house facelift

What preventive maintenance tasks are essential?

Sponsored Question by Mr. Rooter: In the best cases, renovations are done to address a desire for a new space. Sometimes, however, remodeling projects are a result of a problem, which can be expensive and cumbersome to fix.

Unlike remodeling projects, preventative projects address problems before they becomes an issue. These preventative measures help homeowners avoid costly projects down the road. So what maintenance tasks are essential for homeowners? We ask our panel of experts to weigh in.

Why We’re Asking:

Mary Kennedy Thompson, president of Mr. Rooter, suggested our 5th Blog-Off question. Founded in 1974, Mr. Rooter is the largest fully-franchised plumbing and drain cleaning organization in the world, having grown to more than 300 franchise locations in the United States, Canada and Europe. The organization is made up of experts in residential and commercial plumbing services, who are united under the mission of professionalism, courtesy, and unparalleled customer service.

We asked Mary what inspired the question. She explained Mr. Rooter’s business is emergency driven. They often see emergency situations that become very costly. Usually, these emergencies could have been prevented if properly maintained.

“The single largest investment most people make in a lifetime is their home,” Mary explains. “If we can help prevent the need for emergency repairs, the homeowner can save a lot of money and keep their home a valuable asset.”

What preventive maintenance tasks are essential?

What are some common check-ups and maintenance projects homeowners should make sure they accomplish throughout the year?
What about uncommon, often overlooked tasks?
Most importantly, what could happen if these maintenance tasks are avoided or put off?
How does cost and skill level play into these preventative maintenance measures?
Which ones are most expensive and which are more affordable?
What skill level is needed for these tasks?
Should a homeowner consider hiring professional help?

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!



  • Anna@GreenTalk 03/14/11

    Four things come to mind:

    1. Clean your dryer vent! You may have to figure out what schedule you need to be on since everyone’s amount of laundry is different.

    2. Change or clean your filters regularly in your heating/air conditioning system. I clean mine every 6 months but you may have to change your every 3 months depending on the the filter instruction. Also, you should routinely every 6 months have your heating/air conditioning checked. Usually this is done before start up of the heating or air conditioning system. Again, my system is checked every 6 months to make sure everything is working fine before the system is used.

    3. In the Fall, check your weatherstripping and outside caulk before winter begins. I tend to do this in September.

    4. If you use your fireplace, have it checked every year in Fall. If you have a gas fireplace, you should also have this checked every year to make sure everything is working properly.

  • Jenna, SAS Interiors 03/14/11

    Great question. Maintaining a home can be quite challenging, but if not done properly and routinely, you can have bigger issues to deal with. Ignoring or forgetting about maintenance issues around the home, can often lead to more issues and more “money out of pocket” in the long run. Here is a list I compiled on areas of the home that need to be checked on:

    1. Check the washing machine water valve once a year to make sure it’s working properly. Due to the high usage of washing machines and the pressure of the water flow, it’s important to make sure everything is tight and working properly.
    2. Check the air filter in your heating system
    3. Check the roof / roof shingles. After a winter with lots of snow, it’s important to make sure there is no damage to the shingles.
    4. Check the gutters. Clean out all debris and leaves.
    5. Verify that all penetrations into the house (ie: A/C unit coming into the home) are caulked and sealed properly.
    6. Chimney cleaning.
    7. Check smoke detectors.
    8. Check that shower drains and shower heads are not clogged and flowing properly.
    9. Check valves on the back of the toilet to make sure they are working properly and not “running”
    10. Before the cold weather of winter, check the windows and doors in regards to air infiltration. Replace or add weather stripping as needed.

  • Charlene Storozuk 03/14/11

    Home maintenance covers a very broad spectrum, but I’ll adress it from a design point of view:

    1. Granite Countertops: Granite not only looks fabulous, but it’s also an investment in your home’s future resale value. Maintenance is very important to extend the life and beauty of your stone and reduce the risk of staining. Be sure that your countertop is sealed right after installation. After the initial sealing, follow your vendor’s advice on how often it should be re-done. Certain stone may need to be sealed annually; others every two or three years. Be sure you get the right information for your particular countertop.

    2. Hardwood Floors: Routine maintenance is important. Keep your floors clean and grit-free to avoid scratching the wood’s surface. As well, find out from the manufacturer what cleaning products are recommended for your particular floor.

    3. Broadloom: Carpet fibres will wear down if dirt is not removed. As well as regular vacuuming, on average, your carpets should be cleaned approximately every 6-12 months. However, this is dependent on a few factors such as: how many people live in your home, whether or not it’s a high traffic area, whether or not there are household pets, etc.

    4. Upholstery and Fabric Window Treatments: Generally they should be cleaned every 12-24 months to extend their life, but this again can vary. Check with the manufacturer.

    5. Leather Furniture: Indoor heating can be hard on furniture during the winter months. Be sure to condition the leather as often as suggested by the manufacturer. Use an approved solution that will keep your leather supple and reduce the risk of cracking. Be extra diligent if your furniture is close to a source of heat such as a fireplace.

    6. Lamp Cords: Periodically check for frayed cords, particularly if your family pet likes to chew. Have them repaired as soon as you discover any damage.

  • Terry Peterman 03/14/11

    From the perspective of your homes electrical systems, here are some of the key items that need to be maintained on a regular basis, starting with the items that will have the most serious repercussion if ignored.

    In most homes, the largest electrical related system is the HVAC (Heating Ventilation, Air Conditioning) and the associated components. Your central units (the air handling / heat and cooling exchanger, and the compressor / condenser) should be inspected twice a year in harsh climates with four distinct seasons, and at least once a year in more stable environments. Unless you are very mechanically inclined, and have a good working knowledge of electrical and mechanical systems, this should be done by a professional. In the air handling / heating and cooling exchanger unit, all manufacturers’ recommendations should be followed, such as lubrication, checking belts for proper adjustment, aging or worn condition, bearing lubrication, fan balance, exchangers cleaned, heat exchangers checked for CO leakage, etc. Electrical components should be visually inspected for signs of heating or arcing in relays, all connections and terminations should be re-torqued or tightened, wires inspected for dis-coloration, brittle or darkened insulation, or any unusual signs of heat stress. Duct work should be cleaned periodically as well. The most important and necessary item to attend to as the homeowner is changing or cleaning any and all air filters in the system.

    The compressor and condenser unit should be inspected for many of the same items previously identified. The best step a homeowner can take here is to pay attention to any unusual noise, and especially any changes in the sounds coming from the unit, particularly on a start-up of the system. Any grinding, growling, squealing, anything out of the ordinary should be investigated immediately as to the cause. Clean the unit frequently to rid the cooling fins or protective screens of leaves, spider webs, dust and debris.

