Spring is here and now's a good time to do some home maintenance. The old proverb "a stitch in time saves nine," and "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," are worth noting when it comes to taking care of your home and maintenace.
1. Roofing repairs: If you suspect winter storms may have damaged your roof, it needs to be inspected. (If you're not comfortable with the height or steepness of your roof, hire a licensed roofing contractor for the inspection.) Look for missing or loose shingles, including ridge-cap shingles.
Examine the condition of the flashings around chimneys, flue pipes, vent caps, and anyplace where the roof and walls intersect. Look for overhanging trees that could damage the roof in a wind storm, as well as buildups of leaves and other debris.
If you have roof damage in a number of areas, or if older shingles makes patching impractical, consider having the entire roof redone. Also, remember that if the shingles have been damaged by wind or by impact from falling tree limbs, the damage may be covered by your homeowners insurance.
2. Check gutters and downspouts: Look for areas where the fasteners may have pulled loose, and for any sags in the gutter run. Also, check for water stains that may indicate joints that have worked loose and are leaking. Clean leaves and debris to be ready for spring and summer rains.
3. Fences and gates: Fence posts are especially susceptible to groundwater saturation, and will loosen up and tilt if the soil around them gets soaked too deeply. Check fence posts in various areas by wiggling them to see how solidly embedded they are.
If any are loose, wait until the surrounding soil has dried out, then excavate around the bottom of the posts and pour additional concrete to stabilize them. Replace any posts that have rotted.
4. Clear yard debris: Inspect landscaping for damage, especially trees. If you see any cracked, leaning or otherwise dangerous conditions with any of your trees, have a licensed, insured tree company inspect and trim or remove them as needed.
Clean up leaves, needles, small limbs and other material that has accumulated. Do any spring pruning that's necessary. Remove and dispose of all dead plant material so it won't become a fire hazard as it dries.
5. Fans and air conditioners: Clean and check the operation of cooling fans, air conditioners and whole-house fans. Shut the power to the fan, remove the cover and wash with mild soapy water, then clean out dust from inside the fan with a shop vacuum -- do not operate the fan with the cover removed.
Check outdoor central air conditioning units for damage or debris buildup, and clean or replace any filters. Check the roof or wall caps where the fan ducts terminate to make sure they are undamaged and well sealed. Check dampers for smooth operation.
6. Check and adjust sprinklers: Run each set of in-ground sprinklers through a cycle, and watch how and where the water is hitting. Adjust or replace any sprinklers that are hitting your siding, washing out loose soil areas, spraying over foundation vents, or in any other way wetting areas on and around your house that shouldn't be getting wet.
7. Check vent blocks and faucet covers: As soon as you're comfortable that the danger of winter freezing is over, remove foundation vent blocks or open vent covers to allow air circulation in the crawl space.
While removing the vent covers, check the grade level around the foundation vents. Winter weather can move soil and create buildups or grade problems that will allow groundwater to drain through the vents into the crawl space, so regrade as necessary. Remove outdoor faucet covers. Turn on the water supply to outdoor faucets if it's been shut off.
8. Prepare yard tools: Replace broken or damaged handles, and clean and condition metal parts. Tighten fittings and fasteners, sharpen cutting tools and mower blades, and service engines and belts in lawn mowers and other power equipment.
9. Change furnace filters: Now is the time to replace furnace filters that have become choked with dust from the winter heating season. This is especially important if you have central air conditioning, or if you utilize your heating system's fan to circulate air during the summer.
10. Check smoke detectors: Daylight Savings Time snuck up early again this year, and that's usually the semi-annual reminder to check your smoke alarms. So if you haven't already done it, now's the time. Replace the batteries, clean the covers, and test the detector's operation before it's too late.
If you have gas-fired appliances in the house, add a carbon monoxide detector as well (or check the operation of your existing one). CO2 detectors are inexpensive and easy to install, and are available at most home centers and other retailers of electrical parts and supplies.