Helpful Hub

A house is most likely the biggest investment you’ll ever make and we’re here to help you look after it.

If you’re undertaking large-scale home improvements or just want get things ship-shape, we’ve put together some info on things to look out for as well as handy tips to help you make your home safer, healthier and more comfortable. They’re just another thing we’re doing to help you prevent damage, avoid accidents, and future proof your home.  Need help with your insurance? Please visit ami.co.nz.

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1. Gradual Damage 1 - Leafy Gutters

Regularly remove leaves from spouting and gutters

It can be pretty easy to overlook your gutters. Well, we don’t blame you – you probably can’t see them most of the time.

But they can be problematic with the drainage of natural water away from your home. Blocked gutters can cause a number of niggly problems like damp, rotting fascias and corrosion. You don’t want any of that.

So clear your gutters thoroughly to get rid of all the bad stuff. As a final step, use a mixture of one part bleach to four parts water to wash gutters out and stop mould and lichen from growing. Depending on how much debris your gutters and downpipes have in them, you should aim to check your gutters twice a year. It can be a bit of a grubby job, so glove up before you get into it.

Clearing them out will:

  • Prevent water damage to your home
  • Avoid the nesting of birds, mosquitoes and other insects.
  • Stop roofing or guttering from bearing damp, heavy loads
  • Maintain the value and beauty of your home.

There are cleaning tools you can buy to make things easier, but using your hands to remove leaves and debris will do just fine and save you a bit of dosh. Once you’ve removed the bulk of the debris, grab a hose and wash away any further loose bits. And make sure to take care if you’re using a ladder to clean out your gutters.

Remember to disconnect your downpipe before cleaning it if you collect rainwater from the roof for use in the home. Give the system a good rinse with clean water before reattaching the downpipe. Take care if you’re using water blasters or hoses, as the high pressure can creep in through cracks and get into your home.

Read our blog on gradual damage

1. Gradual Damage 2 - Water Bucket

Make sure sealant between tiles is water tight

Have you got 20/20 vision? Even if you do, it can be hard to spot the sealant between tiles as an issue until you end up going to replace them altogether.

But give it a year, or even a few months, and sealant will start to absorb moisture and dirt, causing it to break down and eventually crumble. So it’s a good idea to replace grout or sealant every 3-5 years, especially in the bathroom or kitchen areas that are constantly exposed to water.

Another watch-out is sealant that that sticks out from the tiling like a sore thumb. If this is the case, the sealant may have come loose and water can track behind it and into the wall, which will lead to rot. Gross.

An easy way to see if your sealant needs replacing is to fill up a spray bottle with water. Set the bottle to mist and spray over the sealant between the tiles. If the water beads or flows from the sealant, it’s all good to go. If the sealant darkens or absorbs the water, then you’ve got the job of replacing the sealant on your hands.

Read our blog on gradual damage

1. Gradual Damage 3 - Sanding

Repaint surfaces when paint starts to degrade

Repainting surfaces where paint is peeling off or chipping can help prevent entire sections of your house having to be replaced due to moisture damage. A simple way to spot this is to have a look for rot or cracked paint around the home, especially in places that are vulnerable to moisture and wet conditions – you’ll know the ones. If you do this, you’ll help prevent the onset of rot and further moisture damage spreading.

When repainting:

  • Scrub down the surface with warm water mixed with a bit of detergent.
  • Let the wall dry, and fill up any holes or gaps with filler.
  • Sand down the area until it’s smooth (you may want to also use scrapers too for the rough bits).
  • Prime the area or wall to seal in the filler and keep it in place.
  • Repaint the area with at least two coats of your new colour. If you’re painting over a dark colour with a lighter one, you may need 3-4 coats to achieve the colour you’re going for.
  • And always paint in full light so you can see where you’ve been.

Read our blog on gradual damage

2. Bathroom 1 - Steamy Shower

Make sure ventilation goes outside

The whole point of a ventilation system is to take air you don’t want in your home, and move it outside. So if your vents lead to an attic or basement, you’re doing it wrong. The build-up of excess moisture will cause condensation to wood and insulation which will eventually lead to mould.

This can totally wreck the structure of your home, but more importantly it can be a health hazard for your family. Living in damp, mouldy spaces, especially for children, can cause asthma, respiratory infections or rheumatic fever. So double-check that any ventilators you install have good suction power and lead directly outside the home.

2. Bathroom 2 - Flood Test

Do regular flood tests on your shower

Spending 24 hours on a flood test could save you a lot of heartache. When we say heartache, we mean moisture damage, mould, and water damage.

How to do a flood test on your shower:

  • Create a temporary dam on the shower floor by plugging the drain airtight.
  • Turn on the shower to flood the area up to the highest point of the shower tray.

How to know if your shower has leaks:

  • Air bubbles will rise up from the leak source.
  • Water levels will drop over time – make sure to test for a full 24 hours for an accurate test.

