked similar threads!

I'm a renter that'll turn homeowner soon. I am more of a "prepare-by-research" than "learn by trial-and-error" type, and I'd rather avoid some costly mistakes or hiring expensive professionals if I can help it.
Can you help me get prepared, or at least: know what to prepare for?
What skills and/or knowledge came in handy in your first years of homeownership?
If it helps: I'm in Europe, going to buy a 1920s house (stone walls, tiled roof).

To give you an idea of my starting position:
What I can do at the moment is...
- use youtube :)
- paint (walls, window frames and furniture).
- electricity at a basic level (fix a broken light switch, replace the cord of an electric device etc.)
- install laminate flooring.
- use an electric jigsaw, drill, circular saw.
- re-caulk a bathroom tub.
- fix small scale damage to plaster.
- curse a lot when stuff goes wrong, yet persist till it's done one way or another.
- be satifisfied with a something that is not 100% perfect.

So, what's next?


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Soon-to-be homeowner, what do I need to know?
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2018, 08:47:32 PM »
I started with rat proofing and air sealing. Neither requires great skill or expensive tools. Both yield dramatic improvements to the quality of life in the home. Both also give you an excuse to examine every square inch of your home, looking for problems. You'll find many. Make a list. Figure out what's urgent and can be done without mission creep. Everything takes way longer than you'll expect, so picking jobs that don't pull in other jobs makes finishing possible. The jobs you pick will determine what new skills and tools you acquire, rather than the other way around.

The biggest thing to prepare for is the perspective that homeownership is lot of work. Something is always in need of maintenance or repair. Think of it as your new lifetime hobby.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Soon-to-be homeowner, what do I need to know?
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2018, 12:43:29 AM »
Rat proofing, now that's something I hadn't thought about. Thanks for your insight.

former player

  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Soon-to-be homeowner, what do I need to know?
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2018, 02:45:19 AM »
Congratulations on becoming a home owner - how exciting!

Pretty much the main thing you need to look out for is water in the wrong place.  This is what damages and destroys houses - if you can keep water where it belongs pretty much any building will outlast you, particularly one with stone walls and a tile roof.  So pay regular attention to ensuring that the following are in good working condition -

Roof - try to find an angle of view that gives you a look at this every now and then, mainly for slipped tiles but also around weak points such as the flashing around a chimney.  After a storm is a good time to look, and if you have access to an attic that will give evidence of any leaks.  A decent tile roof will last for decades or even centuries, so highly unlikely to be a problem - keeping a casual eye out rather is the aim, rather than making it a constant worry.

Guttering - keep clear of vegetation/ice dams.  This is one to check every autumn if there are trees nearby, or when snow starts to melt if you are somewhere very cold in winter.

Water pipes - know where all the stopcock/shut off/in line valves are.  Any pipes in unheated spaces may need insulating against freezing (frozen water expands and splits water pipes, creating leaks when they unfreeze).  If you are leaving the house for any time in winter shut the water off to limit the amount of water that leaks if you do have problems, and if you are leaving the house all winter in freezing conditions consider draining the system.  The most likely problems are replacement washers in taps, a faulty toilet flush or a sticky ball valve in a water tank, all of which are potential DIY jobs.

Drains.  As long as you don't put anything down the drains that you shouldn't (cooking grease, food scraps, hair, wet wipes, and so on) and don't have any big trees growing roots in the wrong places you can probably forget about your drains from year to year, but it is probably a good idea to work out in your own mind where the drains run and where the access points are, in case of difficulty.   For minor blockages having a toilet plunger on hand is a good idea, and/or a drain snake.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Soon-to-be homeowner, what do I need to know?
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2018, 09:10:02 AM »
Thanks for the well wishes, it's certainly exciting stuff. It's like a whole new chapter of knowledge I have to take in now.

There certainly are trees, it's at the edge of a forest. I had thought about the gutters (we maintain them ourselves now as well), but not the underground aspect for the pipes. They're very old oaks, so I expect their roots to be extensive. Good point!
« Last Edit: December 23, 2018, 09:13:22 AM by Spruit »


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Soon-to-be homeowner, what do I need to know?
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2018, 07:41:13 AM »
I would suggest building up a set of resources for future reference. These could be books, websites, or quick reference manuals or as many aspects of the house and its systems as you can think of (I keep a quick reference manual with every task specific set of tools e.g. electric, plumbing, HVAC, and so on). I wish I could provide some for you, but all of my references are to U.S. codes and standards. If you can find forums that are welcoming to homeowner/DIY/amateurs and add those to your resources.

