Dear Maintenance Men

Roof, Winter List and Solar Lights


Dear Maintenance Men:

When is the best time to do an annual roof inspection? Can you give me some pointers as to what to look for when I inspect the roof?


Dear Tom:

The best time is before it rains! However, we find summer and fall to be the most prudent times to inspect and repair the roof. In other words, don’t wait to do roofing work after the first rains of winter. The roofing contractors will be very busy and costs may go up, or you may have to wait in line for the work to get done.

Inspect the roof during the summer and fall and get the roofing work done before it becomes an emergency. During the roof inspection, pay close attention to the flashing. Flashing is used to transition between the roofing material and the building, or a change in roofing direction or angle. Flashing can also be found where pipes or a chimney come up through the roof. The flashing is sealed with roofing tar and water leaks can form when the sealing tar cracks or separates from the building or the flashing material.

Look for curled up roof edges on composition roofs, low spots on flat roofs and bird nests in tile roofs. Check all roof drains and cut away any tree branches that are touching or overhanging the roof. While you are inspecting the roof, check the gutters. Winter storms have a way of loosening gutters and filling them with gunk, thereby causing them to lose their pitch and pool water. Pooling or overflowing gutters can deteriorate fascia boards and siding.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I’m getting my work check-off list started before winter comes. Do you have recommendations of what should be on the checklist?


Dear Lisa:

After checking and repairing any roof damage, we recommend looking at the outside walls of the property. Stucco, wood siding or other vertical surfaces are the building’s skin. Cracks, breaks and other damage to the siding invite “infection” to your building. This “infection” can take the form of wood rot, mold, siding delaminating or separa tion from the subsurface.

Material break down of the stucco will cause discoloration and crumbling. Common siding material found in most buildings is stucco, wood, brick, vinyl or concrete panels, etc. Water intrusion of the siding can find its way through the smallest cracks by capillary action, or more directly from misaligned sprinklers or other water sources.

A little known and often forgotten solution to leaky windows are the clogged weep holes along the bottom of the window frame and track. These weep holes clog with dust and debris and can very easily cause water to enter the building through the window frame or even through small cracks in the stucco or siding at the edges of the window frame.

Dear Maintenance Men:

It won’t be long before we need to change our clocks for winter. I’m a bit concerned about the lights at my apartment building. I have various fixtures, sensors and timers, not one of which turns on the lights at the same time. Some don’t turn off or on at all. Any suggestions?


Dear Brian:

There are two ways to effectively control exterior lighting:

1. A timer clock.
2. A photocell for detecting light and dark.

Both time clocks and photocells have been around forever. We prefer to activate landscape lighting with a photocell as it is virtually maintenance free. A photocell will ensure the property has light only when it is needed and turn off automatically with the approach of day light. Be sure the photo cell is located where it can “see” ambient light and not near an artificial light source.

A time clock needs constant attention in order to keep up with the changing seasons and adjustments for longer or shorter nights. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing the property all lit up at 5pm when it gets dark at 7pm, or even worse, the lights turn on at 7pm when it has been dark since 5pm. Remember: the safety of your residents is at its greatest risk when it is dark and the lights are out.

Do's and Don'ts, Drought and Sticky Door


Dear Maintenance Men:

I am not new to the industry but regret not paying more attention to my rental units. Can you give me a quick Do’s and Don’ts for maintaining the property?


Dear Brian:

Great question, and as you might be aware, could lead to quite a long list! However, here are some of our favorites.

Pest Control

1. Avoid allowing residents to use contact paper on walls, cabinets, shelves or drawers. Roaches love to bed and breed under the contact paper.
2. Contract with a pest control company for a monthly service.
3. Through the pest control company or your local apartment association, educate your residents on how to avoid bed bugs.
4. Recycle using only proper recycling containers. Loose recycling material attracts all sorts of unwanted pests.


1. Educate your residents on how to properly use a garbage disposal unit.
2. Hydro-jet the building’s kitchen and main lines at least once a year. The best time is the month of October just before the heavy cooking holidays in November and December.
3. Do a walkthrough of the property inspecting faucets, supply lines, sink and bath drains. Check the water heater and its straps, gas connections and flue.
4. Locate and mark the main four-inch sewer cleanout.
5. Replace any main water line “GATE” valve with a “BALL” valve.

Dear Maintenance Men:

My rental property is located in a drought prone state. What can I do to make my building water friendly?


