Dear Maintenance Men

Toilet Running, Window Tracks, Powder

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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?

Sam

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 deposit is a short-term solution and 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 reassembling the tank to the bowl, install new rubber washers and bolts.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have a number of buildings that have old sliding windows and glass doors where the track is ground down to the point where the slider drops and barely maintains its position in the frame. Is there an insert or rollers that attach to the slider that elevates it and maybe even makes it easier to open and close? With the age of these buildings, I'm
finding this is becoming a common problem.

Craig

Dear Craig:

The best solution would be to replace the window as- j sembly, but that can be costly. What we do is install a nylon or vinyl track insert or rail cap (brand name: EZ-Slide) and replace the wheels to match the new insert. The inserts can be found at local hardware stores or at Prime-Line Products (www.primeline.net) or Blaine Window Hardware Inc. (www.blainewindow.com). These companies carry replacement parts for most windows. It might be best to call the company and tell them what brand windows you have and they might be able to get you exactly what you need.

Dear Maintenance Men:

While walking around my building, I found white powdery stuff growing on the surface of the building's concrete foundation. What is this and do I need to worry about it?

Fred

Dear Fred: The effect is called efflorescence and it is a natural occurring condition on wall or floor material such as concrete, brick and stucco. These porous materials absorb water and when the water evaporates, it leaves behind an alkaline salt. The efflorescence appears as a white, crystalline powder. Water is always the culprit. The first thing to check would be the sprinkler locations and if the spray hits the wall, relocate or adjust the sprinkler.

Another problem is moisture wicking up into the stucco from the ground. Older buildings built before 1974 probably do not have a "weep screed" at the bottom of the wall. A weep screed is a metal flashing designed to act as a vapor barrier and transition between the concrete slab or stem wall and wood framing. Installing a weep screed after the fact is not feasible. A solution would be to locate the transition between the slab or stem wall and the wood framing. Saw cut through the stucco to the base plate. Now fill the saw cut with a bead of silicone sealant. The silicone will act as a vapor barrier, effectively stopping the moisture from wicking up into the stucco. Refinish your stucco and paint to suit.

______________________________________________

WE NEED Maintenance Questions!!! If you would like to see your maintenance question in the "Dear Maintenance Men" column, please send in your questions to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. at (714) 956-8371.

Frank Alvarez is licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance and construction for over 20 years. He is also a lecturer, educational instructor and Co-Chair of the Education Committee of the Apartment Association of Orange County as well as being Chairman of the Product Service Counsel. Frank can be reached at (714)956-8371 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it For more information please go to: www.BuffaloMaintenance.com


Jerry L’Ecuyer is a licensed contractor and real estate broker. He is currently on the Board of Directors and Past President and past Chairman of the Education Committee of the Apartment Association of Orange County. Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.

Caulk, Graffiti, Garbage Disposal

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Dear Maintenance Men:

One of the maintenance chores I do 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?

David

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.

Dear Maintenance Men:

My building gets hit by graffiti on a regular basis.

How can I stop this curse?

Jim

Dear Jim:


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

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. 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.)

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.

Use an anti-graffiti paint. The graffiti will easily wash or wipe off making repainting a thing of the past.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have a resident who is complaining that the garbage disposal smells. I have tried running lemon slices and ice cubes to clean the disposal unit. It works for a short time, but the smell comes back. What steps do you recommend for resolving this problem?

Barbra

Dear Barbra:


The smell may come from a number of places.

1. The first and easiest to check is the rubber splash guard that keeps things from falling into the disposal. Remove the rubber splash guard and turn it inside out. Clean out the debris that have collected and wash with soap and water.

2. Use a small toilet type brush with soap and scrub the inside of the garbage disposal. This will remove any slime build-up. (For safety reasons, shut the garbage disposal off at the breaker or pull the plug.)

3. Remove the drain trap and clean out any sludge. Many times the horizontal pipe between the trap and the wall may have hard deposits coating the inside of the pipe. The deposits will collect food and debris that may slow the drains considerably.

4. If you have a dishwasher, check the drain line leading from the air-gap or dishwasher to the garbage disposal. It may be full of sludge that will cause a smell to come through the airgap located next to the faucet. Clean or replace any pipes with deposits or sludge. Check both drain lines for the above problems.

5. Now if you wish, run the garbage disposal with a few slices of lemon and it should smell good and stay that way. Once in a while, throw some ice cubes in the garbage disposal unit to help scrape away any debris.

