Home Maintenance For Dummies®, 2nd Edition

Table of Contents

About This Book
Conventions Used in This Book
What You’re Not to Read
Foolish Assumptions
How This Book Is Organized
Part I: Home Maintenance and You
Part II: The Energy Envelope
Part III: Key Systems: Plumbing and HVAC
Part IV: Inside Home Sweet Home
Part V: Out in the Great Wide Open
Part VI: The Part of Tens
Icons Used in This Book
Where to Go from Here
Part I: Home Maintenance and You
Chapter 1: Home Maintenance: What It Is and Why It Matters
Keeping Up with Upkeep
From little to big
From inside to outside
Benefiting from a Little TLC
To your health (and safety)
Comfort: You’ll miss it if it’s gone
Money in the bank
Let the Games Begin!
Chapter 2: Getting to Know Your House and Its Systems
The Exterior: It’s Nice to Fool Mother Nature
Your home’s infrastructure: The foundation and floor frame
Roofing and siding: Your home’s protective coat
Windows, exterior doors, and insulation
Walkways, patios, and driveways
Retaining walls
Ornamental iron
The Interior: Your Home’s Insides
The plumbing system
The heating, cooling, and ventilating systems
Interior walls and ceilings
Floors and interior doors
Cabinets and countertops
Fireplaces: Traditional and gas
Your home-safety systems
Chapter 3: Putting Together Your Home Maintenance Plan
Your What-to-Tackle List
Musts: Safety and health
Shoulds: Reducing costs and preventing problems
Coulds: Improving appearance and function
Making your maintenance plan
Your Home-Maintenance Schedule
Things to do annually
Things to do seasonally
Things to do monthly
Shutting-down checklist
Other periodic maintenance tasks
Paying Attention to Safety
Your clothing and safety gear
Your work habits
Do It Yourself or Hire a Pro? The $64,000 Question
Finding a pro
Getting a quote
Selecting a pro
Part II: The Energy Envelope
Chapter 4: Foundation and Floor Frame Fundamentals
Focusing on the Foundation
Types of foundations: Slabs, basements, and crawlspaces
Foundation materials
Fixing Common Foundation Problems
Is there a fungus among us? Dealing with efflorescence
Being wise about cracks
Preventing moisture under your home
Tackling spalling and disintegration
Not settling for settling
Keeping Your Basement Dry
Basement water collection systems: The sump pump
What to do when it floods
The Floor Frame
Floors that go bump in the night
Getting on the level with your floors
Chapter 5: Roofing and Siding
Your Roof: The Fifth Wall of Your Home
Staying safe on the roof
Cleanliness is next to godliness
Replacing an asphalt shingle
Preserving a wood-shake or shingle roof
The naked truth about flashing
Dealing with all that dam ice
Finding a roof leak
Getting Your Mind into the Gutter
Cleaning gutters and downspouts
Patching up leaks
Maintaining gutter-protection systems
Siding: A Raincoat to Keep You Dry
Aluminum siding
Vinyl siding
Wood siding
Chapter 6: Windows, Exterior Doors, and Insulation
Saving Energy with Insulation
Looking at different types of insulation
Getting the lowdown on insulation materials
Understanding R values
Adding insulation all over your house
Controlling air leaks in your ceilings, walls, and floors
Windows: See the Light, Feel the Cold
Dealing with water and air leaks
Preventing condensation
Maintaining storm windows
Maintaining screens
Buying new windows
Installing windows
Getting In and Out: Maintaining Exterior Doors
Fixing leaks between the threshold and door bottom
Stopping air leaks with weatherstripping and sealant
Caring for wood and painting
Showing some love to your sliding glass doors
Part III: Key Systems: Plumbing and HVAC
Chapter 7: Plumbing, Part I: Pipes, Water Heaters, Water Softeners, and More
Thar She Blows! Turning Off Your Water Main
