Your spring home maintenance checklist
Winter’s officially behind us, but it likely left your home with at least one lingering reminder of its cold, soggy grip. Subtle winter-weather damage like clogged gutters, failed caulking or rotting trim can balloon into big, costly problems if left unchecked. And sadly, in all but a few limited circumstances, it can’t be covered by your homeowners or condo insurance.
We asked our loss-prevention experts to name the maintenance hotspots they check around their own homes this time of year. These 12 roof-to-foundation to-dos topped their list:
What maintenance does my home need in spring?
To ensure a thorough check, start at your home’s roof and move down the siding to the foundation. From there, work your way out to your property line:
Check your roof for moss and missing shingles or damaged flashing. Moss growth lifts shingles and accelerates rot in cedar shakes. It can shorten the life of your roof and lead to leaks. We’re big fans of professional roof care, including soft wash/brush agitation combined with the application of an eco-friendly moss-removal treatment formulated specifically for roofs (now often preferred over traditional, potentially damaging pressure washing). Not only can the pros safely access your roof and choose a product right for the job, but they’ll also check for problems that an untrained eye can overlook – things like missing shingles and damaged chimney flashing, which can let in water.
If you want to tackle moss yourself, keep in mind that you can do more harm than good if you walk on curled shingles (which can break and will need to be replaced) or choose the wrong “home remedy” for moss control. For example, beware of sprinkling laundry detergent on your roof – a DIY solution we see touted online every year around this time. The degreasers in the detergent can break down the water-shedding properties on some types of roofs and cause leaks, sometimes within days of application. Here’s more on safely getting rid of moss.
Clean gutters. Clogged gutters can overflow during spring storms, flooding your crawlspace, damaging siding and fascia boards, eroding planting areas and even impacting your foundation. Even if you can’t look inside your gutters, you can often tell if they’re clogged because you’ll see mud splashed up on your siding, caused when the gutters spill over during heavy rain. Usually, the same roof professionals who treat moss can clean gutters and downspouts, too. Homes in the PNW typically need to have their gutters cleaned twice a year – spring and fall – and more often if you live in a wooded area.
Aim downspouts so they empty at least two feet from your foundation. An errant tree branch blown down in a winter windstorm can easily knock a downspout askew and lead to flooding in your basement or landscape.
Check your siding for faded or peeling paint. A whole-house paint job is a major expense, but you often can extend its life by repainting only the “weather end” of your house (the one most exposed to wind-driven rain or full, beating sun). Paint is more than cosmetic since it protects your siding from damage. If you notice algae or mildew growth, try an algicide or mildewcide formulated especially for your type of siding. It can significantly brighten your paint job and, perhaps, add a few years before it’s time to repaint.
Inspect door frames and window trim for signs of rot. If you notice what looks like bubbled paint on the surface, GENTLY push on it with a screwdriver. If the wood seems soft, you’ll want to replace it as soon as possible. Deteriorated wood around a door or window frame can allow water to wick in during storms. When that happens under doors, we’ve seen it rot underlayment and cause carpets to mildew and hardwood floors to “cup.” Once you’ve replaced the damaged wood, fix whatever caused the rot, like a gutter that’s prone to overflowing or steps that slope toward the door.
Make sure your deck is sturdy. Use your screwdriver to test any wood that looks suspicious. Also, check for loose railings and supports before guests gather for that first barbecue of the season. Remove algae (besides being unsightly, it’s a potential slipping hazard) using an algicide or a pressure washer. If you pressure wash, keep the setting low enough that it doesn’t shred the wood fibers. Reapply water sealant according to the manufacturer’s instructions (every five years is common).
Replace missing weather stripping or peeled caulking. It can let in moisture, cold drafts during winter, and hot air during summer. Gaps commonly show up in caulking where door and window frames meet the siding.
Give your outdoor faucets the “thumb test.” Leaks may have sprung in your pipes during winter’s freezes and thaws. When you turn on your outdoor faucet for the first time this season, see if the pressure seems lower than you remember it. Also, put your thumb over the opening. If there’s little resistance when you block the flow of water (no water trying to spray out), you might have a pipe leak inside your wall where the water is now escaping. Shut off the water immediately and investigate any sounds of dripping inside walls.
Check for cracks in masonry and foundations. Not every foundation crack is a cause for worry, but you do want to keep an eye on them. If you notice them getting bigger or more numerous, they’re larger than one-quarter inch, you see new cracks in your interior walls or your doors or windows stick, get your foundation checked by a professional.
Get your A/C or heat pump unit serviced. As the climate changes, more people in the PNW are installing air conditioning. Just as your furnace needs annual professional service, a clean, well-maintained A/C or heat pump will run more efficiently. Your service tech can make sure no debris (or nesting critter!) has clogged it over the winter.
Fill in low spots where soil has settled. If you’ve developed a dip in your yard, bring in topsoil to level it out, compact it and reseed so you won’t have a mini-lake every time your run your sprinklers this summer.
Check trees for signs of disease. While seemingly healthy trees can blow over in windstorms, many show signs of distress before they topple. Spring is a good time to check your trees for insect activity like boring marks and wood shavings at the base of trunks, leaning trunks or pushed-up soil at the base, unexplained dead or broken branches or a yellowed appearance. If in doubt, consult an arborist and, if an ailing tree is deemed hazardous, let your homeowners association know before removing it (some have strict covenants against cutting down native trees and you’ll need to document the danger that it poses).
Count on PEMCO for home-maintenance reminders
PEMCO is committed to helping customers worry less and live more. Besides supporting you after trouble strikes, we want to help you avoid the hassle, heartache and expense of damage that might have been preventable. Check out our home maintenance collection to find homeowner tips for all seasons.
Also, if you’re thinking about spring remodeling, please let us know. Talk to your local PEMCO agent, visit us online or call 1-800-GO-PEMCO for a free insurance review to make sure your coverage keeps up with your plans.
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