Sometimes we need a subtle reminder to pay a little attention to the people and things we love — think Feb. 14, when the world around you subtly shoves its flowers and candy down your throat.
But much to the dismay of your home, there is no national holiday in honor of your abode — which is why we spoke with Allen Shulman, home builder and co-founder/CEO of BrightNest, about those out-of-sight, out-of-mind spaces and cracks that are just begging for your undivided attention, at least every now and then.
So what areas of our homes are we neglecting?
“Any areas where it’s dark, cold, hot, disgusting — that’s where you find a lot of neglect,” Shulman said. “And obviously with neglect comes the inability to understand what’s happening in these areas.”
Now think back: When was the last time you checked out your attic? The basement? Furnace room? Roof? Fear not if you answered with a blank stare, but these areas of your home are just as important as your kitchen and bedrooms. And because we often forget and neglect them, they may need a little spruce right about now.
Go ahead; poke your head around in there, Shulman said — because you may have a stagnant air problem, thanks to the insulation and covered vents. Little to no air movement can create a damp, moist environment, leading to mold under you roof.
Other common attic problems include leaks and openings that can allow in bugs and animals.
(Click here for an attic-maintenance guide.)
The furnace room
Make sure to check out your hot water heaters, which can start dripping and showing signs of rust. “Or the pipe connection can fail, and you’ll have water spilling out before you know it,” Shulman said.
(Check out this handy “Annual Furnace Tune Up and Maintenance” cheat sheet from Doityourself.com.)
If our bathrooms could talk, they would say, “No, that smell is not from a wet towel.” OK, a wet towel might be the culprit, but if you take a whiff and it smells spring fresh, check for cracked caulk in the shower and bath, which can trap water, leading to mold.
And make sure you’re cleaning those hard-to-reach places and checking under the sink for leaks.
The difficulty in detecting problems here depends on whether or not you have a finished basement, according to Shulman. If the basement isn’t finished, it’s a lot easier to detect cracks or water seeping in.
“If it’s a finished basement,” Shulman said, “you need to be more vigilant and make sure you take a good hard look.” For example, there may be no evidence of water getting in, but it could be trapped between the insulation and foundation wall. And be on the lookout for warping wood and stained drywall.
Another telltale sign of a problem: odor. If you’re using a dehumidifier and the room still smells musty, you might have a problem.
Waterproofing is another key to basement maintenance. When you build a house, Shulman said, there are many methods to keep water out, involving different membranes around the foundation, including a spray-on elastic coating.
“Once the house is complete, it’s a whole different challenge,” Shulman said. If you find a crack where water can get through, there are systems that inject epoxy into the crack. And if water has already viciously rushed into your home, sump pumps are a great solution for removing it. (Click here for sump pump reviews.)
“Get up on the roof and walk around,” Shulman urged, but only if you’re comfortable doing so. In lieu of that, hire someone — every year or two years — to inspect. You can also check out your roof from the street or safely stand on a ladder and take a look.
Common roof problems include damaged shingles, which need to be replaced when they curl and show signs of wear and tear. Anything poking through the roof take a huge beating from weather, he added, so keep an eye on chimneys and vents from the plumbing system.
And how often should you replace your roof? That depends, Shulman said. If you have wood shingles, you should replace your roof every 15 to 25 years depending on your location. (If you live in a wet, humid area, you would need to replace wood more often and probably shouldn’t even have a wood roof.) Slate roofs are considered lifetime roofs. Clay tile or composite shingles can last longer than 25 years.
(Check out “The Top 10 Most Common Roof Problems” from Buildings magazine.)
Even though you may be performing a weekly cleanup on your home, you could be neglecting certain areas. Because if the filth and dirt aren’t staring us in the face, it’s easy to miss. For example, the furnace filter requires a clean air filter to keep the air cleaner and allow your home to use less energy. Some require changing very month, and some two times a year. “Make sure you know and change it,” Shulman recommended.
Twice a year, make sure you clean your dishwasher (click here for tips http://www.household-management-101.com/how-to-clean-a-dishwasher.html), refrigerator (clean the condensing coils), and washer and dryer (clean the dryer ducts).
Other areas that need your cleaning attention are places where water can cause damage. Think showers, bathtubs and underneath sinks.
Because hidden holes in your home can lead to a bug infestation, Shulman recommended performing an annual inspection.
“It’s all about being proactive,” he said. “Once a year, take 15 to 20 minutes and walk around your home. Make sure everything is as it should be.”
That means closing up any holes you find and caulking areas where things are protruding outside your home, such as vents and fans.
OK, I’ve identified a problem, not how do I find a reputable professional?
“I’m a proponent of friends and family recommendations,” Shulman said.
If that path leads you nowhere, then head to your computer. There are lots of sites that will help you find the right pro. Angieslist.com provides a platform for users to post “unbiased reports and reviews about service companies in your area,” according to the site.
Once you collect a few names, it’s best to get two to three quotes. According to Shulman, “Three is the magic number. Sometimes, things are too good to be true. If one [quote] is super low, you might wonder if someone’s missed something. It should open your eyes; you need to make sure you know what you’re getting.”
Most important, when you identify a problem, be proactive. “It’s less expensive to replace something than wait,” Shulman advised.
BrightNest helps homeowners maintain their dwellings with customized tips, reminders and step-by-step instructions. Check out Brightnest.com for more information. And click here for an exclusive HellaWella invite code to start your BrightNest account.