Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Quick Fixes

Before we got the keys, I had made a nice long to do list of things I wanted to change. Turns out there was a whooooole lot more I would have never thought of. A few things came from our inspection, but a lot came from just walking around and slowly noticing things. This post is a mish mash of tons of things I've done to get the house a little more livable, most of which you wouldn't even notice by looking around. To be honest, that's been one of the biggest frustrations--the long list of lame maintenance things you just have to do.

First up: filters. Air filter? Check. Water filter? Check. Hood vent filter? Check.

I honestly can't even remember what drew my attention to her nasty AC filter, but it was in desperate need of a change. The filters have their size written right on them, so I grabbed a 20x30x1 from Home Depot to replace the existing one. When I got home, I opened up the door to the filter (which in our house is actually on the ceiling) and got a face full of dust. Yum. After I got up and dusted myself off (pun intended), I pulled the old filter out and took a moment to take this picture so I could share this magical moment with you. On the left: new. On the right: ancient.

Close up!

So... that's all dust. And dog hair. Lots and lots of dog hair, which somehow traveled up from the floor to the ceiling and got stuck in this filter. My Google research has lead me to the conclusion that these filters should be changed every 3 months or so. Some people do it more or less often, depending on allergies, the quality of the filter (which can be from $2-$30 depending on how fancy you're feeling), etc.

Now, I don't know what filters usually look like at the 3 month mark, but I have a hard time believing they look this bad. The old owner always seemed to keep the house looking nice, even for the short notice showings we had with our realtor, but I don't think she was particularly fond of maintenance. With the new filter installed I feel like I can breathe in some clean air! And at least if I get a face full of dust next time I change it, it'll be my dust.

On to water filters. I grew up drinking filtered water from the tap, and then had to switch to Brita filtered pitchers during college. It drove me absolutely nuts having to constantly fill the pitcher up, and it seemed like there was never enough in there. When I realized we'd need to filter our water somehow, I figured we'd do an under-sink filtration system like I was used to. Surprise! They're enormous. And mega expensive. Turns out I had never looked at the one we actually had under the sink, so I had no idea it was so gigantic. 

The alternative, which is actually the easiest option, is to use the filtered water from the fridge. Based on a lot of things we've discovered that the old owner took very poor care of (like the AC filter and tons of others which will all be covered in posts to come), I figured that the fridge's water filter may not have been changed in a very, very long time. Or ever. So, we found the fridge's model number, searched for the appropriate sized filter, and installed it! Piece of cake. In the upper right-hand corner of the fridge is a little plastic cylinder that pulls down. You just quarter-turn the old filter out and twist the new one in. Bada bing bada boom.

The last of the filters: our hood. The hood in the kitchen is not vented (meaning it just recirculates air rather than pushing the air outside), which I was not happy about. I asked our handyman if he could vent it, but unless we wanted to cut into our drywall all the way across the kitchen, it couldn't be done. I did some research and it turns out that unvented hoods can actually be very effective as long as you have a good filter and change it out regularly. The type of filter that was in there was just aluminum, so I went to Home Depot to get a charcoal one which is what's recommended.

It just popped in underneath. Easy breezy!

Next up: doorstops. The ones she had in there were dirty brass springy doorstops that had dog hair stuck in them. Most of them were bent sideways and didn't even stop the door from hitting the wall.

I grabbed some inexpensive silver ones from Home Depot, unscrewed the old, screwed in the new, and done!

This next project took a lot longer than these others. I unfortunately don't have very many pictures because it was so gross that I didn't initially even want to share it with you, much less have the pictures to remind myself of how it started it. And by it, it mean the caulk in the shower.

Sorry the picture is blurry, but you should be able to see that the caulk line where the tile meets the tub is black. The person who caulked it used clear caulk which looked gross, and on top of that, it mildewed. I don't think the fact that it was clear was the issue, but perhaps it was the wrong type of caulk. You have to buy the kind specifically for bathrooms. So, I grabbed white bathroom caulk along with a caulk remover at Home Depot. Need I even say that I went to Home Depot anymore? It's just about the only place I go, so you can safely make that assumption from now on. 

That's the caulk remover. The short spike goes into the edge of a 90 degree corner, and the two longer sides scrape the wall/tub. It looked pretty dinky and I didn't have very high hopes for it, but it actually worked very well. It took a long time and a lot of elbow grease to get the old caulk out, but when I finally did I got out my white bathroom caulk and re-caulked the tub.

That same remover tool comes in a pack with an applicator tool that's made of a triangular piece of silicone. Basically it just helps you wipe up any extra caulk you've applied. Unfortunately, it removed more than I wanted it to so I didn't end up using it. When I used it, there were still some marks on the tub and walls that I wanted to cover with the new caulk, so I applied more than necessary to hide them. 

The thing about caulking that makes it so tricky is that it's sticky and will start drying fairly quickly. When you apply it, you want to do just a tad bit more than you need and then wet your finger to wipe off the excess. Doing that will help keep it from sticking to you, and I definitely suggest that you make sure you wipe it all off your finger before applying the next area. Once it starts drying on you it's kind of a chore to get it off. So, apply a little, wet your finger, wipe it off, repeat. 

The handle and valve weren't caulked all the way to the tile, which I think means that water would be able to get behind the tile. I went ahead and caulked those as well, and about 2 hours later, I was done.

Another quick thing was to add a strip of weather stripping to the attic door. We have access to our attic from the loft, and our inspector noted that there wasn't any sort of seal on the door. I grabbed a roll of weatherstripping with adhesive, put it around the edges, and checked it off the list!

The shower curtain rod that the previous owner had in the master bath was one of those curved ones that's supposed to make the shower feel more spacious. Sadly hers wasn't installed well and it was drooping way down. I didn't take any pictures (blogger fail) but I basically just unscrewed it from the wall and moved it over a quarter of an inch and reinstalled it. The drywall was stripped where the screws had been which was letting them sag out of their holes. Now it holds up the way it should!

Last for this post is a little safety. I decided to replace all of the smoke detector batteries even though the smoke detectors are wired to the house. The reason for the batteries is in case the power goes out, they'll still go off. Seriously, the previous owner didn't have a clue. One of them didn't have a battery, and one of them had the battery in backwards. Backwards!

I got the right size, put them in, and closed it up. There's a little button that says "Test once a week," so I decided to push it. It's no surprise that the smoke detector went off, but I was shocked to find out it went off for so long! It went off for what felt like a lifetime but was probably more like 15-20 seconds. The sound of a smoke detector gives me terrible anxiety, mainly I think because they used to go off all the time in the dorms at school. I'm pretty sure I will never ever ever press that button again.

My to do list now includes:
  • Smoke detector batteries (once a year)
  • Water filter (twice a year)
  • AC filter (4 times a year)
Does anyone know of any other maintenance things I should do? They may not be pretty or fun, but they're important!

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