Robin Jade Conde

PODCAST: Spring Maintenance for Minnesota Homeowners

In this episode, Reuben and Tessa discuss spring maintenance for homeowners. They cover topics such as gutter maintenance, gutter guards, downspout extensions, and sump pump discharge. They emphasize the importance of keeping gutters clean and ensuring that water is directed away from the house to prevent water damage and basement flooding. They also provide tips for installing underground tubing for sump pump discharge. In this conversation, Reuben and Tessa discuss various spring maintenance tasks for homeowners. They cover topics such as testing sump pumps, challenges with sump pump discharge, air sealing sump pump baskets, plugging sump pumps into GFCI outlets, replacing sump pumps, cleaning dryer ducts, removing screens on dryer duct terminals, taking off air conditioner covers, checking and changing furnace filters, and turning off pilot lights on gas fireplaces. They also include additional listener suggestions for spring maintenance.

Here is the  link to check Tessa’s website:


Regular gutter maintenance is essential to prevent water damage and ice dams.
Gutter guards may not be completely maintenance-free and should be checked regularly.
Downspout extensions should be installed to direct water away from the house.
Consider installing underground tubing for sump pump discharge to avoid the hassle of attaching and reattaching extensions. Test your sump pump regularly to ensure it is functioning properly.
Consider air sealing your sump pump basket to prevent radon and moisture from entering your home.
Be cautious when testing sump pumps and avoid sticking your hand in the sump basket.
Check and change your furnace filter year-round to maintain good air quality in your home.
Remove screens on dryer duct terminals to prevent lint buildup and potential safety hazards.


00:00 Introduction and Spring Maintenance
02:02 Tessa’s Consulting Work
03:43 Types of Homeowner Issues
06:04 Gutter Maintenance
08:12 Gutter Guards
13:27 Downspout Extensions
14:43 Sump Pump Discharge
16:23 Alternative Sump Pump Discharge
22:05 Challenges of Sump Pump Discharge
23:16 Testing Your Sump Pump
23:55 Air Sealing Sump Pump Baskets
25:08 Alternative Ways to Test Sump Pumps
26:13 Safety Concerns with Sump Pumps
27:24 Plugging Sump Pumps into GFCI Outlets
29:00 Replacing a Sump Pump
29:35 Other Spring Maintenance Tasks
30:06 Cleaning Dryer Ducts
31:17 Removing Screens on Dryer Duct Terminals
32:08 Taking Off Air Conditioner Covers
33:01 Checking and Changing Furnace Filters
35:49 Additional Listener Suggestions
37:31 Turning Off Pilot Lights on Gas Fireplaces
37:57 Preparing to Run Dehumidifiers



The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.


Reuben Saltzman: Welcome to my house. Welcome to the Structure Talk podcast, a production of Structure Tech Home Inspections. My name is Reuben Saltzman. I’m your host alongside building science geek, Tessa Murry. We help home inspectors up their game through education and we help homeowners to be better stewards of their houses. We’ve been keeping it real on this podcast since 2019 and we are also the number one home inspection podcast in the world, according to my mom.

RS: Welcome back to the show. Happy spring. It’s been spring for almost a month here in Minnesota now. Can you believe it, Tess? 

Tessa Murry: We went from like the warmest winter on record, like over 150 years and having like days in the upper 60s to low 70s, like mid-early March, to then boom, we got hit with a winter snowstorm this past week. It has been nuts.

RS: I know. I know. And I’ve been thinking all about spring maintenance. It’s time to de-winterize my outside faucets, do all those stuff, and then pow. No, winter’s not done yet.

TM: Mother nature’s like, “Not so fast. Winter is not over yet.” Yeah, and hit us with like eight inches of snow on Sunday and then more snow after that. It’s just been, yeah, it’s been a typical Minnesota winter, right? 

RS: Yep. It has. But you know what? That’s okay. It’s going to be gone soon. It’s mid-April now and we’re just fine. We’re just fine. We’re going to enjoy this. But before we get into… Today’s topic, we’re going to talk about spring maintenance. But before we get into that, what’s new in your world, Tessa? How’s the consulting thing going? 

