Dear Maintenance Men

Landscaping, Graffiti, & Power Snakes


Dear Maintenance Men:

I own a small apartment building with an average amount of landscaping around the property. I have a garden service that comes each week. They cut and edge and do what they are supposed to do, I think, although they don’t spent a lot of time at the property. What should I expect from my landscapers or garden service?


Dear John:

We have a minimum list of items that must be completed at a property. If these items are skipped or ignored, we feel the property will suffer. On a weekly basis, we expect the garden service to provide the following:


  1. Cut the grass.
  2. Edge the grass.
  3. Pull out weeds between the sidewalk cracks, walk around the building, including the alley.
  4. Turn over the dirt in all the flowerbeds each week.
  5. Pick up any trash around the property.
  6. Broom, blow or hose down the walkways.
  7. Turn on the sprinkler lines, check for clogged heads, broken lines, etc.
  8. Check that the timers are set properly.
  9. Cut, trim and thin any shrubs or bushes.
  10. Maintain communication with the owner about problems or improvements.

The above list takes time, half hour minimum at a small property. If your landscape gardener completes the list on a weekly basis, you could very well have the best-looking property on the block! Which means higher rents … if you add color flowers … even higher rents!

Finding a landscape gardener to do the above list consistently is not easy. Ask your local apartment association for recommendations or look in your neighborhood or city for a property with outstanding landscaping and ask who the gardener is. Have him give you a quote according to your “list”. Keep in mind a landscape company or gardener who provides the above service will charge more than a “blow and go” gardener; however, your property will reflect their above average service.

Dear Maintenance Men:

My building gets hit by graffiti on a regular basis. How can I stop this curse?


Dear Jim:

We understand. Our company maintains several properties that attract graffiti like a magnet. There are several solutions that may help.


  1. Painting over graffiti as quickly as possible will help deter future vandalism. We recommend painting over the same day or within 24 hours of the graffiti appearing on your property. Graffiti vandals like to advertise. By removing the graffiti quickly, the less recognition the vandals will receive, thus making your building less attractive to graffiti taggers.
  2. Install lighting in areas prone to graffiti. Motion activated lights also work well to deter vandals. If you have a sense of humor, install motion activated water sprinklers.
  3. Planting vines or bushes along a wall or the side of the building is a good long-term solution. As the landscape grows, it will make it more difficult to graffiti your walls.


Dear Maintenance Men:

I have an opportunity to buy a small power snake for cleaning out kitchen and bathroom drains. At the rate my tenants block their drains, it should pay for itself in no time. Is this a good idea?


Dear Dale:

We understand that almost any excuse is a good reason to buy a power tool. But most bathroom and kitchen drains can be cleared with a three-foot hand snake. The tub or shower will typically have a hair stoppage just past the tub shoe and the bathroom sink will have a toothpaste and hair stoppage in the trap before the wall. The kitchen sink will typically be stopped on the garbage disposal side because of improper usage of the disposal. If both sides of the kitchen sink are blocked, then it may be necessary to use the power snake.

Power snakes can be very dangerous. Most operate with a one-quarter to one-half horse motor, which packs quite a punch, especially if your finger or arm gets caught! If you buy this snake, we highly recommend that you get some training on your machine. Power drain cleaning is very much an “art” when done well. Knowing when you hit the stoppage and when the snake is snagged comes with experience. A broken snake cable in your drain system will be far more expensive than simply calling an experienced plumber when needed. Another thought is that most kitchen stoppages are caused by grease. Your snake will only temporarily clear the stoppage. Getting a company to “Hydro-Jet” your drains every year may help cure your chronic grease stoppages.


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


Patience is king when trying to catch a rat.


Dear Maintenance Men:

How do I get rid of mice or rats? I have found droppings in the house and I’m not happy and I need a solution.


Dear Annie:

Please come down off that chair! We have written about dealing with mice and rat issues in the past and below is what we recommend if you want to get rid of the rodents yourself. Keep in mind that rats and mice are smart and conservative. They are not risk takers. In the rat or mouse’s mind, a trap out in the middle of the floor is too risky to investigate. Rodents will run along walls, rafters and other low exposure areas. Put the traps along these routes about ten feet apart. A good bait to use is peanut butter. Patience is king when trying to trap a rat. Place all your baited traps, but DO NOT set them for a day or two. Let the rat nibble at the bait danger-free. This last part is the hardest to do. However, patience will win out. If you rush ahead and set the traps and the rat triggers one and is not caught, he will remember! Also, avoid using traps designed for mice; it will only annoy the rat and he will be smarter for it. The same goes for using rat traps to catch mice. The trap is too big and when sprung may miss the mouse.

