Simple Home Maintenance Tips
Well, it’s a new year, you’re holiday visitors have gone back home and Santa has left you a nice long list of home inspection and repair tasks to tackle in the new year. The good news is that while some home repair projects require professional assistance to ensure their safe and proper completion, there are many items that you can do all on your own. To start out the new year, we thought we’d post a little list of the most common repairs that, when tackled early, can safe you a boatload of trouble.
Water leaking from your toilet tank will not only cost you money when it comes to your utility bill, but it can also cause water damage to your bathroom floor and premature wear of your toilet’s internal workings. To find out whether your toilet tank is leaking, add some red food coloring to the water in the tank. Come back in about an hour and see if the water in the bowl is pink. If it is, you have a leak. If you find that your toilet is leaking from the tank to the bowl, the flapper needs to be replaced. To change your toilet’s flapper, first shut off the water supply to your toilet. To do this, simply turn the water valve located directly behind the toilet. Remove the tank lid and flush the toilet in order to empty the tank. Use a towel or sponge to mop out any excess water left in the tank. Remove the flush chain from the lever, and then slide the old flapper up off the overflow tube. Slide the new flapper in place over the overflow tube, reconnect the chain, and turn the water supply back on.
The main cause of leaky faucets is worn out washers. The washers inside of the faucet handles are rubber and tend to wear out quickly. Replace them by turning off the main water supply, unscrewing the leaky handle that controls the flow of water to the spout, removing the old washer, and dropping in the new one.
Water heaters, like other appliances, need maintenance to increase longevity and reduce the possibility of damage. Water has sediment suspended in it, and as the water sits in your water heater, these particles will often settle to the bottom of the tank, causing damage to the floor of your water heater. At least once per year, it is important to drain the water from your water heater and clean the inside surface of its floor.
To drain your water heater, first turn off the water supply and power to the water heater. For electric water heaters, turning off the power means that you simply flip the circuit breaker to the “off” position. For gas water heaters, turn the thermostat setting to the pilot position.
Next, connect a water hose to the drain fitting at the bottom of the tank and put the other end somewhere where you can drain the water, such as your driveway, or in the yard. Be warned, the draining hot water will be quite hot, even after you turn off the power or gas.
A typical garden hose is a direct fit to the drain fitting. Turn on all the hot water faucets in your home and then open the drain valve on the water heater. Turn the water supply back on with the drain valve still open to remove any built up sediment in the bottom of the tank. Then close the drain valve, refill the tank, and turn the power back on.
Washing Machine & Dryer
It is important to regularly inspect your washing machine water supply hoses for leaks. One of the top reasons for insurance claims is for water damage caused by leaky washing machine supply lines. Inspect washing machine water supply lines at least once a year and replace them every three years if they are plastic. If you notice that the metal ends of your water supply lines are discolored or rusty, replace them immediately.
Faulty washing machine drain hoses are as important as water supply lines when it comes to keeping water off of your floor and in your drain where it belongs. As with supply lines, regularly inspect the ends of your washing machine drain lines for discoloration or rust, and replace them immediately if you find evidence of leaking. Additionally, check the snugness of the drain lines by using a crescent wrench or a pair of pliers. You should not be able to tighten the line any further if the line is properly tightened. Plastic lines should be replaced every three years.
When it comes to your dryer, it is important to make sure that you regularly clean your lint screen in order to prevent fires. Not only will a clean lint screen prevent fires, but it will also increase the life of the heating element. Physically remove the lint from the screen between each load of laundry. Also, be sure to remove fabric softener residue by washing the screen with warm water and dish detergent once per week.
In order to keep water flowing freely through your pipes, keep the following things in mind:
• Accumulating fats and oils are the main cause for clogs, so never pour fats or other oils down your drains. This includes oils that are not solid at room temperature. If you accidentally spill oils or fats down the drain, run hot water down your drain along with a healthy serving of dishwashing liquid. The soap will emulsify the fat or oil and move it on down the pipe, preventing a clog.
• Get a hair strainer for the bathtub drain. If fats and oils are the main source of clogs in the kitchen, hair is the primary culprit in the bathroom. If you have a strainer, make sure that you remove any accumulated hair from it following each shower. This will reduce the amount of hair that finds its way through the strainer and into your plumbing.
• Skip the Drano. Though the acids it contains can help unclog a drain, they also cause significant damage to your plumbing, including premature leaking. This can lead to costly repairs later on. If your bathtub or toilet is completely clogged, use a small drain snake – which you can purchase at any hardware outlet – to pull the offending clog to the surface. If your kitchen sink is clogged, try plunging it before trying to snake the drain. If you cannot remove the clog using a drain snake, call a professional.
Air conditioners are among the most overlooked appliances when it comes to performing regular home maintenance. However, they can be one of the most costly appliances to repair. Regularly inspect the condensation hose to make sure that water can flow freely from the line. If there is standing water where your condensation line drains, create a drainage path using a small garden trowel and line the path with gravel to keep mold and algae from forming. This can be a serious health hazard if the spores are drawn into the appliance and blown into your home.
Additionally, keep the screen around your air conditioner free from debris to keep air flowing easily. This will prevent your air conditioner from using more power than necessary to keep your house cool and keep the internal parts from wearing out too quickly.
Finally, it is a good idea to arrange for professional service on a regular basis. This will ensure that your AC system is performing at peak levels when you need it most.
Drafty windows are a major culprit of high energy bills in the summer and winter months. Periodically check the condition of the caulk line that holds your windows in place. If the caulk appears to be dry, cracked, or otherwise weathered, remove the old caulk with a box cutter or other sharp knife and run a new bead of caulk along the seam.
For added utility bill savings, you can further insulate your window by applying an insulating window film over the glass. These methods cost much less than the price of replacing your windows and implementing green energy technologies in your home.
While gutters may go practically unnoticed when you look at your house, they are the main line of defense between your foundation and siding and the elements. Gutters are designed to capture water and debris runoff from your roof and divert it away from your foundation, and one of the main causes of water accumulation in basements is a lack of gutter maintenance and proper water diversion.
Clean your gutters at least once per year by physically removing debris from the channels and rinsing them thoroughly by using a garden hose. Also, be sure to regularly check that your gutters are properly affixed to your fascia boards, and replace any sections that appear to be damaged or leaking.
Periodically check your roof for damage. Damaged, discolored, or gravel-less shingles should be quickly replaced to prevent the need to replace your roof, water-damaged trusses, or drywall when you finally discover a leak. During the inspection of your roof, pay special attention to shingles that surround skylights, vents, and chimneys, as these areas are the most leak-prone.