Home Maintenance Guide
Thermostats - The thermostat (usually located near the air return duct) helps to keep your home at an even temperature throughout. Individual room temperature may vary and can be regulated by adjusting the registers in the various rooms. The temperature may also vary between floors as warm air rises. If you have a second floor, it is likely to be warmer than a lower level. These variations in temperature within a home can be further minimized by leaving the furnace circulating fan on more consistently. If your home is heated by a warm air furnace or a heat pump your thermostat also may contain controls for converting from the cooling system to the heating system and vice versa. A recommended setting for a thermostat is 72 degrees for heating and 78 degrees for cooling. The ASHRAE standard for heating states that the system shall be capable of producing an inside temperature of 70 degrees (heating) or 78 degrees (cooling) as measured in the center of each room at a height of 5 feet above the floor. IN THE CASE OF OUTSIDE TEMPERATURES EXCEEDING 95 DEGREES, A DIFFERENTIAL OF 15 DEGREES FROM THE OUTSIDE TEMPERATURE WILL BE MAINTAINED.
Register - The registers throughout your home help to regulate the flow of air and to maintain the desired temperature. By opening and closing the registers and dampers, you can determine the amount of cool or warm air that enters a room. Once the registers and dampers are adjusted, they, together with the thermostat, will maintain the temperature in your home. In addition to the air outlets, your home will have an air intake (return) register. None of these registers should ever be obstructed.
Filters - Your air conditioning system has an air filter to help keep the air in your home clean. For maximum efficiency, this filter should be replaced or cleaned regularly. Clogged filters can cause a unit to malfunction. The instruction manual for your system will tell you the location of the filter and how to clean and replace it.
Insulation - Your home has been designed to provide the proper insulation for our climate. Open doors, windows, fireplace flues, and clogged filters are more often the cause of inadequate cooling or heating than deficient insulation. A lack of proper window treatments can also prevent the heating/cooling system from functioning properly.
Inspection - A central air-conditioning or heating system should be checked periodically by a professional repairman. See your instruction manual for the frequency of this care. (See also "Electrical Service Entrance".)
Gas Furnace - Gas furnaces are normally automatic starts. If your heating unit is not an automatic start, your pilot light will have to be lighted manually at the start of the heating season, and turned off at the end of the heating season. Your furnace and vent stack should be inspected by a professional repairman at least once a year prior to the heating season.
Heat Pumps - Heat Pumps work to heat or cool your home. They transfer warm air from one location to another. As a result, the warm air delivered through your registers is cooler than the "heated air" produced by a gas or electric furnace. This gradual heat will keep the home comfortable. In many areas, heat pumps are equipped with an electrical back-up system to be activated in extremely cold weather.
Your new electrical or gas appliances are accompanied by instruction manuals and other papers. Look through them carefully. Remove, fill out, and mail any return postcards necessary to record warranties. Keep a list of the authorized service agencies in the back of this booklet. Read all instructional literature so that you will know how to get the best from what you own, and so you will understand all appliance warranties. If an electrical appliance fails to work, before calling an appliance repair person be sure the appliance is plugged in and that no circuit breakers are tripped. If a gas appliance fails to work, check to see that the pilot light is lit. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off the main gas valve near the meter and call the utility company.
If your home has a pitched roof, the space between the ceiling and the roof may have louvered openings. Louvered openings should remain unobstructed all year round. If your home has soffit vents and/or ridge vents they should also be clear of debris. Ridge vents should be checked periodically to ensure they are secure and have not come loose in high winds.
BATHTUBS, SINKS AND SHOWERS
Tile and Porcelain Enamel - The surface of these fixtures is hard, smooth and glossy like a mirror, but it is not indestructible. Accidents or improper cleaning will cause chipping, scratches and stains. A blow from a heavy or sharp object will chip the surface, and scraping or banging metal utensils in a sink will gradually scratch and dull the surface. The finish is then susceptible to stains, which become increasingly difficult to remove. Shiny new fixtures can also be dulled or stained within a short time through improper or excessive use of strong abrasive cleaners. Most household cleansers are mildly abrasive, but used with plenty of water, some of them are not harmful; however, a nonabrasive cleanser is safer. If you prefer a dry material, baking soda and Bon Ami® Powder (not Bon Ami® Cleanser) are nonabrasive. Most stains are caused by dirt, food, grease, rust, or water minerals.