Using poison is another option. Anticoagulant poison is very popular. This poison causes the rat’s blood to thin. It will make him thirsty and when he drinks water, he will bleed internally. When using this option, be sure to leave a saucer of water near the poison. The poison normally comes in bars that can be broken up into pieces. Remember rodents hoard, so just because the poison is gone, does not mean they ate it. Put more until they stop taking it.

The local hardware store should carry this product, but it is best to go to a farm supply store. They will have the best quality supply. Be careful with placement so other animals do not eat this poison. The hardware store or farm supply store carry approved bait dispensers designed for rats or mice. Again, patience is rewarded. Before using poison bait, use crunchy peanut butter to let the rats get used to the bait station for a few days. Then add the poison bait with a little bit of peanut butter.

Glue traps are also a viable option. It is important to use large rat sized traps. Put the glue trap along a known rat runway or along a ledge or rafter used by the rodents. It is important to nail or fasten the glue trap in place. Place a bit of peanut butter in the middle of the trap as an attractant. Happy hunting!


Dear Maintenance Men:

I doing some long-term preventive maintenance with my building’s individual 30-40 gallon water heaters. Each unit has a water heater and I’m not sure of the age or condition of each unit. How long do most heaters last and what are some signs of imminent failure?


Dear Bryan:

The chances of a number of heaters failing all at once are very slim. The cost of replacement can be spread over a period of time. The average life span of a typical 30- or 40-gallon water heater is about 10 to 12 years; some may last much longer depending on use. A sign the end may be near is: banging noises coming from the heater, short hot water supply and long heater cycle times producing lukewarm water. At this point you should start pricing a new heater. However, if you find water pooling at the base of the heater, replace it immediately, it has FAILED!!


Dear Maintenance Men:

One of my maintenance chores is caulking and sealing shower/tub fixture flanges and shower walls. My problem is getting the caulking to dry before a resident uses the shower. Any Suggestions?


Dear David:

A lot of people will say: “Just tell the resident not to use the shower till the caulking is dry”. Well, it doesn’t work and by the time you are driving away from the building, your resident is already taking a shower and your fresh caulking is washing down the drain. Your caulk should cure at least 24 hours before use. Water-based latex caulking is easy to use, but very susceptible to water until it is cured. Try using a silicone or polyurethane based caulking for doing tubs, showers, toilets, sinks or other wet locations. It tends to set quickly and will repel water during its cure time.

Another solution we have found works well with very busy showers is to remove all the fixtures, including the showerhead and arm, valve handles and tub spout before caulking. (A bit extreme, but effective.) We then plug the showerhead and tub spout with a capped pipe. Then caulk the tub/shower. We come back 24 hours later and reinstall all the fixtures.

One more thought; if you have sliding shower doors for your tub, check the bottom track. If it is loose, do not caulk until the track is removed, cleaned and dried. Reinstall the track with new adhesive caulk to hold it down and caulk the edges to keep the water out.

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


Will 2016 Be a Super El Niño Year?


We have been living with drought in the Western United States for a long time now. So the prediction of a strong, wet El Niño year is quite appealing. Will it fill our reservoirs, recharge our aquafers and bring us back to normal? Hard to tell; many experts say we may need multiple years of El Niño to be back to pre-drought conditions.


Aging, Kitchen Design, Roof Leak,


Dear Maintenance Men:

Being part of the Baby Boom generation and staying active means I should know a bit more about “Aging in Place”. Can you explain this term and how it might affect my apartment community?


Winterizing California


“When it comes to your building, “winterizing” California style is simple.”

Dear Maintenance Men:

Because of the drought, we have left our yards to dry out and the grass to die. One issue I have is the mature trees on the property. Grass and plants are easy to replace; however, the trees are another thing altogether. How do we maintain our trees and still conserve water?



Contact AACSC

Apartment Association,

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

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