It’s that time of year again. The snow caps are melting off the mountains and the sun is leading the way for getting the new year started. Backyard barbecues, relaxing on your deck in the evening, and enjoying the Colorado sunsets. But there are some things that need to be done first that are not only going to make your home more inviting for those weekend get-togethers, but prevent you from having to spend big bucks in the long run. Don’t worry, we have some yearly Spring maintenance tips here to make your home stay beautiful longer for years to come.
The cost of replacing your roof can be pricey. By spending just a few minutes outside on the ladder or with a pair of binoculars, you can inspect your roof and find small problems before they become major costly repairs down the road.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
- Missing, damaged, curling shingles and any other signs of damage. It is an easy and inexpensive fix to do yourself, or to hire someone to do for you.
- Check for signs of fungus or algae. If your roof is starting to collect moss or algae, install zinc or lead control strips.
- Inspect metal areas for rust. If it’s present, wire brush the rust, then prime and paint the metal.
- Examine the flashing to make sure it’s solid. If not, remove all of the old caulk and scrub the area clean before resealing.
- Seal any cracked mortar or caulking around joints and chimneys, if it appears to be deteriorating.
If you start seeing signs of leakage like dark spots on the ceiling, mold, or dampness in your attic, take action IMMEDIATELY! Roof leaks will only get worse and will eventually cost more than just a roof repair if left unmanaged.
OTHER ROOF ISSUES:
- Sweep or blow off excess debris on the roof. Sticks, leaves and other debris can damage shingles, cause algae to grow and eventually clog the gutters.
- Trim any branches that are hanging over the roof to prevent damage and keep squirrels and raccoons away.
- A thick layer of snow accumulation could lead to roof collapse. If this happens, carefully pull the snow off the roof using a snow rake available at most home improvement stores.
Cleaning siding removes the dirt and mildew that shortens the life of siding. A clean house protects your investment, too. Some real estate appraisers say good curb appeal can add 5%-10% to the value of your house.
With a bit of preventative maintenance, your home’s siding could be trouble-free for 50 years or more. And that means you won’t have to replace siding as often.
INSPECT SIDING FOR DAMAGE
You’ll want to repair any defects before cleaning. The sooner you make repairs, the better you protect your house from moisture infiltration that can lead to dry rot and mold forming inside your walls.
- All siding: Siding is vulnerable to water infiltration where it butts against windows, doors, and corner moldings. Look for caulk that has cracked due to age or has pulled away from adjacent surfaces, leaving gaps. Reapply a color-matched exterior caulk during dry days with temperatures in excess of 65 degrees for maximum adhesion.
- Wood: Check for chipped or peeling paint, and cracked boards and trim.
- Stucco: Be on the lookout for cracks and chips
- Brick: Look for crumbling mortar joints
- Vinyl: Check for cracks or punctures
Repairs to wood, vinyl, and fiber-cement siding require the expertise to remove the damaged siding while leaving surrounding siding intact. Unless you have the skills, hire a professional carpenter or siding contractor.
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR SIDING
All siding types benefit from an annual cleaning to remove grit, grime, and mildew. Cleaning an average-sized house may take you and a friend every bit of a weekend. Here’s how to do it.
- Start with a bucket of warm, soapy water. Mix 1/2 cup trisodium phosphate (TSP, available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers) with 1 gallon of water.
- Divide your siding into 10-foot sections. Scrub each section using a soft-bristled brush attached to a long handle. Work from bottom to top to avoid streaking, and rinse often. (For two-story homes, you’ll be using a ladder, so keep safety foremost.)
- If you don’t have the time — or the inclination — you can have your house professionally cleaned for $300-$500. A professional team will use a power washer and take less than a day.
- You can rent a power washer to do the job yourself for about $75/day, but beware if you don’t have experience with the tool. Power washers can strip paint, gouge softwoods, loosen caulk, and eat through mortar. Also, the tool can force water under horizontal lap joints, resulting in moisture accumulating behind the siding.
A clean home isn’t the only advantage to Spring maintenance. It’s also a great time to find and repair some of the problems you might have been putting off like drafts throughout the house. Checking your windows is a great place to start. Not only does it keep you more comfortable, but it can also save you a lot of money in the long run. The energy lost through inefficient windows represents 30% of a building’s heating and cooling energy (about $1500 – $2500 per household). Here are a few tips to help lower your energy bill.
- AWNINGS – Window awnings can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by up to 65% on south-facing windows and 77% on west-facing windows. You can use an awning to shade one window or have an awning custom-made to shade the entire side of your house.
- INTERIOR BLINDS – Because of the numerous openings between the slats, it’s difficult to control heat loss through interior window blinds, but the slats offer flexibility in the summer. Unlike shades, you can adjust the slats to control light and ventilation. For example, when completely closed and lowered on a sunny window, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45%.