______________________________________________

Note: If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men:” column, please send in your questions to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. at (714) 956-8371.

Frank Alvarez is licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance and construction for over 20 years. He is also a lecturer, educational instructor and Co-Chair of the Education Committee of the Apartment Association of Orange County as well as being Chairman of the Product Service Counsel. Frank can be reached at (714)956-8371 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it For more information please go to: www.BuffaloMaintenance.com


Jerry L’Ecuyer is a licensed contractor and real estate broker. He is currently on the Board of Directors and Past President and past Chairman of the Education Committee of the Apartment Association of Orange County. Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.

Caulk, Wood Floors and CO Detectors

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Dear Maintenance Men:

I need to do some caulking in my apartment unit, both inside and outside the unit. However, I am confused. I stood at the home improvement center’s caulk section and stared for ten minutes. I still don’t know what to buy! Can you help explain the different types of caulk and where to use them?

Frank

Dear Frank:


We understand! It seems every week there is a different type of caulk available for use. Let us try to break down the most common caulk types and when and where to use them.

  1. Acrylic Latex Caulk (painter’s caulk): Inexpensive, easy to use, water cleanup. Not for use in damp locations such as bathroom, kitchen or outdoors. Designed to be painted over.
  2. Vinyl Latex Caulk: Easy to use, water cleanup and can be used outside. Not very flexible; not recommended for use in expansion joints.
  3. Acrylic Tile Sealant: Easy to use, water cleanup. The sealant is perfect for bathrooms, kitchens and other wet locations. It is mold - and mildew resistant. Paintable.
  4. Siliconized Acrylic Sealant: Easy to use, soap and water or solvent cleanup. Perfect for porcelain tile, metal and glass. Similar to Acrylic Tile Sealant, but tougher and longer lasting.
  5. Pure Silicon: Best for non-porous surfaces. Long lasting, indoor/outdoor caulk. Super flexible and strong. Harder to use than any of the above caulks. Solvent cleanup. Mold- and mildewresistant. Could smell until cured.
  6. Butyl Rubber: Best use is outdoors. Messy to use. Perfect for sealing roofs, valleys, gutters, flashing and foundations. Moisture and movement tolerant. Sticks to anything. Cleanup with solvents.
  7. Elastomeric Latex Caulk: Water cleanup. Longest lasting caulk. Great adhesion to almost all sur faces and can stretch close to 200 percent. Elastomeric caulk is very tolerant to wide temperature and weather extremes. It is most often used outdoors. This caulk can bridge gaps up to two inches wide and deep. The caulk dries very quickly; tool the caulk immediately after application.


Dear Maintenance Men:

We have wood floors in our units and want to know how best to refinish them. We have several vacancies coming up and the floors look well lived in.

Mark

Dear Mark:


Wood floors take the most abuse of any wood product. The floors need to be protected from scratches, face. Polyurethane finishes provide a hard, durable finish that wood floors require. Polyurethane is easy to apply; however, it is best to use a natural bristle brush rather than a foam pad. The foam pad will leave air bubbles in the finish. Sand properly to remove any loose finish; this will allow the new finish to adhere properly. When applying the polyurethane finish, allow the first coat to dry overnight, and then sand it lightly with a 220-grit sandpaper. Always apply a second coat and we recommend a third coat to ensure the best protection and look for your wood floors.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I’m getting ready to have one of my rental units painted and the painter typically sprays the walls and ceiling as opposed to rolling on the paint. I’m a bit worried about my smoke and CO Detectors. Am I being overly cautious?

George

Dear George:


Overly cautious? No! We think you are right to worry. The paint and construction dust can contaminate the smoke/CO detectors and lessen their sensitivity. It is important to either cover the detectors in a protective plastic bag or remove them during the painting and construction work. While you are there, check the batteries and dates of installation. If you remove the detectors during painting, don’t forget to reinstall them before the next resident moves in.

 

______________________________________________

Note: If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men:” column, please send in your questions to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. at (714) 956-8371.

Frank Alvarez is licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance and construction for over 20 years. He is also a lecturer, educational instructor and Co-Chair of the Education Committee of the Apartment Association of Orange County as well as being Chairman of the Product Service Counsel. Frank can be reached at (714)956-8371 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it For more information please go to: www.BuffaloMaintenance.com


Jerry L’Ecuyer is a licensed contractor and real estate broker. He is currently on the Board of Directors and Past President and past Chairman of the Education Committee of the Apartment Association of Orange County. Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.

Refrigerators, Toilets, Christmas Notes

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Dear Maintenance Men:

Our studio units have under-counter refrigerators. One of the fridges does not cool and I believe it has a Freon leak. Can this fridge be repaired? Is it worth repairing? Will it leak again?

Lou

Dear Lou:

Yes the fridge can be repaired, however, you may want to con sider the 50/50 rule. If the repairs reach fifty percent of the replacement cost, it is best to replace the item. If the appliance is a name brand, most likely the replacement parts are available. Common issues related to non-cooling are com pressor failure, refrig eration line breakage or crack due to vibration, and thermostator capacitor problems. The compressor is the most expensive to repair or replace and will most likely go over the 50/50 rule. A leak in the refrigeration line is the hardest to repair properly and has the most likelihood of repeat failure. The thermostat and capacitors are typically easy fixes.

Dear Maintenance Men:

My resident called and stated the toilet is not flushing properly. I have replaced the flush valve and the flapper valve. The toilet is still slow to flush. What have I overlooked?

Phillip

Dear Phillip:

You might have any number of issues at play. First, make sure the flapper valve is letting enough water through. If it flops down too soon, be sure the toilet flush handle is not loose, or that the chain or line connecting to the rubber flapper is tight enough. The chain connecting to the flapper should have about an inch of play. You want the flapper to open wide enough to float a few moments before it falls back down and closes off the flush valve. If the flapper is working properly, check that the holes under the rim are not clogged.

If you live in an area with very hard water, calcium may build up in the drain holes under the bowl rim. A partially clogged rim might not allow enough water through the rim to start the vortex motion and slow the evacuation process. Use a stiff toilet bush and a vinegar solution to help remove the calcium buildup under the rim.

Lastly, is there an item lodged in the toilet trap? The items we find most often are small toys, rags, etc. Use a toilet auger to push your way through the trap and clear or pull back any obstructions. A toilet auger is a special tool that has an offset hand crank, a long sleeve handle and a special auger bit at the end to break through a clog or retrieve an obstruction. The auger bit is connected via a flexible shaft to a crank handle that you control. Its reach is about three feet. The auger can be found at any hardware store.

Dear Apartment Owners, Manager and Maintenance:

Remember, the holiday season has started and the demand on your properties only gets worse. Check each stove and oven for proper operation. Many residents only turn on their ovens at this time of year, and the problem may be as simple as a blown out pilot light. This time of year sees a higher than normal use of the plumbing. It may be a good idea to snake out or hydro-jet your main plumbing lines.

In addition, sending a note to each tenant on the proper use of the garbage disposal will be useful. Note what items they should and should not put down the disposal unit. A few items to include on this list are: banana peels, potato skins, coffee grounds and any stringy food. Also make sure they turn on the water before using the disposer and put down small amounts of food at a time. Instruct your residents to not use the disposal as a trash can and then turn it on when full—it will clog.

Christmas and other holidays also mean more people than usual walking on your property.
Is your property safe? What are some of the liabilities to worry about? Check trip and fall hazards. Do you have sprinkler heads sticking up above the grass or landscape near sidewalks? Use pop-up heads to solve this problem. Look for sidewalks that have been pushed up by tree roots. This can be solved with a concrete grinder or replacement of the section and removal of the tree root. Cut any low hanging tree branches and look for branches that may break in heavy winter rain, wind or snow.

Check your decking for cracks or damage and inspect the exterior stairways for wear and tear. Inspect all your garage door springs as winter wind and rain may make them heavy causing the door to close or fall unexpectedly. Check all property lighting and timers. Remember: Preventive Maintenance is cheaper than Emergency Maintenance!




Maintenance Tip:
If you had a leak or water intrusion last rainy season and did not fix it, it will most likely leak again this season! Just because it stopped raining does not mean the leak went away!

______________________________________________

Note: If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men:” column, please send in your questions to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. at (714) 956-8371.

Frank Alvarez is licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance and construction for over 20 years. He is also a lecturer, educational instructor and Co-Chair of the Education Committee of the Apartment Association of Orange County as well as being Chairman of the Product Service Counsel. Frank can be reached at (714)956-8371 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it For more information please go to: www.BuffaloMaintenance.com


Jerry L’Ecuyer is a licensed contractor and real estate broker. He is currently on the Board of Directors and Past President and past Chairman of the Education Committee of the Apartment Association of Orange County. Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.

