13 DIY Tips

Good Afternoon,

It’s tempting to disregard the steep price tag and hire a contractor  rather than doing them yourself. Home repairs can seem complex and intimidating to the uninitiated, and fear that your own attempts at fixing that leaky faucet or drafty window will cause further damage may further discourage you from going DIY.

However, having a home maintenance plan can make a huge difference in your bank account. And, fortunately, performing proper home maintenance does not require a lot of specialized know-how or training, nor does it require a lot of time or money.

Simple Home Maintenance Tips

1. Toilets

Water leaking from your toilet tank will not only cost you money when it comes to your utility bill, but it can also cause water damage to your bathroom floor and premature wear of your toilet’s internal workings. To find out whether your toilet tank is leaking, add some red food coloring to the water in the tank. Come back in about an hour and see if the water in the bowl is pink. If it is, you have a leak.

If you find that your toilet is leaking from the tank to the bowl, the flapper needs to be replaced. To change your toilet’s flapper, first shut off the water supply to your toilet. To do this, simply turn the water valve located directly behind the toilet. Remove the tank lid and flush the toilet in order to empty the tank. Use a towel or sponge to mop out any excess water left in the tank. Remove the flush chain from the lever, and then slide the old flapper up off the overflow tube. Slide the new flapper in place over the overflow tube, reconnect the chain, and turn the water supply back on.

toilet cistern

2. Faucets

The main cause of leaky faucets is worn out washers. The washers inside of the faucet handles are rubber and tend to wear out quickly. Replace them by turning off the main water supply, unscrewing the leaky handle that controls the flow of water to the spout, removing the old washer, and dropping in the new one.

leaky faucet

3. Washing Machine & Dryer

It is important to regularly inspect your washing machine water supply hoses for leaks. One of the top reasons for insurance claims is for water damage caused by leaky washing machine supply lines. Inspect washing machine water supply lines at least annually and replace them every three years if they are plastic. If you notice that the metal ends of your water supply lines are discolored or rusty, replace them immediately.

Faulty washing machine drain hoses are as important as water supply lines when it comes to keeping water off of your floor and in your drain where it belongs. As with supply lines, regularly inspect the ends of your washing machine drain lines for discoloration or rust, and replace them immediately if you find evidence of leaking.

Additionally, check the snugness of the drain lines by using a crescent wrench or a pair of pliers. You should not be able to tighten the line any further if the line is properly tightened. Plastic lines should be replaced every three years.

When it comes to your dryer, it is important to make sure that you regularly clean your lint screen in order to prevent fires. Not only will a clean lint screen prevent fires, but it will also increase the life of the heating element. Physically remove the lint from the screen between each load of laundry. Also, be sure to remove fabric softener residue by washing the screen with warm water and dish detergent once per week.

fix washing machine

4. Water Heater

There is nothing more frustrating than turning on the hot water in your shower and instead receiving cold water. Water heaters, like other appliances, need maintenance to increase longevity and reduce the possibility of damage.

Water has sediment suspended in it, and as the water sits in your water heater, these particles will often settle to the bottom of the tank, causing damage to the floor of your water heater. At least once per year, drain the water from your water heater and clean the inside surface of its floor.

To drain your water heater, first turn off the water supply and power to the water heater. For electric water heaters, turning off the power means that you simply flip the circuit breaker to the “off” position. For gas water heaters, turn the thermostat setting to the pilot position.

Next, connect a water hose to the drain fitting at the bottom of the tank and put the other end in a place, such as your driveway, where the draining hot water won’t cause any damage. A typical garden hose is a direct fit to the drain fitting. Turn on all the hot water faucets in your home and then open the drain valve on the water heater. Turn the water supply back on with the drain valve still open to remove any built up sediment in the bottom of the tank. Then close the drain valve, refill the tank, and turn the power back on.

water heater

5. Plumbing

In order to keep water flowing freely through your pipes, keep the following things in mind:

  • Accumulating fats and oils are the main cause for clogs, so never pour fats or other oils down your drains. This includes oils that are not solid at room temperature. If you accidentally spill oils or fats down the drain, run hot water down your drain along with a healthy serving of dishwashing liquid. The soap will emulsify the fat or oil and move it on down the pipe, preventing a clog.
  • Get a hair strainer for the bathtub drain. If fats and oils are the main source of clogs in the kitchen, hair is the primary culprit in the bathroom. If you have a strainer, make sure that you remove any accumulated hair from it following each shower. This will reduce the amount of hair that finds its way through the strainer and into your plumbing.
  • Skip the Drano. Though the acids it contains can help unclog a drain, they also cause significant damage to your plumbing, including premature leaking. This can lead to costly repairs later on. If your bathtub or toilet is completely clogged, use a small drain snake – which you can purchase at any hardware outlet – to pull the offending clog to the surface. If your kitchen sink is clogged, try plunging it before trying to snake the drain. If you cannot remove the clog using a drain snake, call a professional.
unclog drain

6. Air Conditioning

Air conditioners are among the most overlooked appliances when it comes to performing regular home maintenance. However, they can be one of the most costly appliances to repair.

