Prepare for those winter house repairs now

Home Maintenance Series
By: Paul Apfel Inside Lincoln Correspondent
-A +A
Facing the last three months of the year, our thoughts shift to pumpkins, turkeys and Christmas trees. No less important, however, is the reminder that winter with its wet and cooler weather will soon be upon us. And, we need to begin preparing for it now. Keep the home fires ... With winter’s approach, the need for a reliable, well-working furnace becomes a top concern. The trade ads are now flooding the newspapers and the mailboxes offering tune-ups and inspections for heating and cooling systems for various sums of your green. Costs ranging from $40 to as much as $120 seem to be the norm. But it’s an individual homeowner call as to whether a tune-up is necessary. According to Tom Howes, owner of Howes Company in Orangevale (869-9691), home furnaces are relatively uncomplicated appliances. “They work or they don’t,” Howes said. Although units do wear out, they are remarkably resilient, often lasting 15 to 25 years without major repairs. Nevertheless, Howes advised, if their home furnace is malfunctioning, homeowners should call a qualified and licensed professional to inspect the unit. The U.S. Department of Energy, through its Energy Star website, recommends that a typical maintenance checklist would include: • Check thermostat settings • Tighten all electrical connections • Lubricate all moving parts • Inspect the condensate drain to ensure the system starts, operates and shuts off properly. A heating-specific inspection would cover all gas connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and the heat exchanger, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Improperly operating systems can contribute to health problems. Howes noted that a damaged heat exchanger can cause improper burner operation, which can contribute to carbon monoxide build-up in the home, something your newly-installed carbon monoxide detector would identify. State law requires all homes or rental homes to have installed a carbon-monoxide detector in their home by July 1, 2011. But for those who missed that deadline, check local hardware and home stores for these units. They’re not expensive, with most units costing less than $50. Keep in mind that you should replace or clean the interior filters - if they’re the washable variety - every 60 to 90 days. This is something homeowners can do themselves. Contractors continue to remind us that this simple task is a vital link in the preventative maintenance process and can prolong the life of your heating unit. If the filters become excessively dirty, they impede the flow of air into the unit, thus causing it to work harder. That can shorten the life of the unit. But be skeptical of contractors recommending costly cooling or heating system replacements. When in doubt, get multiple estimates. Renew the paint ... Dave Cearlock, owner of Cearlock’s Custom Painting in Loomis (838-9361) cautioned that painting individual homes is a protective as well as a decorative issue and should not be deferred. Examine your home’s exterior and look for cracks in the wood or stucco. Inspect the ends and surfaces of wood trim and supporting timbers for a condition known as checking. If detected, this means your wood is drying out and could be splitting. According to Cearlock, splitting allows water intrusion that leads to eventual wood rot. “You can’t repair rotted wood,” Cearlock said. “You have to replace it.” Homeowners can correct the problem by resealing the damaged wood with a good quality paint. A satin finish will repel moisture better than flat finish as the paint dries, although both will seal the wood when they’re completely dry. Stucco, although remarkably resilient can also develop cracks. Cearlock recommended filling cracks with commercial stucco or caulking. “Then paint it,” he said. Repainting costs vary, depending on architecture, size of the home and materials used in construction. Homes with more exterior wood tend to cost more because wood requires more preparation. Get at least three bids from licensed contractors and insist that the bids include top quality paint. Also, be wary of any contractor who represents that your home must be painted on a time interval, such as every 10 years. For example, some Sun City Lincoln Hills residents have been solicited by painting contractors stating that community regulations require repainting every 10 years. But that’s not accurate. We reviewed the governing documents and interviewed community officials and found no regulation requiring this interval repainting. You can check a contractor’s license status by contacting the California Contractor’s State Licensing Board at (800) 321-2752 or go online to Because your painting surface should be dry and the outside temperature 45 degrees or warmer to allow the paint to dry in a reasonable amount of time, Cearlock urged homeowners to act quickly before the winter weather arrives. Your roof ... A few months ago, we cautioned that building experts advise that roofs should be inspected every two to three years and more frequently if you live on a golf course. Roof tiles can crack over time, golf ball strikes take their toll, wood shakes dry out and even composition roofs deteriorate. So, unless you find the thought of crawling across your roof exciting, you should contact a roofing company, preferably the one who originally installed the roof and arrange for an inspection. We found a company that, for $150, will inspect the roof, replace up to five damaged or broken tiles and re-caulk open seams. The repairman also blew debris out of the gutters. Other companies may have similar programs. Speaking of gutters, have them checked to ensure they are free of caked mud and impacted debris. While the air blowing is nice, it may not be quite enough to dislodge years of accumulated mud that will surely clog your downspouts over the next winter. Clogged downspouts can cause water backup in the gutters and an eventual overflow penetrating walls and ceilings. Windows and doors and drafts ... This is a perfect time to clean the dirt and debris from windowsills and door tracks. While you’re at it, lubricate sliding doors and windows with silicon spray or other non-petroleum product. Include your overhead garage door in the maintenance schedule, using the lubricant recommended by the manufacturer. Because homes shift and settle, gaps can appear around windows and doors. Inspect and replace weather stripping; install new moisture and breeze barriers where necessary. Landscaping ... This is a great time to re-seed those bare spots in your lawn, advised Carlos Carapinha, owner of NorCal Landscape Company (872-8275). “The weather is perfect for this due to cooler weather (80s) and the soil holding needed moisture to germinate,” Carapinha said. Carapinha cited shrub pruning and flower changes as the other typical fall activities in the Lincoln area. Trimming in the cooler weather avoids plant shock. And summer annual flower beds are now ready to yield space to their winter-blooming cousins. Ambitious gardeners with extensive crop and herb gardens will also be busy with the harvest and composting. Savvy homeowners will plan their end-of-year maintenance program now so they can enjoy a stress-free holiday season.