TM: Hey, it’s going well. It’s been really interesting. I’m kind of doing a mix of teaching for different organizations and teaching at the university. I kind of talked about that on past podcasts, and teaching for some nonprofits, and teaching for… Continuing education for contractors. But then I’ve been doing a lot of consulting just one-on-one with homeowners and builders and with even real estate agents too, and that part’s been really fun. Every house is different and I’m just enjoying the diversity of what I’m doing these days. So, yeah, it’s good. It’s good.

RS: Yeah. And just to kind of reset, because we don’t talk about it all that often. For Structure Tech, I think it’s pretty clear what we do. We do home inspections. You buy a house, you hire us, we inspect the heck out of it. But for you, just reset, if you would, for the listeners, what type of person, what type of pain point would someone have where they’re going to call you and hire you to come help them with their house? 

TM: Thanks for asking that question. It could be a variety of anything from, I’ve had people contacting me that are having health issues that they’re not sure what’s going on, but they think that their house is making them sick and they don’t know where to start or what to do. I’ve also had a lot of people find me because they’re thinking about doing some remodeling on their house, and it’s come to their attention that basically the house is interconnected dynamic systems, that when you change one thing, you impact another. And they want to make sure that they’re doing things the right way and that they’re not creating more problems as they change their house. I’ve also had people that have issues with ice dams or condensation issues in their attic and they’re battling with mold. There’s actually a person I just was chatting with on the East Coast that found me through your blog, Reuben, and through our podcast, looking up how to deal with a story and a half house and the moisture and condensation issues with that, that I’ve been working with too, long distance. It’s been really, really fun, just kind of getting a diverse pool of issues and problems to try and resolve.

RS: Yeah. Yeah. I’m so glad you’re doing that, Tess.

TM: Yeah. Well…

RS: I know how much you love variety in your work, and it feels like this has got to be checking all those boxes for you.

TM: It’s definitely checking all the boxes, yeah. There might be too many boxes, actually. I’ve got too many things going on at once, but I appreciate your support, Reuben. It’s really meant a lot as I’ve kind of gone off on my own, and there’s so many things that I’ve learned from Structure Tech and my time with you and the team that have gotten me to where I am today. So I’m just grateful to be in a position where I can kind of pass along some wisdom and hopefully help.

RS: And what’s your website again? Throw it out there at the beginning here.

TM: Thank you. It’s So You can find me there and you can contact me through my website.

RS: Okay. All right. Excellent. Thank you. Had to reset that. We got to talk about that every now and then. We need to have a link to your site on every one of these shows, because people kind of know where to find Structure Tech, but we need to change our show notes so we got you linked in the future. I don’t know why we’ve never done that, but now that I’m processing this aloud, we need to get that done. We will.

TM: Thanks, Reuben. I appreciate that.

RS: Certainly.

TM: Yeah. Okay. So let’s get back into the content for today’s podcast. We’re talking about spring homeowner maintenance items, right? 

RS: Yeah. And we’ve been doing a fall maintenance checklist every year. We share that in the fall for… We’ve been doing it for, what, 15 years now? As long as I’ve been blogging, we’ve been sharing this. It’s basically the same thing with a little tweak here and there every year. We’ve never had a spring maintenance checklist, but we’ve been… We started doing a newsletter again. Before I was even blogging, we were doing a newsletter and we’d send it out every month, every two months, whatever it was. And it just got to a point where I kind of abandoned the newsletter because I thought I want people to read the blog, but we’re getting back into that. We started our newsletter again this year and I thought this would be a good newsletter topic. There is stuff to do. Even though it’s not nearly as long of a list as fall maintenance, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing. So I thought it’d be fun to chat about this on the show.

TM: Let’s do it. Yeah. This is a new thing for me. I don’t think… The entire time I was working with you at Structure Tech, this was never… This is a new blog post for you. You’ve never written about this. And it’s, again, like you said, it’s something that most homeowners don’t think about because they’re so focused on fall and winter coming. But don’t get too comfortable, people. There’s work to do. Remind us of what it is, Reuben.

