New Year's resolutions typically focus on saving money, dieting, or treating yourself better. In that spirit may I suggest some New Year's resolutions focused on treating your...
New Year’s resolutions typically focus on saving money, dieting, or treating yourself better. In that spirit may I suggest some New Year’s resolutions focused on treating your house better, which ultimately saves you money.
That this year, I will back away from the do-it-yourself book and hire a real electrician. Homeowner-performed electrical alterations are almost without exception incorrect, and sometimes dangerous. Money spent on an electrician is money well spent.
That this year, I will not let the gutters become loose and/or fill with debris. Overflowing or leaky gutters cause building rot and pest issues, as well as contribute to leakage in basements or crawlspaces. The latter is also true from lack of buried downspout drains or splashblocks.
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That this year, I will seal the grout in my tile shower. Grout is porous, and will allow moisture to pass, despite the common belief that it is waterproof. Sealed grout stays cleaner, keeps moisture out, prevents mold, and extends the life of your shower. Sealed grout also prevents the spread of moisture beneath the walls and floor adjacent to the shower. Using grout cleaner and sealer is no more difficult than washing and waxing a car. Plus, most showers are indoors and certainly smaller than most cars.
That this year, I will kill the moss on my roof. Moss is an equal opportunity roof destroyer. Everyone west of Cle Elum gets it. Composition roofs should not be pressure washed, as it tends to remove many of their protective granules. Commercial moss removers work, as does Tide with Bleach (crystals). Physical removal with a stiff broom (when dry) can also be effective. Zinc strips can be added along the ridge lines as a moss preventive.
Cedar roofs can be pressure washed (if newer and not softening) and treated with commercial treatments specifically manufactured for cedar roofs. Nothing containing linseed oil or diesel should be used.
That this year, I will have my furnace/boiler professionally serviced in addition to my regular filter changes. Heating plants are the most neglected mechanical item in a home. Oil burners, any system with air conditioning, 90 percent efficient (condensing) gas furnaces, and heat pumps need annual service. Most gas and some electric furnaces need service every two years. Forced-air electric wall heaters and baseboards need cleaning on condition. Untold millions of dollars are wasted on heating-system efficiency and longevity by ignoring it until it quits.
In addition, once per year I will check to see that all my heating ducts are actually producing heat. Disconnected duct pipes in crawlspaces waste energy and cause unbalanced air flow (staining the edges of carpet).
That this year, I will find the mental nerve to crawl around in my crawlspace during the rainy season and check things out. Out of sight may be out of mind, but it doesn’t make it any less of a reality. Unresolved leakage and standing water issues can lead to wood rot, carpenter ants, and mold (among other items). Open holes and gaps in framing and vent screens let vermin have access to all those warm nesting areas with heat and water, and food nearby. It doesn’t get any better than that for a rat.
Suit up with nasty old clothes, a respirator and gloves. Multiple pieces of insulation fallen down, and tiny black feces on heat ducts and the plastic ground covering are your tell-tale signs. Standing water is pretty easy to see and is most likely entering around the perimeter at the foundation.
That this year, I will move all those darned sprinkler heads away from the building. This is the stealth bomber of landscaping. Damaged buildings, wet crawlspaces or basements, and undermined patios are the result of over-watering, blocked heads, and leaks. The digging is much easier near the foundation, so naturally that’s where the sprinkler heads go. But easy doesn’t make it right.
That this year, I will not pile beauty bark or dirt against wood on the home. Wood contacting dirt is a recipe for rot and pests.
Same goes for firewood stacked against the building. Lose it in all cases.
That this year, I will clean (or pay to have cleaned) the fireplace flue. Chimney fires are not a pretty sight. Support your local chimney sweep.
That this year, I will test the flow of my bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans (put an 8-1/2 x 11 piece of paper on the grille — it should hold tight), and use them when I cook and bathe. Many of these fans have partially blocked vent pipes due to debris, screws and ill-positioned dampers. Many do not vent beyond the attic. Check out where they vent, confirm the airflow, and clean the fan. Then use that fan regularly.
That this year, I will clean the dryer vent. Authorities recommend these vents be cleaned every three months. While that is not even close to realistic, once per year is not too much — given that less energy usage, no dryer fires, faster and better clothes drying, and the assurance that moisture leaks are not occurring in an unintended area are the benefits.
That this year, I will activate the temperature-pressure relief valve on my water heater. This very important safety device does not work in a staggering amount of cases. This may require a bucket for some of us. If it refuses to shut off completely (small seepage), it will need to be wiggled on and off repeatedly until it snaps shut entirely. In some cases it will not shut off, or will not open; in these cases the valve will need to be replaced.
Darrell Hay is a local home inspector and manages several rental properties. He answers reader questions — call 206-464-8514 to record your question, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Sorry, no personal replies. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.