If you think small cracks, mould and odd smells in the house are not major problems with the structure of your home then think again. It could mean water damage, destructive pests or deterioration so it is best to detect the problem and repair it before the damage advances. Here are some tips on ways you can maintain your home.
Maintaining the Roof Space
Your roof frame and ceiling rafters can warp and deflect over time but there is little chance of a serious problem developing. However, if roofs are re-roofed with a material heavier than the original covering you can do serious damage unless the roof framing is strengthened.
If you notice unusual smells when examining the roof this could indicate the intrusion of animals or water. Animals can cause damage such as stained ceilings and chewed wiring so remove them as soon as possible.
Maintaining Ceilings and Walls
Most plaster walls will crack in time, but provided your footings and foundations are sound, generally all that is required is to patch cracks when re-painting.
Recurring cracks may indicate a structural problem and warrant further investigation.The walls and ceilings in old homes may eventually bulge as the plaster ages or deteriorates due to condensation and roof leaks. The walls may sound hollow when tapped. If they have reached this advanced stage the best solution is to replace them.
If your house is brick, check the walls regularly for rising damp, which is caused by a breakdown of the damp-proof course, brought on by damp external conditions.
Maintaining Living Conditions inside the House
You should aim to maintain a reasonable circulation of air in the house, to prevent stale air, excessive humidity and condensation, all of which may affect your health and cause materials to deteriorate. Items such as stoves, clothes dryers and showers should all be well vented to the outside of the house.
Long periods of stagnant, moist conditions in your house will encourage mould. Chloride-based cleaners will scrub most of it off, followed by an application of fungicidal paint for future protection.
Jamming Windows and Doors
If windows and doors persistently jam, your footings may be faulty, your stumps may have rotted or your piers have moved. Jamming is prevalent in older homes where structural subsidence is common.
Regular sub-floor examination will help keep an eye on the situation. Check sub-floor drainage first as very wet soil can contribute to subsidence. It is recommended that a significant amount of subsidence be repaired to minimise more damage.
Have gas leaks fixed immediately. Fuses which blow with increasing regularity indicate a wiring problem and should be attended to immediately. In older homes, blowing fuses may indicate a wiring system coming to the end of its working life. Blown fuses may also occur after the replacement of light fittings, or after recent renovations and extensions, because wiring can disintegrate when touched. Do not attempt any re-wiring work yourself, always contact a licensed electrician.
Cold water systems in older homes can deteriorate very rapidly. If cold water pressure drops significantly, it is worthwhile having a plumber replace the main supply pipe.
Maintaining Timber Floors
Floors may squeak particularly during dry conditions. You can easily stuff in between floorboards fibro-cement pieces or wedges of wood. This is generally not structural problem - the timbers are simply warping or shrinking as they dry.
Maintaining the Sub-Floor
It is important to remove debris from the sub-floor to help with ventilation which is vital in controlling sub-floor dampness. Damp sub-floors often make the house smell musty and mouldy. Black mould may appear on walls, and sometimes white "beards" of mould may appear under the house. Stumps, bearers and joists will rot much faster when subjected to mould and damp conditions. Damp sub-floor conditions can also attract destructive timber pests.
Homes which contain timber stumps as part of their sub-floor structure will eventually be subject to stump rot. Stumps deteriorate first just below ground level, and the best way to extend their life is to keep the ground dry.
Also examine the sub-floor for signs of termites. They build mud tunnels under concrete slabs, over stumps and base walls to get to the house. The first line of defence for both termites and borers is to keep the sub-floor as dry and as well ventilated as possible. One sign of borer damage is the gritty dust residue they leave behind.