How much do you know about your house? While knowledge of square footage and all the crawl spaces are important, there are also safety features and practical issues that come in handy that you might have never encountered. Here’s a list of six things to discover right now.

1. Location of Property Lines

Sure, you’ve assumed the property ends at the line where you and your neighbor mow the grass. But when it comes time to plant a tree, install a fence, or clear out brush in the woods, you don’t want to discover after-the-fact that you’ve made a change on property that wasn’t yours. Deeds often include property lines. If not there, check your local assessor’s or county recorder’s office for the official map. Getting the property professionally surveyed is also an option, but may cost several hundred dollars.

2. Location of Shut-Off Valves

It’s critical to know the location of your water main shut-off valve and your natural gas shut-off valve. If either water or gas were to leak, shutting them off would help prevent further damage. In newer homes, these valves might be tagged or marked with a bright color. The water shut-off valve is usually in the basement, ground level of the home, or near the water heater. It could be a round wheel valve (turn clockwise to shut off) or a lever (turn 90 degrees perpendicular to the water line). The main gas shut-off valve is usually a lever that’s turned by hand or a small metal nub that requires a wrench to turn. Location varies from outside the house by the gas meter, to indoors where the gas pipe enters the house or near the furnace.

3. Radon Level

Radon is an odorless, colorless, natural gas that can enter homes at higher than acceptable levels. Radon poisoning can cause a number of dangerous health threats. There is no way to detect its presence unless you test for it. Because it enters through the ground, basements tend to be most susceptible to radon, though it can spread to other parts of the home. If you have a radon mitigation system, ensure that it’s working with annual checkups. Check radon levels with a home testing kit twice a year.

4. Emergency Exit Plan

Everyone should have an emergency exit plan in case of fire or another emergency. Identify all the ways to exit your home both from downstairs and upper floors. You may want to invest in collapsible ladders for second floor escapes. Every bedroom should have a door or window that directly leads to the outside. Practice the routes with family members so that the plan is well-known.

5. How to Clean the Dryer Duct

You probably know that ignoring the cleanliness of a lint screen can cause buildup that leads to a fire. But the ductwork behind your dryer is also important to clean for the same reason. Remove the hose behind the dryer and vacuum away excess lint inside. The U.S. Fire Administration reports 2,900 dryer fires, five deaths, and $35 million in property loss per year.

6. How to Shut Off the Toilet

Is your flushed toilet about to overflow? Not everyone knows that you can stop flowing water of a toilet right at the site. There’s an almond shaped handle right under or behind the toilet. This could save you water damage and a big mess to clean.

Real Estate Term of the Week

Radon Mitigation System: A system device designed to reduce radon concentrations in the indoor air of a building. The primary benefit is reducing the risk of developing lung cancer. Standard radon reduction systems maintain low levels as long as the mitigator’s fan is operating.

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