Maintenance Tips - April
Blog objective: To help provide you the homeowner with a regular property inspection checklist. If used this can help you identify required repairs and maintenance early and thus keep the work relatively quick and simple, and thus avoid big bills. The aim is to give you a more informed idea of what to look out for. If you are a reasonably competent DIYer you may carry out the work. However, if you do not have the time, inclination, tools or expertise to do so then it is highly recommended you seek experienced help. If you do seek help hopefully this blog will help you better understand the work to be done and enable you to better communicate with your tradesmen.
Disclaimer: Because our houses vary considerably in their architecture, structure, materials and are in very varied climatic regions this blog can in no way be taken to cover all aspects of residential repairs and maintenance. It is only intended as a guide and not a definitive works. In addition, it is you the homeowner’s responsibility to ensure that all work undertaken by either yourself, or another, complies with the New Zealand Building code, Local Building Regulations, follows manufacturers and trades best practice and is of an acceptable workmanship. When you are inspecting your property, it is your responsibility to do so in a safe manner. If in doubt stop and get experienced advice and or help.
Last month we inspected the roof and I hope that you have sought advice if needed and put a plan in place to sort out any potential issues.
This month with the cooling temperatures and increase in rainfall we are going to be focusing on getting rid of storm water and getting ready for using our home heating.
In a natural environment when there is rainfall most of the water soaks into the soil which is in turn taken up by plants and used by them to transfer nutrients from their root system to the rest of the plant. This water is then lost (transpired back into the atmosphere) through the leaves. This process significantly reduces the pooling and or runoff from the land. When we build our houses and hard landscaping (e.g. driveways and decks) this cannot occur. If uncontrolled excessive runoff could cause erosion, pooling around houses (wet feet and can increase dampness in homes) and flooding. Obviously none of these are ideal, and it is important to ensure the systems designed to remove storm water are in proper working order.
Gutters and Down pipes
Starting with the gutters firstly it is important to check that these are free of debris (leaves, moss etc) and free flowing i.e have enough fall towards the down pipe that water does not pond in the gutter. How often they should be cleared depends primarily whether you have large trees/plants close to the house especially if they are overhanging the house and how often they loose their leaves. Leaf loss could be continuously through the year or all at once once a year.
There are three problems of gutters becoming blocked with debris:
1) The runoff from the roof ends up flowing over the gutters. The design of most NZ gutters (with a lower back than front) means that often this water may be directed back towards the building and its structural elements potentially causing water damage and if not quickly fixed significant damage to roof and wall structure through rot.
2) With metal gutters build up of organic matter (leaves etc) can result in a mildly acidic environment through the rotting process which can corrode gutter linings and increase the rate of rusting of gutter. This process is often not noticeable from the ground until too late and the rust has resulted in holes in the gutter. With u PVC gutters this acidic environment can make them more brittle over time and prone to breaking.
3) Finally gutters are not designed to carry heavy loads for long periods of time. Debris build up (especially when wet) and pooled water can be very heavy. This over a period of time can cause gutters to sag which only makes the situation worse. If neglected they may break or pull away from the building itself and require complete replacement. This is a particular problem with u PVC gutters.
With regards down pipes I feel it is important to make sure there is some sort of screen to prevent debris (especially large pieces) from going down them. These are cheap and available from most builders merchants. If they do become blocked they can be more of a challenge to clear and result in similar damage to that described for gutters.
The good news is by regularly cleaning and inspecting your gutters you can significantly increase their life. Manufacturers do recommend cleaning at least once a year but as often as every 3 months, depending on plantings around the home for example. If sagging or rust is found early this can very often be resolved fairly quickly, easily and cheaply and avoid costly replacement.
Storm water drains and sumps.
These are very often totally ignored and yet if they become damaged or blocked can be extremely expensive to fix. It is the fact that they are underground requires inspections to be done by specialist contractors with a remote vehicle camera and if need unblocking or is damaged may need digging up. These can be buried up to several meters below the surface! Most people do not realize the home owner is responsible for storm water pipework etc up to their connection with the Municipal service.
In this case prevention is far better than cure. There are 3 Key things to look for:
1) Vegetation with a large or water hungry root system over or near drainage can cause significant damage and blocking of drainage. So be aware of where your water drainage system is on your property and avoid planting and/or remove problem plants anywhere near them. We are fortunate in Marlborough that most properties have their drainage plan lodged with Marlborough District Council and are readily and accessible online for free.
2) Prevention of debris large or small entering the storm water drains from the house gutter system or storm water drains along and in hard paving (driveways most commonly). Therefore when cleaning gutters etc do not wash excessive debris down the drains (e.g. after washing your car), remove it and dispose of it elsewhere. It can actually make good compost material.
3) Where there is a storm water sump located on the property this should be cleared out yearly. Its design purpose is to trap debris and sediment in an easily accessible place to prevent it entering the main storm water system. This can often easily be cleaned by removing the grate and digging it out with a spade or shovel.
If you have a wood or coal fire to heat your home and you have not done so get it cleaned. This should be done once a year. If you do not there are a couple of potential issues:
1) A build up of soot in the chimney can be a potential fire risk as it can ignite and cause excessive heat in the chimney and cause a fire to start in the surrounding building materials.
2) A build up of soot can also have a significant impact on the efficiency of your fire. The result you wasting a lot of money burning wood with less heat in return and potentially a more uncomfortable cold and damp home.
I would strongly recommend that you get a good professional Chimney sweep to do this as they will usually identify, advise you and often repair problems which you may not be aware of. These may include corrosion and or damage to fire flues and their joints or the sealing material around the doors. If these fail they can be extremely dangerous resulting in fire or the release of toxic fumes such as carbon monoxide into the house which can be deadly.
It is also that time of the year to check your fire alarms firstly whether they are working and replace the battery. It is also a good time to consider if you have enough alarms in the property, whether they located where they should be (legal requirements in a tenancy) and whether they should be upgraded to more modern and reliable ones.
That is it for this month. Remember if you are unsure seek advice early don't leave it - The longer you leave it the potentially more dangerous and more costly to resolve.