Regularly inspect the condensation hose to make sure that water can flow freely from the line. If there is standing water where your condensation line drains, create a drainage path using a small garden trowel and line the path with gravel to keep mold and algae from forming, which can be a serious health hazard when the spores are drawn into the appliance and blown into your home.

Additionally, keep the screen around your air conditioner free from debris to keep air flowing easily. This will prevent your air conditioner from using more power than necessary to keep your house cool and keep the internal parts from wearing out too quickly.

fix air conditioner

7. Humidifiers

Some climate control systems have in-duct humidifiers that help keep air moist and healthy during the winter when artificial heat systems are in use. But when these systems aren’t working properly, they become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, which can cause serious air quality issues.

At the end of each winter season, it is important to drain the unit and close the water valve to keep water from stagnating in the system. Also, cleaning the reservoir with a mixture of water and white vinegar helps to keep mineral deposits to a minimum.

8. Air Filters

Change the air filter in your central heat and air unit often, especially during peak usage months. Thirty days is the absolute longest you should ever leave an air filter in place; two weeks is maximum for high-usage months.

Using cheap fiberglass filters is actually preferred as opposed to more expensive HEPA filters for two reasons: First, replacing the more expensive filters often isn’t cost-effective. Second, the fiberglass filters actually allow for more air to flow into your climate-controlled unit, reducing the amount of energy needed to effectively heat or cool your home.

replace air filter

9. Paint

You can easily give your house a facelift by repainting the interior. However, repainting the entire interior of your house can be costly and difficult to accomplish. You can save both time and money by strategically touching up your paint job every so often. The first thing you need is a spot-on color match. The only way to get this is to save paint from your current paint job for future touch-ups. If you have leftover paint, simply roll the paint over the dirty spots on your walls. When the paint dries, it will dry perfectly, leaving you with a wall that looks as though you just painted it.

If you don’t have any leftover paint, you can still touch up your walls, though your efforts will be more labor intensive than spot painting. Take a sample of your color to your local hardware outlet and have your paint tinted to match. When you are ready to touch up your walls, paint the dirty wall from corner to corner, being careful to keep the new paint off any surface you aren’t looking to touch up. If there is a shade difference, you won’t notice it, even if the wall you are painting butts up against another wall.

If you are trying to cover up nicotine-stained walls, you will need to apply a stain blocker to the walls before applying paint. Nicotine will prevent your paint from adhering properly to the wall surface and will cause bubbles. Additionally, if stale smoke or other odor is an issue, add a few drops of vanilla to your paint. This will help combat odors that have seeped into your drywall.

painting

10. Refrigerators

The main component of your refrigerator that should get your attention is the door seals. Keeping your door seals tight will reduce the amount of energy it takes to keep your food cool or frozen, but will also keep your refrigerator working efficiently, preventing premature wear on internal parts.

To test the door seals, close the door on a dollar bill and attempt to pull it out with the door closed. If you cannot easily pull the dollar bill out from the door, your seals are in good shape. However, if the bill slides out without much resistance, it’s time to replace the seals. You can purchase new seals from any home repair outlet store.

Also, if you have a refrigerator that has coils along the back, periodically vacuum these coils to remove dirt and dust build up. These coils contain the coolant the refrigerator uses to keep the internal temperature cold. If they become dirty, they won’t work efficiently and your refrigerator may stop cooling altogether.

As a general tip, keeping your refrigerator full uses less energy than trying to cool when it’s empty. Therefore, keep as many items in your refrigerator as possible to help reduce energy costs.

refrigerator door

11. Drafty Windows

Drafty windows are a major culprit of high energy bills in the summer and winter months. Periodically check the condition of the caulk line that holds your windows in place. If the caulk appears to be dry, cracked, or otherwise weathered, remove the old caulk with a box cutter or other sharp knife and run a new bead of caulk along the seam.