Replacing a Damaged Section of Pipe
Copper pipe
Threaded pipe
Protecting Pipes in Frigid Weather
An ounce of prevention
Quick fixes for burst pipes
Quieting Noisy Water Pipes
Combating water hammers with air chambers
Tightening loose mounting straps
Adjusting too-high water pressure
Some Like It Hot: Your Water Heater
Maintaining your water heater
If you have a gas water heater
If you have an electric water heater
Caring for your tankless water heater
Softening Your Water
Wishing Your Well Is Working Well
Chapter 8: Plumbing, Part II: Fixtures
Maintaining Fixture Surfaces: Stainless Steel, Cast Iron, Fiberglass, and More
Stainless-steel fixtures
Porcelain-on-steel and porcelain-on-cast-iron fixtures
Fiberglass fixtures
Composite fixtures
Vitreous china fixtures
Cleaning Your Faucet Works
Cleaning the aerator
Cleaning and polishing the outside of a faucet
Removing copper residue
Toilet Training 101
Cleaning the toilet
Unclogging plugged toilets
Preventing a sweaty tank
Looking for leaks in and around the toilet
Maintaining Tubs and Showers
Keeping your tubs and showers clean
Avoiding overflow leaks
Chapter 9: Plumbing, Part III: Sewer and Septic Systems
Sewer-System Basics
Keeping Your System Clog-Free
Being careful what you put down the drain
Preventive pipe cleaning
A word about commercial drain cleaners
Unclogging the Waste Lines
Keeping Vents Free from Debris
Getting rid of blockages
Putting preventive measures in place
Avoiding Problems with P-Traps
Your Sewer System’s Fall
Maintaining Your Septic System
Being careful about what goes in
Cleaning and pumping your septic tank
Chapter 10: Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning Systems
Making Friends with the Monster: Your Furnace
Taking care of a forced-air system
Hot-water systems
Steam systems
Electric systems
Ventilation: Letting Your House Breathe
Interior ventilation
Structural ventilation
Big or Small, an Air Conditioner Cools Y’all
Central air-conditioning systems
Window air-conditioner units
Part IV: Inside Home Sweet Home
Chapter 11: Walls and Ceilings
Cleaning Walls and Ceilings
Dealing with Drywall
Repairing small cracks
Filling bigger cracks
Filling holes like a pro
Tackling truss uplift
Putting the stop on nail pops
Plaster: More Trouble than You May Want
Fixing small cracks and holes
Dealing with sagging and other big problems
Interior Painting: Doing the Job Right
Preparing to paint
Gathering your paint and painting supplies
Painting made easy
Cleaning up right, storing smart
Making Paneling Look like New
Cleaning and oiling paneling
Correcting surface imperfections
Wondering about Wallpaper
Removing wallpaper
Fixing loose seams and clean tears
Patching wallpaper
Chapter 12: Floors and Interior Doors
What’s Underfoot? Flooring
Vanquishing vinyl trouble
Laminate love
Ceramic tile a go-go
Wild things: Bamboo
Engineered hardwood
Keeping natural hardwood good
Keeping carpet clean
Interior Doors
Common door-maintenance tasks
Special tasks for different types of doors
Knobs, locks, and latches (oh my!)
Chapter 13: Cabinets and Countertops
Keeping Cabinets Looking Great: Cleaning Know-How
Cleaning wood cabinets
Cleaning painted wood, metal, laminate, or vinyl-covered cabinets
Something Old Is Something New: Refinishing Your Cabinets
Getting your cabinets ready for refinishing
Painting or varnishing . . . at last!
Maintaining Your Cabinets
Making Your Lovely Laminate Last
Cleaning and caring for your laminate
Bursting bubbles
Hiding chips, cuts, and scratches
Caring for Super Solid Surfaces
Keeping Your Tile Terrific
Sealing out grout grunge
Cleaning grubby grout
Staining grubby grout
Replacing grout
Replacing a broken tile
Protecting Marvelous Marble
Caring for Granite
Taking Care of Wonderful Wood Chopping Blocks
