Mother Nature has finally begun to relent and release her icy grip on the Northern Hemisphere. While this is great because it means warmer weather and no more scraping ice from your car window, it also means the annual chore that we all approach with hesitation. Yes, we’re talking about Spring Cleaning.
If you own your own home, there are certain things that you should do every spring to protect the investment you have in your property. The first part of spring cleaning isn’t jumping right in with a broom. It’s about inspecting those things that might have gotten damaged over the winter. This means looking over your roof, your attic, and your basement. So let’s get started and work from top to bottom.
(Keep in mind that everything here can be done by a contractor if you choose. Licensed roofers and contractors are more than happy to do them, but with a free afternoon, you can save yourself quite a bit of money by doing it yourself. )
From the Top…
The first thing you want to do is take a look at your roof. That’s a little more involved than just standing in your front yard and saying, “Yep. That’s a roof.” Get your ladder out and get up there. Take a walk around (carefully, of course) and look for trouble spots. Some of the things you want to look for include:
- Damaged flashing near chimneys and vents. Look for rust spots or cracked and missing caulk.
- Damaged shingles that are cracked, curling, or torn.
- Missing shingles.
- Moss clumps which can indicate water damage underneath the shingles. (Black stains are okay)
This is also a great time to do a brief gutter and drainspout inspection. Spring is going to bring rain and the worst time to find out your gutters are cracked is when they’re leaking all over everything.
Once you’ve taken a look at your roof, the next step in the spring inspection is to go inside and inspect the attic. Get a dust mask, a pair of goggles, a pair of leather work gloves, and a ruler. Wear long sleeves, long pants, and a good set of work boots. Your attic is going to be dusty and you’ll need to pull back insulation to do a proper inspection. When you’re up in the attic, be careful not to walk on the insulation itself. Stick to the beams to avoid crashing through your ceiling. A five foot section of a 2×8 can be lain across the beams to give additional walking space. What you’re looking for in your attic are any signs of water damage or any signs of animal infestation. Go beyond looking for water spots on the insulation. Lift the edges of some of the batts and look for streaking along the beams that would indicate that water was there. While you are up there, use the ruler to measure the thickness of your insulation. Use the instructions here to see if you should add any to keep your home insulated to the recommended values. (Adding insulation to your attic is one of the easiest ways to save money on heating and cooling bills.)
If you see any problem areas and you aren’t comfortable doing your own repairs, now is the time to get in touch with a roofing specialist or contractor. Spring is a busy time for them because everyone is checking their roofs now. Get your appointment confirmed now so you can have peace of mind.
…To the Bottom
The next step in your spring inspection is to look over your HVAC system and your basement. While local or state laws may require that a licensed technician do any actual repairs, you can and should still look over your system as part of a spring cleaning to make sure it is working properly. A proper inspection is more than just swapping out the filters (which you should be doing every three to six months, depending on how dusty or dry the weather has been), it should also include these steps:
- Check your thermostat. An improperly functioning thermostat is more than just an annoyance; it can cost you a lot of money. Make sure that both the AC and the heat turn on and off at the proper presets.
- Next turn off power to your HVAC system. There will either be a dedicated switch in your circuit panel or a cutoff switch near the furnace/heat pump.
- Look at the controller box and see if there are any loose electrical connections.
- Check the condensate drain to ensure that your HVAC system is draining properly. If it can’t drain, the buildup of moisture can cause icing, mold growth, and even rusting of internal machinery.
- Check fittings near gas or fuel lines. Use a soap and water solution (about 1 tsp. per pint of water) and apply it to the fittings. If you see any bubbles form, that is an indication of a gas leak. At that point, turn off the gas and call a professional to repair the system immediately.
- Vacuum the coils of your AC unit and clean the area around the furnace/heat pump. Dirty coils interfere with the heat transfer and will degrade the efficiency of your system.
- Turn the power back on (This is an important step).
Inspect the rest of your basement as well. Look for signs of leaks or water damage. Check the connections on your water lines for leaks as well. If you live in a humid area and you regularly use a dehumidifier, inspect it for damage and replace the filters. Make sure that it can drain properly. Check your basement’s sump pump (if you have one) and any floor drains to ensure they are not clogged.
If you don’t have a basement, but have a crawlspace, you still need to inspect it. You’re going to be looking for animal infestations as well as inspecting for physical and water damage. Be very careful, because if a feral animal has decided to nest under your home, they may not take kindly to you shining a flashlight in their eyes. If you see signs that an animal is living there, retreat and contact your local animal control for tips on how to proceed.
That’s it for the first day of your spring cleaning. Next post, we’ll talk about some tips for decluttering and getting your house ready for the warmer days ahead. Until then, we at Crucial hope you have a great week.