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Year Around Home Maintenance

by Jim Neidner

Jim Neidner is a national award-winning
builder/remodeler and radio home host.


What if you didn't change the motor oil in your car for several years; I wonder how long your engine would last? Now if anyone has done this - and your car is still running - please write me!

Our homes also have to be maintained and serviced year around just like everything else that has motion, or can be effected by our environment. Here are some tips that might save you some money and help you maintain your home better.

Lot drainage: When was the last time you walked your lot to make sure it's draining properly? You never want water to pond next to your foundation. Water ponding or penetrating our homes can cause us major damage and certainly support the growth of mold and mildew which is harmful to your health, not to mention potential foundation problems.

Water Heaters: When was the last time you drained your hot water heater? Did you even know you should drain it once a year to remove sediment in the bottom of the tank, which also restores better hot water volume? Additionally, your hot water tank will last longer with a yearly cleaning. For instructions on how-to flush your water heater, read my article "Flushing Your Water Heater is a Must."

T&P Valves: What about replacing the pressure-relief-valve once every three to four years? Also called the T&P valve (temperature pressure relief valve). Most hot water heater manufacturers warn about pressure relief valves and how they could clog up due to rust and minerals in your water and should be replaced after so many years.

When the pressure-relief-valve stops working, your hot water builds pressure inside the tank and if it can't escape through the relief-valve it could explode. Water softeners can help keep the T&P valves from clogging and your water heater clean. However, if you have one installed you might be OK, but I still suggest that you test the T&P valve to make sure it's working properly.

Testing the T&P valve is a simple test. Just pull the lever on top of the valve-up and this allows the hot water to escape. Be very careful doing this test because this is real hot water and if your unit is old and not piped from the T&P valve to the outside, you could get scalded.

Today most pressure-relief-valves at the water heater are hooked up to a drain line so you won't see the water coming out, however, you will be able to hear it running. On older water heaters, many find that after they performed this test, the valve might began to drip. If so, just replace it. If you've never flushed your hot water heater and you hear it making cracking and popping sounds, this is why. It's probably packed at the bottom of the tank with sediment.

Note: If you have not performed any flushing programs and the unit is 9 to 11 years old, I would not start now. It's getting close to having to be replaced anyway, wait until you install your new water heater then get into a yearly maintenance program. See how much better your hot water is and how much longer the water heater lasts.

Washing machine hoses: Another simple area that I think is real important to check out is replacing your rubber water hoses from the back of your washing machine. If you still have the old rubber hoses, I would strongly suggest that you stop into your local hardware store and replace them with the stainless steel-flex-water hoses or equal. The rubber hoses don't last and always seemed to bust at the worst time. You're either out of town or it's late at night while you're asleep. You would be surprised how often they bust on a national basis and the tremendous cost of insurance claims due to the failure of a cheap water hose.

Roof: Check for missing shingles on your roof or for poor-conditioned shingles due to wear or hailstorms. Also check the flashing at your fireplace. If you don't feel safe climbing on the roof, get a pair of binoculars and really look your shingles and flashing over. Again you don't want water penetration.

Gutters: Clean your gutters several times a year if you have a lot of hardwood trees and pines in your yard. Stopped up gutters can really let water in the soffit areas, which can run down your perimeter walls and allow moisture inside the wall cavities. When this happens your insulation could get wet and support mold and mildew growth.

Siding: Look for split, bucked or cracked siding, repair as needed, then caulk and repaint using top-of-the-line paints.

Overhead doors: Garage overhead doors seem to always come off the tracks at the worst time. Keep them oiled properly and tighten any lose screws and nuts.

Furnaces: Don't forget to have your furnaces and A/C serviced once a year. Get into a habit during the hot summer months to replace the air filters once a month. This helps keep your unit cleaner, lasts longer and keeps dust down inside your home. Also have a service man check for a cracked heat exchanger if your unit is over 10 years old.

Fireplaces: Fireplace chimney should be professionally cleaned after you've burned 1 to 2 cords of wood. This is really important.

Caulking around tub and in showers: When you noticed something has changed on the exterior or interior of your home, don't wait. Investigate and repair it quickly. Like caulking that has fallen out between the tile joints or around the tub or in your shower stalls. Also check caulking joints at the floor if you have vinyl or tile next to the tub or shower.

Again, moisture penetrating our homes is in one of our worst enemies along with termites. Have your home professionally checked every year for termites. Do your home care and maintenance on a monthly or yearly basis and keep out of trouble. I promise, if you take care of your home, your home will take care of you and save you money.

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