Maintenance DIY: Wood Rot, Preventive Maintenance and More  
man working on fence

5 minute read

Q.  I have an old wood fence that separates my rental housing community from the neighbor’s yard. We will be splitting the cost of replacement. My question is how do I avoid post rot? The old fence posts rotted prematurely and caused the fence to lean. 

A. Your problem most likely is poor drainage. The posts rot away because of excessive moisture. For a long-term installation, use either redwood or pressure-treated lumber. Dig your posthole at least 6 inches deeper than normal. Fill the bottom 6 inches of the hole with half-inch sized gravel. Then, set your post in place, level it and pour in another 2 or 3 inches of gravel. Fill the balance of the hole with ready-mix or post-mix concrete. Taper the top of the wet concrete at a slight angle to the post; that will help drain water away from the post. For added protection, you may want to consider waterproofing your post with Thompson’s WaterSeal or roofing tar. That should help keep your post healthy for much longer. 


Q.  I hear the term “aging in place” and wondered as an apartment owner, what I could do to market to this growing segment of our population? What should I do to make my property more “aging in place” friendly?

A. Baby Boomers are 25% of the population. The first of the Boomers turned 65 in 2011, and the last will turn 65 in 2029. We heard on the radio the other day that 85 is now the new 75 and so on down the line. That is a large, healthy aging group! They are not going to go quietly into a nursing home, which means apartment owners and managers need to prepare for this group. Aging in place means bigger showers with wider doors, taller toilets, grab bars and bath sinks that will accommodate wheelchairs. This does not mean turning our units into institutions; there are many stylish accommodations to fit several needs. 

For example, a grab bar capable of supporting 250 pounds does not need to look like it came out of a hospital. Grab bars come in a variety of colors and designs. Many will double as towel bars and be virtually invisible to their primary purpose unless needed. A larger shower stall also will look opulent and practical at the same time. Replace old two handle faucets in the kitchen and bathroom for single handle or touch faucets. Consider installing anti-skid flooring in the bathroom and tub/shower area. A few other items might be contrasting color edging for the countertops along with rounded edge and corners. Replace all doorknobs with lever handles for ease of use. This is a small sample of the things you can do to stay competitive in a growing market while not making changes that younger generations would find objectionable. 


Q. We have a vacancy and are currently upgrading the units as they became vacant. We are looking for a “special touch” to set our rental units apart from our competition. We are doing the usual such as new paint, upgraded flooring, modern faucets, etc. Any ideas will be a big help!

A.  A great way to update older and modern units is to upgrade the cabinet knobs, interior doorknobs and hinges.  Typically, apartment- or builder-grade knobs and hinges are rather utilitarian in nature. They get the job done and that is about it, nothing fancy. That missing certain je ne sais quoi in a remodeled unit can be found in the choice of knobs and hinges you install. A wise choice is a lever-style handle. They come in many different finishes and colors, and not only do they look attractive and modern, but they are also user friendly for any disabled or older residents. The use of solid brass knobs adds a bit of weight to a door making it appear rich and sophisticated. Stainless steel knobs and pulls can make an older unit look more modern. 


Q. I’m doing some preventive maintenance and considering installing ceiling fans in my apartments to help my residents keep cool in summer and save energy. Is this a good plan?

A. Personally, we love ceiling fans and encourage their use. Most people feel cooler with a fan moving the air, but that increased comfort doesn’t always result in their lowering the thermostat. We don’t believe the fans will significantly lower the temperature of a warm apartment; however, it does look good spinning and will give the appearance of cooling. Given a choice, a potential resident will most likely choose an apartment with a ceiling fan. If you really want to lower utility bills and cool the units at the same time, install a powered temperature-controlled attic fan and/or attic insulation. Insulation alone will have a dramatic effect and often the utility companies or cities have programs to provide and install the insulation at little or no cost to the owner. 


Q. I am forever repairing drywall holes in my laundry room. How can I prevent this damage from happening?

A. Because many people use the laundry room as a meeting area and keeping a guard is not reasonable, the quick and easy answer would be to install a self-closing/locking security door and give keys to all the residents. This works to a point, but over time, the door may find itself open. So, an alternative is to install “T-111” plywood along the lower 4 feet of the laundry room walls. T-111 plywood comes in a 4x8 sheet and has vertical lines running through it. Typically, T-111 is used for garage door sheathing and building siding. Installation is pretty straightforward. We cut the plywood in half, creating 4x4 sheets. These are then screwed to the wall every 16 inches or at each wall stud. The lines should be vertical. Then, install a 1x4 plank to trim the top of the sheet along with a plank at the bottom as replacement for the base coving. Caulk all seams and edges, paint with primer and enamel paint of choice. If you two-tone paint the trim board and T-111, it looks very nice and it will be a lot tougher on your people’s toes than your wall!


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