This article was posted on Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014

Arriving home one hectic day from work, all I wanted to do was nothing.  Instead, I arrived to find a little pond in my front yard that had not been there when I left that morning.  As you can imagine, I wasn’t very happy and in no mood to deal with it.  But as all of know, I didn’t really have a choice, did I?

After 15 hours of digging up my yard, locating my broken main and hiring someone to repair it, I was spent and ready for a vacation.  I am sure that everyone can relate in some way to how this would feel. 

Just like with most things, if we wait until the last second, we will always have to work harder, spend more money, time and energy than if we had simply done the maintenance regularly.

I’m no expert in owning rentals, but I do know a thing or two about preventative maintenance, which I would like to share with you. 

Planning and Budgeting

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Step one would be simply doing a walk-through of your property to write a “to do” list starting with the most important items followed by the least important items.  This will allow you to mark off some of those items that just may not be ready or necessary.  Plus, you can also put together a budget so you know just how much it’s going to cost you. 


As beautiful as indoor plumbing is, it can also be a nightmare to deal with, but guess what?  It does not need to be.  There are a few things that can be done every so often that won’t break the bank and will keep things from leaking or failing.

Supply lines should be changed out every five years.  Make sure they are steel flex lines though.  Supply lines are around $15 to $30, depending on what size you get.  In my industry, this would probably be the biggest cause of those nasty water damages and also one of the cheapest items to fix.  Imagine that!  Valves are not as cheap to change out, but you don’t have to change them as often – every 10 to 12 years would be sufficient.  Just make sure they are of good quality.  It is best to purchase them from a plumbing supply store or your plumber.

Toilet guts are another cheap item that can cause a whole lot of damage.  Ever have a toilet in which the valve sticks and keeps running?  Not a whole lot of fun, is it?

In most cases, you can identify the wear on the float and flapper.  Hard water can shorten the life of these items as well.  Changing them out would be based on how often the toilet is used.  As a rule of thumb, that would be every three years, but a visual inspection should be done once a year. 

Hot Water Heaters

It used to be that you could get 20 to 30 years out of these guys, but that’s not the case these days, apparently.  In most cases, water heaters start leaking long before home owners even realize they have a problem.  This creates a very expensive problem.

Water heaters should be inspected often.  They typically show warning signs well before they start to leak.  This is a good thing.  Calcium and rust build up on or around the supply lines is a good indication that you have an issue.  Make sure your water heater is on a foam pad if it’s on a slab.  If it’s on a subfloor, you want to make sure it’s in a tray and that tray is plumbed out properly.  Change out the supply lines/fittings every five years.

Having your water shut-off valve marked is a great idea, so anyone in the home can know where and what to turn off if a pressurized water leak occurs. 

Main Line/Roots

Homes built before 1965 typically have something in common – cast iron plumbing.  Apparently, they did not test them with tree roots.  If you have this issue, make sure that you are keeping up on snaking the line as often as every six months.  Be careful though.  It is easy to break through weak spots in the line.   If the home has a basement, this can cause very expensive damages.

Sump pumps can also cause a lot of damage in a basement if the power goes out.  It gets unplugged or it fails.  Keeping up on maintenance can be as easy as inspecting it, placing an alarm on it or having a secondary power source. 

Fires/Faulty Wiring

The pitfalls and dangers of electrical and dryer vent fires can be easily avoided.  Inspection of your wiring does not have to be that often.  If you have an electrician inspect it once, then that should let you know if everything is up to code or at least safe.  Most electrical fires are caused by a short or an overloaded circuit.  Make sure the panel has enough power for its intended use.

Dryer vent fires should never happen because of lint.  It is important to clean out the lint that builds up in the vent every three to six months.   

Renter’s Insurance

It is almost as important to have your renters purchase renter’s insurance.  This allows them to have money to deal with the contents of their rental in the event of a fire or flood.  Some policies also allow for them to stay somewhere else during the time it takes repairs to be made.   If anyone has had to deal with this type of situation and the tenant did not have insurance, you can appreciate the reason why renter’s insurance is extremely important and beneficial. 

Exhaust Fans/Mold

There are a lot of ways to avoid the footfalls of acquiring mold and mildew in your homes.  Some include: 

  • Make sure you have exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchens.  Encouraging your tenants to use them may require more work. 
  • Make sure the exhaust fans are vented out properly; otherwise you can get a big moldy mess in the attic. 
  • Caulk around areas that attract moisture.  This may be needed as often as every three to six months. 


Inspecting the roof once a year is a good practice.  Sometimes it only requires small patches or blackjack around vents to correct a problem. 

I am sorry if some of you were hoping I had some amazing ideas for things that did not cost anything, but, as my beautiful wife will remind me, “You’re not that amazing, dear.”  But … I DO hope to save you some money AND time. 

Matt Kohl is with Just Right Cleaning and Construction, Inc.  Reprinted with permission of UPDATE.

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