Refrigerators, Toilets, Christmas Notes


Dear Maintenance Men:

Our studio units have under-counter refrigerators. One of the fridges does not cool and I believe it has a Freon leak. Can this fridge be repaired? Is it worth repairing? Will it leak again?


Dear Lou:

Yes the fridge can be repaired, however, you may want to con sider the 50/50 rule. If the repairs reach fifty percent of the replacement cost, it is best to replace the item. If the appliance is a name brand, most likely the replacement parts are available. Common issues related to non-cooling are com pressor failure, refrig eration line breakage or crack due to vibration, and thermostator capacitor problems. The compressor is the most expensive to repair or replace and will most likely go over the 50/50 rule. A leak in the refrigeration line is the hardest to repair properly and has the most likelihood of repeat failure. The thermostat and capacitors are typically easy fixes.

Dear Maintenance Men:

My resident called and stated the toilet is not flushing properly. I have replaced the flush valve and the flapper valve. The toilet is still slow to flush. What have I overlooked?


Dear Phillip:

You might have any number of issues at play. First, make sure the flapper valve is letting enough water through. If it flops down too soon, be sure the toilet flush handle is not loose, or that the chain or line connecting to the rubber flapper is tight enough. The chain connecting to the flapper should have about an inch of play. You want the flapper to open wide enough to float a few moments before it falls back down and closes off the flush valve. If the flapper is working properly, check that the holes under the rim are not clogged.

If you live in an area with very hard water, calcium may build up in the drain holes under the bowl rim. A partially clogged rim might not allow enough water through the rim to start the vortex motion and slow the evacuation process. Use a stiff toilet bush and a vinegar solution to help remove the calcium buildup under the rim.

Lastly, is there an item lodged in the toilet trap? The items we find most often are small toys, rags, etc. Use a toilet auger to push your way through the trap and clear or pull back any obstructions. A toilet auger is a special tool that has an offset hand crank, a long sleeve handle and a special auger bit at the end to break through a clog or retrieve an obstruction. The auger bit is connected via a flexible shaft to a crank handle that you control. Its reach is about three feet. The auger can be found at any hardware store.

Dear Apartment Owners, Manager and Maintenance:

Remember, the holiday season has started and the demand on your properties only gets worse. Check each stove and oven for proper operation. Many residents only turn on their ovens at this time of year, and the problem may be as simple as a blown out pilot light. This time of year sees a higher than normal use of the plumbing. It may be a good idea to snake out or hydro-jet your main plumbing lines.

In addition, sending a note to each tenant on the proper use of the garbage disposal will be useful. Note what items they should and should not put down the disposal unit. A few items to include on this list are: banana peels, potato skins, coffee grounds and any stringy food. Also make sure they turn on the water before using the disposer and put down small amounts of food at a time. Instruct your residents to not use the disposal as a trash can and then turn it on when full—it will clog.

Christmas and other holidays also mean more people than usual walking on your property.
Is your property safe? What are some of the liabilities to worry about? Check trip and fall hazards. Do you have sprinkler heads sticking up above the grass or landscape near sidewalks? Use pop-up heads to solve this problem. Look for sidewalks that have been pushed up by tree roots. This can be solved with a concrete grinder or replacement of the section and removal of the tree root. Cut any low hanging tree branches and look for branches that may break in heavy winter rain, wind or snow.

Check your decking for cracks or damage and inspect the exterior stairways for wear and tear. Inspect all your garage door springs as winter wind and rain may make them heavy causing the door to close or fall unexpectedly. Check all property lighting and timers. Remember: Preventive Maintenance is cheaper than Emergency Maintenance!

Maintenance Tip:
If you had a leak or water intrusion last rainy season and did not fix it, it will most likely leak again this season! Just because it stopped raining does not mean the leak went away!


Note: If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men:” column, please send in your questions to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. at (714) 956-8371.

Frank Alvarez is licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance and construction for over 20 years. He is also a lecturer, educational instructor and Co-Chair of the Education Committee of the Apartment Association of Orange County as well as being Chairman of the Product Service Counsel. Frank can be reached at (714)956-8371 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it For more information please go to:

Jerry L’Ecuyer is a licensed contractor and real estate broker. He is currently on the Board of Directors and Past President and past Chairman of the Education Committee of the Apartment Association of Orange County. Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.

Contact AACSC

Apartment Association,

California Southern Cities
333 W. Broadway St., Suite 101
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 426-8341

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