Everything you own is packed into a moving van, the family SUV and your convertible. The old house is empty and awaiting its new residents, and you’re on your way to the new place. The money to pay the movers, plus a generous tip, is in your pocket along with a new set of keys and the security code. You’ve got a copy of the floor plan, which is all marked up with where everything needs to go, and your copy of the mover’s inventory list is tucked in the big folder right beside it. The kids are happily playing with their cousins at your sister’s house, and your brothers-in-law are meeting you at the new house.
Your home is one of the single biggest investments you’ll ever make—be sure you do all you can to care for it. Get hands-on advice to help you make the most of your investment and ensure your home remains safe, comfortable and in good condition for your family.
Here are basic things that you need to take care of as soon as you move into your new home (or just before). Some of these seem extremely basic, but they’re all very useful in making sure that your bases are covered when you move in.
GET YOUR ADDRESS CHANGED
At the very minimum, stop by your old post office shortly before you move and ask what needs to be done. You may want to contact your creditors as well as any magazines that you subscribe to directly so that they’re aware of the move and you don’t miss an issue or a bill.
CONTACT DETAILS OF SERVICE PROVIDERS
Get contact details from your Builder of the following Service Providers: Electrician, Plumber, Gas, Painter, Roof Installer, Internet, etc.
During the moving process, there are many, many opportunities for minor first aid issues. Make sure you have your first aid kit in a known place. Also, get the emergency numbers for the area and put them in a known place.
KNOW WHERE THE MAIN CIRCUIT BREAKER IS
Check it out and make sure you fully understand the labelling in the Distribution Board so that you know which breaker turns off which area.
KNOW WHERE THE WATER SHUT-OFFS IS
This includes the main water shut-off as well as shutting off outside water.
CHECK YOUR STREET NUMBER
Make sure that your house’s street number is clearly visible from the road, especially if you’re expecting a moving truck and / or delivery truck shortly after the move.
CHECK YOUR LOCKS AND KEYS
After receiving the set of keys from your builder, make sure that each lock has its own key/s and mark or number it in order to know which key will lock / unlock a certain door.
UPDATE YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE, CAR REGISTRATION AND VOTER REGISTRATION
You can do most of this very quickly, but don’t let it slide or you’ll get a nasty surprise in the near future – this should be done within a month of the move.
SEND OUT YOUR NEW CONTACT INFORMATION
This is a great way to touch base with a lot of people. A bonus tip… you can make a brief one page announcement to send out to basically everyone on your holiday card list, which will include some pictures of the house, your new address, etc.
MAINTENANCE OF YOUR HOME
Effective maintenance depends upon regular ‘health checks’ on your House. This section of Maintenance Matters gives practical information on the tell-tale signs of maintenance problems and what action to take if you come across a problem. You can create a maintenance plan customized for your house – an important tool for carrying out routine inspections.
In order to draw up a suitable maintenance plan it is important to be familiar with your building and how it functions. Walking around your home and drawing up an inspection checklist is a good start and will help you to familiarise yourself with the building. Having drawn up a checklist of key areas, decide on the frequency of inspection for each item. Identify those items that you can inspect yourself and where you feel competent to judge their condition, and areas where you require professional help (e.g. to gain access to roofs). It is useful to keep a list of recommended tradespeople and professional advisors (if appropriate) for both inspection and repair work. On the basis of your inspection, draw up a plan for the maintenance of the property identifying work that will be required in the short, medium and longer term.
You can then agree this plan with your selected tradespeople so that they can make advance preparations for any work and build this into their forward plan. When assessing the features of your house it will be apparent that the more complex the plan form and roof arrangements the greater the need for an awareness of a range of potential problems.
You are welcome to make use of the example at the end of this series or draw up your own plan according to your needs.
Regular inspection and maintenance of your roof is needed to reduce the likelihood of premature leaks and aging. Roofs are exposed to sunlight, rain, hail, wind and temperature changes that gradually break down the roofing materials.
However, with proper maintenance and care, the service life of the roof can be maximized
Check the following:
Remove leaves and any debris at least monthly in summer
Remove leaves and any debris at least monthly in summer. Make sure that tiles are in position and not blocking water flow.
Cracks may occur in cement between tiles and it must be sealed within the first 6 months of a new roof and then annually until no more cracks appear.
Remove leaves and any debris that block water flow behind chimneys.