    As for the rest of your electrical systems, there are things that should be done routinely as well. Look, listen, and feel for anything unusual, and pay attention to any changes you notice. Starting with your electrical service, problems such as loose or poor connections can reveal themselves early if the warning signs are investigated. If you hear a buzzing or crackling noise emanating from your electrical meter, or your main breaker compartment, call the electrical utility to investigate immediately. This is likely a loose connection, or a loose jaw in the meter socket that will eventually cause lights to flicker, and loss of power on some or all of your circuits. If left un-checked it can lead to major heat damage to your service panel, and possibly a serious electrical fire.

    In the branch circuit compartment of your service entrance panel, all connections should be checked and re-torqued on an annual or bi-annual basis. Again, this is something that a homeowner, comfortable and knowledgeable with electrical safe work practices, can safely do themselves if they shut off the main breaker! If there is any doubt, call in a professional. Breakers should be switched on and off to ensure they are working correctly, Arc-fault and GFCI breaker should be tested on a regular basis as per manufacturer recommendations, and all wires and insulation should be visually inspected for signs of heat.

    All your switches and receptacles should be inspected occasionally as well. Any switches that feel soft, or are warm to the touch, need to be replaced. Any receptacles that are worn, loose, or warm to the touch need to be inspected and connections tightened, or the device replaced. Any GFCI receptacles need to be tested on a regular basis as recommended as well.

    Outdoor electrical components must have properly fitting and approved cover plates, and the gaskets inspected for wear or deterioration, and replaced if necessary. Check all landscape wiring, transformers, and fixtures, especially after winter to ensure that everything is in good condition.

    All light fixtures, both indoor and out should be visually inspected and check to see that proper type and wattage of lamps are used as approved for by the manufacturer. Ensure all guards, shades, or glass is intact and in place.
    A few simple observations and taking remedial action early can prevent costly repairs to your electrical systems, and ensuing property damage, but most importantly you will be taking care of the things that matter most, the health and safety of you and your family.

  • Metal Roofing 03/14/11

    Many people overlook their roof when considering preventative maintenance. Big mistake, that could be costly. Heres a list of how homeowners can inspect their roof without a ladder:

    * For homes with asphalt shingles, look for black areas indicating cracking shingles.

    * For homes with shake or shingles, look for pieces that are curled upward, split, broken off or missing.

    * For homes with slate roofs, look for black areas that indicate slate is missing.

    * Look for heavy wear around the valleys, the place where water runs off the roof into the gutters.

    * Look at the materials around the chimney and vent pipes and check for cracks, gaps and missing or fractured caulking.

    * Check eave overhangs for water damage.

    * Use binoculars to check around the chimney, trim and other flashings for signs of cracks, shingles that are coming up off the roof and general wear.

    * Conduct an interior inspection for stained or discolored ceilings, which most likely indicates roof problems.

  • Pablo Solomon 03/15/11

    My fellow designers have pretty well covered the field–really great advice. The better you maintain your house and property the fewer emergency problems you will have. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

  • Winsome Earl Sears 03/15/11

    Many people neglect their hotwater heater until it’s too late. Hotwater heaters should be drained (homeowners can do) to release any buildup of minerals–especially if you live in a hardwater area. I can’t tell you the number of times we find that calcium, etc has caused the unit to fail when a simple, yearly draining of the unit would’ve saved a $800 – $1500 expense.

    Another simple to-do is to clean the dryer exhaust hose and also ensure that is is not too long or crushed behind the dryer. Too many times a homeowner has paid us when a simple fix they could do themselves would’ve helped.

    Speaking of dryers, don’t forget to vacuum the lint filer hole. While you should clean the filter itself, it’s also a good idea to also do a once monthly vacuum–at least. A buildup is a potential fire hazard.

    For goodness sake, if you have exposed fridge coils, vacuum, vacuum, vacuum.

    Finally, on a dishwasher, here’s one your grandmother would know: pour one packet of a lemon Kool-Aid mix in the detergent slot and run the wash cycle. then, before it goes to dry the dishes, open and scrape the element with your hands (test first to ensure the element is not to hot to the touch). You would be surprised how you can save your dishwasher, your dishes, and your wallet with this simple remedy! As a woman, this remedy allows me to have my Kool-Aid and clean with it, too!

  • Eric Bramlett 03/15/11

    HVAC: You need to replace your HVAC filters on a regular basis. Its typically better to purchase inexpensive filters and replace them more frequently (monthly) rather than purchase expensive filters and replace them less frequently. On an annual basis (before summer if youre in a hot climate and before winter if in a cool climate) have your HVAC cleaned and serviced by a licensed technician. By taking care of preventative maintenance on your HVAC system, you can greatly extend its life. Filters are very inexpensive – in the $2-$5/filter range. Clean/Service of an HVAC will be $200-$300 per system.

    TERMITE INSPECTION: If you live in an area of the country prone to termites, its important to have your home checked annually. Termites can wreak havoc on a home – they can potentially cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage if left untreated. Youll want to have your home checked by a licensed pest control specialist. You can usually find someone to check your home for free.

    PAINT: By keeping a fresh coat of paint on your exterior and making sure that problem areas are caulked, youll extend the life of your siding. More importantly, youll make sure that water doesnt penetrate your home, where it can cause huge problems. You can always hire a handyman (no license required) to take care of this for you, or you can spend a weekend doing it yourself.

    PROFESSIONAL HOME INSPECTION: Most homeowners dont do this, but its a great idea to have a licensed home inspector perform a professional inspection on your home every 5 years. Properties deteriorate over time, and an inspector will go through your home with a fine tooth comb, letting you know every potential issue. Likewise, code changes over time, and there may be an important upgrade that you should consider. Home inspections run $300-$500 depending on the size of your home. Most (if not all) states have licensing requirements for inspectors.

    Of these preventative maintenance tasks, the home inspection and clean/service of the HVAC will be the most expensive, but the return on investment of these tasks is still relatively high. The termite inspection (usually free) could turn into a costly exercise if they do find termites, but nowhere near the cost of leaving it untreated.

  • Phillip Vincent 03/15/11

    1. Replace your air filter in your heating system, it’s cheap to replace, and when you see what the old filter caught, you will be happy to make your air cleaner. You can do this one by yourself.

    2. The dryer vent needs to be cleaned. Your have to clean out your lint trap every time you do a load, but you never think about that vent, do ya? Also check the water lines going into the washer. Over time they can lose water pressure.

    3. In Autumn, do a once over on your caulk, weather striping. The winter can be a harsh time on wood and any gaps you might have. The cost of heating is very high, this is a great way to “go green” with out breaking the bank.

