Maintenance Tips

Circuit Breakers

electric glennCircuit breakers are safety devices that shut off the electricity if there is trouble in a branch circuit. They are designed to protect wires from being overloaded and starting fires. They operate on temperature, building up enough heat until a circuit breaker trips. If a circuit breaker trips, you should let it cool, then flip it all the way off and back on again. Never flip the large breakers (30 Amps and above) off and on until you are sure that the air conditioning is not on. You could damage the air conditioning compressor if it is running.
Make sure each breaker is labeled for the area it covers and that the labels are correct. If you add circuit breakers in your electrical panel, you must also add arc circuit interrupters. This is safety devise that interrupts, stops the flow of electricity if it senses an arc in the panel. Always use a licensed electrician for such projects.

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Chimney Cap

A cracked cap allows water to penetrate the chimney causing premature deterioration and in northern climates, freeze/thaw damage.

Chimney Cap

The purpose of a chimney cap is to prevent water from penetrating the top of a masonry chimney. The chimney cap should not be confused with the rain caps which sometimes cover the tops of chimney flues to prevent rain water from running down the inside of the chimney. A chimney cap is usually constructed of concrete; however, some are stone or metal. A good quality cap normally overhangs the sides of the chimney at least one inch to provide some protection for the chimney from water dripping off the cap.

In many cases, a proper cap is not provided. Bricklayers often put a thin coat of mortar over the top of the chimney (exclusive of the flues, of course). With time, this thin layer of mortar cracks and eventually becomes loose. Examine your chimney cap using binoculars. If you see cracks or deterioration have it evaluated and/or repaired.

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Ceiling Fans


fanWinter is officially here. Stay warm and save energy with this easy tip: run your ceiling fans in reverse. Most people think of ceiling fans only when they want to be cool, but many of them have a switch that reverses the direction of the blades. Clockwise rotation makes it warmer by circulating air pooled near the ceiling back into the living space — potentially cutting heating costs by as much as 10 percent.

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Carbon Monoxide

Is Your Garage Making You Sick?

3e8c445f-8d0f-4e18-a089-099cbdb9e40d_300In response to the frigid temperatures, many of us warm up our vehicles before leaving the garage. But for homes with attached garages, this practice can result in our garages making us sick. Even at low concentrations, carbon monoxide (CO) can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue. At higher levels, CO can be lethal. When you start your car in the garage even with the garage door open, CO can move from the garage into the living space of your house.
Additionally, your vehicle emits a multitude of contaminants for several hours after it has been driven for a time and then turned off. This is especially important when driving a warmed vehicle into the garage, turning it off, and closing the garage door.
Be aware that while we’re talking about the impact of cars/trucks on indoor air quality, there are additional contaminants like stored gasoline and equipment that uses gasoline like snow blowers, lawn mowers as well as paints and pesticides that can cause problems.

How Do These Pollutants Get into the House?

Contaminants enter the house through cracks and holes in the common wall between the garage and living space; through such things as inadequate weather-stripping around doors. But to enter the house there must be a pressure differential between the house and garage. Especially in colder weather, the house pressure is lower in the house than the garage. Thus, air and contaminants move from an area of high pressure, the garage, into an area of low pressure, the house.

The Solution
The most important solution is to limit operation of vehicles in the garage as much as possible. Pull the vehicle out of the garage when warming it up. Additionally:
• Limit air infiltration by having adequate air-seals between the common walls and ceilings.
• Install proper weather-stripping on all entrances.
• Store all gasoline and chemicals in approved containers.
• Install mechanical equipment that limit negative pressure in the house (e.g. sealed combustion furnace & water heaters, replace exhaust fans with air-to-air heat exchangers).


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Garbage Disposal

garbage-disposal-repairA Leaking Garbage Disposal It is not that uncommon over time for a garbage disposal to start leaking water under your sink. Fortunately, this is not a hard fix. The leak can only come from three areas; the sink flange (very top of the disposal), where the waste drain line meets the disposal and where the dishwasher hooks up.

For a leak at the sink flange you will want to unhook the garbage disposal which consists of loosening three screws then rotating the unit counter-clockwise a half-turn. The unit will slip right off and then you just need to remove a snap ring (stick a flat head screw driver in and pop it off) then you can pop the sink flange right out which is sealed to the sink with plumber’s putty. Clean off all of the old plumber’s putty from the sink flange and the sink; also make sure nothing is bent so that the sink flange can sit flush with the sink. Roll some plumber’s putty and make a ring on the sink where the sink flange will sit, then put the sink flange back in place and add pressure.

The excess putty will ooze out up top and underneath the sink, clean that away and put everything back together. For the other two leaks, make sure that all screws and clamps are tight. If they still leak you might need a new hose (only for dishwasher) or pipe. There should be a gasket where the waste drain line hooks up, so make sure that is there as well.


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Fire Safety

fireWorking Together for Home Fire Safety

More than 3,400 Americans die each year in fires and approximately 17,500 are injured. An overwhelming number of fires occur in the home. There are time-tested ways to prevent and survive a fire. It’s not a question of luck. It’s a matter of planning ahead.