RS: All right. And I’ll tell you, this list is definitely going to change for next year just based on suggestions I’ve gotten. And maybe as you’re listening to this podcast, if there’s anything I missed, feel free to write into us because I know next year’s list is going to get longer with all the stuff that I forgot. But first thing I always think about when it comes to doing presentations, home inspections, whatever, starting at the top, where does all the water go and how does it get away from the house? So the water is going to hit your roof. From there, hopefully you’ve got gutters. Did you clean your gutters in the fall last year? It seems like we’ve got this narrow little window where the leaves are done falling, but the snow has not arrived yet. And oftentimes, we don’t even have any window where it snows before all the leaves have even fallen. Thankfully, this last year, we hardly got any snow. But if you are not 100% on top of it, if you still have leaves sitting in your gutters, spring rains are coming. It’s time to get up there and take care of it. And I’ve got a family member, I won’t say… I won’t give any details to share who this is, but a family member who would get up on their roof and then they’d kind of lay on their stomach or they’d do this weird kneeling down thing on the eaves to clean out their gutters. And it just seems like one of the most dangerous ways you could possibly clean out your gutters. I strongly recommend not doing that.

TM: Really? Okay. That’s how I used to do it. When I was a kid, I’d help out my dad. I would climb on the roof, although we did have a low pitch roof. It was probably a 4’12” pitch, and it was a ranch. It was one level. So I never felt like I was doing anything too risky. But that was the easiest thing for me when I was a kid, and I loved it.

RS: Okay. If it was a 4’12”, I guess maybe that’s a pretty low slope. Maybe you’ll be okay. But still, it just feels so much safer to use a ladder. I know it’s more work because you’ve got to move your ladder over and over again.

TM: You do.

RS: But It’s so much safer. But as long as you’re working hard, as long as you’re not trying to take shortcuts. I remember being at a home inspection. My client was buying this house. It was super run down. And it was just… The yard had like… Bushes growing in the middle of the yard. Maybe grass. I don’t know. It was just so tall. It was overrun. And the guy brought his own ladder. And he was so frustrated with the bushes growing out of the gutters and the little trees growing out of the gutters. And he’s sitting there cleaning the gutters in the middle of the inspection. And he’s got a step ladder. And he’s leaning way over on the step ladder. He actually fell off.

TM: Oh no.

RS: Yes. Yeah. He had a huge step ladder, and it tipped over on him. And I just thought…

TM: Oh my… What? Gosh.

RS: [0:10:15.1] ____ liability for me? You’re here on my clock and you’re here cleaning gutters. And this was way back in the day before we really had any employees. And I just thought, we shouldn’t allow people to bring their own ladders to home inspections.

TM: And it’s unreal. I never had a client bring their own ladder. But I did have someone follow me on a roof one time without me realizing it. But yeah, it is shocking when you turn around and you see someone’s cleaning out the gutters of a house they don’t even own yet.

RS: Yeah. So my advice to make it safe is use a ton of ladder settings. And if you want to make it easy… Right now, maybe the leaves are going to be all crispy and you can just stick your hand in there and it’s going to be fine. But if they’ve been sitting in a bunch of snow and it’s gotten all mucky and nasty, one of my favorite tools is this thing called a gutter getter. It’s a little scoop. And it’s this little skinny orange thing. It’s basically, it’s kind of shaped like a shovel. The best way I could describe it would be like a trench digging shovel almost, but it’s small enough to fit in your gutter.

TM: It’s like a trowel with sides. Yeah.

RS: Yeah. And it’s just a simple molded piece of plastic. They cost three bucks on Amazon. Best three bucks you’ll ever spend. It’s called the gutter getter. Get one of those. Love those things.

TM: Well, I’ve never seen this tool before, Reuben. So thank you for introducing that to me. I’ve got another question for you. What about people that have like a gutter guard or a leaf a screen over their gutters? Do they need to be checking their gutters too? 

RS: Heck yes. Great question, Tessa. In a perfect world, those things would keep your gutters clear. But I did a blog post about those gutter protection systems a few years ago and I shared tons of photos where I’ve got every gutter guard thingy imaginable, the screens, the helmets, all that stuff. And I’ve got pictures of all of them failed, where you’ve got trees growing out of it, you’ve got a low pitched roof with a valley, and you got tons of debris, and I’ve got trees growing out of the valley on a roof that has a very nice gutter guard system. But even the best gutter guard systems, if you if you’ve got a ton of debris landing in a valley on a low slope, it doesn’t matter how good your gutter guard system is, you’re gonna have stuff accumulating there, and it breaks down, it turns to dirt, and then you get debris growing out of your roof. So I don’t think any of them are completely maintenance free. You need to check all of them.