    4. Check your roof for any shingles that are missing or out of place. Here in Tornado Alley, this will need to be done, every time we have a storm. The effects of a leaky roof can cost you thousands!

    5. Don’t wait for Santa Clause to clean your chimney in December. You might need a pro for this one. If it’s a gas fireplace, have your lines checked for leaks.

    6. Smoke detectors need to be in good working order for obvious reasons.

    7. Your Gutters are full, and now your basement leaks! Don’t let this happen to you. Your Gutters need to be working properly to keep the rainwater away from the house. Full and clogged gutters can cause them to fail and now the water just sits against your foundation. If your basement is finished, this could end up costing you thousands.

    8. Give your shower drains some attention. If fact the more women you have in your house with long hair. The more often this will need to be done.

    9. Check valves on the back of the toilet to make sure they are working properly and not “running”

    10. Granite Countertops, they need to be sealed at least once a year.

    11. Hardwood floors, Keep your floors clean so the dirt wont grind into the woods finish. “Job Finish” hardwood floors are susceptible to women’s high heals! So be cautious of how many dance parties you have. If you have pets, or lots of parties you might want to install machine finished hard woods. They are seven times stronger than job finish.

    12. Carpet is disgusting! Buy a good vacuum and sweep at least once a week.

    13. Stain your deck. You might need a professional painter to do this task.

    Phillip Vincent. Realtor with the Hermann London Group.

  • Screenmobile 03/15/11

    Left unattended, torn or broken window or door screens can lead to disease carrying insects and/or harmful UV rays entering a home resulting in loss of health and damage to carpet, furniture and wall hangings. Proper screen maintenance and use of specific materials results in lower utility bills (solar sun control screens), protection from West Nile virus (insect screens) security (storm door screens) and pet access (heavy duty pet screens).

    Cost to the homeowner who attempts repairs on their own is not much, mostly time and frustration. Many homeowners believe that a window screen repair is simple enough for them to tackle themselves until they find that specialized tools and a large working area is needed to do the job properly.Then they end up looking for professional help which usually consists of taking their screens to a hardware store and waiting days for the repairs. Make sure to inquire about the maintenance and time required to get the job done if hiring outside help.

    A note on going green: in the case of solar screens, the material is 1/6th the cost of more expensive low-e glass and just as effective. Solar screens block up to 90% of the sun and can result in up to a 50% reduction in utility bills. There is currently a 10% federal tax credit up to $500 homeowners in certain areas of the country can take advantage of for the purchase and installation of solar screens that are 1/6th the cost and just as effective as more expensive low-E glass.

  • Topiarius Floral Design 03/15/11

    As we are an outdoor floral design and landscape specialist, we will comment on preventative maintenance for homeowners’ outdoor living space.

    MAKE A PLAN

    Start your garden now by making a plan for the season.

    · What perennials need to be divided this year?

    · Are there areas that need some improvement?

    · Do you want to add any additional containers or plants?

    · Did you want to prepare a space for a vegetable garden?

    GO GREEN

    · Can you start a compost pile this year?

    · Do you have rain barrels set up to collect rain water?

    · Research organic options for fertilizer and pest controls.

    MAINTAIN TOOLS

    · Get the lawn mower in for service in late winter while small engine repair shops are not too busy.

    · Clean rust off of hand tools with a wire brush, sharpen edges with a file and oil.

    · On wood handled tools gently sand and then apply linseed oil to protect.

    · On metal handled tools clean off any rust and then repaint.

    · Clean pruners and shears with a strong dissolving agent such as turpentine, then clean the solvent off with denatured alcohol. Sharpen the blades and then oil the moving parts.

    PRUNING

    · Deciduous trees and shrubs

    o While the plants are still dormant clean out broken and damaged limbs and branches.

    o Remove crossing and rubbing branches and trim canopy for shape.

    o Wait to prune spring flowering trees and shrubs until after they bloom as they flower on last season’s growth.

    · Evergreens

    o Most evergreen trees do not require pruning to maintain size, so be careful when selecting. Choose plants with a mature size that fits in the space that you have.

    o To help keep a full appearance on evergreen trees you can pinch back the “candles” or new growth, by about 1Ž2 in the spring. This encourages a bushier habit, but does not effectively control overall size.

    o Evergreen shrubs like arborvitae, junipers and yews should also be chosen for mature size. While maintaining overall size of evergreen shrubs can be done, it should never be done by shearing as this forces new growth only on the outside of the plant.

    CLEAN UP WINTER MESS

    · Rake out beds of remaining leaves and other accumulated debris.

    · Rake lawn to remove leaves and loosen / remove excess thatch.

    MULCHING

    · Add a high quality mulch in all landscape beds to help control weeds, retain soil moisture and regulate soil temperature fluctuations.

    · Keep mulch at a depth of at least two inches in all beds.

    · Keep mulch away from the base of plants.

  • Halliburton Homes 03/15/11

    Weve been stressing the importance of home and condo maintenance for the sake of protecting property value, especially in this market. We have also been emphasizing the value of green upgrades, which can help our customers save significant amounts of money on their utility and condo maintenance bills.

    We think that a few green upgrades in a building could save the residents a lot of money, and we are offering our expertise in an effort to demonstrate to the residents how much green upgrades can impact monthly costs.

    * Install either blinds (best ones that reflect the light back out) or some kind of tinting foil to reduce heat transfer into the building.

    * For long hallways, take out every other (or so) light bulb from hallway fixtures. If the hallways are still bright enough, thats an easy step.

    * Motion-sensor light in the laundry rooms because residents leave the lights on after they leave.

    * If there is air leaking into the apartments around the AC units, putting in spray foam insulation should fix that.

    * If the walls themselves arent insulated, there are several companies out there that put cellulose (or similar materials) in the walls to improve the R-value

    * Putting the lobby thermostat on a timer to reduce the heat at night time, when the lobby attendant finishes his/her shift.

  • Indoor Environmental Solutions 03/15/11

    One overlooked task is cleaning the dryer lint from the ventilation duct. Many people clean the tray, not the duct. If a homeowner is handy and has the right equipment this can be done from home. If not, call a professional dryer ventilation cleaning company.

  • Patricia Davis Brown, ASID, CKD, CBD 03/15/11

    Really good suggestions from the panel…although no one mentioned when leaving a home to go away on vacation, business or season what would need to be done to protect your home. The damage that I have witness in my twentyfive years in the design and remodel business is when the home owner is away, a pipe burst and causes costly water damage which results in a renovation.

    It is important that when you are leaving your home for an extended amount of time you should shut off the water at the main supply point. Don’t forget to turn off the supply line to the washing machine hose. Washing machine hoses are flimsy and known to burst.

