MAINTAINING YOUR HOME
You have put in a lot of work to get to this point and it has paid off. Now, the fun part begins: making your home truly your own space. Below is information on maintenance, safety precautions, cleaning, warranties, and general tips to ease the transition into COCLT homeownership.
Your new COCLT home was designed to be durable, energy efficient and comfortable; however, all homes age over time so taking a proactive approach to maintenance is recommended. It is important to do regular home maintenance for a variety of reasons: a well-maintained home is simply more comfortable to live in for a homeowner; regular care minimizes unexpected repair work and keeps costs from becoming larger; and lastly, a well-kept home maintains the property value. It is best to perform maintenance on your home as soon as you notice the issue. This helps to prevent further damage from occurring and can help keep repair costs down. It is a good idea to inspect your home and yard once every six months to identify any items needing work.
Each COCLT home comes with a home warranty. Home warranties vary based on the developer/builder. You should have been given information at your closing detailing the types of warranties that come with your home, as well as their warranty periods. Below is general information about the two main warranties that are included with the purchase of your home.
As mentioned during your final walk-through prior to closing, it is imperative that you register all products within your home in a timely manner to secure the additional warranties, if offered.
FURNACE & HVAC FILTERS
Check Your Furnace and HVAC Filters
Why: Clogged filters make heating and cooling systems run less efficiently, which wastes energy and costs you money. They can also trap harmful pollutants and allergens that you don’t want lurking around your home.
How: To check your furnace and HVAC filters, turn off your system, pull out your filters and inspect them for dirt and grime. If they’re dark and dirty-looking, get suitable replacements at your local hardware store. Just remove the old filter (with the system turned off), slide the new one in and turn everything back on.
When: Right after you move in and every six months afterward.
Service and Clean the Furnace
Why: When your furnace isn’t running properly, it will suck energy and can even emit harmful carbon monoxide. Warning signs that your furnace may not be functioning properly include an increased heating bill, failure to maintain temperature, cold air, yellow pilot light, strange noises, and more.
How: Call a pro. If you don’t have one you trust, call the manufacturer or installer and ask for a recommendation. Just be sure to use a licensed heating, ventilation and air conditioning specialist.
When: Having your furnace inspected every fall will prolong the life of your appliance and could save you money on your heating bill.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY TIPS
- Buy energy efficient cooling units and set your air conditioner to no cooler than 74 degrees to keep costs down.
- Every year, clean your air conditioner’s filter or cooling system.
- Fans can also be useful for added comfort. They use small amounts of energy and can make the room feel four to eight degrees cooler. To conserve energy, do not leave fans on while you are not in the room.
- Check the integrity and seal of weather stripping on your windows and doors. If necessary, replace weather stripping to help keep your home cool.
- Program your thermostat to reduce the heat in your home when you’re at work, and set it to turn the heat back up right before you get home. Energy Star suggests keeping your thermostat on these settings:
How: Walk around your home – and get up on a ladder if needed – and look for chipping, peeling, blistering or cracking on every part, including the trim. Touching things up could just mean sanding, scraping, patching, priming and repainting small areas. But if you see widespread areas of damage, it might be wise to repaint the whole thing.
When: Every summer.
WATER & MOISTURE
How: It’s as simple as grabbing a flashlight and putting on some clothes you don’t mind getting a little dirty. Start by doing a scan with your flashlight from the entrance to check for any signs of wildlife or standing water. If you see or hear evidence of critters, or see standing water, DO NOT enter the crawlspace. If not, you can crawl inside to take a close, careful look. Pay attention to corners, edges and changes in color, and use your fingers to test for dampness if you aren’t sure. If you find any water, call a home inspector immediately to figure out where it’s coming from. Condensation on the ground-facing side of your vapor barrier is normal, as long as the upper surface is dry. Make sure you properly secure the door to the crawl space after exiting to prevent any critters from seeking shelter inside.
When: Every fall before it rains. The key is to fix existing water damage before any more water gets in.
Green Cleaning Tip
A vacuum cleaner with attachments is an excellent way to get rid of deep dirt. Dirt embedded in carpet fibers will shorten the use and attractiveness of your carpet. Sprinkle a little baking soda on your carpets. Allow it to sink in and vacuum it up. Odors will attach themselves to the baking soda particles and be vacuumed away. Vacuum the dust off of light shades, window sills, and other surfaces.
