Actually Helpful Tips From an NYC Super

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There’s a very good chance that if you've ever lived in NYC, then you have had an apartment in a multi-resident complex maintained by a super. You've also probably had something break, while you were living in said apartment. And your not-picking-up-his-phone super has also probably not given even one shit about it. Thing is, you still need something fixed ASAPOMG, and you 1) don’t wanna have to pay a real handyman to fix it, and 2) don’t wanna flood your entire building.

And that’s when you need to turn to this: a list of super-approved dos and don’ts, courtesy of our main man Bayron Martinez, a super for the past 15 years in NYC.

Flickr/Jason Rhode

A toolbox

Everyone should have some basic gear to make sure their castle doesn’t become a simple home. How else can you rescue your helpless, attainably attractive neighbor in 3A from the horrors of a jammed armoire drawer? Bayron always has a Channellock, flathead/Phillips screwdriver, and headlamp ready to go. So should you.
 

An open line of communication

Make meeting your super a top five to-do list item once you move into a new place. The best tenants understand that “super” isn’t code for “on call 24 hours,” and that there are many other tenants who also have needs. Usually there is only one super juggling many competing demands, so chat up your super now and then and show some patience when making requests.

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Toilet isn’t flushing/won't stop running

Not being able to make your waste disappear can be traumatic, but usually the solution is simple. The flush handle/chain/flapper valve trio located under the tank cover (or that heavy lid thingy), are the most likely culprits. Some combination of a loose chain, disconnection of the chain from the handle or flapper valve (the part that looks kinda like the Starship Enterprise), or replacing broken parts usually solves your flushing troubles. Often, it’s as simple as reconnecting parts or making sure the flapper is shutting completely (seriously guys, this is probably the easiest one on this list). You can replace all, or some, of these components faster than you can polish off a can of your favorite under-the-radar toasted lager. Bring your old parts to the hardware store and someone will show you the way.
 

Clogged toilet

We’ve all seen it. The impending doom of toilet water rising like molten lava ascending to the vent of a volcano, but then it stops. You have survived the immediate catastrophe of overflowing stank and debris, but how do you retake control of your commode? Usually all you need is your plunger. You will first need a plunger, of course, but once you get past this barrier, the plunger is one of the more straightforward tools. Bayron uses a drain snake less than 5% of the time tenants call about clogs, so give that plunger a whirl. Not only will you conquer the vile fluids of the deep, but it can also be good cardio.

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Separate recycling

You're probably thinking, "Hey man! I know the difference between paper and glass! This article is condescending, and I am insulted!" Fair, but before you toss your tablet without considering how to properly dispose of e-waste, remember that recycling rules are more complicated than you think. When you are running late and it’s your turn to make the garbage/recycling run, your super is willing to bet that violation fine that you’ll just leave your plastics and cardboards mixed. Separate your garbage and recyclables so you can save the environment, and save your super’s time.
 

Copy your keys

You're probably thinking, "This is like that other tip! I can totally go to a hardware store and pay to have keys made. Anyone can do that! I am further insulted." While you may be inner-monologuing the truth, not everyone is as prepared as you. It's one of those things most people always mean to do, like learn another language, but it isn’t until you are wandering alone in Manzanillo that you wish you would have paid attention in Señora Delgado’s third-period class. Don’t just “intend” to have keys made. There are places that make keys on every other block in NYC. You don’t want to be stuck at 2am asking your super to let you in because you left your keys at a bar in Bushwick.
 

Replace outlet covers

Your super doesn't want you digging into the electrical infrastructure of your apartment, and conveniently, you don't have the desire. But you should be able to swap out an outlet cover when it is replacing time. All you need is a new cover and a screwdriver -- the cover even has screws included, which takes all the guesswork out if it. Plus, outlet covers are standardized and can be found easily.
 

Tighten screws

Tenants usually wait until cabinet doors start hanging precariously from snapped hinges before taking action -- and that action is usually looking sheepishly at the super who knows this could have been avoided. A little pre-planning saves everyone the agony of questioning whether you Incredible Hulked your pantry door when you were ravenously searching for that emergency bag of kettle-cooked jalapeño chips. Check the screws in your apartment every few months and avoid future, more costly, issues.

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Clean stovetop burners

This applies only to gas stoves, so right away you need to know the difference between gas and electric. Some cleaning products clog the holes where gas is released for the stovetop burners to function. All it takes is a needle, locating the holes where gas is released, and swiping away any excess gunk with the needle. Test this method when your stove isn’t lighting before testing for something more major like a faulty igniter. Proceed with caution; make sure you aren’t trying to light the burner while you are cleaning at such a close range.  
 

Caulking

That black rubbery-looking stuff around your tub is an infestation of mold. The sealant near the place where you bathe needs to be replaced -- immediately. Changing out gross for not-gross caulk requires both strength and art, but it is manageable on the spectrum of home improvements.

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Exposed wires

Any time you see wires, it’s best to find your headlamp, find your fuse box, and dial your super’s number. You want to be able to stop an electrical current from running to unprotected wires, so find out where your fuse box is and know which switch turns off which part of your apartment before you ever have a problem.
 

Window jambs

If your window won’t open or close properly, or if you need to summon Herculean strength to get any movement, it’s time to reach out to your super. Usually this means the balance of the window needs to be adjusted. This isn’t something you should do for the first time when it is 98 degrees and you are trying to install your window air conditioner. Have your super make the window right again, rather than watching a pane of reinforced glass float 30-plus helpless stories to its demise. The NYC summer is long without a window unit.

Flickr/Rebecca Smith

Non-working radiator

It’s winter: outside the snow is endless, and inside, you shiver endlessly as your walls protect you not. You know that the rickety cast-iron radiator holds the key to surviving NYC’s second-consecutive House of Stark-like winter. Tempting the heat gods simply isn’t worth it. You will most likely burn yourself. The solution is usually something that can be done in a few minutes, but only by an experienced vet like Bayron. Call your super.

Gas leaks

Sometimes you can hear it, other times you can smell it (rotten eggs!). Either way, do NOT call your super, call Con Ed ASAP and don’t light a match. Speaking of lighting matches…

Flames

If you see flames call 9-1-1. Bayron says, “Once a tenant called me because she turned on her oven and flames started to burn on the inside. I rushed to her apartment and turned off the gas, but if I hadn’t been close, who knows.” There are times when you shouldn’t call your super, because you are capable and able bodied; there are other times when you shouldn’t call your super because you should be calling the fire department.

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Matthew Moll is a contributor to Thrillist. He is always looking for an excuse to lead the way with his headlamp. You can follow him here.