HOME REPAIR TIPS
Seasonal Home Maintenance Tips: Fall
- Change batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Many choose to change the batteries when they change their clocks for Daylight Saving Time, and if that system works for you, stay with it. The important point is to change the batteries before they are drained in order to provide the maximum amount of warning in case of fire.
- Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms by pressing “test” button. Pressing the “test” button quarterly verifies that the alarms are functioning properly; and while you have the ladder available, vacuum the cover to remove dust which may hider proper operation.
- Check GFCIs for proper operation. GFCIs, the special receptacles found in kitchens, baths, garages, basements, and outdoors, have a special built-in circuit breaker to avoid electric shock in hazardous areas. Pressing the test button should cause the breaker to “trip,” confirming proper operation.
- Remove dryer vent hose and clean outlet. Check dryer exhaust for excess lint. I recommend removing the dryer vent hose and cleaning twice a year. Doing so helps eliminate a fire hazard, increases efficiency, reduces drying time, and extends the life of the dryer. Cleaning the exhaust vent also provides an opportunity to vacuum behind the washer and dryer.
- Vacuum behind refrigerator and front grill. Remove the lower grill/front panel (most refrigerators) to allow access to the coil below. Then vacuum the grill, coil, and as much of the area as possible. Proper cleaning helps the refrigerator operate more efficiently and extends its life. This is also a great time to slide the refrigerator out and vacuum the rear of the unit as well as the floor area normally inaccessible. Click HERE for more information.
- Vacuum grill on bath vent fans. Cleaning the grill on bathroom exhaust fans will improve their function and will help keep dust from accumulating on the fan blades and motor. In some cases it may also reduce the noise factor. For more information, click HERE.
- Vacuum return air grills and HVAC registers. Regular cleaning of the heating and air conditioning registers and grills will help dust out of your ductwork and furnace and helps improve air flow.
- Clean underside of kitchen range hood and wash filter if applicable. An area often overlooked is the underside of kitchen range hoods or over counter microwaves. Keeping this area clean and grease free helps avoid dangerous kitchen fires and also improves the operation of the unit. Remove and clean filters per manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Remove window screens. If you remove your screens for winter, now is the time to do it. It’s also an opportunity to check them for damage, so that you can repair or replace and be ready for spring.
- Replace HVAC filter. The filter for most HVAC systems is normally located in or adjacent to the furnace, the air handling unit for both heating and air conditioning. Filters should be changed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, and, depending upon the filter used, as often as monthly or with some systems, after several months use. Your individual circumstances may dictate a different schedule, but keeping the filter clean is both better for your health and budget.
- Clean gutters and check for proper drainage away from foundation. Gutters, often considered a nuisance by homeowners, are more important than most understand. Clogged gutters create drainage problems; contribute to foundation leakage and mold growth; and can cause damage to soffits, exterior trim, and roof decking.
- Inspect furnace, boiler, AC compressor, sump pump, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and water heater for visible problems. Sometimes a visual inspection of the mechanical systems can alert you to potential problems. If you are unfamiliar with these systems, just look for anything out of the ordinary, such as obvious physical damage, leaking, damaged wiring or pipes.
- Clean garbage disposer by pouring 1 cup white vinegar diluted in 1 gallon of water; sharpen blades by dropping in a few ice cubes and running. A regular cleaning will help keep your disposer clog and odor free, and will allow it to function at peak efficiency. For instructions on cleaning a clogged disposer, click HERE.
- Check main water cut-off valve for ease of operation. Water cut-off valves have a tendency to “freeze” from disuse. It’s a good idea to do an annual check to make certain you’ll be able to turn the water supply off in an emergency. Click HERE for more information.
- Check under sinks and vanities for leaks in supply lines or drains. Drains or supply lines may develop leaks over time, and a regular check can help avoid surprises and significant damage.
- Clean faucet aerators and shower head. Regular cleaning of faucet aerators and shower heads improves flow and inhibits mildew growth.
- Check toilets for proper operation and for leaks around base and inside tank. Check each toilet for proper operation and inspect inside the tank for obvious defects. Older “float-ball” mechanisms can be easily replaced with newer assemblies which are both quieter and more efficient. Click HERE for instructions. Toilets that leak around the base may need tightening and probably need a new wax ring. Click HERE for instructions.
- Check roof for missing damaged shingles (Use binoculars). While climbing on the roof to check for problems provides the best view of the roof surface, it’s often not necessary. If you own or can borrow a pair of binoculars, you can do a visual inspection of your roof from the safety of the ground. Look for missing, damaged, or curled shingles, areas where leaves or debris have accumulated, damaged or missing metal flashing, and cracks or openings around plumbing or other vents.
- Check attic for roof leaks/proper operation and obstructions at vents or fans/rodent infestation. A trip to the attic can sometimes alert you to potential problems. Look for discoloration or other indications of leakage on the underside of the roof decking, check gable and roof vents for obstructions and to make certain that screens are in place, and look for squirrel or other rodent infestations.
- Check expiration dates on fire extinguishers and inspect for obvious defects. Most of us purchase fire extinguishers and promptly forget and sometimes misplace them. Check the location of yours as well as the expiration date.
- Pour at least 1 quart of water in drains that are not regularly used such as, guest bath tub and sink or floor drains in garage, basement and laundry room. Have a guest bath, garage, or basement with a foul odor? Bath drains are connected to the sever line and have a trap that should always be filled with water to keep out smelly sewer gas; and while many floor drains are not connected directly to the sewer, some are. If the water in the trap evaporates due to infrequent use, the gas is allowed to escape into the surrounding area. A quart of water in such drains may cure the problem.
- Inspect exterior covers of bath, kitchen, or dryer vents for proper operation and bird or insect nesting. Many times the outside covers to kitchen, bath, or other vents become clogged or inoperable due to damage; and sometimes birds or other critters are attracted to the openings as potential homes. Doing a regular inspection allows you to verify that the vents are functioning properly and that you haven’t gained unwanted tenants.
- Check garage door operation and safety-reverse. Check garage door and remote controls for proper operation and test the safety-reverse. Lubricate chain and rollers if applicable.
- Check windows and doors for proper operation/seal. As you prepare for winter, make certain that all windows operate and seal properly. It’s also a good idea to check the caulking around windows and doors, and to make certain that weather-stripping is in place.
- Inspect fireplace flu, firebox, chimney, and chimney cap. Inspect fireplace and flu for obstructions and creosote accumulation and have professionally cleaned as necessary to prevent chimney fires. (Regular use of fireplace will shorten the time between cleanings) Inspect brick and mortar on chimneys if applicable and check chimney cap.
- Inspect basement for cracks in foundation, leakage, or unusually high humidity (above 60%). Check the basement for cracks in foundation walls (small hairline cracks are common) that may be growing larger or causing deflection of the surface. Foundation leakage, areas of high humidity, large cracks, or walls that appear to be “bowing” may require professional attention.
Those living in colder climates should also check the maintenance tips for winter in order to guard against freeze damage of garden hoses, hose bibbs, and irrigation systems.