There is no user manual for all aspects of homeownership, from moving, to taking occupation and to maintaining and understanding common and uncommon defects. Albert van Wyk has more than 38 years’ worth of building experience and has put all he has learned into a concise, easy-to-use reference book entitled, The Proud Home Owner. He has granted HomeTimes exclusive access to republish portions of his book to help homeowners make better decisions around buying and selling, as well as maintaining their properties.
Remember that although the house is registered in your name, it belongs to the bank until you have settled the bond amount. The bank has the right to step in and do maintenance on “their asset” or instruct you to do it should you neglect to do so. So you are legally obliged to maintain the property.
All insurance companies have a clause in their policies indicating that they will not consider any claim if the house was not maintained, especially the roof.
Whether you like it or not, the maintenance of your property is your responsibility. Maintain your property and it will grow in value. Do not allow minor and routine repairs to turn into expensive disasters later, due to negligence, only because you were not sure how to do it. I hope this manual will be of some assistance to you.
Maintenance can be segmented or categorised.
Urgent and emergency maintenance
Things which you did not expect to break or stop functioning do, or could not have been prevented. Examples are damage by lightning, storm water, hail or wind.
Light bulbs, leaking taps, leaking toilet, door handles and locks of cupboards. Look at everything that moves and is used every day. Most activities in a house are in the kitchen and bathrooms.
A latent defect is a hidden flaw or weakness that can only be discovered by a reasonably thorough inspection.
If the defect could have been discovered by a thorough inspection, the buyer cannot possibly succeed in a claim against the seller unless the seller actively took steps to hide the defect from a normal inspection.
Roof leaks because of an incorrect design can happen after a few years of you having been in the house.
Cracks can become noticeable in different places after a period of time. Cracks take time to develop and do not happen overnight.
Damp and wet patches appear on the walls after years because of construction faults.
Paving starts to sag in places because the soil below was not well compacted.
Paint starts to peel and blister because the wall was wet when the painting was done, or the correct primer coat was not applied.
What should I look out for? Is it cosmetic, minor or serious? It is important that you understand and know your property, like you know your motor car. You should notice any changes which are taking place. A regular and thorough inspection is necessary to monitor the condition of your home.
Check for cracks and peeling or blistering paint.
If at all possible, the irrigation system should spray away from all walls and not onto them. The walls should be painted with the best affordable paint if the sprinklers cannot be changed.
Monitor large trees next to the walls as their roots can push the wall over or crack it. Watch out for bulging soil or paving close to the trees. Some trees have deep roots while others have shallow roots.
Look for small plaster cracks on the top or sides of the walls. It should be waterproofed on top to prevent water ingress. You can also install a coping tile on top, which will be a more permanent solution. The top of the wall should be finished off at a slight slope towards the inside.
Make sure that storm water drain holes to and from your property are open. Don’t allow water to build up against a boundary wall. Check whether the neighbours have used the boundary wall to fill against. A boundary wall is not usually designed to act as a retaining wall.
Make sure that they are stable and do not show any signs of movement.
Monitor the smallest cracks in the walls to know in which direction they are moving or if they are getting bigger, or have stabilised.
Retaining walls will have weep holes in them to prevent the build-up of water against them. Monitor these holes if any water does or does drain out. There should be more holes near the top for water to drain out as quickly as possible and to not have to penetrate the filling to the bottom to find a hole.
Driveway and walkways
Although you walk them every day, you should look at them critically. Are there any signs of sagging or lifting? Roots of large trees can lift the surface.
Look for signs of sagging in the normal tracks of the car to the garage. Look out for cracks in tarred areas. They should be sealed to stop water from getting in. It will get worse while water still gets in.
Inspect the tiles or paving around the pool for any loose ones or a change in levels. Children and older people can trip and fall in these areas.
I regard this as a very important aspect, to which you must pay great attention while you are considering the purchasing of a house. Ask the seller, and make sure yourself, what the natural flow of storm water is on the stand. Be especially aware when the house is lower than street level or that of the neighbour.
Albert says: “Venture outside after a storm to determine the flow and direction of the storm water”
Look at the possibility that water could get in underneath one of the outside doors or the garage’s door. Take early steps to prevent this from happening.
Does all the water drain away from the building and to the outside of the site? Is water from your stand allowed to drain onto the adjoining stand, and have you provided for water from the neighbour to pass across your stand? You do not have to accept all the water from a neighbour if there is an alternative route available.
Water from the roof must not be allowed to pond next to the building. Divert it away and around the house.
The insurance company will not consider a storm water claim if you have not made sufficient provision to manage the flow.
Do not allow unnecessary rubble to accumulate on the property as this can become a breeding place for rodents.
Do not allow birds to nest under the roof or allow them to find openings and then nest above the ceiling. This is a health hazard.
Termites are your biggest enemy because they can cause permanent damage to wood. Learn more about the warning signs for these pests so that you can become aware of their presence at an early stage.
Albert says: “Look out for patches of dead grass in the garden; it is more than likely a sign of termites”
The following are classified as rodents: rats, mice, squirrels and spring hare among others. Rodents will eat your food, damage electrical cables and spread diseases throughout your home.
Be on the lookout for their droppings or unusual damage to rubber equipment. Remove their food sources by regular cleaning and protecting stored food. Close all possible holes that give them access into the house.
Your home is the ideal breeding place with plenty of food and warmth. They prefer dark and moist hiding places and come out at night to feed.
If you see them during the day, then it is a sign of infestation and the nest is too small.
Keep food areas clean and tidy up after meals and cooking. Cover pet food containers and garbage containers.
This is the common name for a King Cricket and is not a prawn and is not restricted to Parktown. They live in shallow burrows, compost and garden refuse. They can kick, bite, scratch and make ugly noises. Do not waste any insect spray to try and kill them, it must be done physically with a stick or a spade.