Don’t ignore your roof until a leak appears. Keeping it sound and watertight is essential to maintaining your building in good condition. A few minor repairs when required can save a lot of money later. Check your roof regularly inside and outside, but especially before and after summer and following high winds that may have dislodged slates or tiles. Stay friendly with your neighbours, since a nearby first-floor window often gives the best view of your roof. If you do spot a problem, don’t carry out your own repairs unless you have the right equipment and you know how to use it safely. Hire a contractor rather than risk a serious accident.
RAIN WATER DISPOSAL
Next time there is a good downpour, grab an umbrella and stand in the rain. You may get wet, but it is the best time to check your gutters, drains and water flow. You’ll often find that damp in a house is caused by something simple like a blocked gutter. Keeping your rainwater disposal system clear and free flowing is one of the most important routine maintenance tasks, but is also one of the easiest. It often involves nothing more than putting on a stout pair of gloves to clear autumn leaves and debris from drains and gutters. If your gutters are high or difficult to reach, a local handyman should be able to help you.
Walls are also exposed to sunlight, rain, hail, wind and temperature changes.
Many new homes have a few small cracks in their walls from the settling of the foundation and structure and the weight of the house. In a stable home, the small cracks aren’t growing at all – they’re safe. If they’re growing, however, you’ll save a ton of money by getting the problem addressed immediately rather than later. Take some masking tape and cover up the end of any cracks you notice inside or outside, and write today’s date on the tape. Then, in a few months, check the tape – if you see a crack growing out of the end of the tape, you might have a problem and should call a specialist before the problem gets out of hand.
It is highly recommended that any new house or newly plastered walls be re-painted within three years in order for all settlement cracks to be filled and for walls and paint to last longer.
FLOORS AND CEILINGS
Floors and ceilings normally need little maintenance beyond ordinary cleaning and occasional refinishing for floors or redecoration for ceilings. Be on the lookout, however, for any changes in your floors and ceilings that may be the first hints of more serious problems like damp or structural movement. If you act quickly when such signs first appear, you may save yourself from considerable expense and disruption. The most common cause of a damp floor inside is a build-up of ground levels and poor drainage outside.
Due to movement and settling of the roof structure during the first year, cornices may show little cracks either against the ceiling or against the wall.
It is highly recommended that this cracks be sealed with Acrylic Silicone whilst the house be re-painted for the first time.
WOODEN FRAMES, WINDOWS AND DOORS
Properly maintained exterior wooden doors & windows can be a beautiful addition to any home increasing not only its aesthetic appeal, but its market value as well.
Performing an inspection of all six sides of the door & window at least once a year and another few simple steps every couple of years as needed can help keep these doors & windows in tip-top shape for the lifetime of a home. The maintenance procedure is basically the same whether the door & window has been painted or kept more natural looking and coated with a clear finish.
What to Look For:
Environmental moisture, blowing dirt and sand, and intense sunlight will have an impact on a door’s & window’s finish and since the finish protects the wood, it’s important it remain in the best possible condition. Generally, exterior wood doors not protected by an overhang or porch will weather faster than a covered door. They should be inspected more often.
Large cracks in the finish, surface checks and peeling paint are all obvious with a visual inspection. Their presence generally equates with restoration work. A raised wood grain with a dry rough feeling to the door also means the finish is beginning to fail and needs to be reapplied. Dark streaks in the wood under a clear finish or a light or whitish haze to the finish itself may mean moisture is getting into the door or window and the finish is failing.
Once a problem has been identified, the exterior wood door / window should be prepped for repair. It should be thoroughly cleaned. If it has been painted, small wear spots and other chips can be touched up or the entire door / window can be recoated while it still in the frame.
For major finish restoration, however, it is generally easier to work on a door out of the frame. This can be done by tapping out the hinge pins and placing the door across supports such as sawhorses. The door’s hardware, including knobs, locksets and hinges can be removed with a screwdriver and placed in a safe place while the door is being worked on.
All six sides of the door should be stripped of old finish using a quality paint remover or finish stripper according to product directions and then gently sanded using a 120, 150 or higher grit sandpaper. All sanding should be done with the grain. Steel wool in case of sanding paper will also leaves your wood with a smooth surface.
Once the door / window has been stripped it should be cleaned of all dust and sanding residue with a clean cloth slightly damped with mineral spirits. Allow the door / window to dry completely.
If the door / window is to be repainted, a good quality exterior primer should be applied on all six sides. Once dry, the door / window can be recoated with exterior grade paint. Because dark colours absorb heat, light colours will often last longer.
If another finish is to be used, two or more coats of quality polyurethane with a UV inhibitor can be applied. It is important to follow all manufacturer’s directions.
