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Home Maintenance

This section will describe some of my experiences maintaining and renovating my home. This is my first home, so I have a lot to learn. Hopefully I can pass some of this knowledge along to others. First I cover essential items that are important to take care of on a routine basis.

Planned Upgrades

Exhaust Fan Replacement
Fantech Surface Fan Conversion Kit With FR100 - Inline fan
Plastic Soffit Vent For 4" or 6" Round Duct
4" Round Metal Elbow For Tight Bends - FEA4 - For soffit Vent

Patio Fan
Indoor/Outdoor Wall Fan - 3 Speed
Fan Misting System

Smoke Detector Replacement
At 10 years old it is time to replace those smoke detectors. See this article: Replace Smoke Alarms After 10 Years


Contractors That I Have Used

Action Door and Repair Specialists of DFW - 972-423-0168
Replaced my garage door spring. Overall I had a good experience with Action. Their maintenance person was knowledgeable and professional. However, they would not provide me with a quote over the phone and wanted 66% more than the other quotes I received over the phone. They did match the phone quotes which is why I let them do the work. Buyer beware on pricing and "up-selling".

Plano Door Service - 972-422-5644
Deserve a plug since it was their phone quote that Action matched.

General Cleaning Tips

Concrete Cleaning

Making Your Concrete Driveway More on the White Side - Oil and rust

OIL
1. Using a stiff long handled brush, scrub stain with concentrated detergent suds. Rinse well with hose. Dry and repeat if necessary.
2. Sprinkle "dishwasher" detergent (dry) on wet concrete. Let it stand a few minutes; pour boiling water on area. Scrub and rinse. Use rubber gloves on hands.
3. Commercial Product: One brand is Garage and Driveway Cleaner by Red Devil Co. available in paint or/and hardware stores. It can also be used on blacktop surfaces. Other similar brands may be available in your area.
4.a On wet oily surface of concrete, sprinkle with trisodium phosphate. Allow to stand 15 to 30 minutes,then scrub with stiff brush and hot water. Rinse with clean water. Do not use on asphalt.
4.b Dissolve a cup trisodium of phosphate in 1 gallon of hot water. Pour over stained cement surface generously and allow to soak 15 to 20 minutes. Scrub vigorously with stiff brush or broom. Rinse off with hose. Repeat if necessary. Do not use on asphalt.
5. Scrub the concrete with a grease solvent to remove as much as possible of the grease stain. Have good ventilation and avoid spark or flame as solvents are flammable. Benzine, often recommended, can ignite, just from a spark from friction or rubbing.
6. Mix 1 part sodium citrate to 6 parts water and 6 parts glycerine and add enough whiting or fuller's earth to make a thick paste. Spread paste on oil or grease stain. Let stand 1 week. Add new paste when it dries. Flush with water after brushing dry paste away. Repeat if necessary.

RUST
Make a paste of 1 part sodium citrate crystals to 6 parts water and enough whiting or fuller's earth to make a paste. Spread paste on rust stains and allow to dry. Scrape off. Rust should be removed. Repeat if necessary.

Glass Shower Door

My glass shower door was miserably water stained. I really don't think it is calcium because it does not respond to vinegar at all, zero. I found some tips while googling. I tried a couple of the easier ones, but none worked. I finally settled for the hardest option. This involves polishing the glass with a fine grit, polishing pad and electric sander. I purchased Weiman glass cook top cleaner and blue souring pads (DONT USE THE RED ONES). With the pads stuck to my velcro sander, I applied a liberal amount of cleaner and then held the sander to the glass with only medium pressure. I found that heavier pressure did not work. I think it is because the pad compresses too much and does not give a good scouring surface. This takes a long time..... My fairly small shower required about 8 pads, 1/2 the bottle of cleaner, and about 3 hours. One trick that I believe helps is to apply the cleaner to the pad and sand a small area (10 sq. in.); keep sanding the same small area until the cleaner dries. It will eventually power and completely disappear from the glass. Heavily stained areas take 3 or 4 applications. This makes a big mess out of the walls and your sander, but it all cleans up really easy with water; you might place a towel on the floor under the door. I just want to warn you not to place too much pressure on the glass; shower doors are tempered making them very brittle and easy to break.

Wood Floors

Cheap floor cleaning alternative try mixing 1/2 cup of white vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water

Landscaping

Yes, landscaping is essential. Just ask your neighbors. See my entire section on Landscaping.

