My Plumber Said This 30-Second Task Would Have Saved Me Hundreds of Dollars

My Plumber Said This 30-Second Task Would Have Saved Me Hundreds of Dollars

That said, there have been plenty of tasks that have come as a surprise since becoming a homeowner — things I used to leave to a landlord or, more often, leave totally unattended because I didn’t realize they even needed to be done.

But when I was working on redoing our bathroom last fall, I hit a snag that came with a pricey lesson. I had hoped to replace our standard-issue low-neck faucet with something more modern and stylish, which the internet assured me I could totally do. I assembled my tools, I pulled up my YouTube videos, and I slid myself underneath the vanity to get to work.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get far. I knew that step one to any project involving plumbing was to turn off the water locally. That meant reaching under the sink to turn two shutoff valves — one for hot, one for cold — so that they were completely blocked and no water would make its way from the main water line to the sink. I turned on the water at the sink so I had real-time feedback on my progress. I turned the handle that controlled the left valve, which turned off without issue. Then, I turned the handle for the right valve until I couldn’t any more. I looked up to the sink, and the water was still running. Huh.

Over two hours, I fussed and futzed over the two handles, using my hands, my hands plus grippy rubber bands, my hands plus pliers, and my hands plus WD-40 to try to get the valve to close. And while I was able to turn the actual handle, the valve housed inside of it would. not. close. Nothing worked. Finally, I gave up and called a plumber.

Backup was thankfully fast to arrive, and even faster to fix the issue. It turns out the shutoff valves in my 65-year-old house had become sticky over time, a common issue among older homes. My bill came to around $200 to have the plumber replace the old valves with new ones that would effectively open and close when you turned them, allowing me to (hours later) finish my full remodel.

While he was working, my plumber told me a secret: This pricey visit could have been avoided by giving the shutoff valves under the vanity a little workout by fully closing and opening them a couple times about once a month — a chore that takes literal seconds. Giving those valves a bit of a stretch helps prevent mineral buildup that can lead to them sticking in the future.

Functional shutoff valves aren’t just important for doing DIY home upgrades like I was. In the event of an emergency — an overflowing toilet, a clogged sink — the shutoff valves help you to cut off the water supply to the affected fixture. If you’ve ever tried to staunch an overflowing toilet, you know how important that can be.

Since my plumber’s visit, I’ve been periodically giving all the valves in my house a little twist. It’s not always once a month; usually it’s just when I remember to do it, but that’s better than nothing. When you think of it, try to give yours a stretch, too. It could save you from paying hundreds of dollars for a plumber visit — or even thousands for repairing avoidable water damage.

Megan Baker

Home Projects Editor

Megan is a writer and editor who specializes in home upgrades, DIY projects, hacks, and design. Before Apartment Therapy, she was an editor at HGTV Magazine and This Old House Magazine. Megan has a degree in Magazine Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She is a self-taught weighted blanket connoisseur.

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A Handheld Under-$20 Tool Is the Secret to Easy DIY Wall Moulding

A Handheld Under-$20 Tool Is the Secret to Easy DIY Wall Moulding

Kelly Dawson

Contributor

Kelly Dawson is a media consultant based in Los Angeles. She is a prolific writer for notable publications including Cup of Jo, Vox, AFAR, Dwell, Martha Stewart Living, McSweeney’s and Architectural Digest. Kelly is the three-time guest editor for Refinery29’s “Voices of Disability” series, two-time guest host of “Call Your Girlfriend,” and deputy editor at Apartment Therapy.

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This $8 Hack Keeps My Electric Bill Lower in Both the Summer and Winter

This $8 Hack Keeps My Electric Bill Lower in Both the Summer and Winter

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

I have not been blessed with apartments that have central AC or allow me to control my own heat in my time in New York City. On top of that, many of my apartments haven’t been well-insulated and have plenty of unsealed areas that hot or cold air can sneak in through, driving my electricity bill up regardless of whether it’s summer or winter.

When it got so chilly in my apartment that my roommate and I were shuffling around in blankets and the cat was using the heating pad to get warm, I knew that I had to find a solution for all of the windows letting in blasts of cold air. I stumbled upon 3M’s Interior Transparent Weather Sealing Tape on Amazon and decided for under $10, it was worth trying.