Every Home Should Have at Least One Working Smoke Alarm

Buy a smoke alarm at any hardware or discount store. It’s inexpensive protection for you and your family. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. A working smoke alarm can double your chances of survival. Test it monthly, keep it free of dust and replace the battery at least once a year. Smoke alarms themselves should be replaced after ten years of service, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Prevent Electrical Fires

Never overload circuits or extension cords. Do not place cords and wires under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas. Immediately shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell. Have them professionally repaired or replaced.

Use Appliances Wisely

When using appliances follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions. Overheating, unusual smells, shorts and sparks are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off, then replaced or repaired. Unplug appliances when not in use. Use safety caps to cover all unused outlets, especially if there are small children in the home.

Alternate Heaters

  • Portable heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away.
  • Keep fire in the fireplace. Use fire screens and have your chimney cleaned annually. The creosote buildup can ignite a chimney fire that could easily spread.
  • Kerosene heaters should be used only where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp-stove fuel. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled.

Affordable Home Fire Safety Sprinklers

When home fire sprinklers are used with working smoke alarms, your chances of surviving a fire are greatly increased. Sprinklers are affordable – they can increase property value and lower insurance rates.

Plan Your Escape

Practice an escape plan from every room in the house. Caution everyone to stay low to the floor when escaping from fire and never to open doors that are hot. Select a location where everyone can meet after escaping the house. Get out then call for help.

Caring for Children

Children under five are naturally curious about fire. Many play with matches and lighters. Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching your children that fire is a tool, not a toy.

Caring for Older People

Every year over 1,000 senior citizens die in fires. Many of these fire deaths could have been prevented. Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and can’t respond quickly.

Related Publications (Download, Help)

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CommodesEveryone knows the basic “dos and don’ts” of the commode: don’t flush any kind of paper other than toilet paper, if a commode starts to back up you can shut off the water by turning the knob at the back of the commode near the floor – righty tighty, lefty loosey.

There are a couple other things to keep an eye on, or an ear out for: see if you can rock the commode back and forth or front to back. If so, you should tighten down the bolts. There are typically two bolts fastening the commode to the floor, which are usually covered by plastic knobs. Do not tighten bolts too tight as you can crack the commode.

If your commode sounds like it is constantly running you might need to have a plumber replace the fill valve. You can also take the cover off the back of the commode and see if the refill tube goes down into the overflow tube – it should actually hang just above it. If that is not the case, you can try adjusting the ballcock or float cup lower and see if that fixes the problem.


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Winter Checklist

Winter is Coming! A Short check List to be Prepared.

  • Have furnace servicedwinter
  • Change batteries in smoke & carbon monoxide detectors
  • Inspect and clean fireplace and chimney
  • Clean gutters
  • Reverse ceiling fans-should blow upward in winter
  • Check attic insulation-make sure insulation is not blocking soffit vents
  • Turn off outside water faucets-turn water off inside house and open outside faucets. Oil faucet valve stems.
  • Clean clothes dryer exhaust duct.
  • Check caulk around windows and doors.

These tasks will help keep you and your family comfortable and safe this winter.

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Walks, Driveways and Landscaping

drivewayWalks and driveways may be gravel, asphalt, concrete, stone, or pavers. Regardless of the material, they should be slightly sloped to drain water away from the house, rather than toward it.

Improper slopes often cause wet basement problems, and in some cases, erosion and/or frost damage to building foundations. Where walks or driveways pull away from the building, water can accumulate along the foundation wall, again resulting in wet basement problems. In some cases a drain is required to carry surface water away. The drain should be sized to handle the maximum run-off from rains, and from melting snow where applicable. The drain should be arranged to prevent clogging with debris or frost damage to the drain assembly. The pipes leading from these drains cannot be examined during a home inspection.

Shrubs, trees, planters and so on can add to the value of a property, but can also adversely affect the building itself. Shrubs too close to a building can hold water against walls, prevent wood components from drying out and provide pests with good access into the house. Tree branches can cause mechanical damage to roof and wall surfaces, leaves can clog gutters and downspouts, and roots can clog drainage pipes and in severe cases, dislodge foundations.

Raised flower gardens or planters can cause wet basement problems, especially as a result of heavy watering of flowers during the summer months. Where the original grade level has been raised by adding topsoil, there are three concerns.

The building wall may be subject to damage if wood components are in contact with the soil. Water leakage into the building may be experienced if the soil is above the top of the foundation wall. The increased load exerted on the foundation wall can push the foundation wall inward, particularly in areas where frozen soil conditions may exist.

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LC_Decking_BodyImg_DeckStainMany houses new and old have decking. The newer ones are commonly built out of PTL (Pressure Treated Lumber) this ensures durability and minimal maintenance. These decks can warp and will occasionally need to be re-nailed.

Here are a few things to keep in mind whether you build a deck yourself or have a professional do it:
• Posts should be connected to their footings so the posts don’t lift or slip off.
• In all but the lowest decks, deck posts should be at least 6” x 6”.
• Downspouts should not discharge near the deck posts. This encourages rot.
• Handrail height should be between 34 and 38 inches.
• Outlets should be moisture and GFCI protected.
• Periodically take an awl and probe around your deck especially where the wood meets the ground for soft spots.
• Keep your deck stained or painted.

This is the time of year when a deck can add enjoyment to your life whether you’re entertaining or just relaxing. With a little attention a deck can be a source of satisfaction for years.

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