- MESH WINDOW SCREENS – Mesh window screens can diffuse solar radiation, reducing heat gain in the summer. Screens should be mounted in an exterior frame and should cover entire windows. They are particularly effective on east- and west-facing windows.
- CAULKING – Caulking and weatherstripping are easy, budget-friendly fixes that can help reduce air leakage around your windows caulk for stationary cracks, gaps, or joins less than one-quarter-inch wide. Weatherstripping should be used on components that are moveable, such as doors and operable windows.
In a lot of older homes, while replacing windows can be an expensive option, sometimes it’s actually cost-effective to replace them, and that’s because the windows eventually will pay for themselves through lowered heating and cooling costs.
Annual deck maintenance will forestall repairs, protect your investment, and boost your enjoyment of your outdoor space. Because decks are exposed to the elements all year round, it’s a good idea to establish a routine of upkeep that’ll protect your deck and prevent expensive repairs. Here’s a simple maintenance schedule to help keep your deck safe, sound, and looking great. If you are going to do a project like this, check the weather in the late Spring for a couple nice, moderate days to avoid inclement weather that could cause problems.
- Remove debris – Using a putty knife remove all loose debris. Pay special attention to the areas where deck boards cross the joists — the structural members underneath the decking. (Protect shrubs and bushes by covering them in plastic sheeting).
- Thoroughly sweep the deck.
- Choose an appropriate cleanser.
- Wood – Use a standard deck cleaner and follow its directions. Some require the decking to be wet first. Some don’t.
- Composite deck – Use a cleaner specifically formulated for composite material. Attack grease and oil stains with a commercial degreaser and detergents.
- Vinyl (cellular PVC) deck – You’ll only need to use warm water and a mild soap to remove mold, mildew, and dirt.
- Clean the deck – Choose a cloudy day when the decking is cool and the sun won’t evaporate the cleaner.
- Wood deck – Use a paint roller, a garden sprayer, or a stiff-bristled brush broom to apply the cleaner. Don’t let it pool. Don’t let the deck dry until you’ve scrubbed it clean. Then let it soak according to manufacturer’s instructions (usually about 10 minutes). Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
- Composite Deck – Scrub with a soft brush. Do not use a pressure washer — it can permanently damage the decking and will void any warranty. Remove rust and leaf stains with a deck brightener containing oxalic acid.
- Vinyl deck – Scrub in a circular motion using a stiff broom, then rinse thoroughly.
Let deck dry – Wait two days before sealing.
Now it’s time to seal. Sealers and stains are available at home improvement centers for about $30 per gallon — enough to cover 250 square feet of decking. Your finish options include:
- Clear sealer that lets the wood’s natural grain and color show through
- Toner that adds a bit of color but fully reveals the grain and provides some protection against sunlight (ultraviolet or UV light)
- Semi-transparent stain that tints the wood, but lets some grain show
- Solid stain and opaque color that seal weathering damage and completely cover the grain
Expect to reapply clear sealers and toners annually. Reapply stain finishes as needed (every other year is a good routine) using the same or a slightly darker color. Be sure to wear gloves, a safety mask, and eye protection when applying stain and sealers.
- Choose a two-day period when you’ll have clear skies and moderate temperatures.
- Lightly sand the deck. Use a pole sander equipped with 80-grit paper to remove any furriness caused by washing.
- Replace any missing or popped nails and screws. Replace protruding nails with deck screws slightly longer than the nail. If a nail only slightly protrudes, you may do more harm than good trying to pull it out. Pound it home.
- Apply the sealer or stain. Use a roller to apply the sealer to the decking, covering three or four boards at a time. Use brushes and small rollers for railings, planters, and benches. Don’t let the sealant dry or puddle. Two thin coats are better than one thick one.
With all the home maintenance tasks that pile up in the spring, it’s easy to forget about cleaning the gutters. Don’t ignore this important chore! If you don’t clear debris from your gutters, you could be heading for roofing, siding, and foundation issues in the months ahead. A properly functioning gutter system protects your home from water damage by draining water from the roof and funneling it away from the house. When the gutters and downspouts are clogged, however, water can back up and damage the roof, fascia, soffits, and siding.
A simple way to check on a gutter’s performance is to wait for a rainy day and look to see if water is emptying from the downspouts. If water isn’t flowing freely from the bottom of a downspout, or if you notice water overflowing the edges of the gutter, there is debris clogging the gutters or downspouts or both.
The easiest answer to most gutter problems is to clean your gutters on a regular basis. Most debris consist of small leaves and twigs that can either be scooped out by hand or removed with a handheld leaf blower or wet/dry vacuum. Flushing the gutters with a garden hose removes dirt and small particles. For denser debris, you may want to invest in a gutter cleaning tool. Most clogged downspouts can be flushed with a garden hose; use a plumber’s snake to break up those really stubborn clogs. (Note: If you are climbing a ladder, be sure to follow safety measures.)
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