The best time to perform a flood test is in the process of installing the shower. This way, you’ll know if there are any leaks before the tiling guy comes in to lay down tiles. It’s also good to regularly test your shower in case leaks happen to appear over time. Sometimes leaks will take a number of weeks or months to pop up, so regular checks will mean you catch them before water damage can happen.

2. Bathroom 3 - Paint Strip

Use water borne enamel paint on walls and ceilings instead of acrylic

Water borne enamels perform like a water based paint (meaning they dry heaps faster) and they also help to protect your walls from moisture damage. They’re perfect for use in your bathroom and kitchen, or places that get exposed to damp and condensation. Water borne enamels also have more durability than standard acrylic, meaning you won’t have to repaint again and again.

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3-home-security
3. Security 1 - Burglar

Install solar sensor lights (they don’t need hard wiring and will save on power

Sensor-powered exterior lights will help to make your home into more of a castle. Firstly, they can alert you and your neighbours of any movement around your home at night time, while also acting as a deterrent for anyone looking to break in.

You can also dodge the cost of hard wiring sensor lights by getting solar-powered ones instead. Put these in places that get a decent amount of sunlight and then they can be left to work away on their own.

For more helpful hints like this check out our blog.

3. Security 2 - Fence

Keep fences low for clearer visibility

Recently, local councils have started to advocate fences that are no higher than 1.5 metres. This is to increase visibility of properties both from the home, and from the street. So if some stranger decided it was a good idea to enter your property uninvited, a lower fence will provide much higher visibility from all angles, giving them less of a reason to do so.

For more helpful hints like this check out our blog.

3. Security 3 - Window Latch

Install security stays on windows

Windows are an easy access point for potential up-to-no-gooders. We can sometimes forget to lock them each day, so installing security stays is a fool-proof way to ensure they can’t be opened more than a couple of inches. The good thing about them is that you still have the ability to fully open up your window by using a release key.

Security stays come for both aluminum and wooden window frames. They’ve got step-by-step instructions on how to install them depending on how big your window frame is.

Often, builders will go ahead and install regular window latches without asking, so if you’re renovating, give them the word that you want security stays instead.

For more helpful hints like this check out our blog.

4. Fire-Safety 1 - Cool Ashes

Put fireplace ashes in a tin to cool

What’s not cool? Putting hot ashes from the fireplace into a plastic container or council rubbish bin and leaving them to cool down. Coals and ashes can take days to fully cool down, so put your ashes in an old metal tin or bucket with a lid and leave them outside on a non-wooden surface (preferably concrete) for about 48 hours before chucking them out. You’ll reduce the chance of a fire, and staining your outdoor surfaces.

4. Fire Safety 2 - Heat Pump

Regularly clean your heat pump

If you want your heat pump to keep keeping you at the perfect temperature, you should give it a clean every now and then. Plus, the difference between a well-maintained heat pump and one that is neglected can be up to 25% in energy consumption.

It’s important to clean or change heat pump filters once a month, and maybe even more in the winter months when it’s getting used all the time. Turn it off to clean out coils and dirty filters, and remove any dust or build up from the outdoor unit. By doing this regularly, you’ll help to reduce the risk of your heat pump catching fire.

As well as this, you should get your heat pump professionally serviced once a year to inspect the working order and ensure it’s safe to use.

5. Fire Safety 3 - Stud Finder

Use a stud tester when hanging things on walls

Many people often use the classic “knock the wall” test to see where they should drill or nail into a wall. Seems like a good idea, except you can easily end up nailing or drilling into hazardous wires which might cause an electrical fire.

A stud finder is a battery-powered device which you move across the surface of a wall to see where vertical wall framing (studs) lie so you don’t nail into hollow parts of the wall and miss any dangerous wires.

You can grab stud finders at your local home improvement store, or pick one up online. Be sure to check the batteries in your stud finder aren’t running low before you use it.

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5-bedroom-1-insulate-walls

Insulate interior walls thoroughly

To make your home more comfortable, warmer and quieter by thoroughly installing insulation throughout every interior space possible. While this can seem like a big undertaking, it’s worth it when winter comes around each year, as well as the fact that it’ll trap sound within each room. A warmer home will also mean a drier home, which will keep your family more healthy, especially in the winter months.

5-bedroom-2-usb-port

Get power points with USB ports in them

Technology is moving pretty quick these days, so you might as well keep up by getting power points with USB ports installed – they’re just as easy to put in as normal sockets. Also, charging straight from the wall is a much faster way to charge a phone or any other electrical device instead of charging from a computer. So if you’re looking to replace power points around the home, go for USB-equipped ones and give off the impression that you’re a tech guru.

5. Bedroom 3 - Smoke Detectors

Install smoke detectors within 3 meters of bedrooms

When installing smoke detectors in your home, check that there’s always one within three meters of bedrooms so they will still be heard if activated during the night. Because smoke rises and moves along the ceiling, remember to place your detectors high up to get the earliest possible warning.

What’s the best one to buy? Interconnected ones – they’ll give you the earliest possible alert. They are simple to install and react to each other when they each go off. So if one alarm goes off in your home, all others will too, giving all areas of the home a loud warning.