    Be sure to open all faucets and drain all waterlines empty because empty pipes can not burst. If water is left in a pipe it could freeze and burst the pipe.

    If you live in a cold climate be sure to drain toilets, water heater and if on a well and pump system, the expansion tank. I would recommend diluting the water in drain traps by pouring an “RV” type antifreeze solution as directed on the bottle. This will protect the pipes from freezing and is safe for use in and around drinking water systems. Do not use automotive antifreeze, it is not made for this application.

  • Bill Riggs 03/15/11

    All good home maintenance starts with one thing – a regular walk-through. At least once per season, get in the habit of walking through your home and inspecting and taking notice of everything. Look at the walls, ceiling, flooring, doors, plumbing, windows, fixtures, and all other components of your home and check for cracks, test the function, notice abnormal wear, etc. Outside, walk around the home for an exterior view of siding, windows, roofing, gutters, landscaping, sprinkler systems, and everything else that makes up the house and yard. Be sure to check for things like mold, water leakage, sump pump function, abnormal water puddling, and the presence of termites. Inspect your hot water heater, and drain it regularly to avoid sediment build-up. Test all other appliances, and check to be sure electrical cords and connections are in-tact and secure.

    As you do this more regularly, you’ll begin to notice patterns, and even spot issues before they become real problems. Take a notepad, or even a camera with you so that you can quickly recall each area’s condition or state of repair. Document what you see, as this will help if you need to call in a professional to help you make a repair. And remember, don’t take a chance with anything that may be unsafe, or which you’re uncomfortable working with. In these cases, it’s always best to call in a professional to avoid injury to yourself, or damage to your home.

  • Linda Kerdolff 03/15/11

    Check your sump pump before the snow melts or the rainy season begins! Have you heard the sump pump in your basement click on recently? Maybe the weather has been relatively dry and it’s been a few weeks or months since it last operated. Good idea to take off the sump cover and pour a 5 gallon bucket of water in the sump pit to make sure the pump switches on, drains the water, and switches off again.

  • Mary Kennedy Thompson 03/16/11

    Homeowners often forget about general home maintenance projects because they aren’t part of our regular routine. They need to be more top-of-mind because they can save a homeowner a lot of money in future repairs. At Mr. Rooter Plumbing we suggest homeowners do a walk through of their home and check their plumbing every six months. This helps ensure there are no leaks, corrosion or potential system failures.

    We have 5 common projects homeowners can do themselves:

    1. Test the emergency shut off valves that supply water to all fixtures.
    2. Make sure the main water supply valve works.
    3. Check visible plumbing pipes and traps for corrosion, cracks or leaks.
    4. Visually inspect washing machine hoses, faucets and valves for drips or leaks.
    5. Do a dye test for silent toilets leaks. (You can find instructions at http://mrsrooter.com/?p=2573.)

    While these tasks can be done while you’re doing regular household cleaning, we have 3 often overlooked tasks that require special thought and assistance from a professional plumber:

    1. Since water heaters build up pressure, they have a built-in temperature and pressure relief valve that is designed to relieve pressure when it gets too high. Manufacturers recommend these be tested every year to prevent unnecessary explosions. If it leaks or is malfunctioning it needs replacing for safety purposes.
    2. Another maintenance issue that never seems to make it to the top of the honey-do list is testing gas lines for leaks. A simple soap test can identify leaks and prevent potential health risks.
    3. Drains also need preventative maintenance to help eliminate the possibility of sewage backing up inside the home.

    I highly recommend a plumber do these 3 tasks. They are more expensive than the do-it-yourself ones, but those tasks require a professional who knows how to safely perform them. The benefits of doing these maintenance tasks far exceed the cost. And in some cases, homeowners can do the work on their own. Just a few hours a year could save a property owner thousands of dollars in damage claims and emergency service fees in the future.

  • Larry Dimock 03/16/11

    Some comments here imply that preventing expense and danger are the responsible thing to do and therefore necessary. But too many of the warnings we are bombarded with (all our life) have vested interests, being commercially driven.

    I believe many homeowners would prefer to live in, rather than always manage, their homes. My clothes washer has been dying for months. I am happier to keep eeking one more load out of it than to always pre-empt emergency moments with preventions and replacements.

    Yes, to avoid expense, I risk other expense. To avoid paranoia, I risk some crisis moments. In my home I am an inhabitant, not an ever-vigilant property manager.

    It is not as any “expert” that I say this (that it can be OK to let things slide). But neither is it as experts that anyone here can mandate something as smart or responsible. As experts in our fields we only offer tips and ideas.

  • Shawn O'Neill @ Carlisle Wide Plank Floors 03/17/11

    Since we are a flooring company, we’ll comment on one the most prevalent maintenance tasks in our field.

    Cleaning wood floors is a regular maintenance task that homeowners should consider a standard procedure in their home. Because wood flooring is an investment, homeowners should get in the habit of regularly caring for them to extend their life. Because wood floors can react to the environment it is in by absorbing moisture in the air or contracting and expanding based on temperature changes, upkeep is important. It’s best to maintain them now than have to replace them completely in the future, which is costly and time consuming.

    When cleaning a wood floor, keep in mind to not wax it with a urethane finish and do not use ammonia cleaners or oil soaps when scrubbing or mopping the floor. Doing so can harm the finish or stain. It is important to make sure to use a cleaner that will not reduce the floor’s stain appearance, otherwise you risk damaging your floor. Always keep in mind that you want to minimize water spills and exposure time immediately so that the wood does not absorb moisture and cup or warp.

  • Kevin Rockwell 03/17/11

    There are some terrific answers in here so far but I think one thing we all need to realize is that homeowners are in general very busy folks with limited amounts of time to allocate to home maintenance tasks. Therefore it is crucial to zero in on those that are doable in small amounts of time, are essential to keeping their house in top shape, will help keep the home value, and not cost too much in terms of time and money.

    The first step to approaching this is to assess which inspection tasks can be done to keep a tab on the main things that can go wrong in house and become expensive repairs should they fail. In my book the exterior of the house is key. If you house does not seal out the elements it is only time before the elements seep in and start to cause rot, mold, water damage and so on.

    So where to start? First even though it can be the trickiest of homeowner inspections to accomplish I would recommend making sure your roof is secure and not failing due to age, weather, damage from storms and so on. If the pitch is steep on your home and not safe to climb up on and visually inspect then leave it to a pro to do. But if your roof is not steep make sure to climb up after the winter storms are done and do a visual walk through. See if the gutters need to be cleaned out, look for loose shingles or tiles, make sure down spouts are clear, look for standing water caused by blockages.

    After the roof you need to make sure your siding and windows are secure and sealed all around. Look for new cracks in siding, worn out seals around windows, cracks in glass. Make it a spring duty to fix any of these items before the summer months.

