The idea of renting does not usually come along with thoughts of handy skills, like using tools or basic plumbing. And yet, every renter needs to know how to unclog a drain, change a shower head and use a screwdriver or drill. You should not call your landlord every time your shower drain seems clogged. Unclog it yourself! Can’t figure out how to change the lightbulb in that “complicated” light fixture? It’s not as complicated as you think. Or maybe it is, but the point is, you need to know some basic skills to survive renting a Boston apartment without breaking the bank. Apartments for rent in Boston are usually older and have quirks that just require simple elbow grease. Newer buildings don’t have as many issues, but you still need to know these basic life skills.
1. Using Tools: Pick up a screwdriver, insert it into a screw and turn to the right to tighten. Turn to the left to loosen. Using a drill instead of a screwdriver will help you get tight screws out and hang heavy objects on the wall (we will cover that in another section). You may also need to know how to use a wrench to tighten pipes, in case you ever get a leaky one. Basically, get a set of starter tools from Sears, Home Depot, Lowe’s, or some similar store. If you need help, you can always watch YouTube videos on how to use each tool. Home Depot has started a series of videos teaching viewers how to use various tools including a power drill and a measuring tape. Always talk with your landlord or property manager to gain agreement on best practices.
2. Changing a Shower Head: You should definitely get your landlord’s permission for this one, but it always helps to know how to change a shower head. Many times you will find your shower has inadequate water pressure or you may need a different kind of shower head, like one that comes off the wall, for a disability of some sort. To change a shower head you will need a wrench, plumber’s tape, and your new showerhead. Simply loosen the nut at the base of the old shower head and pull it off. Then clean the pipe and apply the plumber’s tape. Screw on the new shower head and you’re ready to go!
3. Unclogging a Toilet or Drain: Sometimes either Drano does not work to unclog a serious drain issue, or your landlord may prohibit harsh chemicals like those. If that is the case, snaking a drain is easy. Grab a snake from any hardware store and release the drain stopper. To release the drain stopper, locate the pivot rod under the sink and remove the nut and rod. You tube is chock full of videos showing how to do this procedure! Once you have these removed, the drain stopped should come right out. Then you can snake the drain by pushing the snake through the U-curve in the pipes underneath and hooking whatever is blocking the pipe. To unclog your toilet, simply grab a plunger and make sure there is enough water in the bowl to create suction. If these methods fail, call your landlord, because you should never go further than this in any apartment for rent in Boston or elsewhere.
4. Hanging Something Heavy: Some leases prohibit hanging object with wall anchors or anything that may leave a hole at all. If that’s the case in your apartment, then you will not need this skill now, but it is very useful to know down the road. You can always patch the holes later if you know how to properly do so. Normally you would always want to find a stud to hang something heavy. You can do this with an electronic stud finder or by knocking and finding the part of the wall that is not hollow. However, sometimes you may need to hang a heavy mirror or piece of wall decor of some sort, and the stud may not be in the best location. In this case, you can use wall anchors to secure screws into drywall. These hold heavier objects in place, but you have to make sure that you use the right size for what you are hanging.
5. Patching Holes: Once you have taken down all your beautiful art and photos, you need to patch the holes before you move out! Or maybe an accident happened and you really need to patch that hole in the wall. For small holes, like those created when you hang things, get some lightweight spackle, a putty knife, and sandpaper. Fill the hole, scrape off the excess and sand it to match the wall. If you somehow have a bigger hole in something like drywall, Lowe’s has a good step-by-step guide on how to fix it. It requires a little more skill and some additional tools, like a razor to cut the wall, a drywall patch and drywall tape. If your goal is to get your deposit back and for your landlord to never know, just pay a local handyman to do it properly.
6. Cooking Basics: This skill is surprisingly increasingly lacking in local renters. Boston dwellers dine out more often than ever before. Yet getting takeout or visiting a local restaurant every night can become quite hard on your bank account. Learn the basics of cooking so that you can feed yourself on a budget. Some basics you should learn include properly using a knife, frying an egg, cooking pasta, sautéing an onion, basic baking methods, and more. YouTube is a wonderful collection of all kinds of cooking skill channels. Start there.
7. Putting out a Fire: Speaking of learning to cook, you should definitely know how to put out a fire with and without a fire extinguisher. You should just always have a fire extinguisher on hand, just in case. Each has different methods to use and comes with instructions. Read the instructions before a fire breaks out. If you don’t have one yet and a fire does happen, then use the basic properties of fire to find something with which to put it out. NEVER USE WATER TO PUT OUT A FIRE. Instead, make sure the electricity is off if you have time and the breaker is nearby. If you want to find a fire-killing chemical, use something similar to dirt. Baking soda works best on grease fires, but you can also try flour. You might also try to smother the fire with a non-flammable blanket or rug. If it’s small enough you can also use a metal lid or another pan to smother the flames. Hopefully you never do need to use this skill, but it is one that needs to be known to all Boston renters.
8. CPR and First Aid: We all hope that nothing will ever happen to anyone in our homes, but knowing basic lifesaving and first aid skills can prevent you from one serious nightmare down the road. Learning CPR and basic first aid is key for everyone, really. To learn these skills, find local classes to get certified in CPR training. You can go a few steps further and look up first aid online for other things like deep cuts, burns, etc. Make sure you use a reputable source though so that you get honest and accurate information.