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Homecare

Quick fixes to common home maintenance problems

Posted by American Homes 4 Rent Team

8m read time

Nov 2, 2021

Home maintenance problems can (literally) throw a wrench in your day. To save time, learn how to take care of minor repairs on your own schedule. With a basic set of tools and some background knowledge, you can quickly become your own handyperson. Find out which jobs are worth handling on your own, and learn how to incorporate green materials and methods into your home maintenance routine.

Common home maintenance tips

Focus on these five common problem areas in any house. With a bit of elbow grease, you can safely and effectively take care of most basic issues that pop up.

Toilets

A minor issue in your toilet tank can quickly cause your water bill to jump if you don’t address the issues. Here are some frequent problems you can solve on your own.

Ballcock adjustment or replacement. Common in older toilets, this floating ball controls the water valve within the toilet tank. If your toilet continues to run well after it’s been flushed, you may need to adjust the arm of the ballcock. Dip the float arm deeper in the water to prevent the tank from filling too high. In some cases, the ballcock may need to be replaced entirely. This is a simple DIY fix that costs under $10. Follow the instructions on the specific valve you purchase.

Adjust the flapper valve. Another cause of running toilets is a broken flapper valve. It should be replaced every few years and is an easy project. Shut off the water supply to your toilet, then drain the tank. The new valve is easy to secure on the hinge bracket at the base of the toilet tank. Drop the flapper over the valve and connect the chain.

Shower

A clogged drain in your shower should be addressed before the problem gets too serious. In a free-standing shower, putting off this minor repair could risk flooding if the base of your shower isn’t very deep.

Luckily, this is an easy and inexpensive fix. Start off by snaking the drain; that is, pushing a long thin device like a wire hanger down the drain to pull out hair and anything else stuck in the pipes. You can also spend a few dollars for a flexible drain snake tool that bends along with the pipes, giving you a deeper clean.

This can be a dirty job, so grab a pair of latex gloves before you get started. Once it’s done, you’ll notice a big difference in the shower, especially without the ankle-deep water.

Washing machine

A malfunctioning washing machine can result in a costly service call, but some issues, like draining problems, can be tackled on your own. When the washing machine still has sitting water after running through a full cycle, you'll need to check the hose.

There may be something stuck in the pump that’s preventing the water from draining properly or the hose may not be connected properly. Check for both by looking at where the hose connects to the pump. If it’s securely in place, you’re ready to check for stuck items (including socks). Remove the hose and drain excess water into a bucket. Then use a wire hanger to flush out any items in the hose.

Garbage disposal

A garbage disposal adds a lot of convenience to your life, but it can be a mess when it gets clogged, whether with large food chunks or broken glass. Safety first: never stick your hand down the disposal. Turn off the power in your kitchen before you start working. Flip the switch to make sure the power really is off.

Under your sink, you’ll find a hex key at the base of the disposal unit. Turn it to free up whatever may be stuck in the blades above. Then use long tweezers to extract the materials from the top of the sink.

Dishwasher

You definitely want to fix your broken dishwasher as soon as possible to avoid hand-washing your family’s dishes. If the plates still look dirty after a full cycle runs, start by cleaning out the filter at the base of the appliance. Then check that the spray arms can move easily in the dishwasher. They may also need to be cleaned to ensure they move easily during the wash cycle.

If your dishwasher is leaking, you may have dirt impeding the seal of the door. Clean the gaskets to make sure the door completely shuts. If cracks are visible, you may need to replace the gasket entirely. It’s an easy process. Just peel off the old seal, then wipe down the edges so you’re working on a clean surface. With the new gasket seal, hold it in the middle and push it into the groove on the dishwasher, starting in the center. Continue along until the gasket wraps around the entire door frame.

