You’ve owned your home for many years. Perhaps you’ve even done some remodeling. Remodeling and building maintenance are two very different things. One you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor, the other you just get peace of mind. Here are a few things that you really need to pay attention to and this is never more true than in an El Nino year.
With winter upon us and predictions of heavy rain throughout California, the first most obvious thing to attend to is your roof. Most people only think about their roof when it’s already leaking, not exactly a great strategy. So what to do? You need to call your local roofer or your local Realtor for a referral (Contact Tim Here) if you don’t know a roofer and ask for a roof tune up. A typical roof tune up costs around $350 to tune up and should be done every 7 years or so. When a roofer does a tune up they’re looking for broken tiles that might need repair. Most people don’t realize that the tile does not keep the home dry, rather it’s the paper or “Felt” underneath that does. The tile is there to protect the felt. When there is a slipped or broken tile, the paper is exposed to UV light and this causes the paper to become dry and brittle. This in turn is a quick path to a leaky roof. The second thing the roofer looks for is the mastic around the flashings… huh? That is, the rubberized industrial adhesive that is used to seal the gaps between the sheet metal vents that breach the roof, paper and tile. This includes along the edge where the chimney meets the roof. Next time you’re at home, go across the street and look back to your home. Imagine that each vent pipe you see sticking out of your roof is a hole cut in the felt and roof tile. Mastic seals the flashings however, over time mastic like any tar or rubberized material, dries over time and cracks. Cracks in the sealer mean a greater likelihood you’ll get a leaky roof. Cleaning gutters is another reason for the roof service as well as cleaning valleys. The valley is the “V” shaped sheet metal at the joint where two angles of the roof meet. Those valleys however become easily blocked by leaves, dirt, pine needles etc. Don’t think for a minute that having debris on your roof is giving you, “an extra layer of natural protection.” Quite the contrary, it’s a leak waiting to happen. Like all water, water coming off a roof flows downhill, but when the valley is blocked by debris, a dam is formed. Then water backs up essentially flowing up hill. Since the paper overlaps to allow for runoff, water flowing up will go under the paper and cause a leak. I recently closed on a home where the owners had lived for 26 years. There had been some roof leaking above the master bed in the past but had been repaired. Unfortunately, what no one realized was that while the roof had been repaired and the ceiling repainted, the wall behind the seller’s headboard had not dried out properly and, you guessed it, this led to a mold problem. Making matters worse was the fact that the mold problem wasn’t discovered until the day the furniture was moved out, which in our case was the day of closing. Thus the seller had to attend to the mold issue after close to avoid a lawsuit. We quickly had the area scrubbed and the mold eradicated to the tune of $1,800. Of course the seller absorbed this cost even though they had no idea prior to furniture removal that such a condition existed. Had the roof been serviced every 7 years as it should have been, this prickly and very stressful situation could have been avoided.
Another important winter repair are your drains, both yard and sewer. Because California has been in the grip of a drought for 3 years, our trees have become very thirsty. Thirsty trees will find water wherever they can and this includes your yard drains and sewer pipes. Both these pipes can usually be cleared out by a plumber using a combination of a snake with small saw blades to cut up the roots and high pressure water to blast the debris out. Failure to do this can lead to flooding and backed up sewer lines. Wait too long and the hydro will no longer clear out the debris and this means re-piping. When my mom recently replaced her driveway I suggested that she have a plumber run a camera down the sewer pipe to determine if it was clear since it would never be easier to repair than when the driveway was torn up. It cost about $150 to get a DVD made with the camera in the line and don’t ya know? The tree roots invaded the line and the connection to the City main was broken! That ended up being an $8,000 repair, at least the driveway didn’t have to be torn up and re-poured. By the way, do you now whose responsibility it is to repair the connection of a home’s sewer line to the sewer main? The home owner, even though it is under the street and past the property line.
I’m sure you’ve noticed at times you need to paint. Eaves, garage and window trim, exterior doors, decks… If you have wooden windows you’re probably used to painting them regularly, same for a deck. If you don’t, you may think that you can wait to do doors and trim until the next time you paint the whole house. This deferred maintenance is a mistake. Exposed painted wood further deteriorates due to weather and the sun and failure to repaint will lead to water and weather damage and wood destroying pests like dry rot.
Wet weather can cause other problems too. If you normally don’t use a key to enter your French door to the back yard or the door from the side yard into the garage, chances are the key isn’t going to work well if at all. While WD40 may be a good lubricants for hinges, they are a disaster on door locks. The way to lubricate a lock is with graphite. Your local hardware store sells graphite and often the little tube it comes in actually has a key on it. Graphite gets ‘Puffed” from the small tube into the key lock and into the door latch itself. Do this and it will operate as smooth as silk. I can’t tell you how many sellers provide me with a key that barely works or is sticky. “Yeah that lock is kind of difficult,” my clients will say. I then break out my tool kit (As a Realtor I carry a little tool kit for just such an occasion) and with a quick puff of graphite, Ta-Dah, the key and lock work just fine. You can take the mechanism apart and dust in graphite on some of the interior moving parts, just stay away from the greased portions. Graphite costs a couple dollars. A new side door lock could be $100 and your front door can run as much as $1,000.
So when it comes to El Nino and maintenance in general, remember the old adage: An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure.