My Home Doctor

My Home Dr.

Free or inexpensive remedies for your home

This page offers maintenance tips, I have been asked many times over the years, from home owners just like you. If you have questions about a maintenance problem with your home, please feel free to ask. Send me an email with your questions or if you have additional maintenance tips, please send them so I can post them to share with others who visit my web site. This is the link to my online store for FREE downloads. I would ask you to subscribe to my YouTube channel which also has many videos with tips for home owners as well as business generating tips.

 

Painting

Painting adds the finishing touches to any project but in the wrong hands or without some experience, your project can turn into a nightmare. As a reminder, you can not paint latex paint over oil base paint without some preparation. If you are not sure of what the current paint is, treat it as if it were an oil base paint. Start by using a light sand paper or sanding sponge and scuff the surface till it’s dull or has a powdery finish. Wipe any residue away and if the surface still has a shiny finish, sand it again. For any heavy chips on trim, use a painter’s putty; fill the area and sand smooth when it dries. Finish the area with a good primer then paint your project. If you don’t follow this tip, your project will peel, chip and have a ragged finish, with just minor bumps, in a short time. Why am I bringing this up again? I just watched a customer, pay a painting contractor to paint their condo, only to find that all the trim had an oil base and the painters forced the latex on the trim and doors. As I was setting the doors, the paint was peeling off. The customer called the painter, left a message and has yet to have a return call.

Flower or plant bedding

When working on planter beds or mulched areas, make sure to give at least four inches of ground clearance from any siding or trim so termites or back-splash doesn’t start a future repair service call. If you have vinyl siding, make sure you pressure wash the bottom of the siding to clear the weep holes. If you have a brick veneer finish on you home, don’t caulk the vertical gaps near the bottom of the wall, (no your brick mason did not forget to fill the joint), it to is a vent and weep hole. Just like you, your house has to breathe, if you’re not sure, ask someone qualified about your home construction.

Ceramic tile

Remember how you loved the new ceramic tile floor when it was installed and now it’s not looking so modern or you’re just tired of it. Most people tell you; you’re stuck with it forever, and that would be wrong. There are tools you can rent to break up the tile and sand the grout and mortar. You can wear knee pads and crawl around all day sanding, get filthy dusty and wake up sore the next day or you can, for around a $1.50 a square foot, pay someone who does it for a living. It’s the time value of money thing I harp about; what’s your time worth and do you really want to take tile up for a living? So what will your new floor be?

Cleaning your tile floors

When you walk across a ceramic tile floor or a no wax vinyl floor and feel your shoes sticking to the surface, here’s a tip to get rid of the film and stickiness. Add a cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water and damp mop the surface. It will break down the soap build up and shine your floors. It’s also good for removing water spots from shower doors and faucets.

Replacing grout around your ceramic tile

Ceramic tile is often the pride and a nightmare for many homeowners because of grout lines. The grout chips out, leaving voids, it gets mildew and yucky stuff between the tiles and you pull the shower curtain closed so your guest won’t see the mildewed caulking along the edges and corners. Sound familiar? Here are a couple tips for you so you can have pride in with your tile once more. For the large floor tile, you will need “sanded grout”. Prepare the grout lines by scraping the grout lines with a grout saw, (they are inexpensive and you can find them at any big box store). Remove all the loose chunks and after to have completed roughing up the grout lines, vacuum the area and especially the area where there are voids. When mixing your grout, do not try to use the entire bag, make small amounts. Do not make the mixture runny, it should have the consistency of smooth peanut butter. You can use a heavy sponge to force the grout into the grout line and voids. Once grout has been exposed to a floor or wall, never put the excess back into the container. Use a damp, (not wet), sponge or rag and wipe the area and remove any piled grout. After it dries, you will have to wipe it several more times to remove any residue. For small tiles, you will use “un-sanded grout”, remove all the caulking, loose grout and clean the area with a chlorine solution. Vacuum the area and prepare your grout the same as above. When working corners, use a putty knife to remove piled grout so can have sharp corners. Let it dry and wipe the residue away. If you must use caulk around shower valves and doors, use a good silicone caulk. Use it sparingly, run your bead, smooth it with your finger and wipe the residue off your hands, not the caulked area. Don’t get into a hurry, take your time and you will be very proud of your tile once more.

Caulking

You often hear of see me write about using caulk and two of the most often asked questions; which caulk to use and which caulk where? I use a painters caulking when I’m filling smaller gaps between trim and walls. There is no need to spend big dollars on caulking but be careful on marked down caulk in the spring, if cases have been frozen, some tubes will have lumps in them and it will only create a mess when trying to use them. Silicone caulk is used to seal and keep out moisture and I use this product around flashing and on top of splash blocks. This product will cause you grief when you try to paint over it because paint will not stick to it. Don’t use silicone to caulk joints in your shower; it will create another mess you will have to fix in six months. Use the right product for what it was designed to do and don’t always go by what the product info tells you it can do on the label, many times the information is for a quick fix and will lead you down the road of a higher cost later. Caulking can hide a number of sins but use the product sparingly and in the right areas.

 

 Stopped up bathroom drains

A slow or stopped up sink or bathtub is a continuous problem that I have to cure for our tenants. Most of the time, the problem is caused by hair catching on the stopper, which requires removing the stopper in both the sink and bathtub. The real problems come from an aggressive tenant that pours drain cleaner, to often, down the drain. Most drain cleaners are caustic and have an acid base which in a short time will eat away metal parts and becomes an expensive service call to replace stopper leavers, stoppers and if it’s old plumbing, brass and metal P-traps. Limit the amount of drain cleaner you use and use your tool box equipment, do a little research on line and fix it yourself. If you must call someone to fix a problem, clear the area away so the service person can get in and out quickly, their time is your money.

How to Square

Did you ever hear a carpenter complain about a building not being square? When homeowners ask me why something doesn’t fit after they measured it, it’s because it wasn’t square. So what is square? How do you square? If you have good schools and a fifth or sixth grader sitting around, ask them first. If you don’t have one of those, here’s your tip, it’s called; three, four, five. Before you start to build something that requires something to be square; start by measuring from a corner, three inches, feet or meters, what ever you want to use. Now, go back to the corner you started from and measure in the other direction; four inches, feet or meters, just as long as you stay consistent with what you are using. Now, measure from the top point of each measurement and it should be five inches, feet or meters. If it’s not five, adjust your lines, strings or whatever you are using to square your project. Do that at every ninety degree corner and you will have a square project. It’s called the “Pythagoras Theorem” and a fifth or sixth grader should know about it. If they don’t, maybe you should square your school up

Starting a Home Improvement project

Before you start on a remodeling project for yourself, do some research online, check out different products and ask several experienced people or contractors before you start. Don’t rely on answers, given to you, from clerks at the big box stores to be correct information. Here in Florida, if you think you might need a permit for a project, call the building department and ask, chances are you will. Learn what the permitting process consists of before heading to the building department. A little homework ahead of time will eliminate frustration and expense. It’s always, “know before you go”, or it will cost you more in the long run.

Which ladder to use

While doing your maintenance chores, there may be a need to use a ladder. Whether you need a step ladder or an extension ladder, make sure you use the correct ladder for your project. When preparing an extension ladder for use, make sure the ladder extends 2-3 feet beyond the edge of the area you are working on. When placing the ladder, make sure the grips on the bottom of your ladder are solid and emplace. Placing the ladder in position is as easy as placing your toes at the base as you face the ladder and the angle should be the length of you arms at your reach. When using a stepladder, check the stability and the weight capacity of the stepladder. Use your instincts when determining whether or not you feel safe on a ladder. If you lack confidence in using the ladder, don’t use it. Be safe and be smart, use the correct ladder for your project.

Electrical problems

When doing home inspections, one of the items on my list is electrical wiring problems that were done by the home owner, unlicensed people or a contractor that has no pride in workmanship. Here are a few examples of what I’m looking for; non-secured romex, taped joint connections, connections not in a secured junction box, exposed exterior wire not in conduit or wire in an interior wall that is exposed. Other common electrical problems is; incorrect wattage bulbs in fixtures, loose plug and switch boxes and overloaded multiple plug boxes over plugs. Incorrect wiring of GFCI outlets, open grounds or having a three pronged outlet installed on a two wire system; all these items cause future buyers and real estate agents to cancel contracts and walk away from an otherwise nice property. I find these problems on new and old homes; remember this, building inspectors only inspect about 10% of an entire project so a lot of things can fall through the cracks. Be proactive with your home and do an inspection for yourself. The items to assist you can be purchased at your favorite hardware store for very little cash. If you are not sure of what to look for, contact me.

Electrical extension cords

We all use extension cords from time to time and what we use and how we use them make a big difference. Make sure you are using the correct type of cord for the equipment being operated. Small 16 and 18 gage extension cords are ok with interior lamp but should never be used for motored appliances. When using an extension cord on an extension cord, always use the heavier cord at the source you plug into. Some of the questions you should be asking yourself before you use a cord are; how many amps will you be using or what is the current load of the circuit you are plugging in to? If you find yourself using a lot of extension cords throughout your home, maybe it’s time for an electrical upgrade or service call to install additional circuits. Extensions cords can make your life easier…easier to cause damage to the equipment you are operating or your home.

Smoke detectors

Daylight savings time should trigger us to change the battery in our smoke detectors. Whether your detector is hard wired or not, it has a battery. You also need to think about this; how old is your smoke detector? If it is over five years old, you might consider changing the unit out. Many detectors fail because of dust, pollen, or cooking and painting oils and pushing the test button only lets you know the warning device siren works. Our current code requires one detector in each bedroom above the door, (not near a HVAC feed or return vent), and one in an open hallway. Don’t aggravate yourself by putting one near the kitchen or a window or doorway close to a patio or garage. Be safe and make the change, so you can read more of my maintenance tips!

Recycle paint

Since I have been talking about painting for a while there is probably some old paint setting on a shelve somewhere around your home. If your latex paint has been frozen or is several years old, it may not bond when shaken or stirred. If you are going to dispose of it, don’t throw it in your everyday garbage. There are paint hardeners at your local paint store you can pour into latex paint to make it a solid so you can then dispose of it in your regular garbage. If you have less than quart of paint, pour a quarter cup of dish soap into the paint, shake it up then place the can with the top off into a five gallon bucket and flush it with water and pour it out in your yard. The best option would be to take your old paint to a recycling point so it can be utilized. Here in Alachua County, there is no charge for recycling your paint or other chemicals at the same time. You can also bring computers, TV’s and other electronics. So you can clean out your garage, storage area and protect our environment at the same time.

Maintenance Savings account

You should be saving about 2% of the value of your home to cover future maintenance cost. Your roof has about an 18 year life as well as your water heater and HVAC. Your flooring has a 5 year life and all that lifetime paint, about 10 years. About painting, most everyone doesn’t want to paint or pay someone to paint; they want to touch up paint. Unless you have the original paint, don’t try to match. Each company has different products with different chemistry for each base. It might be close but you will still notice a difference and remember, paint fades so that can of paint you have been saving won’t match either. When painting, don’t cheap out on the brushes and roller covers. The good ones hold and carry the paint and cheap ones are the reason paint is all over you!

Planning your painting project

For those of you who are planning a painting project in the very near future, here is a couple tips to help make your project flow a little better. If you plan on painting walls and using a paint roller, use the right cover made from the best material. Use a roller cover with a 50/50 wool blend, it carries and holds a lot better than the artificial material covers and you have fewer drips. Use a cover with the correct thickness, I often use a ¾ nap on flat walls and back roll as I go to remove roller lines. Try painting out of a 5 gallon bucket with a grid instead of using a paint pan, you’ll find it’s a lot less effort and easier to clean afterwards. If you are still sold on using a paint pan, put a garbage bag over the pan before you start. After you are done, pour out the paint that’s left and pull the bag off the pan so it turns inside out, keeping the paint mess enclosed and you don’t have to clean the pan.

More painting information

Many people look at a painting project, guess at how much paint is needed, head to a store, buy some paint, go back home and paint their project. After spending most of a day or weekend painting their project, they stand back, look at the project and feel good about themselves… for several months. Soon the paint starts to fail, they complain about the product or they’ll never shop at that store again and blah, blah, blah. Here is an example of three projects and three products and where to start. The projects are a porch, a deck and a driveway. Before any painting project is started, preparation of the surface is vital. In all three cases, pressure washing is recommended to remove any loose debris and in some cases, the use of detergent will be required to remove any oily residue. Make sure all surfaces’ are dry before applying any primer or paint. The garage floor requires a paint that will be heat resistant and will bond to the floor surface. It typically has a higher viscosity than normal paint and will require more product than a typical paint will. Look on the side of the containers and see what spreading specifications are and area of coverage. The deck will need to dry completely before starting. Check the bottom side of the deck to insure it is dry before starting. Because of being directly exposed to the sun, I recommend using a stain. After the stain has dried for a couple days, apply a wood sealer to finish the project. If there is already paint on the deck, apply a good bonding primer over the surface and paint with a porch paint. Porches are similar to a deck but require a finish that will hold up to daily foot traffic. Expect to paint a porch floor every other year to maintain a good luster. Make sure to use a good primer the first time. Painting is not for the mindless, it requires math skills, chemistry skills and the proper equipment to do the job correctly. If you don’t have the time or proper equipment, call a contractor. If a painter shows up and starts painting without prepping, ask them to leave and call someone else. If you have any questions…give me a call.

