Hello and Welcome to the Home Maintenance module at HomeandGarden911.com. My name is Dave Christensen. Let me begin by addressing a couple of housekeeping items in the form of disclaimers.
First, I am not an engineer.
Nor, am I an architect. I do not currently hold any professional licenses -although I held a Master Electricians license for many years. What I am is a tradesman and homeowner who for many years also owned several pieces of Income Property (residential apartments). My wife, JoAnne, and I have done most of the work of maintaining several homes and apartment buildings we have owned over the past 35 years. We have worked through many a list of things to do (the famed ‘honey do’ or, honey ‘to do’ list) and feel we have much to share. We currently are down to maintaining only one home.
My father, Paul W. Christensen, was a Bricklayer/Mason/Plasterer with whom my brother Gary and I worked (off and on) as helpers from the time we were both young teenagers. As I went on to become the electrician and Gary became a trained chef, much of Paul’s trade, methods and work ethic rubbed off on us and has benefited us both in many ways. This site is dedicated to my father, Paul, with hope that his memory will remain alive.
This website exists, in part, to convey the ‘ins and outs’ and ‘ups and downs’ involved with keeping up with the required home maintenance, upkeep, and preventive maintenance of our homes. My goal is to impart my experience and knowledge to you -in small, specific categories, that you may learn to do it yourself, if that’s what you’re after. Even if that’s not your cup of tea it is good to know these things to be able to manage others whom you may contract to work for you. It lessens the likelihood of being taken unfair advantage of.
I expect to be able to fill several categories with useful information, perspective and insight surrounding Home Maintenance and the related subjects appearing on the Navigation Tabs above the header on this page.
These related topics include:
My goal is also to be generally useful to those who don’t come from a family whose father was, or is skilled in the building trades. While I was mixing mortar for my father at age 15, some kids were learning the Diamond Trade from their father. While they might not know which end of a screwdriver to hold – I don’t know too much about Diamonds. And, that is OK.
The site content is pretty open-ended and will include a wide variety of topics surrounding the general Home and Garden theme. Check the Categories list for topics and check back often for updates. Below are some examples of possible topics of future Posts for the Home Maintenance navigation tab.
Some of the topics we will cover in future posts may include:
- How-to‘ items: hang pictures, paint a wall, remove pet urine odor, repair a toilet, how to unclog a toilet, tub, sink or drain, replace a window, etc.
- Do-it-yourself (DIY) ideas: like flooring, insulation, wall board, projects, etc.
- Remove: wallpaper, stumps, stains, bugs from your house, bats, broken light bulbs, cancer-causers, mold, etc.
- Tips: on keeping a clean house, on organizing your home or closet, on recycling, on buying a house, for moving, for selling your home, home safety, condo maintenance, etc.
- How to Build: a hen house, compost bin, tile shower, a child’s sandbox, rope swing, a kegerator, a closet, a bookcase, a wind generator, etc.
There are many aspects of Home Maintenance. They are generally arranged in my mind as systems or components of the home. The different aspects of Home Maintenance are separate, in my mind, from the distinct topic of Building Maintenance -which deserves, and does have its own navigation tab.
Shall we begin, then, with a brief discussion of a couple of major systems and components of a house -or, shall I say dwelling unit? Much of the discussion will also pertain to apartment dwellers, as well, although they are not usually responsible for the building infrastructure. They may, however, need to unclog a drain someday.
- The Plumbing and Sanitary System
If serviced by a municipal water supply, the owner is responsible for the water line beginning at the underground shut-off valve near the street to the house, -where there is another isolation valve just inside the foundation wall. If you’re in an older home, it is not uncommon for that valve to leak -especially after closing it for maintenance after not being touched in many years. The valve seals or O-Rings sometimes dry out allowing water to seep by after its been disturbed.
If your home is on a well system, you own the well , as well as, the pump and tank.
Our first couple of houses were built in 1898 and 1902, respectively. The water lines in both those houses were galvanized iron piping. It is not uncommon for the horizontal portions of those galvanized lines to corrode through by the time they are many decades old. Replacement is with copper lines, as required. The lines in the walls do not usually present a problem unless allowed to freeze.
Another common maintenance item is drains that get clogged with hair (in the tub and bathroom sink) and with fats and greases in the case of kitchen sinks. When this happens, the drains need to be disassembled and unclogged. Sometime the obstruction is beyond the drain and the task requires more invasive measures.
Older drains and traps (P-Trap and S- Traps) are made of hard pipe. Some newer drains are made of PVC (plastic). The use of PVC drains, traps, and piping is disallowed by some localities, although many localities that had building code rules against the use of PVC have loosened up on that. The use of hard pipe drains, etc. is a superior installation in the end, in the mind of most tradesmen. The reality is that there is more and more PVC installations with the passage of every year. PVC is an acceptable installation, if the installation conforms to local and national codes.
Which brings up an important point. Plumbing installations may be (and often are) subject to inspection by the authority having jurisdiction in your town or municipality to ensure the installation conforms to local and national codes. Generally, it is the larger installations in new buildings or additions that are subject to inspection. Small repair jobs usually slip under the radar. If you attempt a Do-it-Yourself repair on a plumbing system -if in doubt, ask a knowledgeable person (or, SME -Subject Matter Expert) to look at it to see if there is any reason to doubt the integrity of the installation.
