Home Maintenance Tips

Spring To-Do List

March
• Carefully inspect your toilet. Look for erosion of plastic floater valves, and check all pipe connections.
• Check the basement pipes for condensation or dripping, and take corrective action.
• Check gauge on all extinguishers: recharge or replace if necessary. (Directions)
• Lubricate automatic garage door opener mentor, chain, etc, and ensure the auto-reverse mechanism is properly adjusted. (Directions)
• Replace filters in heating and cooling systems. (Directions)
• Inspect all electrical cords, wall plates, and plugs for damage and wear. (Directions)
• Lawns should be seeded or reseeded in late winter or as early in the spring as possible while nights are cold and the ground is wet.
• Prune large trees before leaves appear, while branch structure is visible.

April
• Clean gutters and downspouts. Also make sure water is draining away from the house's foundation.
• Check roof for damaged shingles, shakes, or tiles and trim tree branches away from roof.
• Clean leaves from eaves and roofs, and test downspouts to ensure proper drainage from roof.
• Make certain electrical wires coming into your home have the required clearance and do not sag.
• Keep bushes and plant materials clear of air conditioner unit. Keep drain lines clear.
• Wash and clean lint screen on dryer to eliminate fabric softener build up
• Have heating and cooling systems serviced.
• Open foundation vents around beginning of April.
• Clean exterior of house: siding, gutters, concrete slabs, decks etc. Be aware that some kinds of siding (vinyl for example) should not be pressure washed because of the possibility of forcing water into the thermal envelope of the house, no house is built to       withstand careless pressure washing. Care should always be taken to restrict water from washing to the exterior of your home.

May
• Inspect foundation, basement, or crawl space for cracks and note their direction
Inspect exterior walls for cracking and wear.
Check all windows and door locks to ensure correct functioning. Make sure all locks are secure
Check deck or patio for possible deterioration and safety hazards such as loose board and protruding nails. 
Cleaning and sealing your deck or patio will protect your investment.

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Summer To-Do List

JUNE
• Inspect all electrical cords, wall plates, and plugs for damage and wear. (Directions)
• Check gauge on all fire extinguishers: recharge or replace if necessary. (Directions)
• Replace filters in heating and cooling systems. (Directions)
• Inspect exterior wood siding and trim for signs of deterioration; clean, repair or refinish as needed.
• Make certain the attic is properly ventilated and shows no signs of dampness.
• Check all alarm systems (smoke, carbon monoxide, and/or propane gas) and make sure they are functioning properly. Replace batteries as necessary.
• Lubricate automatic garage door opener mentor, chain, etc, and ensure the auto-reverse mechanism is properly adjusted. (Directions)

JULY
• Check for leaks in plumbing and make sure aerators are not clogged.
• Replace any worn faucet washers or cartridges.
• Wash and clean lint screen on dryer to eliminate fabric softener build up
• Make certain all GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) plugs are functioning properly.
• Clean the dryer vent duct. (Directions)

AUGUST
• Check your water heater for leaks and corrosion.
• Keep bushes and plant materials clear of air conditioner unit.

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Fall To-Do List

SEPTEMBER
• Check gauge on all fire extinguishers: recharge or replace if necessary. (Directions)
• Inspect all electrical cords, wall plates, and plugs for damage and wear. (Directions)
• Make sure gas furnace pilot light is turned ON (Directions)
• Bleed air from hot water radiators. (Directions)
• Replace filters in heating and cooling systems. (Directions)
• Wash and clean lint screen on dryer to eliminate fabric softener build up
• Check the basement pipes for condensation or dripping, and take corrective action.
• Lubricate automatic garage door opener mentor, chain, etc, and ensure the auto-reverse mechanism is properly adjusted. (Directions)
• Have your chimney cleaned and maintained annually by a professional and check for obstructions such as nests.

