Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

9 Essential Home Maintenance Projects

By: Danny Lipford

Home maintenance is important to keep your house in top condition and prevent bigger problems from occurring in the future. Perform the following nine home maintenance chores regularly to keep your house in shape:

  1. Shrubs: Keep bushes trimmed back away from your house and HVAC unit.
  2. Painting: Clean, scrape, and paint the outside of your house to prevent rot and increase curb appeal.
  3. Gutters: Clean leaves and other debris from gutters and downspouts, make sure they drain properly, and check for leaks.
  4. Bathtub: Caulk around your tub to keep water from running behind the tub and causing mold or rot in your walls or floor.
  5. Grout: Apply sealer to the grout lines on tile floors to keep the grout from becoming stained or dirty.
  6. Water Heater: Drain your hot water heater annually to prevent sediment from building up in the tank, which can reduce energy efficiency.
  7. Air Filter: Keep your heating and cooling system running at peak performance by cleaning or replacing the air filter every 1-3 months.
  8. Doors and Windows: Replace any damaged or worn weather stripping around windows and doors to reduce air infiltration and lower heating and cooling bills.
  9. Caulking: Fill any gaps or holes on the outside of your home with caulk or expanding foam insulation to reduce utility bills and prevent rot.

Read episode article to find out more.

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Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner were opening up the slacker’s guide to home maintenance. If you’re behind on the maintenance chores at your house you may recognize a few of these. You know who has to do the work; we’ll fill you in on the why and the how.

One very important part of maintaining your home has nothing to do with the structure at all, it has to do with how well you keep your shrubs and trees trimmed back away from the house.

If you don’t do that it can cause you a lot of problems. Here’s a good example. Buried back in here somewhere you can hear it, but you can hardly see it, is an air conditioning condensing unit.

Now this needs a lot of space around it for it to work properly. If you have all the leaves and straw falling around it, it can cause it to rust a lot quicker and that can cost a lot of money.

Here’s another problem if you don’t trim things back and keep them away from the house. Look at this how this overgrown shrub is pushing right up against the eave of this house.

Now fortunately it has vinyl covering it, but if it was just wood like we see all the time, it could really cause a lot of damage and that can get expensive having to remove the plywood or whatever materials used on the underside of it and the fascia board and replace all of it.

Now, this situation is so bad because the sun and air can’t get to this part of the house, it’s caused so much water damage that this window unit has actually dropped a couple inches, and all the framing around it needs to be replaced.

Now if this was a in a termite prone area they’d be having a party right here because they love that wet wood to chew away at. And look at the other things that can happen here. Brick mold just falls apart because of all of the water that gets to it, and it just sits there causing this damage because this is blocking the sun from being able to dry it all out.

But you know you need to keep everything trimmed back away from the house, at least 12 to 18 inches to allow that circulation and the penetration of the sunlight. But even if you do that the outside of your house still needs a good coat of paint.

Even if you’re not hung up on appearances this is an important one to keep up with because paint does more than just make your house look good. If your home has any exterior components that are made of wood, paint may be the only protection they get from the elements.

But you can’t just slap on new paint over old bad paint because it simply won’t last and it really won’t look that good. If the coating that’s there is cracked, peeling, or alligatoring, it has to be removed before new paint can be applied.

Pressure washing first will remove the dirt and mildew plus some of the more badly deteriorated paint but after that the pros usually use a rotary sander to speed up this job. And if you have very much to do you may want to rent or to even buy one to save a few blisters, otherwise you’ll have to rely completely on the hand tools they use for closed quarters.

The scraper and the putty knife, neither is any fun. The object isn’t to remove all of the paint, just the stuff that isn’t sticking well anymore. Now where you do get down to bare wood, you’ll want to feather it out into the surrounding paint so the surface is nice and smooth.

Before you apply the new paint you’ll want to prime those areas where you’ve exposed the bare wood. The primer will give the topcoat something to bite into so that it will stick better.

After you caulk the gaps and crack between boards you’re finally ready for the finished paint, but don’t stop after one coat. Good prep work and two full coats of paint will mean you don’t have to do this again very soon. And you don’t want to, do you?

Allen Lyle: Cleaning the gutters is another one of those chores that nobody really likes to do, but you’ve got to do it. A clogged gutter can mean sagging, which will allow water to get behind the gutter, damage the fascia, the soffit, worst case scenario you could suffer some foundation damage and that could mean thousands of dollars of repairs, so got to get up there and clean em out. It’s really very simple.

First of all you want to start at an end closest to a downspout and then remove all of the debris. Now you can use a simple garden trowel like this, or a nifty little scoop that I made out of an old antifreeze jug.

What you want to do is get all of the trash out of the gutter and instead of throwing it on the ground, I’ve put a garbage sack under my ladder so I can put it right in there. And by the way instead of throwing it away this makes excellent material for a compost pile.

Once everything is cleaned out you want to take your garden hose, spray it down and make sure that you have got good flow going down in through the down spout. You may have a clog in there which means you have to get either a plumbing snake to get that loose, sometimes just the water running through it will loosen it up. So next time cleaning the gutters is on your chore list, just make sure you get up there and do it.

Joe Truini: Maintaining the outside of your house often starts with cleaning the gutters, and while you’re at it, it’s an excellent time to make repairs. Now what typically happens is the gutter spike that holds the gutter to the house will pull free from the house and then starts to sag under the weight of the water and the wet debris.

So we want to replace this spike. Now this is just an aluminum spike with aluminum ferrule, which is a collar that goes inside the gutter. Now what will happen is this will eventually bend and the gutter will pull away.

So we are going to replace it, not with another spike, but with this specialty hardware item, which is a gutter screw. It’s a steel screw so it won’t bend and it has a plastic ferrule that goes inside and that won’t bend either.

So we’re going to go through this same hole in the front but in the back and here’s the trick, we don’t want to go into the same hole, we want to go into, make a hole right above it so we go right into some solid wood.

So just drive it in with a drill driver. Don’t overdrive it because you don’t want to strip it, and you have a nice tight fit. And making this simple, inexpensive repair now can save you a lot of money down the road.

Danny Lipford: Hey welcome back to our slacker’s guide to home maintenance. Now one thing a slacker will overlook many times is keeping the perimeter around a tub or a shower sealed properly.

Now the wall meets the edge of the tub or a shower stall, it’s very important that it be sealed. If not, water can leak behind it, cause a lot water damage to the framing around the tub, or even worse, it can cause mold and mildew to grow a lot behind the walls.

That’s not good, but in a case like this we’re up in the second level of the house and it can leak down and cause stains and damage to the ceiling down below. None of those scenarios are good.

So in order to keep it properly caulked, the first thing you need to do is remove the existing caulk and get it as dry as you can a little hair dryer helps out a lot on drying that out. Then you need to choose the right caulk, which should be 100% silicone, to really seal it, and it’ll make it last a lot longer.

But you know a lot of problems that homeowners have when you are applying caulk, whether it’s here on a tub or any other part of your house is ending up with a nice, smooth finished product but here’s a couple tips that will help you out on that.

First of all if you are using a latex caulk, it’s very easy just to smooth it out just using water, but here, using silicone water won’t help you at all so what you can use is just mineral spirits.

After you apply a small bead of caulk put your finger down in the mineral spirits and wipe it nice and smooth, but then you have to have the smell of mineral spirits and having that on your finger.

Here’s something that we found recently, it’s called Caulk-EZ and what it allows you to do is after you apply you’re thin bead of caulk, you just spray this over all of the caulk and it allows you to get that nice smooth finish without any of it staying on your finger, even if a little gets on your finger you can wipe it off very easily.

So this is something that’s a very easy little project to do and makes a big difference in protecting your home. Hey, now what about sealing and protecting your grout? That’s something a slacker rarely gets to.

Ceramic tile floors are great because they can take so much abuse. That’s why they’re so often used for bathrooms, kitchens and entryways. The glazed surface of the tile is hard, durable and it rarely stains but the grout that fills the spaces between the tiles, now that’s another story.

Unless you are the tile setter who laid the floor and used one of the new stain proof grouts, it’s just a matter of time until the stains appear. Because traditional sanding grout is very porous so it soaks in anything that contacts it.

If the floor is new you’ll have to wait 30 days or so for the grout to fully cure before you can seal it. If it’s older, you’ll want to clean it well first. A mild bleach solution and a stiff scrub brush should do the trick to remove the dirt and hopefully any stains that are already there.

When the floor is completely dry you’re ready for the sealer. Now this stuff usually cost about five bucks but while you’re shopping spend another five or so for an applicator bottle. This one has different sized wheels for different widths of grout joints.