Once dry, the hardware can be replaced and the door rehung.
STEEL FRAMES, STEEL WINDOWS AND DOORS
Iron and steel windows are subject to corrosion. Remove rust and loose paint using a wire brush or wet abrasive paper if the existing paint is thought to contain lead. Roughen the surface of sound paint. Wash to remove dirt and grease, and allow to dry thoroughly before redecorating the window or frame using a good quality oil-based paint system. Keep the hinges free from rust and well lubricated.
If the weather is not suitable for redecoration, apply a coat of raw linseed oil to protect any bare metal.
The use of non-traditional coatings that bond chemically with the iron should be avoided as they are susceptible to chipping and cannot be removed or over-painted using more traditional paint systems.
Redecorate metal windows on a 3 to 4 yearly cycle, but more frequently if corrosion is found. In cases of severe corrosion seek advice from an experienced tradesman.
You may have checked the structure of your building from top to bottom, inside and outside, but don’t stop there. A leaking pipe or a faulty electrical appliance can have serious, even disastrous, consequences, so build regular checks on your utilities and appliances into your maintenance inspections.
This will not only help you to protect your property from accidental damage, but it may also highlight areas where you can reduce energy and water consumption and save yourself money.
During your routine maintenance inspections of your home, always spare a few minutes to take a good look at the surrounding area. A crumbling garden wall, rusting railings, or a tree branch that is beginning to overhang your roof may not seem like pressing maintenance matters, but remember it is always best to tackle problems while they are small and easy to correct. Developing problems outside the house may easily escape notice, so be sure to check your sewer or septic tank and any fuel tanks or gas installation that you may have. Check which way rainwater runs across paths etc. during a storm.
MAKE AND KEEP A RECORD FOR MAINTENANCE
A logbook will help you to organize and record useful information about your building. It is a unique record that will build up over time to give you a picture of how your building is performing. It can help you to prioritize works of maintenance and repair, and is an invaluable tool in times of emergency.
A logbook is worth keeping for even the smallest of buildings, but it will prove particularly valuable for larger properties where the person responsible for maintenance is likely to change from time to time. Recording the long-term performance of materials used in previous repairs, for example, can help you to avoid making potentially costly mistakes when further works are required.
- plans of the building if these are available;
- details of the type and location of services, for example, the location of stopcocks and gas mains;
- essential names and contact details, including emergency helplines, utility and insurance companies and local tradespeople, such as plumbers and glaziers;
- photographs of the building;
- a copy of the listing description of the building, if applicable;
- details of any warranties; and
- copies of instruction manuals.
Over time, you should add:
- completed maintenance plans and supplementary photographs;
- records of any work carried out, including the name of the contractor, date of completion and cost;
- details of products used, such as paint types and colours; and
- meter readings to help you monitor energy and water consumption.
EXAMPLE : INSPECTION CYCLES, COMMON MAINTENANCE ACTIONS AND OTHER COMMENTS
ELEMENT (3 Months)
Gutters and Downpipes
Remove leaves and debris; ensure water flow freely;
Remove debris and check for wear or punctures in the zinc or lead.
Remove debris and check for wear or punctures; Check overflows; check stability of timber below.
Remove any leaves and debris; check for broken or cracked tiles
ELEMENT (6 Months)
Below ground drainage
Check drainage and ensure that water is being taken clear of the building.
Check for cracking or flaking paint, especially on south-facing and exposed elevations; Re-paint
Keep vents clear of debris and flaking paint or rust; check ground levels.
Painted masonry surfaces
Check for flaking or blistering – this may indicate increased moisture levels in the fabric surfaces especially at ground level; check for cracks in walls (either settlement or structure).
Remove debris and plant growth; clear any rainwater outlets.
Remove debris and check pointing and mastic work to the flashing
Check for areas of soft timber; check sand mastic junctions; check glazing putty for cracks.
Check for areas of soft timber, cracks, distortion, flaking paint or failing sand mastic junctions; oil hinges.
Remove debris and clean glass.
Assess the condition of pointing and check for signs of movement or loose masonry.
Masonry and pointing
Check for loss or damage to pointing, flaking stone, erosion or salt efflorescence.
ELEMENT (12 Months)
Check that vegetation is not close up against walls and that roots are not choking drainage routes.
Chimneys (close inspection)
Remove leaves and debris behind chimney; check soundness of masonry and check that cowl is rotating.
Barge & fascia boards
Check for timber decay and condition of paintwork; check integrity of fastenings with the roof timbers.
Make sure that garden or landscaping materials are not accumulating against walls.