Fixing holes in walls or ceilings

When I do inspections of homes, after tenants move out, I am amazed at how many of them don’t have a smattering of how to fix nail holes in walls. I’ve had to overcome clear nail polish covering nail holes, tooth paste in holes and a myriad of other household items used to attempt to fix small problems. Here are a couple tips to use in your own home when changing a room or moving to anther location. Spackle paste is often one of the most misused products on the market and often causes tenants to argue over the charge-backs they receive from using it. For a small hole in plaster or sheet rock, preparation for the job requires using a putty knife to smooth any humps or remove any lose material. Using a small amount of spackle, fill the hole and smooth the excess spackle in a downward motion, with a damp cloth, smooth the area. You may have to repeat putting spackle on the hole depending how large of divot you have. Never use spackle on a hole larger than 1/2”, this will require joint compound and joint tape. For that larger hole, start by smoothing the humps and removing loose material. Using your putty knife, spread joint compound across the hole, you may have to apply it in different directions to give yourself a uniform level of compound. In the mean time, cut as much joint tape as you need to cover the hole and soak it in water for a couple minutes before applying it on top of the joint compound. Place the tape on top of the compound and smooth it out, removing any excess compound. Depending on how large the hole you are filling is, will determine how soon you can apply a thin top layer over the patch to finish the repair. I recommend using a 6” flexible putty knife for finishing and use only enough compound to spread a thin layer. After it dries, use a light sandpaper to finish. If you have holes in painted wood, use a putty to fill in the hole. Whether the surface is painted or stained, there is a product that will closely match a finish. If you have questions on larger projects, you can always ask me.

Refinishing wood floors or wooden furniture

The wear and tear on your wood floors or furniture may require you to refinish them, but a word of advice before you start. Make a determination if it’s wood or a picture of wood. This can be done by finding a spot that is not in plain view and test it with sandpaper or a rag with lacquer thinner on it. Rub the area lightly and if the patter disappears, you have a picture. Find an area where you can see an edge or end of the wood to determine the thickness of the veneer. You may find that the veneer is so thin that the pattern would be sanded away with the lightest sanding, especially with furniture. If you determine that you have wood veneer, thick enough to sand, find an area in a closet and sand the closet first to determine if the flooring has a baked on finish, for furniture, try the bottom of a drawer or door before proceeding. Apply the stain and finish product you choose and let it dry. If the finish is baked on, your efforts will not return you the finish you are looking for, in many cases, the finish will appear to have a spotty finish. Word of advice, if it’s old and real wood, tackle the project. If it’s new and imported leave it to the professional or leave it alone.

Lead paint warning

Lead paint was taken off the market in 1978 and for the most part, I believe that many products that had a lead paint finish was installed into homes well into the 1980’s. If you are doing any re-finishing of woodwork, from that era or older, please keep in mind about the welfare and safety of the little ones around you. There are three ways you can deal with lead abatement. You can remove the lead finish, prime and paint over the lead finish or just remove the effected material. You will find most of the lead in old wooden window wells, drip lines on the outside of your house, the cracks in the hardwood floors and stair treads. Keep in mind that many products imported have lead paint finishes on them; floor tile from Mexico, pottery from Korea and China as well as other products manufactured overseas as well as the red steel beam primer finish right here in the USA. If you are unsure about your older home and want to have a safe environment for your little ones, have your home tested by a certified lead inspector. Get educated on lead before you start a refinishing project.

Do I paint or do I hire it out?

If you are planning a painting project soon, you have a couple of questions to ask; do I paint this project myself or do I hire the project out? You could hire the crew that re-paints an entire 2 bedroom apartment interior in 2 hours and charges $350 and you furnish the paint, (don’t expect a lot of detail from those guys). A crew who paints a bedroom for $100 and takes a couple hours and furnishes the paint, (you can expect a fair paint job but you could have probably done just as well yourself). The guy who spends 2 days painting the same room and charges you $500 and you just are amazed at how the room looks. What level of quality are you willing to pay for and expect? What is your time worth, do you have all the equipment necessary to do the project and are you in shape enough to complete the project in the time you have available? I encourage you to write the check and enjoy the painted project for a few years.

Cleaning paint brushes

Cleaning paint brushes seems to be the biggest reasons people buy cheap products and throw them away after use. Cheap paint, a cheap brush equals additional cost, labor and aggravation. When cleaning your brushes, use a 5-1 tool to comb the paint out of the bristles then use a clean cut bucket with water and force the bristles to the water in a plunging motion. Keep changing the water till the water stays clear during plunging. Afterwards, use a solid object to tap the solid sides of the brush to remove the excess water from the bristles. If you have dried paint on the side of the bristles, use a wire brush and comb the bristles till the paint has been removed and rinse the brush again and knock the excess water out. You can trim curling bristles or bristles that paint will not clean off of. Never pull the bristles out, trim them. If you saved the sleeve, don’t put the brush into the sleeve until it has dried. A good brush will give you many seasons of painting if you take care of it.

Selecting a service provider

Something at your home is broken or out of adjustment, what do you do? If it is beyond your knowledge or you don’t have the correct tools to fix the problem, you will call someone. They show up, do their job and before they leave, they hand you a bill and you shake you head in disbelief at what you think is an outrageous charge. The problem is your problem; you didn’t know what it cost. The best time to find a service person is when you don’t need them. Ask your neighbors and friends for a referral of who they use and once you have a list of several service people, call them. Ask what their minimum charge and their hourly is before you need them so you don’t faint from shock. Keep your list of service people in you house folder and a copy of the bills from previous service calls so you know what to expect. Know before you call, have your list ready and do your homework before hand. The rule for service work is these three words; cheap, fast, and good. Pick two out of the three words and that is what you get.

Licensed and insured

Licensed and insured, you see the ads on their business cards, flyers or their trucks; but are they? Before you hire a handyman, you need to know this information; there is no Florida State license for “Handyman”, you are a contractor or you are not. Insurance, if you are going to hire a contractor to do work for you, ask for a certificate of insurance made out to you. Workman’s Compensation, same as an insurance certificate or if they are exempt, only 3 officers of the corporation are exempt. Do they have a physical address; you can’t chase someone down at a P.O. Box. It’s up to you to insure the person you are hiring is licensed and insured or qualified to do the work you are contracting them for. Check with the DBPR web site for license or complaints. If you have any questions, you can always drop me a line and I’ll answer them or direct you to where you can get the answers you need.