OCTOBER
• Cover outside air conditioning units.
• Ensure that the ground around your home slopes away from the foundation wall, so that water does not drain into your basement.
• Ensure all doors to the outside shut tightly and renew door weather-stripping if required.
• Winterize landscaping, for example, store outdoor furniture, prepare gardens and, if necessary, protect young trees or bushes.
• If you have a septic tank, measure the sludge and scum to determine if the tank needs to be emptied before the spring. Tanks should be pumped out a least once every 2-3 years. (Directions)
• Drain and store outside hoses. Close valve to outdoor hose connection and drain the hose bib (exterior Faucet), unless your house has frost proof hose bibs.
• Have heating system serviced by a qualified service company and while they are working on your heating system you will want to make sure to clean your air ducts.
• Inspect inside of attic for signs of roof leaks.
• Close foundation vents, and check crawl space access door

NOVEMBER
• Clean gutters and downspouts. Also make sure water is draining away from the house's foundation.
• Check roof for damaged shingles, shakes, or tiles and trim tree branches away from roof.
• Clean leaves from eaves and roofs, and test downspouts to ensure proper drainage from roof.
• Check caulking around showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilet base, and make repairs as needed.
• Inspect foundation, basement, or crawl space for cracks and note their direction.
• Inspect exterior walls for cracking and wear.
• Clean or replace filter in range hood
• During moderate rain, inspect gutters and downspouts for leaks. If any leaks are noticed, plan on caulking them during dry weather.

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Winter To-Do List

DECEMBER
• Inspect all electrical cords, wall plates, and plugs for damage and wear. (Directions)
• Check gauge on all fire extinguishers: recharge or replace if necessary. (Directions)
• Service snow removal equipment and have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways.
• Insulate pipes that pass through unheated areas. Your home's crawl space and attic are two such areas. (Directions)
• Lubricate the garage door, the automatic door opener mentor, chain, etc, and ensure the auto-reverse mechanism is properly adjusted. (Directions)
• Replace filters in heating and cooling systems. (Directions)
• Vacuum bathroom fan grille.
• Vacuum radiator grilles on back of refrigerators and freezers, and empty and clean drip trays. (Directions)

JANUARY
• Inspect clothes washer hoses for wear or damage. (Directions)
• Make certain any kitchen, laundry, and bathroom ventilation systems are functioning properly and filters are replaced routinely.
• Clean the dryer vent duct. (Directions)
• Wash and clean lint screen on dryer to eliminate fabric softener build up.

January is Radon Action Month.  The U.S. EPA recommends all homeowners test for radon and retest every two years. Contact an InspectorChek professional to schedule a test.

FEBRUARY
• Clean or replace filter in range hood
• During moderate rain, inspect gutters and downspouts for leaks. If any leaks are noticed, plan on caulking them during dry weather.
• Clean and inspect culverts and drainage tiles
• Broadcast grass seed on or about last day of winter

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How To's

How to Check Fire Extinguishers
1. Make sure the extinguisher is not blocked by equipment, coats or other objects that could interfere with access in an emergency.
2. Make sure the pressure is at the recommended level. On extinguishers equipped with a gauge, the needle should be in the green zone - not too high and not too low.
3. Make sure the nozzle or other parts are not hindered in any way and the pin and tamper seal (if it has one) are intact.
4. Make sure there are no dents, leaks, rust, chemical deposits and/or other signs of abuse/wear. Wipe off any corrosive chemicals, oil, gunk etc. that may have deposited on the extinguisher.
5. Some manufacturers recommend shaking your dry chemical extinguishers once a month to prevent the powder from settling/packing.
6. Fire extinguishers should be pressure tested (a process called hydrostatic testing) after a number of years to ensure that the cylinder is safe to use. Consult your owner's manual, extinguisher label or the manufacturer to see when yours may need such testing.
7. If the extinguisher is damaged or needs recharging, replace it immediately!

