Maintenance saves in the long run
Many modern homes are described as ‘‘low maintenance’’, but this does not mean ‘‘no maintenance’’.
There is no such thing as a maintenance-free house.
Practical, easy-to-follow information about home maintenance is available at consumerbuild.org.nz – a website jointly owned by the Consumers’ Institute and the Department of Building and Housing.
Whether you’re living in your home or renting it to tenants, there are four main approaches to maintenance.
Carry out regular preventive maintenance to prevent some problems from occurring.
Carry out repairs or replace items as needed, preventing small problems from turning into big ones.
Plan ahead for major maintenance tasks, such as repainting or reroofing, so you have the money and time available when the work is needed.
It helps to be prepared for emergencies – know where and how the water, gas and power supplies turn off, and if you have tenants make sure they know too.
By law, some jobs need to be done by a professional, such as gas, plumbing, drainage and some electrical work.
If you live in an apartment or townhouse with a body corporate you are likely to be limited in what, if any, external maintenance you can do yourself.
Modern homes with monolithic fibre-cement claddings are often sold as ‘‘low maintenance’’ homes, but most of these speciality claddings need more maintenance than a weatherboard house.
Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. If your home was built after the early 1990s and has any risk of being a leaky building, you need to be especially vigilant in your maintenance checks.
Damp homes are unhealthy and harder to heat.
You can combat persistent damp in your home with insulation under the floor, in the ceiling and walls, ventilation and heating.
Excessive moisture can be caused by leaking pipes, condensation or flooding around shower or baths.
It might also indicate that your home is a leaky building, which could involve extensive repairs.
Mould, water stains and musty smells in houses that have been built or renovated since the early 1990s can be the first signs of a leaky house – they need to be thoroughly investigated.
Practical advice on identifying and addressing weathertightness problems is available at consumerbuild.org.nz.
It is important that leaky homes are repaired promptly and properly to stop further damage.
Good quality early repairs or replacements mean homeowners avoid additional costs and inconvenience from further damage.
Vulnerable areas to pay attention to:
Weatherseal coatings that need repair or renewal.
Checking around the house to make sure the cladding is at least 175 mm above the lawn or garden, or 100 mm above paved surfaces.
Checking pergolas, cantilevered decks, poorly formed flashings that do not protect doors and windows, and meter boxes which are not sealed or flashed.
Checking any areas where bolts, screws, handrails, or TV aerials penetrate the cladding.
Most brick houses are brick veneer, with a cavity between the timber framing and the brickwork.
You need to keep the drainage cavities at the base of the walls clear – check regularly that soil and plants are not blocking them. Most solid concrete block homes rely on the externally applied waterproof coating for weathertightness and this must be maintained to keep water out.
Enclosed or sealed decks should be built with a slope to allow water to run off to a collection point such as a downpipe.
Once a year you should check your roof cladding, chimneys and flashings to ensure problems are not developing.
Things to look for include flashings that have corroded or lifted, and crumbling chimney mortar. Overhanging branches can damage roofing materials, so it’s important to keep trees next to your house well trimmed.
Check with the manufacturer of your roofing material to find out about any special maintenance requirements.
Paint-on membranes, for example, must be regularly re-coated every 6-8 years. Drains and gutters Blocked and damaged drains can cause serious flooding so it’s important to contact a professional drain cleaner as soon as you become aware of any problems.
Tree roots can cause clay drainage pipes to crack, so take care where you plant trees with extensive root systems. Guttering needs to be cleaned out at least once a year as leaves can easily collect and block them, particularly in autumn.