March 30, 2021

Spring Time and Home Maintenance...Yes, It is Important



For many 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. Texans won't likely forget their time in the deep freeze. Blizzards continued to barrel across the mid-Atlantic every few weeks. Didn't Denver pick up 27" just a few weeks ago? Friends in Prescott, AZ were digging out of over two feet of snow a month or so ago. Tornados tore through the deep south just a week ago.

so, it is with more than a little relief we can begin to turn our sights toward spring which officially began 10 days ago.  Even with the strong likelihood of more nasty weather before us, at least there is hope. Couple the slow warmups with Covid vaccinations becoming more available and a time of growth and renewal is before us.

Of course, that also means the home repair and maintenance season. After being cooped up for so long, we probably have a better appreciation for the blessing of a place we can feel safe and warm (sorry, Texas). It only makes sense to protect our home, maybe even more so this year.

I have received several requests for a post 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 and a bathroom faucet repair that left an inch of water on the floor.

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 I test the pressure release valve.

*Have AC Heat Pump checked every 12 months. In fact, the technician was here just a few weeks ago to clean the outside coil, replace a dangerous motor capacitor, and check my split (sounds painful, but it is important!)

*Change the house filter every 3 months. A cheap way to keep that expensive heat pump operating at peak efficiency. A real expert told me there is no reason to buy the really expensive filters. If you are good at putting in new ones four times a year, the cheaper filters will be just fine. The only exception is if you have really bad seasonal allergies or a super-dusty environment. Then, get filters that can catch the smallest particles. 

*Check all sprinkler and drip heads twice a month. It is not uncommon for our lawn service to damage a sprinkler head or cut an irrigation line a few times a year. I just had a fellow install several new sprinkler heads and extend the lines as needed. There were spots on the lawn that are always dead-looking due to underwatering. Now, problem solved.

Look at roof condition once each spring. A new tile roof is around $12,000. It will be needed at some point, but for now, I am content to have loose tiles repaired. 

*Re-caulk around windows as needed. Our windows are old, not-very-efficient double pane windows and are prone to leak around the frames. I do what I can to cut down on loss.

* Have chimney and flue inspected and cleaned every three years. We don't have a fireplace in this house, but if you do, this is a vital safety step. As a country, we average 25,000 chimney fires a year. Not good.

Look for termite trails on the foundation, garage, and patio at least yearly. Arizona has a big termite problem. We have a bait system, but those little devils continue to hit the traps and may find a way around my defenses.

*Lube garage door twice a year. with summertime temps, any lube on hinges will dry out and cause squeaking or damage. I use a special spray that is designed for garage doors. Oh, and change the battery in the door remote once a year. Pushing that button and having the door refuse to budge is a pain.

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. I hate to recaulk, but I dislike black mold even more.

*Change the batteries in the smoke alarms on my birthday. A house fire and a dead smoke alarm = disaster. This is especially important if your smoke alarm is hard-wired to your electric system. If that fails due to a fire, it isn't going to work without the backup battery in place.


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.

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.

16 comments:

  1. I got so sick of trying to find someone to change my smoke alarm batteries---I don't do ladders---that I had them all swapped out for alarms with 10 year batteries. The year they need changing replacing is written in the back of my day planner and transfers to a new day planner at the end of each year.

    I also have the furnace checked by a professional every fall and the AC every spring. Here, most of us have to have our eaves-troves cleaned every spring.

    I've never lubricated my garage door and know I know why it squeaks. I don't change the garage door opener on a schedule either, but I keep an extra, new battery in the glove compartment.

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    1. Until I had to have an expensive repair on the garage door I didn't know about lubing the rollers and hinges, either. I bought a lube especially made for those parts until I realized WD-40 works just as well as long as there are no rubber parts that get sprayed.

      Honestly, I do not miss cleaning out leaves from the gutters, though for many that is important.

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  2. I've never drained a hot water heater for maintenance but have always heard it is a good idea. Maybe, I'll start this spring. I also have on my list this year to replace the tint on our front storm door and paint our back yard shed. I'm a DIY type of a person and I constantly look for small things that need to be done around the house. Maintenance is key to keep the house looking good and lasting longer. My wife and I watched a recent episode of Home Town where they renovate homes in Mississippi. They ripped up some flooring and found major water damage and rot all due to a leak at a window. The window had leaked for years and ruined a whole floor resulting in a huge cost to repair. It just shows how something small can cause big issues if not taken care of.

