Spring Home Maintenance - Outdoor


Why is it important to stay on top of your home’s maintenance?

 

  1. Value: It helps you maintain and add to the value of your home.
  2. Appearance: It improves the appearance of your property.
  3. Protection: It protects your home against weather and other threats.
  4. Reduce Long Term Costs: Maintenance costs are less when you do it regularly.
  5. Identify Issues: It allows you to identify issues before they become major repairs.
  6. Less Surprises: Fewer unforeseen issues will arise.
  7. Save Time: The more frequently you do it, the less time it will take each season.

Here’s what you can do to help you get your the outside of your home ready for the Spring and Summer seasons!


☐ Power wash your home

With the help of a power washer or the garden hose, wash down the deck, the outside of your garage and the outside of your home. It’s one of the best ways to remove mold, mildew, stains, and dirt from your home, and better curb appeal.

 

☐ Inspect your deck

Look over your deck for deteriorating or loose board and railings. Replace the loose pieces with new ones from a home repair store. Sand and re-stain your deck if necessary. Ensure all railings are securely fastened to prevent a fall or injury.

 

☐ Clean out window wells of debris

Remove all the leaves and trash that have been blowing around in the Winter winds and accumulated in your window wells.

 

☐ Clean and declutter the garage

Remove old materials and paints, and recycle what you can.  Organize tools in shelving and cabinets. Sweep out the garage floor.

 

☐ Brush and tree trimming

Trim trees, bushes, and shrubbery and ensure that trees will not be growing close to any power lines.

 

☐ Get your lawn in tip-top shape

In the late Spring fertilize or apply a turf builder to your lawn.  Stores have several kinds to choose from so read the outside packaging and choose the best for your type of lawn.  Another way to get this job done, is to hire a lawn maintenance company that will take care of it all for you.

 

☐ Test and repair lawn sprinkler system

Broken sprinkler heads are easy to identify. Simply look for cracked or broken plastic casing on the heads, heads that don't pop up, or water that sprays wildly or not at all. It's common to find the top of the head completely broken off. This typically happens to heads that are set too high and are run over by vehicles or hit by lawn mowers. Dig around the sprinkler head to expose the riser. Unscrew the broken sprinkler head from the riser. Purchase new ones from the home repair store and install the new head, turning it tight with your hands.

 

☐ Clean and repair gutters and downspouts

Thoroughly cleaning your home’s gutters every spring and fall will keep them working like they should. Leaves can build up and clog the downspouts, which can cause water damage to your roof and fascia (the board behind the gutter).  Water pouring over the gutters or from leaks can end up next to your home’s foundation and basement.  Remove any large debris like twigs and leaves from gutters and downspouts.  To clean out smaller materials, flush the gutter lengths with a hose starting at the end opposite the downspout. Alternatively, you can use a gutter-cleaning attachment on a hose. If the water doesn’t drain, recheck for debris and clean as necessary.  If gutter water still doesn’t drain, the downspout may be clogged.  If needed, check the drain end.  Install a small nozzle on the hose, and lock it at full pressure. Turn on the water and feed the hose up from the bottom of the spout. If this doesn’t clear the downspout or the nozzle is too big, use a plumber’s snake tool to clear the blockage. Flush the gutter again.  If there's still standing water after the gutter has been flushed, the gutter may not be sloped correctly and will require adjustment. The length of the system should decline at least ¼ inch every 10 feet toward the downspout.  If the gutter doesn’t slope enough, detach the hangers and adjust the gutter enough to drain properly, then reattach. It may be easier to work on small sections at a time to prevent the entire gutter system from falling.  Inspect the gutter sections and downspouts for obvious damage and missing parts. Support hangers should be spaced every 2 feet along the gutter. Repair any leaks in the gutter seams by making sure the gutter lengths are tight against each other, and run a bead of gutter sealant on both sides of all joints. To repair leaks at the end caps, add sealant along the inside of the joint.

 

☐ Inspect your roof and garage shingles

Check for missing shingles, curled or cracked shingles and if there are any pieces of flashing missing. High winds can dislodge shingles or the flashing around chimneys or skylights. You may be able to patch newer roofs if the damage is limited otherwise you may want to contact a professional.

 

☐ Inspect for sunken concrete

The areas to check for sunken concrete are patios & porches, pool decks, sidewalks, driveways, garage floors, basement floors, and any stairs and steps. Concrete that is sinking can be corrected by a concrete professional. There are several ways they can correct the concrete: Correcting any uneven concrete surfaces by altering the foundation that the surface sits upon, lifting sunken concrete slabs by pumping a grout through the concrete and pushing the concrete slab up from below or Polyurethane foam concrete raising material can be injected as a liquid which sets-up as a rigid foam underneath the concrete slab.  These methods are less expensive then replacing the areas with newly poured concrete. It can usually can be done within one day and the concrete areas are ready to use within a few hours.

