Taking good care of your home: Our home is our largest investment and periodic maintenance is key

amazing living room in cozy and comfortable family home

Owning your own home is a big responsibility. It is critical that you take care of your home and the property it sits on. A lot of the work will occur in the spring as things warm up and we spend more time outside, but there are often tasks that need looking after all year long. Here’s our list of tips to guide you and keep your home in tip top shape.

It may not be the most enjoyable set of tasks, but they are important. Sometimes we can make it fun by involving others in the family on these projects and I have seen neighbors come together a tackle these tasks in teams.

One of the most common ways to make it fun is to make it into a party. The homeowner provides the tools and supplies; and the pizza and beer. Your neighbors and friends provide the labor and everyone works hard and has fun. The day, and project, will go faster when you have help and support. Just be prepared to attend more parties.

Inspect the outside of your home periodically

  • Check the outside foundation for cracks and if there are any, these need to be repaired as the cracks could create a structural problem and they could result in leaks.
  • Check caulk around Windows and doors and replace as necessary.

You’re looking for damage to the outside of the house that can create gaps between inside and outside. These gaps can create the following problems:

  • Could be allowing water to leak into the house
  • Could allow the conditioned air in the home to leave your home increasing heating and cooling costs

Make certain the roof and gutter system are clear of leaves and other debris and that water is flowing properly through the system. If the system is clogged water could be overflowing or leaking from the down pipe. And this water can damage the siding and even result in a basement leak situation.

Make certain all rain water falling in your yard and from your gutters is not flowing toward your foundation and is not creating a puddle near your foundation. This can damage the foundation and result in a basement leak. An excavation contractor can regrade and, if necessary, install a drainage system to force the water away from the house.

Check the roof for anything that is loose or that appears have shifted or is worn out. If you see evidence that the roofing material (note there are many different types of roofing materials) is not completely covering the roof’s substrate or decking (often made of plywood) then your roof needs repair as soon as possible. If water is getting to the decking the decking will rot and eventually fail and you will have a leak.

Check outside lighting and electrical outlets and change bulbs as necessary and repair or replace broken fixtures.

Check your garage door opener and lubricate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Check the condition of the driveway and repair cracks or holes.

Many homeowners periodically seal their driveway as a DIY project or they hire a professional. The driveway installers I speak with all say it is not necessary to seal, but they would seem to have a conflict of interest as they have a vested interest in in your driveway failing so they can replace it for you. I have spoken with sealer manufacturers who all claim that it is 100% necessary to seal your driveway. Of course, they want to sell you their product.

I do not have a definitive answer to this question, but I will offer this input. If you do seal don’t do overdo it and make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. There are different methods to putting down sealer and asphalt driveways are generally seal at a different interval than concrete driveways and the product you use is always different. My advice is to contact the manufacturer of the product(s) you are interested in and make sure they know where you live as I believe climate is a factor in this decision.

Finally, make sure you give any sealer ample time to dry as if you start walking or driving on it too soon you can cause damage to the seal and you risk tracking the sealer into your home, which can damage your floors (this advice comes to me from a floor dealer I know)

Look up at the chimney for signs of wear Or Creosote Buildup which can impede exhaust flow or even lead to a chimney fire. Bring is a professional if you are not sure.

If the outside paint on the siding and trim is pealing or failing this needs to be repaired and, if it is really bad, you may want to repaint. This is important because when the wood is exposed to the weather the wood will rot.

In the case of damaged siding and trim you may want to consider replacing your siding with a synthetic product such as Fiber Cement or vinyl. You can use a PVC product for you trim. These products have a very long life and some would say they are indestructible.

Inspect your patio for cracks and keep it clean and clear of debris. There are lots of masonry sealants available which can be applied and will help your patio to last longer.

If you have a deck or open porch look for signs of cracked or rotten wood and loose fasteners like nails and screws. Repair or replace as needed. Keep the deck or porch clean and keep it clear of debris. If you need to rebuild, consider a composite product which have a very long life and you can consider the same PVC product discussed under siding for trim and railings.

Inside your home

Perform required maintenance on home mechanical systems based on manufacturer specifications. If your heating system burns heating oil the boiler or furnace should be serviced by a professional once per year. If you have a separate oil burning hot water heater this should also be service at the same time.

Heating appliances that burn gas need less maintenance. Check with manufactures for service intervals. However, you heat your home you ought to consider a contract with a local repair and maintenance company. If you burn heating oil you can likely get a contract from your oil supplier.

The last thing you need is to be scrambling to find a repair person when you have a breakdown, especially when the problem pops up on a record cold day and everyone is looking for help.

If you have a central air conditioning system you should have it serviced once per year by a professional. Make sure they change the filter at this time and consider the quality of the filter particularly if you have allergies.

By the way, if you have allergies or if you want better air quality in your home please consider our product the EZ breathe ventilation system.

Give your plumbing pipes a good once-over, checking under sinks, behind the refrigerator around the bathtub, shower, and toilet to make sure there are no signs of leaks and make sure you inspect both the water supply and drain pipes as all pipes can leak.

Look up at your ceilings and walls for obvious water stains. Check faucets for drips and the flapper in the toilet tank to make sure it has not worn out (once the flapper starts to go, expect your toilet to run more frequently and waste water. Finally, if you have a hot water or steam heating system check the radiators and/or baseboard heating registers for any signs of leaks. This may present as staining on the wall or corrosion on the pipes carrying the water or steam particularly where the pipes make their connections. Don’t forget to check your water heater and boiler for leaks.

By the way, please check out our leak detector and automatic water shut off system that will monitor your home for water plumbing leaks and take action to prevent a disaster.

Don’t forget the spicket(s) that supplies water to the outside to water the lawn and garden, wash the car, hose of the deck and patio and even wash the outside of the house or, add water to a pool. This water generally comes from the same supply pipes that supply your home with water and is delivered to the outside of you house via a pipe through the wall. This pipe, in colder climates, will need to be shut off in the winter time to prevent the pipe from freezing and then bursting. Always remember to turn this pipe off before the cold sets in and don’t forget to turn it back on when the warm air arrives.

Sump pump. Spring often brings rain. Check your sump pump to make sure it’s functioning properly. You do not want to wait until a major snow thaw or rainstorm to find out that the pump’s motor is shot or there is some other problem with the system.

Chimney. Even if you do not regularly use the fireplace, the chimney still needs a regular checkup. A chimney carries dangerous gases from your fireplace, wood stove, the furnace (or boiler), and hot water heater out of your home, helping to keep the air inside breathable. Your chimney should be inspected annually, and cleaned periodically depending upon how often you use.

Check your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Change batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors once a year. The switch to daylight time is a good day to choose for the job. Another good option: Mother’s Day.

If you need help with your detectors you your community may offer help. Many communities have not for profit groups that can help and also you can check with your local fire department. By the way, TIF Supply is a Kidde dealer and we offer the entire product line, which includes smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and escape ladders.

Contact us anytime for help with these Kidde products and we will get you what you need.

Other things to do periodically to keep your home safe and main its value

  • Clean window and door screens
  • Power-wash windows and siding
  • Clean Refrigerator Coils
  • Polish wood furniture, and dust light fixtures
  • Clean Window Air Conditioners in Spring
  • Check your driver vent (hose of pipe) and clean as necessary. Also check the outside vent for obstructions

Also, you need to make sure all members of the household know where the water main shut off is located and how to operate it. Plumbing leaks often come without warning and once they start the water can fill up your home quickly. If you are home and water is in free flowing, your first response should be to turn off the water main. Having said that you should exercise you water main shut off periodically.

The water main shut off is a valve and valves can start to stick if not exercised. What a terrible position to be in when water is flowing into you home and this simple valve gets stuck and you cannot shut off the water. By exercising the valves, or putting them through their range of motion (which means turning the valve on and off), on a regular basis, you can make sure that the valves will operate when they’re needed.

One more thing to consider is the type of valve you currently have on you water main. Old school is a gate valve which you must turn more than one revolution to shut the water off. Making more then one turn of the valve handle takes time, which is a disadvantage. Another problem with a gate valve is they are likely to stick over time. The other choice is the modern ball valve, which only requires moving a lever ¼ turn and these are less likely to stick. If you have an old school gate valve on your water main it would be a good idea to have a plumber upgrade the valve to a modern ball valve

By the way, please check out our leak detector and automatic water shut off system that will monitor your home for water plumbing leaks and take action to prevent a disaster.

This device will automatically exercise your water main valve for you eliminating this chore

TIF Supply is offering an amazing product Guardian Leak Detector and Automatic Water Main Shut Off (link to product page), which will all  detect leaks and shut off water.   

Sewer or sewer or septic system

If you are connected to your local sewer system your only task is to periodically inspect where your waste water pipe leaves the home and make sure there are no leaks or damage to the pip or the seal around it the exit point.

If you have a septic system here’s what you need to know to maintain it. Septic system maintenance is not complicated, and it does not need to be expensive. Upkeep comes down to four key elements:

  • Inspect and Pump Frequently
  • Use Water Efficiently
  • Properly Dispose of Waste
  • Maintain Your Drainfield
  • Have the tank pumped as required

Your Drainfield is a component of your septic system that removes contaminants from the liquid that emerges from your septic tank and it’s an important part of your septic system. Here are a few things you should do to maintain it:

  • Never park or drive on your Drainfield.
  • Plant trees the appropriate distance from your Drainfield to keep roots from growing into your septic system. A septic service professional can advise you of the proper distance, depending on your septic tank and landscape.
  • Keep roof drains, sump pumps, and other rainwater drainage systems away from your Drainfield area. Excess water slows down or stops the wastewater treatment process.
  • Inspect and Pump Frequently- The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years by a septic service professional. Household septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years. Alternative systems with electrical float switches, pumps, or mechanical components should be inspected more often, generally once a year.

A service contract is important since alternative systems have mechanized parts.

Four major factors influence the frequency of septic pumping:

  • Household size
  • Household size
  • Total wastewater generated
  • Septic tank size

Stay tuned! Steve

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