Guide to basic maintenance
We're not suggesting you become the next Handy Andy, but a little know-how could earn you a free pint or five.
Tool kit (things to 'borrow' from your parents' home):
Screwdrivers (flat and cross head), claw hammer, penknife, pliers, spanner, spare fuses, screws, nails, and duct tape.
When you move in:
Ask your landlord/ estate agent where you can find the stop valve for the water supply and the electricity trip switch box.
While this article is focusing on easy DIY and quick fixes, you should call your landlord or agency immediately if you have any major emergencies.
Turning the house supply of water off:
To turn off your house supply you need to locate your stop valve, which will usually be under the kitchen sink or a downstairs floorboard by the front door. Ask your landlord when you move in. Turn it clockwise to turn it off, and anticlockwise to turn it on. Turning this off does not cut off the water supply to taps in the house, as the coldwater cistern will still be full.
Turning off the cold-water taps:
You need to locate your cold-water cistern, probably in the loft, and find the pipe coming off it. This pipe will have a valve with a red/ orange handle; turn the handle clockwise to close it. (If you can't find this in the loft it may be in the airing cupboard).
Turning off hot taps:
There should be a pipe leading off the hot water cylinder in the airing cupboard, this will have a valve with a red/ orange handle, turn it clockwise. (If you can't find it, you may spot it in the loft.)
Re-setting the electricity trip switch:
Trip switches can be set off by dirty toasters, too many appliances being used at once, a blown light bulb, and faulty/ misused appliances etc. If you lose power you need to check whether it is just the trip switch. Your landlord should have told you where the box is, (usually the hallway or under the stairs). Open the cover to expose the trip switches. Check which switches have tripped to the OFF position and put them back on the ON position.
If the switch trips again the fault is probably caused by an appliance. You need to identify which circuit is affected and which appliance on that circuit is causing the problem. To do this walk around your flat and see which lights/ plug sockets are not working. Unplug all electrical appliances in this area, switch the trip back to ON and plug them back in one by one, when the trip switch goes OFF again you've got your culprit and should get an electrician to look at it.
How to change a fuse:
Release the central screw that holds the two halves of the plug together, lever out the old fuse and replace it with a new one of the same amperage. Put the plug back together.
Unblocking a sink/ drain:
Pour boiling water down the plughole, and then use a plunger. Next put on protective gloves and carefully pour soda crystals (caustic soda) down the plughole, using a length of stiff wire down to dislodge any stubborn blockages. If this doesn't work, contact your landlord. Make a habit of regularly pouring drain cleaner down your drains to prevent grease sticking.
The loo won't stop flushing:
Lift up the cistern cover and pull the plastic float as high up as possible to stop the water. Then phone your landlord and ask them to send a plumber round.
Sticky drawers (Ewww):
Take the drawers out, sandpaper down the wear marks to a smooth edge. Rub candle wax on the surface. Repeat inside the chest of drawers.
This basically means you need to change the washer using a screwdriver and a spanner. First switch off the water supply, and turn on the tap and wait until the water stops running. Then remove the pretty exterior of the tap; pull out the central cylinder; unscrew the remains of the old washer, and replace it with the new one before putting it all back together again. Turn the tap on gently afterwards to test. If in doubt about your ability to do this, call a plumber.
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