 

☐ Inspect negative foundation soil sloping and sunken ground around the home

Having the soil sloping away from your house foundation provides drainage of excess rain and snow runoff. Poor drainage resulting in leaky basements is often from having insufficient slope away from the foundation. It’s most important with older homes that may have blocked weeping tile and deteriorated damp-proofing on the foundation walls. Building up the soil next to the foundation may be a simple job if there is very little vegetation or paving next to the house. If there is a lot of landscaping, trees, bushes or sidewalks, the project might be larger. Special attention should be paid to the first 2 - 3 metres of soil from the foundation of your home. A good slope to aim for when grading land extending out from a house foundation is approximately 6” downhill away from the house foundation over the first 10' feet.

 

To find the slope away from your foundation, you will need: string, 2 stakes and something to pound them into the ground, a string level, and a measuring tape.

-Tie one end of the string loosely around stake A.

-Pound stake A into the ground right near your foundation

-Slide the string down stake A, so that it rests at ground level

-Tie the other end of the string loosely around stake B.

-Now measure out 10 feet down the slope from stake A, and pound stake B into the ground there. The string between the stakes should be fairly taut, but still adjustable.

-Slide the string up or down stake B, so as to make it roughly level.

-Put the string level on the string, at about the mid-point between the stakes.

-Now adjust the string up or down on stake B, so as to make it exactly level.

-Measure the distance from the string on stake B to the ground. Is the measurement 6 inches or more?

-The slope measurement you just took will determine whether or not you need to re-grade this land: If the measurement is 6 inches or more, you have a perfect slope -- no need for land grading here.If not, you will need to re-grade the land by adding fill near the foundation and tamping it down; after which you can check the new slope by repeating the steps above.

 

The new soil can be covered with sod or seeded with grass seed, which can prevent erosion and hold the new soil together. Regular maintenance will be required to maintain this slope, but if kept up, it should provide considerable added protection for your basement from any water seepage.

Unfortunately, sometimes just filling the area in with more dirt or gravel lost by erosion and settlement won’t solve a potentially bigger problem: house settling issues. If the ground around your home is sinking and disappearing, there could be a problem affecting your foundation. Check your basement for settling issues and cracks and you’ll want to contact a foundation specialist to examine your foundation.

 

☐ Inspect your concrete pads, walkways, and driveway for cracks

Driveway cracks come in a host of sizes and shapes—from hairline cracks to more significant fissures. Regardless of the size of the crack, there a few simple steps that should be taken before fixing the crack. The crack should be cleaned thoroughly to ensure proper bonding between the old surface and the repair material. Cleaning entails removing loose pieces of the old concrete with a chisel or equivalent tool and then removing the remaining debris with a wire brush and sweeping it away.  The crack can then be repaired and filled with something as simple as concrete caulking for hairline cracks or concrete sealer (pourable concrete mixture) designed to fill larger cracks. You should also use a trowel to compress the material firmly into the crack. For an aggregate driveway, you will want to pour sand over the concrete patch and roll over it with a somewhat heavy object.  Once the patch is in place, it has to be allowed to dry and cure before you park a car on it. Curing is not the same as drying. Pourable concrete is easier to work with than the polymer coatings, not only because you are working on a much smaller area than you would be if resurfacing an entire driveway, but because they typically dry more slowly, allowing you time to work, plus many patching products are designed to cure quickly, to reduce the wait after you're done. If you've used sand on the crack of an aggregate driveway, sweep or wash away the excess after the curing process has finished.  Concrete is porous and water is one of the major culprits that can do damage to your driveway. To help minimize water damage, it is always a good idea to regularly apply a high-quality water sealer.

 

☐ Turn on outdoor water connections

Exterior faucets should have a separate shutoff valve inside the house, but not all of them do. With older homes, these valves are usually located in the ceiling somewhere close to the outside faucet. Turn on the main water valve for your outdoor water hose connections. This is a good time to check for damaged outdoor faucets.  Tighten or replace valves and hoses if cracked or leaking.