  • Chris Rodenius 03/17/11

    In many cases I think the term “preventative” can more accurately be called “prevent from getting worse”. Homeowners do not necessarily know what they need to do to maintain every part of their house. However, they should at least be on the look out for any small problems that could potentially turn into huge issues. If you spot something that looks to be off or different then it used to look, and you do not know what to do to fix the problem, call in a professional.

  • Nancy Keenholts Dalton 03/17/11

    This is a great question and it falls in two categories; what needs to be changed or completed to avert a potential destructive event, and what is typical maintenance. Water is the number one damaging event most homeowners will face. Maintenance will provide the longest life for the systems and finishes in your home. It saves you money, and it increases the value of your home compared to others in your neighborhood in need of repairs.

    If it hasn’t been done, do it now.
    Change out your washer water lines preferable with SS water lines.
    Change out the waterlines to your sinks to SS water lines and change to ¼ turn ballcock shut offs
    Use copper for your ice line, not plastic tubing, and change out if needed.
    Upgrade to a dishwasher that has an automatic shut off and pan to prevent leaks.
    Check hose bibs for leaking at the wall or at the shut off.
    Always correct problems in electrical; if breakers are blowing repeatedly something is overloading the circuit or too much has been added to this circuit through possible DIY projects.
    If lights won’t work, check for rodents. They chew the insulation off the wiring.
    If you have a rodent don’t wait to eliminate them, they can cause a huge amount of damage.
    Make sure everyone in your household understand: feminine products, wipes, string, thread and hair does not go down the toilet. They will have to be removed and probably professionally.
    Install an earthquake shut off to your gas meter if you live in a prone area of the country.

    Common Maintenance:
    Walk around your house, look up and down; inside and out for discoloration or damage.
    Get up in your attic and do the same, also look for any sign of rodent or bug/bee infiltration.
    Check your vents and grills, animals chew through these and you may think you are protected.
    Check your roof, gutters, down spouts and chimney for any needed attention or replacement/tuck pointing.
    Clean out your p-traps and run water in baths or shower you don’t use once a month to eliminate sewer gas smells.
    Check and re-caulk your doors and windows, especially at the flashing.
    Service your HVAC in the summer when there may be specials. Change filters, clean.
    Painting and staining your home on the outside routinely will increase the lifespan of trim, siding and decks.
    Clean out your dryer vent with a shop vac.
    Vacuum out your fans and your refrigerator vents and compressors.
    Clean and re-seal grout and stone surfaces.
    Clean carpets and touch up your interior paint you’ll be surprised how much cleaner and better your home looks. This can add several years to your interior painting.
    Know where all of your shut offs are located and make sure your family knows as well.
    If your basement is unfinished, check the foundation for cracks and water on the inside; if finished look outside.

    Things to take notice of:
    Lack of water pressure; you may need a new water line
    Lights that don’t work; or a funny musty smell; you may have had a rodent.
    Water coming in through your can lights or a wet ceiling may indicated a clogged gutter or downspout and may not indicate a roofing problem.
    A washer that stops routinely in the spin cycle; may need to be re-leveled.
    A slow draining toilet and sinks may be indicating a sewer line back up, clean p traps, try to plunge but be ready to turn the water off to the toilet quickly.

  • RemoteStylist.com 03/17/11

    If a homeowner is staring down maintaining a home, the most overlooked task is the easiest and doesn’t cost you a thing- planning!

    Count the rooms in your home; add 1 for garage, 1 for front yard, 1 for back yard if you have them. Divide 12 (months in a year)/ rooms in your home maybe its .5 room/month maybe it’s 4..for this example we have 4

    Schedule it in your outlook etc that during the month (ie April) you will spend one week on rooms 1 to 4 each. During that week you first deal with the contents that have accumulated in that space (keep, sell, donate or toss being the only options) so you can actually see your room. Then you do an assessment ceiling to floor of every part of that room – if your walls have shifted and theres a crack, fill it, repaint it etc; if there is part of a blind off, put it back on; if there is a stain on your carpet, get a carpet cleaner etc.

    By breaking it into manageable pieces, the maintenance tasks will easily get done. One might argue i can’t fix that crack myself and need help which is fine, but calling the handyman for a $50 bill is much easier to swallow than a $15,000 bill if you do the whole house at once.

    By the time you’re done year one, it’s got part of your daily routine and your house has never looked better!

  • greg chick 03/17/11

    Most all emergency plumbing problems are avoidable. #1Too high pressure, Get a pressure Regulator that is installed correctly. A Pressure Thermal Expansion Tank for hot water system if you need a Regulator, you need an Expansion Tank.
    2. Fill up sink basins weekly and let them drain to quickly self clean out the muck that settles out in a slow moving drain pipe Drains were designed to be self cleaning, but with low flow the self cleaning action cant take place. #3. 8.5 yrs. is avg. life here in Ca. for a Water Heater so change it out on your own time not as an emergency. 4. No body needs a plunger next to a Toilet. If the toilet is problematic, change it out with a good one, plenty exist. #5 ” The drain has been slow for weeks now, but all of a sudden it wont drain” I am sorry this is a behavior issue. #6 Have all angle stops working tested and really working. If a faucet becomes a “runaway faucet” then you just shut the stops off. (no emergency). #7 Tampons are not flush able, is a sign needed?.

  • Steve Crossland 03/18/11

    Every home has at least some degree “deferred maintenance”, which is simply stuff that has been put off until later, either by choice, because of neglect or due to financial limitations.

    From my perspective as a sales agent and property manager, I see a lot of homes that have received zero to little preventative maintenance attention, often for many years. Oddly, owner-occupied homes are often more neglected than the rental properties we take on for management, probably because tenants report small issues that home owners often ignore.

    There are two expense factors to consider:
    1) Ongoing maintenance and repairs.
    2) Reduction in market value when selling.

    The most important things to attend to on an ongoing basis are the ones that either become more expensive to cure over time compared to the ongoing cost of maintenance. Heating and A/C systems are the best example, where simply changing the filter regularly will add life to the system and keep it operating more efficiently.

    But the main thing we see as sales agents are the myriad of issues that come up on buyer inspection reports. The most important time to do a “once over” on the home is just prior to selling, at which time you’ll want to eliminate as many inspection issues as possible.

    Many cheap and easy repairs look worse than they really are on the buyer’s inspection report, especially when a buyer is looking at the entire bucket load of maintenance and repair issues. This can hurt the resale value of your home and cause the buyer to negotiate for more in repair offsets than it would have cost you to remedy or prevent the items in advance.

