March 25, 2013

Spring Time and Home Maintenance

For most parts of the country this has been a rough winter. Seemingly endless storms have marched across the country with rain, snow, and wind pounding everything in sight. Even here in the Arizona desert we have had much colder and wetter weather than normal. At one point we had four nights in a row with overnight temperatures in the 20's. As you might imagine that did serious damage to much of my backyard planting. Even though it had been drained of all water, I ran some heaters inside the RV overnight during that cold snap. I didn't know if temperatures below freezing might damage other components.

It is with more than a little relief we can begin to turn our sights toward spring that began officially a few days ago. Even with the strong likelihood of more nasty weather before us, at least there is  hope.  The season of growth and renewal is coming.

So is the home repair and maintenance season. I have received several requests for a post or two on this subject. If you knew how inept I am with most home fix ups, you might have not asked. I can present some thoughts from someone who once tried to install a new door handle upside down. If that is you, we will be in good company. If you are more of an expert and think nothing of re-roofing your home on a Saturday afternoon,  I am hoping you will add your advice and opinions, too.

There are some basics I do on a regular basis:

*Drain the water heater twice a year. Phoenix has very hard water and the minerals will kill a water heater before its time if not flushed out. At the same time test the pressure release valve.

*Have AC Heat Pump checked every 18 months. The company that installed our new unit says yearly tuneups are overkill.

*Change the house filter every 3 months. A cheap way to keep that expensive heat pump operating at peak efficiency.

*Check all sprinkler and drip heads twice a month. It is not uncommon for our lawn service to damage a sprinkler head or sever a irrigation line a few times a year.

* Look at roof condition once each spring. I have ham radio antennas up there, too that need a check after a windy & wet winter season.

*Recaulk around windows as needed. Our windows are old and are prone to leak. I do what I can to cut down on loss.

* Have chimney and flue inspected and cleaned every three years. We don't have many fires. If you do, then yearly is much better.

* Look for termite trails on foundation and patio three times a year. Arizona has a big termite problem. I want to catch any problems early.

*Lube garage door twice a year. With summer time temps very high, any lube on hinges will dry out and cause squeaking or damage.

* Check for any mold or cracks in caulking in bathrooms twice a year. The extra humidity and forgetting to dry the walls after a shower has cost us plenty over the years.

*Change battery in smoke alarms on my birthday.

Nothing too laborious or requiring much skill here. These are really the basics that keep our house functioning. As I noted, I am not a "This Old House" kind of repair guy. If I can manage this list, anyone can.

For budgetary reasons, Betty and I have rebuilt a powder room, put in new toilets, fixed bad tile in a bathroom (99% Betty), repainted the front door and installed new lock and handle (again, mostly Betty), and landscaped the backyard. Of course, there are bigger emergencies, like a leaking main water line into the house, or a garage door falling off its tracks. Then, we call a pro and save our sanity.

How about you and your housing situation? Different climates have different maintenance and repair issues. Let us all know what you do to keep your repair bills under control.

Don't let your home get to this point !


  1. Nothing too laborious or requiring much skill? Sounds like a fulltime job to me, requiring a Ph.D in home repair! Btw, where did ya' get that picture of my front stairway?

    1. My next home will be a condo or townhome so a lot of what is on my list will be done by someone else!

      That picture reminds me of the movie, The Money Pit, which is enough to steer most sane people toward a rental.

  2. Good public interest post, Bob. Much of what you state is true for the majority of the country. A few things I might add:

    1. Put a trickle charger on the battery for a ride-on lawn tractor. They drain just like any other batter from non-use.

    2. If you live in a cooler climate, put low cost insulation caps over your outside faucets. You can get them at Lowe's, Home Depot, etc. (this is really a fall/winter thing, but if you have them on you need to take them off soon, so it kinda/sorta was in keeping with your blog).

    3. If you have a crawl space (like many of us have in TN due to rocky soil conditions), get in there and inspect it for any leaks, termites, etc. Many people haven't been in their crawl spaces in years due to fears like rodents, claustrophobia, and the like. Get over it, or at least take a good spotlight from your crawlspace entrance and train it all around the area.