 

☐ Clean and test the air conditioning unit

Clean or replace the air conditioner’s filters twice a year or whenever they begin to look clogged with dust. If you don’t, air flow will be restricted, reducing efficiency, and you will recirculate dust into your home. A large fan inside the metal box moves air across radiator-style condenser coils. If debris has gotten inside the unit, dirt has probably clogged some of the coils. To clean the coils, first ensure the power to the AC unit is turned off and you’ll need to remove the side and top panels or protective grilles from the condenser unit using a screwdriver. Then lift off the top, which may be heavy due to the weight of the fan attached to it. Don’t tug any of the wires connected to the fan. Using a refrigerator coil brush or a soft brush on a vacuum, gently clean the coils from the outside of the unit. Be careful not to bend the delicate fins or damage the coils. If you do bend the fins, you can straighten them with a “fin comb” made for this purpose. After cleaning from the outside, vacuum the coils from the inside. Scoop leaves and debris out of the base of the condenser and, if it has a drain, make sure the drain is clear.  Use the vacuum and a rag to clean the blower’s fan blades. Then tighten any loose mounting bolts and, if the fan motor has oil ports, put a few drops of lightweight oil or spray WD-40 into the ports for lubrication. Mop up any excess water inside the unit, and then reassemble the condenser.  The refrigerant tubes or pipes that run from the evaporator on the air handler to the condenser outside are typically covered with foam coolant line insulation to prevent them from losing energy. If you see areas where the insulation is frayed or missing, replace it. To do this, install foam insulation sleeves or wrap the lines in a spiral fashion with foam insulation tape (you can cut both with a utility knife).  Allow the unit to dry thoroughly and then turn the power to the condenser back on by doing the following: First, turn the thermostat in your home to OFF. Then turn on the power at both the disconnect box and at the main panel. Last, switch the thermostat to COOL.  If your A/C unit isn’t running properly, contact a professional.

 

☐ Clean the outside dryer vent

The majority of dryer vent systems lead to a vent on an exterior wall or roof line. Keeping the outside dryer vent clean is essential to dryer safety and efficiency and to prevent structural moisture problems. Most outside dryer vents have hinged slats or "doors" that are forced open when the dryer is running to allow moisture and lint to escape. If these become clogged with lint, the moisture will remain in the dryer venting, making your dryer work harder. The moisture and presence of lint will also allow mold and mildew to grow. At least quarterly, check the exterior vent while the dryer is running to make sure the slats are opening freely and free from lint. If it is, turn off the dryer and open the vent manually. Inspect the hinges for rust and oil lightly with a lubricant. The vent should also be inspected for cracks or missing parts. Missing parts can allow insects and rodents like mice to enter the duct work. Use a long, wire brush to remove clogging lint.  Also vacuum the lint from the hose at the dryer.


☐ Inspect your foundation from the outside for cracks and defects

Look over your entire house foundation from the exterior of your home for any cracks in the cement.  Cracks allow for water, rodents, and insects to possibly enter your home. Minor cracks in cement could be fixed using a foundation filler product available at your local hardware store. For larger crack issues consider contacting a professional.

 

☐ Have your home checked for Radon gas

Radon is an odourless, tasteless, colourless, radioactive gas that is produced from radioactive breakdown of uranium in soils. Radon gas breaks down to form other radioactive elements. Being airborne, radon gas and its products can be inhaled. In the lungs, these particles breakdown further, releasing small bursts of radioactive energy (called alpha particles). These are absorbed by lung tissues damaging them in the process. When cells are damaged, there is an increased risk of developing lung cancer when they reproduce. Radon gas can enter a house at any place it finds an opening where the house contacts the soil: cracks in foundation walls and in floor slabs, construction joints, gaps around service pipes and support posts, floor drains and sumps, cavities inside walls, and the water supply. You can book a test with a Radon testing specialist. They will come to your home, assess the location and find the best place to the radon test equipment. Health Canada recommends a long-term radon test lasting at least 91 days. At the end of the test period, they will come back to retrieve the device, read the results and provide the radon test report to you usually within 24 hours. Radon levels in homes and buildings are recommended to be below 200 Becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3).  Any levels of 200 Bq/m3 and above should be fixed. If your Radon gas level is high, the contractor will seal all major cracks, drains, sumps and crawlspaces and will design a radon mitigation system that will draw the radon gas from beneath your home and safely vent it above the roofline, reducing the radon level and retest your home to make sure the radon level is reduced. Another way to have your home tested, is you can purchase a Radon gas testing kit from your local hardware store.

 

☐ Check the window and door seals

From the outside of your home, check around all exterior windows and doors and replace any damaged or lose weather stripping you find. Also check that each window and door close correctly. Improper weather stripping can lead to insects and rodents entering into your home. If needed, replace or repaint any damaged wood mouldings.

 

☐ Major yard renovations

Are you planning a new fence, backyard make-over, flower bed, or planning on digging for any other reason in your yard this Spring or Summer?  Before you put the shovel into the ground, contact Call Before You Dig for their FREE utility line markings.  Either call 1-800-242-3447 or click http://www.clickbeforeyoudig.com/. The company should be able to mark your yard with flags within a couple of days and this could save you from accidentally hitting a utility or electrical line or injuring yourself severely.

 

Have a Spring/Summer maintenance tip that you do and it’s not on our list?  Email us your suggestion to leroy@leroywarden.com.

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Data is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate by the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton.