Home maintenance helps homeowners keep their homes in top shape, save money, and avoid headaches! Water and mold cause major crises, which can be avoided simply by practicing regular home maintenance. To understand how to avoid water damage and mold, one needs to understand how mold grows. Mold needs three things in order to grow – a surface to grow on, food (dead organic materials, such as wood,) and water. The only factor we can control is moisture. It therefore behooves homeowners to practice home maintenance by performing simple periodic checks. Considering that mold has the potential to start growing within 24 to 48 hours, responding quickly to an indoor water problem or water infiltration from the outside is of the utmost importance.
Indoor Home Maintenance
UNDER THE SINKS AND BEHIND TOILETS
Check under the sinks of your bathrooms for any possible leaks. Check the plumbing behind toilets. Repair immediately if defective.
Every couple of years have a plumber check the shower arms of your showers. With time shower arms corrode and leaks can start behind the walls without you knowing it.
If your shower backs up to a closet, it is a good idea to install a 2 ft. X 2 ft. door inside your closet that will allow you to periodically check the shower plumbing.
To keep the humidity down, use a squeegee to remove the excess water off the shower walls and shower door prior to stepping out of the shower. This takes only a few seconds and it makes a big difference in the humidity level.
CHECK GROUT AND CALKING
Check the grout in your shower(s) regularly and replace when it begins to crumble or becomes thin. Check the caulking around bathtubs regularly. Do not wait to see holes in order to repair.
If you have a bathroom window, open it when taking a shower; if not, use your bathroom exhaust fan. Insist that everyone in your household open the window or use the exhaust fan –‑each and every time!
Closets are notorious for developing mold problems because poor circulation. Do not stack things against the walls, especially wrapped in plastic. If the closet has an air vent, make sure it is completely open. Closets situated in bathrooms can become a problem because of high humidity.
KITCHEN AND LAUNDRY AREA
Keep the area under the sink organized and pipes clear for viewing. Clutter can hide small leaks for a long period of time during which a serious mold problem can develop.
If your refrigerator is equipped with an ice maker and water dispenser, it is essential that you pull the refrigerator every month to make sure that no leaks are developing behind it.
WASHING MACHINE, HOT WATER HEATER, AND WATER SOFTENER
Keep an eye on any appliance with plumbing connected to it.
We cannot stress enough the importance of getting the HVAC system checked and serviced regularly as it could become a reservoir for mold growth. An HVAC system in poor working condition can cause mold to grow because of its inability to remove excess moisture from the air.
Use a pleated filter, not a “see-through” spun fiberglass filter that does not filter small particulates. In other words, if you can see your hand behind it, it does not filter much. Replace the air filter monthly.
Ask your A/C professional to check the relative humidity inside your home. The relative humidity should be kept below 60%. If the reading is constantly above 60%, it might be time to change your system or get a dehumidifier to supplement your A/C.
When you go on vacation, leave the HVAC on. The high humidity in subtropical summers in the southern states could turn the end of your vacation into a nightmare if, upon your return, you discover your home full of mold.
Every month pour a cup of vinegar (or bleach) into the drain line. This will prevent debris or sludge from accumulating and clogging the line causing water to back up inside your home.
Water detectors are effective preventive systems that detect water and sound an alarm. There are active and passive detectors. The active detector is a system wired throughout the house while the passive detector is an inexpensive system made up of individual, self-contained units that are battery-operated and are placed in areas prone to leaks.
Outdoor Home Maintenance
The ground around your house should slope away from the house. Keep plants at least 2 feet from the house.
Sprinkler heads should be 2 feet away from the house. Do not assume that they point away from the house. While the sprinkler is on, see if the water hits the house. Sprinkler guards can be purchased at any hardware store.
Once a year have your roof checked by a professional roofer.
Clean the gutters regularly and remove leaves and debris that accumulated which could cause water to infiltrate into your home.
Make a habit of walking around your home once a month to check for small cracks around windows and doors, or cracks in the stucco. Seal with caulk immediately.
Vines against a building is a bad idea. If you absolutely want that look, buy a trellis system at a hardware store that will allow a gap between the vines and the building. Vines will create cracks in the wall, as well as keep moisture against the building.