Luxury Vinyl Tile
Luxury Vinyl Tile, or LVT, should be cleaned with a product designed for LVT flooring. Use a damp mop with the cleaning spray to remove dirt and stains. Soft-bristle brushes and brooms are preferred for LVT.
Green Cleaning Tip
Vinegar is a terrific glass cleaner. Pour vinegar in a spray bottle and clean your windows using a rag. Squeeze half a lemon into a bucket of water with a quarter cup of vinegar and mop your vinyl sheet, LVT, or ceramic tile floors.
Basement floods are most often caused by bad weather. Floods can also result from degraded sewer pipes, foundation drainage problems, and water supply-line breaks. Once the source has been identified, turn off all power sources. Do not attempt to turn off power sources if they are in the flooded area. Call a professional or use a submersible pump to remove the water and be sure to clean all the areas touched by the water.
Back-ups can occur in different ways. One sign of a back-up is water coming up the tub or shower drain when you flush the toilet. Another sign is the appearance of bubbles in the toilet when running the sink. If your drains are backing-up, you likely have a clogged sewer or waste line and need to call a licensed plumber and ask for professional assistance.
If your in-sink disposal is clogged, use the self-service wrench that comes with your unit to gently wriggle from side to side until you are able to crank all the way around in both directions.
- Do not flush baby wipes, dental floss, Q-tips, or other paper products down the toilet.
- Do not pour grease or hot oil down the drain.
- Do not put food down the sink, even if you have a garbage disposal.
Green Cleaning Tip
Using a natural bacteria powder that helps to break-down hair in tub drains is also
a good way to prevent clogs in the tub. A tablespoon of bacteria powder mixed with warm water and poured down the drain every couple of weeks is a good way to prevent tub clogs. Regularly pouring boiling water mixed with baking soda down your sink and tub drain is a good way to clean out your plumbing. However, if your drain does not clear, call a plumber. Do not use chemical drain clearing products as they can wear away at pipes and cause pipe leaks.
To prevent pipes from freezing, never leave a house unheated during cold weather. During an extended period of severe cold, provide minimal heat for unused rooms and bathrooms that are generally not heated. If you leave your home for extended trips during cold weather months, consider leaving cabinet doors to all sinks open. Be sure that all entrances to crawl spaces are closed during cold weather. If your pipes do freeze, proper defrosting may prevent damage. The frozen pipes must be thawed slowly to prevent the formation of steam, which could cause the pipes to burst. You should contact a licensed plumber if you believe that you have a frozen pipe.
If you have an under-sink leak, it is important to find the source. If there is water spraying or actively dripping, compression fittings need to be tightened. Leaks can also be a sign of a blockage. If there is a blockage, clear the drain with an auger or another snaking tool. If neither of these solutions work, contact a licensed plumber.
No Hot Water
Make sure the water temperature dial is on the right setting. There are multiple other causes for a lack of hot water. If several people are showering one after the other, you may have used up all the hot water in your hot water heater. For example, a 10 minute shower is thought to use around 20 gallons of water. If this is the case, wait for your hot water heater to re-heat the new water. If there is no hot water after waiting, your pilot light may have gone off. Follow the instructions in your manufacturer’s maintenance manual to turn it back on. If your pilot light is not off, contact a licensed plumber.
Faucets will require occasional maintenance and repair. If water from your faucet has slowed to a trickle, a clogged aerator may be to blame. To clean an aerator, you must unscrew it from the mouth of the faucet, remove any deposits, remove and rinse the washers and screens, replace them in their original order, and put the aerator back on the faucet. The frequency of the need for cleaning will depend on the condition of the water, but generally, every three to four months is adequate.
Preventing Water Waste
In order to prevent water waste, occasionally test toilets for leaks by adding food coloring to the water in the tank without flushing. Watch to see if the coloring appears in the bowl within a few minutes. If it does, the toilet has a silent leak that needs to be repaired. Another way to prevent water waste is by taking short showers instead of baths. Not running water while brushing your teeth, shaving, and doing dishes can also save money and prevent water waste.
