Articles On Tahoe Donner & Mountain Home Maintenance

How To Create An Annual Home Maintenance Budget

Conventional wisdom and prevailing thought is to budget either $1.00 for every square foot of your home or 1% of the cost of your home per year for home maintenance and repairs for the average home in a mild climate.

This is, of course, a generalization and a rough starting point to build your home maintenance budget. Other factors that impact the projected cost of maintenance include: the age of your home; impacts of harsh weather environments, whether your home has been well maintained or generally neglected and its location to environmental stresses like floodplains.

A suggestion to determine your annual maintenance budget is to take an average of the $1.00 per square foot rule and 1% of your home’s cost rule and then add an additional 10% for each factor that adversely affects your home’s maintenance budget. Let’s assume that you have a 2,500 square foot house that cost $500,000. The $1.00 per square foot rule would suggest you set aside $2,500 annually and the 1% rule would suggest that you set aside $5,000 per year. Your average would be $3,750 per year for home maintenance as a rough starting point.

Homes in the Truckee/Tahoe are subject to tough winter conditions that require additional maintenance considerations and costs. Freezing temperatures, strong UV exposure and prolonged exposure to snow and water subject homes to greater strains. Landscaping needs to be protected from harsh winter conditions. Snow removal equipment and frost heave damage to asphalt surfaces.

The maintenance needs and costs of your home will ebb and flow. Some years you may spend very little on your home maintenance while other years you may have to swallow some big ticket items, like painting/staining or driveway replacement. Use the rules above as a starting point to help create a loose annual home maintenance budget.


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What Is Defensible Space


Defensible Space is the area around a structure where combustible vegetation that can fuel wildfire has been cleared, reduced or replaced. This space acts as a barrier between a structure and an advancing fire.

 In January 2005, a new state law became effective that extended the defensible space clearance around homes and structures from 30 feet to 100 feet. Proper clearance to 100 feet dramatically increases the chance of your house surviving a wildfire. This defensible space also provides for firefighter safety when protecting homes during a wildland fire.

 Within the 100 feet surrounding your home, there are three different zones.

 Zone 1 is defined as the first five feet around your home.  The strategy in this zone is to reduce the chance of wind-blown embers igniting materials near your home.  Choosing products like rock, gravel and concrete and not storing firewood/lumber or combustibles is critical.  

 Zone 2 is five to thirty feet from your home, and the strategy is to create a landscape that will not readily transmit fire to the home.  In this zone there should not be any shrubs under trees, trees need to be pruned and remove dead vegetation.  Trailers/RV’s and combustible structures should be removed from this zone or have a defensible space for several feet surrounding.  

 In Zone 3, the thirty to one hundred feet surrounding your home, the goal is to reduce the energy and speed of wildfire. You must remove dead plant materials and tree branches, thin and separate trees and shrubs, limb up trees and remove shrubs that can serve as ladder fuel.

 Understanding the three zones is extremely important for making sure you are prepared.   

 For more information and detailed diagrams on the three zones, visit CalFire’s website

 Helpful Websites:

Truckee Community Wildfire Plan

Truckee Fire Department

Nixle Emergency System Truckee Alerts

Tahoe Donner Emergency Preparedness

The Importance Of Sealing Your Driveway

Periodic driveway sealing will save you a lot of money by reducing the likelihood of a total driveway replacement. Intense ultraviolet light exposure, extreme temperature changes and the inevitable effects of snow removal wear down your Tahoe Donner driveway faster than driveways in non-mountain environments.

Driveway sealing helps protect the oils that bind the asphalt materials together. It seals over the porous asphalt surface, reducing the chance of water penetrating into the asphalt. The sealant also acts as a wear layer on your driveway, taking the brunt of the abuse from the driveway’s asphalt and transferring it to the top coat of sealant.

Most reputable asphalt maintenance companies will also fill the cracks in your driveway that are caused by age, settlement or tree root growth. Filling the cracks with a hot, rubberized compound minimizes the amount of water that can penetrate down to the base material and erode away the driveway foundation.

Recommended Driveway Sealing Intervals:

For flat driveways that do not experience a lot of scraping and tire chain wear from snow removal we recommend that they be sealed every 3 to 4 years. Large cracks should be filled annually. For steep driveways that experience a lot of chain wear from snow removal we recommend that they be sealed every 2 to 3 years.

The Importance Of Staining Your Home

Wood is an organic material that is prone to rot and decay if not treated properly. Our harsh weather conditions can dry out and wear off the protective coating that protects your house and deck, whether it be a oil-based stain, water-based stain or paint. Without protection, your wood can deteriorate rapidly from prolonged exposure to a whole host of elements, including moisture, mold and mildew, sunlight, dirt, food, other liquids, even air pollution.

Treating exterior wood provides many benefits. It helps preserve and protect the wood from warping, cracking and splitting. It prevents water from absorbing into the wood and promoting wood rot. It stops UV damage and helps maintain the color of the wood. It eliminates mold and mildew growth that can discolor the wood.