    Often, when representing buyers, the home will have multiple “big ticket” items at or near end of life. If you have a 15 year old roof, 15 year old HVAC system, original appliances and water heater, it’s good that those items lasted as long as they did, but be prepared for the buyer to be concerned about the amount of life remaining on those items.

    Even if you have no plans to sell any time soon, a regular “go though” of the home is a good idea. On our rental properties, we have a written checklist that we run through once a year. The most comon item found is a dirty A/C filter. Tenants and home owners seem to have the most trouble with this simple and easy to do item.

  • Leah Thayer 03/18/11

    Remodelers are often called in to remedy expensive problems that a little preventive maintenance could have easily prevented, so I reached out to my remodeler readers through Facebook. Here’s some of their advice:

    Neil Parsons, NJ: Commit to do at least one project a year, even if small, even if DIY. Make sure shrubs and tress limbs are away from the house to minimize potential of termites and carpenter ants. Clean and lightly lubricate all hinges and moving parts on ALL doors and windows.

    Steve Gray Renovations, Indianapolis: Here are some important things that need to have some attention brought to them in the spring.
    • If the your home has crawl space vents open them for air circulation.
    • If you have peeling paint, this needed to be scraped, bonding primer installed over and a fresh coat of paint. Paint is a protectant as much as color. Paint that is peeling and cracking allows water into the wood surface.
    • Leave your hose hooked up all winter, watch out. You could have a frozen water line. Be careful when turning on and look for possible leaks both inside the home and out.
    • Have your A/C condenser cleaned before the season starts. This is the unit that sits on the outside of the home. Shrubs, vines, dust and dirt are an attraction to them. Leaving then dirty will make the home not cool well in the summer. They need to breathe.
    • Make sure all downspouts are hooked to the gutters and that water flows from the home. Water that is left at the foundation will find its way into the home or crawl space. While you are at it make sure the gutters are clean. Proper water flow is key.

    David Roberts, Illinois: HVAC systems need twice a year maintenance, and monthly filter changing if using micro allergen reduction filters. A/C exterior units need monthly cleaning during the cooling season for efficient operation.

    Laurie March, California: Dryer lint clearing! changing the ac filters like David said. Here in CA – check your windows and doors for peeling paint inside and out. Maintain sprinklers to avoid water hitting your home, cracked pipes (just found one this week!) and wasting water.

    Reva Kussmaul, California: Exterior painting is something to really be aware of, especially on wood-frame houses. Looked at a house the other day and it’s really peeling. The owner doesn’t want to “spend the money” to prevent it from peelng further. Another hot summer will up the expense exponentially. His buck!

  • Lori Gilder 03/18/11

    When it comes to preventing unnecessary home disasters – there are many preventative projects that will keep your home running like a well-oiled machine. Granted, living in Southern California we may have a different set of “Home Maintenance Needs” compared with other parts of the country – but these 3 top my list.

    1. Living in an older neighborhood in the hills, we have massive magnolia trees (and many others) lining our streets. Years ago we learned the hard way that these massive roots – when left unattended – will back up the sinks, toilets and shower drains. So now our rooter specialist Robert calls us to schedule the annual maintenance and the rooter snaking of our main line to ensure that we keep it free and clear of any roots. Fortunately it’s accessible from the front of our house, which keeps the roots and sludge debris outside. This system works perfectly for us and the best is I don’t have to remember to call him – Robert calls me!

    2. Similarly – we have a maintenance and service agreement with our HVAC specialist who also calls on us twice a year – Once in spring to check and service the air conditioning unit and in the fall to clean our furnace and check the thermostat. (Yes we actually do use our heat in the winter). Also included is these visits – the cleaning and maintenance of our dryer venting system. Maintaining our heating and air conditioning throughout the year ensures the systems run smoothly which ultimately saves us money on our heating and cooling costs.

    3. Since we regularly have roaring fires throughout the winter – our fireplaces get quite a workout. Living in the hills surrounded by brush – it’s important that we maintain and clean our chimneys every 12-18 months. Being diligent and responsible will protect not only my family but our community as well. The last thing we need is a chimney fire with the build up of soot. If you don’t have regular fires like we do, then extend your maintenance schedule for every 2 years or so.

  • Christine Eisner @ Comfort Living by Christine 03/18/11

    Many of us do annual check-ups with our doctors and dentists, our homes should be no different. Second to our physical health, the health of where we live is a vital part of our quality of life. The idea of spring cleaning has existed as part of people’s rituals for ages. As season’s change, we are often prompted to look at where we live with a fresh set of eyes.

    Not all preventive maintenance measures are major overhauls like replacing a roof or painting the exterior of a house. Here are some manageable preventative maintenance ideas that cost very little and can put some of those mor major projects on the back burner. These measures also go a long way in re-energizing where and how you live:

    – cleaning and touch up paint on baseboards, walls and doors
    – rug, carpet and upholstery cleaning (small area and spot cleaning can save hundreds or more likely thousands by not having to replace flooring or furniture)
    – window washing (which at the same time can give you a closer look at exterior woodwork to see if repairs need to be made)
    – pressure washing exterior walls
    – checks for minor roof repairs (better to fix something minor than wait til it becomes a big problem)
    – gutter cleaning (while fall is a better time to do this, assuring effective drainage can save thousands of dollars and prevent leaks from causing due to buildup of water)
    – replacing burnt-out lightbulbs (ideally with energy-efficient ones)
    – pruning back shrubbery and vegetation, removing ivy from walls and trees

  • David Sturm @ ATD Remodel 03/18/11

    A great question that is often asked is “What preventative maintenance tasks are essential in my home?” Let’s look at this with a fresh perspective. Preventative maintenance related on your house is like taking care of our own human body. When we take care of ourselves, we get better results through enhanced performance and durability over the long run.
    Here are some of the highlights that we like to outline for our clients in our Attention to Detail Home Remodeling newsletter that we publish quarterly.

