Sort of like nature blooms anew after the slumber of winter, springtime home maintenance prepares your house to emerge fresh and strong. It’s the perfect time to undo fall’s closing-up of the house while preparing it for the rest of the year.
Most spring maintenance consists of things the average person can do without professional assistance. If there are tasks you don’t feel comfortable doing, find a professional in the field who offers references and guarantees.
Get Outside the House – Exterior Spring Maintenance
- Check your home exterior to see how the siding or brick has held up during the cold weather. Replace missing or damaged siding. Often you can tape over small areas to protect the wall interior temporarily, but fix it properly as soon as you can to avoid bigger problems. Brick and masonry surfaces should also be solid, without any whitish powder (efflorescence) appearing on the surface. Freezing temperatures are particularly hard on masonry and mortar as moisture soaks in and expands. Efflorescence is a collection of soluble salts, left behind as the water evaporates. Brush the surface to remove it, then seal the brick or masonry to prevent further problems.
- Examine the home foundation, especially if it is concrete. Look for cracks and discolorations that point to a water leak or moisture source. Seal and treat as necessary. Small fissures are generally normal, but large or gaping cracks signal potential foundation failure. Consult a professional if you notice any signs of structural damage to either concrete or wood foundations.
- Clear out basement window wells. Excess material encourages animal and insect activity and could be a safety concern as well.
- Look over your exterior paint. Are surfaces cracking or peeling? Does your house need a new paint job, or can it wait another year? Look at the trim in addition to the walls. Sometimes fresh trim paint is all you need to perk up the appearance slightly. Replace damaged or missing trim as needed.
- Examine any gutters and downspouts. Make sure the sections are tight and the assembly is in good repair. Clean leaves and other debris from inside as necessary and ensure that water flows away from the house properly.
- Check the roof for evidence of damage. Clear limbs, leaves and other debris from the surface. Look at the shingles. Are any curled, buckled or missing? Do you notice cracks, or are vines or moss growing across the surface? While it may look pretty, anything growing on your roof indicates the presence of moisture, which can lead to roof failure. Hire a professional to repair and replace roofing as necessary.
- While checking the roof, take a moment to check vent covers. Ensure they are secure and in good repair. Clean any leaves, bird nests or other debris from the area as necessary. If you don’t feel comfortable getting on the roof, you can spot many shingle, vent and other roof issues from the ground with a pair of binoculars. Alternatively, hire a professional to access the roof.
- Service your chimney. Look at the metal flashing surrounding the chimney-to-roof juncture. Is it in good shape? Is the chimney stable and solid? Clean your chimney to end the heating season and leave it ready for next fall and winter.
- Examine valleys, skylights, or any other special roof features. Check for standing water or flashing that is damaged or missing.
- Trim back or remove tree limbs hanging too close to your house. In spring storms, heavy limbs can do significant damage to your home.
- Walk around each door and window, looking at caulking, weather stripping, thresholds and other transitions. Fix as appropriate; caulk, expanding foam insulation and weather stripping are simple to apply and save you significant heating and cooling dollars.
- Remove storm windows and replace with screens. As you change out the windows, wash them as well. Ammonia and newspaper works well. On cloudy, cool days your windows will not streak as badly.
- Patch window and door screens. Use a screen repair kit, available at hardware stores, or sew small holes with fishing line. Stretch new screen or replace badly damaged screen.
- Check your laundry dryer vent. Make sure the hood or cover is in good shape and clean lint from it as necessary. Lint clogs can start fires.
- Is your deck or balcony in good condition? Perform a thorough examination. Push on railings to test for stability and bounce on decking boards to determine solidity. Look for popping nails and missing boards. Check where the deck or balcony connects to the house to ensure the flashing is in good repair and you don’t see evidence of rot or damage. Underneath, try digging into the wood with a screwdriver. Soft, spongy, easily gouged wood indicates dry rot. Treat or replace as necessary. Wash, seal and treat the deck or balcony approximately every other year.
- Wash your home exterior. Use a garden hose and a long-bristled brush to reach high areas and scrub gently all over. Alternatively, use a power washer to direct high-pressure spray at vinyl siding. With either method, angle the spray at the top of the house and then move downward to prevent forcing water behind the siding and causing possible structural damage.
- Look at fencing on the property. Repair or replace damaged fencing as appropriate.
- Walk around and through outbuildings, checking for structural issues and other damage. Roofing, siding, windows and doors along with water or pest damage are primary issues.
- Carry unused firewood away from the house and cover it with plastic or tarps to keep it dry until the fall. Firewood, recyclables and other collections tend to draw bugs, animals and other pests. Keeping them as far from the house as possible will help control home infestations.
- When was the last time you looked for signs of pests inside your home? While mice usually migrate to the outside with the warmer weather, insects are coming to life and many enjoy your home as much as you do. In addition, bats like enclosed areas such as the vents inside your attic. Make a pest-control plan of action now, before the problem grows out of control.