Air Conditioning

Air Filters
Need I say that they need to be changed routinely? Well apparently some people do not realize exactly how important this is.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Even families with new heating systems should invest in at least one carbon monoxide detector. They resemble and function similar to smoke detectors; best of all you can pick them up almost anywhere and they are cheap. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that your heating system can leak into your home if the heating chamber cracks due to age or a defect. Further, heating systems that are physically in the home, vs. in the attic, can have blockages or restrictions in the exhaust flue that causes carbon monoxide to backup into the home. Something as simple as a bird's nest can block the exhaust.

Evaporator Algae Buildup
Algae build up in the air conditioner evaporator pan and drain pipes can cause serious water damage to your home. Common bleach as well as several commercially available chemicals will help prevent the build up. My builder told me to pour a little bleach into an open drain pipe in the attic once a year. This will keep the algae out of the pipes, but will not help with the pan. Unfortunately there is no way to access my evaporator pan since it is in a closed box. The best bet is to place algaecide tablets in the pan that slowly dissolve over several months, but alas that requires access to the evaporator pan.

Maintenance
You should have your system inspected by a licensed service company once a year. They should clean the outside unit, check the refrigerant levels, inspect the heat chamber for deterioration, and chemically treat the evaporator pan for algae. If you are brave, like me, you can clean your own condenser (the outside unit). I purchase a can of condenser cleaning foam from my home improvement store, turn off the unit, pull the outside switch, remove the fan, spray the outside, use a hose to wash from the outside, then from the inside.

Garage Door

I have a steel sectional overhead type door. This information may not apply if your door is different.


I'll have to admit that the garage door probably receives the least amount of maintenance of any piece of equipment in my home. But as I found out the hard way, proper maintenance can keep your door working and extend the time between costly repairs. I had an encounter with the "door man" that left me better educated; it only cost $300 which I hear is cheap.

Lubrication
Lubrication is the key! I lubricate my door at least once a year. Unfortunately I did not know that the torsion spring ALSO needed to be lubricated! After 5 years of moderate to heavy use, the torsion spring broke; and boy was it loud! I had been noticing a loud screeching noise when opening and closing the door, but my attempts to lubricate the door did not seem to make it quieter. Turns out it was the spring making all that noise and eventually the binding and sticking caused the spring to fail. I'm told that eventually all torsion springs fail, but I can't help but think the spring would last much longer if lubricated. The builders that built the neighborhood I live in used plain steel springs which tend to rust causing them to stick and bind. Some older homes that I have looked at since my run in with the door man all seem to have zinc springs. Leave it to my builder to go cheap. These steel springs especially need to be oiled, often. Hummm, maybe I should tell the other 985 homes in my division?

I lubricate with oil, just about any kind of oil, although I imagine that heavy grease would tend to stay in the rollers longer. I was told by the "door guy" that I should use a light oil like 3 and 1 oil. He said that most of the sprays were bad because they had other things besides petroleum in them, except of course for the spray that he had which was just petroleum based. I decided to just use my trusty can of 3 and 1. This is a little tougher because I have to "rub" it on the spring, but it works well for all the other joints and rollers. The track that the opener runs on should have much heavier grease more like car chassis/bearing grease. Good low temperature grease will make sure the lubrication works in the cold. The door guy told me that for about $70 his company would come lubricate, adjust, and perform all the safety inspections on my door. He recommended an annual appointment.

Garage Door Balance
The door balance should be checked routinely. This is actually the best preventative maintenance just after lubrication because it can detect both safety and maintenance problems. When operating the door by hand, if the door is hard to move or sticks even the slightest bit then adjustments or repairs are necessary.

To test the balance, just unhook the garage door opener and try to move the door by hand. All modern openers can be disengaged easily by pulling a rope where the door bracket attaches to the opener track. Make sure the door is closed when disengaging just incase the balance is off, otherwise the door might come crashing down. The door should be easy to open with one hand and should not open or close on its own. Test the door balance in several different locations. The door should remain where you place it without making any significant movement on its own. Make sure the door does not stick or bind in any position and that it does not try to open or close on its own since this is a safety problem.

Garage Door Opener Adjustments
Check your door opener owner's manual, if you still have one. You will find that they recommend checking the adjustments routinely. My opener manual actually recommends monthly safety checks! Hummm, I'll leave it to you to decide how often to perform these checks. One bit of caution, the information I provide here is general in nature and should absolutely not be used without consulting the owner's manual for your own door opener. Some doors may require additional checks or other procedures that are different from the one in my house. The information below is mostly designed to convince you that these checks are important and should be performed on a routine basis. If you are lazy like me, but have more money than I, you can contract a professional door company to perform maintenance on both the door and the opener for a small fee.

