Dear Maintenance Men:

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Jerry L’Ecuyer & Frank Alvarez

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have a toilet that runs every ten or twenty minutes.  I have replaced the fill valve, the flapper valve and I have even scrubbed under the rim!  In other words, all the items I can think of that are replaceable in the tank are new.  What else should I be looking at? 


Dear Sam:

You replaced all the easy ones!!  When all else fails on a toilet leak down issue; it is time to put on your rubber gloves and get an adjustable wrench.  Chances are the problem lies with the Flush Valve Seat.  The rubber flapper valve seals against the flush valve seat (the big hole at the bottom of the tank.) to either keep the water in the tank or let the water out of the tank.  The seat may have a burr, crack or calcium deposits that allow a small amount of water to seep past the rubber flush valve.  Sanding the seat to remove the burr or calcium deposit is a short-term solution and rarely solves the problem for long.  A permanent solution is to replace the flush valve. Start by turning off the water supply, completely empty the tank and remove the water line.  Remove the two or three bolts holding the tank to the toilet bowl.  Turn the tank upside down and remove the large nylon or brass nut that holds the flush valve to the tank. Install the new flush valve.  Be sure the tank bottom is clean and no debris gets between the new valve’s rubber gasket and the tank. Tighten the large nut on the outside of the tank and you are ready to reassemble the tank and bowl and put the toilet back into action.   When reassembling the tank to the bowl, install new rubber washers and bolts.  

Dear Maintenance Men:
We are getting bids for the driveway of an apartment house.  Each contractor has his own opinion about the scope of work.  It becomes confusing and difficult deciding which bid is the best.

Dear Anne,
“Apples and Oranges” bids are very common and not unique to the asphalt trade. Every contractor has different materials and suppliers which they are not only familiar with, but experienced in the application. As with any profession, a diagnosis, procedure, product and cure may vary. This is why a second opinion is always encouraged or necessary. We too often consider the” three bid” rule as  a tool to compare pricing and do not delve deeper into quality, workmanship, application, or other specification which can dramatically increase or decrease the costs related to our repairs.

It is best to develop a scope of work, with drawings which identify in detail the following, (this will ensure all other contractors are bidding on the same scope).

  1. Areas to be covered, replaced, repaired in square feet and outlined in site plan.
  2. Clearly identified type and quantity of asphalt mix, slurry, sealer. This is very important as most asphalt is recycled and diminishes in quality.
  3. Which equipment will be used to address repairs and distribution of materials (compaction and heavy rolling equipment is key).
  4. Communicate your long term or short term expectations.
  5. Ask that the application warrants against “pooling or “ponding”
  6. Look for proper compacted thickness according to load. (Example: 2.5 “of laid asphalt and then compacted 2” by roller.)
  7.  Monitor all work being performed to ensure the contractor is adhering to the contracted specifications. (Ask that a supervisor is always onsite).
  8. Scrutinize the lowest bid very carefully.
  9. Require all other industry standard practices, insurance, contract language be in the agreement.
  10. Visit the for additional tips on how to protect yourself. (This website is for California.  Google Contractors State License board for your state for similar information.)

Dear Maintenance Men:

My building has redwood fencing and patio decks. Both the fencing and decks are in good condition, however the “red” in the wood has faded with exposure to the weather.  The wood looks grey now. How can I bring back the redwood look back without buying new wood? 

Dear Josh:

A Redwood deck or fence may be young and fit, but they do tend to grey prematurely.  Luckily, the solution is not too hard.  There is a chemical called oxalic acid which will help give the wood its youth and vitality back again.  Most hardware stores will stock a product called cedar and redwood cleaner/brightener.  It may be under the brand name of “Olympic Cedar and Redwood Deck Brightener”  Be sure your deck or fence is clean before treatment by using a  TSP and water solution.  (TSP is a heavy duty powder cleaning solution available at any hardware store or supermarket.) After cleaning, be sure to read the deck brightener product’s instructions before use.  For safety and wear gloves and goggles.   Mix the product’s solution with water into a pump up sprayer.  Wet the deck or fence with the solution and using a nylon brush or broom, scrub the wood evenly, working harder on stained areas.  Let the solution stand for about thirty minutes and rinse off with a strong stream of water. Let dry and the wood should look brighter.  It might not look brand new, but it will look much better.       

WE NEED Maintenance Questions!!!    If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men:” column, please send in your questions to: 

If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. at 714 956-8371  
Frank Alvarez is licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance & construction for over 30 years. Frankie is President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and a lecturer, educational instructor and Chair of the Education Committee of the AAOC.  He is also Chairman of the Product Service Counsel.  Frank can be reached at (714) 956-8371 For more info please go to: 
Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker. He is currently a Director Emeritus and Past President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and past Chairman of the association’s Education Committee.  Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.