HELPFUL MAINTENANCE TIPS FOR HOME OWNERS

Foundation Maintenance:

Try to maintain constant moisture content in the soil around the foundation. Water the soil evenly and around the entire foundation during extended dry periods. Some homeowners choose to install a fully automated foundation watering system to eliminate the need to remember to water.

Cut and cap the roots of any large trees growing closer to the foundation than the mature height of the trees. The roots from a large tree or several medium size trees can consume more water from the soil than can be added with a watering system. This will limit the consumption of water from the soil below the foundation and may prevent excessive differential settlement and cracks in the structure. It is recommended that a professional tree expert be used to prevent damage to the trees.

Properly grade the soil by filling in low spots and leveling off high spots adjacent to the foundation so that the surface of the soil slopes gradually away from the building.

Roof Maintenance:

Check to see if trees are growing too close to the roof.

Trees can cause a myriad of problems for roofs of all types. Branches leaning on the roof will scratch and gouge roofing materials when they are blown by the wind; falling branches from overhanging trees can damage or even puncture shingles and other roofing materials; and falling leaves can clog gutter systems causing water to backup into the attic or living spaces, or to run down behind the fascia. Inspect roof for signs of damage.

When shingles are missing or torn off, a roof structure and home or building interior are vulnerable to water damage and rot. Weakened shingles or tiles are easily blown off, torn or lifted by wind gusts. Since a deteriorated roof system only gets worse with time, once you discover a problem, you should take steps to repair the damage immediately.

Water Heater Maintenance:

All water heaters should be frequently checked for leaks. It's important to check the pipe connections, the valves and underneath the unit. Simple preventive maintenance will help you avoid lasting damage from a leaking water heater.

Periodically drain a bucket of water from the drain faucet at the bottom of the water tank. Again, take care not to get burned by the hot water. Draining a bucket of water will remove sediment from the tank bottom that could corrode the unit as well as reduce its heating efficiency.

Check all water lines, connections and valves for signs of leakage, especially where connections have been crimped. With a flashlight, check under the tank for small leaks that could be caused by rust and corrosion.

ALL INTERIOR OR EXTERIOR WALL siding or window gaps of approximately 1/16 to 1/8” or greater, or where water penetration is noted should be of immediate concern. If you have extensive gaps, bridge/mortar cracks on exterior with gaps that widen or narrow on the exterior, or pulled at framing at rafters/ridge in attic and diagonal sheetrock cracks, binding doors, you may have excessive differential movement at the foundation. This is often a condition caused by inadequate watering and inconsistent hydration of soil around foundation. An inspection to determine if you have a foundation problem or just need to change watering patterns around your house may be prudent and necessary.

IN ADDITION, as a normal maintenance function to keep the exterior in good repair and to reduce A/C loss or when painting, all window frames and trim, door jambs, header trim, siding, corner trim and over hang should be kept sealed at brick, stone or stucco. Also seal wood trim or siding at joints and splits in wood sealed. You should also keep vents, A/C or plumbing lines secured and sealed at brick or siding.

CLEANING AND PAINTING OF EXTERIOR.” The exterior of your house will stay in good condition with some work and care. You can clean the brick and siding of your house with a 40-50% solution of chlorine bleach and water. This will kill mold and mildew that attacks paint, deteriorates wood and makes your exterior unsightly. You can spray and brush the solution on and wash it off after a few minutes or an hour with a garden hose. Be sure to wear old clothes, rubber gloves and protective glasses when cleaning with bleach, don’t’ breath the fumes or get bleach in your eyes. Read all cleaning agent labels before using. It is not a good idea to let vines grow on the brick or siding of your house, as vines will damage mortar and siding. They are also conducive to termites, which are difficult to locate behind the vines.

DUE TO MINOR DIFFERENITAL MOVEMENT, wind load at roof and expansion and contraction, small normal cosmetic cracks or gaps often occur at and around window frames (at casing and sills), mansard ceiling at tape and float joints, outlets/switches at walls and fixtures should be sealed as a normal maintenance procedure or when painting. Use foam insulation to seal your attic ladder and adjust hinge/springs at frame or seal wall attic entrance at frame to reduce air loss to the attic.

A PAPER THIN LAYER OF PAINT is your best protection to keep your siding and trim in good condition. In general, with our weather, you will probably need to repaint, depending on quality of paint every six to eight years. In our climate, a latex based paint is considerably better than oil base because it will allow wood to breathe better and not peel. If you are painting unfinished (new) wood you should use a good primer. Two thin layers of paint, sprayed or brushed, is better than one heavy layer. Consult your paint company about the paint you want to use. Some newer elastometric paint for exterior siding, stucco and trim that stretch are now on the market that may last longer than conventional paint, however may cost more than regular paint.

GUTTERS AND DOWNSPOUTS, if any, should be kept clean and secure at fascia and walls. Periodically check for leaks at seams and use splash blocks or French drain tubes to prevent erosion and direct water away at least 5’ from house below downspouts. I don’t generally encourage the use of gutters except to keep you from getting wet or where there is extreme run-off or splash back as they are usually more trouble and work than they are worth and do not allow water at soil around foundation to keep your foundation consistently moist. Some newer items are on the market that will break the force of water coming off the roof to the ground and new types of gutters or covers for gutters are available to keep them clean of debris.