Penetrating wood finishes are absorbed into the wood, soaking the fibers and filling the surface pores so that water can’t get in. Many penetrative finishes contain wood preservatives that make them great for outdoor use as they fight mildew and fungus and, in some cases, insect infestation. Good protective finishes have inhibitors that prevent damage from harmful UV rays.

Maintain Your Chimney For Proper, Safe Operations

There are many reasons to have your chimney cleaned by a professional chimney sweep, including:

  • Preventing chimney fires by removing flammable materials like creosote, soot and ash.
  • Prevents corrosion of your chimney.
  • Prevents drafting problems that reduce your fireplace or stove’s heating efficiency.
  • Allows for inspection of your chimney to make sure it is safe and no critters have taken up residency.

A professional chimney cleaning will help prevent the possibility of fire and dangerous fumes. Typically, a professional cleaning includes an inspection of all stove components to make sure everything is in good working order. How often you have your chimney cleaned depends upon a number of factors, including what type of stove or fireplace you have, how often you use it and what type of material you burn in it.

Wood Stoves: Creosote is a highly flammable substance that builds up inside your chimney or liner as a result of burning wood. The rate of creosote accumulation varies depending upon your burning practices, efficiency of your stove or fireplace and the type of wood used. Pine causes a rapid buildup of creosote. If you use pine as your primary source of wood you should consider having your chimney cleaned often.

Pellet Stoves: Any type of wood burning you do with your fireplace and chimney results in the generation of creosote, soot and other combustion byproducts that need to be removed. You should also check your pellet stove’s fans, motors and burning unit. It is recommended that you have your pellet stove cleaned by a professional, especially if you use it regularly.

Natural Gas Stoves: Natural gas burns cleaner and produces less build-up than wood or pellet fuel. But natural gas stoves and fireplaces are complex appliances. Consider hiring a technician that is familiar with your type and brand of natural gas stove or fireplace to make sure the ignition system, pilot light, fans and air passages are all functioning correctly.

Why Does Driveway Crack Filling Material Get Soft In The Summer

Filling the cracks in your asphalt is the single most important step you can take to prolong the life of your asphalt. Small cracks allow moisture into asphalt. Water expands and contracts with temperature causing larger cracks. Larger cracks allow more water penetration to weaken base. Weaknesses in the base accelerate asphalt failure.

Most commercial driveway sealing companies, municipalities and Transportation Departments use a hot rubberized crack filling material as this treatment has proven to perform the best and dry quickly. Simply stated, a block of specially formulated rubber/asphalt mix is heated up to become a viscous liquid. This heated rubber is then poured into cracks in asphalt. As the material cools it works its way into the crack and, if done correctly, will bind to the asphalt and seal the crack from water penetration.

Because this crack filling material is a rubberized product its constancy and malleability changes with changes in temperature. In cold temperatures this material is a near solid material. On hot summer days it can become soft and squishy and may show tire impressions or power steering marks.

To avoid these marks try not to park your vehicle where the tires sit directly on top of crack filling material. Also, try to avoid turning your tires while your vehicle is stationary. Always make sure that your vehicle is in motion when you make steering corrections in your driveway.

Understanding Tahoe Donner’s Exterior Light Rules

In 2018 Tahoe Donner passed a new ‘Light Pollution’ rule. This new rule requires that all exterior lights must be turned off between the hours of 10:00 pm and 7:00 am. Lights that are on motion sensors and activate automatically are not subject to this new rule and can remain on.

In the past we have encouraged you to leave a light on at your house during snow storms to help us identify as occupied. To comply with Tahoe Donner’s new rule we now specify that you leave an interior light on that is visible from the street to help us identify the occupancy of your home during snow storms. Interior lights are not subject to the new ‘Light Pollution’ rule and may remain on throughout the night.

It is helpful to leave an interior light on when it is snowing and we’re clearing driveways. It is not necessary to leave your lights on during non-snow periods.

During most snow clearing events we are able to clear most homes by the time you need to leave in the morning. To provide you with timely service during heavy snow events we try to clear all occupied homes as early as possible. You can help us identify your home as occupied by leaving a visible interior light on.

Webcams Don’t Always Paint An Accurate Picture

Webcams are great for home security. They’re not so great at telling how deep the snow is in your driveway or how close your snow removal operator came to your garage door.

We’ve experienced a two to three-fold increase in the number of snow removal-related inquiries originating from remote webcam viewing this season compared to last year. As we follow up on these inquiries we’re finding that over half of these inquiries are the result of a misleading perspective created by the camera’s wide viewing angle.

We take all inquiries seriously and do our best to follow up with each one. However, please consider that web cams often provide a misleading perspective and that there is no substitute for in-person observation to formulate a complete picture of your home’s snow clearing performance.