Fall home maintenance checklist

In addition to tackling surprise home repairs, there are several things you can do to keep things working in top condition. Fall is a great time to take on home maintenance projects. It’s before the rush of the holiday season and temperatures are cool and comfortable for working inside and outside of the house.

class="text-h5 mb-2"Drain your hoses and sprinkler system

Draining all of your exterior water systems is an easy process and it protects all of your hoses and pipes from potentially freezing and cracking during colder months. Start off by turning off your water supply. Don’t worry; it won’t be for long. Then open all of your hose and sprinkler valves to let the excess water drain out. A complicated sprinkler system may require additional steps, like disconnecting and releasing the air compressor. (If you're a resident with us, contact our team to get a quote on this winterizing service from one of our technicians.)

Clean your gutters

If you have trees in your yard, take a look at your gutters and see if they need to be cleaned. Full gutters can cause a lot of issues, including water damage and cracked gutters if they freeze with standing water inside. Get on a ladder and scoop out the debris. You may need to do this twice in a season if your yard is full of deciduous trees.

Protect your grill

Give your grill a final clean-out once you’re done using it for the year. Then spray the rack with oil to prevent rusting. Keep it covered and store it in a dry place (like your garage) if possible. Just remember to remove the propane tank before placing a gas grill in an enclosed space. Once spring rolls back around, you’ll be happy that you went the extra mile. Your grill will be in pristine shape, ready to start a season of burgers, hot dogs and memories.

Green home maintenance solutions

The green home maintenance trend is great for the planet and your family’s health. Incorporate these tips to save money and reduce waste each day.

Choose your cleaning products wisely

Many cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that may not actually be that good for us, even if they are killing germs. Upgrade your cleaning products that use natural ingredients while still achieving the same level of hygiene. Retailers have an increasing number of options to choose from. Or you can create inexpensive versions on your own.

The classic combination of baking soda and vinegar is great for kitchen surfaces that may be caked in last night’s dinner experiment (hello, tempura night!). And if you run out of the “good” dishwasher soap, here’s a quick trick for using what you already have in the house. Place a few drops of dish soap where you would normally put your dishwasher tab. Then fill ⅔ of the hole with baking soda and the remaining ⅓ with salt. You can even splash some white vinegar at the base of the dishwasher for an added shine during the rinse cycle.

Improve your indoor air quality

Air quality is a hugely important issue to tackle, especially if you live in an area with high humidity and are prone to mold growth. Changing your HVAC air filters frequently helps to ensure you and your family are breathing clean air. Get on a schedule to keep those filters clear, especially if you have pets that shed a lot. You’ll be surprised at how much pet hair can get stuck to an air filter!

If you use cheap air filters, swap them out monthly. A more expensive pleated option may last as long as six months. But you might still want to replace it more frequently if you have pets or a family member with allergies or asthma.

Switch to LED light bulbs

LED light bulbs are pricier, but they can save you money in the long run. Plus, you’re using less energy to power your lights, which can help lower electricity use and carbon emissions. According to the Department of Energy, LED lights use 75% less energy and last 25% longer than standard bulbs. Plus, they’re becoming more popular and cost effective, making it the perfect time to make the switch.

Remember to recycle

One of the most important green home maintenance solutions is to recycle. Call your trash service, whether it’s a municipal arm or a private company. Ask how to sign up for curbside recycling service. It may cost a bit less, but you’ll be diverting a lot of trash from ending up in landfills when it doesn’t need to. Check labels on all of your food packaging for the recycle symbol.

And if you need to get rid of a large item, like an old chair you just don’t need anymore, don’t take it to the dump. Instead, post it on a local “free stuff” group on social media or Craigslist. Chances are it will be picked up in under an hour.

Start a kitchen herb garden

Growing an herb and vegetable garden brings new meaning to the phrase “eating local.” Not only will you provide your family with fresh, delicious ingredients, you’ll also bring in new food sources for pollinators, many of which are experiencing decreasing populations. Whether you have the space in your yard to build some raised beds or simply place some small potted herbs on a sunny window sill, you’ll gain a lot by just getting started.

Bottom line

It takes a lot to keep a home up and running. Instead of outsourcing small projects and waiting for a professional, save time by making your own simple repairs on your own schedule. 

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