by Rochelle Riservato
With the warm weather upon us, and sprigs of green spouting about—you may be thinking of spring cleaning. However, what good is ridding yourself of clutter and lacey winter cobwebs if there are even more important springtime tasks you shouldn’t skip. Plus, these are ones that will protect your house—not just make it look good. What good is a house that looks neat and tidy if major maintenance is not tended to?
Remember the small problems on our checklist below can lead to big problems down the road, if not tended to. Some of them are even safety issues that can definitely save lives—and your home.
So take a couple of hours to assess your home in the suggested places and decide what you’ll need to do. If maintenance is needed, dedicate a few hours each weekend and you’ll be done in no time. And for those big jobs—do yourself a favor and hire a professional!
First, make sure you’re comfortable using a ladder and walking on an often-steep incline. The Hudson Valley got hit with some strange weather this past fall and into the winter with torrential rains and an early snowstorm. And what gets hit the worst? The top of your home…your roof. The pounding of rain, the expansion and contraction of ice, and the subsequent run-off can create havoc on the roof’s shingles. They can loosen and expose the wood underneath. Check around roof vents, skylights, and chimneys for leaks. Small repairs on something that shields your home from the elements can save you major, costly repairs. If you found a small leak that you can do a self-repair on, the next time it rains make sure you check your ceiling for wet spots. And remember if roof shingles are curled, buckled, or starting to crack—it’s time for a new roof.
For unfinished storage attics, make sure to keep gable vents open year-round if your home has no ridge vent. This ensures proper ventilation. Now inspect the underside of your roof and the insulation for any discoloration or deterioration. Stains, even dirt stains, can be from a leak that has dried up. Also make sure that your insulation is not obstructing any vents. Look for any black mold or green algae. This can be easily killed with just a mild solution of bleach and water. You may want to hire someone to do this if you find mold, but it’s not necessary, just tedious. Next, look for any animal nests as small critters can fit through the smallest openings. Lastly make sure you have enough insulation—the recommendation is R-38, which is 12 inches of blown-in insulation or batt or roll insulation. If you have less than that, you’re not getting optimum energy efficiency. Remember it will keep your home cooler and use less electricity for your air conditioner as you move into summer.
Air Conditioning Units or System
Check portable AC units to make sure they are working and filters are cleaned—warm weather will come sooner than you think. An air conditioner not only cools you down, but an efficient air conditioner lessens moisture and humidity from the home, which can actually damage the foundation if left unchecked. Get in the habit of changing or cleaning the filters of both a central system and portable units once a month as dust and dirt decreases efficiency. Central AC systems require that the hose connections are not leaking and the drain pans are draining properly—so check those. If a condensate drain hose becomes clogged, it may be a build-up of algae. If this is the case, use a wet-vac to suck out any blockage. And while you’re at it, clean out the ducts also.
Whether your basement is finished or not—check walls and floor for dampness. If you have a dehumidifier, make sure you clean it regularly. Also check for water stains or any signs of leaching through the foundation. With all the flooding we’ve been experiencing in the Valley, many homeowners have had to do major repairs—so keep a close watch on a sump pump, if you have one, and make sure it’s working efficiently.
The average, planned obsolescence of a water heater is from eight to twelve years. It’s best to check for evidence of any leaking or rusting at the unit’s base—and if this is the case, you should replace the heater. In areas with hard water, it may be necessary to drain the water heater to get rid of sediment build-up in the tank. This should be done twice a year to keep the heater working efficiently.
As said before, we’ve experienced horrific flooding conditions, which can cause major erosion around your home’s foundation. If you see any gaps from soil wash-away, fill them in with dirt to guard your home’s foundation from unprotected exposure to spring and summer rains. A cracked foundation can become a maintenance and financial disaster. Before spring rainfalls, look for cracks or flaws and seal them right away. Also check for low-lying areas of your yard near your home’s foundation that may pool water during torrential rains. If you find that winter has presented dips and unlevel ground, level off these depressions with firmed soil. The same applies to other areas of the yard; if you see “ponding” divots, it’s best to level those out too, so that they don’t become breeding grounds for pesky mosquitoes.
Appliance, AC, Heating Filters and Vents
Keeping your utility bills down and extending the life of your appliances is extremely important in our economy. Just a few minutes can save money—and save lives! Move your dryer away from the wall and check and clean the vents. Also make sure the dryer filter is cleaned each and every time you use it. This is a major source of fires in the home and it’s simple to remedy. Now check the filters in the air conditioner units and the stove hood. Make sure that heating and cooling vents are clean and not obstructed by furniture and window-dressings. Now change the filters in your furnace. This will not only increase efficiency, but you’ll reap the benefits of a clean home environment with dust and lint-free ducts.
Drip, drip, drip. Not only is a leaky faucet annoying to hear, but it is also wasteful. So replace washers as needed, even if your cat loves to sit in the bathtub and leisurely lick the leak. And don’t forget to check for under-sink and dishwasher leaks—and repair as necessary. While it’s springtime and not hot enough for you to sweat doing these chores—make sure your pipes aren’t either. In addition make sure your drains are running freely and your washing machine hoses are not bulging, cracked, or damp. Lastly, inspect your water heater for leaks and corrosion.
If you have floor tiles in the bath or kitchen, check the grout or caulk for cracks. Even the smallest crevice in between the tiles can eventually lead to expensive repairs. Reseal with gout or caulk if needed. And a good habit to get into is to tell all the family shower-takers to wipe down the shower walls and tub to ward off soap and scum build-up as this can cause mold and even damage caulking around the tub and walls.
Your fridge is one of the biggest electricity eaters in the home—so making sure that your door seals are airtight is important. To test this, close the door over a dollar bill and if you can easily pull it out, the door latch may need readjustment or the seal may need replacing. Believe it or not, a tiny bit of air leakage can result in higher utility bills. And it’s also a good time to clean the back coils as that’s another cause of inefficiency. Now go stock up on food, treat yourself, as a full fridge and freezer uses less energy than an empty one.
If you have a fireplace, make sure to leave the damper open for enhanced ventilation if your home is not air-conditioned. It’s also a good time to check your chimney for soot build-up.
Check all smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers to make certain they’re in best working order. Replace batteries in appropriate devices as needed. A good rule of thumb is to change batteries when we “spring” our hour ahead for Daylight Savings Time.
Gutters and Diverting Water
Would you believe that more water damage happens to gutters in the spring? It’s true as winter’s freeze-and-thaw cycle, along with snow loads, shorten the life of your gutters and downspouts. So check them for broken clamps that may have happened with the weight of ice and snow. Also check them for foliage that wasn’t cleaned out during fall. Spring rain is the optimum time to make sure that all drainage areas are unblocked. Believe it or not, trapped moisture in your gutters can make your home susceptible to moss and mildew and cause maximum damage to roofs and walls. And, make sure that your downspouts are open and pointing at least two feet away from the foundation.
Storm Windows and Screens
The drastic changes in temperature between winter and spring can wreak havoc on caulking or rubber seals around your home’s windows and outside doors. Take time and look—it’s an easy fix and your energy bills will reflect the time invested. If you have removable storm windows—take them off, clean, and store them and replace with screens. And don’t forget to patch holes in door and window screens—to keep out mosquitoes and other tiny biters.
Siding and Paint
If your home’s exterior paint job is chipping and cracking, it’s time to remove damaged paint to protect wood from rotting. Scrape off failing paint and sand it down so all edges around the area are smooth. Now prime the bare wood and paint it with a high quality matching paint. And while you’re inspecting for paint damage, look for cracks and holes. If you have vinyl siding—go have some ice tea, but come back with a power washer as dirt build-up is unsightly and the perfect color you picked out may not be so perfect any longer.
Trees and Shrubs
Although this is an outside task, it will benefit your home’s interior during the dampness of spring. Keeping overgrown tree branches at least seven feet away from your home’s exterior will discourage moisture and mildew growth. Also by trimming back or eliminating any wildly growing vines, you will keep them from growing under siding and cracking it—thus giving a clear invitation to moisture and insects into the home.
If you’ve drained and turned off outside faucets for winter, turn them back on and prime if needed. Check for leaks around turn-off valves.
Windows, Doors and Insulation
Just like water will find the teeniest place to run through, so do drafts. So seal drafty doors and windows. You may be wondering why as spring has the most luscious fresh air—but think of summer’s heat, soon to come. Do you want hot air leaking in and cool air leaking out—causing your AC units to overwork? So check for drafts and replace seals as needed. Also look for peeling, chipping paint; a clue for water leakage. Seal open areas between the window or door frame and walls to block water from coming into the home, which will result in damage, moisture build-up, and potential mold growth. Not to mention, ants, spiders, and other unwanted guests creeping through.
Some of the maintenance tasks listed may not be your cup-of-tea or you may feel unqualified to tackle these projects. If that’s the case, please call on a professional.