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Old 01-03-2005, 05:53 AM
ajrsmom's Avatar
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Whole-House-Checkup Checklist

Whole-House-Checkup Checklist
By Linda Formichelli

Just like your family, your house is chock-full of things that need annual (and sometimes more frequent) checkups. Gutters crack, septic tanks leak and furnaces stop working. Keep the following list on hand to remind yourself which household appliances and fixtures you can check yourself, which need professional attention and approximately how much you'll have to spend on maintenance and repair.

Every Day or Week

During the winter, press the TEST button on your carbon monoxide detector once a week to make sure it's working. Cost: Free.
Take a weekly look at your water heater. A small puddle underneath can quickly become a major flood if it's not caught in time. Cost: Free.
Clean the lint trap in your clothes dryer after each load. Cost: Free.

Every Month

In warm weather, gnats can make their home in traps under your sinks. If you have this problem, pour a quarter cup of bleach followed by a gallon of water down each drain and let it sit overnight. This will kill the pests and prevent more of them from moving in. Cost: Under $1.

Add enzymes to your septic tank to keep the bacteria levels high. One way to do this is to flush one cup of brewer's yeast down the toilet every month. Cost: Under $5.
Drain lines leading to septic tanks and cesspools need to be kept clean. Pour a cleaner specially made for the job (available at your local hardware or home store) down the toilet every month or two. Cost: $6 to $11.

Every Two Months

The seal on your refrigerator door will last forever if you keep it clean. Wipe it with a sponge and warm, soapy water. Cost: Free.
Run a lemon through your garbage disposal to keep it smelling fresh. Cost: Under $1.

Every Six Months

Lint in your dryer vent can create a fire hazard and decrease the dryer's efficiency. To clean out the ducting, follow the instructions in the owner's manual. Most tell you to detach the 4-inch hose that leads to the outside of the house by unfastening the clamp. If the hose is long, use a vent-cleaning brush to clear the lint. If it's short, reach in and pull out the lint; use a rag to get at the last bits. Cost: Around $20 for a 10-foot vent-cleaning brush; $30 for a 30-foot brush.

Replace the filters in your forced-air heating system. This not only cuts down on allergens, it preserves the life of the motor and blower, and keeps the ductwork clean. Cost: From under $1 for a basic filter to $15 for one of top quality.
Change the battery in your fire alarm when daylight saving time starts in the spring and ends in the fall. Cost: About $2 for a 9-volt battery.

When the weather turns cold, your automatic garage-door opener needs to apply more force to open and close the door. You can increase the amount of force manually. Check the side or back of the unit for screws you can adjust with a screwdriver, and twist them in the direction indicated on the unit. When the weather warms again, decrease the amount of force by reversing the process. Cost: Free.

In Spring and Fall

From the ground, do a visual inspection of the shingles on your roof. If you see any that are discolored or curled, chances are water is seeping in underneath. Hire a contractor to add soffit and roof vents to your home. Cost: Varies by region.

Look under the gutter. If you can see daylight between the gutter and the fascia board (the board the gutter is nailed to), the gutter has separated from the house. Remove the loose spikes and replace them with gutter bolts from the hardware store. Cost: Around $1.50 to $3.50 per bolt.

If yours is a brick house, look at the mortar line for cracks and loose pieces. Repair the damage with mortar in a tube. Cost: Under $10.

Check your home's siding for pieces that are stained or chalky. Clean siding with a cleaner made specifically for aluminum or vinyl siding (available at your local hardware or home store). Cost: Under $15.

Make sure phone and cable wires aren't frayed or rusty. If they are, call the phone or cable company to have the wires repaired. Cost: Free, unless the problem is inside the house; then, varies by region.

Using your thumbnail, dig into the caulk around your windows. It should be spongy to the touch. If it's hard, replace it. Remove old caulk using a liquid or gel caulk remover. Then, with a caulk gun, apply urethane caulk, which has good adhesive qualities and is easy to paint over. Cost: About $3 for caulk remover; $10 for a caulk gun; under $10 for each tube of caulk.

Every Year

The rubber hose on your washing machine can burst, unleashing thousands of gallons of water. Inspect the hose for stiffness, brittleness or blisters. If you see any of these signs, replace the rubber hose yourself with a stainless-steel one. Cost: Under $30.

Dirty filters and dusty ducts lower the efficiency of your air conditioner or central air system. What's more, low coolant levels can leave you sweltering on hot summer days. An appliance repair person can replace the filters, check the coolant level and clean the ducts in the central air system. Cost: $45 to $125, depending on your system. Changing the coolant level can run you from $400 to $500.

If you have a gas-fired furnace, a damaged heat-exchange element can release carbon monoxide into your home. Have your furnace inspected and cleaned by a certified heating and cooling repair person. Cost: $50 to $100.

A frozen garden hose can burst the pipes inside your house. Close outside spigots; detach and store hoses before the first freeze. Cost: Free.

Door locks can become tight, causing your key to break inside. If your locks are hard to turn, use liquid graphite (available at your local hardware or home store) to get them turning again. Cost: Under $2.

Before the Holidays

People tend to overload their freezer during the holidays. Although popular wisdom has it that a packed freezer is more efficient, this is true only for deep freezers, not for those that self-defrost. After packing in the food, make sure there is one to one-and-a-half inches of space remaining on top for air to circulate. Cost: Free.

Your dishwasher works overtime during the holidays. To avoid breakdowns, make sure the water inlet valve hasn't become restricted. To do this, start the washer; once it's filled, open it.
There should be enough water on the bottom to touch the sides. If not, replace the valve yourself by following the manufacturer's instructions. Cost: Under $40.

Hassle-Free Home Hints

Need to hire someone to do repair work? Go where the repair people go. If you're looking for a roofer, go to a roofing supply store and ask the manager for referrals. Looking for a handyman? Ask at the lumberyard.

If your house has a sump pump that frequently runs, install a backup pump. Water-powered backup pumps are virtually maintenance free and will work continuously. Visit a plumbing supply store for more info.

A chimney liner—a rust-free metal tube inserted into the chimney—is an inexpensive way to avoid costly repairs. A heating/cooling contractor can easily install one.
Even if a faulty bathtub faucet can be repaired, consider replacing it. Most new faucets are pressure-balanced, which means that if someone flushes the toilet in another bathroom, you won't get scalded in the shower.


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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 01-17-2006, 07:21 PM
Henry Bockman's Avatar
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Montgomery County Maryland
Posts: 5
The advice about cleaning aluminum siding is not very informative. If you have aluminum siding on your home DO NOT attempt to scrub it.. This will remove the oxidation from the siding and discolor it. I'll post an article I wrote on power washing for the proper methods. Here are some other things that I didn't notice on the list.

1 Make sure your grading around your home slopes away from your foundation.
2 Make sure your gutters and downspouts are cleaned, tightened properly and are in proper working order.
3 Inspect your roof for missing shingles, damaged flashing and vent pipes or for any nail pops.
You can find a list of all these items and much more with pictures on our roof repair page.
4 Check to make sure your window wells and any basement stair well drains aren't plugged or clogged.
5 Check your fence for any rotted posts or boards.
6 Check your lawn for weed problems.
7 Remove any vines or tree limbs that are growing too close to your roof and siding.
8 Check for crumbling mortar in brick joints.
9 Make sure your smoke detectors are working properly and the batteries are new.
10 Get your chimney and heating/AC unit cleaned and checked for proper operation.
11 Make sure the caulking around your windows is in good condition.
12 Check your siding to make sure it's properly secured.
13 Check all exterior wood trim for rot or peeling paint.
14 Check to see if your siding needs to be cleaned to remove mildew.
15 Make sure your decks and patios are free from mildew and properly secured.
16 Check all plumbing fixtures for cracks,leaks and proper operation.
17 Check attic for any leaks or signs of animals.
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Old 01-17-2006, 07:27 PM
Henry Bockman's Avatar
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Montgomery County Maryland
Posts: 5
The Art Of Power Washing Siding

Power washing siding may seem safer to take on yourself, but if you don't have the proper tools and experience it could cost thousands of dollars in damages.
Some of the most common mistakes to avoid made by homeowners and contractors are:
Trying to remove the powdery coating called oxidation on aluminum siding. Removing this coating can cause discoloration and in some cases cause the siding to look like a completely different color.
Using too much pressure can also force water up behind the siding where it will cause mildew behind the siding or in some cases, blow the siding off the house!
Washing the house from the top down or letting chemicals dry on the house, which may leave streaks on the siding.
Using a ladder to clean the upper areas of a house can result in serious injuries and death from slipping off the ladder.
These are the types of mishaps that many people have when attempting to do a quick power washing of their home. If you decide to use a power washer on your home, here are some general guidelines to use.
Make sure the machine your using puts out a minimum of 4 gallons of water per minute and less than 1000 PSI.
Most homeowners will buy a machine from a hardware store that puts out 1,000 PSI but only uses 2 gallons per minute of water. While this machine may work, it will triple the amount of time to do the job properly.
Be careful if your making your own house washing chemicals. For example, mixing bleach and ammonia can create a poisonous gas.
We suggest that home owners buy a siding wash that's available in most hardware stores and follow the manufactures guidelines for the product. Leave the stronger agents to the pro's or you may end up removing the paint along with the dirt!
The best way to clean siding is by using a power washer that has a chemical injector built into the machine. Using a chemical injector will allow you to pull the soap from the container, mixing it in the machine with water and spray it onto the house using low pressure starting from the bottom up. Make sure when using a power washer that you don't shoot water or chemicals up under the siding, this can cause significant mold problems behind your siding.
Allow the chemical to dwell on the siding, then using low pressure, rinse the product from the siding. Make sure when your rinsing the product off the siding that you start at one end of the siding all the way to the end. Do not stop or vary your distance from the siding, or it will cause the surface to be cleaned un-evenly.
If your siding has small black dots that do not come off during cleaning but can be scraped off using your finger nail. You probably have artillery fungus on your siding. This can not be removed from the siding without causing damage. For more information on Artillery fungus, see the Artillery fungus page.
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