A good base of skills (which you have) and a willingness to learn (which you also seem to have are key) and there is some basic maintenance (which other have mentioned). But what you need to learn will be determined either by what you what to do, such as an upgrade or remodel, in which case you will have time to plan, or by you specific house and its needs, in which case you will need to apply your existing skills and references.

In my first years (and still on going) I have undertaken remodels that include learning to install hardwood flooring, installing tile work, adding electrical sub-panels and associated circuits, building kitchen cabinets, and relocating plumbing, just to name a few. I have also had the house provide me with needs; some sudden, like the time the blower on the forced hot air went out when it was -25F outside (~-31c) some less pressing, like noticing that the deck was installed with roofing nails and not hot dipped galvanized.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Soon-to-be homeowner, what do I need to know?
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2019, 04:15:27 PM »
Stuff is going to break.  Usually when at the most inconvenient time.   This is not a bad thing; it's just part of the joy of home ownership.

When a pipe broke in the footing beneath my house slab, I called in the professionals, and paid them $3k because they had a jackhammer, and I didn't.  That's fine.  But that's the exception. 

Most stuff can be done by anyone with youtube or a book from the hardware store.  Each of these will save you $20 to $300 over calling a professional; and each of these absolutely will need to be done at some point.  Here's what you can reasonably expect:

  • unclog a toilet.
  • unclog a downspout
  • disassemble/reassemble a P-trap
  • fix a leaking toilet valve
  • replace an electrical outlet
  • replace a smoke alarm
  • patch plaster
  • clean a sliding window track
  • replace a central air filter
  • clean/replace a water-softener venturi
  • unclog a refrigerator defrost drain
  • repair a busted automatic sprinkler
  • replace a doorknob
  • replace a fluorescent light fixture
  • dry out a wet carpet
  • replace an air conditioner capacitor
  • flush a water heater
  • clean a clothes-dryer duct
  • plane a stuck door
  • adjust garage-door sensors
  • clean a faucet aerator
  • un-jam an in-sink garbage disposal
  • replace a gas appliance igniter
  • replace door weatherstripping
  • repair a window screen
  • replace a cracked tile
  • repair a broken concrete walkway
  • prune a tree
  • repair a fence


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Soon-to-be homeowner, what do I need to know?
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2019, 12:30:19 PM »
Your post reminded me of myself, congrats on the home purchase!  Some random thoughts:

- Youtube is an excellent DIY resource
- There are certain trades that are more expensive than others; HVAC, electrician, plumbers, and roofers are the most expensive
- Start small and build up confidence and tool collection based on each job
- A de-humidifier for my basement was the 1st thing I bought for my house built in 1890, likely the best thing I've purchased thus far (northeast US climate)
- Perform favors for others because there will be a time when you need a hand or a group of helpers
- Landscaping was the easiest thing for me to save money on and DIY;  I probably saved $15k installing fence, patio, retaining wall, and grass myself over a 3 year period
- A house built in 1920 will have quirks (some good & bad) expect the unexpected; my place had knob & tube wiring, zero insulation, uneven floors due to settling, things that were out of code (before they conceived the idea of building codes!) and a musty smelling basement among others

Be sure to share your experience and take pictures to look back on!


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Soon-to-be homeowner, what do I need to know?
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2019, 12:44:23 PM »
I am planning on installing the new drywall ceilings and plastering them myself, because plasterers are very expensive here. Minor complication, found out I'm pregnant  and already suffering dizzy spells and nausea. Great timing LOL.
I'm usually better at this stuff than my SO (more patience when stuff goes wrong, basically) but I think I'll have to call on reinforcements in this one.

Also, there's wood borers in some beams and we've decided to let a professional handle that, especially with toxins and embryos involved. We'll do the demolition before and the finishing after ourselves.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Soon-to-be homeowner, what do I need to know?
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2019, 07:35:45 AM »
always allow a little more time. That will de-stress everything. Seriously with Youtube we live in the golden age of DIY, you can probably handle almost anything.

Brother Esau

  • Bristles
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Re: Soon-to-be homeowner, what do I need to know?
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2019, 05:00:42 PM »
Watch the movie "The Money Pit".