Spring is just around the corner, and many homeowners are eager to get outside and begin enjoying their yards, decks and patios. Before you get comfy in that Adirondack chair, it might be a good idea to spend a Saturday checking off a few basic maintenance duties.
Make it a habit to regularly inspect your home’s exterior, and you’ll save yourself large repair bills down the road. Simple acts such as cleaning your gutters and checking the wear on your roof shingles isn’t difficult and will keep your home in good shape.
• Clean your gutters. The American Society of Home Inspectors suggests cleaning gutters in both fall and spring. In the fall, it’s important to remove leaves. But other things can fall into your gutters, too, from balls to bird’s nests. And in the winter, ice can melt during the day, then freeze at night and expand, potentially going up and under shingles and causing an ice dam.
• Inspect the roof. From the ground, look through binoculars for any cracked or missing shingles, shingles that have shifted or shingles that have popped.
• Check the chimney. Check joints between bricks or stones on a masonry chimney. If any have vegetation growing out of them it means water is filtering in. If the stones look white or calcified, it means they are absorbing water. Consider re-sealing the brick or stone.
• Be sure downspouts are discharging away from your foundation. Make sure the water coming off your roof flows away from the house, to prevent flooding in the basement or crawlspace. Check that downspouts are cleared and have not been stepped on or squashed.
• Examine exterior walls. If you see water stains on your siding, that generally means your gutters are not conducting water away from the house. Also, look for any holes or damaged areas that might allow insects or pests indoors.
• Look for a strong foundation. Check for cracks in the exterior of the foundation. If cracks are found, call in a specialist — this is not a job for a caulk gun.
• Clean the outside air conditioner unit. Spray the cooling fans with a garden hose to get dirt and debris off the unit, but be sure not to bend the delicate fins. Check that any nearby plants are trimmed back from the unit.
• Change furnace filter. Check and change the furnace filter regularly to help air move freely and prevent your ventilation system from working too hard.
• Prune foliage touching the house. Keeping plants near the house trimmed will keep insects and pests from having easy access to your house and prevent damage to the siding. There should be enough room to walk between the foliage and house without touching either.
• Check the sump pump. It’s a good idea to perform a monthly check on a sump pump, if you have one. Many people don’t know a pump has failed until flooding has already occurred.
• Clean your dryer vent. Some of the lint escapes the lint trap and goes into the dryer vent. Over time, it accumulates and can increase the time it takes to dry clothes. Plugged vents can also cause a house fire.
• Check the washing machine fill hose. Cracks in the fill hose can turn quickly into leaks, and a leaky hose under pressure can cause a lot of damage quickly.
• Clean and repair screens. Opening your windows at night is one way to reduce cooling costs. Check screens, clean them with soapy water and patch any holes.
• Clean decks, driveways, fences and other outside surfaces. Cleaning with a pressure washer (borrowed or rented works fine) makes everything look clean again and gives homeowners a chance to inspect for damage.
• Fix cracks in walks, driveway and outside the house. Cracks in asphalt or stucco can be fixed relatively easily if they are done shortly after they appear.
• Vacuum refrigerator coils. The coils at the bottom or back of your refrigerator should remain clear to better conduct heat away from the appliance. They must work harder to cool if they are coated in dust, which means a higher electrical bill.
• Replace batteries in your smoke detector. It’s a good idea to do this regularly in the fall and spring; some people tie it to the semi-annual switch to and from daylight saving time.
• Prepare your lawn mower for summer. Change the engine oil and keep the cutting blade sharp to lengthen the life of the mower. A well-cared for machine will improve the look of your lawn too.
• Check seals around windows and doors. Caulk around doors and windows can harden and crack in winter. Repairing or replacing the caulk not only improves efficiency of heating and air conditioning systems, it also prevents water from coming into the house, causing damage.
For more tips, check out the American Society of Home Inspectors, Bob Vila’s Spring Home Maintenance Checklist and U.S. News and World Report’s 15 Spring Home Maintenance Tips.