Once we have invested in the home we have saved for and dreamed of, there are many things little things we can do to increase our trouble-free enjoyment of it, as well as keep it in tip-top shape. Keep your lovely Smith Mountain Lake home in good repair with these three pointers from author and lake living expert, Kenyon Blunt.
Several years ago I had a reunion for my college buddies at our lake home and the day before the big event the air conditioner went out. I managed to get a new unit installed just in time but it cost me a pretty penny (I had to buy a 5-ton unit instead of a 3-ton because that’s all the repairman could get before my guests arrived). I learned a couple of things from the experience; do routine maintenance and have a good repair person on call.
Over the years I’ve refined this lesson to include three steps to maintaining a lake home; 1) inspecting it regularly, 2) embarking on a plan of preventative maintenance, and 3) fixing problems as they occur. If you’re thinking about buying a lake home, these are good things to consider before you buy. And, if you’ve already bought your dream home on the lake, maybe a few of these tips will help you the next time you have a problem like I experienced with my reunion.
Inspecting your Lake Home
The best way to find problems at your lake home is to use it often because, when you’re there, it’s easy to see what needs to be fixed. There are times when this is difficult to do which makes it necessary to have some eyes and ears doing the checking for you. If you’re fortunate enough to have someone doing the housekeeping, then he or she can be your first line of defense against unforeseen problems. Finding a good cleaning person may be easier than you think; try calling other lake homeowners for referrals, call the local church and see if they know of anyone or you may want to ask some of the real estate agents in the area. You may have to pay your housekeeper a little something extra for stopping by when the house is not being used.
You may also want to consider a professional overseer to do the inspections. Property management firms do this routinely at the more popular lakes. Generally, a person is better than a firm because you’ll have the same person looking at your home from one inspection to the next. And this makes it easier for them to identify potential problems. I use a gentleman who’s a jack of all trades. If he can’t fix it, he has a network of repair people who can solve just about any problem that arises.
If you think you can’t afford someone like I described, check with your neighbors at the lake and maybe you can pool your resources and find an overseer for all of the properties in your area.
Doing Preventative Maintenance
A good rule of thumb is to anticipate any problem that may arise and develop a plan for handling it. Having a preventative maintenance plan is one of the best things you can do to enjoy your time at the lake. It might be as simple as having a few of your repair people scheduled for periodic checks or you can develop an elaborate planning system. In either case, there are some essentials that you should consider:
- Keep a copy of the lake phone book at your permanent home so you can call contractors when needed
- Write down the make, model, and serial numbers of your major appliances in case you need to refer to them
- Clean your dryer vent regularly
- Clean your refrigerator coils regularly as well
- Change furnace filters often
- Schedule bi-annual inspections of your heating and cooling systems
- Have your chimney cleaned annually
- Schedule routine pest control applications
- Hire a regular landscape and snow removal person when applicable.
- Hire a housekeeping service to do a deep-cleaning once per year
- Replace things before they get worn out.
Even when you do everything noted above, you’re still going to have a few problems. Sometimes all it takes is to call a contractor and schedule a repair. Often they don’t show up; I call the phenomenon “Lake Time” and I’ve noticed that it’s especially prevalent when the fish are biting. The best way to avoid “Lake Time” is by choosing reliable contractors; your neighbors at the lake are usually very willing to give you names of contractors who’ve performed admirably for them. I also use a follow-up system where I call the repairman and remind him of the appointment. These repeated calls seem to help.
For minor repairs, it’s good to have on hand some of the things you’ll need like hand tools, cleaning supplies, plunger, drain opener, furnace filters, batteries for smoke detectors, light bulbs, and, lest I forget, duct tape. If you’re lucky, your guests will take pity on you and fix some of the problems when they’re enjoying your lake home in your absence.
When you embark on a systematic plan of inspecting, preventing, and fixing problems with your lake home, you’ll minimize problems and enhance your lake experience. Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
About the Author:
Kenyon Blunt is the publisher of “Lake Home Tips.”