April 02, 2011
The words "spring cleaning" may conjure up images of hours spent in the garage cleaning out all of your old junk. Well, you're right, but it includes so much more. You can save on current and future maintenance costs and make your home more comfortable by following these simple preventative steps of home upkeep coming out of the winter season. Reverse winter's damage or wear and tear by keeping the following tips in mind.
Clean, Fresh Air
Indoor air pollution can be a problem. Not everyone thinks about the cleanliness of their air ducts or HVAC systems, but they should. Pollutants can find their way into these systems and cause a throng of health problems. To battle this potential onslaught, start out by changing out your vent filters. This is by far the easiest action to take and the least costly. Next, call a duct cleaning professional to clean out your ducting, registers and furnace fans and coils that are part of your forced-air system.
Windows and Doors
Water and air penetration can wreak havoc if your exterior doors or windows have issues. These can include leaks, drafts, peeling paint, or any other signs of water penetration or damage. Eliminate the problem by sealing any open areas between the frames and the walls to keep out water using the appropriate caulk or foam sealant. Also check the weather stripping around your doors. This can be a cause of some disappointingly cold (or warm) drafts. You don't want to be heating or cooling the outside - it can get expensive!
Do this by keeping your property clean - inside and out. Rather than using a pesticide or poison that can be harmful to most everything, try this advice. Toss garage and debris that has "settled" around the exterior of your home. The same advice applies to the interior. Don't give pests any extra reason for wanting to get into your house or to set up camp outside. Check the house for entrances and gaps where mice and insects may be tempted to come through. Seal up cracks and fix damaged window or door screens. Also, make sure all plants are at trimmed to at least 12 inches from the walls of your home. Carpenter ants and other creepy crawly creatures will walk directly across the branches of a rhododendron bush onto your siding or roof and into your home.
Do you have leaky pipes? After a cold winter, you should complete a routine check of your water pipes.
Check your exterior water spigots and pipes for damage from freezing winter temperatures. Check your interior plumbing as well, including under all your sinks, your dishwasher, water heater, washing machine, toilets and showerheads. If you notice any leaking or dripping or if you find wetness around any of your appliances or plumbing fixtures, you can tighten or replace hoses and replace valves. Be sure to always shut off the water supply to whatever you are working on at the shut-off valve. You don't want to create a bigger problem than you might already have! If it seems like a job that you aren't comfortable with, call your local plumber to assess the situation.
It's never a bad time to make sure your home is safe. Check all of your smoke, radon and carbon monoxide detectors and make sure they are all in proper working order. If they need a new battery, replace them. You can also check out and replace any damaged cords to your appliances, electronics, lighting or any other cords in your home. Any cord that is damaged or frayed could cause an unfortunate incident that no one wants to happen.
Now that winter is nearly done having its way with us, it's a smart idea to take a tour of the exterior of your house, walkways and the yard so you can prevent small problems from becoming bigger and much more expensive.
Check the Roof
Replacing a roof is one of the biggest expenses homeowners face, so why not extend the life of yours by doing a little upkeep? Wet spots or water stains in on your roof or in your attic after a rainy day are a sure sign of a water leak. If this is the case, call a roofing professional to take a look. It might be able to be patched. Aspects of a bad roof to keep in mind during your inspection include checking for moss build-up, damaged flashing around vents or a chimney, and blistered, rotting, curled or missing shingles. If you find any problems, you can clean off the debris, reinforce the flashing, or replace any damaged or missing shingles. Remember, always use fall protection when working on a roof or where a fall is a possibility.
Down and Out
Gutters can't do their job if they are in disrepair. Your gutters should be foliage free, unclogged by derelict leaves, twigs, or needles, and clean of any other debris that could make the travel of water harder than it needs to be. Stoppages can lead to trapped water that can grow into mold, mildew, and moss. Gutters should also be securely fastened to the walls of your home and all joints should be securely fastened together. And don't forget to run these same checks on the downspouts at the end of your gutters. They should divert runoff away from your foundation about 2 to 2 1/2 feet.
A Side of Paint
Keeping your siding intact and damage free will not only make your siding last longer (obviously), but it will keep water from intruding and rotting out the wood underneath. The culprits: chipped or cracked paint, mossy buildup and dirt. Getting rid of these nuisances can be accomplished with a variety of levels of service, including pressure washing, scraping and sanding. Then cover the bare wood with a primer and high-quality exterior paint product, thereby sealing your exposed wood from the elements and making your house all shiny, fresh and new.
Like mother always said, laundry is easier when you don't wait until all your clothes are dirty. The same is true with yard management. Get a jump on things now that the weather is warming up so you don't find yourself starting summer with overgrown plants, trees, and shrubs. Trim shrubs, plants and trees, and inspect for broken branches and remove them. Not only will your plant look better, it will be healthier. Keep branches and limbs at least one foot away from the walls of your home. This will discourage insects and bugs from using them as a bridge to infest your home. Clear debris and dead plants out of your plant beds. This goes for your lawn as well. Rake dead leaves and thatch off your lawn. This will remove impediments to new grass growth. Although you probably fertilized in the fall, you should lightly fertilize in the spring. Don't overdo it though: too much fertilizer in the spring can cause more harm than good. And if you have problems with weeds and crab grass apply a pre-emergent herbicide to knock them out before they become a problem.
Do you always seem to find new cracks in your concrete or asphalt surfaces like your driveway, foundation or sidewalks? These could be caused a number of ways, including minor settling, the freeze-thaw cycle and tree roots. Determine the reason for the crack or damage before you start any repairs. No sense in just fixing the symptom; fix the cause too. Most cracks are caused by moisture freezing and thawing. Water will seep into your concrete work and expand when temperatures drop to the freezing point. As that water freezes, it expands and creates cracks. Some cracks can be repaired by using the "do-it-yourself" technique. You can employ patching materials and fillers designed for asphalt and concrete surfaces to fix the damaged areas. This will preserve your concrete work and put a stop to further damage. Some other cracks and damage are so extensive that hiring a professional to fix or replace your concrete work is the best idea.
Yes, it's on the inside but it's a good idea every spring to make sure there aren't any holes that are bringing the outside in-in the form of birds or rodents. Your patching list should include fixing or replacing vent screens that have been damaged. Make sure they haven't been covered up by boxes or other items stored by the resident family packrat. Keeping the flow of air free from blockage will save on cooling costs in the summer. You also want to replace any insulation that is missing. Make sure you wear long sleeves and some protective eyewear; insulation can be harmful and itchy.
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