How To: Monitor Your Home for Maintenance Needs

Giving your home a quick check up a few times a year will keep you more comfortable, your energy bills down and your investment safe for the future.

Foundation and Decking:

  • Twice a year, check your home’s foundation for cracks or signs of water damage.  Seal any cracks found. During dry weather, add water to your yard or foundation to avoid soil cracks and foundation damage. During times of excessive moisture, ensure that water is flowing away from your home’s foundation.
  • Extend gutter downspouts so that they direct moisture away from your home’s foundation.
  • Seal foundation perforations.  All around the sill plate and rim board of your foundation use cans of spray-foam insulation to fill cracks and gaps where water lines, dryer vents, and gas lines are. This will save energy and keep pests out.
  • Check your deck once a year for signs of rot or damage. Replace any weak or decaying boards. Re-stain or re-seal if needed.  Go under your deck to check the foundation, looking especially close at your ledger boards where the deck attaches to the house. If the tip of a screwdriver can go more than ¼ of an inch into the board, it’s probably rotting and should be replace. Also be sure to tighten and lag bolts or loose hangers.
  • Check for insect damage such as termites and carpenter ants.  This may look like piles of sand. Call an exterminator if noticed.
  • Check your deck for nail pops that might catch bare feet. Remove and replace with screws. Also check for weak boards and railings and replace necessary structures. Just don’t use the same nail holes.
  • Clean your wood deck once a year with a pressure washer to keep it looking new.  Refinish decks every 3-5 years using linseed-oil-based deck stain. Using a quality sealer will also prolong the life of your deck.

Exterior:

  • Clean and repair gutters twice a year. Clogged or damaged gutters and downspouts can allow water to accumulate which can back up to your roof causing wood rot and damage. Clogs in the winter can cause ice damage that will actually pull the gutters away from your house.
  • Use caulk or other sealant to seal cracks in your home’s exterior and around windows, doors and pipes.  Large openings can be stuffed with steel wool or wire mesh before sealing. Plan to re-caulk every 3 years.
  • Check your roof twice a year for flashing and shingles that may need repair.  Look especially close to areas around chimneys, valleys and gutters.  The area where different materials meet should be properly sealed with silicone caulk that can expand with changes in the weather.  Check fascia and soffits for water damage. If you have moss on your roof, act immediately to remove it.
  • Clean your siding every couple of years.  Vinyl siding can be power-washed once a year. Choose a wash that kills mold, mildew and algae.
  • Check the condition of your home’s exterior paint once a year. Clean the surface and repaint every 5-10 years. The lack of paint is the leading cause of wood rot.
  • Check your siding for cracks or punctures and replace as needed.
  • Wash and waterseal cinder-block and limestone exteriors every 3 years.
  • Check your roof for spotty melting after snowfall. This could indicate heat escape in your attic. Replace or add insulation in attic where needed.
  • Repair cracks in your sidewalk or driveway with the appropriate crack filler to avoid further damage.

Windows and Doors:

  • Every season check for drafts around your windows and doors. Use a stick of incense to see if air is creeping in. If it is remove your interior window trim and seal the leak with spray foam or caulk depending on the application.
  • If you have single-pane windows consider replacing them with double-panes.  This will pay for itself within a year or two with energy savings and available tax credits.
  • Check your weather strips on the bottoms of all exterior doors before winter.
  • Twice a year adjust door knobs and deadbolt strike plates in ensure that your doors are still closing tightly.
  • Check double-pane windows for internal fogging, this indicates that a seal may have failed and the window may need replacing.
  • Lubricate hinges and tracks on doors once a year using silicone-powder lubricant.
  • Apply a fresh coat of polyurethane to stained doors once a year.
  • Check the frame and molding around your windows and doors for wood rot every year.
  • Maintain your garage doors by lubricating tracks and checking area around doors for proper seal once a year.

Interior:

  • Check the hoses on your dishwasher and washing machine once a year, they can dry out and crack over time.
  • Twice a year, vacuum the grills on your bathroom vents and home vent covers.
  • Once a year clean the vent in your kitchen fan.
  • Check for leaks under all sinks and around toilets to avoid water damage and insects.
  • Check grout between tiles in wet areas such as showers for signs of deterioration.  Add new grout and seal as needed. If tiles are loose replace immediately and inspect for greater water damage.
  • Every six months pull your refrigerator out and vacuum its coils to improve efficiency.
  • Clean dryer vents annually. If your dryer takes longer than it used to when completing a cycle, it is likely that the vent needs to be cleaned.
  • Check the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors every spring and fall.
  • Check your tub and shower base to see if it needs recaulking.
  • Check the insulation in your attic to make sure it hasn’t compressed or shifted. Replace if needed.
  • Check for drafts around faceplates of all switches and outlets and use caulk, spray foam or plastic plugs to stop drafts.
  • Seal  your countertops as recommended, based on material.

HVAC and Water-Heating Systems:

  • Change your HVAC filter every 1-3 months. If you have shedding pets change them more often and dust intake vents regularly.
  • Have your furnace and AC serviced annually.
  • Check your Heat Recovery Ventilator and check its filter.
  • Check for improperly sealed and insulated ducts. Use aluminum tape or duct seal mastic to seal all joints and holes, then insulate with duct insulation.
  • Make sure all exterior air vents are not covered with leaves or bird nests.
  • Make sure the coils in your outside air units are free of leaves and dirt each month. Do NOT use a garden hose to clean them – you could electrocute yourself.
  • Have your ducts professionally cleaned once a year.
  • Check all electrical connections twice a year to make sure they are tight and have no signs of burned wiring.
  • Before cold weather strikes, wrap your electric water heater with insulating blankets.
  • Make sure the air-conditioning condensation drainpipe flows freely and is flushed with disinfectant twice a year to prevent mold.
  • Replace batteries in programmable thermostats once a year.
  • Drain your water-heater tank once a year to prolong its life.
  • Monitor humidity levels in your home by installed a humidistat. This will show you if you need to adjust the moisture level  and will help keep air more comfortable.

Crawlspace:

  • Look for floor joists that are sagging or cracked.
  • Check for water on the ground, which can cause rot, mold, or mildew.
  • Check for plumbing leaks or duct-work leaks.

Source: Triangle Home Improvement Magazine, September 2010