Annual Year End Check List

 

It’s 2015 and time for your annual home check up.

Who wants to check for mundane things like plumbing leaks and other potential problems? Probably not many. Those could be the people in for a rude surprise at the most inopportune moment. You are not going to be one of those surprised people, are you?

Of course not! You know just what to do, right? OK, just in case, you can check to see if I remember what to do…..

Probably the most destructive and often hidden issue is water leaking. It could come from many places. The hidden places include: Under any sink with cabinets below it. Water heaters in closets. Improperly grouted bathtubs and showers are just a few of the hidden places. Sometimes toilet supply lines and water softener lines can leak. It makes little difference whether the water is under pressure or leaking just from the pull of gravity; any water in places it shouldn’t be is bad.

Under kitchen sinks: Garbage disposers can rot and leak. P-traps can get knocked loose and seep just enough water to ruin the floor under the sink and promote the growth of mold. Dishwasher connections to the disposer or P-trap can come loose or dry out and then leak. Sometimes even the faucet or dish sprayer can leak. Shut off valves/supply lines can be a source of water. Lastly, plumbers putty can be dried out or missing from under the faucet and water leak past the faucet while cleaning around the sink. How hard is it to check all this? A flashlight and a few minutes is all you need.

Water Damage under sink

Leaking Disposer, case rotted through

Under bathroom sinks: P-traps can be loosened when you overload the cabinets below the sink. If the P-traps are metal, they can be rotted through and leak. The drain stopper mechanism could be loose, rotted or missing providing a path for water to escape and ruin the flooring under the sink or worse. Carpeting, the ceiling of the floor below, sheet rock behind the sink as well as baseboards adjacent to the sink will be damaged by the leak. Plumbers putty could be dried out or missing from between the sink and faucet. I’ve even seen where the faucet lines have corroded and seeped. Don’t overlook the shut off valves/supply lines as a source for a leak. I’ve seen where old porcelain-coated metal sinks have rusted through, so take a peek up under the sink should your house have metal sinks.

Rusted pipe between sink and P-trap – note water damage on wall

Toilets are pretty self contained, but they can have issues with the supply line or shutoff valve too. Older units may have a corrugated supply line that leaks over time from corrosion. If the toilet is loose from the floor, the wax ring may be compromised and water can leak from under the toilet when flushed. Toilet that are loose can be a safety hazard too.

Cracked line at shutoff valve – Leaky seal at tank

The laundry room: Washer hook ups and drain hoses that leak are often overlooked until you find water everywhere from a burst supply hose. Look those supply hoses over at both ends. The hose bibs could leak also.

If you have an ice maker in your refrigerator, the supply valve/line can leak. Peek behind the refrigerator while doing your inspection. Supply and drain lines for your dishwasher should be inspected at the same time.

Next to the water heater in a closet: Supply lines and fittings can leak. Shut-off valves and drain valves can leak. The biggest problem: The water heater tank itself could leak. If the water heater is over 10 years old, there is a good chance it’s on its last legs. Hard water makes things worse.

Top of water heater leaking badly

 

Another unsuspecting area for water to leak is from the HVAC condensation drain. If it clogs with algae or mold, water can back up and leak into floors, walls and downstairs ceilings. As side note, it’s always a good idea to pour a cup of bleach into the drain pipe to prevent blockage of the drain. Usually there is a place to pour the bleach.

If you have a water softener, the drain line can leak, valves that control the flow of water and O-rings can become hard and leak.

While they may not cause damage inside the house, outside hose bibs should be checked also. Over time, they can promote the rotting of siding and even cause foundation issues. They are an easy, inexpensive replacement.

Leaking Hose bib

In a later blog I’ll cover other devices in your home that use water and how to service them as well. If you are unsure where your leaks are coming from or don’t feel comfortable digging around under sinks and around pipes, call you local handyman: MrFixIt Mike.

Mike @ 210-452-5816

Happy New Year 2015!

Safety and Security at Home

Your home – it’s your place. No one wants their home violated by thieves or home invaders. These days, the risk for a break-in seems to be growing. So what can you do to deter such activity?

It’s simpler than you think. A burglar can enter any home given enough time and desire. Your job is to make it unappealing enough they move on to another home.

First line of defense: Secure your place while you are away. It seems almost insultingly simple. Despite that, many overlook the simplest of things. Check windows to be sure they are latched and locked. Check exterior doors, particularly those that may go out the side of your home or into the garage. These doors should latch when closed and the locks engage without force. If not, call a handyman to have windows, locks and door adjusted to operate properly. Even the best locks can’t do their job if the door jamb is damaged or weak. Have the handyman install longer screws that screw into the 2 x 4 inside the door frame so the striker plates can do their job correctly. Most striker plates are secured to the door jamb with short screws that thread into a thin piece of wood. Use double cylinder deadbolts on door with glass panels. That way if the burglar tries breaking the glass and reaching inside to unlock the door, he will still need a key. Keep the key close by where you can reach it to unlock the door in case of a fire. Place padlocks on gates and storage sheds. Don’t leave the garage remote control on the dashboard of your unlocked car.

These sliding window locks can add a measure of security

Sturdy double cylinder dead bolt lock

 

Next: Lighting. The front and rear doors of virtually all homes have some sort of light fixture. Well lit areas around these entry points allow you and your neighbors to see if someone is waiting to enter your home through one of these doors. As side benefit is the house looks as if someone may be home. There are a wide variety of fixtures that feature things like motion detection, dual or variable brightness and day/night automatic sensitivity. Many of these types of fixtures are so automatic so you don’t to be home when it’s time to turn them on. One caveat, avoid intensely bright lights. They cast strong shadows that someone could hid in. If the lights so bright that you cannot look directly at them, neighbors will not look at them either, defeating the purpose of exterior lighting.