Lightning surge protection

When thunderstorms popup and lightning showers down in your area, is your home surge protected? Lighting does not always enter your home by being struck directly; it travels through wires and pipes and can do a great deal of damage to your electrical systems and appliances. One of the best ways to protect your electronics is to install surge protectors at different locations. I encourage you to contact your electricity supplier and check the cost of having them install a surge protector to your meter can. You can also purchase your own and install it yourself or hire an electrician to do it for you. You can also install surge outlets and surge protection for your phone, cable lines along with that surge protection strip you have your computer plugged into. By having several lines of defense, against stray lighting, can save you headaches and cash in the future. Before you buy a surge protector, do your homework and see which product will work best for you. A bargain surge protector may not be the best bargain when it comes to your electronics protection.

Fixing doors after new carpet is installed

This tip is for everyone who bought new carpet or is going to buy new carpet and after installation; your doors rub the carpet or won’t close. Don’t expect the installers to fix the problem, they just do carpet. You have to cut the bottom of the door off, no big deal. Lay the door on a flat surface, (saw horses work especially well for this) and measure up ¾” from the bottom edge. Use a straight edge or square to mark the line across the width of the door. Now, using a utility knife with a new blade, score the line with the knife blade using the same straight edge as a guide. Take masking tape and tape to the top edge of the score across the width of the door. Using your skill saw, carefully follow the taped edge, along the score or use something for a bridge so your line will be straight. After you cut the bottom off, finish the edge with a medium sanding sponge and touch up the finish as necessary. If you don’t think you can do it or have the correct tools, call me.

Preventing water damage

Some of the damage I see when I inspect homes is rotten carpet, padding, door jambs and decorative columns, especially along an outside wall. This typically comes from water settling along side the foundation and wicking up through the monolithic slab or stem wall. Some of the signs to look for will be; carpet edges curling back from the base trim, slight staining of the paint on the wall and a musty odor. On the exterior, look for paint bubbles or a chalky buildup along the foundation and a constant state of dampness of the ground or mulch. Before you go to the expense of a French drain system or having a professional landscaper scrap, cut and fill, take the time to check the slope of your property. Try installing raised flower beds or use backfill to direct water away form your foundation. Install plants to direct water away from your home and also help absorb the water. Termites are bad, water can cause as much or more damage to your home.

Preparing your HVAC system for pollen season

With the pollen season upon us, here are a few maintenance issues you will need to be doing so problems don’t arise a couple months down the road. Change the air filter in your air handler every other week, (if you are running your air conditioner), as the pollen will collect and plug the filter quickly. Check the drain line to the air handler to insure it’s clear at the top by the coils and at the discharge point. Pour some bleach down the tube to kill any algae growing along the walls from the pollen residue. When is the last time you had your HVAC coils cleaned? If it has been a while, schedule a HVAC checkup and ask to have that service done, it is not automatic during a service check. As the pollen collects, it molds and often pugs the coil and causes your fan to work harder and the system to run longer to cool your home. A small investment now will save you money over the summer cooling months.

Energy Conservation

Getting control of your energy consumption is getting to be more important than ever. Here are a few ideas and tips to help save more money in the future. Inspect your attic; make sure you have insulation where it was intended to be. If you see voids on side walls, staple it back into place. Make sure that insulation is not blocking air from entering from the eaves. If you live in an older home, check the depth of your insulation or look at the paper backing to see what R-level it is. Minimum code is R-19, I recommend R-30. If there are items stored in the attic, make sure the insulation is not being compressed. If the air in the attic seems stale or very hot on a warm day, you may need additional ventilation. I encourage you to install off ridge vents to make sure your attic breaths well. Check with your energy supplier and see what rebates they offer for replacing windows, water heaters and central HVAC systems. The time and money you invest now will save you more in the future. A low energy bill is something to be proud of.

Stop spreading your colds

Do you keep spreading a cold around in your house? This tip will take most of a day but you and your family will feel better for it. You will need a ladder and screwdriver, chlorine bleach and hot water. Remove your HVAC vent grills, (Returns and Feed), and wash them down in a chlorine solution. You can also wipe the dust away from where you removed the grill and clean the area with the chlorine solution. I would encourage you ozone your home for 24 hours to kill the dust mites and other creatures living in your trunk lines. You or your pets can not be in the house while you are operating the ozone generator. If you can’t stay away for 24 hours, 6-8 hours will help. Contact your HVAC contractor or contractor like me who does restorations to see what they will rent an ozone generator for. You will reap the rewards long afterwards.

Where is your air handler?

Where is your air handler for your HVAC system? Where is your return vents located? Are you getting enough air exchanges? Is your system bringing in dirt and fumes from outside? If your air handler is in the garage or attic, insure that the plenum and filter covers/doors are sealed so you won’t be pulling air from the garage or attic. If your air handler is in a closet, insure that you are not storing toxic chemicals, cleaning solutions or blocking a return vent for the air handler. Make sure the area above your air handler, where the plenum goes into the attic is sealed so you are not pulling air from the attic. Depending on the size of your home, you may only have one return vent. Make sure you vacuum the vent several times a year to remove collected dust and debris and make sure you have a clear path for the air with limited resistance. Make sure you have enough space between the bottoms of your doors and carpeting so your rooms receive enough air exchanges. Many of the newer homes being built have return vents in every room or a pass through vent above the door. Make sure the vent is not blocked with pictures or other items. Depending on the number of people and animals in your home will determine how often you replace your filter. I encourage you not to use the filters that you have to clean, as a lot of dust and debris pass through the filter and collect on the coils. After a while, the coils can become clogged and force your fan to work harder which could result in a failure of the system. Get your system checked every year and change your filters often. The small investment for service and maintenance will save you money in the future and keep you and your house healthy.

Planning a project

If you have a project and you don’t know whether to do the project yourself, answer the following questions; do you have the time to take on the project? Do you have the knowledge or experience? Do you have the correct tools? If you answered “no” to any of the questions, turn the project over to a professional. Now answer the following questions about hiring a contractor; what should the project cost? Who buys the materials? Is there permitting involved? How much control do you want to have with the project? The first thing you want to do before hiring someone is give yourself three choices of contractors, (unless you have experience with a professional). Determine if you want a turn-key or cost plus project. Have your plan worked out and written down so you and your contractor have a clear understanding of what your expectations are. Never pay upfront cash, never pull a permit for the contractor, and never buy material for the contractor. Finally, how long should the project take? Hold the contractor to a reasonable time frame and have a penalty clause for noncompliance. If you are not sure where to start, drop me a line and I will point you in the right direction.

