Inspection & Maintenance

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Exterior Maintenance | Interior Maintenance
Heating & Cooling | Appliances | Plumbing | Electrical

Interior Maintenance

Many materials are used inside your home to cover your ceilings, walls and floors. These materials should be cleaned and maintained regularly. In addition, you should inspect for structural problems. Although structural problems are rare, it is important to determine the cause and make repairs before the problem grows worse. This section discusses interior inspection and maintenance.

Walls
Your home has two types of walls, bearing walls that are part of your home’s structural frame and non-bearing walls. Generally, you may alter non-bearing walls as you like without fear of structural damage. Bearing walls, however, be must altered carefully to avoid reducing their structural capacity. For safety, consult a professional contractor before altering any wall.

Walls in modern homes are usually made of gypsum wallboard. They should last as long as your home with little maintenance. Sometimes normal shrinking will cause minor cracks or cause nails to pop from the wallboard. The framing boards and the wallboard shrink away from the nail, leaving the nail sticking out beyond the surface of the wallboard. Popped nails do not alter the strength of the wall and should be left alone until you redecorate the room.

When redecorating, fill any cracks, repair any scuffs or dents, and reset and re-spackle any popped nails. Repaint or redecorate the wall surface.
Inspection

Although you see them every day, you should actually inspect your walls once a year. Look and feel along the walls for cracks and bowing, sagging or leaning walls.

As discussed above, minor, straight, generally parallel cracks are common. Cracks at angles to each other, jagged cracks and open cracks, however, require your attention. If cracking is extensive, additional cracks develop, cracks change in size from season to season or cracks grow longer or wider, you should call a professional inspector, engineer or contractor to inspect for structural problems.

Minor sagging or softening of the wall material may indicate a water leak that should be repaired behind or above the damaged area. Bowed, sagging or leaning walls may indicate structural problems that should be inspected by a professional inspector, engineer or contractor.

Inspect wall coverings for signs of fraying, tearing and pulling away from the wall. Repairing minor problems in time will preserve the look and the life of your wall coverings.

Maintenance
The proper way to maintain your walls is to keep them free of spots and fingerprints. Clean anything on your walls that might result in a permanent stain as soon as you notice it.

When your walls become dirty, spot clean just the dirty areas whenever you can get away with it. If spot cleaning is not enough, proceed with a full washing. Wash from the top of the wall down, wiping off runs of cleaning solution as you go, before the runs have a chance to cause streaks. Before washing any wall, however, wash a test area first to be sure that you will not damage the surface.

Ceilings
There are a wide variety of ceiling styles and covering materials. Your ceilings may be flat and level, detailed with coves, trays or other designs or pitched to follow the roof line (vaulted or cathedral ceilings). Wood beams may be exposed or all structural components may be covered by the ceiling materials.

The most common ceiling covering may be gypsum board, also known as sheet rock or plaster board. Other coverings include plaster, wood, tin, interlocking acoustical tiles and suspended ceilings. Whatever the style or materials, your ceilings should require little maintenance.

Inspection
Inspect your ceilings once a year when you inspect your walls. Look for cracks, sags and bows. Minor ceiling cracks and nail pops, like minor wall cracks and nail pops, are normal and can be covered when you redecorate the room. More substantial cracks require more attention as set out in the wall inspection discussion above. A sagging or bowed ceiling indicates the ceiling material may be pulling away from its structural supports and should be inspected by a professional.

The roof above rooms with exposed wood ceilings or beams should be inspected regularly as discussed at this link. Even small leaks can cause permanent water stains or wood damage. If you ever see signs of leaks in these rooms, have the problem repaired as soon as possible.

Maintenance
Clean cobwebs along your ceilings periodically with a broom or vacuum attachment. Other than that, your ceilings should require little attention.

You generally should not need to wash your ceilings. Even if a ceiling is dirty, the dirt will not be noticed if the ceiling is uniformly dirty. Mold on bathroom walls and cooking grease on kitchen ceilings can be cleaned with household cleaners.

You can repaint most ceilings to hide dirt, cover paint damage or redecorate the room. However ceilings are difficult to paint. Because ceilings receive less wear and tear than walls, they are generally repainted less frequently.

Floors
Floors can be covered by a variety of materials. Maintenance of the most common floor materials - carpet, wood, resilient flooring and tile - are discussed separately below.

Carpeting
You can extend the life of your carpets with proper care. The single most important thing you can do to maintain your carpets is frequent, thorough vacuuming. In addition, clean up spills immediately by blotting the spill. Never rub your carpets. A little ice water or an ice cube applied to a fresh spill will often loosen the stain enough to blot it up easily and reduce staining.

Use mats, runners or throw rugs to protect your carpets from dirt and excessive wear in high traffic areas. They are easy to clean and can be replaced when necessary.
If deep cleaning is needed, you should hire a professional who uses the extraction method of deep cleaning or the rotary method followed by extraction. If you want to do the job yourself, extraction devices are available for rent at many retail stores.

Wood Floors
Modern wood floors are coated with a polyurethane coating to protect the wood. Do not sand or use commercial refinishers on the floor. Instead, have wood floors refinished by a flooring contractor. Although the job is simple, special tools are required. This is not a do-it-yourself job. You should be able to walk on the floor 24 hours after refinishing. Under normal wear and tear, your floor should be able to go 5 years between refinishings.

Normal maintenance of your wood floor should include regular vacuuming or dry mopping to remove surface dust and dirt. Water can be used to clean your wood floors but be careful not to flood the floor. Excess water can damage the wood. Protect the finish on the floors by attaching furniture rests to the bottom of your furniture legs.

Resilient Flooring
Resilient floors are a popular floor covering. The most common resilient floors are vinyl, polyurethane, linoleum and rubber. Resilient flooring comes in two forms, sheets and tiles. Sheets are popular in areas where the floor may get wet, such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and entry ways, because it usually requires few if any seams. Although tiles have seams, they are easy to install.

Follow the manufacturer’s care recommendations. Most resilient floors should be finished with Acrylic High-Gloss Floor Finish. No-wax, linoleum and bathroom floors are discussed below. Before applying finish for the first time, seal the floor with a penetrating sealer (not a surface sealer). You should seal the floor after stripping it for the first time if you do not know whether it has been sealed before. Strip and refinish the floor as needed to keep the floor looking like new.

You do not need to finish no-wax floors with acrylic finish if you sweep, vacuum, damp-mop and wash the floor regularly. However, dirt and grime will wear down the floor’s finish. If you know you will have problems keeping the floor clean at all times, you may want to finish the no-wax floor. A sealer is not necessary on no-wax floors.

Because bathroom floors are exposed to a lot of moisture, it is difficult to maintain a finished floor. Just seal the floor and keep it clean.

True linoleum is usually found in older homes on floors and countertops. It should be sealed with a wood sealer and finished with wax, not acrylic finish.

Tile Floors (Walls & Countertops)
A silicone grout seal is applied to tile surfaces to protect the grout between the tiles from staining. Grout seal should be re-applied every year to renew the protection. To apply, simply sponge grout seal over the entire surface, wipe off the excess and allow to dry for two hours. Grout seal can be purchased at any tile supply house.

Clean ceramic tile by wiping with a damp cloth or an occasional wet mop. If necessary, a more thorough cleaning with detergent or ceramic tile cleaner will remove grime. Staining agents should be mopped up promptly. Under normal conditions, some staining is likely to occur. Often stains can be bleached out with household bleach.

Windows
Windows come in a variety of shapes, sizes, designs and materials. Double hung, casement, awning and sliding windows open by different methods. Fixed windows let in light but can not be opened. Skylights can be fixed or they can be opened manually or by an electric motor. Windows can be made of wood, vinyl, steel, aluminum, vinyl-clad wood, aluminum-clad wood or vinyl-clad aluminum.

A typical window contains glass, framing around the glass called the sash, framing around the window opening and moulding around the frame. Windows may be a single pane of glass or may contain two or more layers of glass with air space between the layers for insulation. A coating on “low-E” glass reflects radiant heat back into your home during the winter and reflects heat from the sun’s rays away from your home during the summer.

Inspection
Inspect your windows once each year. Begin by opening and closing the windows. If the windows stick, it may be that moisture is swelling wood windows. Allow the wood to dry during the summer, inspect for decay and re-seal. Sticking windows can also be caused by excessive layers of paint between the frame and sash. Use a putty knife or a “window zipper” to cut through the paint. Cleaning the window’s track with a brush and lubricating the inside of the track with petroleum jelly or silicone spray can also solve window sticking problems.

Wood windows should be inspected inside and out for paint and decay problems in the same manner as wood siding and wood trim. See the discussion at this link.

Maintenance
Clean the tracks on windows that open with a brush or vacuum attachment. Lubricate the inside of the track with petroleum jelly or silicone spray, removing any excess. Casement windows that operated by a crank and gear mechanism should be maintained by occasionally cleaning and lubricating the window mechanism.

Look for broken glass panes, bent sashes, loose, broken or missing hardware and torn or damaged window screens. Inspect locks and latch handles for proper operation and secure fit. Check seals, caulking and weather stripping to ensure cool outside air cannot enter your home from around a window. Make any necessary repairs.

A word on washing your windows. Few things affect the feeling of a room more than the quality of light coming through the windows. The easiest, fastest and most effective way to clean windows is with a squeegee and clear ammonia or dishwashing detergent and water. Use a professional quality window squeegee with replaceable blades. Use a squeegee extension pole to reach windows that are beyond reach. A squeegee scrub sleeve is the most efficient way to scrub the windows before squeegeeing.

Finally, check to make sure all opening windows move freely. You want to be certain that your family can exit through windows if necessary.

Cabinets and Countertops
Never clean your cabinets with harsh abrasive cleaners. Use a damp cloth to clean your cabinets. You can use mild household cleaners on the cabinets if needed. Keep cabinet doors and drawers closed when not in use to protect the mounting hardware.

Wipe your countertops clean with a damp cloth. If necessary, a more thorough cleaning with detergent or household cleaner will remove grime. As with your tile floors, silicon grout seal is applied to protect tile countertops. If you have tile countertops or back splashes, re-apply grout seal once each year (see the tile floor discussion at this link). Staining agents should be cleaned up promptly. Protect your countertops from hot pots, pans, baking dishes and irons with pot rests. Never cut anything directly on the countertop because the knife may dent or nick the surface.

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