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How to Lubricate Garage Doors
1. Use a light lubricant, like 3-in-1 oil, or a good Silicone or Teflon spray.
Lubricating the Doors:
2. The two most common garage doors are the old one-piece units that pivot up and down from a pivot point and the newer sectional doors that roll up and down the tracks.
3. On the old one-piece door, check where the arms connect to the pivot point on the wall and make sure that that is properly lubricated. There are two door pivots, left and right. Inspect the roller at the top corner of the door to make sure there are no broken corners. Lubricate the roller and the part where the arm connects to the door, and where the spring connects to the arm. 
4. On sectional doors, lubricate the overhead torsion springs, all of the rollers, the hinges, everything that moves. Proper lubrication will reduce the noise and movement problems you have in cold weather.
5. There are two types of sectional panels used on garage doors. Most doors have pivot hinges mounted on the back of the sections. The pivot hinges should be lubricated. Often these doors have springs on each side of the door. Each one of these springs has two pulleys, one above the spring and one at the top of the track. The pulleys should be lubricated. These types of doors have no external hinges between the sections. Each section is hinged within itself. Squirt some lubricant along the inside edges of each section. The lubricant will work a lot of rust out of the enclosed hinges and help the door move better during the winter.
Lubricating the Opener:
6. You should not lubricate the track or the tube on most garage door openers. Lubricating gunk's them up and can make action almost impossible during the cold winter months. Many of the manufacturers recommend that you do not lubricate the chain or the tracks. On the other hand, some screw drive openers do need to be lubricated, so read the owner's manual before reaching for the oil can.
7. If you are uncertain about what to do, or don't have the time, most good garage door installers will do tune ups. A tune up costs between $60 and $75. The service call should include the trip to your house, a half hour on the job, complete safety check, door adjustment, and lubrication.

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How to Inspect Electrical Cords
1. Replace frayed or damaged cords (no electrical tape repairs)
2. Don't run extension cords under carpet of over/through suspended ceiling
3. Ensure there are no extension cord trip hazards
4. Do not use power strips in series  (one strip plugged into another)
5. Do not use a power strip in combination with an extension cord
6. Do not use a power strip used in combination with a multiple plug adaptor
7. Never plug refrigerators, copiers, microwaves, space heaters or coffee makers into a power strip

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How to Replace Furnace Filters
1. If the floor or area near the furnace is a dust-bunny breeding area, vacuum or sweep prior to replacing the filter.
2. Locate the service panel, usually on the furnace's lower front or side.
3. Turn off the furnace, then gently pop open or pull down the panel door with your hands;  tools usually aren't needed.
4. Locate the filter--a framed-mesh rectangular screen inserted either horizontally or vertically near the intake-outtake blower.
5. Slide the filter screen out
6. Check for brown, dusty buildup on the mesh screen (or a screen you're unable to see through).
7. If you have a reusable plastic-frame or metal-frame filter, use a hose to rinse away the dust particles on the screen in the backyard or driveway. Let it dry, then return it to the furnace.  If you have a disposable cardboard-frame filter, write down the size, then throw it away. Buy a new furnace filter of the same size (available at hardware and home supply

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How to Insulate Pipes in Unheated Areas
• Pipe insulation comes in two main types:
• Insulating tape that you wrap around the pipe by hand, and
• Tubes pre-slit to slip over the pipe.
1. If the piping you're trying to cover is easily accessible, but has lots of bends in it, the tape style insulation will be easier to apply.
2. If the piping has lots of long straight runs, tubular insulation installs more quickly.
3. For ease of use, use tubular insulation with self-sealing seams - but it costs more than the non-sealing tubes.

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Why Clean Dryer Vent Ducts?
1. Reduces chance of dryer vent fire. When the dryer is used, over time lint will collect to the Inside of the dryer vent walls. The larger the buildup, the larger the risk of having a dryer vent fire.
2. Reduces "wasted electricity" and "appliance stress". Use of a dryer with a dirty vent can cause the dryer to run longer to dry the same amount of clothes because the hot air being expelled cannot freely exit the vent. Longer drying time takes more electricity and puts added stress on the appliance.
3. Lint buildup cause overheating and prevent fast drying action. When this happens, the high temperature limit safety switches cycle on and off continuously and thus may fail over a period of time.
4. This results in higher costs of operating your dryer, increases your electric bills and could result in a costly and dangerous dryer fire.
5. If clothing is still damp at the end of a normal cycle or requires longer dryer times, this may be a sign that the exhaust or lint screen is blocked.
6. All connection pieces to the dryer vents should be inspected to make sure they are properly attached. Regular maintenance will keep the dryer vent clean and the dryer working properly.

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How to Relight a Pilot Light
• There are several reasons why pilot lights go out, and that's why you should check your pilot light at least once a year.
1. The furnace may not be operating properly and the gas flow has been interrupted.
2. A power outage can affect gas furnace operation which in turn affects the pilot light.
3. Simple drafts can blow pilot lights out too.
• The thermocouple insures the gas is cut off if the pilot light goes out.  When pilot lights won't say lit, it can be due to faulty thermocouples.
If in doubt, contact a qualified heating contractor
To Relight a Pilot Light:
1. First turn the valve to the pilot setting.
2. Using a match or special lighter, push the reset button until the pilot light is lit again.
3. Once you have a steady flame, turn the valve to the on position.
Inspecting Your Pilot Light
1. Pilot lights should burn steadily without interruption.
2. If the flame wavers, it means the gas flow is being interrupted somehow, the pilot light opening is clogged or there's a draft that needs to be eliminated.
3. Your regular furnace maintenance procedures should include checking the pilot light regularly.
4. The flame should be no higher than 2 inches and no shorter than 1 ? inches. If it is too short or too high, the electronic control may not be working properly.
5. Pilot lights are simple components, but they have to work properly in order for the furnace or water heater to work properly.

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How to Inspect Washing Machine Hoses
• Homeowners should inspect washing machine hoses periodically for signs of wear and tear.  Rust on connectors, rubber and stainless steel hose bulges (especially near the connectors), unraveling and fraying of hoses, bubbles, cracks and are all signs of deterioration.  Upon detecting any such damage, immediately turn off the washer's water supply and replace the hoses.
1. Make sure there are at least four inches (or 11 centimeters) between the water connection and the back of the washing machine. This space will help reduce the chances that the hose will kink.
2. Replace hoses every 3-5 years as part of a proactive maintenance program.
3. Keep track of the last time you inspected the hoses by jotting the "inspected" date on the magnet that's included in this brochure. Attach the magnet to the washing machine.
4. Check that hose connections are secure, including the drain hose.
5. Make sure everyone in your household knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it. Shut off water at valves if you will be away from your home for several days or longer.

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How to Bleed Air From Hot Water Radiators
Do NOT bleed radiators with the central heating pump ON to prevent air might be drawn into the system.
• Note: when bleeding a sealed system, the pressure will need to be adjusted afterwards - this is normally done by turning on the mains cold water feed to the system as mentioned in step 6 below. Confirm before starting the bleeding process that you know how to re-pressurize the system.
If in doubt, consult a qualified heating contractor.
1. With warm water in the radiator, switch off the Central Heating system.
2. Fit a bleed key onto the bleed valve (this is usually at the top at one end of the radiator - on some designs of radiator, it may be at the back).
3. Loosely wrap a piece of old cloth around the key to catch any expelled water.
4. Open the bleed valve by turning the bleed a 1/2 turn anti clockwise - hissing of air being expelled will normally be heard.
5. When water starts to dribble out of the valve, close the valve by turning the key a 1/2 turn clockwise. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN.
6. If the Central Heating system is a sealed system, check the pressure and, if necessary, top up the pressure as required (often 1 bar but check the instructions).