For added utility bill savings, you can further insulate your window by applying an insulating window film over the glass. These methods cost much less than the price of replacing your windows and implementing green energy technologies in your home.

windows caulk

12. Gutters

While gutters may go practically unnoticed when you look at your house, they are the main line of defense between your foundation and siding and the elements. Gutters are designed to capture water and debris runoff from your roof and divert it away from your foundation, and one of the main causes of water accumulation in basements is a lack of gutter maintenance and proper water diversion.

Clean your gutters at least once per year by physically removing debris from the channels and rinsing them thoroughly by using a garden hose. Avoid installing gutter guards – not only do these not adequately prevent debris from entering your gutters, they also make it extremely difficult (if not impossible) to properly clean your gutter system.

Also, be sure to regularly check that your gutters are properly affixed to your fascia boards, and replace any sections that appear to be damaged or leaking.

cleaning gutter

13. Roof

Periodically check your roof for damage. Damaged, discolored, or gravel-less shingles should be quickly replaced to prevent the need to replace your roof, water-damaged trusses, or drywall when you finally discover a leak. During the inspection of your roof, pay special attention to shingles that surround skylights, vents, and chimneys, as these areas are the most leak-prone.

Please give us a call to speak to one of our agents today!

Sincerely,

Scott Myers, Century 21 Scott Myers Realtors

(210) 479-1222

small roof repair

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Safety Home Winter Tips

Hello Everyone,

Here Comes Winter ! I weanted to share with everyone a great safety article to stay safe during this winter season.

Read some of these good tips to make sure your home is safe.

Home Safety

Family Disaster Plan

Families should be prepared for all hazards that affect their area and themselves. Follow these basic steps to develop a family disaster plan:

  1. Learn your communitys warning signals.
  2. Meet with your family to create a plan. Pick two places to meet: a spot outside your home for an emergency such as fire, and a place away from your neighborhood in case you cannot return home (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school). Choose an out-of-area friend as your family check-in contact for everyone to call if the family becomes separated.
  3. Implement your plan. Post emergency telephone numbers by the phones. Install safety features in your house such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Inspect your home for potential hazards and correct them. Have your family learn basic safety and first aid measures. Make sure everyone knows how and when to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency medical services phone number. Have disaster supplies on hand.

Home Emergency Supplies

Winter has arrived and you should stockpile the following supplies in the event a winter storm or power outage prevents you from leaving your home.

survival kit
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
  • Emergency non-perishable foods that do not require refrigeration
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Bottled water
  • One week supply of essential medicines
  • Extra blankets and sleeping bags
  • First aid kit and manual
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Emergency heating equipment, used properly

Winterize Your Home

Take the time now to get your home ready for the winter season by following these tips:

  1. Have your heating system checked by a professional annually. This will ensure that your system is working safely and efficiently which, in turn, will save you money. If you heat by wood, clean your fireplace or stove. Have your chimney flue checked for any buildup of creosote and then cleaned to lessen the risk of fire.
  2. Make sure your home is properly insulated. If necessary, insulate walls and attic. This will help you to conserve energy and reduce your homes power demands for heat.
  3. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out.
  4. Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside. This will provide an extra layer of insulation, keeping more cold air out.
  5. Inspect and flush your water heater.
  6. Clean gutters. Leaves and other debris will hamper drainage.
  7. Replace batteries of smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors. If you did not do it when you set the clocks back, do it now.

To keep pipes from freezing:

  • Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of old newspapers
  • Cover the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture
  • Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing
  • Know how to shut off water valves

Staying Warm Indoors

If your heat goes out during a winter storm, you can keep warm by closing off rooms you do not need.

  1. Use only safe sources of alternative heat such as a fireplace, small well-vented wood or coal stove or portable space heaters. Always follow manufacturers instructions.
  2. Dress in layers of lightweight clothing and wear a cap.
  3. Eat well-balanced meals.

Losing your heat when winters winds are howling is not pleasant. However, by following these simple tips, you will weather the storm more comfortably.

Protecting Water Pipes

To prevent the mess and aggravation of frozen water pipes, protect your home, apartment or business by following the simple steps below.

Before Cold Weather

  1. Locate and insulate pipes most susceptible to freezing, typically those near outer walls, in crawl spaces or in the attic.
  2. Wrap pipes with heat tape (UL approved).
  3. Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside where pipes are located.
  4. Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.