TM: Yep. Good tips. Good tips. Okay.

RS: All right. So that’s…

TM: All right. So you’re not on the hook if you’ve paid thousands of dollars for an expensive gutter system.

RS: Yeah. I’ll admit, it’s gonna make your job way easier. I’m not knocking them. I’m just saying it’s not a perfect solution. You still need to check on it.

TM: Yep. Loud and clear. Okay. What’s next, Reuben? 

RS: All right. Next, we got the extensions. Once the water has gone down your downspout, you want to make sure that it’s being directed well away from the house. We’ve said it many times, a gutter with no downspout extensions is probably worse than no gutters at all because now you take all, that water that would be evenly dispersed along the foundation and concentrate it into one spot. So just make sure that you have your downspout extensions installed. Make sure that they’re attached. If they have a way of coming loose over the winter, you can get tiny little screws and just zip a screw right into your downspout extension to keep it from coming loose in the future. Make sure they’re all attached. Good thing to do in the spring.

TM: Yeah. I’d say there’s so many houses we’ve seen over the years too, and I know we’ve talked about it before in the podcast, where they’ve got basement water issues and they’re battling with moisture and mold and water intrusion. And It can be resolved sometimes by reconnecting a disconnected downspout. It seems like such a small thing, but it can have such a huge impact on moisture movement and moisture issues in a house.

RS: Yes. Such a simple solution. So impactful. And while we’re on that, I guess the next one is thinking about your sump pump discharge. I think I’ve told the story probably a few times on the podcast now, where if you’ve got one of those big, long, black, corrugated thingies taking water from your sump pump discharge on the outside of your house and you’re running that out into your yard, every diligent homeowner is going to remove those in the fall, because if you don’t remove it, it’s going to fill up with water. Eventually it’s going to fill up with ice, and then eventually your sump pump is going to kick on. It’s got nowhere to pump the water, and you’re going to burn your pump out. Tessa, I live in Maple Grove. We’ve got a lot of clay content in our soil. A lot of people really depend on having sump pumps to prevent their basements from flooding. And I have had just about every neighbor on my old street ended up with a flooded basement at some point while living at that house because of a sump pump problem. And a couple of those happened because they had the discharge tubing still attached, it was filled with ice, and the pump had nowhere to pump that water. So it’s important to disconnect it. But now come spring, put it back on. Don’t discharge the water next to your house.

TM: So what do you recommend doing in the wintertime if your pump is still active, just have that water kind of terminate, or the termination just end right by the foundation? 

RS: Exactly, exactly. And your pump is not going to be all that active during the winter. It may still need to run, but the good news is that the ground is going to be frozen over, and that water is not going to easily saturate into the soils. It’s just going to run along the surface after that. So I don’t think it’s a big deal to dump that water next to your foundation in the wintertime. It is a big deal in the summer, though.

TM: Yep. Makes sense. Makes sense. Good tip. Okay. And for anyone that doesn’t want to deal with having to attach or reattach or have an extended corrugated tube across their yard, are there other options? 

RS: Why, yes, there are. My favorite, what I did at my old house, because I didn’t want to deal with that, was I ended up installing some underground tubing. I used the corrugated stuff, and it’s the big four-inch stuff that you would use for drain tile when you’re building a house. But in a perfect world, I would have used PVC. I would have used something with a smooth interior. I think I was just kind of being lazy and cheaping out, but it seemed to work just fine. Where I dug a trench in my yard, and it didn’t take that long. I dug a trench with a little trench-digging shovel, as I had mentioned earlier in the blog, ran it out to the backyard, buried the tubing, and then flipped the sod right back over on top. Nobody even knew I did it. It was a surgical slice in the yard, and I dumped the sump pump right into that. I had the sump pump tubing going right down the side of the foundation wall. It emptied into this corrugated stuff, and from there, it ran underground until it got to a low point in the yard, and then it terminated again at daylight, just to make sure that I never need to mess with it. And I’m ensuring that it gets away from the house, and I don’t need to remember to attach and detach this thing that runs across my yard. You’ve got to mess with it every time you mow the lawn. This is just a much nicer solution to do this. One time, your done.