Hiring a contractor

If a home improvement project was started in your home and has been sitting idle for a while, because you either lack the skill or have lost interest, it might be time to call upon someone who has the equipment, experience and time available to finish the project. Before you hire someone to finish the project, just follow these simple rules. If you would not feel comfortable talking with the person in a checkout line at the grocery store, don’t let them into their home. If the cost to finish the project is over $2500, make sure you check their license online or ask to see a current copy of their license. You can always call the building department and ask them if they are registered. If you are signing a contract, there are some paragraphs that are required by law to be in the contract and those paragraphs are there to protect you and the contract must be at least three pages here in Florida. You also need to know, oral contracts are legal in Florida and enforceable if the person is a licensed contractor. Never pull permits for anyone doing work on your home. Never pay in advance for material or labor and if the project requires permits, make sure all the inspections are being done and approved. Upon completion of the project, make sure you receive a completion certificate to file in your house folder. If you are not sure how to check or what to check for, give me a call.

Contractor procedures

Very often, simple projects turn into major projects and contractors are called in to remedy problems for the home owner who isn’t sure how to do a project or doesn’t have the correct tools. Procedures have to be followed in order to protect you from unscrupulous contractors or handymen and insure projects are completed to a minimum standard. Permits are nothing more than keeping record of repairs and inspections to your home and hopefully insuring minimum standards have been maintained. A recorded “Notice of Commencement” is a notification to the community that repairs are being done to your property. It’s generally up to the owner to record the Notice of Commencement, but a good contractor will have the form available and record it for you. A “Notice to Owner” is from a sub-contractor or material supplier informing you that if labor and materials are not paid for, a lien will be placed on your property. I encourage you to ask for a Notice to owner so you know who “all” the vendors and sub-contractors are. Insure all inspections are being done, look at the schedule of inspections and upon completion of the project, ask for a completion certificate. Ask for verification of payment of vendors and material suppliers and ask for a release of lien. So before you start your next major project, don’t be penny wise and pound foolish, hire a licensed reputable contractor. The cheapest bid from a handyman will cost you more in the future when your neighbors report your project and suppliers or an employee, who has never been paid, tells you that if they don’t get paid, they will file a lien, it’s your responsibility. I have just touched the surface on how projects are supposed to work, if you have questions, drop me line.

Is my electrical system working properly?

When you plug and electrical appliance, lamp or what ever into a socket; did you ever wonder if the socket is working correctly? You flip the switch and it works, all is well; right..? Maybe, not so much. Codes have changed over the years as well as outlets, wiring, breakers, GFCI’s and grounds. If you have an older home where you have two and three pronged plugs throughout the house, you might have a safety hazard because the secondary ground isn’t wired to anything. Check your plug to see if you have an open ground. In case of a surge or an electrical fault, current needs to get to a ground. If your plug has an open ground, an arc could take place inside your outlet box and the next thing you know, you’re filling out an insurance claim for a new home and belongings. The new code calls for arc fault breakers for bedrooms and no more than three outlets per breaker and hardwired smoke detectors in the bedroom and one in a common hallway. GFCI’s should be installed within two feet of a wet area and never plug something with a motor into a GFCI. Maintenance on your breakers needs to be done a couple times a year to insure they are working properly. Turn off your sensitive equipment or unplug them and flip each breaker a couple times to insure they are not frozen or the spring is not broken. When it comes to electricity, it’s always safety first. Do your checks and make sure each plug is wired correctly. If you’re not sure how to do it, give me a call.

Spring cleaning

Spring cleaning involves more than just cleaning out the closets, organizing the garage and raking the yard, it’s time for maintenance checks and tasks of the outside of your house. For those who have shrubbery around your house, trim the back side of the bushes you have at least two feet of clearance between the bushes and your house, this allows the exterior to breathe and slows down the decaying process of wooden siding. Clear the mulch away from the beds and give clearance from the ground to the bottom of trim and wooden siding a minimum of four to six inches. When replacing the mulch, check with local distributors for mulch or bark, instead of the box stores, you will save 30%-50% of the cost, including delivery and have more choices. This will also be a great time to check the bottom side of the siding and use a wire brush to scrape away any loose paint and soft material from the siding and trim. Prime and paint the areas you scraped with a good primer and paint. Yep, it will take an most of a day to complete the tasks pointed out but which would you rather do; enjoy a day outside making sure your home maintenance is done or waiting to call me to repair your home and paying me to fix it? If it’s the latter, drop me a line.

More spring cleaning ideas

It’s spring in Florida and spring cleaning just started so it’s out with the old and in with the new. If you do not want to have a yard sale to rid yourself of all your old clothes, furniture and household goods, drop me a line and I can direct you to organizations that will gladly take the stuff off your hands. All the people I recommend give the items to single moms who left an abusive relationship, families having relocated here to find a better way, former homeless veterans off the street and trying to make a new start and those that who are struggling to make it. My rule of thumb; if you have not used, wore or thought about the item within the last year, get rid of it! Remove the clutter from your home, give someone a fresh start and that my friends is the start of the new projects coming to your home!

Inspecting and cleaning your roof

When was the last time you inspected your roof? Do you know what to look for? Here are a few things you can look for and things you can do to extend the life of your roof. Keep the valleys clear of debris, leaves and seeds. Occasionally check the seal of the overlapping shingles to insure you can not lift the shingle. To resolve any issues, purchase a tube of wet/dry roof sealant and run a bead just under the valley seam. Check for loose or broken shingles and exposed nails, use the same sealant to seal the edges of the shingle or replace the shingle. Pound the raised nails back down and seal the hole with the wet/dry sealant. Check your lead plumbing boots to insure squirrels haven’t chewed the top edges or sides. You can use the wet/dry sealant if there are small holes on the edge. A solution to larger hole is to purchase another lead boot, cut part of it away and slip it over the old boot, which will keep you from removing the original boot and possibly creating a leak. After the pollen stops flying later in March and April and your roof is stained, you can clean it by using pool chlorine and a garden hose. Use a garden sprayer to spray the chlorine on the shingles. Start at the bottom and spray about a six foot wide section straight up the roof. When you reach the top of the roof, use your garden hose to spray the section you just sprayed down with chlorine, bottom to top, for a heavily stained area, you may have to double spray spots. Keep repeating until the entire roof is clean. This procedure will also kill any mildew or mold growing on your roof and give your home a fresh look. If you’re not sure of yourself going on the roof, give me a call.

