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Keeping your home and its operating systems clean and in good working order will make everything safer, more energy efficient and will cut utility and repair bills. What's more, regular maintenance can prevent damage that can lead to hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs.
Many home maintenance projects offer a two for one—they improve appearance and prevent costly repairs down the road. For example, a fresh coat of paint will do wonders to improve the appearance of your home. That coat of paint will also offer weather protection that prevents deterioration and rot.
Many home maintenance tasks offer multiple benefits. Changing a furnace filter will not only improve the air quality in your home; a clean filter also means that the system won't have to work quite as hard and, thus, will save money on repairs and your utility bill.
Though home maintenance is a year-round task, spring and fall are two of the most important times for it.
Fall is the best time to prepare your home for winter rains and snow. Projects such as exterior caulking will prevent leaks and drafts. Repairing gutters and downspouts, roofing and drainage systems will help prevent roof leaks and flooded basements.
Spring is a time to assess how well your maintenance work held up during the winter and what other maintenance work or repairs must be made as a result of winter. Here's our list of spring home maintenance tasks that will keep your home humming for another season.
Dealing With Doors That Rub or Stick
In an earlier article, we mentioned that a sticking door could easily be repaired by planing the spot where a rub was occurring.
Although we still feel that doors that rub can be quickly fixed with a small block plane or a pad sander, the sticking condition eventually is likely to reverse itself as winter rains return. The tight joint that currently exists between the door and frame will widen. So, be careful not to overdo the removal of what will again become precious and needed door material. Simply put, plane or sand sparingly.
Before beginning any type of repair, check the hinges to be sure the problem isn't loose hinge screws. A loose top hinge will allow the weight of the door to fall against the opposite side of the door frame—resulting in an annoying rub that is not unlike one caused by a door that has shifted because of house movement.
There is an option to sanding or planing when only a slight rub exists. Slightly—and permanently—move the door frame at the point where the rub is occurring. This increases the distance between the door and the frame. This technique is a common one, and takes only seconds to perform. It could take you longer to read this article than to make the repair. This repair is most successful when only a moderate rub exists between the door and the door frame. This is because it is generally difficult to move the frame more than a sixteenth- to an eighth of an inch.
You'll need a hammer, a box nail, a fat nail punch and a small block of wood. Any hammer will do. We usually use a 10- to 16-ounce finish hammer. We use 16d sinkers, but any size between 8d and 16d will work. A short piece of 2x4 or a piece of 2x2 works well as the block of wood, although any smooth piece of wood will do. Rough-sawn wood should not be used. It will leave an irregular pattern in the door frame.
This repair is sometimes more effective when it also is performed on the hinge side. Rather than moving the frame only at the side where the door is rubbing, the frame can be moved at the hinge side as well. Moving both door frames can result in a wider gap.
Other things, too, can cause a door to rub. Often the weight of the door is just enough to pull the top hinge and the door frame away from the house frame. Besides the rub at the top of the hardware side of the door, this condition is most evident when the gap at the top of the door is wider at the hardware side than it is at the hinge side. In this case, the nail trick should be used to push the hinge back against the frame. This will bring the frame back to its original position and eliminate the rubbing.
Normally, the nail is placed just above the hinge. However, there are times when two nails work better—one just above and one just below the hinge. For this repair, we use a 16d box nail. If you move the door too much, you can loosen the hinge and insert a shim between the hinge and the door and-or frame. In this way, you can do finite adjustments that will get the door precisely where you want it.
Checked Your Roof Lately?
Many assume that a leaky roof means replacement is imminent.
Often that's the case, but leaks could be caused by a flashing problem. Flashings are a part of every roof. They keep water out at certain locations where the roofing itself can't. For example, most types of roofing aren't capable of sealing themselves to pipes and ducts, or to skylights, or to intersecting roofs or intersecting walls. Flashings make watertight connections possible at these locations.