TM: That whole process to me sounds like a lot, but for you, you just said it was super easy. You did it really fast. I’m wondering, on a Rubin scale of one being super easy, you could do it in your sleep, to 10 being Christmas light installation difficult level, [laughter] where would this project fall? 

RS: I would probably give it a three. It’s pretty tough to screw this up. The worst thing you… The way I did it, now that you’re bringing it up, is I used a flat shovel to just make one single slice all the way down the yard. And then I stuck that flat shovel underneath the sod for about a foot to flip the sod over on its side. So there’s actually only one cut in the sod, flipped it all over. And now I’ve got a one-foot wide path going all the way down the yard, just doing that was probably the toughest part. Maybe took me an hour to do that. And then I dug the trench. I used a trench digging shovel. I didn’t have to do it especially deep. It might’ve been a one-foot deep hole and I just kind of piled all the dirt right on my grass, and then laid the corrugated stuff inside the hole, put a little dirt back on top of it, put the sod back down. That’s it. There’s nothing to it. And you’re not gonna screw it up.

TM: So you’re not worried about utilities with this project, hitting a utility line or anything? 

RS: It’s certainly a concern. I guess if I were super diligent, I would have called 811 or the Gopher State number or whatever, have them mark my yard for utilities. But realistically I don’t think you’re gonna have any of that stuff buried a foot high. I’m not digging that deep. And I already know where all my utility lines are. They’re in the front of the yard. There’s nothing in my backyard.

TM: Yeah. You didn’t have to worry about underground electrical or anything like that.

RS: No. All that stuff was… I mean, to boot… All that stuff is on the other side of my house. So…

TM: Yeah. Okay.

RS: Not a big concern.

TM: Well, I still don’t think I’d want to do that project myself, but you’ve inspired some people out there listening, so thank you for that.

RS: Well, and I’ll tell you if you want to save time, the first time I ever did it was at my house in Minneapolis and I ended up using a trenching tool. I think it’s called a Ditch Witch or something. It’s… I rented this… It was called a Dingo, and it’s a thing you stand on and it had all these different tools that you could put on there. And it was like $150 to rent it for the day. It’s gas powered. It was a super fun tool. And that thing, it’s basically like a gigantic chainsaw, and it just tore a huge trench going from the backyard all the way to the front yard. It was a delight. No labor whatsoever. Seriously, it was… Tessa’s laughing. [laughter]

TM: A delight? 

RS: It was fun. It’s fun using big tools like that. This is some heavy machinery. Yeah.

TM: It’s so funny. You know what? My little nephew who’s… He’s two and a half years old and he is obsessed with construction equipment. He knows the name of every piece of equipment there is out there, and he will tell me about it and he will show me. And, just, I don’t know where this love of heavy machinery comes from, but it seems like it’s just rooted in your soul sometimes.


RS: I think you’re right. I think you’re right. It’s something so many little boys are just wildly attracted to is big machines. I don’t know.

TM: All girls or who… However you identify, but it’s kind of funny just… I like equipment too, but it wouldn’t be like how I’d want to spend my Saturday. So…

RS: Yeah.

TM: To each their own, I guess.

RS: The one downside of that, what I learned is that it’s a big pain in the butt to get your grass to grow over this. And now you’ve got this big scar in the yard that takes at least a year to heal. And you’re planting new seed and you’re watering it. And it’s just like, oh, for spending a couple more hours to get this right and just have it done and it looks great when you’re finished, it’s worth the extra labor to do it this way.

TM: Yeah. Well, good info, Reuben, good info. Always learning from your experiences. Thanks for sharing.

RS: Thank you. Thank you. All right.

TM: OKay. What’s next on the list? 

RS: Well, we’re talking about your sump pump discharge and the next one will be testing your sump pump. Just make sure it works. And…

TM: Yeah.

RS: To do that it’s… I did a video showing how to do this. And I did a separate blog post. We’re gonna have to talk through it here, but I’d say the simplest way, if you can take the cover off of your sump pump, you just reach in there, grab the float and lift it up. It’s gonna activate the pump. And if there’s water in there, it’s gonna start pumping out. If it’s dry, you should at least hear the motor whir for a quick second and then let go of the float and then it’ll click back off. There. We know that you don’t have a dead sump pump at that point. If you have a new construction house, odds are it’s not gonna be that simple. It kind of bugs me, but what all of the builders are doing now is they take the sump basket lid and they just use about a tube of caulk. They goop the heck out of it and it’s basically just sealed shut. Nobody can get at it.