Chapter 14: Appliances
Safety First
Gas appliances
Electric appliances
Caring for the Cooktop
Cleaning up the cooking crud
Maintaining your electric range and cooktop
Keeping your gas range and cooktop in tip-top shape
Opening the Door and Rolling Up Your Sleeves: The Oven
Cleaning your oven
Checking the oven temperature control
Replacing the oven light
Hanging Out in the Range Hood
Microwave Maintenance Mania
Refrigerators and Freezers
Taking care of the condenser coils
Cleaning the gasket
Keeping the interior clean and fresh-smelling
Defrosting the freezer and drain line
Maintaining inline water filtration
Washing Machines and Dryers
Cleaning your washing machine
Keeping your dryer’s lint traps lint free
Taking care of the dryer vent
Keeping the dryer duct free from obstruction
Mysterious dryer death: Knowing what to do
Chapter 15: Don’t Get Burned: Fireplaces
Having Your Fireplace Inspected and Swept Regularly
Staying on Top of Fireplace Cracks
Dealing with the Damper
Caring for the Outside of Your Chimney
Taking care of the flashing and flue pipe
Sealing the deal
Arresting sparks and other hazards
Cleaning a Soot-Covered Brick Fireplace Face
Making the Most out of Glass Doors and Screens
Cleaning glass fireplace doors
Giving sluggish glass doors a pick-me-up
Screening out difficulties
Chapter 16: Maintaining Your Home-Safety Systems
Preventing and Dealing with Household Fires
Smoke detectors
Fire extinguishers
Preventing Carbon-Monoxide Poisoning
Maintaining your carbon-monoxide detector
Paying attention to sources of carbon monoxide
Keeping Your Natural-Gas Line Safe
Shining a Light on Electrical Safety
Maintaining Your Burglar Alarm
Testing the Safety Mechanisms in Your Automatic Garage-Door Opener
Guarding Your Home against Natural Disasters
When disaster is upon you
Putting things back together
Part V: Out in the Great Wide Open
Chapter 17: Walkways, Patios, and Driveways
Cementing Your Relationship with Concrete
Cleaning off grease and oil stains
Cleaning up mildew: No slip slidin’ away
Patching cracks
Sealing concrete
Painting your concrete
Staining your concrete — intentionally
Repairing concrete steps
Getting Things on an Even Keel
Leveling settled brick patios and walkways
Leveling and resetting stone paths
Recoating an asphalt driveway
For the Love of Masonry
Dealing with stress cracks
Cleaning your masonry
Applying a sealer
Chapter 18: Decks, Fences, and Retaining Walls
Preserving Wood
Clear finish
Cleaning Your Wood and Composite-Wood Structures
Using a wood brightener
Giving wood a facelift with sanding
Tightening Loose Rails, Fence Boards, and Fence Posts
Remedying Sagging Gates
Termite Treachery: Protecting Your Wood against Critters
Extending the Life of a Wood Retaining Wall
Chapter 19: And Then There Was Rust
Shielding Your Metals with a Protective Coat
Choosing your primer and topcoat
Applying the paint
Stripping Off Rust
Step 1: Removing rusted fasteners
Step 2: Getting rid of the rust
Step 3: Repairing damage to the surface
When All Else Fails: Converting Rust
Part VI: The Part of Tens
Chapter 20: Ten Cleaning Solutions You Can Make at Home
All-Purpose, Handy-Dandy Cleaner
DIY Cleanser Scrub
Gentle Glass Cleaner
People-Friendly Oven Cleaner
Super-Duper Disinfectant Cleaner
Super Wood Cleaner
Soda-Pop Concrete Stain Remover
Easy All-Surface Mildew Remover
Special Drain Freshener and Cleaner
Universal Roof-Cleaning Formula
Chapter 21: Ten Maintenance Skills You Need
Knowing How (And What) to Lubricate
Recognizing and Testing for Problems
Choosing the Right Tool for the Job
Testing an Electrical Circuit
Knowing How to Shut Things Off
Venting Moisture from Your Home
Replacing Filters and Cleaning Sensors
Checking On the Chimney

Home Maintenance For Dummies®, 2nd Edition

by James Carey and Morris Carey


About the Authors

James and Morris Carey, known as the Carey Brothers, are nationally recognized experts on home building and renovation. They share their 60-plus years of combined experience as award-winning, licensed contractors with millions nationwide through a weekly radio program, daily radio vignette, syndicated newspaper column, and comprehensive Web site (, all titled On The House.

These third-generation contractors have had broadcast careers in radio and television for 23 years. They deliver user-friendly, hands-on advice in their radio program, which is carried coast-to-coast weekly, via satellite, to a rapidly growing network of more than 250 stations. The program also is broadcast via live remote from home and building expos nationwide and on the Internet (

With a long career in television, the Careys have appeared as home-improvement contributors on CBS Television’s CBS New Saturday Morning. In addition, the brothers were regulars on the Family Channel’s Home and Family show, hosted by Cristina Ferrare and Michael Burger. They have also appeared as guests on national and local television programs.

Recognized for their efforts in answering immediate and constant structural concerns by the public in the hours and days following the devastating October 1989 earthquake, the Carey Brothers and KCBS radio in San Francisco received the George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting’s most prestigious honor, for their outstanding contributions toward “comprehensive, intelligent, and useful coverage.”

Prior to becoming full-time journalists, Morris and James owned and operated a successful home-remodeling and -construction firm, Carey Bros., for over two decades. They have been named to Remodeling magazine’s Hall of Fame “Big 50,” which recognized top achievers in the industry. They have also been honored as one of the nation’s top 500 companies by Qualified Remodeler magazine.

The Carey Brothers are the authors of Home Remodeling For Dummies (Wiley Publishing) and Cost-Effective Home Upgrades (Ortho Books) and are contributing authors to Home Improvement All-In-One For Dummies (Wiley Publishing) and Living Well in a Down Economy For Dummies (Wiley Publishing). They have also penned a monthly column for The Family Handyman magazine.

Homeowners can receive answers to their specific home renovation and repair questions by calling the Carey Brothers’ toll-free number, 800-REPAIR-IT (800-737-2474), during their radio program, Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern standard time or via e-mail at and on the Web at


Summer vacation had ended. It was my first day back to school and my first day as a sophomore. The morning air was warm, and I perspired as I anxiously rushed to chemistry class. I was excited and scared all at the same time. I shot into the room and made a beeline for a seat near the back wall. I slouched back in my seat in an attempt to appear relaxed. I wasn’t. Not even a little bit.

As I glanced up toward the front of the room, I caught a glimpse of her for the very first time. Suddenly, the anxiety began to disappear. She had taken the first seat in my row. The desks between us were still empty. She was wearing a tight, gray-wool, calf-length skirt and a satiny white blouse. Her hair was sandy colored and she wore it short. She was tall and slender. I hadn’t even seen her face, yet suddenly I knew that I had fallen in love. That was nearly 40 years ago.

We grew up, and she became my best friend. She became a woman of character and ambition. Even when she was a girl, she was wise and mature beyond her years. Yet, she has always been easygoing and fun to talk to. She is passionate about everything she does, and everything she does is tendered with great compassion. Our moments together are priceless pearls of happiness filled with mutual admiration and endearing love. In the morning, her smiling eyes get me going. In the evening, her calming voice puts me at ease. She is a loving mother, a sexy grandmother, and my partner in life. She is my wife, Carol.

Without her strength, this book would not have been possible. “Yo, Adrianne, Rocky loves ya baby!”

—Morris Carey

To Carol, my wife and partner for over 28 years: Thank you for the freedom, encouragement, and support to do my life’s work. I am so blessed to be your husband.

