20. Know which breaker to turn off
When you finally get around to putting in that dimmer switch, you won't want to be stumped by a poorly labeled breaker box. Ditch the pencil and paper chart—you're not changing your wiring anytime soon. Instead, write directly on the metal next to each switch with a fine indelible marker. Have a friend plug lamps into all the sockets in a room and tell you via cell phone which ones go dark when you flip a switch. Then, be specific ("sofa and window walls only" or "kitchen minus fridge") when you jot it down.

21. Dry out a flooded basement
After a disastrous storm, water below ground level must be removed slowly to equalize pressure on both sides of the basement walls, says David Miller, an administrator with the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division. Pumping it out too quickly or too early can cause structural damage or a cave-in. "The water in your basement is pushing back, preventing your basement walls from collapsing," says Miller.

Drying Out a Wet Basement

Test groundwater levels by digging down a few inches just outside your basement. If the water pools, wait a day or two to hook up a submersible pump. Don't go in without turning off the electricity first (if you can't, call your utility and don't go in at all). Don gloves, eyewear, and a mask to protect yourself from cleaning agents or wastewater that may have seeped into the basement soup. On the first day, remove just one foot of water (send it as far from the house as possible, preferably to a storm drain) and wait overnight. If the water level is back up, it's too early to pump. Once the water stops rising, pump out two or three feet each day until the basement returns to dry land.

22. Make friends with the new neighbors
It's just a matter of time before your kids trample their tulips, the dog makes a mess of their lawn, or you want to put up a fence or cut overhanging limbs from their tree. So when they've barely unloaded the moving van, arrive with a warm coffee cake or an invitation to join the school carpool. Tell them funny stories about the crazy widow who used to live in their house. As time goes on, offer to take in their mail when they're away or clear their driveway during a storm. Be sure to invite them to your annual holiday cocktail party. Being neighborly will help keep the peace—and your property as you want it.

Big Neighbor is Watching You

23. Deal with a downed power line
Don't. Always assume any downed line is energized. Just 100 volts can deliver a lethal jolt, and residential power lines carry 7,200; a ringing phone line, 70 to 120. So stay far away from any downed line, and call your electrical provider to turn it off.

24. Hang heavy objects on drywall
Those thin cone-shaped plastic anchors aren't for wallboard; they're meant to sink into plaster. A toggle bolt provides the best holding power in drywall. The metal bar folds or pivots to go through a hole in the wall, then flips open flat against the back of the board to brace whatever's screwed to the front of the wall.

Ask TOH—Hanging a TV on Drywall

25. Use a fire extinguisher
Work fast—the typical extinguisher has as little as 8 seconds of life, so know how yours works in advance. And make sure to stow it near an exit so you can back out as you fight the flames. Then remember the acronym "PASS": 1) Pull the pin. 2) Aim the nozzle at the base of the flames. 3) Squeeze the trigger. 4) Sweep the spray from side to side. And don't assume the fire is out just because the flames are gone. Call 911 and wait for the fire department to give you the high sign.

How to Choose One and Use It
Ask TOH users about Home & Real Estate

Contribute to This Story Below