Winterize, Mildew & Grab Bars

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Dear Maintenance Men:

I hear people talking about winterizing their buildings. I grew up on the east coast where that meant something! In Southern California, what “Winterizing” could we possibly be doing?

Jonathon


Dear Jonathon:

In California and many western states, “Winterizing” simply means we switch from light shorts and white T-shirts to dark shorts and a long sleeve T-shirt! When it comes to your building, “Winterizing” California style is simple, and many of these suggestions below will work in both warm and cold winters. Start from the top and go down. Inspect your roof; replace any loose tiles, shingles etc. Caulk all flashings around fireplaces, vent pipes, siding to roof transitions and skylights. Remove any junk on the roof, clean your gutters, and secure any loose gutters. Test your gutters with water to make sure they are pitched correctly and check your gutter downspouts; make sure they direct the water away from the building. If you have any floor drains, clean out and snake them. Caulk any wood seams, window trim, stucco cracks, vents and any area that might get soaked with water during a rainstorm or melt. Check your sprinkler timers and adjust the duration and days watered. Depending on water restrictions in your area, to keep your grass green all winter, fertilize and seed with Rye grass. During windy, rainy weather, trees may touch both the side and roof of your building, so trim any branches that may cause damage. Secure any weak or young trees or bushes that may fall in a storm. These simple winterizing steps will help keep you dry and off of the roof during winter weather.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I am running into an issue at my rental property. The bathrooms are constantly developing mildew. I have replaced the vent fans with bigger units and the problem does not go away. How can I solve this problem?

Bill

Dear Bill:

A number of things may be at work here. Unit overcrowding is generally the main reason for moisture and mildew build-up in an apartment unit. Because of the overcrowding, the residents take more showers and baths throughout the day and evening. Often to hide the excess people in the unit, the resident will keep all the window covers closed and the windows shut, effectively keeping the moisture from escaping. Add a windowless bathroom into the mix and the problem is compounded.

Mechanically, we suggest you inspect the vent fans in the bathrooms. Make sure they are not clogged with lint or dust. If the fan is operating properly, check the CFM or Cubic Feet per Minute of air movement. The minimum number should be 50 CFM. If the bathroom is getting more than the average amount of use, you may want to replace the existing fan with one that has a higher CFM rating. We recommend using at least a 120-CFM fan. Even more important, many bathrooms have two wall switches; one for the light and the other for the fan. If this is the case, we recommend combining the two switches into one. That way when the resident switches on the light the fan will come on automatically. We find most residents will not turn on the fan if it has its own switch. Lastly, of course, is to get the resident to open a few windows and let some fresh air in.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I am installing safety grab bars in all of my showers and bathtubs and I need some guidance on the installation procedure. What do I need to know to install these bars correctly?

David


Dear David:

The use of handrails and safety bars helps provide stability and extra support required by the elderly and people with limited mobility. Approved ADA grab bars are available in a wide variety of configurations, colors and finishes. The most common is the stainless steel or chrome finish. The grab bars must be able to support a dead weight pull of 250 pounds. The preferred method is to bolt directly into the wall studs. This is not always practical, as the stud might not line up where they are needed. Grab bars can be mounted vertically or at an angle to match wall stud spacing. Horizontal installation can be difficult because stud spacing and bar sizes do not always match. If finding studs becomes a problem, alternate installation methods are available. If your walls are in good condition, you may use large toggle bolts or if you have access to the backside of the shower or bath walls, insert a backer plate or add a new stud for an anchor point. Safety grab bars can be located at any local hardware store. It is advisable that you check ADA requirements with local, state and federal agencies for regulations governing height, distance and angle of the bars.

______________________________________________
Note: If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men:” column, please send in your questions to: Buffalo This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Feel free to contact Buffalo Maintenance, Inc., at 714-956- 8371, for maintenance work or consultation; or JLE Property Management, Inc., at 714-778-0480 for management service or consultation. Jerry L’Ecuyer is a licensed contractor and real estate broker. Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988. Frankie Alvarez is the Operations Director of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc., and can be reached at 714-956-8371 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Websites: www.BuffaloMaintenance.com and www.ContactJLE.com and www.Facebook.com/BuffaloMaintenance.

Contact AACSC

Apartment Association,

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

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