10 maintenance tasks experts say many miss

Daniel Bortz

THE WASHINGTON POST – If you pride yourself on keeping your home in tiptop shape, you’re the kind of homeowner who takes the necessary steps to keep your house running like a well-oiled machine – or at least you think you’re taking all of the right steps.

The hard truth, though, is many people overlook a number of important home maintenance tasks.

“There is so much many homeowners just don’t know to do,” said Director of Operations at GrayWolf Residential Services Melissa Mitchell, a preventive home maintenance company based in Ohio.

Experts said homeowners often miss these 10 home maintenance tasks, which can have serious consequences, as maintaining your home is a whole lot easier – and a lot less expensive – than dealing with big repairs.

1. CLEAN YOUR REFRIGERATOR’S COMDENSER COILS

Make sure to flush the shower head with hot water once you’re done cleaning before using it
Hunter Macfarlane, Lowe’s project expert, recommends homeowners clean their refrigerator’s condenser coil once a year
Run a cup of white vinegar through the washing machine, using a cleaning cycle (available on some washers) or a normal cycle with hot water to prevent mould from growing in your washing machine

Most refrigerators have condenser coils located across the bottom or at the back of the unit that cool and condense the refrigerant.

These coils can collect dust and pet hair and get clogged, forcing your refrigerator to work harder to stay cold.

“The result is decreased efficiency and poor cooling performance in the refrigerator,” said Wayne Archer, technical expert at Sears Home Services.

Hunter Macfarlane, Lowe’s project expert, recommends homeowners clean their refrigerator’s condenser coil once a year, twice if they have a pet that sheds.

You can do this yourself by unplugging the refrigerator, removing the grill protecting the coils and gently using the hose from a vacuum cleaner to suck out dust particles and debris. Make sure to wear a dust mask.

2. CLEAN YOUR REFRIGERATOR’S ICE CUBE MAKER

“We all go through such great lengths to ensure our drinking water is filtered and clean, but without properly cleaning and replacing filters, we can be creating other issues from mineral buildup, dust and other debris,” said co-founder and Chief Executive at HomeKeepr Rob Morelli, a referral network for home service professionals.

This can eventually lead to mould and can contaminate the ice; hence, it’s important to replace your refrigerator’s water filter as needed. (Check your manufacturer’s instructions.)

In addition, you’ll want to clean your ice maker’s collection bin annually, or two to three times a year if you have “hard” water, meaning it’s high in dissolved minerals, specifically calcium, iron and magnesium, and causes limescale buildup.

An even mixture of white vinegar and warm water will do the trick, Morelli said.

3. CLEAN YOUR BATHROOM’S EXHAUST FANS TWICE A YEAR

Bathroom exhaust fans help eliminate odours and remove moisture that would otherwise land on surfaces and turn into mould; however, a fan can’t operate properly if its cover is dirty, warned Mark Clement, co-founder at MyFixitUpLife.com, a resource for DIY home remodelling.The solution is simple: Give bathroom vent covers a thorough cleaning with soapy water twice a year to keep your exhaust fans running efficiently.

4. CLEAN THE DRYER VENT, NOT JUST THE LINT SCREEN

Most homeowners know it’s important to clean their dryer’s lint screen in between loads to prevent fires, but many people don’t check for lint build-up in and around the dryer duct and vent filter, said Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor.

In fact, failure to clean the dryer is the leading cause of clothes dryer fires, according to the United States (US) Fire Administration.

Dryer vents should be cleaned at least once a year, DiClerico said. “For best results, invest in a dryer vent cleaning kit, which makes it easy to access the vent filter through the dryer’s ductwork,” he suggested.

5. FLUSH THE WATER HEATER FOR BETTER PERFORMANCE

Your home’s water system will perform better and last longer if you flush the tank once a year to remove sediment, said DiClerico, because magnesium and calcium build-up over time, which can reduce a water heater’s efficiency.

“This goes for both gas and electric systems,” he said. According to HomeAdvisor, plumbers will include flushing in their annual tune-up for about USD200.

6. SWEEP THE CHIMNEY TO AVOID FIRES, CARBON MONOXIDE LEAKS

Love using your wood-burning fireplace? Smoke can leave behind ash and carbon deposits called creosote, “residue that needs to be removed periodically because it can lead to chimney fires and carbon monoxide leaks,” DiClerico said.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends a chimney inspection at least once a year.

7. CLEAN THE DISHWASHER A FEW TIMES A YEAR

This may sound counterintuitive – after all, you use your dishwasher to clean dishes – but your machine won’t last as long, or perform as well, if you don’t clean it a few times a year.

“A good trick for deodorising the dishwasher is to place a bowl full of vinegar in the middle of the bottom rack and then run a normal wash cycle,” DiClerico said.

The vinegar trick is mainly for deodorising, but it will also remove some of the stains and discolourations that can build up over time in a dishwasher’s interior. For more stubborn stains, which are common in homes with hard water, homeowners can try a store-brought dishwasher cleaner; DiClerico recommends Lemi Shine Original.

8. KEEP YOUR WASHING MACHINE MILDEW-FREE

Don’t want mould to fester and grow in your clothes washer?

Run a cup of white vinegar through the washing machine, using a cleaning cycle (available on some washers) or a normal cycle with hot water, once per month, said Mitchell of GrayWolf Residential Services.

Also, keep your washing machine’s lid or door open in between cycles to allow the basket to dry out. Front-loaders are more likely to build up mould, but it can happen to top-loaders, too.

9. REMOVE CALCIUM DEPOSITS FROM SHOWER HEADS

“Natural minerals in our water build-up over time and clog the holes in a shower head, which can create a breeding ground for potentially harmful bacteria and mildews if left untreated,” said Head of Cleaning at Handy Bailey Carson, a website and mobile app that connects consumers with home service providers.

To remove calcium deposits and other gunk, fill a small bag with one cup equal parts water and distilled white vinegar and attach it to the shower head’s nozzle with a twist tie, letting it soak for 20 minutes, said Carson.

“For a more thorough clean, remove the shower head to let it fully soak and then use an old toothbrush to clean away any remaining debris.” Make sure to flush the shower head with hot water once you’re done cleaning before using it. A full soak should be done about once every three months, said Carson; however, if you notice reduced or uneven shower pressure, it’s time for a cleaning.

10. INSPECT TREES AND TREE LIMBS NEAR YOUR HOME FOR SAFETY

That beautiful sycamore tree near your bedroom window may be a cause for concern.

Depending on its proximity to your home and the tree’s condition, strong winds could force it to come crashing into your house.

As a result, co-founder of Angie’s List Angie Hicks sid it’s a good idea to add tree inspections to your annual home maintenance checklist. “Checking specifically on trees near your home, driveway, garage and any power lines is especially important,” she said.

If you have trees close to your home, you’ll want to hire a professional arborist to do an annual sweep of your property. Doing this means you’ll have an expert who can identify early signs of disease or rotting.

Expect to pay USD75 to USD100 for an inspection of one to five trees, and each additional tree will cost around USD25, according to HomeAdvisor. Then, follow the arborist’s advice on what foliage to trim or cut down.

“With trees, it’s better to be proactive than reactive, as a fallen tree can cause a lot of damage” and cost a lot of money, Hicks said.