Ask The Inspector
Spring Cleanups and Maintenance
Q. What tasks should I do around my house this spring?
A. That’s a great question, and the timing is perfect for our spring home maintenance checklist. Whether you’re a seasoned home owner or a first-time home owner, here are some of the things to check and prepare around the house as the weather warms up.
Inside the house: Investigate the attic and the basement or crawl space for dampness or leaks. Check and change the furnace filter, as a dirty or clogged filter reduces the efficiency of your furnace. Make sure the sump pump (if present) is operating correctly — the last thing you want is for melting snow or heavy spring rains to flood your basement. Clean the clothes dryer exhaust, duct, damper and space under the dryer.
Walk around the exterior of the house: Inspect the foundation, basement and garage for signs of termite infestation. If you notice evidence of termites, call an exterminator. Check the windows for loose or missing putty/glazing, broken glass, foggy glass and damaged screens. If you have a deck, look for loose railings, wobbly stairs and deterioration, and make repairs as necessary. Other things to check are your walks, patios and driveways. If you notice cracks or broken areas, it’s time to fix them.
It’s also important to check your home’s siding for damage after winter’s storms. Check vinyl and aluminum siding for cracks. Check wood siding for peeling paint and damaged wood. Check brick veneer for cracks that are wider than 1/16 inch. Also, check for soft mortar joints or missing mortar.
Look up: Inspect the roof, flashing, chimney and gutters. Look for missing or lifting shingles; loose or missing flashing; cracks or damage to the chimney; and damaged or sagging gutters. Clean out debris from gutters and downspouts. Any of these problems can contribute to leaks and moisture inside your house.
Walk around the yard: Check the grading around the house — the ground should slope away from the house for proper drainage and to prevent water intrusion around the foundation. Check for overhanging tree limbs and trim any that touch the roof of your house or block pathways. Clean leaves and other debris away from the outdoor air conditioning unit.
Prepare equipment for yardwork season: Check the outside hose faucets for freeze damage. If you didn’t disconnect your garden hose in the fall, you may find a cracked hose bib. Check your gas- and battery-powered lawn equipment and tools to be sure they are ready for spring and summer use.
The Importance of Property Inspection
Any property requires maintenance to maintain comfort and value. Regular maintenance inspections by an unbiased inspection professional can help clarify and prioritize maintenance projects.
Living in a home, or walking in to a business each day, means tenants get used to minor imperfections, like uneven steps, cracks in the pavement or sticky doors. These easy-to-fix items may be more easily pinpointed by a new set of eyes – before they lead to greater safety hazards.
A record of regular maintenance inspections and follow-up re-inspections to insure that any safety issues or other findings are corrected promptly can help sell the property at a higher price in the future. Consider scheduling maintenance inspections at least once every 5 years or before starting a major remodeling project.
When hiring an inspector, look for someone who is a member of a professional organization, licensed if your state has licensing laws and complies with clear Standards of Practice and a Code of Ethics. Inspectors should also carry insurance and be willing to answer any follow-up questions after the inspection.
Snapshots From The Field
What’s Wrong With This Photo?
- This is better than no downspout.
- This downspout is probably not large enough to adequately disperse water out of the gutter.
- This is large enough to handle any amount of water collected in the gutter.
- This pipe makes it easy to connect any size downspout to the gutter.
Correct Answer 2.This downspout is probably not large enough to adequately disperse water out of the gutter.
Hiring Out Small Jobs
Spring is approaching quickly. It’s a great time to consider completing some of those remodeling and maintenance tasks that have been on the back burner. Not every project requires a contractor to oversee and coordinate. A local handyman may be able to handle one or two-day projects such as: painting, carpentry, hanging fans, drywall, hauling and yard work. The key is finding a trustworthy professional.
Try these tips to start:
- Make a list of projects you need completed
- Decide if you need a specialist, someone to paint hard-to-paint surfaces, or several rooms at once, or a generalist, a person who can organize and complete several small projects over a couple days.
- Ask friends and family for the names of people they have used in the past.
- Interview prospects in person to get a feel for their communication skills and professionalism.
- Request references and follow up with them.
- Check with the local Better Business Bureau to see if the person has had any negative feedback.
- Ask for a written estimate and contract.
- Never pay in cash, and withhold final payment until all work is completed.
- Ask for proof of liability insurance.
Sometimes a specialist is needed on a job, but often a local handyman or general contractor can help you complete your projects. Take an inventory of all of the plans you’d like to get off the ground and start asking around for recommendations. Find the right professionals in your area to help make ideas become a reality.
Keeping gutters clean and free of debris is essential to preventing them from failing. When gutters fail, water may be allowed to run into walls and windows, damage the paint, or filter into the foundation. However, not everyone has the time or the skill to balance on a ladder to periodically clean out the gutters. Several products are available to cover or guard the gutters and reduce the amount of maintenance.
- Open gutter guard systems use mesh screens, or screens with diamond or circular shaped holes to cover the top of the gutter. Water drips through the screen, while larger debris, such as leaves and nuts, falls over the sides of the gutter or eventually blows away in the wind. These systems must be properly anchored and rigid enough to avoid sagging under the weight of wet debris.
- Closed gutter guard systems have solid tops. They rely on the principle of surface adhesion. Water flows over a curved edge into horizontal holes on the sides of the guard while unwanted debris simply rolls off the edge.
Before selecting a specific gutter guard, consider the variety and amount of vegetation that exists on a particular property. Gutter covers or guards are good at keeping large and medium-sized particles out of the gutter. Smaller particles may find their way through the holes. Other options are increasing the size of the gutter itself, or hiring someone to periodically clean the gutters.
For Your Information
Be On The Lookout For These If You’re A Homeowner
Your home may be the largest purchase you ever make, so it’s worth your time to keep it in good repair. What you don’t want to do is create more work for yourself. The following are some common mistakes home owners often make in the name of maintenance or home improvement:
Ceiling fans: Ceiling fans are not ordinary light fixtures. Their weight, size and motion require extra support. Never hang a ceiling fan from a light fixture box or install it without the proper electrical connections or support. Improperly installed ceiling fans will be noisy and potentially dangerous.
Wooden fences: To help prevent wood-destroying insect (WDI) problems, keep wood — including fences — away from the walls and foundation of your home. Use decorative rocks or other materials instead of wood mulch, and avoid nailing wood fence posts to the walls of the house.
Permits: Before starting any home remodeling project, determine what permits and inspections are necessary. Check with your local building department or other regulatory agency to ensure that your project adheres to the proper safety and local building codes. This can save you money in the long run, and prevent problems when you sell the house.
Did You Know?
Proper Length of Downspout Extensions
What is the proper length for downspout extensions? The short answer is, “as long as it needs to be to divert the water away from the home’s foundation.” But how long is that?
It depends on the grading around the foundation. Gutter extensions will need to be longer for yards that slope toward the house than ones that slope away. Typically, the rule of thumb for downspout extensions is a minimum of 2 to 3 feet; however, if your grading is sloped toward the house, the extension may need to be 4 feet or longer to prevent water from accumulating around the foundation.
Monthly Trivia Question
To preserve its natural beauty, one of these 3 states has banned all outdoor advertising billboards.
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.