Reverse test - Your door should stop and reverse if it encounters a fixed object. My manual said to place a 1" object on the ground and close the door. The door should stop and reverse direction. I also witnessed a person from a professional door company who stood under the door and allowed the door to close on his shoulder. Upon striking his shoulder the door stopped and reversed. Of course if you get hurt trying this then blame that door guy.

Other adjustments - ANY time you have your door serviced for anything more than lubrication, it is important that all of the adjustments on the opener are checked. The "door guy" told me about a family that had a new opener installed. The installation company did not set any of the adjustments. Some time later the mom accidentally closed the door on her car and since the pressure settings were at their maximum the door did substantial damage to the car. Imaging what would have happened if the door hit a child or pet instead of the car.

Repairs
I recommend that you use a professional door company for any repairs. If the door sticks or fails any of the safety adjustments, you should have it looked at right away. As you can tell from the rest of this site, I am a big do it yourself kind of guy; but I let the door guys adjust and repair my door. There are just too many safety concerns.

I, of course, learned the hard way about lubricating my steel torsion spring. I had the single spring replaced with two smaller, zinc springs. The zinc springs do not rust which should greatly extend the service life. I let them install two springs so that if one spring breaks, half or more of the door load is still supported by the other spring greatly limiting the damage a falling door can cause.

One word of caution about the door guy, don't let them gouge you or sell you something you don't need. I collected a couple of quotes over the phone for a Saturday installation, but one company did not want to quote over the phone. When they showed up they wanted $500 for two zinc springs with a lifetime warranty. I told them thanks, but another crew would be there in an hour and quoted $300 at which point the $500 quote suddenly became $300. They seemed to be a good reputable company so I let them do the work. Of course then they tried to sell me rollers. Well you see, they told me, look how wobbly these rollers are. I'm no bearing expert, but I think that as long as the rollers are not coming apart and the door does not bind or stick in any way, then the rollers are fine! Just keep them lubricated.

Toilets

Toilets! Why on earth would toilets require maintenance? Well believe it or not a toilet can drive your water bill through the roof. Proper maintenance of those things will keep your water bill down. Just watch for water that appears to be constantly trickling into the bowl. This is a sign that the toilet needs adjustments or repair. The three most common items to check are the stopper deterioration, valve deterioration, float level, and the bowl fill pipe location.

Stopper Deterioration
The rubber material the stopper is made of will eventually deteriorate and become soft. It might even disintegrate. The stopper will then begin leaking water into the bowl. Just remove the stopper and take it to your favorite home improvement store to find a replacement.

Valve Deterioration
The rubber material the valve is made of will eventually deteriorate and become soft. It might even disintegrate. On my toilets I just removed three screws on the top of the valve and removed the rubber diaphragm. Again take that part to the store for an exact replacement.

Float Level
The valve seems to wear from time to time requiring an adjustment in the float level. There is a set screw on top of the valve that controls when the float cuts off the water. Just turn the screw a little and retest with a flush. Mine has a water level line on the overflow tube that I use to adjust the water height.

Bowl Fill Pipe Location
This one is actually an installation adjustment that my builder messed up. When the toilet is flushed, a small fill tube carries water directly into the overflow tube, the tube that is open at the top, to refill the bowl. If the bottom of that fill tube is lower than the water line when the tank if full, the fill tube will constantly siphon a small amount of water out of your tank into the bowl. Just raise the fill tube up or cut a small amount of it off to make sure that it does not extend too far.

Caulking Tubs

Keep those tubs and showers caulked or you will be cursed with mold! Once you have the old caulk out of the seam, liberally use a 20:1 bleach solution to kill any mold that might be behind your caulk and let it sit overnight to dry before applying new caulk.

In my home (and possibly the other 985 homes in the area), the builder did not use caulk between the shower tile and the shower floor pan; they used tile grout. Any good mechanical engineer or experienced tile person will tell you that tile and plastic expand at different rates as the temperature changes. As a result the grout cracks and falls out potentially causing a bunch of water damage. This joint needs an elastic caulk. If you have grout in this joint, I suggest you remove it and caulk the joint now before you see water damage. I managed to catch it early, but some of my neighbors spent hundreds of dollars fixing their water damage.

Painting Outside

I'll update this as soon as I manage to find a good painting crew.


Contributors to this page: michael .
Page last modified on Sunday 26 of July, 2009 18:13:03 CDT by michael.