    4. Since we don't have the snow blanket that others deal with throughout the winter, I can inspect things year-round. Not much else to add to your list, Bob.

    1. #2...I used those caps when we lived in Iowa and Salt Lake City. They prevent real problems. first home in Morgantown, WV had a crawl space. Way too creepy. Honestly I never looked under it. Luckily we only lived in that house for 6 months.

      Thanks for the additions, Chuck.

  3. Thinking of all that...having 2 houses...what the hell are we thinking??

    1. Good question! Of course, our RV is like a second home with just as many systems to maintain as a house.

  4. Home maintenance is the aspect of being single and living alone that I find most daunting; it would be so nice to have a partner to share some of the responsibility and anxiety with. As part of my preparation for retirement, I'm thinking of getting a thorough home inspection and a list of items that need attention so that I can plan and budget for them in a realistic way (and also get some of the more expensive items done while I still have a full-time employment income). I'd be interested in knowing if anyone else has done something like this and, if so, how it worked out. -Jean

    1. Getting a home inspection is an excellent idea, Jean. There are good inspection people and those who couldn't find a leaking pipe with a map. Just be sure it is a true home inspector and not someone connected to a repair company who may be motivated to find problems that don't exist.

      Remember a home inspection can't determine how much life is left in a furnace or heat pump, water heater or other appliances. They can only determine structural problems.

  5. Interesting list, but quite different from our list. I live in Eugene, OR.

    We have great clean water, so the water heater is not really an issue. We don't have AC, as we don't need air conditioning, and thus no filters either. We have radiant heat in the ceiling - sounds wierd, but works just fine and we have no vents, filters, etc. - zero maintenance.

    We also both like gardening, so we don't have a lawn service and if a sprinkler does get broken my huband fixes it. We do have spring yard clean-up and annual moss killer needs to go on the lawns.

    Our roof gets moss on it, and my husband gets up there once a year to get rid of the moss.

    We have relatively new windows, so leaking isn't really a problem. But if our windows were old, I would relace them, as we get a lot of rain! Moisture damage in the walls from leaking windows would cause a lot of damage! Also, old windows aren't very efficient and increase heating costs and decrease comfort.

    We rarely use our fireplace either. Wish it were gas, but our home is all electric and we don't want to pay for a gas line.

    We have a slab foundation, and have not seen any termites, but occasionally a carpenter ant makes it inside. Really don't have any bugs in the house except spiders (and our cat takes care of those!)

    We do have to stay on top of any mold issues, and have to recaulk every few years.

    Biggest chore we have that you don't is deck maintenance. We have a huge beautiful deck, but it must be cleaned and have a layer of stain put on it every year. I tried lettng it go a few years and it was way more work than just giving it a couple of days once a year. It is beautiful with an over hundred year oak tree going up through it providing shade. The tree however is also messy, but worth it.

    Our biggest spring chores are in our beautful yard, but after a gloomy gray winter, we are more than ready to get out and work in the yard and enjoy the beautiful blooms of the season. Spring in the Nortwest is gorgous!

    Something else we do a couple of times a year is clean the carpets. I used to have it done, but bought a home cleaner a couple of years ago and now do it myself (much less expensive, and not too difficult).

    Enjoy spring! I sure will. Everything is starting to bloom!

    1. Yes, your home maintenance issues are very different. With only 7 inches of rain a year, none of our houses even have gutters!

      We do have an expansion crack in the foundation that has shifted a bit, resulting in a bump right through the living room and a few cracked tiles in the family room. When we replace the downstairs carpeting (this fall, I hope) we'll have someone come in to grind the concrete down and install a kind of mesh that allows for expansion without messing up the floor. You'd think a 30 year old home would no longer be settling, but apparently it is.

      Because of the dog we use a home rug cleaner several times a year. Since it doesn't have the power of the truck-mounted systems we still call in a pro once a year to get out the deep down dirt that the home unit seems to miss. But, at $150 for the rug cleaner it is certainly better than paying $100-$200 several times a year to a company.


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