Toilets sometimes get clogged with things not generally associated with normal use of a toilet. Children sometimes drop things into toilets -think spoons or forks, or some such thing. There is a way to fish foreign objects out of a toilet trap that become lodged and obstruct the flow of waste.
Years ago, I purchased a toilet from a salvage yard for an apartment I was remodeling. The tenant had me back a couple of times complaining that it wouldn’t flush properly. I bought a closet snake and fished a spoon out of it -which is undoubtedly why the former owner replaced the toilet, which was fairly new when I bought it. These things happen. I still own the closet snake -and, yes, it has come in handy a few times over the years.
- The Electrical System
OWNERS BEWARE – If you don’t know electricity, you had better know your electrician.
Work on any part of an electrical system should not be attempted by unqualified persons. Work on an electrical system by an unqualified person is inherently dangerous. The risk to life and property are real. The danger in working on electrical systems is a ‘Life Safety‘ issue and may cause grave injury or death if attempted by unqualified persons. A licensed or otherwise highly trained and qualified electrician should be consulted for any electrical installation or anomaly in the home.
The NEC has been developed and is published (updated) every three (3) years by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The NEC is also known as NFPA 70: The National Electrical Code, and is the standard to which all electrical installations are held -unless overridden by a more stringent local code. The primary focus of the NEC is life safety. The NEC defines Qualified Person as such: A person who has the skill and knowledge related to the construction and operation of the electrical equipment and its installation. This person must have received safety training on the hazards involved with electrical systems.
Be advised that not everyone calling him or herself an electrician has received the same level of training. Some municipalities do not subject electricians to licensing examinations to qualify for a ‘Master Electrician’ license.
Some state governments require licensing at the state level, others do not and depend upon municipalities to administer licensing examinations. And, not all municipalities choose to do that -which opens the door for unqualified people to participate in the trade, thinking they are qualified because Uncle Hank taught them. It begs the question: who taught Uncle Hank?
If your municipality does not administer licensing examinations, I would expect anyone doing electrical work for hire (an ‘electrician’) to have served a five year apprenticeship -or a minimum of two years of vocational training at the Community College level. A true ‘Electrician’ would deem anyone else ‘unqualified’ to perform the work in accordance with the National Electrical Code (NEC).
The electrical system is divided into two parts: the ‘Service’ and the ‘branch circuits.’ The ‘Electrical Service’ is the portion that comes off of the ‘grid’ running through your neighborhood. It consists of the ‘lateral’ service conductors from the power pole to the ‘point of attachment’ on your house. Next is the ‘Service Drop’ -which is another cable from the ‘point of attachment’ to the meter ‘enclosure’ on your house. From the meter another cable enters the dwelling and feeds the main distribution panel. Large homes sometimes have an additional panel, called a sub-panel, fed from the ‘Main’ panel.
It may differ in some locales, but in my experience, the homeowner is responsible for everything below the ‘point of attachment’ (to the building from the street).
Some older homes may still have panels with circuits protected by fuses. There is nothing inherently wrong or unsafe with an old fused panel. The problem with older fused panels are they are commonly rated at too little capacity by today’s standards and are often, at least, marginally overloaded.
Our first house (built in 1898) had a main service rated at 30 amps. Today’s minimum capacity (In accordance with the NEC) is 100 amps. Most people opt for at least 150 amps and if there are any large loads present (such as electric heat, or if Dad has a shop with lots of power tools), it is not uncommon to install a 200 amp service.
Today’s modern distribution panels utilize ‘circuit breakers’ to protect the branch circuits from overload or ‘faults to ground.’ Circuit breakers are mechanical spring loaded devices containing contacts that are designed to ‘OPEN’ if the device senses the build-up of a pre-determined level of heat. Once the device cools, the contacts can be re-closed (reset) and can remain in service. In comparison, fuses contain a physical ‘element’ designed to burn ‘open ‘ – with a pre-determined build-up of heat. Once ‘burned’ open, fuses must be replaced.
- The Heating / Air Conditioning System
Depending upon your geographic location, you may have either a heating system, a cooling system, or both. The differences between heating systems are the fuel they use and the technology -meaning, how the heat is delivered. Some common types are ‘Forced Hot Air’, ‘Hot Water Baseboard’, ‘Steam Radiators’ and ‘Electric Baseboard Heat’. In warmer climates, Heat Pumps are utilized for both heat and Air Conditioning. In the northern zones the heat pump does not have enough capacity to provide adequate levels of heat and relies on supplemental electrical heating coils located in the air ducts to make up the difference.
Fuels are most commonly Oil, Natural Gas (if in town) or Propane, if out of town. Of course, Wood Stoves are in widespread use, both as primary heat, in some cases, and as supplemental heat in others.
The goal here at HomeandGarden911.com is to start at one end of the house and go right on through -highlighting systems, structures or components of your home that have needed maintenance or are likely to, and provide some perspective on what to do with it, or about it.
Stop by often, if you can, for we intend to update often. If there is something you are wondering about, shoot us a quick email. We’ll help if we can. if we cannot -we’ll tell you that too. Perhaps we can steer you in the direction.
My friend was telling me recently about the challenge of keeping a clean house with a dog in it. It seems the challenge is in the little so-called ‘accidents’ he has on the carpet from time to time. More on that later.
Here are a few resources: