Things Your Parents Didn’t Tell You About Taking Care of Your Home: Spring Maintenance
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin
These wise words of one of our founding fathers was originally written to address fire safety, but it is an axiom that holds true for most things in life, including home maintenance. Proper and timely maintenance of your appliances, filters, structure and land can not only prevent expensive repairs in the long run, it can also reduce costs and improve performance on a day to day basis. The spring is a particularly important time to consider routine maintenance. Winters can be very hard for many parts of the nation. Some appliances and fixtures are worked overtime to keep your home warm and dry, exterior surfaces can take a beating from extreme temperature fluctuations, and filters might be overly clogged from increased airflow.
First, take a walk around your property, looking carefully for anything out of place, especially on your house. Look for sagging gutters, warped trim, water stains, or any new signs of wear and tear.
Clean gutters out thoroughly. Empty gutters allow water to flow freely, and clogged gutters can create a breading ground for mosquito, provide poor drainage, increase the potential for water damage to the roof, and create other issues. No matter where you live, you’ll want to thoroughly clean out the gutters at least twice a year, more often if they tend to accumulate debris. Make sure you also clean out the downspout gooseneck, which can be done fairly easily with a hose. If your roof has asphalt, check where the downspout empties out for loose granules. Check the gutters themselves for problems like loose parts and downspout clearance. Make certain that water is draining away from your home and not pooling back toward the foundation.
Using all appropriate safety precautions, inspect your roof for loose, cracked, or buckled shingles and other signs of damage. Flashing around chimneys, skylights, and plumbing vents should be investigated and repaired by a professional.
Inspect masonry chimneys for signs of exterior damage like loose bricks and plants growing on them. Check masonry joints for efflorescence, a white calcium-like deposit. It’s important to consider getting the flue cleaned by a certified chimney sweep at some point between the spring and fall, since regular chimney cleaning can be one of the most important things a homeowner does to reduce the risk of fire in the home.
Trim or prune back trees and bushes, especially if you didn’t do so in the fall. Branches should be at least 5 to 7 feet from your home. Trim back any trees that might risk interfering with electric lines. If you have forested areas on your property, now is a good time to clear undergrowth, before any leaves come in. Check for dead plants and shrubs, as well as for anything growing in cracks in masonry.
Check that window screens and sealing are firmly in place and not damaged. Replace window screens if they have any holes. Use caulk to repair any problems with sealing around the edges of windows.
Maintain exterior paint if applicable, by pressure washing the exterior (avoiding windows), scraping off chipped or peeling paint, and repainting over exposed surfaces. This is especially important for wooden siding, to help prevent rot. If your house has a crawl space, check foundation vents if applicable. Make certain that they’re undamaged and firmly in place, and clear them of any debris.
Remove dead leaves, downed branches, and any debris remaining from your lawn, to avoid grass being stunted when growing.
Check wooden decks and patios for warped, splintered, or loose boards. Clean decks and patios, regardless of material. If your deck is made of composite material, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance. If a wooden deck has started to fade, use this time to clean, stain, and reseal the wood. Wash outdoor furniture with a mild detergent or by rinsing with a hose. Check for chipping or eroding paint. Check metal furniture for rust.
Check your air conditioning system and prepare it for the summer. Specific instructions for maintenance will vary by the type, make, and model of your air conditioning unit. Window units are very different from centralized air systems, after all. User guides should detail which specific maintenance tasks are needed. If you have a more complex set-up, like a centralized heating/ cooling system, then it’s best to hire an HVAC professional to service your system instead of trying to go it alone.
Check your attic thoroughly for potential problems. Attics especially tend to attract insects, vermin, and mold, all of which can potentially cause problems when left untreated. Mold will most likely resemble gray or black blotches and might look like something’s been stained. Check that your attic has proper ventilation and insulation, to prevent future problems with damp.
Basements, like attics, tend to accumulate dampness and insects. Look carefully for cracks along the bottom of poured-concrete walls, since water will tend to pool in the cracks. If your basement has problems, check and repair the ventilation and consider installing a dehumidifier. Also carefully examine any exposed framing with a flashlight, looking for signs of tunneling. If you see any, call a pest control company, since termites can present a major threat to the structural integrity of your home.
Check your plumbing throughout the house. Look for and address leaky faucets, clogged drains, and sweaty pipes. Check under any sinks and behind any washing machines to make certain that all pipes and hoses are properly connected and sealed, and that hoses don’t have any cracks, bulges, or dampness. Check around the dishwasher for dampness or other signs of leaks. You’ll also need to check the hot water heater for corrosion, leaks, proper connections, and dampness.
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