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Spring is a time to assess how well your maintenance work held up during the winter and what other maintenance work or repairs must be made. Here's our list of spring home maintenance tasks that will keep your home humming for another season.
--Gutters and downspouts: Even if you cleaned them in the fall, a mulch can collect in the gutters that can hasten rust and deterioration and make gutters sluggish during spring showers. Use a garden hose, a gutter scoop and a nylon brush to flush the gutters and downspouts. Use a wire brush to remove rust and peeling paint. Repair leaks and seal joints with a high-quality exterior grade caulk. Prime bare spots and add a fresh coat of paint.
--Siding: No matter the type of siding, after a long winter's wear, it needs a good cleaning. One of the best means of brightening dingy siding is with a thorough pressure-washing with water. If the siding is chalked or streaked, scrub it using a nylon truck brush along with a mild solution of powdered laundry detergent and hot water. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water. Check for cracks, peeling paint, missing or damaged mortar and caulking, and make the needed repairs.
--Roof leaks: Inspect the roof for loose or missing shingles. Binoculars work well for making an on-the-ground inspection. Look in the attic for water stains on the underside of the roof sheathing and on the rafters. They are telltale signs of a roof leak that might yet produce enough water to make its way to your ceiling. You don't need to wait till it rains to check a roof for leaks. Use a garden hose at suspicious areas to determine if your roof is leaking. Unless the roof needs replacement, damaged shingle replacement, flashing repair and roofing cement or caulking usually will do the trick. --Caulking: Spring is a good time to caulk around window trim and door frames, especially if you missed doing it in the fall. Do this after you have washed the exterior siding. Caulk tends to crack in concrete, foundations and basement walls.
--Window and door screens: If you have trouble getting a good view of your spring flowers through your freshly washed windows, it might mean your window screens need cleaning or replacement. Remove window and door screens and give them a cleaning with a solution of powdered laundry detergent and hot water. Brush the screens with a nylon brush and give the screens and frames a rinsing with a garden hose or, better yet, a pressure washer. Mend tears and replace deteriorating material with new fabric. Lubricate hinges on screen doors and adjust hydraulic closers to make sure that the door closes fully.
--Decks and fences: Decks, fencing and other exterior wood finishes should be cleaned and finished regularly to keep them looking good and to extend their life. Most high-quality exterior stains and wood finishes will last for two to three seasons -- depending on climate and the severity of the elements. However, a good spring cleaning is always in order. A solution of liquid chlorine bleach, powdered laundry detergent and hot water will remove mold and mildew from almost any exterior surface. For best results on wood decks, use a commercial deck-cleaning product that won't damage the finish. If the deck cleaner doesn't do it, try using a commercial deck brightener. If the finish is worn, try light sanding along with a fresh coat of finish.
--Concrete patios, paths, driveways and carports: If your driveway or carport looks like an Indy 500 pit stop, a good cleaning is in order. Clean and degrease exterior concrete surfaces with a commercial concrete cleaner-degreaser. Use cat litter to absorb as much of the grease or oil first -- by grinding it into the area with the soles of your shoes. Dispose of the oil-tainted cat litter as you would paint, used motor oil or other household toxic substances.
--Air conditioner: Don't wait until the first heat wave to have your air conditioner serviced. If you do, chances are you will have a long wait. Save money and beat the heat by having a heating and air conditioning specialist give your system a good going over. Change filters, clean the coil case, check the blower, the temperature drop and the coolant pressure, lubricate the system and make sure that all components are operating to capacity.
--Barbecue: Make sure the barbecue is in tiptop shape for serious spring and summer grilling. A good cleaning is all most barbecue grills need. Clean rust using a wire brush and rust solvent. Spot-prime using a heat-resistant metal paint. For gas barbecues, use compressed air to remove spider webs from burner assemblies. Clean or replace grates as necessary.
Added Lighting Makes Home Safer as Well as Brighter
Adding lighting to your home can make it safer and brighter, and can also make it easier to accomplish everyday chores and projects in the kitchen and many other areas.
This does not mean simply getting bigger light bulbs. Light fixtures have bulb size limitations and you can't always safely acquire more light by adding wattage. In fact, it is a dangerous thing to do if the existing bulb is already the largest allowed for the fixture. An oversized bulb, especially in an older fixture, can mean a fire. If the fixtures you have concerns about are too small, it may be time to consider replacing them with units that support greater wattage.
Also, it may not hurt to think about strategic additions. Here are a few places to consider:
_Stairways and stairwells.
_The workshop (naturally).
_Porches and exterior steps.
_Walks and patios.
That seems to include lighting just about everywhere, doesn't it?
