How To Maintain Your Home
Kiwis are not generally so keen on home maintenance, but we should be. Keeping our homes in good condition makes good sense. Regular inspections (at least yearly) should be carried out to determine the condition of materials used.
Some checks can be done when cleaning both inside and outside the building but some may require more effort, such as getting under the floor or into the roof space. In this issue we have included a downloadable Annual Home Maintenance Checklist of common maintenance tasks. The following article describes what is required for each of these tasks and the condition checks you should carry out to ensure your home stays safe, comfortable and sound.
Particular attention should be paid to these areas:
- Subfloor spaces
- Exterior walls
- The roof space
- Around the section (site check)
- Electrical services
- Fences & retaining walls
- Roofing and spouting
- Interior surfaces & fittings
- Plumbing & draining services
- Gas services
When working at heights, take care to prevent falls. Visit ACC’s Home Safety site for information on injury prevention. Wet roofs can be slippery, so complete your roof check on a dry day. If there are power lines nearby, call your power company to arrange for a temporary disconnection while you complete the work. Walking on roofs can be dangerous for inexperienced individuals. Employ a professional to do this work if you are unsure.
If your roof is made of coated or galvanised steel, check for corrosion. Check for moss, lichen and damage from fallen tree branches. If your roof is weathered but not corroded, you may choose to over paint it for aesthetic reasons. Over painting your roof while the top coat is still in good condition will extend its life. If there is white corrosion, remove it and repaint the roof. If there is red corrosion (rust), the roof should typically be replaced. Spots of rust in an otherwise sound roof indicate either the use of dissimilar metals causing corrosion or damage to the roof, such as a dent left by someone walking on it causing a low point and therefore creating ponding and rusting. Professional help should be sought in those cases.
Lichen & Algae
With pressed metal tile roofs, check for accumulation of dirt or growth of lichen and algae. These can be removed using a sanitising wash or (if the roof is more than 5 years old) a hypochlorite wash. This should be done every 3-5 years. If you use the roof to collect drinking water, you will need to disconnect the water collection for a certain period or hose down the roof after this treatment. Read the manufacturer’s instructions. Pressed metal tile roofs should be recoated 15-20 years after installation to look and function at their best.
For concrete roof tiles, moss removal chemicals can also be used. Check for cracks or chips out of tiles. These will need to be replaced. Check the ridging and all flashing to make sure they are in place and if not have them replaced or repaired.
Roof & Spouting Wash
To keep your roof in a good condition and looking its best, wash it every 6 to 12 months with low pressure water, sugar soap and a soft bristled broom (except on textured roofs). More frequent washing may be needed in seaside or geothermal areas.
Check that the gutters have not pulled away and are not sagging, leaking or sloping in the wrong direction. Clean away leaves, dirt and other obstructions.
Washing your house
Regular cleaning of exterior surfaces (every six to twelve months, more frequently in marine or geothermal environments) removes dust, dirt, mould, lichen, salt spray, sulphur and helps your building materials last longer. Use a low-pressure hose, a soft brush and mild detergent. Some types of cladding can withstand low-pressure water-blasting. Check the manufacturer’s instructions.
Concentrate particularly on areas that aren’t regularly washed by the rain, such as soffits, under eaves, verandas and at the top of garage doors where they are sheltered by the wall. Wash windows and window sills at the same time as the cladding of the house and be sure to rinse detergent off with fresh water afterwards.
Check wall base
Check around the base of your walls to make sure vent openings are clear of plants and dirt. Divert any runoff from rainfall away from the base of the house. Check paint for chalking, cracking or flaking, which will mean you need to remove the existing paint and repaint your house. Block up or fill in holes in the cladding that may let water or rodents in (except for drainage gaps built into the cladding system).
The main function of your cladding is to keep the weather out, so check for cracks, holes, loose cladding or fixings, places where sealing has failed or joints have separated. If your cladding is a proprietary system such as an EIFS (or polystyrene backed) system, contact an approved applicator to make any necessary repairs. If you see signs that water has already entered the building, such as cracks in the plaster (even the thinnest, smallest of cracks are of concern) contact a builder for urgent repairs.
Around the property,look for hazards such as fallen tree limbs, loose railings and wobbly ballustrades, broken paving or slippery green growth on decks. Repair or remove all hazards.