A variety of motion sensing dual brightness fixtures.

Next: Landscaping. Large shrubs, low hanging tree limbs and such can provide an area for a burglar to hide behind. Walk out 20 feet or so from the front of your home and look back at the front or rear of your home. Can you see the door easily? If not, it’s time to trim. If you have to have shrubbery close to the property, keep it low and perhaps plant things that have thorns such as Holly shrubs or roses. That will deter someone from attempting to hide behind the landscaping. Around the property, try and keep large plantings away from gates or electrical service boxes. This will keep these areas in view discouraging the potential burglar from having access to these areas. Shrubbery should be trimmed to stay below the level of windows for the same reason.

If you find the need to keep a spare key for the entrance to your home outside, don’t hide it under the front door mat, a rock in the garden or even inside the electrical service box. Thieves know all about these places to find your key. Instead, purchase a lock box from any hardware store and place the key inside the lock box. Lock boxes can be secured to hose bibbs, chain link posts and such. This will provide access to the key for friends and neighbors as long as they have the combination to the lock box. You can change the combination should you feel the need to prevent someone you wanted to grant a one time access from coming back later to enter without your knowledge.

A Sturdy and inexpensive lockbox

Automatic timers to control a radio or interior lights should have the feature of variable on and off settings. This will keep someone who may be watching from seeing a pattern of seeing things come on and off at the same exact time every day. A radio playing in the home works better than lights alone. There will always be someone who tries to ring the doorbell to see if you are home. For the most part, they will just move on to the next home. A good handyman can install these timers into a wall switch box so you don’t end up with extension cords everywhere.

Timer that fits into a standard electrical box

All these steps are highly effective and cost very little to implement. There is little need to subscribe to expensive monitoring or the purchase of a large dog and the associated costs of owning such an animal if you do these few things. Of course, if you feel you are in a high risk area or have expensive valuables, monitoring may be a great backup to all of the other things listed above.

A good handyman can check doors and windows as well as install locks and lighting. Don’t wait for trouble. The cost of implementing these measures is small compared to the hassles of dealing with police, insurance companies and the replacement of the stolen items. Then there is your own personal safety to consider also.

Stay safe! -Mr.Fix It Mike

Flickering Lights

No, this isn’t a blog about Christmas lights or what you might see in your rear-view mirror if you’ve been speeding. This blog is about something that is highly unsafe in your home. With all the power hungry electronic gadgets we have these days, it’s easy to overload an outlet with adapters and power strips.

 

In older homes that only have a two prong outlet, the circuits are often protected with a screw in fuse. Many people, tiring of blown fuses are tempted to install a higher amperage fuse. Two problems occur when this is done. The first problem is a 15 amp circuit is generally wired with 14 gauge wire that only carry a 15 amp load safely. The second problem is that these wires have insulation that has become brittle and may fall off of the wire as it heats from being overloaded. A fire can develop making for bad day at the very least.

Old style screw in fuse Old style screw in fuse

Old two prong outlet on left – New 3 prong outlet on right

With a two wire circuit there is rarely a redundant ground wired into the circuit. Nearly all electronic devices require that third prong; The redundant ground. It protects the device from a number of risks. Adapters often do not provide that ground. They merely provide you with a way to plug in your three prong plug into a 2 prong outlet.

 

One other possibility to cause lights to flicker is that your home may have been wired with Aluminum wire. Aluminum isn’t quite as conductive as copper. It expands and contracts as the circuit is used. Over time, the connections become loose making a poor connection. That can become a source of flickering lights.

Burned aluminum wires – Aluminum expands and contracts eventually loosening the connection

Modern electrical circuits are protected a variety of resettable circuit breakers. This is handy for situations where a circuit is momentarily overloaded and the circuit breaker trips. When a breaker trips constantly, it is a warning that the circuit is overloaded and you should take steps to reduce the load. It is more difficult to change out a circuit breaker to a higher amperage. Doing so, you run the same risk of fire as might with an improper screw in type fuse.

New style re-settable circuit breaker

Most modern builders wire a given circuit with 12 gauge wire in order to support a 20 amp load. These days bedrooms have many outlets. The potential for a 20 amp load becomes more likely and the need for a 20 amp breaker.

 

So what do the flickering lights possibly indicate? Many things. At the top of the list: A circuit that is on the verge of having problems as outlined above. How will you know if the circuit is overloaded or the flicker is caused by something else? Often we have all noticed a flicker when the air conditioner kicks on. Other times, starting the dryer or when the refrigerator cycles. This is normal particularly in the heat of the summer when the entire house may be drawing a heavy current. If you notice a flickering when nothing else is starting up, It’s time to check the load on the circuit.

 

Things to check: Outlets that have fully populated power strips. If you have 5 or 6 devices plugged into a standard two outlet wall plug, you may have found the problem. Sometimes and extension cord has been hidden under heavy furniture or carpeting. These cords can become frayed and short out. Unplug a few of the devices or unplug the extension cord and see if the flickering goes away. If you cannot find the source of the overload, it’s time to call an electrician.

 

A good handy man can help to locate these possible overloads and can determine the need for an electrician. The best thing to do is not to overload an outlet or run extension cords under things. Think safe!

 

Happy Holidays!

 

Mr. Fix It Mike