Improving lighting can benefit those with aging eyes, but it can also help reduce eye strain for just about anyone using a home work area with insufficient lighting. And certainly one of the most-used work areas in the home is the kitchen. In almost every remodel we have ever done, we doubled or tripled the existing lighting and it was a hit every time.
Under-cabinet lighting, lighting in pantries and additional task lighting are a few of the additions that everyone loved. Under-cabinet lighting really puts the light on the work surface where it belongs, to help with reading recipes, mixing ingredients and even being able to clearly see what's on the countertop. Xenon under-cabinet lighting is without doubt the brightest and whitest we have ever seen.
The same goes for the laundry. Laundry lighting often consists of a ventilation fan-light combination—not the world's best source of illumination. Under-cabinet lighting can work wonders and reduce eye strain when you are trying to read labels for laundering instructions.
The fluorescent lighting found in kitchens and bathrooms is soft, inexpensive and cool. Unfortunately, it often isn't bright enough, especially when the light is an integral part of an exhaust fan.
When you are looking at lighting, one really important location is the mirror. Here, you want bright lighting—if nothing else, at least a lighted magnifying mirror. They work well and are affordable.
Good lighting of stairways, stairwells, porches and walks isn't only a question of eye fatigue. Safety is the key word at these locations. No matter how healthy or hearty the pedestrian, a fall could be critical. Good lighting at these locations is a must.
Tract-home builders do what the code requires: a porch light or a light over the stairs. You need to do the rest: Add lighting that brightens up the pathway and separation between steps. You may well make your home look more interesting to evening guests, and no doubt they will appreciate the bright, safe walkway.
We won't say much about the workshop because it probably already has the best lighting on the property.
In sum: Make your home safer. Add lighting throughout. A clear path is a safe one.
Keep Your Powder -- and Your House -- Dry
What is the single most damaging element in the home today? Here are some clues: It causes cracks in plaster and wallboard -- especially over windows and doors. It causes doors to catch and stick. It is the reason for mildew on window sills and in showers and the reason why basements and crawl spaces reek with the smell of thriving fungus and bacteria.
It is the primary reason for rust and corrosion both inside and outside your home and it is what puddles in your crawlspace or basement during a heavy rain, or if you leave the garden hose running for too long.
Rust is the obvious result of exposure to water, and most folks are beginning to learn that mold and mildew can only thrive if there is plenty for the fungi to drink -- like in a damp shower, laundry or basement.
A sticking door, not to mention cracks in walls and ceilings, most often result when the soil beneath the home radically expands or contracts when water hydrates the soil and then evaporates. The ensuing house movement is a truly shifty problem. The maintenance of these conditions can be endless.
But there is something you may not realize about water that can cause an interesting kind of damage that you may never have thought about before. Did you know that when a termite looks at your home it sees dinner? Did you know that when a termite sees a wet home it no longer sees dinner -- it sees a banquet. That's no joke.
In fact, New Orleans was not only beaten, battered, and flooded, but it is now one of the most termite-infested areas in the country. Termites make a big deal out of carrying water back and forth to the workers so that they can survive in dry areas. That task is not necessary when their meal is generously accompanied by ponding water.
After the San Francisco earthquake in 1989, we learned that anchor bolts and earthquake hold-downs don't work like they are supposed to when wood had been attacked by either water or termites. And a house doesn't have a chance when both have been around for a while.
What can you do? Keep your house dry by following these simple steps:
--Clean gutters and downspouts at least once a year. If you don't have gutters, add them. All of the water that collects on a roof ends up around your foundation when gutters are clogged or when they don't exist. Also, a downspout that discharges water near the foundation is a no-no. We call it selective flooding and nothing will grow fungus, mold and termites faster.
--Check your roof after each storm and seasonally to make sure the highest point in your home remains dry. Although this can be best performed by a pro, you can help. Get a set of binoculars and look at the exterior from a distance. Look for split or missing shingles and piles of debris that can dam or hold back water that can cause flooding in even a light rain.
--Caulk the exterior of your home. Especially at windows and doors and where separations have occurred in the exterior stucco or siding.
--And remember, paint isn't just for pretty. Paint also protects wood siding from water attack.
If you don't feel comfortable doing the work yourself, hire someone. It will always be cheaper to hire prevention that it will be to make repairs later.
Here are a few tips you can look for that may help you to find termites:
--Darkened wood or wood with little holes.
--Mud tubes traveling between the earth and your wood floor.
--Sawdust anywhere in your home.
--Little tiny wings -- especially on window sills.
--Wood of any kind anywhere -- including furniture -- that easily gives way under the pressure of a flat screwdriver blade.