As you roll the bottle over the floor the wheel spreads the sealer on just the grout line so they process is neat and clean. If you waited too late and the floors already stained, you can stain and seal the grout at the same time with one of the new grout stain pens.

One little maintenance chore that is really easy to overlook is the little bit of maintenance that is required to make your water heater last a lot longer and heat all that hot water that we use a lot more efficiently.

All you have to do is drain the water heater every year or so. Now we featured this idea on our show a couple years ago and we were amazed at how many emails and letters we received and kind of made us realize that a lot homeowners are not aware of the little bit of work that it takes to drain your water heater.

Here’s what happens, all those gallons of water that runs through your tank, it’ll have minerals and a little bit of sediment here and there. And that will settle down in the bottom of the tank, and it just makes it work a lot harder, which is the reason it costs you a lot more money to have all of that hot water.

But all you have to do in order to drain your water heater, is if it’s electric like this one, turn the power off that comes into the water heater, if it’s gas, turn your gas off. Then you want to turn the valve here on top that’s your supply line going into it, completely off.

Then, do like I’ve done here earlier and hook up a water hose right to the bottom valve. Now you may have one that looks like this or it may be one that looks like an outside faucet but you hook this up and then you turn this on to start the draining process.

Then you have a pressure relief valve right here on top that you want to open up, that prevents any vacuum from preventing the water from running out. Then it’ll take a little while, this is a 30-gallon water heater, it’ll take a little while for all of it to drain out and once its completely drained out and the water stops coming out the other end then turn this back on and it will really flush out the last little bit of sediment you may have in the bottom. Now this is real easy, doesn’t take very long but it will make your water heater last a lot longer.

Emilie Barta: Whether you are a slacker or not, if you own a home eventually your weekend to do list will include caulking something and in many cases caulking will then be followed by painting.

Now the problem with most latex caulk is that they require so much time to dry that your Saturday chores can quickly roll over into Sunday as well. But now there’s a solution. This is DAP Alex Fast Dry acrylic latex caulk. It dries to the touch in just 15 minutes, and after 40 minutes it will form a tough enough outer skin that you can paint over it with either latex or oil based paint.

This is cool because ordinary latex caulk can take up to two hours or more before it’s paintable. And if you rush that and you paint before it’s cured before through and through, you often end up with hairline cracks in the paint, but this formula is designed to prevent that problem.

And with a 35-year guarantee you shouldn’t have to reapply it anytime soon. It’s also mold and mildew resistant, can be used inside or out and like most latex caulk, it cleans up with soap and water.

Danny Lipford: Welcome back to our slackers guide to home maintenance. Now how many times have you heard how important it is to change the air filter on your heating and cooling system on a regular basis? And you probably can t even remember when you changed your filter last, I guarantee you it’s time. Here’s why it’s so important.

Now this is a return air grill, behind it, probably a pretty dirty air filter, and this is generally located in the central part of your home, either on a wall like this or even on the ceiling sometimes.

Well, what happens, all the air in your house passes through this grill and through the filter before it gets to the air handler. You allow it to get dirty, it’s going to allow some of that dirt to pass through, in the air handler and that build up will make it work a lot harder which makes it less efficient.

It’s going to cost you a lot more money. And it won’t last as long so you might be faced with replacing the air handler unit, and that’s an expensive home improvement project.

Here’s as simple as it is. First of all just take the grill down like that, move the old filter and this one looks like it needs a little help, just discard that. Then don’t just pick up just one, pick up several air filters, so that you can have a few extras on hand so that you can encourage the replacement of it fairly regularly.

And remember the air is flowing in this direction so make sure your directional arrow is going in that same direction. Put it right in the frame, like that, then you close this up. It’s as simple as it is, and you will need to do this, depending on the quality of filter you have, every month some better filters you can wait every 3 months.

But even when you change the filter, you’ll also need to remember, take a damp rag and wipe some of that dust off because that will add to the new filter getting dirtier a lot quicker then it should.

Now, even if you have done this and your system is working a lot more efficiently, it’ll still cost you a lot of money if the weather stripping around your door is not in a really good shape.

This is one way that air can escape—damaged or worn weather stripping around an exterior door. Now this was damaged by a dog that really wanted to get inside and a slacker will walk by this all the time and never replace the weather stripping and it’s so easy.