Dear Matt:

A few pointers that may help put you on the right track.

Plan and Design:

1. Determine the hot and cold zones (shade and full sun).
2. Select plants and ground cover according to the hot and cold zones.
3. Choose an ir rigation sys tem de signed to minimize evaporation. (Drip irrigation or low volume sprinkler heads.)

Soil Improvement:

1. Turning over plant beds regularly will improve water retention and reduce wasteful runoff.

2. Determine the type of soil you have and mix in mulch and other additives to improve water usage and soil richness.

Appropriate Maintenance:

With an efficient, water-wise landscape you can keep it growing strong by following a few simple steps each week.

1. Mow.
2. Weed control.
3. Test the soil regularly. (Soil testers can be found at any home improvement store.)
4. Fertilize.
5. Prune.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have a problem with a sticky bedroom door. If I try to open the door quickly it sticks and if I’m gentle it opens just fine. But as you can imagine, I only remember to open it gently after my hand slips off the knob. Is this an easy fix?


Dear Gary:

This can be an easy fix. Nine out of ten times the hinge is loose on either the jamb or the door. Tighten all the hinge screws, and if a screw spins freely, change it with a bigger screw with more bite. Next try “adjusting” the hinge. Replace a regular hinge screw with a long three-inch screw that will reach through the door jamb and into the rough framing. Gently tighten the screw, pulling the hinge and door jamb tighter against the rough framing and pulling the door with it. Next, if that does not work com pletely, “adjust” the latch side of the jamb by using long screws through the jamb into the rough framing. This should create just enough space to allow the door to swing open without incident.

Countertops, Flat Roof & Fiberglass


Dear Maintenance Men:

I have a unit with old laminate counter tops. The counter tops are sound, but are very dull and faded looking. Can the tops be saved? I don’t want to replace them at this time. Do you have any suggestions?


Dear Bill:

It will be impossible to make your counter tops look new again; however, with a little bit of elbow grease, you can give them a new lease on life. First thoroughly clean the counter top with Soft Scrub or a similar product and rinse completely. The laminate rehab products are wax-based sealers found in name brands like Gel Gloss or Minwax. They can be in paste, liquid or spray form; however, do not use auto wax. You may want to apply these products from time to time as the counter tops lose their luster.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I own eight units and enjoy doing minor maintenance around my building. One of my current projects is to repair three persistent leaks on my roof. The property has a flat roof. Can you give me some advice on tracking down these leaks?


Dear Don:

Flat roof leaks can be extremely tricky to trouble shoot. Water intrusions tend to travel, then drop at the lowest point of your roof and ceilings. A careful inspection would include checking the following:

1. Flashing around vent stacks and gravelstop roof edges.
2. Exposed roofing nail heads.
3. Drainage systems on the roof or directly adjacent to the building.
4. Exposed roofing that is devoid of gravel or stone cover.
5. Roof seams or laps.
6. Blisters and water pooling areas on the roof.

Some solutions and preventative maintenance:

1. Caulk all flashings and exposed roof seams with roofing Henry’s 208. It comes in gallon or tube form.
2. Caulk any exposed roofing nails.
3. Score blisters with a utility knife and inject Henry’s 208 with a caulking gun into the blister opening. Apply pressure until cement oozes out of the cut. Install desired size of cap sheet as a patch.
4. Cover any exposed roofing material with gravel or stone. (This keeps the sun from rotting the material.)
5. Secure any loose gutters and clean out drainage systems.
6. Seal any cracks in the stucco as water can wick into these cracks.
7. You may want to consider installing roof drains in the areas that rain water pools the most.
8. To help keep cracks from coming back, use fiberglass webbing with your patch material.

Dear Maintenance Men:

How do I get a fiberglass tub clean without scratching the surface?


Dear John:

The nice thing about fiberglass tubs and showers is that no mat ter how dirty they get, they are fairly easy to clean. Be careful not to use any abrasives on the fiberglass, such as scouring pads, steel wool or gritty cleaning solutions. Soft Scrub may be used sparingly on soap scum buildup. Lime- Away may be used for hard water mineral deposits, but read the directions and look for the fiberglass warning or approval statement. If you have very tough stains, moisten a cloth with clean Acetone solvent or nail polish remover. Do not let the Acetone pool as it may soften the fiberglass material. Acetone and many other cleaners have very strong vapors, so it is important to ventilate the area properly. After all the cleaning is done, the fiberglass surface may be dull. Use a fiberglass conditioner and glossing paste to bring the tub or shower back to its original condition. You can use a product called Gel Gloss to bring back the shine.

