Winter can be the cruelest season to your home.— Kelly MacGregor, writer
Keeping up on your home maintenance can seem like a huge undertaking: What do you check and when do you check it? But this process is a lot easier when you think seasonally. If you find a problem during a routine check, get it fixed before the season changes.
In spring, see how your house survived the winter, which can be the cruelest season to your home, notes AHI Home Inspections in Colorado.
Delay your interior spring cleaning until you make sure your home's exterior is in good shape. Start with a check of paint and siding. If any paint seems faded or peeled, touch it up before the wood is exposed to the elements. Make sure your siding isn’t warped away from the house, letting water or pests in; if siding is warped, replace it.
Ensure your window screens aren’t ripped and cover the entire pane. Check the glass in your windows and decorative parts of your doors for cracks. To make sure those April showers stay out, check the caulking around windows and weather-stripping under your doors as well.
The spring work doesn’t end there. Clean those gutters and downspouts at least once a year. You want to provide an easy path for water to get away from your house, not into it, so get rid of leaves or remaining ice clumps and make sure the downspouts dump water at least 2 feet from your house.
Test your air conditioning before the weather turns -- if you do find a problem, you'll have months, rather than hours, to get it fixed.
Check your roof so you don’t suffer through the winter months with a faulty roof. Sweep the roof of debris and fallen leaves to get rid of unnecessary weight. To tell if you have a problem, walk around your house and look up at your roof a few hours after a rainstorm to see if there are any spots that are extremely damp (typically a damp spot will be a different color than the rest of the roof, which has already dried). If you notice a damp spot, call a professional roofer.
Fall, according to the National Center for Healthy Homes, is also the time to check your attic. Water damage is your No. 1 concern, but also look for signs of rodents or rodent damage, and make sure everything's well insulated to keep your winter heating costs down.
Check your carpets for damp areas and wood floors for discoloration. If these are very minor, you can simply try to dry them out yourself with a hairdryer or fan. But beware: Even if the top seems dry there may be rot or mold underneath, so you may want to call a professional flooring company or handyman to check it out. You will need to treat both the symptom (the floors or carpets) and the problem (whatever is letting water in from the outside, maybe cracked caulking or broken weatherstripping). Also note that flooring can warp from the change in moisture or temperature between seasons, so be on the lookout for this.
As your leisure-time activities move outside in the summer, so should your home maintenance. Check driveways, patios and foundations for cracks. Settling, tree roots or expanding water may be the culprits; find the actual problem and fix that instead of simply pouring concrete again.
Bugs come out in force in the summer months. Cut foliage back at least a foot from your house to help keep your house bug free, suggests GMG Construction in Washington. Remove leaves and branches you may have missed when raking in the fall.
If you live in a location where heat or humidity forces you to stay inside most of the summer, add the outdoor tasks to your spring checklist.
The winter lets you hibernate from home maintenance -- for the most part. According to the University of Illinois School of Architecture, winter is the best time to replace your air filters and clean your vents. Clear the system of dust and allergens before your heat system starts running full time.
Water expands when it freezes during winter, potentially cracking pipes or sprinkler systems. Keep your thermostat above 65 degrees, even while you are at work, and drain your underground sprinkler system before the icy temperatures come. To avoid returning from your holiday vacation to a flooded home, turn off your water completely while you are gone.
If you live in a part of the country with mild winters, spread out your spring cleaning tasks into the winter season so you don’t have to rush through them.
More Frequent Maintenance
Some tasks can be assigned to a season and forgotten until the next year, but others are so important, you should do them more frequently. The University of Illinois School of Architecture says you should check the grout in your showers, sinks and tubs for cracks twice a year, preferably in spring and summer. Regrout as soon as you find a problem.
AHI Home Inspections recommends checking your smoke detectors every three months as well. You may not think of smoke detectors as part of home maintenance, but catching a fire early can save your house -- and your life. Also, check carbon monoxide detectors at least twice a year.
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- Evelyn Prasse, Consumer and Family Economics Extension Educator, University of Illinois Extension; Do You Have a Plan For Home Maintenance?
- University of Illinois School of Architecture/Building Research Council
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation: Home Maintenance Schedule
- National Center for Healthy Housing
- AHI Home Inspections: Seasonal Home Maintenance Checklist
- GMG Construction; Spring Cleaning and Maintenance
- HWA Home Warranty: Spring Home Maintenance Guide