    * Filters, filters everywhere: Look at your HVAC filter to see if it’s a micro filter that has a rating of at least 1500 MPR (Micro-particle Performance Rating) or what used to be called MERV. This type of filter will give you better performance in terms of air quality in your home and help your HVAC do its job with maximum proficiency. If you have a digital thermostat, program it to remind you to check your filter to be check every 3 months or put it on your calendar and set a reminder there. People understand that they should replace the filter, but most do not know the WHY. The more clogged the filter gets, the HARDER it is to force the air through it so your motor has to put forth more effort to achieve the same objective- to heat or cool your home. As a result, you spend more money in electricity and the extra strain shortens your motor’s life span. To put it another way, if you take care of your body, you will have few visits to the doctor’s office and it you take care of your HVAC, you’ll have fewer house calls by the local HVAC repairmen.
    * Washer hoses: Here at Attention to Detail Home Remodeling, we always install a washer with braided hoses and a “Water Cop” to ensure easy cut-off in the event of a leak. This could prevent thousands of dollars of damage to your home. At the first sign of a leak in the washing machine or the attached hose, the water cop automatically turns off the water source. In this case, you may have a small puddle to clean up versus water damage to your whole home, especially if the washer and dryer are located on the second floor and water leaks from above or in a finished basement where a leak may be undetected for quite some time. If you’re remodeling, be sure your remodeler installs a floor drain in your washer and dryer area to capture these spills or rare but potentially costly failures. At the very minimum use a washer pan. A pan can be purchased from any Big Box store and goes under the washer to capture the water before the Water Cop TM detects an issue.
    * Painting: When you see the paint on your exterior looking sad, faded and it’s starting to peel, paint it as soon as possible. If you let this go, it will only get worse. At this stage, water is penetrating the bare wood and water damage in the form of rot begins to accrue. So instead of just a painting job, you will have to address and replace rotting wood and this cost will continue to mount over time. Pay attention to one of your most expensive investments and mark on your cloud calendar the last time you painted. Create a reminder and give the exterior of your home an annual physical fitness check up and make sure that no areas are being exposed to the elements or being damaged by a tree branch that may have fallen on your roof in an area that you would not normally see.
    * Dishwasher: Again, the filters. Newer dishwashers generally have filters in the bottom and need periodic cleaning from month to month. Some have a digital reading that will alert you when to clean. Please read your instructions and follow them closely. Just like the furnace, the more you leave the filter dirty, the more stain on your dishwasher motor and this will shorten the life of your appliance and add to your electricity bill.
    * Hardwood Flooring: If you want to keep that great looking shine and finish on your hardwoods, VACUUM often. The dirt acts as sandpaper and will destroy a floor faster than foot traffic. Don’t use a lot of water on your wood floors. In fact no water is even better. Use a Swiffer style cleaning broom.
    * Gutters: For most people, there is a real love hate relationship when it comes to cleaning your gutters. Yes- it’s better to clean them often. You can purchase some basic cleaning materials at the Big Box stores or add-ons that will not allow the debris to enter the down spout. Better yet, get gutter helmets and save yourself going up and down the ladder. Now this is good exercise for you body but most of us would rather take in a nice walk or our favorite sport. This is a case where an ounce of preventative maintenance with the proper gutters is worth a pound of fun weekends!

  • Krista Flock @ ServiceMagic 03/18/11

    It’s easy for homeowners to forget annual check-ups and maintenance projects when there are already many other life priorities to juggle. It’s important for homeowners to anticipate home maintenance and they should create monthly, 6 month or annual reminders to avoid costly repairs.

    The following is a list of maintenance tasks homeowners should consider throughout each year. The items are sorted by whether they should be completed by a professional or by an ambitious Do It Yourself (DIY) homeowner:

    Aerate Lawn
    • DIY: Aerating the lawn allows oxygen, water and fertilizer deep into the soil. Homeowners can rent an aerator from their local hardware store. For best results, dampen the lawn the night before.

    Roof Inspection
    • Professional: If there has been extreme weather, such as snow, high-wind, or hail, homeowners should consider calling a professional to thoroughly inspect their roof and possibly make repairs.
    • DIY: If it’s been over a year since the roof has been checked, look for cracked or warped shingles, variations in color, and lose or curling tiles. Also check vents and louvers for birds, nests and critters.

    Furnace
    • Professional: It is also best to hire a professional on an annual basis and have a heating expert recommend proper filters, vacuum the unit and recommend upgrades. Annual maintenance on a furnace can increase its life expectancy by three to four years.
    • DIY: Keeping a clean filter in the furnace is essential to maximizing its efficiency. Dirty filters make the furnace work harder and may damage it. The filter should be changed out every 6 months.

    Check Smoke Detectors
    • DIY: Don’t wait for the chirp, the awful noise a smoke detector makes when the batteries are low. Batteries in smoke detectors should be replaced every 6 months.

    Chimney and Fireplace
    • Professional: Dirty chimneys can be extremely dangerous and may lead to a chimney fire. A professional should inspect the fireplace to ensure the chimney is clean before lighting the first fire.
    • DIY: Homeowners should install a glass fireplace enclosure on the opening to reduce the amount of hot air that is sucked out of a home when in use.

    Pipes
    • Professional: Once a year, before winter, hire a professional to make sure every drop of water is blown out of sprinkler systems with an air compressor. This will eliminate the possibility of having to replace some or all of the sprinkler system.
    • DIY: Turn off outside water and drain the pipes to prevent them from freezing and bursting.

    Paint Touch-Ups
    • DIY: The exterior of a home takes a beating, and every six months homeowners should look around their house for chips, scratches or fading trim.
    • Professional: Some homeowners may have anxiety when climbing up a ladder or walking on the roof. If this is the case, a homeowner would be much better off hiring a professional painter to touch up the exterior of the house.

    Since there are many nooks and crannies that require home maintenance, what are the most common home maintenance projects that homeowners forget?

  • Shawn O'Neill @ LG Hausys 03/18/11

    Regularly take care and give your home counter tops a good cleaning session every now and then. Not only will this extend the life of your counter tops, but it will prevent stains from forming. Non-porous surfaces can be cleaned with a simple damp cloth and general purpose cleaner, like Mr. Clean. With matte finished surfaces, Comet and other abrasive kitchen cleaners can be used to upkeep the counter top appearance. When giving your kitchen an entire counter top clean, make sure to clean in gentle, circular motion strokes with a towel or a sponge.

  • Katie Miller, Roomations 03/18/11

    Preventative projects are important not just to your home’s health, but to the personal health of you and your family as well. Though a pipe bursting while you are away might lead to a home insurance claim and an unplanned remodeling project, issues related to indoor air quality in your home can lead to physical discomfort and medical insurance claims even when there isn’t an apparent home emergency. Common causes of air quality problems are mold, dust and VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds, found in many paints and glues).

    PREVENTATIVE TASKS like changing your filters, cleaning your carpets and conducting caulking repairs can help reduce the amount of dust and mold in your home. Like oil changes for your car, it is best to complete preventative tasks on a regular, routine basis.

    PREVENTATIVE PROJECTS are remodeling efforts that specifically seek to address potential health and maintenance problems in advance. Preventative projects create an opportunity to consider practical health and maintenance issues at the same time that you considering other design aspirations. Ideally, all remodeling projects should be considered preventative projects as well.

