Home Maintenance Tips

Here are few things you may want to consider doing in and around you home…courtesy of one of our Austin real estate inspectors, Bob Petersen at Precision Inspection.

Keep your A/C filter clean.
A dirty one REALLY increases your electric bill. The best kind to use is the wavy paper type, kind of like what you have in your car’s engine. If you haven’t had your ac checked in the last few years, have it serviced. The outside and inside ‘coils’ get dirty & use more electricity. If your ac unit is in a closet upstairs PLEASE have an automatic shutoff switch put in the drain line to prevent an accidental overflow of the unit. If this happens, water will drip out of your downstairs ceiling ! (and if your floors are wood, they’ll get wet too)

Test your smoke detectors.
Test all the gfi outlets in your home. If they don’t trip off when you push the ‘test’ button , they are defective and must be replaced.

Get a Termite Inspection
If you haven’t had a termite inspection done in the last 12 mos., GET ONE. They are very prevalent in this area and both my neighbors across the street had them as have I! Remember though that if someone says you have them, ask to see them. Termites in your fence, landscape timbers, mulch or driveway expansion joint don’t count and will not harm your house!

Check your toilets to see if they’re ‘running’.
Often they’ll make no noise but will increase your water bill substantially. If you see small ripples on the surface of the water in the toilet bowl, it’s not shutting off as it should (or if it occasionally refills itself, the flapper is leaking). Put food coloring into the tank, if it shows up in the bowl, you’re wasting water.

Speaking of water, don’t use your lawn sprinkler in the automatic mode. Leave it off and watch your lawn, when it needs a drink just run the system thru one program. This will save you tons of water and money. Your lawn will be fine. Be sure to only water on the days allowed by the City for your address.

Convert to Flourescent Bulbs.
Buy and use the new small flourescent light bulbs, they’re a LOT more efficient that the standard bulbs you’re used to and last almost forever.

A word about roofing.
I’ve noticed several new roofs going on in my 14 year old neighborhood and was wondering why! No hail big enough to cause damage has EVER come thru here and the 20 yr. shingles we all have WILL last 20 yrs. Beware if someone says you need a new roof, you probably don’t. DO cut the tree limbs off your roof as they damage the shingles AND allow mice, rats, squirrels and wood ants into your attic. If you haven’t cleaned out your gutters in the last year, they need it ! (I recommend screens on top of your gutters as well)

Check Water Heater
If your water heater is more than 15 yrs. old, replace it (especially if it’s in the attic)! At this point, it owes you nothing and if it leaks, you won’t notice it for quite awhile and by then water damage WILL have occurred. Pay an extra $20 & have a drain pan put under the new tank. The new tankless units are good but very expensive, $1000 and up plus installation so your ‘payback’ period is quite long.

Bob Petersen
Precision Inspection (Since 1983 in Austin)

5 thoughts on “Home Maintenance Tips”

  1. Bob,
    My experience, from selling hundreds of homes, is that 20-year roofs last around 15 years in Texas. 30 years roofs last maybe 22 years. I know that may sound strange, but I’d pay money to see a 20-yr roof that is still functioning after 20 years of hot Texas summers, and I’d love to know what 20 square feet of Texas has not sustained some hail damage over a 15-20 year period…

  2. Hi Bob,

    Like other Bob, I’ve seen a lot of homes with 15+ year old shingles that are still performing. We have also however had insurance companies force the buyer to replace the roof in order to insure the property. So, the insurance companies would tend to agree with you that 15 is the end of the road.

    But to inspector Bob’s point, if I owned a house with a 17 year old roof, and it’s not leaking and I’m not selling the house, I’m leaving it alone.


  3. Steve,

    1- I’ve noticed some otherwise fine roofs get replaced in my neighborhood as well, I asked the owners and they all said that their insurance company accepted the claim and paid for most of it (they usually pay another $1000-$2000 to get some “upgrades” that may or may not save them money in the long run). I think some insurance companies are relatively less restrictive than some other insurance companies. But if you get them to pay for me, why not?

    2- About water heaters. Have you ever heard of the rebate programs by Austin Energy for roof mount solar water heaters? Are they worth the money?


  4. Regarding grass: It is better for your grass to get deep, infrequent waterings. Use enough to get 2-3″ of soil wet. Frequent light waterings lead to poor root development. Don’t use Weed n’ Feed (It contains toxins which run off your property, and S.O.S. will resurrect and come hurt you), use worm poo, rabbit pellets or dillo dirt to feed your grass.

    The tankless water heaters can be bought for less than $600. Gas is cheaper and needs to be vented. If you’re going to live in your house for a while 3-6 years or more it’d be worth it. You save space and energy.

    If you have an older home like I do, check your insulation level in the attic. If the insulation is cellulose (grey broken down newspaper) it will settle after some time and you should blow in some additional. 10″ deep minimum. My house, built in the 50’s doesn’t even have insulation in the walls, which I know is going to be a “honey do” soon. And I am not looking forward to that…

    As we move into the wetter season keep an eye out on your foundation. The soil will be expanding and it will thrust upwards. The best thing you can do is have gutters, and slightly berm up to your foundation. This will direct water away and make it less prone to getting under your house.

    And there are a ton more…

  5. Quick note on bulbs:
    Compact Fluorescent light bulbs are all the rage due to Eco-Friendly energy consumption. But you can’t throw them in the garbage due to hazardous materials. Many of them are also so poorly made (China) that they are a potential fire hazard as they do not ‘burn out’ like a regular, old incandescent bulb.

    Flashlights have been using LED’s for years, and are available in light bulbs form . They are brighter, more efficient, and last longer that both of these. Of course, I do not believe they are knocking them of in Bejing’s factories for sale here just yet. Some one’s patent must still be in effect… They are on my wish list, as prices are still pretty high.


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