Stainless Steel - Stainless steel fixtures and sinks generally resist staining and need a thorough scrubbing only occasionally. Do not use steel wool pads, as these can remove the finish of stainless steel sinks. Use a nonabrasive cleanser or a commercial stainless steel cleanser. Stainless steel sinks will dent when they receive a strong impact.
Fiberglass Tubs and Showers - Never use powdered cleansers or any type of abrasive on Fiberglass tubs and showers. Special Fiberglass cleaners are available at most supermarkets. Spray window cleaners are also effective. For long-term protection, wax your Fiberglass units with a high quality automobile wax immediately on move in and after each major cleaning.
Shower Enclosures - To clean shower enclosures, an ordinary dishwashing detergent (not soap) will do a good job unless hard water minerals have been deposited. For these, use a commercial glass cleaner containing ammonia or 1 tablespoon of household ammonia in a quart of water.
To prolong the life and beauty of your plumbing fixtures follow these precautions:
1. Don't let food wastes stand in the sink. Dispose of food waste through your disposal as it accumulates.
2. Don't use plumbing fixtures to hold paint cans, trash, or tools when you are re- decorating. Cover them when painting walls and ceilings.
3. Don't step in a bathtub or shower stall with shoes on for any reason. Shoe soles carry hundreds of gritty particles that will scratch the surface.
4. Don't use sink, tub or toilets as receptacles for photographic or developing solutions. Developer stains are extremely difficult to remove.
5. Wipe shower area dry after each use.
6. Utilize bathroom exhaust fans or open bathroom windows to remove excessive moisture from the room.
By observing these suggestions and the preceding instructions, you will prolong the newness and luster of your fixtures.
Kitchen and bathroom cabinets should never be cleaned with harsh abrasives. Wood cabinets may be cleaned like any other wood furniture with lemon oil or a good furniture oil unless it has been plastic coated. An excellent product for hiding minor nicks and scratches that occur over time in wood cabinetry is Old English ® furniture polish. Keep cabinet doors and drawers closed when not in use. Periodic use of silicone spray lubricant on drawers and hinges will improve operating efficiency.
Given proper care, the carpeting in your home will provide years of service. You should vacuum at least once a week using a powerful upright vacuum cleaner. This is especially important with some of the denser shear and shag patterns. You should also plan to give your carpeting a professional cleaning at least once a year to remove deep down dirt and stubborn stains. In regard to stains, always attack them immediately. Even half an hour after the accident can be too late. A number of good quality stain and spot removers are available; however, we suggest you seek the advice of a carpeting expert as to what is best for your brand and style of carpet. You should be aware of the material that your carpet is made of. Should your carpet become wet or saturated for any reason, the bottom of furniture legs need to be taken out of contact with the carpet. Aluminum foil or plastic coasters work well in this situation. With very severe staining or spotting, don't hesitate to call in a professional. The small expense will payoff in longer carpet beauty and service.
CAULKING / EXTERIOR
Exterior caulking will separate and deteriorate over the life of the home. If this situation is not monitored and corrected on a consistent basis, moisture can work its way behind wood trim or siding and cause serious rotting problems. Leaks around doors and windows can also result if this condition goes unnoticed for any length of time.
Ceramic tile floors are generally easy to maintain. To keep them looking new, you need only wipe with a moist cloth and wet mop from time to time. The grout used between ceramic tiles can be cleaned using a brush and a mild cleanser. Grout sealers are available to make the grout more resistant to stains. Once again, these products can be purchased at most home care centers.
The majority of kitchen counter tops are constructed of top quality granite materials.
1. Most spots, glass rings, etc. will usually wipe clean with a damp cloth and mild soap. Be careful of the inks used in marking grocery products, especially meat and produce. They are often indelible and can be extremely difficult to remove. Newspaper ink can also produce an indelible stain.
2. Counter tops are not constructed for sitting. Excessive weight can crack the counter top, lead to drawer malfunction, and even cause the top to pull away from the wall.
To prevent leaks, be certain to monitor the condition of all caulking at countertops and redo if separation or shrinkage occurs. If you have a ceramic tile countertop, see "Ceramic Tile" for care information. If you have a Corian ® or Granite Countertop, please refer to the manufacturer's care and maintenance information. Your bath vanity tops, and perhaps your bath sinks, are made of a cultured marble product that will give you classic good looks and utilitarian service. Always be especially careful with razor blades, manicure equipment and bathroom appliances. Cigarette burns are almost impossible to remove without professional assistance. Care for your cultured marble with any good quality, non-abrasive bathroom cleaner. If hard water minerals collect, they may be removed with a mild ammonia solution of one tablespoon to each quart of water. Caulking of the vanity tops is an important element of homeowner maintenance, and should be monitored.
