Real estate professionals hear the term “deferred maintenance” frequently. It usually describes a home that has been neglected, and it raises red flags about the home’s condition.
Putting off routine maintenance to your Southern Maryland home can lead to big, ugly, expensive problems down the line. It can also cause a significant loss of your home’s value when it comes times to sell.
Here are five of the most common problems – and they can all be prevented by changing bad habits.
Kitchen drain abuse
It’s easy to assume that your garbage disposal can handle anything you throw at it, but you should use caution. Everything you put down there will end up in the drain pipes. Some of it will exit easily while other substances can sit, accumulate with others, and cause a great big clog.
Grease and oil are the most common culprits when it comes to clogged kitchen drains. Rather than pouring them down the drain, plumbers recommend putting the grease into an old container like a coffee can or something similar. Let it cool and congeal and then throw the container into the trash.
Garbage disposals also can’t properly grind up some fruit and vegetable peels like apples and potatoes. Peel them over the trash or compost bin instead.
Starchy foods like rice and pasta will swell with the addition of water. Coffee grounds should never be poured down the drain.
In fact, according to the pros at atomicplumbing.com, “Nothing causes more blockages and clogged pipes than coffee grounds and grease. Even if you don’t put them down the drain at the same time, they’ll meet up and form a sludgy impenetrable nightmare.”
Neglecting the gutters
Whether it’s your fear of heights or because they’re easy to forget, the gutters around your Southern Maryland home need your attention. When debris, such as leaves and twigs, builds up, it blocks the free flow of water. The water will back up and can damage both the exterior of your home and the roof’s eaves.
“If you let gutter cleaning go by the wayside, it can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars,” Jeff Lambert of The Gutter Man in Houston tells angieslist.com.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to clean out the downspout as well. Lowe’s has produced a handy video that will walk you through the process. Gutters should be cleaned out every three months, according to the experts.
Not replacing the AC filter
Letting your HVAC filters become clogged with fuzz can end up costing you a fortune.
“A system that has a dirty filter can suffer from pressure drop, which can lead to reduced air flow, or ‘blow-out,’ resulting in no air infiltration at all,” say Nick Gromicko and Kate Tarasenko of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
This causes the system to have to work harder, and “any mechanical component that has to work harder to run efficiently puts undue stress on the whole system, which can lead to premature failure, resulting in repair or replacement,” they continue.
Here’s some incentive to help you remember to change the HVAC filter every month to three months: The average cost, nationwide, of a new air conditioning system is $5,369, according to homeadvisor.com. You can pick up a new filter for less than $1 at the big home improvement stores.
Taking the water heater for granted
We’re not sure why, but one of the most common complaints of new homeowners is that the water heater broke down shortly after they moved into their home.
The purchase and installation of a new water heater averages $1,048, nationwide. If the unit failed because of a burst pipe or leak, plan on paying an additional $4,000 (after the insurance deductible) or so to fix the damage, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.
But, with a little maintenance you can extend the life of this oh-so-important appliance. Check out the video walk-through of water heater maintenance at thisoldhouse.com.
Ignoring plumbing leaks
Homeowners can save 10 percent on their water bills just by fixing leaks, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But, that’s just the beginning of how much you’ll save.
Leaky plumbing allows moisture to seep into floors and walls and, if ignored long enough, can cause damage that may cost thousands of dollars to repair.
Some leaks are easy to diagnose (a dripping bathtub faucet for instance). Others may take a bit of sleuthing.
Plan on performing a routine inspection of the home’s plumbing system at least once a year. Check the toilets for worn flappers, and check all under-the-sink valves for signs of moisture leakage.
To determine if your home has hidden leaks, the EPA recommends that you check your water usage “during a colder month, such as January or February. If a family of four exceeds 12,000 gallons per month, there are serious leaks.”
Another way of detecting hidden leaks is to jot down the reading on your water meter and then don’t use the water for two hours. Check the reading again. If there’s a change, you may have a leak.
Colorado’s Thornton Water Works offers a video to walk you through looking for hidden leaks.
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