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    1. Think of black mold behind a shower liner that leaked at the caulking line. UGH!

      Even with a water softener, I get quite a flow of white salt and minerals when I drain the hot water heater. All that stuff does a real number on the lower heating element.

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  3. Your list of spring to do list is about the same as mine with a few minor differences – furnace filters rather than AC, asphalt shingles in place of roof tiles. One thing is that I have never done is drain a home hot water tank, or know anyone that did, in my entire life. Typically tank water heaters here last 15-20 years, I guess it's not particularly hard water but I don’t really know, it’s Lake Ontario water.

    No sprinkler heads to inspect for me. When my lawn or garden needs watering, which is not that often, I drag out the hose & oscillating wave sprinkler. Typically we get just enough rain that it's only occasionally that I need to supplement the garden with water.

    There are no termites around here but I do have a sump pump in the basement to manage the water table under our house that I have an annual inspection on. We live only a couple of hundred yards from Lake Ontario so the water table is quite high especially in the spring when there is snow melt and lots of rain to go with it (April showers and all that). A sump pump that fails when the water table level is high is not something you want to experience. Once was enough for me! Now I have a new heavy duty sump pump with a second backup sump pump that is hooked up to a large battery so it will still run if there is a power failure.

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    1. Yes, a sump pump is not on my list...if for no other reason than houses in Phoemix rarely have basements.

      I Usually get 10 years out of a water heater. It is obvious when onebof the heating elements has failed. In our area, very hard water means drain the crud unless you want the unit to fail in 5 or 6 years.

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  4. Not too laborious? I'm exhausted just reading about it! But maybe I'll go lube the garage door since it hasn't been done since we had it put in four years ago.

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    1. Spray WD-40 on the rollers where they rotate around the spindle and the hinges where the doors are segmented into sections. Will take 5 minutes!

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  5. Wait... we are suppose to drain our water heater? My husband is pretty handy and keeps up with our home's maintenance but I'm sure he doesn't do that.

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    1. Most people don't. It really depends on how hard the water is.

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  6. I have read and been told to NOT use WD 40 oil to lubricate your garage door hinges. It actually can attract dirt and make things worse. I was told to use white lithium grease instead. I actually have a can made by the WS 40 folks. In addition to spraying the hinges and roller bearings you should do the track that has the chain that opens and closes the door and also the spring(s) above the door(s). Lots of good YouTube videos.

    In addition to the things on your list, I would add to make sure gutters and downspouts are clear and to check on and trim any branches that might scrape the roof or the house in a wind. And get your lawn mower serviced and the mower blades sharpened.

    And I will drain my water heater. Sounds like an easy way to assure a longer lasting water heater.

    I am so ready for enough folks to be vaccinated to move our Country into a state of whatever the new normal will be. I want to go to a restaurant with my family. My best to Betty.

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    1. Maybe that is why I bought the special spray, made by the WD-40 folks for garage doors. I must add, though, I have not had problems using the regular stuff.

      I second the desire to get out of the house again. We went to Prescott last week for 4 days. One of the higlights was going out to lunch and dinner. It felt so nice to enjoy a sitdown meal.

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  7. If you live in a wooded area, I would suggest inspecting all of your trees in the spring after the deciduous ones have leafed out and have any dead ones removed. Here in the northeast, the Emerald Ash Borer has devastated the ash trees. Neighbors down the road had ten dead trees taken down to protect their home; we have at least four that Alan will be dropping.

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    1. An african sumac in our front yard is coming down this week. At 20 years old it has lost the battle to stay green and healthy. Before it falls through our roof or my neighbor's home, it must say goodbye.

      Thanks, Mary. This is an important reminder.

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  8. In addition to the regular tasks you and others have mentioned, we have the septic tank pumped out every two years or so, and we have hedge trimmers come and trim the large hedges on either side of or property once a year. Rob is very handy at home maintenance, and he washes down the deck vinyl covering with TSP each year to get rid of the mold and moss, and prunes the trees annually. We have to have the chimney for our wood stove cleaned every year because the stovepipe is quite narrow. We don’t drain the hot water tank, but we are lucky to have soft water. We have gutter guards, which reduces the frequency with which we have to have them cleaned.

    Jude

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    1. When we owned a cabin in the forests north of Phoenix we had a septic tank that had to be emptied every few years. Thank goodness there were plenty of companies that did just that.

      When we did have a fireplace I remembered being shocked at the amount of soot and deposits that came out of the chimney.

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