Slacker’s Guide to Home Maintenance

Danny Lipford replacing weather stripping on door.

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It’s easy to let home maintenance projects around the house slide, but if you don’t take care of them now, they can lead to much bigger problems down the road. Here are a few important weekend projects to put on your “to do” list.

Trim Shrubs

Shrubs that are too close to your house can deflect rain onto the siding and prevent moisture from drying out. This can result in rotten wood and provide a fertile environment for mold and mildew to grow. Keep all bushes trimmed back at least 12” to 18” away from your house and well back from air conditioner units.

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Painting siding on a house.


Painting the outside of your house is a big job, but it needs to be done regularly to provide protection for the siding and trim. A good paint job requires a lot of prep work, which is as important as the painting itself.

Houses built before 1979 should be tested to see if the paint contains lead before beginning, since breathing or ingesting sanding dust from lead based paint can lead to lead poisoning (See Lead Exposure and Safety Tips).

Start by pressure washing your house and treating any mildew with a diluted bleach solution. Next, scrape the house thoroughly to remove any peeling paint or sand the wood with a rotary sander. The goal is not to remove all the paint, just the part that is loose or peeling. Feather out the edges with a sander so it will look smooth.

Always wear dust and eye protection while sanding and scraping. Use a stain blocking primer over bare wood to prevent knots and sap from bleeding through. After caulking any gaps or cracks, apply two top coats of good quality exterior paint, being sure to follow the directions on the can.

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Cleaning gutters on house.

Clean Gutters

Clogged overflowing gutters can lead to rotten fascia boards and even cause damage to the foundation. Clean them during dry weather starting at the downspout and working back. Wear gloves and use a gardening trowel or a scoop made from an antifreeze container.

Rather than throwing the leaves and debris away, put them on your compost pile. After the gutters are clean, use a garden hose to wash out the inside, and check to be sure the downspouts are flowing freely.

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Caulking around bathtub.

Caulk Tub

Another often overlooked home repair is sealing the joint between the tub and wall tile. A crack in the joint can let water seep behind the tile. This can allow mold and mildew to grow and result in damage to the wood framing or ceiling stains. First, score the old caulking with a utility knife then use a putty knife or scraper to remove it.

Next, clean the joint well and dry the area thoroughly with a hair dryer. Once it is dry, seal the gap with 100% silicone caulk. To smooth out the caulk, dip your finger in mineral spirits before running it along the bead, or use a product called Caulk-EZ which comes in an aerosol can that is sprayed on top of the caulking.

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Applying liquid sealer to grout in tiles.

Grout Sealer

While ceramic tile is a durable, low maintenance material that is virtually impervious to dirt and stains, grout is not. Unless stain-proof grout was used, the grout lines need to be sealed. Allow the grout in new floors to cure for 30 days before sealing it.

If the grout is dirty or stained, use a mild breach solution and scrub brush to clean it then allow the floor to dry completely before sealing. The easiest way to apply the sealer is with a grout sealer applicator bottle. If the grout will not clean up, you can use a special grout stain pen to stain and seal it all at the same time.

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Drain Water Heater

Draining your water heater removes sediment from the tank that can cause it to work harder and cost more to use. Begin by turning off the power or gas to the water heater. Next, turn the cold water supply valve off, and hook a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank. Open the drain valve and pressure relief valve on top of the tank and allow the water in the tank to drain out.

When the tank is empty, open the cold water valve for a few minutes to flush out the last remaining sediment. Finally, close the drain valve and pressure relief valve and allow the tank to fill back up.

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Replacing air filter on HVAC return.

Change Air Filter

It’s important to change the air filter on your central heating/cooling system every one to three months to keep it operating efficiently. Open the return cover and remove the old filter. Replace it with a new one that is sized to fit the opening, being sure to orient it so the air flow arrow is pointing in toward the ductwork. Before closing the cover, vacuum or wipe it off.

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Repair Weather Stripping

Replacing the worn and damaged weather stripping around exterior doors will save you money on your energy bills. Take a piece of the old weather stripping with you to the home improvement store to match it. The weather stripping in newer doors fits in a groove in the door casing.

To remove weather stripping, simply pull it out. Cut a new piece to length and insert it back in the groove. Older doors can be retrofit with self-adhesive foam weather stripping or strips that are nailed in place.

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Applying caulk to a window.

Caulk Windows

Gaps around windows let heated and cooled air escape and increase your energy bills. Seal small cracks and gaps with caulking. To fill larger cracks, buy a roll of foam backer rod and push it into the gap before applying caulking on top of it.

Still larger gaps and holes can be filled using aerosol cans of expandable foam. After the foam cures, trim it flush then stain or paint it to match the existing siding. Both backer rod and expandable foam are available at The Home Depot stores.

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Taking care of these few simple maintenance projects around the house will help keep your home in top shape and prevent small problems from growing into big ones.

Other Tips From This Episode

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Gutter Screws

Gutter Screws

Gutters are often installed using aluminum gutter spikes and ferrules which bend easily and can work loose over time. Replacing them with steel gutter screws and rigid plastic ferrules will keep your gutters snug against your house and prevent them from sagging. After removing the old gutter spike, use a cordless drill to drive the screw through a new hole in the fascia board. Snug up the screw, being careful not to over tighten it. (Watch This Video)

Best New Products with Emilie Barta:
ALEX Fast Dry Acrylic Latex Caulk

ALEX Fast Dry Acrylic Latex Caulk

ALEX Fast Dry Acrylic Latex Caulk from DAP dries to touch in just 15 minutes and can be painted in as little as 40 minutes with either latex or oil based paints. ALEX Fast Dry caulk carries a 35-year warrenty and is suitable for interior or exterior use. It is mold and mildew resistant and can be cleaned up with soap and water.

ALEX Fast Dry Acrylic Latex Caulk is available at The Home Depot. (Watch This Video)

Ask Danny Lipford:
Dryer Speed

Dryer Speed

Danny, why does it take my dryer so long to dry my clothes? -April from Alabama

Often the problem is not the dryer itself, but a buildup of lint in the dryer or vent pipe. This not only reduces the efficiency of your dryer but can be a fire hazard as well. The Consumer Product Safety Commission found that in a single year 15,000 fires were caused by dryer lint. To remedy this problem, clean the flexible vent pipe with a specially made brush, or remove it and clean the pipe by hand. It’s also important to clear the dryer lint screen every time you run a load. (Watch This Video)

Power tools used on Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford® were provided by Ryobi.


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Slacker’s Guide to Home Maintenance