Springtime Cleanup & Suggestions for Home Owners, Renovators & Builders
It is now springtime, and based upon popular belief and urban legend, everyone is expecting homeowners to jump at the opportunity to improve, cleanup and restore their homes. It is like the mandatory spring cleaning, that my Mother emphatically observed, by cleaning the interior of the house. This same dedication is now expected for the exterior of your home!
What can we suggest? Listed below are the immediate issues that, if you fit into the normal maintenance scheduling of homeownership, you probably should address.
- Sand and salt removal / If you live in climates that require the spreading of sand and salt on the roadways, you have some obligations to remove this material from the sides of the road. You might read this and think that this never even occurred to you as a springtime cleanup activity. Ever wonder why you never had grass in the front of your home? The salt and sand from the winter is killing the grass and preventing future growth.
It is somewhat humorous to think, that this removal of sand and salt is important, however it will interfere with the ability of the grass to grow. If this is important to you, and you want something to do, here you go.
Of course, if you are more interested in getting that first round of golf in, the raking and removal of the sand and salt can certainly wait.
- Rake the entire yard / The need to manually rake the entire yard is a springtime requirement, no matter where you may live. The idea of having to remove all the old grass, that has lain dormant over the winter, is mandatory, if you are my age or even older. If you are in the new era of, have the landscaper take care of it, then don’t worry about it.
What occurs as the grass becomes dormant during the colder winter months is this grass basically dies above the ground and forms a matting of dried, brown tuffs of grass. It is important to remove this matting to allow the new grass of springtime growth, to more easily sprout out of the soil and reach the sunshine. Of course, the new grass will eventually make its comeback, no matter how much winter matting covers the ground, however, the removal of the matting will allow the new grass to occur earlier, and with more intensity.
- Clean the gutters / Stormy weather, especially during the winter months, causes considerable material to accumulate in the gutters and leaders of your home. It is important to keep both the gutters and the leaders clean of accumulated material. An excellent time to focus on this activity is the springtime, especially after an active winter.
A word or caution, when it involves the cleaning of gutters and leaders, the activity involves heights and ladders. If you are not comfortable, or have an extremely high eave height, the distance from the ground to the gutter, then a professional might be a more sensible solution to clean the gutters and leaders. There are countless occurrences of individuals severely injured, due to falling off the ladder or the roof, trying to clean gutters.
The cleaning of gutters must include the clearing of the leaders also. The leaders are the vertical pipes that drop down from the gutters and guide the water to the ground. It is recommended that a hose be inserted at the top of the leader, and that a free flow of water be achieved to ensure that leader is open all the way to the exit point. In some cases, the leader does not exit to daylight, meaning the surface of the ground, and the flow of water is difficult to visually ascertain. The best procedure, when it comes to leaders that are buried into the ground and exit into storm drains or drywells, is to ensure that the leader does not fill with water indicating a clog, when the hose is inserted. If this is the case, a plumbing snake will need to be pushed into the leader to assist in clearing. If a manual snake will not clear the obstruction, then the hiring of a professional plumbing company that specializes in cleaning underground lines is required to clear the blockage.
- Window & door screen evaluation / Deterioration during the winter months will require that all window and door screens be visually evaluated. If any of the screens have been compromised by weather or are ripped or torn, they should be replaced. Vinyl, aluminum and fiberglass replacement screening, can be purchased at the local hardware store, as well as the installation apparatus required to properly remove the old screening and re-install a new screen material. The springtime is a perfect opportunity to repair the damaged screens, which may allow insects into the home during the warm summer months. In addition, the occupants of your home will probably prefer to open windows, to allow temperature control, on a nice cool spring day. Any screens that are compromised, worn, or simply too dirty to clean, can easily be replaced.
If the replacement of screens is not in your individual wheelhouse, there are several home handymen that can be hired to accomplish this task. There is also the option of simply removing the screen from the window and bringing them to local door and window shops for replacement.
A simple internet search will provide the name and contact information of those individuals, and establishments that specialize in this type of repair.
- Chimney cleaning and repair / Winter months normally means heavy fireplace and furnace usage. Based upon this use, it is always a good time to check the chimney as well as the flashings around the chimney. This will require the use of a ladder as well as gaining access to the roof. If this is not a comfortable situation for you, then there are plenty of roofing and chimney experts that can be hired to perform this maintenance chore.
During the winter months the heavy use of the furnace as well as wood and goal stoves and fireplaces produce high levels of creosote and other elements of combustion, which will accumulate on the walls of chimney flues or furnace vents. It is important that these coatings on the interior surfaces be checked by qualified individuals, to ensure that the buildup of these elements does not represent a fire hazard. Theoretically, if the construction of the flues involved were in accordance with code requirements, the occurrence of an actual fire within these flues should be confined to the interior of the flue. However, shoddy construction, possible cracks, shifting of flue tiles, loose jointing compounds, etc. could create fire hazards and should be investigated.