What I suggest is to take a section of the weather stripping with you when you head down to the home center to buy the replacement for it. And this is a type that is used on a lot of the newer type doors, say in the last 20 years or so.

A compression weather stripping works really well but there’s other types out there including a foam type that has an adhesive backing on it. Comes in a little roll, real easy to use, works fairly well.

There’s also a more rigid type of weather stripping that has little brads that you nail in around the door to hold it nice and tight against that exterior surface of the door. Now, to replace this is very, very easy because it fits in to a little slot here in the door itself and once you get it started here, it’s fairly easy to pull it out of that groove once it lets go like that and you’re able just to pull it right on out, there’s no adhesive or anything else that holds it and then the new piece is just a little bit longer than we actually need for this door unit.

All I have to do is put it in place here, then I can just cut off any of the excess we have here. These aviation shears just seem to work perfect for this. There we go. Then it’s as simple as slipping it right back into the slot, like that, to seal all of that air into the house.

Now another area of the home that you really need to pay attention to is around your windows.

Allen Lyle: Well, you can see I found a house that desperately needs to put into practice some of those paint scraping tips that Danny told us about earlier, but we’ve got a bigger problem here, check this out.

You can see our trim has separated from our window and believe it or not this tiny little gap can cause a lot of the inside air to escape. That means the heater or the air conditioner is going to work overtime and a lot less efficiently.

What we’re going to do is seal the gap and in this case because it is so small, we’re just going to use a nice quality, exterior, latex caulk. All we have to do is run a bead into the gap, we’ll come back, push that in place, smooth it out, and once it cures up, we’ll be able to paint this.

And we want to do that around all of the windows around the house. Now if you have a gap that is a little larger than a quarter of an inch, say it’s half an inch or so, what you want to do is run down to your hardware store, home center, pick up some foam backer rod, push this into the gap first, then you can caulk on top of that.

Now, you will have some gaps that are even larger than that, that may be around a dryer vent, possibly some plumbing pipes. You’ll want to fill that too, and what you want to use is an expandable foam.

You just squirt this into it, it expands, as the name implies and once it cures and we’ll let it cure because it will be messy otherwise, you come back and just trim it down, flush with the outside of the house.

You can actually paint it, even stain it to match the exterior and then you are ready to go. Now while I take care of more of these problems let’s find out what you have to ask Danny.

April: Hey, Danny, I’ve got a question for you. Why does it take my dryer so long to dry my clothes?

Danny Lipford: Hi April, thanks for that question. That’s a question we get quite a bit. You know there’s a few reasons why your dryer might be taking a little longer to dry that load of clothes and most people think it means having to replace the heating element in the dryer or even worse, buy a brand new one.

But before you replace anything look at a couple very simple things. A build up of lent in the dryer or its vent pipe can not only reduce the efficiency of the dryer but it also can be a fire hazard.

The consumer product safety commission found that, in one single year, over 15,000 fires were attributed to the build up of lent in dryers or exhaust vents. Now what happens is, this build up reduces the air flow causing the dryer to work a lot harder and heat up excessively which can lead to that fire.

Now there are two things you can do to stop this buildup. First clean out your dryer vent pipe periodically. There are brushes designed specifically for this job. Now second, clear the dryer lent screen every single time you use it. Now these two simple steps will help your dryer run more safely and more efficiently.

Hey, I hope you enjoyed our little look at say, the slacker in all of us. You know it’s kind of hard to find time to do some of these little mundane tasks around the home, but you can tell if you take care of a lot of these projects it can save you a lot of money down the road. Plus your home will be more comfortable and probably it’ll help on the peace and harmony around your house as well.

Of course we have a lot of information about this week’s show as well as other general maintenance tips you can find on our website at dannylipford.com You know there’s a lot of home improvement shows out there and we really appreciate you being able to share some time with us every week watching our show.

Hey we’ll be back next week, hope you will be as well. I’m Danny Lipford we’ll see you then.

Looking for a way to spruce up the house? Next week, check out our 8 great weekend projects

If you would like to purchase a DVD copy of this week’s show, visit our website at dannylipford.com, or call us at 1-800-946-4420.



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  • Joan McGraw Says:
    July 10th, 2016 at 10:42 am

    On the north side of my home it looks like black mildew. What would be a good cleaner to use?
    Also, my siding was replaced in 2008


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