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Home Maintenance for People with Better Things to Do

January 27th, 2022



Weekends are meant for coaching a youth soccer team to victory, chopping your way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or training for a 5K to help save the pandas -- not working your way through a tedious, 30-item maintenance checklist. But then, taking care of the home you love is important, too.

So how do you have your fun and keep a well-maintained home?

Its simple: Just be mindful of your home. You dont need a rigid maintenance list. (They work best for Type A people anyway.) Instead, train your senses to warn you of these problems, and then act ASAP:

Your Dryer Seems Hotter Than Usual

If your clothes and your dryer are super, super hot or, conversely, your dryer is taking longer to dry, you could have a clogged lint vent, a leading cause of house fires. Sometimes the dryer connection will wiggle loose going to the outside, causing all sorts of issues with lint, says Jeff Devlin, licensed contractor and host of DIY Networks Stone House Revival and I Hate My Bath. Heat and packed lint make the perfect recipe for fire. To defuse that combination:

  • Pull out the dryer connection -- this is the tube or pipe that connects the dryer to the window vent.

  • Suck out all the lint from the pipe and pipe connection with a vacuum attachment.

  • Re-attach, making sure its not loose or bent.

You can also hire a pro to do it.

Your nose knows whats normal in your home. If you go into a room and it smells musty, theres something going on, says Frank Lesh, executive director of American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). When you smell that mildew-y smell, you know youve got a problem, he says. What kind of problem? Read on.

You Can See Mold or Mildew

Mold and mildew are the banners for moisture, your homes No. 1 enemy. If you see them, you know moisture has broken through your homes defenses and is bringing reinforcements. Find out where the water source is and eradicate it ASAP. Moisture is like cancer to a home. If you dont catch it early, it will eat away at your homes very structure, causing major damage to its foundation, walls, floors, and ceilings.

You Spot a Water Stain

You get it now. Water = bad. So even a faint water stain should light a fire under you. Zero in on the source before moisture can settle into your homes bones. A water stain on the ceiling could signal a leak in your roof, or if its under a bathroom it could be a pipe thats leaking. Stain under a window? Your window may need caulking.

Your Drain Is Really Slow (and It Gurgles)

Showering in water up to your ankles defeats the purpose. A clean drain is a healthy drain, says Devlin. If your drain makes odd noises and takes foreeeeeeever, you could be at risk of a sewer backup, which is not only a moisture issue, but one that ranks high on the stinky scale. If youre lucky, it could be a simple clog, but either way it might be a good idea to put your plumbers number in your cellphones favorites list.

You Hear Something Thats Alive

The pitter-patter of tiny rodent footsteps is enough to send shivers down your spine -- and can quickly multiply into a mini stampede. One couple found out the hard way.

We found that a squirrel had taken up residence in the attic and was chewing through electrical wires, says David Bowers. By the time he and his partner, Sharon Bowers, (BTW, they co-authored The Useful Book: 201 Life Skills They Used to Teach in Home Ec and Shop) got around to calling a pro, an entire squirrel family (with more on the way!) had settled in to dine on those wires -- a costly fix that was also a fire hazard.

If you hear unwanted visitors, evict them quickly, then block the entry they used. With squirrels, it might be an overgrown tree limb, which they use to jump onto your roof and then slip through a hole under roof flashing or rotting fascia, or an open window. For smaller pests, keep in mind they can come in through the tiniest of holes. (Mice can squeeze through a dime-sized opening.)

Your Gutters Create Waterfalls

You may love the smell and sound of rain, but when its cascading off your gutters in torrents instead of traveling neatly through them ... well, remember those warnings about moisture? Cleaning the gutters is home maintenance 101 for good reason. It can lead to exterior damage, as well as water damaging the foundations, says Bowers. If you spot a gutter clog, clear it. Youll be happier for it. Its probably the best thing you can do to protect your home.


Elizabeth Lilly is the site editor for This Old House, where shes written about paint colors, chicken coops, and nearly every home improvement project in between. She uses her New York City apartment as a laboratory for executing her latest DIY ideas.

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Disclaimer : The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Houston Association of REALTORS®

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