Regularly check the batteries in your smoke alarms to ensure they’re in working order, or better yet, purchase the long life smoke alarms. These provide around 10 years of smoke detection, meaning you don’t have to go buy batteries all the time. For more information on smoke alarms, go to fire.org.nz

6. Electricity 1 - Cord Throws

Throw out frayed electrical cords

Old cables and wiring that have frayed over the years can lead to electrical fires. When cords are under stress by being twisted or bent for long periods of time, they’re far more likely to start to wear, exposing the metal wiring within the casing.

Regularly check your cords by unplugging them and running your fingers down the length to feel for any compromised areas. If you do find exposed metal wire protruding, be sure to throw them out and replace with new cables.

6. Electricity 2 - Plugs Comp

Don’t overload multi boards

Most homes, especially older ones with less power points, will use multi boards. You know the things – they end up looking like a plate of spilled spaghetti. Although they are more expensive, it’s important to buy surge protected ones that have an energy light reader on them and ideally individual power switches so you can control the level of energy running through the multi-board at any one time.

Just because a multi board might have four sockets in it doesn’t mean all four should be used at once. If overloaded, a multi board can cause overheating which will lead to an electrical fire. The light meter will warn you if too much energy is being passed through the plug and if you should take one out. Make sure you replace multi-boards regularly to ensure the light reader and surge protector is working effectively.

Young children are also very prone to stick their fingers in power sockets, which can be dangerous, or fatal. Cover up individual sockets with child-proof socket protectors, and unplug your multi boards if you know they might become a hazard to children.

6. Electricity 3 - Cord Trip

Install enough sockets so cords don’t run over doorways

A big hazard in homes is having electrical cords run over thoroughfares or doorways. If you’re renovating, make sure to plan well ahead by determining where cords will run and installing enough power points accordingly. That way, you won’t have an ‘oh $#%&!!!!’ moment. Alternatively, if you must run a cable over a doorway, try taping it down to reduce the chance of it getting tripped on.

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7. Garden 2 - Water Drip

Create a gentle slope when laying tiles or decking so water runs off

If you’re building a deck or patio, you should make sure that the surface has a gentle slope so water doesn’t pool in the middle and create a water feature that resembles a dirty puddle. It’ll also prevent any water damage to your deck. The size of the patio or deck will help determine how great or small that slope may need to be – the best idea is to consult a specialist to figure out how much your build may require.

7. Garden 1 - Planter Feet

Put feet on your planter boxes

Not actual feet, just something to raise the planter box off the ground. This will help to prevent rotting or staining the surface beneath. Planter boxes will leak dirt and soil below, so raising them will allow you to clean under them and also let the surface dry more easily.

7. Garden 3 - Prune Tree

Prune trees to avoid slippery surfaces

Wet surfaces are one of the biggest house hold hazards. But no one uses those ‘slippery when wet’ signs at home now do they? One of the main causes is when surfaces don’t get enough sunlight, and stay wet even during the day. Over time, mould and mildew can grow making the surface even more slippery. To avoid this, prune any trees that cast shade over outdoor pathways or thoroughfares so they get enough sunlight to dry out. As well as this, check for any drain pipes or leaky gutters that might be dripping water onto stairs or other outdoor walkways.

8. Outdoor 3 - Breezy Blinds

Draft seal your windows

Blocking up window drafts is a simple and really cheap thing to do that will stop drafts and make your home nice and cosy. Here are a few ways to seal your windows against drafts:

  • Apply self-adhesive foam tape around the edges of the frame.
  • Use self-adhesive soft rubber seals. These provide durable compression seals and come in varying sizes for windows and doors.
8. Outdoor 1 - Paint Can Grit

Add grit to paint for better grip on slippery surfaces

Slippery stairs can mean painful falls. A simple way to avoid accidents, and keep all your teeth, is to add grit into your paint tin before painting them. You won’t end up changing the appearance when you go to paint them, but it’ll give the surface much more grip, especially in the wet.

You can purchase grit at most garden and home improvement stores, so talk to your local about what type would be best suited for the job you are undertaking.

Alternatively, you can purchase a clear grip tape which can be applied to stairs and other slippery surfaces. This is ideal if you’re not committed to repainting an entire area but want it to be safer.

8. Outdoor 2 - Door Painting

Paint the edges of your doors

It’s very common for people to forget to paint the inside edges of their doors. Whether it’s because we miss them, or think that the door edge is a place no one will ever look at anyway.

However, leaving the wood exposed on your door edges can cause your door to gradually degrade, especially if it’s a door that comes into contact with water or damp conditions. The water will soak into the wood and cause in to get waterlogged, meaning your door can expand to the point that the door doesn’t close properly. So if you haven’t checked them in a while, have a look at all your door edges to see if they’ve got a good coat of paint on them. If not, give them a quick coat. And if you’re feeling creative, why not paint a design onto your door edge? Go on, Picasso.

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