If you've invested in expensive technology consider protecting your investment with regular service by a professional. Builders, inspectors and other experts say that's always wise. Don't let the contract lapse.

Follow the manufacturer's advice for care and service. Owner's manuals are online. Just check the product for a model name or number, and go to the company site. The manual should answer most questions. Many have helpful pictures, and there's usually a toll-free hotline on which an expert (if you're patient) can answer questions. Today's homes are filled with components that weren't so common years ago. They make your home more efficient and less work. You can't ignore them entirely, though. So, as you plan your chores and projects for the coming year, here are some to keep in mind.
 


Limestone/marble
These ancient materials are more popular than ever. Not all stones need sealing. Ask your stone pro. Buy the best sealers you can afford. Grit and acids are the biggest threats to marble and limestone. Clean surfaces with a few drops of neutral cleaner, stone soap (available at hardware stores) or a mild liquid dish detergent and warm water. Go easy on the cleaner or soap, because too much can leave a film. Rinse thoroughly and dry. Do not use abrasive cleaners, or ones with lemon, vinegar or other acids. For deep stains, try a poultice at www.marble-institute.com/consumers.

 

Treated crawl space/attic
Closed, or sealed, crawl spaces are touted as efficient - and healthy - alternatives to the traditional vented crawl spaces. They're certainly drier and cleaner and brighter, so you shouldn't mind sticking your head under your house from time to time. And you absolutely should, experts say. Don't ignore this chore. Check regularly to make sure no moisture is getting in. If there's a dehumidifier, make sure it's working. Look for condensation. And if you see standing water, you have a real problem.

 

Vinyl windows
Vinyl windows are tough, and extremely popular. They should get a yearly inspection.
Clean window tracks of debris. Make sure weather stripping is sound and making proper contact. Replace as needed. When cleaning, never use abrasives. That can damage the vinyl skin of the window. If you need to lubricate a track, use pure silicone spray, not WD-40. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for caulking. When washing windows, be cautioned that bleach can discolor dark vinyl colors. And, remember, window films can void your window warranty.

 

HardiePlank/fiber cement siding
It won't rot. It holds paint. And it's very durable. It's the siding of choice on many new homes. Often called HardiePlank, it's almost trouble-free. Still, inspect annually. If caulking fails, water can penetrate the joint and damage the wood and framing behind the siding. If you're going to check your home's exterior less often, use caulk rated for at least 20 years, and longer is better. Choose a quality silicone or polyurethane.

 

Fiberglass doors
Minor dents can be filled with auto body putty. Follow the instructions on the can and, just as if you were working on a car, don't stint on the sanding. Uneven spots will show. For larger areas, cut out damaged fiberglass with a grinder. Repair with mat and resin from fiberglass repair kit. Prime, then paint. with 100 percent acrylic.

 

Stainless steel
Stainless steel is hot for kitchens because it looks good, resists rust and cleans easily. The biggest complaint about stainless is that the fridge shows all those little handprints.
Clean with a specialty product such as 3M Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish. Such products create a barrier against fingerprints. Avoid products with chlorine; mild abrasives can scratch. Read labels.

 

Multihead showers
There are six times as many connections that can leak, six times as many shower heads that can clog. Check regularly and clean with CLR or some other solution. You can use white vinegar to clear a shower head that has been clogged with mineral deposits. Place vinegar in a plastic bag, enclose the head and secure the bag to the shower neck with a rubber band or twist tie. Let stand for at least two hours.

 

Composite decking
Early on, composite decking was billed as a trouble-free - and chemical-free - alternative to treated lumber. You still have to clean it. The best way to prevent stains is to sweep or hose off regularly. To wash, use a commercial composite deck cleaner. Jomax is one popular brand.
For stubborn stains, allow solution to sit for a few minutes and scrub with a bristle brush.
Be careful with power washers. Some decking manufacturers recommend against them, and using one can void your warranty. Other makers suggest smaller washers with no more than 1300 PSI, with the fan tip no closer than 8 to 10 inches from the surface. The best known maker of composite decking, Trex, recommends that you wash your deck twice a year, in spring and fall, to prevent mold and mildew.

 

Allen Norwood, Charlotte Observer