Monday, March 10, 2014

Homeowners Spring Checklist

Homeowners need to be reminded that they should practice preventative maintenance at least twice a year.  Spring is the time of year to make sure that your home is ready for the warm, wet and buggy season.   My routine starts in the basement.  I can work my way up the inside of the house and then move to the outside, weather permitting.  Inspecting the inside of the house can be started in any weather.  I actually like to do the inspection in the rain or wet times.  This helps find any leakage.  Each house is unique but the basics are the same.   Most of the items will be applicable to homes in any metro area.

     INTERIOR CHECKLIST
     1. Look for cracks in the foundation walls and the floor of the basement.   Any moisture that seeps in over the winter could have frozen and expanded existing cracks or created new ones.  If you check in the fall, you should have an idea of changes or new damage.   Patch any cracks with a tube of chalking or instant patching concrete (in a tube). 
     2. Make sure that there are no visible leaks in any of the exposed pipes (water and sewer).  When looking for leaks, have someone run water and flush toilets at the same time you’re watching the pipes.  If any of the pipes are in a crawl space or next to an exposed wall, you might need to remove some of the insulation to get a good look at them.  Don’t ignore the pipes if they are difficult to get at.  Remember, “Out of sight, out of mind” can lead to expensive repairs later.
     3.  If you have a forced air furnace with central air conditioning, this is the time to clean the unit.  Replace filters and vacuum the inside of the cabinet.  The filter should be replaced on a monthly schedule.  Most service companies will provide a spring tune-up for a reasonable cost. 
     4.  Winter or summer, carbon monoxide is dangerous.  Warm weather means the central air will be on and the house will be closed up.  Always check the exhaust chimney/flue on the furnace and water heater.  Make sure they are free of holes and corrosion.    You can use a screw driver, or like object, to tap on the pipes.  This will help find damaged parts of the exhaust pipes.  Usually the damage will be on the bottom side of the flue where moisture collects.  This would be good time to install a Carbon Monoxide Detector if you didn’t install one in the fall.
     5.  Check your water heater for leaks.  Look inside the housing around the open for signs of rust or moisture.  If you see signs, call a professional and see if they can find other damage.  If you have followed a routine you should already be draining about a gallon of water out of the heater to remove sediment.  If not, now might be a time to start.  A word of caution, if your unit is old and has never had this done...you might be asking for disaster.  Removing sediment could uncover leaks and pits that would generate leaks.   
     6.  Spring is also a great time to hang around the fireplace on cool nights. And spring is also nesting time so make sure that the chimney flue is not blocked by nests or animals.
     7.  Spring brings in all the animals, wherever they can get in.  Patch any holes or openings in the attic area.  Broken windows or attic vents, any access without screens, will be easy access for animals to enter.  Fall the animals came in from the cold, spring they come in to raise families.
     8.  While your in the attic area (whether it is a crawl space or not) you will want to look for stains or black spots that would indicate leaks.  You might also want to use a screwdriver or awl to gentle push on some of the roofing underlayment.  If the wood is damaged or rotted the tool will push into the material very easily.  Snow or ice that settled on the roof might have seeped into the underlayment.  Mark any area you find and keep a record of the size of the stain.  Compare it to the stains from the fall.  Did it get bigger?  If so, you need to find the source. If not it might be an isolated problem.
     9. Electrical outlets and switches should be inspected for signs of arcing (black marks, soot or melted areas) and cracks.  Replace as necessary.
     10. Lubricate the doors and cabinet hinges throughout the house.  Dry winter weather makes for squeaking hinges and hard to turn latches. 
     11.  Make you plans for wallpaper or painting.  
     12.   Winter cold and moisture dries out the garage door, tracks and rollers.   Lubricate everything you can get at.  Change the batteries in the portable units and adjust the door for proper operation and sealing.  Repair or replace the door edging and bottom seal. 
     13.  Check to make sure the garage openers automatic safety features work.  Spring means kids, bicycles and toys.  The safety stop allows the door to rise if something is in its way as it closes.  As you put the door down, grasp the handle and stop the door if it doesn't go up the safety system is bad or needs adjustment.


     EXTERIOR CHECK
     1.  Take a walk around the exterior foundation and look for cracks or signs of winter damage.  Patch any cracks and holes with caulking or patching cement.
     2.  Make sure that the foundation has a good build up of dirt to direct the flow of water away from the foundation.  Recommendations run about an inch of slope for each foot of distance.  Ultimately, you would want about six feet of slope from your home or more.  This is not always possible, so get as much distance as possible.  Estimates are that over 75 percent of the moisture problems in a basement can be sure with correct drainage.
     3.  Clean and repair gutters and down spouts.  Add extensions to the down spouts if needed.  Make sure that the water drains away from the foundation (see the above number 2)
     4. Check around the windows, doors and vents for cracks or gaps.  Fill all with caulking or filler.  Remove old caulking before installing new. 
     5.  Replace storm windows with screens and repair tears or holes.  Windows should be reglazed, scraped and painted.
     6. Inspect your porch or deck for damaged wood or loose boards.  This is also a good time to clean the deck with a deck wash and waterproof the wood to prevent further damage.  While you’re under the deck look for cracks in the foundation and inspect the pillars and posts that support the deck.
     7.  If the posts are rotted at the bottom, you can often repair the base by removing the bad section and inserting another board in its spot.  This replacement piece can be removed in the future after it rots without having to remove the complete post.
     8.  Check the roof for damaged or loose shingles.  Loose shingles need to be glued down with asphalt cement.  Missing or damaged shingles need to be replaced.  If there is more than 50 percent of the roofing that need to be repaired, plan on a new roof. 
     9. Check the flashing for rust or damage.  Flashing, usually metal or tar paper, is placed where the roof meets the chimney, windows, and edges.  Flashing needs to be protected and sealed to prevent moisture from getting under and damaging the roof.
     10. Make sure the chimney caps and screen are in place.  Nesting forces the animals to hunt for dry area to raise their families.  It will either be your attic, your chimney or the neighbor’s house. 
     11. Check the siding for rot or damage.  Replace or repair the damaged areas and seal, prime and repaint


Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Letting maintenance go unrepaired through the spring and summer months can turn a simple problem into a very expensive repair.  Need help; call contractors or do-it-yourself stores because answers only come after you ask questions.

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