“The average life span of a typical 30- or 40-gallon water heater is about 10 to 12 years…”

Dear Maintenance Men:

I’m attempting to remove old caulking from around a bathtub. Are there any tricks or chemicals to help with this job?


Dear Steve:

Most bathtub caulking is either silicone or latex based. If originally installed properly, it should stick pretty well. Most household chemicals will not affect the caulking or help in its removal. The best method is to use a razor knife to cut along either side of the bead. Then pull the bead out by hand as you cut. The balance of the material can be removed with a flat razor, either along the old bead or perpendicular to the bead. After all the material is removed, use a damp rag to remove any loose bits. Before installing the new caulk, be sure the area is clean and dry. You can use a wet/dry vacuum to suck up any water left over from your cleaning.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I doing some long-term preventive maintenance with my building’s individual 30-40 gallon water heaters. Each unit has a water heater and I’m not sure of the age or condition of each unit. How long do most heaters last and what are some signs of imminent failure?


Dear Bryan:

The chances of a number of heaters failing all at once are very slim. Therefore, the cost of replacement can be spread over a period of time. The average life span of a typical 30- or 40-gallon water heater is about 10 to 12 years; some may last much longer depending on use and hardness of the water. A sign the end may be near is: banging noises coming from the heater, low hot water supply and long heater cycle times producing lukewarm water. At this point you should start pricing a new water heater. However, if you find water pooling at the base of the heater, replace it immediately, it has FAILED!

Dear Maintenance Men:

I own a small apartment building with an average amount of landscaping around the property. I have a garden service that comes each week. They cut and edge and do what they are supposed to do, I think, although they don’t spent a lot of time at the property. What should I expect from my landscapers or garden service?


Dear John:
We have a minimum list of items that must be completed at a property. If these items are skipped or ignored, we feel the property will suffer. On a weekly basis, we expect the garden service to provide the following:

  1. Cut the grass.
    2. Edge the grass.
    3. Pull out weeds between the sidewalk cracks, walk around the building, including the alley.
    4. Turn over the dirt in all the flowerbeds each week.
    5. Pick up any trash around the property.
    6. Sweep, blow or hose down the walkways.
    7. Turn on the sprinkler lines, check for clogged heads, broken lines, etc.
    8. Check that the timer is set properly.
    9. Cut, trim and thin any shrubs or bushes.
    10. Maintain communication with the owner about problems or improvements.

The above list takes time, half hour minimum at a small property. If your landscape gardener completed the list on a weekly basis, you could very well have the best looking property on the block! Which means higher rent… if you add color flowers… even higher rents!

Finding a landscape gardener to do above list consistently is not easy. Ask your local Apartment Association for recommendations or look in your neighborhood or city for a property with outstanding landscaping and ask who the gardener is. Have him give you a quote according to your “list”. Keep in mind a landscape company or gardener who gives the above service will charge more than a “blow and go” gardener; however, your property will reflect their above-average service.

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 a licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance and construction for over 20 years. He is also a lecturer and educational instructor for the Apartment Association. Frank can also be reached at For more info please go to: Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker and has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.