Things to Fix Now

Avoid costly repairs by fixing these small problems now

By Sunshine Menefee
Staff Writer

Horror stories abound of waking up to a tree in the house or coming back from vacation only to find your house flooded. But most of the disasters can be avoided by taking a few minutes to do some small repairs. Doing a home inspection twice a year will help ensure you catch any future insurance claims.

1. Mildew on the exterior

For many people, mildew on the exterior of a home is less worrisome than on the inside. But if it doesn’t get cleaned up, it could lead to a big problem. Mildew presents itself in areas that receive little sunlight and remain damp. The north side of your home is a prime spot. It can show up as green, brown or black spots and affects brick, stucco, wood, vinyl, and more. This fungus is designed to eat and digest things to return everything to the earth. Not good for your home. It can actually get trapped behind vinyl siding and start eating it’s way through interior drywall. Fixing this problem is a must. Sooner rather than later.

To keep this problem away, remove mildew by washing with a bleach and water solution with a 1:3 ratio. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes, then pressure wash with plain water. Painting the area with a mildew-killing and resistant paint is also be a good idea to prevent future regrowth.

2. Overgrown plants

A well-planned yard is a beautiful thing. All those pretty shrubs at the nursery look so small, but in just a few years time, they can hijack your landscaping. But shrubs that are overgrown are more than just unsightly. Plants too close to the house will restrict air flow and cause mildew  (see above). Roots can also cause damage to foundations and plumbing pipes, costing thousands of dollars to repair.

Avoid this problem all together by planting shrubs in the dwarf variety. Check labels carefully to see what the mature size will be. It may fit now, but that tiny shrub will be 3 times as large in just a few years. If you already have overgrown shrubs, replace them with smaller varieties. Keep new growth in check by trimming plants back twice a year. When planting, keep 3’ between the bed and the house to maintain airflow.

3. Dismal decks

The previous homeowner’s of our house meant well. They added a huge, all wood deck several years ago. But they didn’t do the upkeep. So now we are faced with ripping up the entire 18’ x 40’ deck and replacing it ourselves to the tune of $5000 minimum. If we have a professional do it, we’re looking at $10,000.

Save yourself the agony by regularly inspecting and replacing rotten boards. Screw down any loose ones as well. Leave an 1/8” gap between board for proper drainage. Stain to match the existing boards. Watch for loose nails or screws that are popping up. Reinforce any wobbly handrails with screws and construction adhesive.

4. Peeling exterior paint

Paint creates a barrier between the wood and moisture. It helps preserve the exterior and keeps moisture out of the house. When it’s cracked or peeling, the paint isn’t doing its job anymore and water can find it’s way inside.

Scrape any flaking paint off, sand, prime, paint surfaces. Check for soft spots in the wood. Small pieces can be dug out and filled with epoxy. Larger pieces require cutting out the old and replacing with new wood.

5. Close tree limbs

Branches hanging over the roof are a recipe for disaster. You may not realize a limb is rotted until it comes crashing down through the roof. Before a storm comes along, get those trees trimmed. Even if it isn’t rotted, limbs trap moisture which can lead to algae and mildew (once again, see above).

You can tackle small limbs with a pole saw and tree collar. But for larger ones, call a professional. They run about $75-$95 an hour.

6. Clogged gutters

A gutter that is filled with debris will cause water to getting into all sorts of places and causing damage. It can redirect water to cascade down the side of the house, cause fascia and wood rot, leak into the walls. Repairing that damage gets pricey.

Keep gutters cleaned out by doing it by hand. Remove any gunk, inspect for loose hangers, and make sure they’re sloped toward the downspout. A level surface makes for standing water.  Fill any gaps or holes with sealant.

7. Worn out caulk

Rippled or shrunken caulk around the tub means water is getting somewhere it shouldn’t, leading to mold and wood rot. Replacing missing caulk is easier and cheaper than replacing a floor and tub.

Scrape out old caulk that is stretched or ribbed. Fill in with a mildew-resistant caulk made for high moisture areas. For clean lines, place painters tape on the wall and tub before caulking. It comes off cleanly, leaving a perfect edge.

8. Get a plumbing inspection

Just because you can’t see a leak, doesn’t mean there isn’t one or one about to happen. Call in a plumbing professional to inspect your pipes for potential hazards. By replacing things now, you could stave off a flood and save thousands later.

9. Add a standpipe to the washer

This plastic box is worth more than you can imagine. A standpipe fits behind washer hoses to create a secure attachment to the pipes so they don’t get knocked off and begin spraying water everywhere.

Installing it is simple. Unhook existing washer lines. Cut the wall to fit the box and slide it in, re-attaching hoses tightly.

10. Clean out your AC unit

A clogged up AC unit does not run efficiently, which costs you money. A frozen AC unit leaves you hot and after-hours calls will cost you even more. If you’re still feeling hot when inside, a dirty unit may be to blame.

 Take a leaf blower and get rid of all the debris surrounding it and inside the unit.

Don’t wait for disaster to strike. Take a few minutes now to repair those potential hazards and give your peace of mind.

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