Much like the BSA Fieldbook has become the gold standard in outdoor survival know-how — whether you’re a Scout or not — similarly valuable life hacks can be found in many other official BSA materials.
Want to learn how to take better pictures? Read the Photography merit badge pamphlet.
Want to get better at cooking meals outdoors? The BSA has you covered.
Want to impress your family with the funniest jokes ever? There’s a magazine for that.
As we slog through the dog days of summer, most of us can’t be on vacation all the time. Looking for productive things to do with your kids before school starts? Look no further than the Home Repairs merit badge pamphlet.
Here are five useful things you can do with your family to improve your home and the items within it.
- Clean your tools, and make sure they’re stored properly.
When’s the last time you cleaned your tools? Much like a Scout pocketknife, you must take care of your equipment. Lay out your hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers. If your kids are older, you can include things like saws and utility knives, too. Show your kids how to use a wire brush to scrub them down, and then spray them with a lubricant or wipe them with an oily rag. The great thing about this process is you can repeat it every time you use your tools. If you don’t have a good place to store your tools, the pamphlet includes instructions on building your own toolbox!
- Weather-strip a window or door.
It’s hot outside. Doors and windows that are properly weather-stripped help keep the cool air in and the hot air out. Place your hands around the edges of your windows and doors. If you can feel a breeze, then you need to replace the stripping that seals them shut. Start by removing the old stripping. Clean the area with soap and water. Once it is dry, install new stripping (available at most hardware stores). Self-adhesive stripping is easier for kids than nail-on stripping. Hold your hand near the questionable spot, and check for a breeze. The weather stripping should compress slightly against a closed door or window.
- Check your sprinkler heads and replace/repair if needed.
In-ground sprinklers are great. The problem is that they need to be checked constantly, or you’ll be wasting more water than you would if you just watered by hand. Grass, mineral deposits and dirt can clog spray heads. Lift the head by hand, unscrew it, rinse out the head and the filter with water, and then replace it. A sprinkler damaged by a lawnmower might need to be replaced. Thankfully, this is a simple process: Just unscrew the sprinkler from the underground piping, and replace it with the appropriate model from your local hardware store.
- Check your window and door screens, and replace any damaged spots.
When the weather cools down, door and window screens are great for letting in fresh air without the bugs that come with it. Unless, of course, there’s a hole in the screen. Repair kits are available at hardware stores and are easy to install, even for kids. Make sure the repair patch you purchase is 2 inches larger than the damaged area. Bend the wires along the edge of the patch at a 90-degree angle, and then push the bent wires through your existing screen, covering the damaged area. On the other side, bend the wires so they’re flat against the screen.
- Locate your breaker box, and know how to replace a fuse or reset a circuit breaker.
Your breaker box — usually located in the garage, basement or the back of a closet — takes the electricity from your local power company and safely distributes it throughout your home. If one of the circuits in the box becomes overloaded — for example, if you’re using too much electricity in one room — you can blow a fuse. It’s easy enough to fix; just flip the breaker to the “off” position, and then back to “on.” But it can be tricky to do if the lights go off after dark. Show the box to your kids (during the day!), and explain to them how it works so they’ll Be Prepared if the lights go out.
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