“It’s good to do a walk-around of your property, especially after a storm,” said Curtis S. Niles, president of the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI). Winter is tough on roofs and chimneys. It can also take its toll on windows, walls, foundations, gutters and decks. Super storm Sandy wreaked havoc on so many homes. It’s possible that it did some damage that you haven’t noticed.
You don’t need to climb up on your roof; with a keen eye, you can probably spot trouble. Do you see any shingle-shift, suggesting that some fasteners may have failed and need replacing? Do you see cracked or missing shingles? What about nail-pops? If so, hire a professional right away to fix even the smallest problems, because small problems are much less expensive and easier to fix than bigger ones.
If you have a masonry chimney, check the joints between bricks or stones. Have any fallen out? Is there vegetation growing out of them? Each signals water infiltration. Also, look for efflorescence—a white calcium-like deposit that indicates your masonry joints are no longer repelling water but absorbing it,” said Niles. Consider re-sealing masonry with a clear, impermeable or water-resistant barrier material. Brush it on, small areas at a time; let it absorb for 15 minutes, then reapply—it may need a couple of applications.
When it comes to exterior walls, whether you have wood siding, stucco or brick, look for trouble spots, especially under eaves and near gutter downspouts. Water stains normally indicate that your gutters are not adequately containing roof runoff. If you have wood siding, check for openings, damaged areas or knots that have popped out, making way for carpenter ants, woodpeckers and other critters that may nest in or burrow through. Once again, if you see a problem, call a professional.
When inspecting the exterior of your home, be sure to examine the foundation from top to bottom for cracks. “Hire a foundation specialist who can employ a two-part epoxy injection system that will bond cracks chemically,” suggested Niles.
Leakage around windows will admit warm summer air and let cooled indoor air escape, so be sure to check that your caulking and weather stripping have remained intact. “A tight seal is the first line of defense against air and water,” said Marty Davis, a window expert. If you experienced condensation inside the glass on double-or triple-glazed windows during the winter months, the weather seal has been compromised, and either the glass or the window will need to be replaced.
Have your windows cleaned—inside and out. Hire someone who knows not to use abrasive cleaners or a high-pressure spray washer. You don’t want them to scratch the glass or crack the caulking around each unit. Make sure they clean screens that were on all winter with mild detergent. “Never power-wash screens,” urged Davis, “it could damage the mesh.”
Once the outside of your home is taken care of, it’s time to work on the inside. Sometimes areas of the house like chair rails, window casings, the tops of cabinets and ceiling fans are not dusted or vacuumed regularly. Be sure to have these cleaned.
Have your draperies laundered or dry-cleaned, if you have vinyl blinds have them washed with a damp cloth. Upholstered furniture and mattresses should be vacuumed and have carpets professionally cleaned. Anything you can do to remove settled dust, mites, and allergens will make for a cleaner, and healthier, home.
We know that soap residue and fluctuations in heat and humidity combine in the bathroom to create the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. Look for areas of worn or missing grout, as these may lead to more serious water damage if not repaired.
Just as you readied your furnace for fall, now is the time to make sure that air conditioning units are in good working order. Change the filter, check hose connections for leaks, and make sure the drain pans are draining freely. In addition, vacuum any dust that has settled on the unit and connections; over time it can impact the air conditioner’s effectiveness. If you suspected problems with the efficiency or performance of the unit last summer, now is the time to call in a professional to check it out.
If you have an attic, hire someone to search aggressively for mold, which often takes the form of gray or black blotches that look like stains. Proper insulation and good ventilation will deter mold growth in the attic, so take action now to prevent the problem from developing in the warmer months ahead.
Basements are prone to dampness and insects. Dampness suggests higher than normal relative humidity, inadequate ventilation and the need for a dehumidifier. Check the base of poured-concrete walls. Cracks start from the bottom up, not the top down. If there’s water penetration, it’ll show at the bottom of those cracks. Have an expert inspect your basement now before the hottest days of summer arrive.
This is also a good time to check for leaky faucets, clogged drains and sweaty pipes. Check under the kitchen and bathroom sink to make sure connections on pipes and hoses are properly sealed, and look for any wetness around the dishwasher that could signal a problem. The same is true of your laundry room; check washing machine hoses for cracks, bulges or dampness. The same is true for hot water heaters, which may show signs of corrosion and leaks.
Once your home is taken care of, inside and out, it’s time to check your sprinkler system. If you have a deck, look for warped, loose or splintered boards, and do a good sweep to remove leaves and debris accumulated in the space between boards. Whether it’s wood, plastic or composite, a deck should be cleaned every year to extend its life. If the finish on your wood deck is faded or worn, now is the time to have it cleaned, stained, and resealed. If you have composite decking, follow manufacturers’ recommendations on seasonal care. The same is true for wood and composite fences, pergolas, trellises and other structures.
If you stored your lawn furniture for the winter and haven’t started using it yet, bring it outdoors and give it a hose rinse, or wash it with a mild detergent. For metal furniture, check for signs of rust or paint erosion; a simple remedy of spray enamel will prevent further damage from sun, rain and humidity.
If your gas grill has remained idle over the winter months, check burner jets for clogs and obstructions, and be sure that gas hoses and connections are sound and secure. Now that you’ve taken care of the cleaning, relax and enjoy your spotless and sparkling home.