In most cases, this should be done by a professional that is experienced with this type of investigation as well as having the tools to properly inspect the interior of chimney flues and vents.
- Mechanical systems filters / During the winter months when the air circulation within the home is basically restricted to a recirculation of interior air, the accumulation of dirt, mold spores and elements within the interior conditioned air, accumulate on all the filters of the mechanical systems. These filters should all be either cleaned or simply replaced.
It is my opinion that the cleaning of air filters is an uncertain solution that could remove a majority of the foreign elements or, none of the foreign elements; it is totally dependent upon the skill and the ambition of the individual performing the cleaning. Isn’t it simply better to replace the filters, with new and clean filters, that have been developed to reduce mold spores as well as other particles that could cause harm and air quality issues, upon activation of the air conditioning in the summer months?
- Air conditioning maintenance / The springtime is a perfect time to have a professional mechanical contractor inspect your home air conditioning system, to ensure that the coolant levels are proper, and the equipment is running correctly. The maintenance of these systems should not be delayed until the first hot weather. There will be a rush of individuals requiring maintenance of their air conditioning systems with the first day of hot weather. It makes much more sense to maintain these units, prior to their need.
- Interior attic inspection / Springtime is a perfect opportunity to perform a visual inspection of the attic spaces. Select a cool and comfortable day in the springtime to climb up into the attic space. The attic insulation should be cleared from interfering with the soffit venting around the perimeter of the home. In addition the gable end vents should be clear of any insects, nests, spider webs, etc. The summer months will require the proper clear and constant venting of the attic space, to accommodate moisture removal, as well as allow the efficient operation of the air conditioning systems in the summer months.
- Basement inspection / Once the winter is over, and the snow has melted, it is a good time to visually inspect the perimeter of the basement. Any moisture that has developed during the winter months, in the basement areas, should be cleaned up and the condition evaluated. During the winter months and immediately after the frost is out of the ground, the perimeter of many homes becomes saturated with water. In many cases, this is the time that leaks may occur in the foundation walls, allowing water into the basement. This water moisture must be corrected, prior to the onset of frost and another winter. The springtime and summer are perfect times to eliminate any moisture issues in the basement and ensure that the following winter will be dry and moisture free.
- Mold testing / The springtime is a perfect opportunity to run a mold test in the basement and throughout the home. If there is any condition that would indicate the buildup of mold within the spaces of the home, the spring is a perfect time to test. Situations such as the accumulation of visual spores or even black staining of sheetrock could be indications that mold is starting to accumulate in the home. Another indication is the constant and persistent cough of a family member or other inhabitant of the home. Mold testing kits can be found in any hardware store or home building supply store. These tests can be performed by the individual homeowner and the results easily read. If a mold condition is discovered, the correction of this condition is best performed during the warmer spring and summer months. Research on the internet will identify several professional companies that specialize in mold remediation. These professionals should be contacted to ensure a healthy environment is maintained within the home.
- Radon testing / Radon is a gas that is produced from quantities of rock under the home. Granite will produce a radon gas, that has been proven to be cancer producing. As with the mold testing, the testing of radon can be easily performed by the homeowner. Any hardware store and building supply store, will carry radon testing kits. Like the correction of a mold condition, the installation of a radon elimination system is best performed in the warmer spring and summer months by an experienced professional that specializes in radon removal systems.
- Visual inspection of exterior façade / During the winter months, insects, mice, birds and other animals will have a tendency to make nests and burrow under, or into the exterior of your home. Squirrels are very good at finding a broken shingle, an opening into the attic, or a way to gain access into the soffit areas of the home. A simple visual inspection of the perimeter of your home should be performed in the springtime. Any issues that are detected should be corrected by a trained professional that is experienced in the elimination of this type of condition.
Springtime cleaning, when you own a home, is as big a chore as you make it. There are several items that should be done, some more important than others. However, lack of doing anything, other than opening the windows will also work. It is totally dependent upon your ambitions and how important it is for you to maintain your home and yard. There are several professional individuals, as well as companies, that specialize in a total springtime maintenance program for your home. I highly recommend the use of these companies to ensure that your home functions, stress free, during the summer months.
Maintenance is an important element of owning a home. If the proper maintenance is performed, there will be considerably less stress, due to failure of systems and problems caused by water, mold or simple deterioration of your home. However, if maintenance is not your thing, again, there are several professional companies that specialize in this type of seasonal maintenance. Once you have contacted one, and are happy with the outcome, the maintenance becomes a simple process of making an appointment. Many of the established maintenance companies will actually place you in their rotation for continued service. In this manner, each fall and spring, or whenever you decide the schedule corresponds to your requirements, the maintenance is performed.
Similar to your automobile, if you maintain your home, it will provide countless years of service, if you neglect the maintenance, you will have unexpected adventures involving home ownership!
Inexpensive maintenance can eliminate much more expensive repairs in the future!