Spring is just around the corner, and home maintenance thoughts start turning from inside to outside. Maybe you’re considering getting your home ready to sell this spring and need to check out its “curb appeal”, or maybe you’re just getting things ready for the coming outdoor season — either way, the following checklist should help your plans to spruce things up, and also give you a head start on warding off future maintenance problems.
Fences: A good place to start is with the perimeter of your property. Winter plays havoc with fences, so check them out carefully. Wiggle the posts to see that they’re still firmly set, and look for loose fence boards and loose or rotted stringers. Check also to see if the fence is due for a fresh coat of paint or other finish.
Drainage: While walking the property, be sure and think about drainage around your home as well. Winter storms can cause shifts in local topography that may change drainage patterns, allowing water to move or pool around the foundation, or come into contact with your siding. Look for areas of water staining on the concrete, or dirt or water stain patterns on siding.
Trees: In the wet and well-treed Northwest, you need to keep an eye on potential problems caused by the trees on your property. As you tour, look for limbs that have cracked or are sagging, or trees that may have more of a lean than you remember. Check for overhanging limbs that may be shading the roof and causing mildew problems, or that may be deposing leaves or pine needles that can clog gutters and create a fire hazard.
Foundation: Check the foundation for signs of cracks or other leakage problems. Small cracks can be a source for seepage into the crawl space, and you especially want to take notice of larger cracks that may indicate movement in the ground under or around the home. If you’ve noticed water in the basement, keep that in mind as you analyze both the foundation and the surrounding drainage patterns.
Decks: Rain and snow take their toll on your decks, so check them over carefully. Check the condition of the boards for rot or splitting. Walk the entire deck to check for protruding nails, and also to see if everything feels solid — sometimes a simple walk will point up loose supports or areas that need addition bracing. You’ll also want to pay attention to deck rails, looking for loose boards, missing nails, separated joints, and support posts that feel wobbly. Finally, check the condition of the deck’s finish, and determine if a fresh coat is due this summer.
Siding: Carefully examine the siding to see what winter has wrought. Look at the paint, especially on the main weather-exposure sides of the house. Check the caulking around windows, trim boards, and siding penetrations such as lights and faucets. Look for cracked or sagging boards, or nails that are working loose.
House numbers: While you’re looking at the siding, take a moment to check your house numbers. Are the firmly attached and clearly visible from the street? Do they even exist?
Gutters: Bad gutters can cause a variety of moisture problems, and also detract from the appearance of your home. Check that gutters are firmly attached, and that downspouts are well secured and draining properly away from the house. Check the paint for deterioration, especially around joints where you may find indications of leaks in the seams.
Roofing: Let your eyes keep wandering upward, and take a critical look at the condition of your roofing — you may even find that a pair of binoculars comes in handy. Check to see if shingles have blown off or worked loose, or if they’re starting to curl. For asphalt shingles, look at the overall condition of the mineral granules that coat the shingles. Look at the ridge shingles — especially wood ridge — to see if any are missing or cracked. Check the condition of flashings and skylights as well.
Chimneys: Take a very close look at chimneys and flue pipes, which again can take a beating during the winter. For masonry chimneys, look for loose bricks or rock, or mortar joints that are deteriorating. For metal wood stove flues and flues for gas appliances, check the flashings, the condition of the pipes, and the condition of the flue cap. If you see any problems with your chimney or flue pipes, have a professional check and repair them immediately — problems in these areas are serious potential fire hazards.