Food should not be deposited into an inactivated disposal and the unit then turned on. The disposal will provide more effective disposing action if cold water is running and the unit is turned on prior to depositing food into it. When the unit is running, cold water should be used. This helps to solidify any grease in the disposal, which can then be chopped up and moved out with the remainder of the foods. Once a month, a tray of ice cubes can be deposited into the disposal and chopped up. This has a cleaning action on the blades and exit areas of the disposal.
If the disposal is jammed:
1. Turn off the switch for the disposal before trying to unclog.
2. Use the alien wrench provided.
3. Remove whatever has jammed the disposal.
4. Press the reset button, which is located on the bottom of the disposal, and the unit should be ready to function again.
Doors can cause minor problems. However, most door problems can be handled with minimum skill. Sticking caused by shrinkage and swelling is the most common problem with doors, and it is a common characteristic in new homes. If the sticking is caused by swelling in damp weather, fold sandpaper around a wood block and sand the edge that binds. If the sticking is the result of uneven alignment, which can occur as your home settles, check to see that the hinge screws are tight and holding properly. If they are tight and the door is still out of alignment, sand or plane the edge that binds. Warping is a result of too much moisture. Should a door ever warp, a good repair is to dry it in the sun. The door should be elevated off the ground, and it should be positioned flat with the warped side up. If drying a door thoroughly won't straighten a badly warped door, apply weight to the bulged side and leave it for two or three days. If this "first aid" doesn't solve the problem, you should call in a carpenter to make the repair.
Each plumbing fixture in your home has a drain trap, a J-shaped piece of pipe designed to provide a water barrier between your home and the danger of sewer gas. The trap holds water, which prevents the airborne bacteria and odor of the sewer gas from entering the house. If any fixture is used infrequently, it should be turned on at regular intervals to replace evaporating water and ensure that the barrier remains intact.
DRIVEWAYS, WALKS AND PATIOS
Most driveways, walks and patios in homes are constructed of concrete. Anticipated normal stresses on concrete areas require the need for contraction and expansion control joints to minimize cracking; however, cracking is one of the characteristics of concrete and a method of entirely eliminating cracks is still sought. Unanticipated cracking sometimes occurs from unforeseeable conditions, such as severe frost or changes in home site grade, which prevents proper runoff from rain or watering. Ordinarily, the cracks are of no serious consequence. Minor repairs can be made by following these steps:
1. Roughen the edges of the crack if they are smooth.
2. Clean out loose material and dirt.
3. Soak the old concrete thoroughly. (The crack should be sopping-wet, but water should not be standing in it.)
4. Fill the crack with patching cement slightly higher than the crack to allow for shrinkage. Commercially prepared patching mixtures need only the addition of water, but be sure the mixture you buy is appropriate for concrete.
5. Cover and keep damp for several days. The longer the drying time the stronger the patch will be.
6. When the cement has partly set, remove excess cement with a wire brush. At this stage the surface of the cement appears sandy. You should consider sealing your concrete surfaces with a good quality sealer. This will protect the surface and the finish from water, road salt, or oil stains.
If your driveway is asphalt, a seal coat mixture should be applied every two years. This practice will protect the surface of the drive, help fill in the crevices, help to keep water from penetrating and deteriorating the asphalt, and maintain the good looks of your driveway. Never park bicycles on asphalt or set outdoor furniture on asphalt, as the sharp ends of a kick stand or chair legs can poke holes in it. NOTE: You should avoid applying salt to concrete or asphalt, as it will deteriorate the surface of these materials. To assist you in having traction on ice you may use sand. Remember to provide a mat at the front door so sand will not be tracked into your home.
The wiring in homes should meet the code requirements and safety standards for the normal use of electrical appliances. Ordinarily, small appliances, which require your personal attendance for operation, may be plugged into any electrical receptacle without fear of overloading a circuit. However, the use of large appliances, or of many small appliances on the same circuit, may cause an overload of the circuit and trip a breaker. This is especially true of electric space heaters. If this happens frequently, contact a reliable electrical contractor to learn whether additional wiring is needed to meet your requirements.