Leaks and HVAC


Dear Maintenance Men:

I have noticed the base molding in the living room and leading into the kitchen is starting to come off the wall. The corners are splitting and it is starting to look very rough. What do you think is causing this? I don’t see any water anywhere.


Dear Randy:

We would bet you do have a water problem some where. Chances are it will be traced to the refrigerator. There might be two issues you can look at. First, check that the drain line for the defrost cycle is not clogged. Second, if the refrigerator has an icemaker, check that the line is not leaking. Chances are the icemaker line has a hole or the drain line is leaking and the walls are sucking up the water. That is why you don’t see any standing water.

Look under the fridge or pull out the fridge and look at the water line. It should be a small quarter-inch nylon or polyethylene line; often they are white or translucent in color. If the water line goes through the cabinets to the kitchen sink, follow the line and look for rough spots or kinks in the line. Because these small water lines often leak for a long time before they are discovered, your walls may very well be saturated. The swelling baseboards are an indication they are full of moisture. The repair for this leak goes far beyond repairing the pinhole leak in the icemaker line. You will have to remove the drywall in order to allow the walls to dry properly. Chances are you will also have a major mold issue inside the walls. You should seek professional help for an evaluation of the potential mold issues involved. Please note when replacing icemaker or filter lines, only use tubing specified for that use. Ask for icemaker tubing, it will be marked icemaker compatible.

(Editor’s Note: Be sure to watch for upcoming articles and seminars on moisture and mold issues.)

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have a toilet that runs every ten or 20 minutes. I have replaced the fill valve, the flapper valve and I have even scrubbed under the rim! In other words, all the items I can think of that are replaceable in the tank are new. What else should I be looking at?


Dear Sam:

You replaced all the easy ones! When all else fails on a toilet leak issue, it is time to put on your rubber gloves and get an adjustable wrench. Chances are the problem lies with the flush valve seat. The rubber flapper valve seals against the flush valve seat (the big hole at the bottom of the tank) to either keep the water in the tank or let the water out of the tank. The seat may have a burr, crack or calcium deposits that allow a small amount of water to seep past the rubber flush valve. Sanding the seat to remove the burr or calcium deposits is a short-term solution, but rarely solves the problem for long. A permanent solution is to replace the flush valve. Start by turning off the water supply, completely empty the tank and remove the water line. Remove the two or three bolts holding the tank to the toilet bowl. Turn the tank upside down and remove the large nylon or brass nut that holds the flush valve to the tank. Install the new flush valve. Be sure the tank bottom is clean and no debris gets between the new valve’s rubber gasket and the tank. Tighten the large nut on the outside of the tank and you are ready to reassemble the tank and bowl and put the toilet back into action. When reas sembling the tank to the bowl, install new rubber washers and bolts.

Dear Maintenance Men:

Can I get some pointers with preventive maintenance when it comes to heating and air conditioning?


Dear Mike:

Heating and air conditioning or HVAC should be inspected at least twice a year or at the change of the major seasons such as summer and winter. Prior to summer or winter seasons, it is essential to properly inspect and troubleshoot your HVAC (A/C) units whether they are window, wall or central. Most A/C units fail or work improperly due to nonexistent or improper maintenance and not due to age.

Cleaning your A/C is the most inexpensive and critical maintenance procedure you can perform.

Here is our four-point checklist:

1. Turn on the A/C and listen for unusual noises.
2. Inspect/clean or replace filters. Filters should be cleaned or replaced at the be gin ning of each major season, such as before summer and before winter.
3. Clean and repair damaged or bent fins. (They can constrict proper air flow and decrease the cooling capacity of the A/C unit.)
4. Clean out all dust and debris inside of the A/C pan or coils.

On a central HVAC unit, cleaning or replacing the main and return filters, may be the limit on a DIY cleaning. A qualified technician should do any other work on a central heating and air conditioning unit.