I placed the tape, which looks like your typical clear tape, over the the top and sides of the window. I used about six 4′ strips of tape and had plenty remaining on my roll. It wasn’t hard to figure out where to tape — I just put my hand over to determine if there was a draft. I pushed the tape into every cranny, making sure it covered the area around the window latch. The leaks were staunched — I couldn’t feel the air anymore. This, of course, did not magically make our sluggish radiator any better, but I didn’t feel like I was torching money when I plugged in my space heater to supplement.

This hack isn’t only for winter, however. Last month, my roommate and I noticed that the weather tape was starting to lose its stickiness. Rather than removing it entirely for the summer, we reapplied all six pieces, so the cold air from our AC units didn’t get diluted with hot, humid outside air. Our electric bill in the summer can be expensive as $150-200 a month, but it barely cracked $60 this month, despite the fact that we ran our AC and fans at night.

What I like best about this tape is that it’s transparent, you don’t really notice it on the windows aside from when the sun is directly reflecting off of it. And it hasn’t peeled off any of the paint on our windowsills, aside from a bit leftover from a “landlord special” that should not have been there in the first place.

If you want to be as energy efficient as possible this summer, I recommend adding this tape to your cart. An added bonus: There are less places for ants, mosquitos and other creepy crawlies to sneak in.

Alicia Kort

Senior Commerce Editor

Alicia Kort is the Senior Commerce Editor at Apartment Therapy. She enjoys writing about cool finds and all things organizational. She’s based in Brooklyn and is from the suburbs of Chicago.

This DIY Lamp Looks Like a Million Bucks (But Uses Materials You Already Have)

This DIY Lamp Looks Like a Million Bucks (But Uses Materials You Already Have)

Kelly Dawson

Contributor

Kelly Dawson is a media consultant based in Los Angeles. She is a prolific writer for notable publications including Cup of Jo, Vox, AFAR, Dwell, Martha Stewart Living, McSweeney’s and Architectural Digest. Kelly is the three-time guest editor for Refinery29’s “Voices of Disability” series, two-time guest host of “Call Your Girlfriend,” and deputy editor at Apartment Therapy.

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The Ingenious $20 Amazon Find That Acts as a Nightlight Without Sacrificing Plug Space

The Ingenious $20 Amazon Find That Acts as a Nightlight Without Sacrificing Plug Space

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

We’ve all been there before: It’s 3 a.m., and you’re making your way through your home for a glass of water, feeling around in the dark to make sure you don’t stumble into anything. Sure, you could turn a light on, but who wants to risk waking anyone up (or that awful eye adjustment that comes with turning the lights on after you’ve been asleep)? The traditional solution? A good ol’ nightlight. However, as beneficial as a nightlight can be there are a couple of downsides, namely sacrificing an outlet. Thankfully, there’s a solution out there that solves this problem: the SnapPower Guidelight Outlet Wall Plate.

Designed to work as both an outlet cover and nightlight, the SnapPower Wall Plate features a genius design that’s sure to become a household staple for many. Installing in seconds, simply snap the cover onto your existing outlets, tighten the center screw, and you’re set — no wiring or batteries needed, because they get their power from the sides of the outlet). But how does it work? Well, the front of the plate features a light sensor that triggers the nightlight as soon as the room becomes dark and turns it off once it’s daylight. Best of all, this smart plate uses energy-efficient LEDs that last up to 25 years! When’s the last time a nightlight has lasted you that long?

With more than 5,300 five-star reviews, these light-up outlet covers are a bonafide hit, with one customer sharing, “I started purchasing these from SnapPower when they first came out and have never been disappointed in the quality and performance of their products. I have purchased both the nightlight and the USB outlet covers and am very pleased. There are lots of knock-offs flooding the market, but none of them are a match for the original!” Another customer exclaimed, “I needed a soft light above our kitchen counters, and these are amazing. A three-minute install and they look very snazzy. We love them!”

Starting at $20.46, the SnapPower Guidelight Outlet Wall Plate comes in three colors and two styles: duplex and decor. If you’re looking for more plate styles, you’re in luck as SnapPower also offers GFCI covers, light switches, and wall plates with built-in USB chargers for even more functionality. So if you’re tired of stumbling and fumbling in the dark, this unique cover is the answer you’ve been looking for — your stubbed toes will thank you.

Sarah M. Vazquez

SEO Commerce Editor

Sarah writes about all things shopping for Apartment Therapy, The Kitchn, and Cubby helping you find the best deals and the best products for you and your home. A Brooklyn-born Jersey Girl, she loves a good playlist, a good bagel, and her family (but not necessarily in that order).

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