To Chris, Jamie, and Chase, our three beautiful children; Never take the roof over your head for granted. There are so many people in so many parts of the world, including our great country, who either don’t have adequate shelter or are without the means to maintain it so that it is both safe and sound. Always work hard to be good citizens and contribute to the betterment of society. Love, Dad.

—James Carey

Authors' Acknowledgments

We were thrilled when the folks at Wiley engaged us to give Home Maintenance For Dummies a new lease on literary life. We are delighted that the book has done so well in the nearly ten years since the publication of the first edition and we hope that this second edition will be equally popular and act as a valuable resource for people looking for help in maintaining their piece of the Great American Dream.

As we write this book, millions of Americans are struggling to survive one of the toughest economic times in modern history — certainly in our lifetimes. We hope that our book will, in some small way, help relieve some of the economic stress that you may be feeling when it comes to your home and its maintenance by empowering you to take on tasks that you might have previously, during more prosperous times, farmed out to a contractor or handyperson. If this is true, than our greatest hopes and dreams will have been satisfied.

There are many people who contributed both directly and indirectly to the success of this book. Although there are too many to list, we would be remiss without naming a few.

This second edition would literally have taken forever — certainly longer than our publisher would allow — had it not been for some very valuable writing assistance that we received from Tim Green and Tracy L. Barr. Tim, our longtime friend and a stellar writer, is an obedient husband, a loving father, and a frustrated do-it-yourselfer. He injects his unique perspective, which add both color and humor to this body of work. We were introduced to Tracy by the Wiley folks. She is a very talented writer and editor who has authored or coauthored several For Dummies books, including Living Well in a Down Economy For Dummies, to which we contributed. She did a marvelous job of helping us organize and prioritize content and was a pleasure with which to work. Thanks to you both for helping us make this book the best that it can be.

At Wiley, we want to thank Diane Graves Steele and Tracy Boggier for believing in this project and for giving us yet another opportunity to share the better part of our lives’ work with you. A special thanks goes to our project editor, Elizabeth Kuball. This is our first opportunity to have had the pleasure of working with Elizabeth. She worked tirelessly to ensure that the second edition would contain the best of the first edition with lots of new and exciting material. We sincerely hope that she again will have the opportunity to transform our journalism into a finished project that is both professional and easy to understand and of which we are very proud.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Contributor: Tracy Barr

Project Editor: Elizabeth Kuball

(Previous Edition: Mary Goodwin and Sherri Fugit)

Acquisitions Editor: Tracy Boggier

Copy Editor: Elizabeth Kuball

Assistant Editor: Erin Calligan Mooney

Editorial Program Coordinator: Joe Niesen

Technical Editor: Roger A. Zona

Senior Editorial Manager: Jennifer Ehrlich

Editorial Supervisor and Reprint Editor: Carmen Krikorian

Editorial Assistants: Jennette ElNaggar, David Lutton

Cover Photos: © iStock

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Kristie Rees

Layout and Graphics: Carl Byers, Joyce Haughey, Christine Wiliams

Special Art: Shawn Wallace

Proofreaders: Melissa Cossell, Toni Settle

Indexer: Galen Schroeder

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


In our first For Dummies project — Home Remodeling For Dummies — we ventured with our readers down the sometimes rocky road of remodeling a home. Our goal was to prepare people for the many steps and potential pitfalls involved in planning and executing a home-remodeling project, regardless of its size or complexity. Throughout that book, “plan, plan, plan” was our mantra.

For this, our most recent offering, we’ve adopted an old cliché as our credo. In fact, had this not been a part of the best-selling For Dummies series, a more apt title may have been An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure. On the other hand, Home Maintenance For Dummies, 2nd Edition, does have a nice ring to it! What’s more, chances are good that by the time you’ve had a chance to sink your teeth into this book, you’ll be anything but a dummy when it comes to maintaining your home.