TM: Yeah.

RS: So… And that thing…

TM: Yeah. And they’re doing that ’cause it needs to be air sealed, right? They’re trying to make a nice airtight seal, but it just makes it more difficult to be able to access the inside of the pump.

RS: It does. And Tessa, why do they do the air seal? 

TM: We don’t wanna have Radon coming back up into the house or moisture, soil gases, all that stuff.

RS: Exactly. Yeah.

TM: Safety and air quality.

RS: Yeah. So I’m not saying it’s wrong. It’s good to have it airtight, but caulking the heck out of it is just kind of the cheapest way to do it.

TM: Yeah.

RS: There’s better ways. You can have lids that clip in place, but nobody does that.

TM: Yeah. Or gasketed lids with screws or something.

RS: Yeah, exactly. Love the idea of having something like that, but test it out. If you do have a newer house, sometimes you have two cords coming out of the sump basket. The first cord is gonna go to the float and it just allows electricity to pass through the plug. You basically, you’ve got a male plug that plugs in your outlet and then on the backside of it, it’s got a female receptacle, which your pump plugs into. And basically, when the float goes up, it allows current to pass through. Another way to test your pump is you just, you simply unplug both of those and then you take your pump and you plug your pump directly into the outlet. And if your pump is functional, you’ll hear it kick on. It’ll start worrying. So plug it in quick, unplug it, it works. So test your sump pump.

TM: That’s a cool little… A little trick that you have there.

RS: Yeah. And I know you’ve done it probably hundreds of times on home inspections yourself, right? 

TM: Well, yeah, because you’ve taught me and the rest of the team, but it’s just a nice little trick to try.

RS: Yep, yep. Save a little time. And I will caution people about sticking your hand in a sump basket. I remember when I was going through my home inspector training, they cautioned us and like, “Don’t ever put your hand in a sump pump or in a sump basket ’cause you could get shocked.” It could be energized and you could get lit ups and they’re like, “Don’t ever stick your hand in there.” So for the first several years of doing home inspections, I would use like a stick of wood or a broom handle, something like that to try to finagle that float ’cause I never wanted to get shocked. But one day I didn’t have anything handy. I stuck my hand in there and then you start getting lax. And now all I ever do is I stick my hand in there after having done it probably thousands of times and never gotten a shock. I just think this has got to be an old wives tale. Has anyone ever gotten a shock? So I don’t know.

TM: Now, I’m curious. I’m sure that story came from somewhere probably. But…

RS: Probably so.

TM: In your house today too, some pumps are plugged into GFCI outlets too, right? That’s a requirement, so…

RS: It is a requirement. Yeah, yeah. And if we’re doing a home inspection and you’ve got a sump pump that’s not plugged into a GFI, we’re probably gonna recommend doing it. Now we’re opening a can of worms with that comment test ’cause…

TM: I know.

RS: I know that some people don’t like that at all. I know there’s a lot of people who… They’re pounding their fist on the table, like, “Sump pumps should never be plugged into a GFI,” because a GFI can trip and then your sump pump doesn’t work when you need it to. But I lean more on the life safety side and say, have it plugged into a sump pump to help prevent someone from getting electrocuted.

TM: Yeah. Agreed.

RS: And I have personally, I’ve lived in a house with a sump pump for 15 years. I have never had my GFI trip because of my sump pump once. It’s just… It has never happened. So I don’t know how big of a concern that really is.

TM: And is it usually on its own circuit? 

RS: You stumped me, Tess. I think so. I’m not…

TM: I didn’t mean to stump you on that one. Okay. Yeah, I’m glad I could stump you. But I feel like, I don’t know about new construction. It seems like most of the time in existing homes, there’s always some other outlet that’s on the same circuit as a sump pump, but I don’t know.

RS: Probably. Yeah, I don’t remember. I feel like I surely did know the answer to that at one time and I have since forgotten.

TM: Really? 

RS: I’m sorry.

