With Spring comes a refreshing feeling of renewal. Now that we are in full bloom you may find yourself wanting to open the windows and let the warm spring air in, clean out the garage, and perhaps even give the appliances a deep scrub.
In spring, many people take some time to do a thorough cleaning of their house, and it’s also a great time to check some key areas on your house and make sure everything is in perfect shape.
Our homes have a tough job, from protecting us from the beating sun or pouring rain in a controlled climate, to giving us a safe space to create memories with our families and friends. The least we can do to protect our best investment is to address any signs of wear and tear our homes may show, and adding these quick and easy extra steps in your spring cleaning routine is a great way to stay ahead of any issues that regularly occur as they age.
In addition to reorganizing the cabinets, scrubbing the tub, and mopping the floor, here is a checklist of items to check to make sure your home is in peak condition and avoid any costly repairs in the future:
1. Take a look in the Basement/Crawlspace
If you use your basement or crawlspace for storage, you may visit it every couple of months, but if not, it’s a really good idea to take a quick peep in there and see how everything looks.
The number one thing you are looking for is standing water or signs of water intrusion. Some signs of water intrusion are:
- Sagging insulation
- Water lines on bricks/cinderblocks
- Rusted water heater
- Musty smell
Some insects in your crawlspace are normal, but if you see a number of crickets near the entrance, this is a sign that there might be a moisture issue, since these insects prefer to stay in very humid environments.
2. Check the roof
If you have a ladder and are comfortable with heights, it’s a good idea to check your roof as well. With the constant beating sun, different components of your roof can crack and allow water intrusion. A roof can leak for weeks or months before you ever notice it in the house, since seeing it in the ceiling means that the leak has most likely managed to make it through the roof, down the rafter, and through the insulation and ceiling drywall.
Even if you aren’t able to get up on the roof, if you can see a majority of the roof from the ground, it’s a good idea to go outside and study it for a minute. You may see your roof every time you pull into your driveway, but there could be defects you miss if you aren’t actively looking for defects.
NOTE: Never check your roof if the weather is over 90 degrees outside. On a hot sunny day, the tar in the shingles soften, and walking on the softened shingles will damage them. It’s said that walking on a hot roof is worse for it than a hailstorm, so if you plan to check your roof, it’s best to plan it for a morning or an evening after it has cooled off. With that in mind, whether you are up on the roof or looking from below, here are some things to look for:
- Cracked caulk or rust on flashing– The liner surrounding chimneys, vent lines, and roof valleys
- Missing, damaged, or warped shingles
- Cracked or worn rubber boots– These are the rubber sleeves on the vent pipes that prevent water from entering
- Moss– Moss is an indication of water going underneath the shingles and sitting
If you are willing and able, it’s also a great idea to go upstairs and check out how everything looks- and by upstairs, I mean the attic. Bring a flashlight, and see if you can see any areas on the underside of the roof that show signs of water intrusion. If water does make it through the shingles, it will often leave a visible trail on the wood which you can trace back to where it originated on the roof. From there, you should go back on the roof where you saw the leak in the attic and see if you can see any area where the water could have seeped through.
3. Take a walk around your house
Many homeowners have a certain side of the house (or multiple) that they have no reason for visiting on a regular basis, and that’s perfectly ok. If that sounds like you, be sure to check out all around your house and look for things like:
- Cracks in foundation– Look for cracks that are new, or old cracks that have grown in size. Some cracks in the foundation are normal for older houses, as houses are extremely heavy and the dirt will usually have some of give to it. It’s still a good idea to have all cracks checked, especially if they look significant
- Animals burrowing beneath the earth– They could be borrowing in your crawlspace. Unfortunately, I am speaking of personal experience here (I hate groundhogs)
- Ivy growing on your property– If you’ve ever tried pulling ivy off of a tree or building, you know that it sticks to the surface, a LOT. This is because ivy can grow tiny limbs that can actually grow into the brick and other sidings of the house, which is uses to basically cling to it’s surface. At first it will not be an issue as it will only be a very shallow surface level, but over time they can start putting excess pressure on the bricks and as water gets into those larger pores and freezes and expands, it can cause cracks and other damage
4. Make sure the gutters are clean
Do you know what the number cause of moisture issues in foundations and crawlspaces/basements is? That’s right, it’s gutters that aren’t functioning properly. Gutters play a huge role in dispersing the water that can be damaging to your home.
Now is a great time to clean out those gutters and make sure your downspouts are functioning properly. With the help of someone else, you can use a water hose to make sure that the downspouts aren’t clogged, and if they are, a lot of times you can clean them by forcing the hose or another sturdy but bendable object down there to force out any leaves that are stopping it up.
Make sure your downspouts don’t just drop the water off at the foot of the house either. There should be a pan or elbow at the bottom of the downspout that pushes the water away from the foundation.
5. Check your dryer exhaust
Behind the dryer AND on the exterior of your house, check the dryer exhaust to make sure it isn’t clogged and can breath easily and dispose of the humidity and lint that the dryer produces. A stopped up dryer exhaust not only will hamper your dryers ability to dry clothes in a timely manner, but is also a big fire hazard as the heat from the dryer can cause the built up lint to combust.
If the exhaust is clogged, vacuum out what you can, and use a rod to push the rest of the lint out till it can be vacuumed as well.
6. Put eyes on your water meter
Another thing to check that often is overlooked until it is blatantly obvious is to check for water leaks from your water supply. There is a super simple way to check for leaks without looking at every line of your plumbing if you are on public water.
To do this, you will want to go outside near the street and find your water meter. You’ll need to take the cover off, and this is usually the hardest step. They are heavy, and you can’t get your fingers under them to lift them. They make a special tool to open these easily, but you can usually use a crowbar or something of the sort to lift the cover off. I usually use a wrench and get a corner of it under the lid to lift it.
From there, you’ll want to take a look at the dial. There is a little triangle in the center that spins whenever water is flowing through the lines. That means that if no water is being used, it should not move at all. Make sure all faucets are off and no water is being used in the house, and watch the dial for a minute. If there is a leak in the water supply side of your house (rather than they drain side) then this dial will spin ever so slowly. If everything is cut off and the dial is moving, you’ll know you need to search for your leak. If not, rest assured knowing everything is functioning as intended.
7. Miscellaneous items
Here are a few other items that are worth doing as well to keep your home in tip top shape:
- Check/replace HVAC filter– This ensures your HVAC can breath easily and is one of the easiest ways to prolong your HVAC units lifespan, while also giving you cleaner air quality. A good rule of thumb is to replace these every 3 months
- Clean/replace range vent filter– This will help remove smoke and steam from meals you cook. An excess of steam in your kitchen can eventually start damaging the drywall in the kitchen
- Vacuum refrigerator coils– This will help keep your fridge functioning as efficiently as possible
- Check caulk around bathtubs and sinks– Caulk is used to keep water from going into cracks where it can cause damage. Check for any cracks and refresh caulking as needed to make sure the water stays where you want it to
- Check where sink drains connect to pipes– A product called plumbers putty is applied to the bottom of sink drains when they are connected to the drain pipes to prevent leakage. Plumbers putty only has a lifespan of about 10 years, so it’s a good idea to run water in your sinks for a minute and make sure no water is escaping from where the sink drain adjoins the pipe leading to the main drain line. If it is leaking, it’s likely to be very minor, so you may need to let water run for a minute or so before you’ll know if it’s leaking or not. If it is leaking it will likely by very light, but over time even a light leak can build up to create mold or rot in your cabinets under the sink.
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors– These usually have very long lasting batteries, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry and go ahead and make sure they are functioning properly.