Waking up an hour early is not my idea of a good time. The only redeeming factor of this day, the douchiest of all pseudo holidays dubbed “Spring Forward”, is the fact that it is the first sure sign that Spring is just around the bend.
Back before the winter weather hit our world I wrote the “Fall Back” Home Maintenance Checklist. Much of this checklist is devoted to taking measures to protect your home from the harsh winter weather. Now that we are on the tail end of the season, our goal is to uncover any first signs of damage so that they do not turn into larger, more expensive, issues at a later time. There are also regular maintenance items not related to the winter weather that serve the same purpose.
These two home maintenance checklists are quite comprehensive, but have no fear. Just like the Fall Back home maintenance checklist, there are likely plenty of items on the list that do not apply to your home. Go ahead and cross those off of the list right away. You can also take the list a little bit at a time. I take a 20 minute break each day of the Spring Forward work, and I’m typically done in less than a week’s time. Let’s start on the outside and work our way in.
We start outside with the Spring Forward maintenance list because winter weather is not friendly to the outside of the home from the rooftop all the way down to the foundation. Here are the things you should look for.
Roof. You likely don’t want to climb up to the roof just yet, and you really don’t have to. I’ve checked out the roof of the four story schoolhouse I call home (with 18 feet ceilings on each level) with nothing more than the binoculars I use to check out the moon from time to time. It’s not a fancy pair, and you can find something similar at any big box store. You want to look for any shingles that are cracked, missing, or have the shape of an “eyebrow”. This happens when the nails that hold the shingles down start to lift, and that’s bad news because it means that water can get under the shingles. While water is a life giving resource, it sometimes is giving life to unwanted things such as water rot. You will want to address any small items you see now so that you don’t have any premature expensive roof repairs.
Chimneys. While you are checking out the roof you will also want to check out the masonry around your chimney(s). The joint that connects the chimney to the roof is the most important region because it can be a source of water damage. You will want to see if any of the bricks have fallen out, if any mortar has come loose, if there is any vegetation or mold growing on them, or if a calcium deposit is building. Remember, water is the life giving resource, and we don’t want it growing things up there in your chimney joint. If damage like this is left unattended, then it can cause your roof to leak and for heat (or cool air during the summer) to escape your home through your chimney. I’m fond of this YouTube video on how to know if heat is escaping your home through your chimney and what you can do about it.
Exterior Walls. The exterior walls of your home will go through a lot during the winter. You will want to be particularly careful in viewing under the eaves of your home, along the gutters, and the gutter downspouts. Again, you are looking for signs of water damage. Stains on the exterior walls will indicate that water is not draining properly. You will also want to look for cracks or damage to siding. This will allow ants or other critters to nest and borrow into your home. No good can come of that.
Foundation. Look at the foundation for any cracks. You may be tempted to fix the cracks yourself with caulk, but experts like This Old House suggest that you hire a foundation specialist that will use a two part epoxy to bond the cracks chemically.
Windows. You will want to ensure that there is a tight seal around the windows because any leaks will allow your cooled indoor air to escape during the summer. One of my favorite tips is to light some incense and run them along the window sills from the inside and see if the smoke from the incense trails towards the window for escape. If so, then it is time to seal your windows. I give tips for same in “Save Your Home (and Wallet) from the Winter Chill“. You also want to take time to clean the windows. Where window washing is concerned, the cheaper options are actually better for your windows. You will want to use water and white vinegar along with a squeegee or soft cloth. If you kept your screens in the window throughout the winter, then you will want to clean those with the cheap options like water and white vinegar as well. Power washers could cause damage while also being more expensive.
Outdoor Faucets. In the Fall Back list we asked you to shut off all valves to outdoor faucets. Once the snow season has ended, you can get your hoses out of the garage or basement and turn the values back on
Hardscape. Salt causes a lot of damage to the hardscape (only check out the large craters lining the streets these days for proof of this). Check for damaged stairs, pathways, and driveways. These problems will not only get worse but they could be the source of injury.
Softscape. Just picture that just months from now you will be enjoying your yard as you watch your children play. Stay tuned for an upcoming feature on Spring time lawn maintenance. It doesn’t hurt to look online, or in store, deals on seeds, bulbs, and other lawn care items before supply hits demand in just a few week’s time and causes prices to surge.
Spring Cleaning. I’ve already mentioned that I am a fan of doing “Spring cleaning” as a New Year’s ritual. I learned the practice while I was living in Asia. I’m also a fan of “Cleaning Your House a Little Bit Every Day” by setting aside 20 minutes to clean every evening before I go to bed. Once the 20 minutes is up, then I stop. If you haven’t started that practice already, then you can use Spring Forward as a reason to start the habit.
Safety First. Twice per year I like to check out my fire safety equipment to make sure everything is on the up and up.
- Fire Extinguisher: The National Fire Protection Association recommends one fire extinguisher for each floor. In our house we keep a fire extinguisher under the kitchen sink as well as in the closet of each bedroom. You should check to make sure that each fire extinguisher in your home is charged. If the needle is in the green, then they are charged. If not, then check with your local fire department to see if they offer a recharging service.
- Smoke Detector: Smoke detectors are jerks. If you don’t give them batteries, then they will punish you by starting to beep in the middle of the night. Replace the batteries now to keep them happy. Also, you should replace the smoke detector every ten years.
Air Conditioner: It’s time to call in the HVAC serviceperson to tune your air conditioner. Also take the time to not only change the filter but to also put a repeating alarm on your phone’s calendar to remind you every 30 or 90 days (depending on the filter you use) to change the filter. If your filter gets too full, then your air conditioner will just stop working, and it will likely do so on the hottest day of the year because air conditioners are mean.
Thermostat: We have it on our calendar to change the program in the thermostat twice per year: 1) Fall back and 2) Spring forward. Here you will find the recommended thermostat settings for your home.
Hot Water Heater: It’s about time for us to get a new water heater, so we have been saving over the winter for a replacement. We were able to elongate the life of our current water heater by clearing it of sediment twice per year (again during Fall back and Spring forward). This can seem intimidating at first, but I used this video to do it myself for a whopping cost of $0. We don’t have a floor drain like in the video, so we run the house to the nearest sink.
Attic: It is time to check for both mold and insect colonizations in the attic. For mold you want to check for gray or black stains along the walls, floors, and ceiling. If you did not get insulation and ventilation taken care of during the Fall Back home maintenance list, then now is the time. During the summer your attic likely turns into a steam room, and hot moist places are a breeding ground for mold that can harm your family.
Basement: We were looking for mold and insects in the attic and now we are looking for them in the basement. This time we are replacing mold with any water damage that may be found in the basement. Pay close attention to any cracks as this could cause serious damage if neglected. Again, it is best to hire a foundation specialist to fix any cracks with a two part epoxy instead of trying to caulk them yourself.
Humidifier/Dehumidifier: We purchased a whole house humidifier this winter, and it has been awesome. If you also have one, then you know it is time to switch the humidifier from winter to summer. You will also want to check any filters in the system.
Alright, springtime, I know you are hiding just around the corner. Show your delightful face!