Maintenance Tips for You and Your Clients
By ROBERT K. MAJOR
Whether you are a first time homebuyer or a seasoned homeowner, property
maintenance is the key in keeping your home looking fresh. There never seems to
be enough time to get around to all those chores. Unfortunately, the
quickest way to reduce your property value is to overlook the periodic
maintenance necessary for your home. Your home is probably your most
expensive investment, and you can take some simple steps to make sure it looks
and performs at it best. In addition, your home has several safety features and
you should periodically test these items to keep your family and property safe.
Although the maintenance, repair, and safety items seem endless, the following
list should help you with the maintenance of your home.
Regular Maintenance Items
1. Check, clean, and repair your gutters
in the spring and fall. Gutters protect your property by diverting
water away the foundation of your home. They also help protect walls,
windows and doorways. Sticks, leaves, and other debris will collect and
clog your gutters. Blocked gutters can cause moisture problems at your
roofline and along your foundation. By installing gutter guards you can
keep your gutters free of debris and reduce your yearly maintenance.
2. Inspect your attic in the spring and
the fall for leaks, condensation, and poor ventilation. The best
time to inspect your attic is after a heavy rain. Look throughout the
attic at penetration points, sheathing, and vents. Look for leaks and
staining and note the areas of concern. This will help you pinpoint the
problem areas on your roof. The vents in your attic provide the necessary
airflow that eliminates condensation. Verify that your vents are open and
unobstructed. Make sure your vents have screens to prevent insects and
animals from entering your attic.
3. Check and repair damaged flashing and
roofing materials at least twice annually. Your roof is the first
line of defense to protect your house from moisture and water penetration.
Improper flashing and defective roofing materials will allow water to enter your
home. Moisture can go undetected in attics and behind walls and cause
damage to framing, drywall, flooring, and household furnishings. In
addition, moisture creates an environment for mold growth. Be Careful!
The pitch on some roofs is very steep and dangerous to climb without special
equipment. If you find significant damage, contact a professional
contractor to evaluate and correct the problem.
4. Inspect windows, windowsills, and the
wood trim on the outside of your house at least twice a year. Any
exposed wood on the exterior of your house is prone to moisture damage.
Make sure to protect your wood trim with exterior paint and caulk. Have a
professional contractor replace all wood and trim that becomes spongy or
5. Trim trees, shrubs, and plants annually and
keep them away from your roof and the walls of your house. Trees,
shrubs and plants can cause damage to your roof and the walls of your home.
Large branches can break off during a storm and puncture a hole in your roof or
siding. Shrubs to close to your house can also prevent water from draining
away from your foundation. Keep all plants and shrubs at least three feet
from your home.
6. Have your furnace or boiler serviced
annually by a professional. It is important for your furnace or
boiler to operate properly. A service professional will clean and adjust
your system so it operates efficiently. They will also inspect and
maintain your venting and duct system. This will help reduce fuel costs,
and may extend the life of your system.
7. Inspect, clean, or replace your air
filter or electronic air cleaner monthly. You can usually locate
your air filter or electronic air cleaner by your furnace. You should
clean or replace your air filter every 2-3 months. Clean your electronic
air cleaner monthly. Dirty air filters create drag in your ducts and
decrease the efficiency of your system.
8. Check and replace faulty caulk and
grout in bathrooms on a bimonthly basis. Caulk and grout seal the
seams between floors, tiles, tubs and showers. Look for signs of cracking
or separation throughout your bathroom. The caulk and grout in your bathroom
prevents moisture from entering your sub floor and other hidden areas of your
home. You can purchase caulk and grout at your local hardware store.
Make sure you follow the manufacture's recommendation or use a professional
contractor to make repairs.
9. Shut off outside faucets every fall
and turn on outside faucets in the spring. Your exterior faucets
have direct exposure to the outdoor elements. When water freezes it
expands and can damage your pipes. Shut off the interior water valve and allow
the water to drain from your outdoor faucet. You can usually locate the internal
water shut off valve in the basement near your hot water heater.
10. Turn off your irrigation system in the fall and completely empty
your water lines. You can usually locate irrigation lines underground
above the frost line. Any water that remains in your lines is prone to
freezing which can cause extreme damage to your system. You can hire a
professional contractor specializing in irrigation systems to remove the water
from your system every fall.
1. Test all smoke and carbon monoxide
detectors every month. You should have smoke detectors on every
level of your home. Many local fire departments will test, replace, and install
new smoke detectors at no cost. Carbon monoxide is an odorless poisonous
gas produced by fuel burning appliances. Improper venting and back drafting can
allow carbon monoxide to spill into your home. Carbon monoxide detectors
will alert you if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide exist. If you have
fuel-burning appliances, you should install carbon monoxide detectors.
Always follow manufacturer’s recommendations when installing smoke or carbon
2. Test the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) monthly.
GFCI are electrical plugs or circuit breakers that will shut off the
power to a circuit if electricity is leaking. For example, if 10 amps are
flowing through your wires and the current enters a plug, then 10 amps must
complete a loop and return through the wires to the main electrical panel.
If electricity escapes from that path (like a hairdryer dropped in a tub full of
water), it will search for a conductor so it can find its way back to a ground.
Electrocution occurs when electricity chooses you as the path.
Fortunately, the GFCI will shut of the electricity before it can harm you.
Look for GFCI plugs in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. You will also
find GFCI near sinks, hot tubs, pools, and garages, and outdoor receptacles.
Each GFCI plug is equipped with a test and reset button. By depressing the
test button, the circuit is broken and electricity will not flow to any plug
within the GFCI loop. The plug will reactivate when you push the reset
button. Hire a professional contractor to replace the plug if the test or
reset button does not respond.
3. Have your chimney inspected and cleaned
annually by a professional. By-products of burning fossil fuels
are acid water and creosote. Steam will rise up your chimney and as it
cools will change into acid water droplets. The acid water collects on the
inside of the chimney and deteriorates the liner. Creosote is a tar like
substance that also attaches to the liner of your chimney. Creosote
develops when wood does not have an opportunity to burn off all its ignitable
components. Creosote is highly flammable at high temperatures and if not
cleaned properly will create a chimney fire.
4. Test the garage door opener’s motion sensor and
pressure sensitivity monthly. Your garage door should have a
motion sensor and pressure sensitivity. These safety features will prevent
injury and damage to personal property. The motion sensor is a simple
laser located at the bottom of your garage entryway. Two electronic
sensors align across the pathway of your garage door. If the beam of light
is broken, then the garage door will not close. The pressure sensitivity
will auto reverse the garage door opener if you apply pressure to the bottom of
the garage door. You can adjust the sensitivity by turning the dial on
the back of the opener. If your garage door opener does not have these
safety features, you should consider replacing the opener. Please follow
the manufacturer’s recommendations when installing or adjusting your garage
5. Locate and label all emergency shut
off devices for water, gas, and electricity. You can usually
locate these valves and devices in the basement of your home. Knowing where
these devices are can save you valuable time in an emergency. In addition,
Make sure you label each breaker in your main electrical panel. Remember
to share this information with your entire family.
While this list does not include all home maintenance items, it should
provide you with some helpful tips. Remember to put routine maintenance
items on your calendar. Scheduling time will help you remember to perform
essential inspections. If you find your schedule is prohibitive, contact a
local home inspector or contractor to assist. Good Luck!