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How to Vacuum Refrigerator Grills
Over time, a refrigerator collects dirt and dust that can make it difficult for it to work efficiently.  It is necessary to clean the coils of your refrigerator at least once a year. Pull out your refrigerator so that you can get at the back of it easily. If you don't have to unplug it, leave it plugged in.
1. Take a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment and use it to loosen and vacuum up the lint, dirt and dust from the fins and tubes on the back of your refrigerator.
2. Be careful as you vacuum that you do not damage the coils.
3. After you have vacuumed off the back of the refrigerator you can return the refrigerator to its original position.
4. If you have a refrigerator that does not have any tubing on its back then you must unplug the refrigerator.
5. Open up the bottom door of the refrigerator and prop the door open.
6. Find the motor compartment and the grille that is in from of the motor.
7. Take then grill on both sides and push it down and rotate the top of the grille toward you so it will release. If the grille does not release then you need to look for any tabs that might need to be moved before you can take off the grille.
8. Once you find the tabs just move them out of the way to remove the grille.
9. After you have the grille removed, vacuum out the dust with the vacuum and a brush. Use an old tooth brush to clean off the condenser.
10. After you have the compartment cleaned, replace the grille and put the refrigerator back into place.
11. Don't forget to plug it in.
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Septic Tank/System Maintenance
When a septic system fails, the tank itself doesn't fail- the drain-field fails. In most cases this occurs when the drain-field gets plugged up with solids that don't  allow liquid to pass through. This can happen if the tank hasn't been pumped, or with lint from a washing machine.
1. Always use a washing machine filter. Lint from washing machines is a leading cause of system clogging. Lint screens and nylon traps found in hardware stores trap 5% or less of these particles. Because they are so light and small, the lint particles do not settle out in the septic tank. Instead, they stay in suspension and are flushed out to the drain field, where they plug up the pores of the soil bed.
To compound the problem, much of our clothing is now manufactured with synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon. These substances are not biodegradable, and will not break down in a septic system. Instead, they accumulate and plug the soil. Once these materials enter the soil, there is no way to remove them.
The good news is that lint can be prevented from entering the septic system through the use of A reusable, inline filter which attaches to your washing machine discharge hose can prevent lint from entering the system.
2. Avoid Excessive Water Use. Doing a large number of laundry loads in a short period of time can also be a problem. If you put more water into the system than it is built to handle, the high volume of water will flood your system, and can also stir up and flush solids out of the tank into the drain field (in fact, septic pumpers use water from their hoses to help break up solids in your tank before pumping them out). On a heavy washing day you can easily put 400, 500 or 600 gallons of water through the system in a few hours. Instead, spread out your water use. Do one or two loads of laundry per day, rather than 10-12 loads on Saturday morning.
Water softeners can also damage your system by putting too much water through the septic system.  Upgrade your softener with a newer efficient model that uses less water and regenerates on demand, instead of a timer system that regenerates whether you use water or not. You can also install a mini septic system for your water softener.
3. Prevent Solids from Leaving the Tank. Have your tank inspected and pumped every 2-3 years to prevent excessive accumulation of solids in the tank. Tanks should be pumped and inspected through the manhole cover, not the inspection pipe. Your septic contractor should also install an effluent filter in the exit baffle of the tank.
Effluent filters stop the larger solids from getting out to the drain-field. They are cleaned out every few years when you have your tank pumped. They are usually only about $80. Effluent filters are cheap insurance and along with a washing machine filter, one of the best things you can do to protect your system.
4. Avoid Excessive Use of Household Cleaning Products. If you do over 5 loads of laundry a week containing bleach, problems could arise. Avoid powdered detergents as they contain plastic fillers that can plug up your lines and drain field. Also, be careful with harsh automatic toilet bowl cleaners, which have put quite a few systems out of commission.

Don't:
• Don't flush sanitary napkins, disposable diapers or other non-biodegradable products into your system.
• Don't use a garbage disposal because they can double the amount of solids added to the tank! Instead, compost your garbage or put it in the trash.
• Don't dump solvents, paint thinners, oils, disinfectants, poisons or pesticides down the drain because they will disrupt the treatment process and contaminate your groundwater.
• Don't dig in your drain-field; don't build anything over it.
• Don't drive over the drain-field. 
• Don't Plant trees or shrubbery close to the septic system, because the roots can get in the lines and plug them. Grass is the only thing that should be planted on or near a drain-field.

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Home Maintenance Tips Courtesy of inspectorchek.net

Backyard Conservation

"Backyard Conservation" shows you how conservation practices that help conserve and improve natural resources on agricultural land across the country can be adapted for use around your home. These practices help the environment and can make your yard more attractive and enjoyable. Most backyard conservation practices are easy to use. America's farmers and ranchers have been using these practices successfully for decades.

Whether you have rural acreage, a suburban yard, or a city lot, you can help protect the environment and add beauty and interest to your surroundings. Ten conservation practices have been scaled down for homeowners. Tip sheets offer "how to" steps and helpful hints:

Download Backyard Conservation Tip Sheets in .pdf format, published by
The National Association of Conservation Districts
  
     Backyard Pond
     Backyard Wetland                                                    
     Composting                                                            
     Mulching
     Nutrient Management
     Pest Management
     Terracing
     Tree Planting
     Water Conservation
     Wildlife Habitat

                         If you do not have Adobe Reader, click the icon to go to Adobe.com and download.   







Information Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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