Your home is probably the largest investment that you’ll make in your lifetime. So, it makes good sense to do everything that you can to protect that investment from deterioration caused by the forces of nature, wood-eating pests, and good, old-fashioned wear and tear. As you’ll soon read, in addition to protecting the structural integrity of your home, regular maintenance will make it more comfortable, safer, and more energy efficient. And don’t forget that a well cared-for home stands out in the neighborhood, and that’s worth something — a bigger price tag when it comes time to sell, or simply the satisfaction of knowing that you’re in charge of your home and not vice versa.

Few undertakings offer the pride and personal satisfaction that a home-maintenance job done well can. Home Maintenance For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is so full of information on how to care for your home, we guarantee that your cup of pride and personal satisfaction will forever runneth over.

Finally, if we’ve met our objective, your reading will be peppered with lots of laughter. Enjoy!

About This Book

Like most For Dummies books, Home Maintenance For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is a reference, meaning that it was written with the expectation that you would not read it from cover to cover over a couple of sittings. Instead, we think that you’ll consider it one of the most important reference tools in your home-maintenance arsenal — like your prized hammer or wrench that you pick up and use whenever necessary.

Each chapter is divided into sections, and each section offers instructions on some home maintenance task, like

check.png How to fix those pesky floor squeaks

check.png What to do when you know you’ve got a leak but you don’t know where it’s coming from

check.png What cleaning solution is the best for removing mildew

check.png How to easily maintain those confusing machines that keep you comfortable, like your furnace, boiler, air conditioner, and water heater

check.png How to prevent a flooded basement and how to fix it if your last fix didn’t work

check.png How to reduce your energy costs while improving your comfort — all in one fell swoop

check.png How to decide whether to do it yourself or hire a contractor

Who needs this book? Everyone — unless you’re independently wealthy and you have no intention of lifting a finger to care for your home. Even then, this book could prove to be valuable. Who knows? You might just find it handy in rescuing one of your loyal servants. Seriously, if your home is an apartment, condo, single-family house, flat, co-op, cave, or hut; if you rent, own, or borrow; if your habitat is old, new, or somewhere in between, this book is for you.

Conventions Used in This Book

To help you navigate through this book and make maintenance as easy as possible, we’ve set up a few conventions:

check.png We use italics for emphasis and to highlight new words or terms that we define.

check.png We use boldface to indicate the actionable part of numbered steps.

check.png We use monofont for Web addresses and e-mail addresses.

In addition to these standard conventions, whenever a task takes more than a few tools, we provide a list so that you can gather everything you need before you start to work.

What You’re Not to Read

We’ve written this book so that you can find information easily and easily understand what you find. And although we’d like to believe that you want to pore over every last word between the two yellow-and-black covers, we actually make it easy for you to identify skippable material — the stuff that, although interesting and related to the topic at hand, isn’t essential for you to know. This text appears in sidebars, which are the shaded boxes that appear here and there throughout the book. They share personal stories and observations, but they aren’t necessary reading.

Foolish Assumptions

You know what they say about the word assume. In any event, we’ve made the following assumptions about you:

check.png You care about the appearance and condition of your home and, hence, its value.

check.png You’re not a home-improvement fanatic, nor are you particularly handy — you don’t need to be.

check.png You have a song in your heart, a smile on your face, and an insatiable desire to see your home be the best that it can be.

check.png You don’t have a warehouse full of tools and you’re interested in getting only what you need. A few tools are of infinite value when it comes to home maintenance. However, the most complicated tool that you’ll need is a cordless driver drill for sinking a screw here and there. The tools that you’ll find yourself needing most often are a scrub brush, a paintbrush, and plenty of patience.

check.png You’re the type who always seeks help when needed and always puts safety first when attempting a home-maintenance endeavor.

How This Book Is Organized

The chapters of this book are divided into the following parts so that you can easily find just the information that you’re looking for.

Part I: Home Maintenance and You

This part introduces you to the benefits of home maintenance and to the major systems and components in your home. You can also find a series of lists to help you keep your home-maintenance tasks organized. Follow this schedule, and your home will love you for it.