SPEAKING OF FOUNDATIONS, the grade around your home is very important. Ideally, three to four inches of slab should be visible on all sides. A positive drainage away from the foundation should be established and maintained. The soil in most parts of Houston area has a high plasticity index, that is, the soil has high clay content and tends to shrink when dry and expand when wet. Your foundation depends in part on the hydrostatic pressure of the soil to maintain its structural integrity. Therefore, it is important that the soil around the slab be kept

UNIFORMLY MOIST. Remember that a crack does not necessarily mean slab failure. You should also use root barriers to keep large tree roots from around foundation and water trees that are within 10’ of the house on the side away from the house in addition to watering around the slab. Larger trees can drink 200 – 300 or more gallons of water a day in the summer. Be sure that all trees are kept well trimmed and that branches are cut back at least 3’ from roof and sides of house. In new construction, do not have trees within 15-20’ of house. Consult a tree or landscape company about ideas to keep trees from damaging the driveway, causing differential movement at foundation and removing moisture around slab at soil.

DON’T WALK ON THE ROOF any more than is absolutely necessary. Besides being dangerous, unless you are “Santa Claus”, as the roof weathers with age it becomes more brittle and walking on it will accelerate deterioration. Be sure that you keep your fresh air soffet vents and upper exhaust vents (air hawks, gable vents, turbines, ridge vents, etc.) open to allow the attic to breathe and remove heat and humidity that can cause mildew, condense insulation and deteriorate shingles. Ridge vents and continuous soffet vents or vents at 3-4’ intervals supply the best airflow to reduce your utility bills and extend your roof’s life. Do not bag or plug your exhaust vents at the roof or overhang soffet vents in the winter, as this does not allow air circulation to the attic to exhaust heat and humidity.

DRAIN YOUR WATER HEATER at least once a year to reduce deposits. Also if your water heater is gas operated and in the garage or a room adjoining the garage, it should be raised at least 18” off of the floor to reduce gas vapor at the flame. You should also open/close the shut off cold-water valve at the water once or twice a year so that it does not become frozen from deposits. Be sure that your unit is installed as per manufacturer’s specifications that were recommended when your unit was installed or to current manufacturer standards and UL Listings including temperature and pressure valve, drain line, gas supply line, valve, B-type flue and raised off of floor. As of 1998, electric water heaters were also required to be raised off of the floor. Be sure drain pans are installed at 2nd floor/attic water heaters or wherever water heaters, if leaking, can cause damage in the house. You should also open / close your washer bib faucets periodically to keep them from freezing up.

NOW TO KEEP YOUR COOL or keep you warm. The HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) system is quire possibly the single most expensive component of your home. For this reason, I intend to spend some time on it.

FIRST, LET’S THINK ABOUT HOW YOUR HVAC SYSTEM is designed to work. You’re A/C system is designed to do three things: (1) to circulate the air, (2) to dehumidify the air, and (3) to remove the heat from the air. (There is no such thing as cooling the air.) Twelve thousand BTU’s are equal to one ton of air conditioning. This means that under controlled conditioning, that the unit labeled one ton will remove, in a twenty-four hour period of time, from a given area, enough heat to melt one ton of ice.

IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT that the return air filter (s) be changed or washer if the filter (s) are permanent type at least once a month or as recommended, year round. A good reminder for this can be the arrival of our electric bill. This bill will arrive on or about the same day each month. Pay the bill and change or wash the filter (s). Keep the thermostat set at as a high temperature as you and your family can be kept reasonably comfortable. An eighteen degree temperature differential from register to returns is considered very good. The compressor fins and condenser coils should be cleaned on a regular basis. I personally like to see them cleaned once a year. If your coils are in the attic, there should be a condensate pan under the unit. Remember that I said that the unit dehumidifies the air. This Page 3 water is routed to drain to the sanitary sewer. If this drain becomes clogged for any reason, the water will go into the condensate pan. This pan is designed to have a drainpipe to the outside, usually terminating over a window or door. If this outdoor drain line is dripping water, immediately turn the system off and call you’re A/C serviceman to avoid the real possibility of serious damage. Keep all supply grills open, as this is how the system was designed. It is a good idea to check the duct system to insure that all joints are securely taped and sealed. Do not block the return grill(s).

THERE ARE TWO SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT as to whether the pilot light should be left burning on older gas fired furnaces after the winter months. I recommend that is be turned off to reduce humidity and rusting at the exchanger. The first time you turn the furnace on in the winter or fall, you will probably notice an odor and quite possibly notice a small amount of smoke. Occasionally, there may be enough smoke to set off the smoke alarms on older and newer units. This is probably due to the fact that the burner is burning off dust, etc. that has accumulated during the hot months. If the odor and/or smoke does not dissipate in a reasonable time, notify your HVAC serviceman. Of course, turn the system off. It is a good idea to have your system checked out at least once a year. Newer units have electronic ignition systems instead of pilot lights and we are now also seeing them on new water heaters. Be sure your systems are installed as per manufacturer specifications and serviced at least once a year.