Exterior doors

Doors keep the elements out of your house, keep you secure and welcome you home. They are often neglected and soon allow your money to escape through their cracks, start rotting at the base and create an unwelcome sight for anyone visiting you. Doors require annual maintenance and typically should only take an hour. First, check the hinges to insure the screws are tight. If you find a screw that will not tighten you may have to use a longer or larger screw. Make sure to use the proper screw designed for the material. Sheet rock screws are not made for securing doors to the jamb. The door seal often fails and requires replacement. To replace the seal, use a 2” putty knife or something similar, between the seal and the jamb. Twist the knife to force the base of the seal to withdraw from its groove. Pull the rest of the seal out and replace it with new seal. Check your threshold, if you have exposed screw heads, you can adjust the seal to the bottom of the door. Do not force the screws if they seem frozen, vacuum the dirt from the area surrounding the screw apply some 3-1 oil to the screw and let it soak in for a few minutes and try to turn the screw. Adjust the threshold so the sweep, on the bottom of the door, has a slight resistance. Check the sweep, if the seals are torn or missing, you can remove the door from the jamb and replace it with a similar product or one that goes over the top of the missing sweep. If you are in need of a new door, measure the width of the door first. Then measure the width of the jamb, (for 2×4 framed house, the jamb is 4 and 9/16th inches wide). To determine the swing of the door, place your back to the door on the exposed hinge side. Which hand touches the hinge, right or left? Which ever hand touches the hinge that is the swing of the door. The rest is up to you on how much you want to spend on locks, inserts, side lights etc… Take care of your door and it will keep you secure. If you have questions about your door or what to do, drop me a line.

More door information

Doors….One of the top service calls I make is for door problems. Here are a few things you can do to insure you can reduce door problems. Unless you have solid wood interior doors, don’t hang all your house coats on that hanger that goes over the top of your door. Most interior doors are hollow and have a very thin skin. Between the weight of the clothing and the humidity, you will start seeing your door warp or shift in closing patterns. Steel bi-fold doors… just say go away, get out of the 70’s and get rid of the floor track. They rust, they have lost their stability and it’s time to upgrade. Wooden louvered doors; please don’t brush paint them and when the slats get loose or start falling out, replace it. Exterior doors; If they are steel, you will have to sand and prime the exterior every couple years so it doesn’t start pitting or rusting. Pay attention to the fold along the edges where it is fasten to the wood frame, this is where it begins to rot. Pay close attention to where the jamb meets the threshold. This area should be inspected a couple times a year, primed and painted every couple years. Wooden exterior doors; expect to re-finish every couple years, after the original finish starts to fail, to protect the finish and keep the glued joints from separating. Once you start seeing separation of the glued joints, start shopping for that new door, it’s only a matter of time. If you have doors rubbing, it may require removing the casing and wedging the door jamb so it’s plumb and square again. Finally, when shopping for a door, you are going to replace the jamb along with the door. Make sure you measure the width of the jamb, know the difference between; a right hand or left hang swing. If all else fails… call me.

Flooring

The choice of flooring and where to put it drives many people crazy. If you have an active family and don’t take your shoes off at the door every time you enter your house, carpet may not be the best choice for you. Laminate floors look good at first but if a cheap product was installed, you will be able to see every seam and joint within a year or two. Wood floors look fantastic unless you have pets and kids and live an active lifestyle and very soon you’ll find pits and scratches all over the floor. Ceramic tile holds up well until you drop a skillet on it or it shows how dated it is in ten years and the cost to remove and replace it is, well…? Currently there are vinyl products on the market that offer a good wood like finish, easy to maintain and when they become damaged, you pull out a strip and easily replace it with parts you have left over from the install but you may not want it throughout the house. The basic rule of thumb for flooring, you will typically replace your flooring every 5-10 years. My recommendation is find a good mid-range priced product to install and understand how to maintain it. Stop trying to hide the worn areas and stains in your flooring and invest in a new product. Not only will it give you something to do for several weekends, looking for the best product and best price, but once you have it installed you will feel the difference in your home. If you have real hardwood floors, stop hiding them, get them refinished and show off the real value of a quality product.

Exterior trim

Exterior trim often has to be replaced because of lack of maintenance, infestation or damage. There are many products to go with these days and it’s up to the home owner on which product to use. Here is your choices for natural products; cypress lumber holds up to weather conditions but will need still has long term maintenance needs. Redwood cedar is similar to cypress; it’s less dense and it requires long term maintenance needs. It also has a tendency to bleed through paint and may require several coats of paint to cover. Pressure treated southern yellow pine is an alternative to cypress and cedar and holds up to weather conditions. Pressure treated lumber is usually of #2 grade lumber and has to be hand checked prior to purchase or use. Pressure treat will need a few weeks to dry out before you can paint it. If your present trim is wider than normal, (5/4), then you have a choice of cypress or cedar. Natural material can be custom cut and shaped, on-site for a custom look. There is alternatives to natural products that have less long term maintenance issues but still create other types of issues; Hardi-Board trim comes in standard and 5/4 thickness, has a 50 year warranty. You are stuck with widths of 4”or 6” and will have to customer order anything different. You can cut it with a regular saw blade but, there are blades out there specifically for Hardi-Board. What many people find out that long sections of the trim are very rigid and can break during installation or nails may blowout sections of trim while nailing. There is typically no re-use to Hardi-Board, if it ever has to be removed it will need to be replaced as a whole. Hardi-Board also has custom trims for you to choose from but will have to be special ordered and can be a little pricey. Prime-Trim is a paper/wood product with a hard primed surface. It works similar to wood, cheaper than wood but requires vigilant supervision at mitered joints and butt cut ends, exposed areas will need sealed and primed during installation to keep moisture from entering the material. There is now vinyl/wood trims on the market and as soon as I have experience with it, I will write about it. All the products come with both a smooth or rough finish and all need to be primed and painted and sealed to the building. So there is no such thing as a maintenance free trim, regardless of whether it’s a secondary part or is cast or formed in place. If you need more information about the trim material, drop me a line.

Buying or selling a home in some Florida counties

If you are selling or buying a home in Florida and your agent’s company is or will be using the FRBR contract, here are a few things you will need to know when it comes to home repair. If work was done on a home by a contractor and the permit was never finalized, under the FRBR contract, it will have to be. If improvements to a home were done that required a permit and one was never pulled, it will have to be permitted and inspected. It may be easier for someone have the property inspected and do an investigation of the history of the property prior to any listing or contract being signed. Solving the problem before it becomes a problem will show the professionalism of an agent. If you are not sure what requires a permit, contact your building department. If you need an inspection or have a problem that will need resolved, give me a call. It won’t be as bad as you think; it will stop all the surprises.