Visually inspect any retaining walls to make sure there are no cracks, bowing, bulging or tilting in the wall. For all problems regarding retaining walls over 1.5 metres high and any problems regarding soil movement (especially slips and subsidence) you must seek advice from a specialist in the field of soil engineering. He or she will be able to advise on action that can be taken to alleviate the situation. Remedial work to retaining walls will require building consent.
Walls & ceilings
Walls and ceilings should be inspected for cracks in interior finishes. Any movement should be noted. Bulges in wall and ceiling surfaces should be carefully monitored. Visible moisture (water stains or puddles) should be traced to the source and fixed. If you can’t determine the source, call a professional, as this could indicate a serious problem.
Rot, mould & mildew
Walls, particularly in corners and areas of dead air (behind drapes and furniture for example), should be checked for evidence of condensation and mildew. Water stains on interior finishes should be noted. If the source cannot be detected, they should be monitored. Condensation on windows also indicates high humidity levels during winter months. This can sometimes lead to rot.
Rot, mould and mildew are not only bad for your home and possessions; they are bad for your family too. Consider installing a ventilation system to keep the air inside fresh and healthy during months when windows remain closed. Many ventilation systems recover the heat from the stale air they extract and will both dry out your home and make it more efficient to heat.
Water, electricity, gas
Check that your toby (water meter tap) works correctly by turning it off then on again every 6 to 12 months. If you live in a cross-leased or multi-unit property, your toby may not be inside your house but rather outside towards the road. Check for dripping taps – these will need to be fixed by turning off the water and either replacing the washer (if it has worn down) or reseating the tap if this is the fault.
On your fuse box, check that the circuit breaker trip mechanism is working by pushing the red trip button to see that the large button pops out and cuts the power supply. If breaker or fuse circuits are not labelled, check which outlets and lights are not working, then label them for ease of use in future.
Cutting the power first, remove and replace any damaged socket outlets or light switches. Unplug (or disconnect power for permanently wired appliances) and replace any frayed or cut appliance cords. For any other electrical faults, seek help from a registered electrician.
If you use gas in your home, check that the meter is in good condition at least once a year. There should be no corrosion, gas pressure should be constant and there should not be any persistent smells of gas in or around the home. If you have any problems, call the gas supply company or a gasfitter.
Fireplaces and chimneys should be cleaned and inspected at least annually, depending upon usage. Smoke alarms should be checked every six months to make sure they work. The NZ Fire Service run a handy TV campaign at daylight savings to remind us all to check our alarms, so do it then. Alarms should be smoke-tested annually and batteries should be replaced at least once a year.
Roof space & door frames
Check your roof space for signs of leaks, dampness or infestation. Ensure there is adequate ventilation – there should be a minimum 25mm air gap between insulation and building paper even at the edges of a pitched roof. Check that insulation is correctly installed: there should be no gaps around joists and no insulation displaced by wind. However, if you have recessed downlights in your home and find upon inspection that holes have been left in the insulation for these, do not cover them over. Insulation over most recessed downlights creates a fire hazard.
Door frames should be inspected: check for squareness with a level or set square. Door frames which become out of square during a relatively short period (six months) may indicate structural problems.
For houses with suspended timber floors, check that the area under the house is dry and well ventilated. Check downpipes and drains. Clear obstructions and repair any leaks. You may need to create channels or drains to divert water away from or around the house. If the water table in the earth below your house is high, cover the earth with polythene sheeting to keep evaporating moisture from rising into your home. Make sure this is cut and taped to fit securely around piles and right to the edges of the house.
Check piles for signs of rot or in the case of concrete piles, cracks that may indicate subsidence. Rotten piles need to be replaced and cracks need to be repaired.
Wet Areas (Kitchen, bathroom, laundry)
Wet areas include the bathroom, laundry, kitchen and toilets. All may be subject to splashed or leaked water in spots. Maintenance may involve re-coating protective finishes and replacing sealant in joints and waterproof grout around tiles. Make sure there are no obvious signs of water penetrating behind the walls, such as walls swelling or bowing out. If you see this, call a plumber straight away as it indicates a leak behind the wall lining.
Common household appliances all require regular cleaning and maintenance in order to continue to function well and will last longer as a result. Refer to the user guide that came with your appliance for the manufacturer’s instructions on how to maintain it.
If you have a heat pump, the filter should be regularly cleaned. Outdoor heat pump units should be washed at least once a year (more if you live in a marine or geothermal environment). Annual maintenance by a qualified serviceman should also be carried out. In fact, this is often a requirement to ensure the warranty is not voided.
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Find out what you can do to be Health & Safety savvy in the articles linked below.