Illustration: Jonathan Carlson
Too bad a house doesn't come with an owner's manual. And a week-long seminar where you learn what every button, switch, and wire is for. Alas, the keys to the castle come with no troubleshooting guide to dog-ear—and, we're betting, no wise master to unlock the mysteries of the place you call home.

Then again, that's what we're here for: to provide fast fix-it advice when it's time for you to do your homeowning duty. Because at some point, you're going to have to know how to change out a light fixture without zapping yourself to kingdom come. Or paint a double-hung without gumming up the works. Or stem the flood when the toilet overflows. And you're going to want to do things right. The first time.

So consider these 47 tips a crash course in homeowner self-confidence. And study them well. 'Cause owning a house means you're going to have questions. Lucky for you, we've got some answers.

1. Fix a leaky faucet
This particular type of water torture is likely due to a failed washer inside a handle. The faucet is just the messenger.

To replace the washer, turn off the water supply valve under the sink. Stuff a rag in the drain so you don't lose parts, then take the handle apart. Pop the screw cover on top, remove the screw, and pull off the handle. Use a wrench to disassemble the stem, and line the parts up on the counter in the order they came off, so you know how it goes back together. Examine rubber parts or plastic cartridges for cracks, and take the offending piece to the hardware store for an exact replacement. Reassemble the parts you've laid out, in reverse. Then revel in the ensuing peace and quiet.

Faucet Diagrams

2. Move a refrigerator by yourself
Clarence Yuzik, aka The Fridge Doctor, has two words for you: Magic Sliders. Put these little plastic disks under the fridge's front feet (you can lever them off the floor with a long pry bar), then pull. Most refrigerators have wheels in the back, so the whole unit should glide forward effortlessly.

3. Dig a hole
A stomp on a pointed shovel, that's easy—and so's electrocuting yourself when you slice into a buried power line. Which is why, says This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook, any prospective hole-maker should first visit digsafely.com to find the agency in his or her area that keeps track of underground utilities. It'll send someone out to your place, mark any lines you have, and save you from getting buried yourself.

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