TM: I’m still impressed, Reuben. Even if you don’t know, the answer the fact that you did know an answer and there was a correct answer to that impresses me.


RS: And you know what? I do gotta say, Harry, blog reader Harry or YouTube viewer Harry did reach out to me. He’s a home inspector. He said he did get shot sticking his hand into a sump basket once. So…

TM: Really? 

RS: Yeah.

TM: You just got that feedback now? 

RS: No, I got it after I had shared my video. So…

TM: Okay.

RS: I do have a little bit of anecdotal evidence from somebody who said it can happen.

TM: It did happen.

RS: I’m sure there’s going to be other listeners who are gonna chime in who said, “Yep, it’s happened to me. And, yep, I had a GFI trip and I had a basement flood. It can always happen.”

TM: It can. Wow. Okay, all right. Good stuff. All right. Moving on. Does that cover sump pumps and sump baskets and discharges and all that? 

RS: That’s all I can think of.

TM: Okay.

RS: I hope so. And the obvious thing, if you go to test your sump pump and it doesn’t kick on, check the obvious stuff. Do you have a tripped GFI? Do you have a tripped circuit breaker? Is it plugged in? And is your float obstructed? Is your float freely operational? Are you sure you did everything you were supposed to do to get your pump to kick on? If you’re sure of everything and your pump doesn’t kick on, then it’s time to replace your pump.

TM: Yeah.

RS: And it’s not a big deal to do that. Very much a DIY project.

TM: For you, Ruben.

RS: For you too, Tess.


RS: I know you can do it.

TM: A pump is what, like maybe good for 10 years, plus or minus? 

RS: Yeah, that sounds about right. I don’t think I’ve had that good of luck. I think mine have probably lasted more like three to five years probably.

TM: Okay. I’m sure it depends too on how active they are, how frequently they go off.

RS: I’m sure you’re right. Yeah.

TM: Yeah.

RS: And how stupid of a homeowner you are. I talked about the pump kicking on and trying to force water through a frozen pipe. I remember at my old basement, I came downstairs one morning, I heard this whirring sound and I didn’t think much of it. And finally, I went to go check on it. There’s my sump pump trying to push water out through a frozen pipe. And it had surely been running just for hours on end. There’s steam just pouring out of the sump basket. It’s like 150 degrees inside there. It’s probably almost boiling. And I probably took like five years off the life of my sump pump right there. So there’s stupid things home owners can do.

TM: You didn’t fry it right there? 

RS: Huh? 

TM: Wow. Well, lesson learned though, huh? 

RS: Yeah, yeah.

TM: Never do that again.

RS: Never do that again. All right.

TM: Oh man.

RS: Let’s see. We got a couple other ones to power through here.

TM: Yeah.

RS: Insect screens. If you’re like me, you’d like to take your screens off of your windows in the fall so you got nice windows to look out of. They’re not obstructed by screens. Put them back on. Easy as that. Super simple. Outside faucets. If you’re a diligent homeowner, you would have winterized all of your outside faucets. Turn it back on whenever you feel like it. There’s never any rush to doing this, but when you’re thinking about spring maintenance, just get it done. So the first time you need to use your outside faucet, you don’t need to go hunting for your shutoff valve. Just get it done.

RS: Dryer duct, it’s a good idea to check on the dryer terminal, the part on the outside, make sure that it’s not all clogged up with lint. Make sure that the flapper opens and closes freely. Check on that. That’s another good one. And if it doesn’t, clean it. If you got a short little run, maybe you can just stick your hand in there and clean it out a little bit. If you’ve got a longer run, perhaps you would wanna hire a professional to come out and clean your dryer duct. If you’re super ambitious, you could try getting a dryer duct cleaning wand and you could do it yourself. I’ve even heard of people disconnecting their clothes dryer, if you’ve got good access to it, and then taking a leaf blower.

TM: Oh my gosh.

RS: And taking the leaf blower…

TM: No. Really? 

RS: On the inside and blowing all of it out. I got no problem with it. That sounds great.

TM: Can we hire Anna to do that? 


RS: Yes. My wife has been known to use a leaf blower inside the house.

TM: For cleaning and maintenance, yes.

RS: For cleaning and maintenance to get all of the dog hair pushed from one side of the house to the other. Yes.