Feel free to call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc., for maintenance work or consultation or JLE Property Management, Inc., for management service or consultation. For an appointment call Frankie Alvarez at 714-956-8371 or Jerry L’Ecuyer at 714-778-0480. CA contractor lic: #797645, EPA, Real Estate lic. #:01460075; certified renovation company. Websites: and and

Water Heater, Paint, Swimming Pool


Dear Maintenance Men:

I just replaced a water heater and boy are they expensive! What are some tried and true ways to extend the life of a water heater or recommended preventive maintenance tips? Since I’m starting with a new heater, I want to make this one last as long as I can.


Dear Fred:

There are a number of things you can do to extend the life of a water heater, be it gas, electric, new or old. At least once a year, plan on flushing the tank to remove calcium deposits. First, shut off the gas or breaker and let the water cool. Drain the tank and flush with a steady stream of water from the cold water inlet and let the water and debris drain from the drain valve until the water runs clear. If you have a 100-gallon or larger tank, use the clean out port to remove the calcium deposits. Removing the deposits keeps your water heater from working overtime. The more deposits in the tank, the harder the burner needs to work to keep the water hot.

Equally important is checking the “Anode Rod”. The anode rod is a long sacrificial zinc or magnesium rod that protects the metal tank from corrosion. This rod should be checked yearly and replaced every three to five years. The rod can be found at the top of the tank and is held in place by a hex bolt head. To check the rod, turn off the water supply and let the water cool. With a wrench, turn the hex bolt at the top of the tank and lift the rod out. If the rod is smooth and white in color, it is fine and can be reinserted ready to be inspected again in a year’s time.

If the rod is corroded, brown or looks like a rusted nail or missing all together, it is time to replace it. (Actually, it is well past time to replace it.) A new anode rod can be found at any plumbing supply house. If you have a low ceiling above the water tank, ask for a flexible rod to ease the installation. Smear Teflon pipe thread sealant on the threads of the new rod before you install it. Don't use tape, since it can reduce the effectiveness of the rod. Keep in mind that replacing the anode rod on a regular basis (every three to five years) could easily double the life of your water heater.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I am getting ready to paint my property and noticed a lot of mold or mildew in the shaded areas. I am worried that scraping these areas when we prep for paint will cause the mold spores to spread. What do you recommend we do as prep for painting?


Dear Marty:

One item on your paint prep work will be finding the cause of the mold or mildew in this part of the building. Check for excess moisture in the ground, walls or even a poorly placed sprinkler head. Trim any bushes or trees that stop air flow or cause too much shade in these areas. The best way to remove the mildew safely is to use a power washer with a soapy solution that contains a mildewcide. Once the building is cleaned properly with the power washer, regular prep work can begin and the property painted.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have just purchased an apartment property with a swimming pool. The pool is in very poor condition and I am debating filling it in and putting in grass over the top. What is the procedure for filling in a pool?


Dear Rena:

In our opinion a filled in apartment swimming pool is a good apartment swimming pool and an excellent use of dirt! First, before filling in a pool, check with your city or county, permits and procedures may differ. Drain all of the water out of the pool and pour concrete into the skimmer, main bottom drain and into any pipes leading into the pool. This will stop any water or creatures from using the pipes as a runway into the pool equipment area. If your pool is surrounded by concrete, try to save the water fill line into the pool, it can be used as a future sprinkler water line.

Using a jackhammer, poke a number of holes in the bottom of the pool to help in drainage. These holes should be at least 12 inches wide and all the way through the pool bottom. Keep in mind the pool bottom can be a foot thick or more. Leave all the jackhammer debris in the bottom of the pool; it will help in future drainage. If your coping around the pool is in good condition, you can leave it, but we recommend that it be removed. The coping can easily be detached by sledge or jackhammer. Just let the coping fall into the pool - it will also help in drainage. One-half to three-quarters of the back fill material should be sand or gravel at the bottom of the pool. The balance of the fill should be clean dirt and topsoil level with the existing grade. Water the dirt as you back fill the pool to help in compressing the soil. The topsoil should be packed down with a tamper. Water the soil regularly for about a week, filling in any low spots. Seed or landscape as you wish after the soil has stabilized. Lastly, contact your insurance company and tell them the good news about your newly filled in pool as your rates might just come down a little.

Feel free to call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc., for maintenance work or consultation or JLE Property Management, Inc., for management service or consultation. For an appointment call Frankie Alvarez at 714-956-8371 or Jerry L’Ecuyer at 714-778-0480. CA contractor lic: #797645, EPA, Real Estate lic. #:01460075; certified renovation company. Websites: and and

Contact AACSC

Apartment Association,

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

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