A flashing is a shingle of sorts. When a vent pipe goes through a roof, a vent-pipe flashing is used to seal the penetration. The flashing is a large, flat metal shingle that contains a piece of rubber at its center. The rubber portion seals itself tightly around the pipe and the large, flat metal portion laces into surrounding shingles. On a flat roof the same rubber grommet also is used to seal itself to the pipe while the large, flat portion provides ample surface area to facilitate a good connection to tar and other types of flat and low-slope roofing materials.
Flashings are made from a variety of materials – galvanized sheet metal, fiberglass or plastic, lead and copper. Heavy-gauge galvanized sheet metal is the most common flashing in use today. It is relatively inexpensive and easy to install. If properly maintained, it can last a lifetime. Lead is used almost exclusively on certain tile roofs, and although copper flashings can last longer than galvanized sheet metal, the cost generally is not worth the extra life.
By telling you a little bit about how roof flashings are connected, we hope to give you an idea about how they can leak, and how they can be repaired or replaced.
In places where the roof intersects with a wall, the flashing is L-shaped and travels the entire length of the connection. It's placed behind the wall covering (siding or stucco) and beneath the roof covering and, therefore, it isn't obvious. The flashing travels up and behind the lower edge of the exterior wall covering at least 6 inches and prevents leaks from even the most torrential of downpours. The roof side of the L-flashing is connected to the roof material with hot tar or some other sealant.
On pitched roofs, wall-to-roof connections are slightly different. Where the roof and wall are parallel, the flashing resides behind the wall covering and above the shingles. Where the roof slopes along a wall, the flashings still are L-shaped, but not continuous. At pitched areas the flashings are shingle length and overlap in the same way that shingles do – one end lacing into the shingles and the other side fitting behind the exterior siding.
A slightly different technique is used to connect the flashing to masonry. The connection to the roofing is the same. However, with stone and brick, the flashing is laced into a mortar joint and mortared in place. A second flashing is used to cover the point where the first one is mortared into the masonry. It also is tied into a mortar joint – 6- or 7 inches farther up the masonry wall. The upper flashing is known as counter flashing or cover flashing. With two flashings together – both mortared in place – watertight connections can be made between the roof cover and a vertical masonry surface.
The point at which two pitched roofs join (at an inside corner) is known as a valley and is where most shingle materials rely on a piece of metal for a watertight connection to each other. This one is known as valley flashing. With all the shingle nailing that goes on along the valley flashing, there is a good possibility that a leak can result. This occurs occasionally in new roof installations.
Flashings also exist at the roof's edge to protect damage to barges, fascias, rafter tails and other wood parts that readily can be damaged by watershed. Edge flashings travel under the roof covering and over the wood in question. Generally these flashings would not be a culprit in the case of a roof leak because they normally are outside the leak area, at the outermost edges of the roof.
Off the roof, many other connections depend of flashings for water-leak prevention. Horizontal joints between stacked sheets of plywood siding use something called Z flashing to keep water out. The flashing starts on the face of the lower sheet, bends over to cap the top of the lower sheet and then travels up behind the sheet above (sort of in the shape of a backward Z). Other Z flashings are used at horizontal connections between exterior siding and penetrations such as doors and windows. A similar flashing is used at cantilevered wood decks and at waterproof decks, whether cantilevered or not. What you might have thought was a roof leak could be a leaking deck flashing letting water into a wall from one or more stories above. Water can travel down as many walls as exist.
Flashings of all types play a big role in preventing water from getting into your home through the roof and walls. Because they are metal and-or rubber (and generally not regularly maintained), metal flashings corrode, rust and otherwise deteriorate to a point where they can leak – sometimes long before the roof or siding material is even close to failing. The rubber section of a pipe flashing usually fails long before the metal portion does.
Whether you have a roof or siding leak, check the flashings first. Regardless of where they are, they usually are easier and less expensive to repair than alternative patching, or replacement.
When "drip, drip, drip" is what you're hearing, it's time to check flashings. And don't just look for a leak in a flashing. Sometimes the hole is hidden under roofing, counter flashing or mortar. Test flashings in the area of the leak. If rubber is near the leak, test that part first.
Flashings of all types last longer if a fresh coat of paint is applied every several years.