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View original article: Prince William Association of REALTORS®, Inc.

Property Maintenance Tips for You and Your Clients

By ROBERT K. MAJOR

Whether you are a first time homebuyer or a seasoned homeowner, property maintenance is the key in keeping your home looking fresh.  There never seems to be enough time to get around to all those chores.  Unfortunately, the quickest way to reduce your property value is to overlook the periodic maintenance necessary for your home.  Your home is probably your most expensive investment, and you can take some simple steps to make sure it looks and performs at it best. In addition, your home has several safety features and you should periodically test these items to keep your family and property safe. Although the maintenance, repair, and safety items seem endless, the following list should help you with the maintenance of your home. 

 Regular Maintenance Items 

1.      Check, clean, and repair your gutters in the spring and fall.  Gutters protect your property by diverting water away the foundation of your home.  They also help protect walls, windows and doorways.  Sticks, leaves, and other debris will collect and clog your gutters.  Blocked gutters can cause moisture problems at your roofline and along your foundation.  By installing gutter guards you can keep your gutters free of debris and reduce your yearly maintenance. 

2.      Inspect your attic in the spring and the fall for leaks, condensation, and poor ventilation.  The best time to inspect your attic is after a heavy rain.  Look throughout the attic at penetration points, sheathing, and vents.  Look for leaks and staining and note the areas of concern.  This will help you pinpoint the problem areas on your roof.  The vents in your attic provide the necessary airflow that eliminates condensation.  Verify that your vents are open and unobstructed.  Make sure your vents have screens to prevent insects and animals from entering your attic. 

3.      Check and repair damaged flashing and roofing materials at least twice annually.  Your roof is the first line of defense to protect your house from moisture and water penetration.  Improper flashing and defective roofing materials will allow water to enter your home.  Moisture can go undetected in attics and behind walls and cause damage to framing, drywall, flooring, and household furnishings.  In addition, moisture creates an environment for mold growth.  Be Careful!  The pitch on some roofs is very steep and dangerous to climb without special equipment.  If you find significant damage, contact a professional contractor to evaluate and correct the problem.  

4.      Inspect windows, windowsills, and the wood trim on the outside of your house at least twice a year.  Any exposed wood on the exterior of your house is prone to moisture damage.  Make sure to protect your wood trim with exterior paint and caulk.  Have a professional contractor replace all wood and trim that becomes spongy or rotted. 

5.   Trim trees, shrubs, and plants annually and keep them away from your roof and the walls of your house.  Trees, shrubs and plants can cause damage to your roof and the walls of your home.  Large branches can break off during a storm and puncture a hole in your roof or siding.  Shrubs to close to your house can also prevent water from draining away from your foundation.  Keep all plants and shrubs at least three feet from your home.   

6.      Have your furnace or boiler serviced annually by a professional.  It is important for your furnace or boiler to operate properly.  A service professional will clean and adjust your system so it operates efficiently.  They will also inspect and maintain your venting and duct system.  This will help reduce fuel costs, and may extend the life of your system. 

7.      Inspect, clean, or replace your air filter or electronic air cleaner monthly.  You can usually locate your air filter or electronic air cleaner by your furnace.  You should clean or replace your air filter every 2-3 months.  Clean your electronic air cleaner monthly.  Dirty air filters create drag in your ducts and decrease the efficiency of your system. 

8.      Check and replace faulty caulk and grout in bathrooms on a bimonthly basis.  Caulk and grout seal the seams between floors, tiles, tubs and showers.  Look for signs of cracking or separation throughout your bathroom. The caulk and grout in your bathroom prevents moisture from entering your sub floor and other hidden areas of your home.  You can purchase caulk and grout at your local hardware store.  Make sure you follow the manufacture's recommendation or use a professional contractor to make repairs.   

9.      Shut off outside faucets every fall and turn on outside faucets in the spring.  Your exterior faucets have direct exposure to the outdoor elements.  When water freezes it expands and can damage your pipes. Shut off the interior water valve and allow the water to drain from your outdoor faucet. You can usually locate the internal water shut off valve in the basement near your hot water heater.  

10. Turn off your irrigation system in the fall and completely empty your water lines. You can usually locate irrigation lines underground above the frost line.  Any water that remains in your lines is prone to freezing which can cause extreme damage to your system.  You can hire a professional contractor specializing in irrigation systems to remove the water from your system every fall.

 Safety Maintenance 

1.      Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every month.  You should have smoke detectors on every level of your home.  Many local fire departments will test, replace, and install new smoke detectors at no cost.  Carbon monoxide is an odorless poisonous gas produced by fuel burning appliances. Improper venting and back drafting can allow carbon monoxide to spill into your home.  Carbon monoxide detectors will alert you if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide exist.  If you have fuel-burning appliances, you should install carbon monoxide detectors.  Always follow manufacturer’s recommendations when installing smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. 

2.  Test the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) monthly.  GFCI are electrical plugs or circuit breakers that will shut off the power to a circuit if electricity is leaking.  For example, if 10 amps are flowing through your wires and the current enters a plug, then 10 amps must complete a loop and return through the wires to the main electrical panel.  If electricity escapes from that path (like a hairdryer dropped in a tub full of water), it will search for a conductor so it can find its way back to a ground.  Electrocution occurs when electricity chooses you as the path.  Fortunately, the GFCI will shut of the electricity before it can harm you.  Look for GFCI plugs in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements.  You will also find GFCI near sinks, hot tubs, pools, and garages, and outdoor receptacles.  Each GFCI plug is equipped with a test and reset button.  By depressing the test button, the circuit is broken and electricity will not flow to any plug within the GFCI loop.  The plug will reactivate when you push the reset button.  Hire a professional contractor to replace the plug if the test or reset button does not respond. 

 3.  Have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a professional.  By-products of burning fossil fuels are acid water and creosote.  Steam will rise up your chimney and as it cools will change into acid water droplets.  The acid water collects on the inside of the chimney and deteriorates the liner. Creosote is a tar like substance that also attaches to the liner of your chimney.  Creosote develops when wood does not have an opportunity to burn off all its ignitable components.  Creosote is highly flammable at high temperatures and if not cleaned properly will create a chimney fire. 

 4. Test the garage door opener’s motion sensor and pressure sensitivity monthly.  Your garage door should have a motion sensor and pressure sensitivity.  These safety features will prevent injury and damage to personal property.  The motion sensor is a simple laser located at the bottom of your garage entryway.  Two electronic sensors align across the pathway of your garage door.  If the beam of light is broken, then the garage door will not close.  The pressure sensitivity will auto reverse the garage door opener if you apply pressure to the bottom of the garage door.    You can adjust the sensitivity by turning the dial on the back of the opener.  If your garage door opener does not have these safety features, you should consider replacing the opener.  Please follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when installing or adjusting your garage door. 

5.    Locate and label all emergency shut off devices for water, gas, and electricity.  You can usually locate these valves and devices in the basement of your home. Knowing where these devices are can save you valuable time in an emergency.  In addition, Make sure you label each breaker in your main electrical panel.  Remember to share this information with your entire family. 

While this list does not include all home maintenance items, it should provide you with some helpful tipsRemember to put routine maintenance items on your calendar.   Scheduling time will help you remember to perform essential inspections.  If you find your schedule is prohibitive, contact a local home inspector or contractor to assist.  Good Luck!