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Maintenance Guide

Protect Your Investment
While you’re still celebrating your new home, make sure you set timeaside for protecting your investment. Here are 11 easy, must-do tasks:

1. Heating and Air Conditioner Maintenance
Every month, inspect and change the air filter on your Heat & AC unit. Hold it up to the light. If it’s dark and dirty-looking, replace it. Filters trap dust, pollen, spores and airborne debris, keeping your home’s air clean and extending the life of your furnace.

2. Exterior Windows and Trim
Before the fall rains, look for cracks in the trim around the windows and siding of your house. Inspect the corners where trim comes together. Fill cracks with caulk. Although exterior latex caulk works, a polyurethane caulk is best as it lasts three or four times longer than latex caulk.

3. Exterior Paint
Although we use 100% cement fiber exterior boards and high quality paint that should last about seven years, it’s a great idea to check the exterior paint for any chipping or damage. Paint prevents gutters from rusting. In dry summer weather, inspect your home’s exterior from top to bottom, including the trim. Look for paint that has blistered, bubbled, peeled or cracked. Scrape, sand and fill holes with high-quality exterior-grade patching compound. Brush primer on bare spots, then follow with paint. Feather new paint into old using a fairly dry brush and lightly flicking the edges of the new paint into the old. Tip: Painted patches may look less obvious if you first wash the siding; use a garden hose and a long-handled truck brush with long
nylon bristles.

4. Inspect and Sweep Chimney
Do this once a year or after you’ve burned a cord of wood, whichever happens first. Why? Because creosote — a flammable, resinous wood byproduct — builds up inside the chimney flue when you burn wood. Hire a trained chimney sweep who uses brushes, vacuums, cameras and other tools to remove soot and creosote, and inspect for damage. While he’s up there, ask him also to inspect the flashings that seal the joints between the chimney and roof for rust or holes and to inspect the seal on the chimney’s surface. Chimneys made of brick, stone or
other masonry must, in cold areas, be sealed every three years or so.

5. Bathtub Caulk
Inspect the line of caulk that seals the tub to the tile in the shower and tub area, and at the floor. Repair cracks with polyurethane bathroom caulk. Also, inspect the points where tub faucets emerge from the wall or tub surround.

6. Inspect Toilet Seal
Look for water or discoloration of flooring at the seam where the toilet meets the floor, particularly behind the toilet. If you find moisture or if the toilet rocks or moves, call a plumber to find and repair.

7. Muck Out The Gutters
Hire someone (around $50-$100) or get a stable ladder (and someone to hold it) and do it yourself. But clean the gutters as soon as leaves and gunk plug them up. When the water can’t drain out, the weight of the water and debris may start to create a sag in the gutter, and can
encourage mold and mildew. Use a garden trowel or your (gloved) hands to muck out the debris. Slosh water from a hose through gutters and the drainpipes to finish the job and test that they’re clear.

8. Keep Debris Off Your Roof
Water, your home’s worst enemy, also dams up behind debris that has accumulated in the roof’s valleys. Left alone, it will seep under the roofing material and leak under the eaves and into cavities between walls, rotting wood and making a home for mold. Once you’re up on the roof, also check the flashings — the metal water barrier used to line and waterproof joints, vent pipes, skylights and chimneys. Look for rust or holes that need repair, hammer down any nails popping up, and seal with exterior silicone caulk.

9. Switch Ceiling Fan Direction
To get the most from the money you spend on AC & Heat, switch ceiling fans to run clockwise in winter and counterclockwise in summer. If that’s confusing, just watch the fan as it runs. In summer, the leading edge of the blades (the part that goes around first) should be
higher than the trailing edge (the part that rotates last). That’s so the fan will push cool air down. You should be able to stand under the fan and feel a breeze. In winter, it’s the opposite. Switch blades so the leading edge is lower and the trailing edge is higher, pushing air up into the center of the room, which forces heat off the ceiling (remember, hot air rises) and down along the walls into the room. You’ll find the fan blade switch on the outside body of the fan. (Learn more about ceiling fans at the federal government’s Energy Star site.) When you use a ceiling fan you can adjust your thermostat —lower in winter, higher in summer — to save fuel.

10. Asphalt Paving
Extend the life of an asphalt driveway or path by inspecting it a few times a year and patching fissures with a caulking gun and asphalt patching caulk ($5 to $15 a tube). Squirt the stuff into cracks. Use a plastic putty knife to smooth it. If you ignore asphalt cracks, water will soak under the pavement, making it mushy and creating potholes when you drive on it. In addition, apply asphalt sealer every five years ($50-$100 for a five-gallon bucket). Brush it on with a squeegee
or push broom.

11. Garbage Disposal
Forget caustic and poisonous drain cleaners. Two or three times a year, pour a cup of vinegar into an ice cube tray. Fill the tray up with water and freeze it. Pop all the vinegar ice cubes into the disposal and turn it on. The cubes scrub the disposal, and the vinegar removes the build-up of grease and gunk. Keep fibrous stuff (like potato peels and corn husks) and eggshells out of disposals. The lug nuts that chew up waste are easily choked. To coax long life out of your disposal, don’t jam the disposal with stuff. Run cold water while feeding small amounts at a time will keep the motor from overheating. Cold water also congeals grease. Hot water melts grease, and it coats the pipes and disposal walls. Also, treat every drain to this freshening treatment two or three times a year. Pour in equal parts salt, baking soda and vinegar, followed about 30 seconds later by two quarts of boiling water. It’ll foam a little, but that’s okay; it’s harmless.