The sanitary system collects waste water from sinks, toilets, and bathtubs. In order to prevent sanitary lines from clogging, homeowners and tenants must not pour grease, oil, or large objects down the drain. Disposing of these items down the drain will eventually slow down and clog the lines, causing potential backups and flooding in your home. We strongly recommend hiring a professional to snake the line when you begin to notice a slight delay in the draining of sinks and tubs.
GUTTERS & ROOF VALLEYS
Why: Clogged up or damaged gutters and roof valleys can cause water to back up and potentially enter your home via the foundation, roof or crawl space, or even freeze inside your gutters and wreck them altogether.
How: Grab a sturdy ladder and take a peek. Use gloved hands or even a trowel to remove debris from gutters before flushing them with a garden hose to make sure there aren’t any hidden clogs. Remove debris on the roof by hand and check out the flashing while you’re up there to make sure it’s free of rust and holes.
When: Every fall or even twice annually if you live in a wooded area.
Water stains or marks on your top floor ceiling or walls are a sign of a roof leak. If you discover water stains, call a professional roofer. They will be able to identify the source of the leak and repair it. Once the leak has been repaired, water stains can be primed and painted over. As stated above, be sure to clean your gutters and verify that they do not have any holes to prevent roof leaks. If you need to seal the seams of your gutters, you can use butyl caulking.
Walls & Windows
Why: Cracks in a home may contribute substantially to winter heat loss. Sealing the spaces around windows with caulk goes a long way toward solving this problem.
How: Caulking processes and products will vary depending on the type of windows and siding you have. Check with an expert before purchasing a particular product. When applying the caulk, make sure all surfaces are clean and dry, and pay attention to the temperature specifications in the product information. Since temperatures change most in the morning, it’s smart to start your project after they have leveled out.
When: As needed. Inspect the caulking around your windows at the end of every summer so you can touch up any damaged caulking while the weather is still dry.
Grout is a material used to fill joints and voids between ceramic tiles. If your grout is cracking, it is likely due to your tiles moving or due to age. It can also be due to the settling of your home, which is normal. To address this problem, remove the old grout and reseal the joints and voids.
Cracks in Walls
Temperature changes cause your home’s framing to expand, contract, and settle. This results in small cracks in drywall and plaster walls. These cracks are normal and do not indicate that there is a structural problem in your home. To repair the cracks, simply patch them with spackle and repaint the area.
If water is coming in through your windows, verify that the caulk around the window is not damaged. Cracks and holes can allow water to come into your home when it rains. Water can also enter from window frame corners. If the water appears to be coming in, remove the old caulk and re-caulk the corners and window frame. If the leak persists, then have a window professional assess the situation.
Washer & Dryer
Washer and Dryer Connections
If you purchase an electric dryer, please make sure that the dryer rating and plug is compatible with the circuit and outlet in your home. Not all electric dryers are alike. With any dryer installation, frequent cleaning of lint from the vent line is recommended to ensure proper dryer operation and safety. This reduces indoor air moisture, which can lead to mold growth.
Green Cleaning Tip
When your laundry items are only slightly dirty, you can select the cold or warm water settings to save energy. Choosing to do several loads of laundry in a row also saves energy because you are able to recover some heat from your dryer for the next load. When you are done drying your clothes, be sure to clean the lint out of the filter. This will help the dryer work better for the next load.
Energy Star washers and dryers are recommended. You can research your potential purchases on the Energy Star Appliances Guide website.
- Replacment of fuses and breakers, which can trip frequently.
- Do periodic childproofing if there are children in the home.
- Ensure that air vents (indoors and outdoors) are not blocked by snow or debris.
- Replace screen windows with storm windows
- Clean leaves from gutters and roofs
- Check downspouts to ensure proper drainage
- Check chimneys for obstructions
- Heating system check up: Gas furnace serviced every 1-2 years, oil furnace serviced every year
- Check for tree limbs that are touching or close to your home
- Clean and change air meters, gas appliance vents, and basement windows
- Make sure you have working fire extinguishers
- Check ceilings and attics for water stains or damage
- Keep vents clear of snow
- Get your home weatherized: Make your home more resistant to cold weather by adding insulation, storm windows, etc.
