Q - As a first time home owner, I’m always wondering if I know what home maintenance I should be doing. Are there any routine tasks I should do in the Spring?
A - It seems like we are entering our 5th month of Spring, so spring cleanup this year should be a snap. No storm damage to worry about, no ice dams on the roof, no clogged gutters, no overtaxed furnaces trying to keep up.
Unless you’ve put off routine upkeep for eons, the repairs which your house does require may not be as expensive as they might have been. So what most pro-active homeowners are doing now is planning maintenance and repair tasks and setting priorities.
There are also a few jobs you can actually tackle, especially if April continues to be warmer than usuall:
Swab the deck. If you’ve been itching to clean the mold and mildew from the surface of your deck, get started. You might have it done by the time the weather is right for re-staining and waterproofing.
Remove mildew with a commercial cleaner or bleach diluted with water. You can scrub, but sometimes that raises the wood grain. Repsink or replace any deck screws that might have come loose.
Hit the bricks. Past freeze/thaw cycles may have resulted in “spalling” — mortar cracking and deteriorating in joints between bricks and stone on your walls, chimney, and other areas. You’ll need to hire a mason to determine the extent of the deterioration and how much re-pointing will be necessary.
If the mortar isn’t sealed, water gets into the joints. When water freezes, it expands and forces the mortar out of the joints. Eventually, they will be undermined, and water will leak inside.
Check the chimney. Have it inspected and cleaned. Creosote builds up every time you use a fireplace; it must be removed periodically to prevent fires.
If you don’t use your fireplace frequently, buy a chimney cap, which will prevent branches, leaves, debris, and wildlife (birds and squirrels) from getting inside.
Focus on the furnace. Though the days and nights are still relatively cool, determine whether your furnace remains up to the task.
Look at last year’s heating bills for January and, if possible, February and compare with this year’s. If you are using more gas, electricity, or oil this year despite the warmer temperatures, it’s time to determine whether you should be looking into something more efficient.
The sooner you determine whether there is a problem, the more time you’ll have for research and comparison-shopping before next winter.
Assess the air conditioner. With just a few months left before the summer shrouds us in heat and humidity, have your central air-conditioning system checked out.
If you use window units, now (or the late summer clearance sales) might be the least-expensive time to replace older, clunkier, and less-energy-efficient models.
Be a vet to your ventilation. How well have your windows and doors kept out wind and cold? You might find you don’t need to replace or refurbish every window, just the big offenders.
Look carefully, too, at windowsills and wood trim, keeping an eye out for water intrusion and cracking, open seams, and rust damage from nails. This usually starts at the bottom of the trim, so pay careful attention there.
The same care should go into checking your exterior doors. Old caulk can be weathered away from where a door sill meets concrete foundation or wet ground, resulting in leakage or rot. Instead of replacing the door, simply wait until the weather is warm (above 55 degrees) and re-caulk where necessary.
On the roof and at the edges. Stay off steep roofs. Use binoculars to look at the roof from the ground. Are there any broken shingles? Do some of them curl or look as though they have been worn away? What about the gutters and downspouts? Is the water draining away from the foundation?
The next time it rains, see where the runoff goes. If the water flows toward the house rather than away, you’ll need to have the area re-graded or the gutters and downspouts adjusted.
Check the condition of the foundation before plant growth hides it, to find cracks that could bring water into the basement.
Even if the gutters and downspouts are operational, you’ll need to check behind them. Water overrun and freezing can damage paint and wood in those places, resulting in rot. There also could be subsurface damage and dry rot along roof eaves.
If there are problems, the best time to book roofers is now, before they get really busy in the spring.
Insulate and protect. Even relatively colder outdoor temperatures offer the chance to target spaces where tightening up is necessary.
Although snow was scarce for us this year, unfrozen ground tends to hold moisture that can corrode garage-door frames and metal railings. Rust-proof or safeguard the surfaces accordingly.
Prepare to paint. It’s best to wait until the daytime temperature remains consistently higher than 55 degrees and nights stay above freezing. But the weather might be right for quickly scraping, sanding, and priming smaller areas to get ready for the bigger job.
In a heated garage or properly ventilated basement, you can prep and paint pieces of the exterior such as shutters or window boxes.
Keep a running list. You might not get to all the projects now, but if you get a head start, you might be able to enjoy the warmer days of spring, instead of spending them doing home chores.