Maintenance Tips


Clean those gutters

It is important that your gutters be free of leaves and other debris, otherwise serious problems may result. Blocked gutters and downspouts are the leading cause of new basement water problems. If the water is not being directed adequately away from your house it will usually end up in your basement. Additionally, if the gutters are full they may become so heavy that they come loose from the house, allowing water to run behind the gutters and rot the fascia and eaves.

When winter is here turn off those hose bibs.

Turn off the interior hose bib shutoff’s and disconnected the hoses from the faucets outside. Failure to perform this task means running the risk of your pipes breaking as water in the pipes freezes and expands.

Is your deck safe?

Today’s building code requires a deck railing to be able to withstand a 200 lb single point lateral load. That means a 200 lb man pushing as hard as he can against the railing cannot get it to move more than 1/2”. Yes I know, mine would not qualify as safe either. Few do, but if you can easily shake the railing it needs attention. Most deck railings are secured to the rim joist only. While the railing may have some nice big bolts holding the railing to the rim joist, it is not uncommon for the rim joist to just have 2 or 3 nails into the end of the floor joists. The result is 3 people leaning on a hand rail at a party can cause it to fail by pushing the rim joist off the deck. Repairs can easily be made by installing mechanical brackets between the joists, the railing and the rim.

Energy audits

Gas and Electricity prices are through the roof. An Energy Audit can save you big bucks for years to come. In an Energy Audit a certified specialist will evaluate your home and make recommendations as to what can be done to save you money. A blower door test will quantitatively show the amount of air loss in the home and show you the areas needing sealing. An Infrared Camera will see through the walls to determine if the insulation has been adequately installed or needs improvement. Doing it this fall may save you hundreds of dollars this winter and throughout the year in years to come.

Don’t wait till the dead of winter to have the chimney cleaned.

A wood burning fireplace that sees regular use should be professionally cleaned and inspected every couple of years. Chimney sweeps are typically busy in the winter and thus charge more in the late fall and winter. The average cost to clean a chimney is about $150-200. Chimney sweeps have a knack for finding big problems where only small ones exist. If a chimney cleaning company tells you that expensive work is needed, get a second and maybe even a 3rd opinion before you spend any big money.

Spring Maintenance Check

Time to get out there and look for any damage winter has done to your home. Look at the wood trim and paint. Is it peeling or in need of caulking? Does any wood rot need repair? Is the water being adequately directed away from the home with gutters clean and downspouts still extended away from the home? Do you need to add a few wheel-barrels of dirt near the foundation to maintain a positive grade away from the house?

Are the window screens still intact? How about that landscape? Now is a great time to add plants and not have to water constantly. It should now be safe to turn your hose bibs back on and get your hoses out for the summer. It’s a great time of year to power wash and reseal the deck.

The time to get your AC serviced is now. Don’t wait for the hot weather or you may be suffering when the hot weather hits. Those guys get real busy the first time the temperature hits the mid 80’s.

Cleaning Whirlpool Tubs

While it is easy to clean the tub itself, there is no way to access the inside of the pipes that pump water through the jets. While these pipes are supposed to drain, there is always a little water that remains along with soap, hair and everything else.

To properly clean the tub jets: Fill the tub with water above the jets and add a few cups of bleach. Turn the jets on and let run for about 30 minutes. If the tub is used frequently, the jets may need to be cleaned every few weeks.

Reseal the Deck

Every Few Years Decks should be resealed every couple of years to prevent deterioration, curling and splintering. It is not that important what product you use, just that it be done regularly. It’s not necessary but certainly helpful to power wash the deck first, just be careful not to damage the wood.

Look Outside First to Solve Basement Water Problems

Basement water is usually the result of improper drainage on the outside of the home. If you are having problems with water in the basement or crawlspace start with the least expensive remedy and work backwards until the problem is solved.

  1. Make sure the gutters are clean, sloping toward the downspouts and that the downspouts extended away from the house.
  2. Ensure that there is a proper grade away from the house using a dense clay type soil, not sand or mulch. Ideally a minimum slope of 1” per foot slope away from the house for at least 6′ is recommended. It is important that the water be carried over the backfill area and onto the dense soil away from the house.
  3. If water is still getting into the house after the proper grade is established, a French drain and sump pump may be needed. At this point the job starts to get expensive. Installing a French drain and sump pump will usually do the trick, however it usually runs between $4000-6000.
  4. If all else fails, the next step is to dig around the foundation, install a French drain on the outside and repair the foundation wall. This is work routinely done at the time of construction for a minimal cost, but doing the work on an existing home is very expensive. Budget $15,000-$20,000. The good news, it is rarely necessary to go this far

Remember start with the cheapest and work backwards. Most basement water problems can be solved for under $1000.

Change the Furnace Filter

When inspecting a furnace or AC system we routinely find that the furnace filter has not been changed for many months and sometimes years. In general the filter should be cleaned or changed every 30-60 days. Some better filters such as the Space-Gard filter only have to be changed every 3-6 months but this type of filter is easily identified by its 6” width.

Caution: If you are doing work on your house such as sanding and painting, the filter may get very dirty in a few days. Double check your filter after you finish painting or sanding walls and floors. Failure to change the filter will result in a substantial reduction in efficiency and possible damage to the furnace or air conditioning.

Replacing wood trim?

Consider using PVC trim instead. We recently completed a project building a new front porch and the contractor suggested using a Plastic PVC trim instead of wood. We went with his recommendation and are very pleased with the result. The product cuts and installs just like wood. It never needs painting, will not check, split or rot and only costs a bit more than real wood when you consider the added cost of painting.