Even though you don’t have to read this book from cover to cover, we strongly recommend that you check out the three chapters in this part so that you have a clear understanding of what parts of your home require maintenance and why you should pay attention to them.

Part II: The Energy Envelope

Your home’s envelope consists of all its exterior surfaces and associated components like windows and doors. And don’t forget the attic, roof, basement, and foundation. To be comfortable inside your home, its exterior must be in secure and sound condition. Turn to this part to discover how easily you can maintain your home’s exterior.

Part III: Key Systems: Plumbing and HVAC

Nothing is scarier than hearing a noise that wasn’t there before emanating from mechanical equipment: a popping sound in the water heater, a faucet that suddenly sounds like it’s running on a flat tire, or a screeching racket inside the deepest, darkest part of your furnace. If you want to prevent or repair these elements of your home, check out this part.

Part IV: Inside Home Sweet Home

This part contains information on the stuff that you come into contact with on a day-to-day basis within your home, such as the walls, ceilings, floors, interior doors, cabinets, countertops, and appliances, to name a few. If you never venture into another part of this book, and you accomplish a majority of the tasks contained in this part, you’ll be light-years ahead of the home-maintenance curve. Part IV helps you patch walls, quiet floors, unstick doors, cure cabinet woes, and fix fireplaces. And, as an added bonus, we tell you how to keep your home and yourself safe and secure. If this book could be compared to a meal, this part would definitely be the main course.

Part V: Out in the Great Wide Open

If Part IV contains all the stuff that you see everyday in your home, Part V is all about what you (and others) can see outside your home, such as walkways, paths, patios, decks, and driveways. Think that the interior of your home takes a beating? Consider the abuse that your wood deck, concrete patio, or metal porch railing is subject to from constant exposure to sunlight, rain, wind, and snow. Wood oxidizes, cups, and cracks; concrete expands, contracts, chips, and cracks; and metal can become a full-blown science experiment when covered with rust. Fortunately, Part V is chock-full of money-saving and time-tested tips and recipes that will tame even the most ferocious home-maintenance predator in your great wide open.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

In this part, you find ten cleaning solutions you can make yourself. Not only will these recipes save you all kinds of money, but you’ll actually know what’s in the products you’re using. We also tell you the ten home-maintenance skills you need to keep your home in tip-top shape.

Icons Used in This Book

Some information in this book is so important that we want to emphasize it by placing little pictures (called icons) next to certain points. Here’s what the icons mean:

anecdote.eps When we feel like telling you a little story, you’ll see this icon.

dumapproved.eps We use this icon to highlight products that we’ve come to know and trust over the years.

remember.eps This icon flags text that’s important and not to be forgotten.

tip.eps When we go out on a limb to suggest something you should do, we use this icon. It represents your basic good idea.

warning_bomb.eps We use this icon to steer you clear of things that we don’t want you to do. It points out dangers and health hazards you should be aware of.

Where to Go from Here

This book is organized so that you can go wherever you want to find complete information. Got a problem with your siding? Head to Chapter 5. Need to replace a toilet? Chapter 8 is for you. If you’re not sure where you want to go, you may want to start with Part I — it gives you all the basic info you need, including vital safety guidelines and a home-maintenance plan to follow; plus, it points you to places where you can find more detailed information. You can also use the index to look up specific topics or the table of contents for broader categories. Or simply let your fingers do the walking until you find a topic that inspires you and let the games begin! This book makes for great armor — just don’t get it wet!

Part I

Home Maintenance and You

430637 pp0101.eps

In this part . . .

Everyone knows that a bit of caulking or a coat of paint can make a home look better. What many folks don’t know is that beauty isn’t only skin deep. Both of these maintenance tasks, like most maintenance tasks, do much more than meets the eye.

In this part, we help you see beyond the obvious and show you what to look for when it comes to keeping your home fit. We also provide a home-maintenance schedule that suggests what you should do and when you should do it. Consider this a gentle reminder or two, or three. . . .