Maintenance DIY: Holiday Stove Repairs, Garbage Disposals, and Tune-Ups
man fixing a faucet

4 minute read

A note to units readers from our Maintenance DIY experts, Frank Alvarez and Jerry L’Ecuyer: 

Remember, the holiday season begins with Halloween and the demand on your properties only increases from there. Check each stove and oven for proper operation; many residents only turn on their ovens during this time of year, and a problem with the appliance could be as simple as a blown-out pilot light. Additionally, given the holiday season brings a higher-than-normal use of plumbing, it may be a good idea to snake out or hydro jet your main plumbing lines. 

Sending a note to each resident on the proper use of the garbage disposal is helpful to ensure they remain in good working order. Note what should (and shouldn’t) be put down the disposal unit. A few items to include on the ‘naughty list’ are banana peels, potato skins, coffee grounds and any stringy food. Also ensure they turn on the water before using the disposer and put small amounts of food down at a time. Using the disposal as a trash can and turning it on when full will lead to a 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 wind or rain. Check your decking for cracks or damage and inspect the exterior stairways for wear and tear. Inspect all your garage door springs, winter wind and rain may make them heavy, causing the door to unexpectedly fall or close. As a precaution, always replace both garage springs at the same time and throw away any used springs. Never install used garage springs. Check all property lighting and timers. 

Remember: Preventive maintenance is cheaper than emergency maintenance!

Q: I am organizing a preventative maintenance “Tune-Up List” for my summer maintenance work at my rentals. Most are DIY-type repairs, and my goal is to have safer and problem-free apartments in the long term. Can you help with some tips or ideas I can add to my list? 

A: Staying on top of maintenance is a great way to add value to a rental investment and promote timely rent payments, among other benefits. 

Items to include on the list would be to inspect the property and apartments for liability and habitability items first. These tasks can be cheap to fix—and costly not to. 

General items to look for are:

  • Loose toilet bolts and old flapper valves.
  • Leaky faucets and fixtures.
  • Replace any white plastic water lines with stainless steel flex lines.
  • Check smoke detectors and consider the addition of carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Loose door handles or knobs.
  • Closet door tracks (worn or bent).
  • Door stops – installed and in proper placement to avoid wall holes.
  • Check outside lighting and trip hazards.
  • When replacing a garbage disposal, use 1/2 horsepower models (the cheaper 1/3 horsepower disposers only promote clogs). Show your residents how to use them.
  • Peeling interior or exterior paint – using EPA lead-safe practices, immediately scrape and cover peeling paint. 
  • Check for water stains on the ceilings and find their source. It is sometimes less expensive to repair a roof during the dry summer than during a wet winter.
  • Check shower & tub caulking and remove and replace as needed.

Q: I have a resident who is complaining 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? 

A: 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 has collected and wash with soap and water. 

2. Use a small toilet-type bush 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 air gap 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. Occasionally, throw some ice cubes in the garbage disposal unit to help scrape away any debris.


Do you have DIY maintenance questions? Send them to [email protected].