Create your own home maintenance manual

Recently I recommended becoming your family’s technology manager. With a little forethought, you can be on top of backups, passwords, and your devices. This week, I’m expanding that notion to include general home maintenance by creating a DIY Home Owner’s Manual that will save you time and money.

The first project

I started my Home Owner’s Manual while repairing an old clothes dryer. Its drum had stopped turning, leaving a pile of warm, damp clothes. I grabbed the toolbox, unplugged the machine, and got to work.

After removing the rear panel, I saw its simple mechanics. A thin belt ran between the motor and the large drum. That belt had snapped in half, leaving the motor to chug along without disturbing the drum full of wet clothes. “Ha!” I thought. “I can fix this.”

I Googled the model number to find the right part, which I bought from the hardware store. At home, I took notes while making the repair.

I sketched the dryer, noting the screws that held the rear panel. I drew the interior, labeling the components. Next, I noted the model number and part number, and sketched out the process of replacing the rear panel. In a matter of minutes, the dryer was back in the clothes-drying business.

I’ve since made pages about replacing the furnace filter, changing the lawn mower’s oil, and wiring our smoke detectors. Today, I have a fantastic reference to our home, written by me, that’s fully annotated, and you can do the same.

Take your manual digital

You can very easily go digital with your manual, and make it tremendously easy to find just the page you need. First, get yourself an Evernote account, if you don’t already have one. Make photo notes of your manual, tagging the images as appropriate. Now, you’ve got a ubiquitous, digital home owner’s manual you can reference on your mobile device. But there’s one more cool trick you can pull off as part of this digitizing process.

You can create QR codes for one-tap retrieval of the project page you want. Every Evernote note has a unique URL. To find it, simply open the note in your Evernote app and select Copy Note Link from the Note menu. Then, make a QR Code with that URL, using a free QR Code generator like KAYWA QR Code Generator. Once that’s done, print the page on sticker paper, cut out the code and stick it to the side or back of your dryer, lawn mower, whatever. (You could also tape a regular sheet of paper to the device with a piece of packing tape.)

Whenever you need your notes for that device, all you need to do is scan the QR code and presto! Evernote will launch and open the exact manual pages for you.

A DIY Home Owner’s Manual can be an invaluable tool, and organizing one is easy. Take the time whenever you perform a home improvement or maintenance project to create the pages you’ll want again in the future. You’re creating a great reference that you can even pass on to others in your home or future homeowners if you sell your place.

4 Comments for “Create your own home maintenance manual”

  1. posted by n on

    What a great idea. And, I take pictures of each step as I go along, laying out the screws etc in the order I removed them.

    I don’t use Outlook. Can I subscribe to my email addy in this note?

  2. posted by SusieQ on

    I’ve taken a bit of a different approach. I store all of my user manuals in DropBox. Anytime I need to do a repair, I can easily pull up the manual on my phone or iPad, see the parts diagrams and numbers and go from there. It also saves paper storage in my house and makes it easy when I’m out shopping for things to just pull up the manual as I go along.

    Now anytime I get something new, I immediately search for the user manual PDF online and before I throw away the paper, make sure I’ve got that digital copy.

  3. posted by SkiptheBS on

    When will tablet makers develop a screen that can be used in bright sun? I digitized all of my owners’ manuals. My other go-to is YouTube but some of us Don’t Have Garages and work in full sun.

  4. posted by BrianG on

    I second the Dropbox idea. For any new device they inevitably have a PDF version online. I download that to my “Home Manuals” Dropbox folder for later reference, then recycle the hard copy.

    For any home repairs or things I had to spend some time thinking about how to fix I take photos, write notes, etc. in a Word doc that I save to the same location. I learned this the hard way after doing semi-annual maintenance, having to think hard a second/third time about how I disassembled something tricky and KNOWING I solved the same problem once but didn’t recall exactly how. For the semi-handy/handy-capped this is a must-have process.

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