- Hook up water hoses and turn on outdoor faucets. Check any sprinkler systems to ensure everything works properly.
- Check the condition of your sidewalks, driveway and other formal paths and walkways such as wheelchair ramps. Spread fresh gravel or other driveway material and seal concrete or blacktop as necessary to prevent cracking, buckling and other deterioration. Stairs and walkways are some of the most dangerous areas in and around your house. Ensure they are in good repair – without uneven surfaces, moss patches or holes.
- Prepare your cooling system for the summer. Clear off outside central air units and check for visible damage. If you use window units, uncover and install them as necessary. Inside, you will have other checks to perform.
- Have your septic tank inspected and pumped as necessary. Too many homeowners skimp on this, and it ends up contaminating the surrounding soil and causing deeper plumbing problems. While you’re at it, have well water tested for bacteria and quality. Experts recommend testing twice a year.
Inside Your Home: Interior Spring Maintenance
- Test windows and doors for a proper fit, easy swing or opening, and good repair. If you notice air gaps, missing weather stripping or brittle caulk from the home interior, fill with new caulk or expanding foam insulation to fix.
- Climb to your attic and perform a visual evaluation. Turn off the lights and look for spots of light shining in. If you see signs of moisture or discoloration, it means your roof is likely leaking. Look for mold and mildew, and treat any that you find immediately. Test your insulation R-factors, if you haven’t done it before, and note if it’s in good shape and if any vapor barriers are intact. Attic insulation is essential in both summer and winter.
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, home alarms and other safety devices. Change batteries once a year.
- Clean your fireplace or wood stove and put away space heaters. If you have baseboard heaters, brush over and vacuum across the face to remove any dust or dirt.
- Test the plumbing throughout your bathroom, kitchen and laundry or utility room. Ensure that drains work properly, pipes do not leak and everything operates correctly. Replace washers, sprayers, hoses and pipes as appropriate.
- Are any handrails or grab bars in the bathroom or throughout the house sturdy? Inspecting them each spring helps ensure they don’t fail when they are needed most.
- Turn on bathroom exhaust fans to check their operation. Remove the cover and dust or clean to remove clogs of dust, hair and cobwebs.
- Wipe over or vacuum off refrigerator and freezer coils on the rear of the unit. Close the doors on a dollar bill and try to pull it out to test the seal. If you can easily remove the dollar, the door seal is bad and needs to be replaced. Place a thermometer inside the unit and check the temperature to ensure everything is working as it should.
- How does the kitchen exhaust fan look? Clean it with hot water and soap or change the filter. Grease buildup inside the kitchen is a safety hazard, and any dirty appliance or filter lowers energy efficiency and performance.
- Check your basement. Do you see any dripping or standing water? Does it smell musty or feel clammy? Are there any water stains or mold patches? Follow proper mold removal procedures and take steps to eliminate moisture sources. Among these, ensure the basement walls are sealed and in proper repair. Grade soil away from the house to encourage drainage. Ensure that downspouts direct water away from the home.
- Take a look at your sump pump. Heavy spring showers work your sump pump, so it’s good to inspect it early and note any repairs needed. Pour a 5-gallon bucket of water into the sump pit to ensure the pump turns on. Check for debris and leaks as well. Adjust the water level float as necessary. Never reach into the water in the pit to prevent injury. Consider installing a battery-operated backup system to drain your sump pit if the power fails during springtime storms.
- Service your air conditioning unit. Regular maintenance will help lower your utility bills and prolong the unit’s life. Check the condensate drain hose, which easily becomes clogged. Having a qualified HVAC technician inspect your air conditioning is a good idea; HVAC systems are complex and may require detailed knowledge and specialized tools. Cleaning your own drain will save you money, however.
- Test attic fans and other fans. Moving to the ceiling fans, reverse the blade direction (the blades should turn counterclockwise, creating a downdraft) and wipe off the blades to maximize air movement. This will help you feel much cooler in the summer.
- Plug in and turn on window air conditioning units. Clean the filters and ensure everything works properly. Once the summer heat begins, service calls are harder to obtain and unit prices rise.
- Look around the bottom of your hot water heater to see if there are current leaks or signs of past leaks. All water heaters fail eventually. The average life expectancy is 8 to 12 years, after which they must be replaced. Drain your hot water every spring to remove sediment that will shorten the life and cause other problems. Consult your owner’s manual first – some models shouldn’t be drained.
- Check light switches and electrical outlets. Over the winter rodents like to invade and chew on anything they come across. Take a few minutes to ensure everything works properly, and visually inspect the switch or outlet. Make sure none are loose or look scorched, a sure sign of damage. Additionally, test all GFI outlets to ensure the safety mechanism works.
Performing a spring home maintenance inspection and making any needed repairs not only makes your life a little easier, it also serves another purpose. If, at some point, you intend to sell your home, having records to show the maintenance you performed will give potential buyers a little peace of mind.