    One common consideration when undertaking a preventative project is selection of room finishes. For example, hardwood flooring or natural linoleum are both less likely to collect and trap dust and allergens than carpeting and are therefore considered by most experts to be better choices for creating a healthy indoor air environment. Likewise, low-VOC paints contain less damaging chemical particles than standard paint products. Even furniture products or custom millwork can contain glues that release VOC’s into your home’s air. Additionally, you may face different issues depending on when your home was built. Older homes may have been built with lead or asbestos products that are still present in the home. Newer homes may be so well sealed that they do not allow for sufficient circulation of fresh air through the home during winter months. Considering that asthma is the most common chronic medical condition in the United States with increasingly high rates among children, indoor air quality issues should not be overlooked when undertaking a preventative project or routine preventative tasks. Your health and your family are your first priority.

  • Tom Chartier @ Chartier Group 03/18/11

    1. Clean dryer lint traps after each use.
    2. Test all CO and Smoke detectors at a minimum, annually.
    3. Remove window air conditioning units by October 31, or weatherize them by air sealing with a plastic cover.
    4. Check all accessible gas lines for leaks with a bubble solution, or gas leak detector. The most inexpensive way is to make up a batch of soapy water in a spray bottle and spray all the joints and fittings. Any bubbles that form indicate a leak. Just make sure the soapy water is fresh; it loses it’s bubbles after time.
    5. Clean your oven. The oven is usually the number one producer of deadly carbon monoxide, which is odorless and colorless. The causes are grease, oil and old food build up that “re-burns” every time you start up the oven, especially at high temperatures, like broil. Also, if you have aluminum foil on the bottom of your oven, make sure you don’t cover the air vents at the sides; this prevents oxygen from getting to the burner and creates CO.
    6. Have an annual tune-up on your heating plant. The cost will pay for itself.
    7. Have your heating technician install a temperature gauge in your heating system’s exhaust flue and monitor the temperature. A 50oF temperature rise indicates that it’s time for a cleaning.
    8. Have an energy audit done, including a blower door test at a minimum. This will find all the air leaks and help formulate a plan to effectively and inexpensively seal your house, lowering your utility bills and making you more comfortable.
    9. Get a few cans of spray foam for around $3/can and use it to seal any pipe, duct and pipe penetrations in your basement and attic. Look for spiderwebs; this is an indication of air flow.

  • Ed the Plumber @ KOHLER 03/18/11

    I believe that from the moment a plumbing fixture is put in you should start thinking about preventative maintenance. For instance, when you install a new faucet, a proper flush out of the fixture should be done to avoid air hammer and debris issues.

    Air hammer is where a bubble of air in the water line can be force into the faucet stem, this can be especially harmful to faucets with ceramic disks. Debris getting into a faucet on start-up is also very common. To help avoid these issues, here’s how most professional plumbers that I know flush out a new faucet.

    I. Make sure the installation is complete and the water lines are tied in properly. Also make sure the hot and cold water shut off valves under the sink remain off.

    2. Turn “on” the faucet handles for both the hot and cold. Remember that the faucet shut off valves under the sink are still off at these point, but the faucet itself is open.

    3. Remove the aerator at the end of the faucet spout to create an open passage.

    4. Now, slowly open the cold water shut off valve under the sink till the water rushes through the faucet, then shut down the valve. Repeat for the hot water side.

    5. Finally, reinstall the aerator, shut off both sides of the faucet, turn the hot and cold shut off valves under the sink back on, and check for any leaks.

    Your new faucet is now properly flushed out and purged of any air pockets. One final tip from Ed: If your faucet is not already set up with a “high-efficiency” aerator, like one from Kohler, that uses 30% less water, pick one up and you can install that water-saving aerator during the flush out process. Now, that really makes this a “clean and green” tip!

  • Jeff Meyers- President Mr. Electric 03/18/11

    There are mouths to feed, bills to be paid, and so many other things on peoples’ minds that preventative maintenance tasks become overlooked. If there’s not a problem, why take the time to check it? At Mr. Electric we suggest home owners take the time to schedule specific safety checks throughout the year. By scheduling these preventative safety checks, a homeowner will be much more likely to prevent an unnecessary cost in the future.

    I recommend the following affordable DIY (Do It Yourself) projects:

    1.Check your light bulb wattage. California is the first state in the nation to phase out standard 100 watt light bulbs in favor of more energy efficient ones. New incandescent bulbs use less energy, but burn just as bright. 100-watt light bulbs will be disappearing from store shelves soon and will be completely banned from shelves in January 2012.

    2.Change your battery in your smoke detectors. The Electrical Safety Foundation International stated, “Each year, home electrical problems alone account for an estimated 53,600 fires. “ We recommend that the entire unit be changed every 10 years. The perfect time of year to change your batteries in your smoke detector is every 6 months. Next fall, during daylight savings time, change your clocks and change your batteries in your smoke alarm at the same time.

    3. Change your AC Filters. By changing your filter every 6 months, you are ensuring that your air conditioner or furnace is working at maximum efficiency. If you wait too long operating efficiency begins to decline, as efficiency drops operating costs increase.

    Although the three affordable DIY tasks above are important to the maintenance of your home, there are two additional tasks that we feel are equally as important but require the help of a professional.

    1. Have an electrician come out to check your panel. Your panel is made up of copper and aluminum connections. Overtime, these connections can become loose, causing shorts and possibly even fires. The licensed electrician will know how to calculate the total amp load for your home; he or she can then advise whether you need a panel upgrade. A typical panel tune up costs $180-$100 and if you need a panel replacement a minimum of $2000.

    2. Have a licensed air condition service professional come in to clean the evaporator and condenser coils in the AC unit and check the freon charge. By having this done, your unit will operate more efficiently. A typical coil cleaning would cost $200-$300.If you wait, this could damage your unit and you would need a replacement costing you a minimum of $3000.

    Unfortunately we service many homes where owners wait too long to have routine maintenance checks done and that results in unnecessary spending when systems break down. By taking the time to perform the DIY tasks each year & contacting a service professional for a routine checkup, a homeowner will save time and money on emergency service fees in the future.

  • Susan Hunt Stevens @ Practically Green 03/18/11

    1. Check Your Trees
    Trees bear the brunt of extreme hots and cold weather, pest infestations, and can also get viruses. Are your trees healthy? If not, why not? Can they be restored or do they need to be removed (so sad!!). Many of our neighbors found out just how much damage an unhealthy tree can do to homes, cars and yes, even be deadly during this winters ice storm and we lost several LARGE branches. It prompted us to bring in an arborist for preventative maintenance that we now know we should be doing annually.

    2. Check your grout
    If you have a brick home, you may be reaching a point where you need to repoint. Wait too long and a spring rain storm can bring the water into your wall cavity and that causes all sorts of expensive mold remediation work and perhaps even the need to redo walls and insulation. A simple inspection of the grout should tell you how close you are to needing to repoint.

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