When It’s Cold

  1. Let hot and cold water trickle at night from a faucet on an outside wall.
  2. Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to un-insulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall.
  3. Make sure heat is left on and set no lower than 55 degrees.
  4. If you plan to be away: (1) Have someone check your house daily to make sure the heat is still on to prevent freezing, or (2) drain and shut off the water system (except indoor sprinkler systems).

If Pipes Freeze

  1. Make sure you and your family knows how to shut off the water, in case pipes burst. Stopping the water flow minimize the damage to your home. Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent.
  2. Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
  3. Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.

If The Lights Go Out

flashlight

If you lose electrical service during the winter, follow these tips:

  1. Call your utility first to determine area repair schedules. Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate power has been restored.
  2. To help prevent freezing pipes, turn on faucets slightly. Running water will not freeze as quickly.
  3. Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning:
    • DO NOT operate generators indoors; the motor emits deadly carbon monoxide gas.
    • DO NOT use charcoal to cook indoors. It, too, can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
    • DO NOT use your gas oven to heat your home — prolonged use of an open oven in a closed house can create carbon monoxide gas.
    • Make sure fuel space heaters are used with proper ventilation.
  4. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to help reduce food spoilage.

Generator Safety

Electric generators can provide you with piece of mind and convenience when you are faced with a temporary loss of electric service.

Follow these safety guidelines when operating a generator:

generator
  1. Before installing a generator, be sure to properly disconnect from your utility electrical service. If possible, have your generator installed by a qualified electrician.
  2. Run generators outside, downwind of structures. NEVER run a generator indoors. Deadly carbon monoxide gas from the generators exhaust can spread throughout enclosed spaces. Install a carbon monoxide detector.
  3. Fuel spilled on a hot generator can cause an explosion. If your generator has a detachable fuel tank remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.
  4. Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Most of the small, home-use portable generators produce from 350 to 12,000 watts of power. Overloading your generator can damage it, the appliances connected to it, and may cause a fire. Follow the manufacturers instructions.
  5. Keep children away from generators at all times.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent, deadly killer claiming about 1,000 lives each year in the United States. Such common items as automotive exhaust, home heating systems and obstructed chimneys can produce the colorless, odorless gas. The gas can also be produced by poorly vented generators, kerosene heaters, gas grills and other items used for cooking and heating when used improperly during the winter months.

  1. NEVER run generators indoors. Open a window slightly when using a kerosene heater.
  2. NEVER use charcoal to cook indoors.
  3. NEVER use a gas oven to heat your home.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headaches and dizziness. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, ventilate the area and get to a hospital.

Fire Safety

Wood-burning stoves, fireplaces and heaters can add a cozy glow, but make sure you are using them safely.

smoke detector
  1. Always keep a screen around an open flame.
  2. Never use gasoline to start your fireplace.
  3. Never burn charcoal indoors.
  4. Do not close the damper when ashes are hot.
  5. When using alternative heat sources such as a fireplace, woodstove, etc. always make sure you have proper ventilation. Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces.
  6. Have your chimney checked before the season for creosote buildup — and then clean it.
  7. Have a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors … and make sure they work! Establish a well-planned escape route with the entire family.

Kerosene Heaters

If you use kerosene heaters to supplement your regular heating fuel, or as an emergency source of heat, follow these safety tips:

  1. Follow the manufacturers instructions.
  2. Use only the correct fuel for your unit.
  3. Refuel outdoors ONLY and only when the unit is cool.
  4. Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects.
  5. When using the heater, use fire safeguards and ventilate properly.

Remember, the fire hazard is greatly increased in the winter because alternate heating sources often are used without following proper safety precautions.

Clearing Your Roof

snow

As the snow and ice continues to build up, homeowners should think about safety before trying to clear the snow from their roof. Here are some safety tips:

  1. When possible, use long-handled snow rakes or poles.
  2. If you must use a ladder, make certain that the base is securely anchored. Ask a friend, neighbor or adult family member to hold the ladder while you climb.
  3. Know where the snow is going to fall before clearing the area.
  4. Make certain not to contact electrical wires.
  5. If possible, do not attempt to clear the roof alone.
  6. If you are afraid of heights or think the job is too big for you, HIRE HELP.

Clearing roofs is a dangerous task. However, if you think safety, and work safely, you will get the job done.

I really hope everyone finds this useful this winter season and remember to gives a call for all of your real estate needs and to speak with one of our agents today!

Sincerely,

Scott Myers, Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors

(210) 479-1222