Home Maintenance Basics: Simple Solutions for Common Issues

Summer is currently in full swing and you are probably just starting to enjoy the fruits of your labors from your spring projects. While you are relaxing, you can take a few simple home maintenance steps that will save you a lot of time and money in the long run this winter. The sooner you get these checked off your To-Do list, the sooner you can get back to worry-free hammock time.

5 Home Maintenance Basics to Prevent Costly Repairs and Claims

1) Check Water Supply Lines

Water supply lines are probably things that you don’t pay much attention to, but they can be the cause of huge problems if not maintained. You will have a pair (hot and cold) on your washing machine, a pair on every faucet in your house, and a single one to each toilet. While the toilet is easy enough to check, it’s remembering to look in all your cabinets that people forget to do. A small leak in the supply line to your kitchen faucet can mean mold and rot in your kitchen and costly cabinet replacement and mold abatement costs.

Some Simple Tips:

  • Never reuse a supply line. The little washer in each end gets compressed when tightened, and if you don’t line up that compression the next time (trust me, you won’t), you will have a leak.
  • Replace them every 5-10 years. Water is an abrasive substance which turns big rocks into sand. The rubber lining of your hoses will erode over time, so depending on the quality of the hose, you should replace them about once a decade. If you have owned your home more than 10 years and can’t remember changing them, go ahead and do it.
  • Look for built-in flow arresters. These are supply lines that have a valve in the connector to the stop/shut off valve so that if the flow rate gets too high, like in the case of a leak, the valve trips and stops the water. These cost a dollar or two more than a regular supply line, but can be a huge safety net and help prevent a leak.

2) Check the Toilets

Good toilet maintenance can save you hundreds of dollars on your water bill each year. Checking the tank to bowl gasket for leaks and the internal mechanisms for proper working order will help you reduce water consumption and save money. If your toilet runs constantly or you need to jiggle the handle, your toilet is not working correctly and you are paying for it.

Simple Tips:

  • If you need to jiggle the handle, ensure that the flapper is seating correctly. You may need to adjust the chain or replace the flapper.
  • If it runs constantly, either your fill valve or your flapper is due to be replaced. If the flapper is good, replacing the fill valve is the way to go. It is inexpensive and YouTube is full of helpful videos.
  • If you use a toilet tank insert to clean, like bleach tablets, they can erode your internal workings. Be sure to replace the relevant parts with parts made to handle the harsh chemicals.

3) Drain Your Boiler

Not everyone has a boiler, but for those of you who do, take the time to drain it at least once per year. Whether it is forced hot water or steam, crud like rust and scale as well as dirty water will accumulate in the boiler and need to be drained out for optimal performance. If you use an auto-fill mechanism, this is a good way to test it to make sure that it is filling the boiler to the appropriate level. If you have issues with any of the electrical/mechanical parts, contacting a professional now will keep you and your family from freezing while you wait for the parts to come in this winter.

4) Get Your HVAC System Serviced

Having a qualified professional check your forced air system, including your condenser, vents, heat pump, and air handler will save you time and heartache all year round. Money can be lost through pinhole leaks in the condenser and refrigerant supply, which can eventually cause the whole system to need replacing.

If you use a furnace, have it serviced to make sure that carbon and other residues are not building up, which can shorten its life. At least once per 10 years, you should also have your ductwork inspected, and if necessary, cleaned. Dust and mold can gather in your ductwork, having it professionally cleaned can save you a lot of money in both heating/cooling costs as well as preventing illness and allergies for you and your family.

Some Simple Tips:

  • Have your system recharged at the start and end of summer (a heat pump is an air conditioner that can also work in reverse). In addition to ensuring that your system is operating at the optimum level, you should have a qualified technician looking at your system twice a year to catch problems early.
  • Use FPR 4 Filters. Filter Performance Rating (FPR) is a rating system of what your filter will pull out of the air. While you can get filters that can pull even odors out of the air at FPR 10, it means your air handler has to work harder to pull the air through it. Think of it as holding a handkerchief over your face and breathing versus holding a pillow over your face. Unless you need to for allergen or other specific reasons, an FPR 4 filter will be sufficient in your home.
  • Change your filter every 1-3 months. The more dust and allergens that builds up on the filter, the harder your air handler works. Also, if the filter is clogged, then you won’t have adequate air movement, meaning dust will stay in the air and the system will not be able to heat or cool your house effectively.
  • If you have exposed ductwork, look into getting ductwork insulators. You can get them as a roll or a sleeve, but putting them on exposed ducts will help you from bleeding hot or cold air into unused spaces, costing you extra on your energy bill.

5) Inspect Your Basement

Checking your basement foundation for cracks every few months is a great way to prevent several costly forms of damage. First, this will help you save a lot in the long term from potential moisture damage. Many basements do not have good ventilation, so once moisture or humidity gets in, it can be a pain to get out. Second, cracks in the foundation is a primary way that radon gas can enter your house. Radon is a radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. Check in 2 different seasons in a single year, and then about every couple of years after that. If you start using your basement more often, check for radon more often as well.

Some Simple Tips:

  • Keep a dehumidifier in the basement. At least a 70 pint rating (extracts up to 70 pints per 24 hours) is good for any decent sized basement. Especially if you have a finished basement with little ventilation, you do not want moisture build-up to turn into mold.
  • Periodically check your sump pump. Especially if you live in a house that has drainage issues or is built close to the water table. Be sure to have extra backup batteries or a generator in case a storm knocks out power.

6) Seek Professional Help

If you have concerns with certain aspects of your home, reach out to a local professional who can assist you with your concerns. Many utility companies will offer assistance and inspections of different systems to check for areas where you can save money. These programs will often be free and offer energy bill rebates or low cost labor to help you save money. Also, check with reputable home inspectors to perform additional checks on your home every few years so you can catch potential problems early.

Expand Your Homeowner Knowledge

Maintaining a home is an ongoing process, but with a strong base of knowledge will ensure your success. Continue your homeowner education so you have a strong foundation in the basics of maintenance, insurance, mortgage management and more. From there, you and your trusted financial advisors can make informed decisions to effectively spend money building equity.

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