Home Maintenance

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Time to Clean the Gutters

gutter full of leaves

Ok, it is Autumn here in Florida. The temperature may not show it, but the trees have figured out there is less daylight and are shedding their leaves. Leaves like to collect: in corners, in roof valleys, and especially in gutters.

Gutters full of leaves do not drain properly. In short, they stand water. Water standing in leaves picks up the tannic acid from the leaves and can corrode metal gutters. Standing water can also overflow the gutter and enter the home through the facia. There, it will begin rotting the wooden facia and start causing all sorts of other problems (wood rot and other fungi).

The best cure for all of this is to get your handyman or spouse or self on a ladder and dig that stuff out of the gutters. Use leather or other protective gloves as there is not much telling what is in that stuff. While you’re up there, look at the roof. Do you need to blow the leaves out of the valleys? Are the shingles still in good shape?

Be careful on the ladder and stay safe.

Plumbing Vent Boots

You see these on almost every roof.  They are the vent pipes that let the sewer drain pipes “breathe”.  Without vents, your drain pipes would not function properly.  Much like holding your finger over the top of a straw and finding out the liquid will not drain out of the straw, your drainage system needs to allow air in to allow liquids out.

Most of our vent drains have a lead boot covering them.  Something like this:

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But if you have squirrels in your neighborhood, and they travel across your roof, they will often stop to gnaw on these lead vents.  Evidently, chewing on the lead feels good to them. The down side is that once they chew through the top of the boot, moisture (rain) can get into the home via the gap now in the system.  This water will drain down into a wall cavity where it and it’s associated damage are hidden from view.

Here we can see two examples of failed boots.  They both are allowing water into the walls of the home.

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The Bathroom Vent That Didn’t

In the bathroom, the vent seemed to be working fine.  However, upon looking in the attic we see the vent is not exactly doing its job.

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The large black coupling at the top of the foto should be connected to a duct pipe to evacuate the moist air out of the bathroom and out of the attic space.  Instead, it is dumping humid air into the insulation beside it.  This will create a perfect environment to grow mold (moisture and warmth).

The sad part is that the exhaust duct was just to the right of the picture. Had the vent been installed 180 degrees around, it could have been fine.

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Water Heater Maintenance

If you own a home, you probably have a water heater.

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Unless it is one of the tankless types, your heater consists of a tank with an inlet, an outlet, and some sort of heating method (gas or electric).  These tanks act as sediment bowls for the home.  Incoming water sets in them and the suspended particles settle out.  The number one killer of electric water heaters is this sediment.  It accumulates to the point that it comes in contact with the lower heating element, overheating the element and killing it.

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Periodically, the tank should be flushed to eliminate this sediment.  If your tank is older than 10 years old or has rust showing on the base or top and has not been flushed before, you may not want to flush the tank as the sediments may be plugging pin-hole leaks.

Flushing a water heater is a fairly straightforward process:

  1. Connect a hose to the lower drain.
  2. String the hose out to a safe place to drain it. The sediments may not be good for planting beds or grass.
  3. Turn the drain valve on and run until clear.
  4. Shut off the drain valve.
  5. Disconnect and remove the hoes.
  6. Repeat every 6 months.

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Some valves require a large screwdriver to open (like the picture above).  Other have a standard knob like the hose bibs on your home.

 

Leaky Mixing Valves in the Shower/Tub

As the mixing valve in the shower ages, sometimes the water inside the valve comes out of the valve.  Mixing valves of various brands us various types of cartridges and o-rings to keep the water inside the valve.  The chemicals in the water such as chlorine and calcium break down the synthetic rubber compounds in the o-ring, aging it and making it brittle.  As the valve gets twisted or pulled, the brittle rubber o-ring cracks, allowing water to escape the valve.  A new cartridge will normally correct this.

If the leak falls onto the edge of the tub or the spout, water may get back behind the tile and into the wall cavity.  This will lead to mold, wood rot and worse.  Keep the tub spout well caulked in any case.

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