ELECTRICAL SERVICE ENTRANCE
The electrical wiring and equipment in homes is protected by circuit breakers. They are the safety valves of your home's electrical system. The electrical service entrance, which provides power to the service panel, has been designed for the electrical needs of your home. Do not tamper with this cable. Every home has a master circuit breaker located in the service panel box along with smaller circuit breakers. When the master breaker is tripped the electricity in your home is cut off. Circuit breakers may be reset by first switching the breaker to FULL OFF and then back to FULL ON. Your air conditioning unit may have heavy-duty cartridge fuses or some other disconnect mechanism located in a small box next to the service panel or next to the unit. These may be replaced by simply pulling them from their retaining clips and installing a new cartridge. BE CERTAIN TO TURN OFF POWER BEFORE REMOVING
Refer to the following checklist BEFORE reporting electrical problems:
1. If receptacles won't work, check to be certain the circuit breaker has not been tripped. If so, reset it. If not, make sure the receptacle is not controlled by a wall switch, which is in the OFF position.
2. If individual ceiling lights or lamps do not come on, check the bulb in another fixture. If the bulb is good, check the circuit breaker to see if it is tripped and reset if necessary. Also, check for wall switches that may be turned off.
3. If your disposal or dishwasher won't operate; first, for the disposal, push the reset button located on the disposal. Second, if your appliances are designed to be plugged in (some are directly wired), check to be sure both appliances are plugged into the proper receptacle. The duplex receptacle under your sink is especially wired with one outlet for the dishwasher and one for the disposal (connected to a wall switch). Also check the circuit breaker.
4. If an electric water heater won't function, check the circuit breaker. If that's no help, turn the power off and push the reset button located under the water heater access cover.
5. If your oven won't heat, refer to the manufacturer's manual to be certain you are properly operating the time controls. Sometimes this can be tricky. Also check the circuit breaker.
6. If the bath or utility exhaust fan won't run and makes no noise (hum) or movement, the problem is normally electrical. If there is any movement or humming noise, the problem normally is in the fan unit.
7. If an outlet sparks when plugged into, be certain the appliance is off before plugging in. If it still sparks, try another outlet. If you get sparks from a second outlet the problem is normally in the appliance cord. If you do not get sparks, have the receptacle inspected. Also, sparks from wall switches should be checked by an electrician.
8. If a wall switch or receptacle is hot to the touch, you should immediately trip the circuit breaker serving that fixture and contact an electrician. (See "Electrical Receptacles" and "Electrical Service Entrance".)
Each fall, as fireplace usage begins, our service department receives calls regarding "smoking" fireplaces; that is, smoke is coming into the room and not going up the chimney. To avoid this problem and other potential difficulties with your fireplace, it is important to follow these simple guidelines:
1. Modern homes are sealed against outside elements for air conditioning purposes. Hot air rising from a chimney must be replaced within the home or unequal pressures develop and smoke returns inside. To avoid this problem, open an outside door or window. Also, it may sometimes be necessary to close room registers, since the forced air heating and cooling system will compete with the natural fireplace draft.
2. Never build a fire directly on the fireplace floor. Always use andirons or a grate, plus a well-fitted fireplace screen.
3. Start the fire slowly so there is a gradual buildup of heat and smoke. You can also light a section of newspaper and hold it up into the flue to gradually heat it. This will start the updraft more easily and will help avoid cracking of firebrick due to sudden temperature change.
4. Before using the fireplace, be certain the chimney damper is open. After use, close the damper so conditioned air will not escape through the chimney. If you have glass fireplace doors remember to close them when no one is in the room.
5. Adding a handful of salt to the fire occasionally will help prevent the accumulation of soot, and it will add color to the fire. The chimney should be cleaned periodically. (See "Annual Checklist".) This can be done at the same time the heating and cooling system is cleaned and inspected.
6. Never burn treated lumber as it will emit creosote or poisonous gases, which can build up in the flue or enter the house. NOTE: Remember to store firewood outside, to avoid insects entering your home with the wood.
If you have hardwood floors in your home, you should consult your Manufacturer/Installers guide for care tips. Wood will expand and contract as weather changes, and it may shrink under extreme dryness or swell under extreme humidity.
KEYS AND LOCKS
No key used during the course of construction of your new home will operate the locks after you have taken possession. Most exterior hardware comes finished with a sealant. Oftentimes this sealant can wear, and tarnishing will occur. To minimize this condition a regular cleaning and clear lacquer application will prolong the look of the hardware. Passage door hardware in any home can work loose through use. Keep a careful watch to avoid excessive play in the doorknob escutcheon plate. In the event a doorknob or privacy lock should become inoperative, it is usually because looseness has allowed the interior mechanism to slip out of place. Removal and reinstallation of the fixture (a simple process) will usually correct the problem. Doors with key-type hardware are more complicated and usually require the services of a locksmith. Periodic application of powdered graphite or silicone spray to keyholes and lock mechanisms can help to keep them operating smoothly.
