About two-thirds of American homes are owned by their occupants, the St. Louis Fed find. This makes home maintenance a priority for many Americans.
We asked the Seattle realtor Jeffrey Sagerwho has performed commercial building inspections, and Kevin Busch, vice president of operations for Ann Arbor, Michigan Mr Handymanto describe common mistakes homeowners make in maintaining their homes.
Here’s an overview of these, along with the damage these mistakes can cause and tips for getting the job done right.
1. Let dryer lint build up
Some 2,900 dryer fires are reported each year, according the United States Fire Administration. They cause deaths, injuries and millions of dollars in damage every year.
The number one cause of dryer fires is users not cleaning the dryer.
Prevention is not difficult:
The type of piping between the wall vent and the unit can also contribute to the problem. Corrugated and flexible wall pipes are common, but smooth wall pipes are best to prevent a buildup of lint in the pipe, says Saeger. This is especially true when a long stretch of pipe runs between a clothes dryer and an outside vent or when 90 degree bends in flexible pipe reduce airflow and trap lint.
2. Ignore water leaks
Water is ‘one of the most common and costly disasters your home can experience’, the Insurance Information Institute said.
“The longer leaks go unrepaired, the more damage they cause, so it’s best to deal with them as soon as the problem is realized,” says Busch, whose company connects homeowners with local home improvement specialists. .
“Prolonged humidity causes wood to rot and can lead to expensive repairs,” says Saeger. Spot leaks by noticing discoloration or dampness on a floor, ceiling or wall, he says. Electronic leak sensors can help you monitor problem areas; ask your home insurance company if a sensor can earn you a discount.
3. Letting gutters clog
How often should you clean your gutters? As often as they need, says Saeger. He’s not kidding.
While cleaning gutters after the leaves have fallen is usually a fall chore, your gutters may need more frequent attention if trees fill them with leaves and debris. You can’t tell for sure if your gutters need cleaning unless you – or a friend or neighbor – climb up a ladder to take a look.
Gutter guards can help. There are several types, and some are better than others, Saeger says. More important, he says, are the screens installed where the gutter and downspout meet. These keep the downspout clear of debris, but they too should be inspected and cleaned regularly. Additionally, he says, homeowners can use a U-shaped attachment for pipe ends to clear debris from gutters without using a ladder.
4. Forgetting to replace the furnace filter
Furnace filters should be replaced about every 90 days, especially in the winter, Busch advises.
Don’t overlook this simple job. “Allergens and other debris will build up over time, making your furnace less efficient,” he says.
5. Not removing mold
Unattended water damage or prolonged dampness are two reasons why mold appears. It can also appear when the air inside a home is too humid or not circulating, Saeger says. Look for a dark spot on a wall or floor. In addition, mold gives off a damp, musty smell. If you find mold, have it removed immediately.
“Not only do mold spores break down materials in the home, but they can also cause health problems,” says Busch.
You may be able to clean up a patch of mold smaller than 10 square feet yourself, says Busch. He advises wearing an N-95 mask, goggles and non-porous gloves and using a commercial mildew remover cleaner, a mixture of water and detergent or a 10% bleach solution. For larger areas of mold, consult mold remediation experts.
6. Improper use of a pressure washer
Pressure washers are great tools for outdoor jobs – cleaning a deck, railings, sidewalk or siding, for example. But they are indeed powerful. Sometimes too powerful. The high-speed water jet should be handled with care. Keep them away from windows, asphalt shingles, painted surfaces, etc. other stuff.
“The surface to be cleaned determines how they can be used,” says Saeger. Aiming a stream too hard at a deck can gouge, split or hollow the wood. Saeger’s advice:
- Manage the pressure by choosing the spray head angle and selecting the angle at which you hold the sprayer.
- A wider, less concentrated spray is the safest.
- Keep the sprayer several inches from the surface you’re cleaning and angle the spray head – don’t point directly at the surface you’re cleaning.
- Follow the safety instructions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
7. Neglecting pre-winter maintenance
Busch urges homeowners to do these basic tasks in the fall so their homes are ready for the cold winter season. These tasks include:
- Make sure the attic is well insulated.
- Check windows for air leaks and caulk them if necessary.
- Drain garden hoses.
- Inspect the interior pipes and decide if you need to insulate them to prevent freezing.
- Check the batteries of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
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