Getting your lawn mower ready

For those of us living in Florida, mowing our yards is a year round event with only a few weeks of non-mowing. So; when was the last time your lawn mower was serviced and what did it cost? This so often cost owners the time to load up the machine, take it to the shop and return it home with a bill over $75. There are only three things that you need to think about; the spark plug, the oil and the blade. Place your mower on a flat surface and turn it on its side. Remove the blade and inspect it for warp, cracks or any other deformities. Look for a square head plug and find the wrench that fits the head and loosen it. Have a pan available to drain the oil from the mower and put the oil in a sealed container. If you have already invested in a plug socket, remove the spark plug and take it to an auto parts store and have them match the plug. While you are there, pick up a quart of thirty weight oil and many parts stores will recycle the used oil for free, so give them your used oil. If your blade was damaged or needs replaced, many hardware stores carry replacement blades but if it was dull, you can sharpen it yourself with a file or you can pay a sharpening shop to sharpen your blade for a couple bucks. Replace the plug, put your oil in the mower oil reservoir, and tighten the blade and test run the mower. The cost should be less than $15 and you made the same number of trips.

Repair or replace a dripping faucet

That drip, drip, dripping faucet, driving you nuts at night, can either be an easy fix or an expensive proposition. Before you go out and start looking at faucets and deciding on that $19 bargain to bring home, check to see if your current faucet can be re-built. Here are a couple tips to help you decide. Before you start, shut the water off under the sink and make sure the pressure is off before starting any repair or investigation. Remove the handle and make a determination if your unit is plastic or metal. If you have a plastic unit, do not try to repair. If the integrity of your faucet is solid, change the seals and washers. If the handles are not to your liking, change the handles. If you are sold on having a new faucet and want simple maintenance, I suggest a single lever Delta. They are a decent quality, easy to maintain and will not put a large dent in your bank account. So what should it cost if you don’t care for Delta? A decent quality vanity faucet starts at $60 and goes up. If you purchase a plastic base faucet, you will be replacing it again within a few years. If you have chosen to buy a new faucet, make sure to replace your lines from the valves to ensure a trouble free install and a future trip back to the hardware store.

Replacing shower valves

If your shower valves are dripping and the handles, face plates are corroded, you can do one of two things. You can call a plumber and have them replace the old valves and replace the tile around the valves, (which will look worse that the old fixture covers), or you can just replace the stems and covers. Do not assume you can go to a big box store and replace your stems and covers, look for a plumbing supply store that plumbers use. If your face plates have the manufacture stamped, (Delta or Moen), these products are easily repaired by the novice homeowner. You will need a deep well socket, adjustable pliers, screw drivers and possibly Allen wrenches. Turn the water off at the main supply, turn the valves on and make sure the water pressure is off. Remove all the valve handles, covers and face plates. Slip the deep well socket over the stem and turn counter clockwise. You will need to take the stem to the plumbing supply store to determine who the manufacture is and get the correct stems, face plates and handles. Before putting it all back together, I like putting a little plumbers grease on the threads of the stem before putting them back into place. Just put your system back together in the opposite sequence you removed it. I encourage you to make a template of sequence so you will remember how it goes back together. If you can accomplish this, you will have saved yourself a couple hundred dollars or a couple thousand if you replaced the entire tile surround. You will have the look of new valves at a fraction of the cost of calling a plumber or contractor.

Water pooling in the bottom of the dishwasher

If you have water settling in the bottom of your dishwasher, try this first. Check to see if the drain hose is above the point where it enters the drain. There should be a loop or rise of at least 16” so water will not flow backwards into the dishwasher. If the hose is below the drain and you have enough slack, pull the line up and secure in a manner not to kink the hose and keep a long loop to the drain side. If you don’t have enough slack, it will require pulling the dishwasher out making the correction.

Garbage disposal not working

Garbage disposals account for many of the service calls our office receives on a weekly basis. Here are a few tips to keep your disposal problems to a minimum. Never put potato peelings, shrimp or crab hulls, shot glasses, soap dispensers, spoons, knives, forks, sponges, dishtowels or underwear in your garbage disposal. If you’re shaking your head right now, these are actual items I have removed from garbage disposals. If your garbage disposal does nothing when you switch it on, switch it off and hit the reset button on the bottom or side of your disposal. If it hums, quickly turn it off and use an Allen wrench to loosen the drive by inserting the wrench into the center drive at the bottom of the disposal, turning the drive counter clockwise then clockwise. Remove the Allen wrench and turn the disposal on. To keep the disposal sharp and smelling fresh, pour a ¼ cup of baking soda into the disposal and half a cup of white vinegar on top of the baking soda. Let it work for a minute, turn the faucet on and then the disposal. This will remove a lot of attached debris from the wall, screen and blades of the disposal. If you do not have the disposal wrench, you can purchase it at many of the big box stores for around $7 or you can buy an entire set of Allen wrenches for around $8. Just make sure you get the right type, (metric or standard), I suggest standard but it never hurts to have both.

Water Heater maintenance

When was the last time you did maintenance on your water heater? Most people will tell you never. Here are a few things you need to be doing to save you an expensive repair or replacement bill. Test the pressure relief valve and the water inlet valve a couple times a year to insure they are not frozen. If the pressure relief valve does not drain to the outside, place a pot or bucket under the exhaust so you don’t make a mess. Attach a hose to the outlet valve; turn the power off to the water heater, shut the water off and open the drain valve and the pressure relief valve. After the water has stopped draining, turn the water on for a moment and shut it off. Inspect the color of water draining from the hose to insure it is running clear. After draining and clearing the unit, tighten the drain valve, remove the hose. Turn the water back on to the heater and shut the pressure relief off and listen to the water filling the unit. Once you can’t hear the water filling the unit, open the pressure relief valve and release the air void, do this several times till all the air has been removed from the water heater. After the tank is completely, turn the power back on. You may have a rusty discharge from your faucets when you turn the water on but it should only last for a short while. Doing this will give your heater many more productive years of service and save you money on service calls.

Save money with your water heater

If you have an electric water heater, you’re spending way to much per year to heat water you are not using. Study the times you use hot water and how much cold water you use with your hot water. Install a timer on your water heater and set it to turn on a half hour before you need hot water, (morning and evening). You can always turn it on if you need more hot water, (when you have guests). Set the thermostat on the water heater to 125-130 or less. Your water heater will maintain enough hot water during the day to do hand washing or typical cleaning. This small investment will save you a couple hundred dollars a year.

Toilet tank maintenance

For all of you that hate to clean the toilet and put those chlorine tablets in your toilet holding tank or put that stuff in your tank to make the water turn blue…STOP IT! The chlorine eats at the rubber flapper and before long your water bill starts going up. It eats away at the bolts and washers that hold your tank to the base and a leak is soon coming. It wears on your float valve and soon it is either springing a leak or you are replacing it or, worse yet, you’re calling a plumber in to replace your toilet. If you want a clean bowl, pour a cup of white vinegar into the holding tank and add a quarter cup of baking soda to the mixture then flush the toilet. If you must use a chlorine product, keep it in the bowl and not in the tank.