The grade of your home site was established by professional engineers to provide drainage away from the building (and, in some areas, a certain amount of water retention on the home site). Should you wish to change the drainage pattern, as part of a landscape arrangement, be sure a proper drainage slope is maintained. On sites designed for some water retention, do not change the drainage pattern. When adding fill dirt, do not fill above the top of the foundation and always allow a 6 inch minimum between the earth and any wood or aluminum siding; otherwise, water may enter the joint between the footing and the wall material or cause decay of wood. When watering your lawn, do not allow sprinklers to spray against the exterior walls of your home. Doing so causes discoloration, wall buckling, and can cause interior flooding regardless of whether the wall is masonry or wood. Remember that proper care of the sod or seeded areas of your lawn is essential to ensure adequate grass growth.
Many heavy-duty appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, etc. have motors that require servicing from time to time. Consult an appropriate service manual or appliance service person for care of these motors.
Your plumbing has been installed by a professional and generally should need only minimum maintenance for a number of years if you care for it properly. If any problem does arise, tend to it promptly to prevent a bigger, and often more costly problem.
Your roof will give years of service if it is properly maintained. Flashings seal places where the roof abuts walls, chimneys, valleys or where two roof slopes meet. If a leak should occur, call a qualified roofer to make the repairs.
The window and door screens in your home may be constructed of good quality nylon. They never need painting or other preservatives. A gentle washing and hosing about once a year is all that is needed for maintenance. Should it be needed, replacement nylon screen is available from any good hardware store. It is not necessary to remove window screens in the winter, although many people prefer to do so. (See "Windows".)
Check your smoke detectors every month. The alarm should sound when you push the button. For your safety it is important that this device be kept clean and in proper working condition. The smoke detector is hardwired to your electrical system and may include a nine-volt battery backup. In the event the electricity is cut off, your system will still be in use. The smoke detector will sound off to inform you that battery replacement is necessary.
To make your own inspection in the spring of each year, look for possible remains of winged insects, search the sides of your footing walls for the earthen tubes which termites build to reach the wood above the foundation, and use the blade of a jackknife to test wood for soundness. If you suspect the presence of termites, consult a professional exterminator.
Never flush hair, grease, lint, diapers, rubbish, facial tissues, etc. down the toilet drain. Such waste stops up the toilet and sanitary sewer lines. A variety of commercial cleaners are made especially for the toilet. Use them according to the manufacturer's direction, but DO NOT mix them or use them with household bleach or any cleaning product. And never use them in anything but the toilet. If the water chamber appears to leak, it may only be condensation forming on the outside of the tank and dripping to the floor. If water leaks into the bowl through the overflow pipe, try bending the rod holding the float so that the float will be closer to the bottom of the tank.
WALLS AND CEILINGS
Your home has two types of walls, bearing and nonbearing. Nonbearing walls may be altered without fear of structural damage, but alteration of bearing walls must be done carefully to avoid reducing its bearing capacity.
Water heaters normally collect small quantities of scale and dirty water. This can easily be removed by opening the valve at the bottom of the heater and allowing the tank to drain itself clean. Once you have drained the heater, you should refill and drain again. The rushing water, which refills the tank, will dislodge any particles clinging to the side of the tank and then you can flush them out. Be sure to turn off the gas and/or electricity before draining your water heater. A water softener will reduce the frequency of cleaning.
If your windows are an aluminum mill finish, they should never need painting. You may allow it to age to a uniform gray color. This oxidation will help protect it from the elements. If you prefer to keep the brighter new look, a coat of wax will work well. To restore aluminum that has turned gray, polish with steel wool, but prevention is easier than polishing. If your aluminum windows have a bronze or white finish, the frames will not oxidize. When cleaning, if the outside of the glass is extremely dirty, wipe it with a piece of crumpled newspaper and then wash it with a solution of one (1) tablespoon of household ammonia (or 3 tablespoons of denatured alcohol) to a quart of warm water, or use a commercial glass cleaner containing ammonia. Lightly soiled windows will usually respond to a solution of a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water. Apply the cleaning solution with a lintless cloth or sponge and dry the glass with a chamois, lintless cloth, or paper towels. If you have a rubber squeegee, it will speed the drying process.
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