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Seasonal Maintenance Guide

By Karin Beuerlein

 

If you live in the South, here are maintenance jobs you should complete in SPRING & SUMMER to prevent costly repairs and keep your home in top condition.

 

Certain home maintenance tasks should be completed each season to prevent structural damage, save energy, and keep all your home's systems running properly. These maintenance tasks are most important for the South in spring and summer. For a comprehensive list of tasks by season, refer to the to-do lists at the end of this article.

 

In spring and summer in the South, the most critical home maintenance issues have to do with combating heat and humidity. Moisture is a constant in this part of the country, and keeping your home dry is critical for preventing structural damage caused by mold, fungus, and insect infestations. Also, if you live in a coastal area, you'll need to make sure your house is ready to withstand hurricanes; Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1-November 30.

 

Key maintenance tasks to perform:

 

 * Check your drainage. "The biggest problems (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/8-solutions-to-common-wet-basement-problems/) I see are in homes with crawl spaces," says home inspector Bill Loden of Insight Building Inspections in Madison, Ala. "If rainwater is not guided away from the house, it gets into crawl spaces and mold starts growing on the structures and in the insulation. Also, if the soil stays wet around the foundation, the retained water creates an opportunity for termites. Termites love wet soil."

 

Early spring rains, often heavy in the South, provide an opportunity to peek outside and see where water runs along your property. If you have areas of standing water, you need to plan for corrective action, such as re-grading, building landscaping features, or installing a French drain (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/french-drains-when-you-need-them/) (a shallow trench often filled with gravel that's designed to redirect water).

 

Spring rains also can help you locate blockages in your gutters. Look for overflow from the gutters and weak or non-existent flow from the downspouts that indicate a blockage. Check to see if the gutters have pulled away from the house, and for bent spots. You can make minor repairs to gutters for about $50 by adjusting brackets, gently hammering out dents, and replacing damaged sections.

 

* Look for rotting wood along the eaves. Check your roof overhang-also called the eaves-for dripping water and peeling paint that may indicate roof leaks and rot. If you see signs of trouble, consult a home inspector or roofing contractor.

 

* Look for roof damage. Inspecting your roof is especially important if your house falls under the drip line of a large tree or if you've had a recent hailstorm. If your roof is steep or otherwise difficult to navigate, stay on the ground and use a pair of binoculars. Look for loose, damaged, or missing shingles, and be sure to check plumbing vents. Although roofs typically last 20 years, the neoprene boots installed around vents last only 10. If yours are cracked or split, call a roofing contractor to replace-they cost about $50 per boot plus labor.

 

* Test your air conditioning early. Have your air conditioning checked in early spring to see how it's working before you really need it. Loden recommends purchasing a service contract with an HVAC contractor for twice yearly maintenance, an agreement that will cost $150-250 annually. Your air conditioning is like a car tire, says Loden, in that a slow refrigerant leak can go undetected for a long time before it has a noticeable effect. Annual maintenance guarantees any minor leaks will be caught and fixed, a repair that pays for itself in terms of energy efficiency and increased life of the equipment. Plus, you'll be prioritized ahead of the pack if your system fails on a hot day.

 

* Clean your siding. In the humid South, algae growth and mildew frequently appear on siding. Clean your vinyl, brick, stucco, or wood siding (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/clean-and-care-siding/) with mild soap and water, a brush, and a garden hose with a spray nozzle. A pressure or power washer should only be used by a professional. "You can damage the siding," says Loden. "You can even damage the grout between bricks with a pressure washer. Plus you can blow water up under the siding and into the walls and insulation, which leads to mold growth." If you choose to have your siding professionally cleaned, expect to pay $300-$500.

 

* Prepare for hurricanes. If you live on the coast, check the condition of your home's hurricane-resistant features, such as shutters and bracing, and make sure you have plywood and fasteners on hand for covering windows. Caulk and weatherstrip windows and doors, if necessary. If you have double-entry doors (which consist of two doors side by side, one of which is usually fixed), reinforce them with heavy-duty slide bolts, strike plates, and deadbolts. The materials will cost you around $100 if you do the project yourself

 

It's important to have the proper metal clips securing roof trusses and rafters to the exterior walls, a feature emphasized by major building code updates in Florida and Louisiana following severe hurricanes in the last two decades. Many older homes don't have these hurricane clips, also known as "seismic ties." If you're unsure whether your home has clips that satisfy new building codes, consult a professional building contractor.

 

Spring is also a good time to replenish your emergency supply kit (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/create-a-home-emergency-preparedness-kit/); don't wait until news of an approaching storm. The kit should contain a week's worth of water, non-perishable food, and toiletry items. Don't forget to include medications and pet supplies if necessary.

 

Spending a few hours here and there on home maintenance tasks helps you spot developing problems quickly and prevent costly repairs. For best results, complete the tasks described above as well as those on the to-do list following this article. Visit the links below for more detailed information on completing tasks or repairs yourself.

 

Karin Beuerlein has covered home improvement and green living topics extensively for HGTV.com, FineLiving.com, and FrontDoor.com. In more than a decade of freelancing, she's also written for dozens of national and regional publications, including Better Homes & Gardens, The History Channel Magazine, Eating Well, and Chicago Tribune. She and her husband started married life by remodeling the house they were living in. They still have both the marriage and the house, no small feat.

 

 

If you live in the South, here are the maintenance jobs you should complete every FALL & WINTER to prevent costly repairs and keep your home in top condition.

 

Certain home maintenance tasks should be completed each season to prevent structural damage, save energy, and keep all your home's systems running properly. These maintenance tasks are most important for the South in fall and winter. For a comprehensive list of tasks by season, refer to the to-do lists at the end of this article.

 

Fall and winter conditions in the South vary dramatically from the northern part of the region to the southern coastline. But basic maintenance tips apply no matter where you live.

 

Key maintenance tasks to perform:

 

 * Get your heating system in order. Heating systems in the South vary-there are generally more gas furnaces in the northern areas, and more electric heat pump systems toward the coastal South. Programmable thermostats are important for both kinds of heating systems, as they can help save around $180 a year on your energy bills.

 

If you have a heat pump, make sure you install a programmable thermostat especially designed for heat pumps, says home inspector Bill Loden of Insight Home Inspection in Madison, Ala. Programmable thermostats for heat pumps are specially designed to keep these systems working at peak efficiency.

 

Schedule your fall HVAC checkup promptly; you can expect to pay $50 to $100 for a heating tune-up. Make sure your HVAC professional checks all electrical connections, lubricates any moving parts if necessary, and inspects the condensate drain and trap. If you have a gas furnace, make sure he also checks gas connections and pressure, burner combustion, and the heat exchanger.

 

Inspect your furnace filters monthly and change them whenever they are dirty. Inspect floor grates and return ducts regularly and clean them out with a vacuum cleaner brush.

 

 * Clean your gutters. In the South, you're less likely to have ice form in your gutters than in other parts of the country. Nevertheless, debris in your gutters can easily divert water onto the roof or siding, setting the stage for mold and rot and dramatically shortening the lifespan of shingles and paint. Inspect and clean your gutters in the late fall after leaves have dropped.

 

 * Put away lawn and garden equipment. Pick up anything in the yard that could be damaged by cold or snow, such as garden tools, hoses and nozzles, and patio furniture and accessories. Run your lawn mower until it's out of gas, if possible; if you leave gas in the tank over the winter, it can degrade and lose some of its combustion ability. Worse, gas can react with the air in the tank and oxidize, forming deposits that affect the machine's performance; worse still, moisture can condense inside the tank and cause rust that blocks the fuel lines.

If you know you're going to leave gas in the tank over the winter, add a stabilizer to the last gallon of gas you put in (mix it in the gas can, not the mower tank, so that you get the mixing ratio correct).

 

 * Trim back vegetation. In some areas of the South plants grow year-round, so it's important to keep an eye on whether they're encroaching on the roof and walls. Trim trees so that branches don't hang over the roof, and keep heavy, dense growth away from siding. A good rule of thumb is to trim back bushes and shrubs so that there's enough room to walk easily between plantings and your house.

 

 * Pick up a paintbrush. Fall is a great time to paint your house's exterior if necessary, sealing all surfaces before winter's moisture has a chance to do damage. It's possible to touch up small areas only, but note two things: 1) odds are you'll end up with a slightly different color than the rest of the house, so don't do it in a prominent spot; and 2) if you have a small area that's consistently peeling or losing paint, you likely have a moisture issue that needs to be addressed first. Look for signs of leaky gutters, crumbling caulk, and loose siding that can trap moisture underneath.

 

 * Check weatherstripping and caulk. Open all your exterior doors and check the weatherstripping; if yours is crumbly or has gaps, replace it. Remove the old weatherstripping with a utility knife and clean the surface with household cleaner, getting as much of the old debris and adhesive off as possible. When the surface is dry, apply peel-and-stick foam weatherstripping. Start at the top of the door frame and work your way down, being careful not to stretch the foam strip, which can weaken the adhesive.

 

Inspect windows and doors for any gaps between the trim and the exterior siding that allow air to penetrate from the outside; these gaps should be caulked. Be sure to scrape out any crumbling old caulk or paint - applying new caulk over old is fine, but first get rid of loose chunks and remove any grit with household cleaner.

 

Spending a few hours here and there on home maintenance tasks helps you spot developing problems quickly and prevent costly repairs. For best results, complete the tasks described above as well as those on the to-do list following this article.

 

Karin Beuerlein has covered home improvement and green living topics extensively for HGTV.com, FineLiving.com, and FrontDoor.com. In more than a decade of freelancing, she's also written for dozens of national and regional publications, including Better Homes & Gardens, The History Channel Magazine, Eating Well, and Chicago Tribune. She and her husband started married life by remodeling the house they were living in. They still have both the marriage and the house, no small feat.

 

Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS┬«  Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

 

Jesse Samples and Sarah Samples at Allen Tate Realtors in Charlotte, NC

www.CharlotteHomeExpert.com



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