Plumbing maintenance

Something you should be doing on a regular basis is turning the secondary shut-off valves to your faucets, toilets and water heaters. I often find valves frozen and upon freeing them, they leak from seals that have hardened. The next time you’re in your favorite hardware store, pick up a small container of plumbers grease, inspect your valves and put a small amount of grease on each shaft and turn back and fourth several times. Finally, where is the main water shutoff to your home? When water is spraying everywhere and your shutoff valves are frozen, you might want to know this information!

Building a deck or shed

Before you decide to build that deck, shed or fence, here are a few things you need to keep in mind. First thing; are you within the setbacks of your property line? Typically, local building codes have invisible lines you must avoid to keep from encroaching on your neighbor’s property, public utilities or right-of-way. Check with your local building department or zoning on what the setbacks are. Second; insure you are not placing your project over a utility. Just because you have a utility easement on the perimeter of your property doesn’t mean that the communication or gas line running through your yard doesn’t affect the entire neighborhood. There is a service, that is free, that will come out and mark utilities on your property. Third, is permitting; too often I hear the comment; “I don’t want the government knowing what I’m doing”. My comment is; pay now or pay later. If you encroach on your neighbor’s property, you either will have to remove your project or buy your neighbors property. Cut a utility and you get to pay for the repairs of that utility, plus double permit and fines. Do it the right way and increase the value of your property, do it the wrong way and pay through the nose to fix it!

Building your tool box

Start investing in good quality hand tools. Not those cheap hand tools you pickup at the flea market, real quality tools. Start with a #2 and #1 screw drivers, both Phillips and standard. The next tool should be adjustable pliers and adjustable wrenches. Many of your small home repair projects can be completed with those tools. Start expanding your tool box with different wrenches, both metric and standard. Many pieces of furniture are being assembled with star drivers and square headed drivers, as with the screw drivers, they also come in different sizes, check with your local hardware store or local tool supplier for the right size, if you have something that has a fastener in it, you need that tool. Don’t get crazy when buying tools, buy what you know you’ll use often, buy quality and have a deep respect for the tools you buy and keep them close. Good tools have a problem, they seem to grow legs…encourage your friends to read this transcript and advise them where they can purchase the tool they want to borrow.

Kitchen makeover for half of the cost

If you have grown tired of your kitchens appearance and the budget doesn’t call for a complete remodel, here’s a tip that will only cost about half. You can reface your cabinets, if the frames are in good condition and just replace the doors and drawer face. You can choose from a wide variety of finishes and some that look and feel like real wood. The doors and drawer face can be any style that you typically get when you order new cabinets. Don’t just let anyone to do the reface, some companies out there are charging what it would cost to redo your entire kitchen or have limited experience in reface. Shop around at various cabinet shops in your area and look at photos of completed projects. Ask the owner for the address and phone number of a former customer so you could stop by and see the work, personally. Most people will be excited to show off their new looking kitchen. Also check out the cost of replacing that counter top… will you go back with Formica or is it time to try stone…

Wooden cabinets need a face lift?

If your home has old wooden kitchen cabinets that need refinished and the budget doesn’t allow for replacement, here is a tip that will make you think twice about replacing your cabinets. Mix one part denatured alcohol and two parts tongue oil in a small bucket and mix together until you have a light brown mixture. Use an old T-shirt cut into small sections and wipe the solution over the surface of the doors and box frame. When you start getting a build-up on your rag, throw it away and get a clean piece. It may require a couple of coats to get the finish you desire but the results are outstanding and it won’t cost you $15K. You can also use the solution on refinishing antique furniture. For stripping off old dead finishes, do two parts denatured alcohol and one part tongue oil and use a fine steel wool to rub in, and then finish with the original formula.

Do you live in a sick house?

It’s not just mold from a major plumbing leak that makes a house, “a sick house”, but it can be a cause. Small leaks are a major contributor for mold; look for discoloration on the back wall of cabinets or sheet rock; there could be a plumbing leak in a wall. Check the lead stacks on your roof; squirrels like to chew on them causing rain water to run down the plumbing vent on the inside of the wall. If a house has been vacant for a while, sewer or septic gas, (methane gas), could be leaking inside a home; the remedy for that is fill all the P-traps with water and air it out. Check you clothes dryer line for holes or loose connections. Look for rodent droppings or if you detect an acrid ammonia odor or a sweet grainy odor, call an exterminator. Some of the signs of a sick house can be; an almost instant headache when entering a house or a roughness to your throat and an itching in your nose. Long term exposure can create mood swings, rashes, migraine headaches and other health problems. Stay on top of your maintenance inspections to off set any of these problems.

Maintenance file

Keep a file with all your appliance manuals, paint numbers and receipts, warranty information; it is imperative to your check book. If you were to call about a repair part for your dryer, the first question asked; what’s the model number? If you painted a room and six months later the paint started cracking; what would you do? Where are all those warranty documents and did you follow the specifications? I suggest you keep a small file box with separate files for each room. Plumbing fixtures are easily repaired if you have the model number to give a plumber prior to their house call. Paint matching can easily be done if you have the receipt with the proper base and mixture. Never throw your manuals away or keep them in a drawer… somewhere… When you need them the most, you’ll never find them. Along with your manuals and receipts, keep a list of service people with their contact information. Ask your friends and neighbors who they use as a service provider and get several suggestions. Have the information in your file so when a problem arises, you won’t panic, Having all the information at hand will save you time and money.

The electric kitchen range is the most often used and under maintained appliance and area in most homes. The reflectors, (often called drip pans), are shaped to reflect heat to the surface your cooking with. Keep it clean so it will reflect heat consistently. If something spills through the reflector, the entire top will raise so that area can also be cleaned. Gripe the bottom edge of the surface top and pull upward. This is also a good time to inspect the connectors where the coil burners connect. When cleaning the oven, use a good oven spray and let it work for a minimum of an hour before you start the process. Open the door slightly, grab the sides of the door and pull upward. The door should slide up and be able to be removed and make it easier to clean the area. Remove the drawer from the range and reach under the bottom edge of range and pick it up slightly and slide it out from its position to a point where you can clean the sides with your favorite de-greaser. After the cleaning process is completed, Pick the front up slightly and slide it back into place. To replace the door, pull the hinges back until they lock and guide the hinges into the door slots.

Many of you are going to ask me why I posted how to clean a stove. I have made hundreds of inspections and found very few people actually know how to maintain or clean their range, so I figured it needs to be addressed.

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