TM: She’s more than qualified to use the leaf blower I think for the dryer duct. Well, okay, so what about people that have screens on their dryer duct terminal? What do you think about those? Or like the little… Like a little grate almost that protects the exhaust duct and the damper? 

RS: Yeah, that’s bad news. They’re not allowed in Minnesota. You’re never supposed to have any screen or filter, any of that on the dryer terminal, ’cause they’ll get blocked with lint and then you got a safety issue. So if you have one of those, remove it. I don’t care what your pest control person told you. They have no business being on there. Remove it.

TM: But in theory, as long as that damper is staying clean, it’s going to close and make a nice seal. So you don’t have to worry about pests coming in. But as soon as that damper gets clogged up with lint, that’s when it kinda gets stuck open. And that’s when you can have a problem with pests.

RS: Exactly. Yep.

TM: Okay. So just stay on top of cleaning that. Got it.

RS: And then let’s see, for your air conditioner. We’ve told people you don’t need to put a cover on your air conditioner in the fall. But if you did choose to put a cover on there, be sure to take the cover back off before you turn on your AC for the first time in the spring or summer. Remove your cover. And then for your furnace, your furnace, the way most houses are heated and cooled in Minnesota is with a forced air system where you’ve got this box where you got the furnace and you got the blower fan all contained in the same unit. And the furnace’s blower fan is gonna run during the summer and it distributes air throughout the system. It hands it over to the air conditioner to remove heat and remove moisture from the air. But it’s all the same duct work. So you need to change your furnace filter or your AC filter, whatever you want to call that. You need to do that year round. It’s not just a wintertime thing. So quick reminder, stay on top of your furnace filter, whether it’s heating or cooling season.

TM: Yeah. If you’ve got duct work and an air handler, check that filter.

RS: Yep. And I have this list all available. We’ll put a link to it in the show notes. But we’ve also got a couple of other listener suggestions, Tessa. You shared these with me. Someone wrote in. There’s a couple more what… ’cause I was saying, what else did I miss? What did I miss, Tess? 

TM: Well, I think this is an A-plus homeowner. So this is a comment from Alex. He says that he also makes sure that he cleans his intake for his HRV at his house, his air-to-air exchanger. And also with that, there’s internal filters with that machine and then the core, too, the heat exchanger core that has to be cleaned. So that’s when he does it. He does it in the fall, winter, and in the spring. And then he also said along that line, too, that he does have a whole house humidifier, which he uses in the wintertime. But he checks the filter for that and replaces it if necessary, and then turns off the water supply to the humidifier in the springtime. So it’s adjusted and not running in the summer as well.

RS: That’s a good call for sure.

TM: Very good. Very good tips. Yes. Thank you, Alex.

RS: And also on the HRV is turn it off, ’cause if you have a heat recovery ventilator, those are designed to run in the summer. You don’t need those… Or excuse me, those are designed to run in the winter. You don’t need them going in the summer. So go ahead and shut that off. And then I think the last one is if you have a gas fireplace, some people like to turn off the pilot light to the gas fireplace. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s something you need to do. I think I leave mine on year round. It doesn’t use a lot of gas. And what I’ve actually heard is that it’ll help prevent spiders from making little nests in the little openings and then obstructing stuff. So I like to leave my pilot on year round. But for some people, they may choose to turn off the pilot to their gas fireplace too. So it might be another option…

TM: That’s good. And one other tip… Yeah. One last thing Alex did mention too, was getting ready to run the dehumidifier in his basement too, come spring time.

RS: Yeah. Yeah.

TM: So that’s another good tip.

RS: Yep. Yep. We’re either adding humidity or we’re removing humidity.

TM: Removing it.


TM: Make up your mind.

RS: Yeah.

TM: Yeah.

RS: Cool.

TM: Well, that was a very helpful list, Reuben. Thank you for putting that together. We’ll add to it for next year.

RS: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. We’ll have a more complete list, I’m sure. But Tessa, great to see you.

TM: Good to see you too, Reuben.


RS: Glad you’re staying busy. Like I said, we will have a link in the show notes to your venture. And for the listeners, if you’ve got any thoughts, please feel free to share them with us. You can email us And until next time, I’m Reuben Saltzman, Tessa Murry, signing off. Thanks for listening. Take care.

TM: Thanks.