Caring for Your Tucson Home
Home maintenance is essential if you want to protect your asset, keep your costs down, and safeguard your family from unwanted hazards. In our experience, most homeowners do not maintain their homes properly. We think this is due to a lack of knowledge. We developed this guide as a quick how-to that explains how to protect the most important parts of your home and prolong their service lives.
Heating and Cooling System
Your HVAC system is the system that heats and cools your home year round. In Tucson, the AC component is the most used system. This being the case, most AC systems break down in 7-10 years in Tucson. However, this short lifespan is mostly due to homeowner neglect and/or not understanding how to care for an HVAC system. Here are the basics:
- Change your air filters monthly. If you do not change your filters monthly they will eventually clog up with dirt and restrict your system, making it work much harder than it is designed to. When air flow is restricted, the components wear out fast. They also require additional power to operate, costing you more money. HVAC air filters take 5 minutes to change out and cost under $20. Another recommendation we hear from HVAC technicians is to buy the less expensive filters. The 90-day and washable filters last longer, but they are thicker. This means that they restrict the air flow, causing strain on the system even when the filter is brand new.
- Have your AC serviced annually. Having your AC serviced annually is the key to prolonging its lifespan. Freon is the lifeblood of your system. It runs through the large condenser unit on the outside of the home, releasing heat. Over time, it evaporates and needs to be refilled. AC capacitors, which send a jolt of electricity to start the system, wear out. Fan blades get out of balance. The list of items that can go wrong is endless. These are things only a professional will be able to find and repair. Yearly service charges vary, but generally run $79-$199 and are well worth the cost.
Pest control in Tucson is a must. If you allow your home to be infested with bugs and/or termites, you will eventually have very expensive repairs to address. We generally advise a bi-monthly pest control service to spray and control pests before they create colonies and use your home as their own. If you live near a wash, golf course, or close to the mountains, you may need monthly service as those areas do see more pest activity. During the summer, you may find that spiders and scorpions try to gain access to your home in order to find a place to cool down from the heat. Bi-monthly pest contracts usually cost $40-$75 every two months.
A quality pest control company will also look out for termite activity during the service. If you find termite activity, treat it immediately. Spot treatments that only treat the spot where the termites were found cost roughly $150-$200, while full home treatments with a one-year warranty usually cost $400-$800 for the entire home.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors once a month. There is a button on the alarm to test it and each unit should beep to indicate it is working. If it doesn't, then there is a problem and it should be repaired or replaced. What is wrong if your smoke detector is chirping or beeping loudly intermediately? We find that many homeowners have removed their smoke detectors because they will not stop chirping. However, this sound is just an indication that the battery is low. If ANY of the detectors has a low battery, many times all of them will chirp. A good practice is to simply replace all the batteries at the same time. Even though smoke detectors are hard wired with electricity, they require batteries as a back-up power source.
Maintaining your roof should be given the highest priority. Roof repairs due to neglect are among the most expensive and intrusive repairs to have completed. Here are some tips for maintaining your roof:
- Flat Roof. Flat roofs require the most regular preventative maintenance. Every 3-5 years, the roof should be cleaned and a new coat of elastomeric paint should be applied. There are also other products that will work. Check with a roofer to see which material and application should be done for your specific flat roof.
- Tile Roof. Tile roofs also need to also be maintained. Every year, a couple of your roof tiles will crack due to heat expansion and cold contraction. The tiles protect a felt barrier that acts as the water proofing for the roof, and when the tile is cracked it allows the sun to deteriorate the felt. Too much deterioration of the felt will create roof leaks. Every year, have a roofer come over and replace the cracked tiles. These tiles are not that expensive to have replaced, but not doing so will allow for significant damage down the road.
- Shingle Roof. Shingle roofs are the simplest to care for. Every year, before monsoon season, replace the shingles that have been blown off and/or make sure there are no loose shingles that are likely to be blown off the roof during the next storm. Shingle roofs don't last forever, and eventually the shingles will need to be replaced. This usually occurs every 15-25 years depending on how well the roof is maintained.
Maintaining a pool is usually a professional's job. However, with some basic chemistry knowledge and time online you can get very familiar with the process. You will need to maintain the pH, chlorine, total alkalinity (TA), and cyanuric acid at proper levels.
Chlorine prevents bacteria from growing. Cyanuric acid protects the chlorine from the sun's UV rays. Without it, the chlorine would quickly dissipate. Maintaining the correct pH level enables the necessary chemical reactions to occur and protects the equipment from corrosion. Total alkalinity (TA) stabilizes the pH level and keeps it within the desired range. After the pool chemicals are set, the pool will require someone to clean it by emptying the skimmer and intermittently cleaning out the filter.
For homeowners who do not want to do all of this themselves, we can recommend a pool service that handles the chemical aspects as well as the cleaning of the pool. Pool servicing in Tucson usually occurs weekly. The charges range, but average $150 to $350 per month for full service. Most standard residential pools in our clients' homes run between $125 and $175 per month.
Maintaining a yard in Tucson is possibly the least expensive and least time-consuming task of any city in America. Tucson yards are low care and truly unique because they feature the natural surroundings and native desert species. They still need to be maintained, however. Here are some tips:
- Irrigation. Make sure your drip system is working properly and the emitters on the end of the lines are the right type for the plant you are trying to water. Each emitter has a different flow setting that directs how much water will come out of the tip. Adjust your irrigation system for the seasons. In June, for example, you should be watering more than in the winter since the plants require more to grow their best. Many people forget to make this slight adjustment. The plants usually don't require a lot more, but a few extra minutes a day will do your yard wonders.
- Trim Trees. Mesquite and Palo Verde trees grow very fast with proper watering. Make sure you trim them and do not allow them to become top heavy. During monsoon season, trees that are not properly trimmed may be blown over.
- Cacti. Cactus does fine on its own. Usually there is no need to water cactus in your yard. Actually, it is possible to over-water your cacti. Allow barrel cacti and saguaros (if you are lucky enough to have them) to grow on their own. Just trim back the prickly pear as needed.
Washer and Dryer. Make sure both units are level. If not, they can have a tendency to bounce around whenever the load is even slightly unbalanced. Also, pay attention to the hoses. If they are rubber, they will eventually get brittle and can snap or break, leaking water everywhere. Lastly, if your dryer seems to take a while to dry clothes, pull it away from the wall and check the vent. Odds are the vent is stuffed up with lint and other debris.
Range. For a gas range, at least once every three or four months you should take apart the top portion of the stove and clean out all of the pieces that make up the burners. Over time, these small parts that allow the gas to come out get filled with debris and will not allow the gas to freely come out of the burner. Electric ranges need a cleaning as well, but it is far simpler. A glass cooktop cleaner is specifically designed to clean off the hard water stains and baked on food particles that eventually build up on most glass cooktops. Without the special cleaner, it's about impossible to remove the hard water stains that most Tucson cooktops get.
Dishwasher. Clean out the bottom of it where food settles at the drain. Almost always, you will find debris clogging the drain. Many new dishwashers have a filter in this area to catch the debris, but after a while it gets blocked. Poke a wire through the holes in the spray arms to make sure they are not clogged and can properly shoot out the water. Look under the sink where the dishwasher connects to the garbage disposal and make sure the hoses are still well connected. If that hose comes off, your dishwasher will dump all the water it uses inside your home.
Disposal. This one is much easier. Every once in a while, put ice cubes down the disposal to clean the insides of the unit. If you are extra ambitious, use ice cubes made from pure lemon juice or vinegar as that will add a little bit of freshness.
All the items covered are just the main components of most Tucson homes where we see issues when helping clients buy or sell properties. Depending on the age of your home and the style, there will be specifics you want to pay attention to. For example, a 1960's brick modern will require significantly less maintenance than a late 1800's Spanish adobe row house. If you have questions about the proper way to maintain your home, ask us. More than likely, we have seen the issue before and/or know who can fix it or maintain it for you.
If you want knowledgeable real estate agents who can not only help you buy or sell a home in the Tucson area but also know how to help you protect and care for your home, contact us today!