How to solve the 5 most common home maintenance problems

A well-renovated apartment will still deteriorate over time due to fair wear and tear. Here are some of the 5 most common maintenance problems faced by homeowners, and what you can do about them!


What caused the leak?

When the waterproof membrane and concrete screed breaks down, the water seeps through into the floor (of the upper floor's flat owner) subsequently into your ceiling.

This usually happens in wet areas such as the kitchen, toilets and bathrooms and the typical symptoms include a damp ceiling, spreading discoloured wet watermark stains, patches and numerous water droplets forming on the ceiling.

What should you do?

When you detect a ceiling leak, you should immediately contact an HDB officer to conduct inspection of both affected lower and upper house.

When need be, any authorised contractors to perform an assessment and repair of the ceiling. Usually, the upper floor will be laid with a new waterproof screed layer and new tiles.

However, if the leakage is very localised, less intrusive methods which include the injection of chemical grout, aka the Polyurethane (PU) Injection Method, using the Flood Infusion Method and the nanotechnology waterproofing chemicals. A typical estimate of a small waterproofing repair job is around $1.2k or more.

Do you know?

Under the HDB Lease Agreement, the responsibility in maintaining the structures, such as floor and ceilings, of you and your neighbours (of upper and lower floor units) are shared.

Hence, when these structures needs be repaired, both you and your neighbour have to ensure that the repair works are carried out and the costs involved are split.

If you live on the top floor or just above the void deck, the responsibility is shared between you and the Town Council.


What caused the concrete to spall?

The steel bars, which are embedded in the ceiling slab, corrode due to the carbonation process over time. This causes the concrete, which is wrapped around the steel bars to crack, bulge and eventually spall.

What should you do?

Ensure that the authorised contractors use only approved polymer-modified sand, cement mortar for any of the repair works. The cost of the repair charges for spalling concrete is estimated to be around $95 per square metre (excluding GST).

Do you know?

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You can do the following to delay the onset of spalling concrete; since spalling concrete usually happens in the wet areas such as kitchen, toilets and bathrooms, ensure that these places are well ventilated.

In addition, since paint acts as a layer of protection to prevent the carbonation of steel bars, ensure that the ceilings are painted properly and regularly coated with a new layer of paint.

Finally, make sure that any holes (especially the drill holes), cracks and peeling paint are attended immediately to prevent moisture and air from seeping into the concrete.


What caused the windows to dislodge?

As the windows are constantly subjected to the harsh forces of the weather, such as the blazing sun, strong wind and heavy rain, without regular maintenance, they will break down over time.

Regular maintenance of windows is essential for public safety, even if you live on the lower floors.

What should you do?

You should perform regular checks on the condition of your windows at least half-yearly. If you found out that your windows are at risk of dislodging, you should take immediate actions to repair or reinstall. Make sure that the window contractor is Building and Construction Authority (BCA)-approved and listed with HDB before the windows are repaired or replaced.

Do you know?

All casement windows have to be fitted with stainless steel rivets and screws as fasteners.

During the routine maintenance check, you should watch out for difficulty in closing the casement windows since either the panel might be loose, the glass panes are cracked, or the rubber gasket has been loosened.

In addition, keep a look out for decayed, loose or detached louvers for wooden casement windows. Most importantly, check for rusty, loose or missing rivets or screws even when they have been replaced with stainless steel.

Do note that there is a fine of $5,000 and/ or sentenced to a 6-month jail term if the windows were not fitted with stainless steel rivets.

Lastly, if you own aluminium casement windows, you need to replace the aluminium rivets with the stainless steel ones and there should be a minimum of 4 stainless steel rivets (for side hung) and a minimum of 3 (for top hung aluminium casement windows).


What caused the water closets to choke?

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Water closets usually choke when there is a partial blockage in the sanitary pipe.

This happens when improper items are flushed down the toilet.

The most common culprit includes hair, partially used soap, sanitary pads, wet wipes, cotton balls, cotton swabs and other similar items. As these items will not dissolve easily, they will choke the pipe.

Aside from blockage caused by foreign objects, the choke can be indirectly caused by the blocked plumbing vent, which lowered the flush pressure and thus causing the choke as the waste cannot be fully flushed.

What should you do?

You should perform regular checks on the water closets and detect slow drainage or low water pressure.

If you are unable to clear the blocked water closet with a plunger, you should engage a professional plumber to detect the root of the problem and clear the blockage as soon as possible.

Do you know?

You can keep the water closets in good condition by cleaning it daily with a solution of diluted household bleach (one part bleach mixed with one part water).

Monitor closely and ensure that your renovation professionals do not throw foreign objects such as cigarette butts, tapes, nails bottles and caps in the water closet!

The last thing you need is for your apartment to be flooded by sewage while you are away on a holiday!


What caused the kitchen sinks to choke?

The cause of the choke is usually due to the solidified oil and the food waste which has accumulated and hardened over the years.

Over time, they turned into hardened grease within the bottle trap (P trap, or U bend). The bottle trap keeps the sink odour-free since it prevents foul smells from back-flowing through the drainage pipes.

What should you do?

Install a kitchen strainer net to prevent food waste from being discharged into the sink. In addition, remove the choke by ensuring that the bottle trap is not blocked.

First, place a pail beneath the bottle trap before detaching the bottle trap (unscrew in an anti-clockwise direction). Dislodge the solidified materials trapped in the bottle trap with a long wire hook or thin wooden stick and run the water to ensure that all the solidified materials are flushed out.

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You can also clear the choked kitchen sinks with a plunger.

Simply fill the sink partially (around half full) with hot water before positioning the plunger over the drain hole.

Pump the plunger vigorously in an up-down fashion until until the clog is dislodged. Aside from using the plunger, you can also turn to the explosive reaction between the vinegar and baking soda to purge the choke.

Push the baking soda powder down the drain hole and fill it to the brim. Pour the vinegar into the drain opening filled with baking soda. Use a stopper to plug the drain hole so that the reactive action will be forced toward the clog.

This article was first published in Renonation.