- Replace storm windows with screens
- Clean and check air filters
- Check eaves and downspouts for clogged debris and structural damage
- Check smoke, carbon monoxide and security alarms and replace batteries
- Paint the exterior of your house once every 5 years, or when you see peeling, cracking, or blistering of the paint
- Repair driveways, walkways, and damaged steps
- Monitor basement humidity and avoid relative humidity above 60%
- Check basement pipes for condensation and dripping
- Install smoke detectors on each floor and test them every month to make sure they are in working condition.
- Dust smoke detectors occasionally, dust can cause a nuisance alarm.
- Have at least one fire extinguisher in the house (preferably in the kitchen) and understand how to operate it.
- All household members must understand that a grease fire should be smothered with a pan lid or powder like baking soda or salt. Never pour water on a grease fire; that just makes it worse.
- Store all flammable liquids properly outdoors in approved containers away from appliances, heaters, or open flame.
- Do not use unvented space heaters.
- Keep portable heaters away from paper, bedding, clothes, and curtains. Shut them off when family members are out of the house or asleep.
- Know where your breaker box is located and how to shut off the electricity in case of emergency. If you need to shut off power to the entire house, flip each individual breaker OFF before turning the main breaker off (two large switches at top of panel). To restore power to the home, turn ON the main breaker before flipping each individual circuit breaker on.
- Make sure all appliances are approved by an independent testing agency (UL) and are in good working condition.
- Make sure all electrical outlets and switches have cover plates and that plastic child protector covers are installed.
- Test Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) electrical outlets in the bathroom to make sure that they are in good working condition.
- Make sure the electrical system is free of frequent circuit breaker trips. All circuit breakers are oriented to be ON when facing the centerline of the panel, so a tripped breaker will be easily visible.
- Make sure everyone understands that electrical appliances are not to be used near water (tubs, sinks, pools, etc.) or outdoors unless they are designed for such use. (If the inside of an appliance does get wet, have it serviced.)
- In plumbing-related emergency, or if your water heater is leaking, shut off the water supply
- Know where your water shut-off is located. This information should be covered during your home inspection, and will be available for reference in your home inspection report.
- If the problem is local, use the individual valves (ex: kitchen sinks valves, toilet valves, dishwasher valves)
- Know where your gas meter is located, generally on the exterior of your house; the shut off valve is attached to your gas meter
- If you smell gas, leave your home immediately, then:
- Extinguish all open flames
- Do not try to light any appliances
- Do not touch any electric switches or use any telephones
- Call your gas company or your fire department immediately
- Check eaves and downspouts for clogged debris and structural damage
- Check smoke, carbon monoxide and security alarms and replace batteries
MAINTENANCE BUDGETING TIPS
It’s important to have a plan for maintenance and repairs, and to start saving early. Some appliances and systems are covered by your home manufacturer’s warranty. Check your warranty guide, provided to you at closing, for specifics. After these warranties end, however, it is up to you, the homeowner, to get them fixed. This section details some tips and suggestions for maintenance budgeting, including a handy chart to keep track of appliance and system repairs.
The 1% Rule
One method of calculating an average yearly maintenance budget is to take 1% of your home’s value, and set it aside for repair costs. So if the total appraised value of your home is $200,000, you should budget approximately $2,000 a year for ongoing maintenance. Remember, this is just an approximate calculation, and doesn’t account for the age of your home or cost of labor in your area.
The Square Foot Rule
Another general calculation is to budget $1 per square foot per year for maintenance costs. If your home is 1500 square feet, then you should budget $1,500 a year. Remember, this is just an approximate calculation.
The craftmanship warranty is a one-year warranty that covers workmanship and materials. Additionally, the warranty will include defects in the wiring, piping and ductwork in the electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling, ventilating and mechanical systems. Covered components of a home that do not meet established performance standards during the first year will be repaired, replaced, or paid for under the warranty.
A 2-10 warranty is a structural warranty with 2 years of coverage for distribution systems and a full 10 years of third-party insurance-backed coverage for qualifying structural defects on new construction homes. Workmanship is clearly defined construction standards for defects in materials and workmanship. Distribution systems are clearly defined construction standards for defects in the distribution of electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems. Structural is insurance-backed coverage for load-bearing elements, soil movement, including settlement and heave.