Save Money this Summer – Part 2!
Last week we talked about (well, I wrote & hopefully you read – but in this digital world we live in, that’s talking, right?) how a spring walk around your home can save you money. If you didn’t catch last week’s post ,and the story of a very confused Woody Woodpecker, click HERE. This week, I’d like to dive into some of the details, talk a bit about what kind of maintenance items to look for, and what you might find. I’ve identified seven of the most important items to check (not in any specific order). At the end of this post, you’ll find a link to a printable checklist to help with you with the process.
BTW – You’ll likely notice that I spend a great deal of time focusing on what to look for, but not a ton of time on what to do, or how to make repairs. That’s intentional. (see what I did there?) 🙂 There are a practically limitless number of experts that can walk you through most repairs (have you searched YouTube recently?). However, very few talk about being proactive and doing the maintenance to AVOID those repairs. That’s our niche here at Home Intentional. I’d rather talk about how to avoid the repair, than how to do the repair. If you need help figuring out what to do with a problem you encounter, let me know, I can certainly point you in the right direction. You can email me a question right HERE.
Enough rambling – let’s get started.
#1: Smoke detectors – check for proper operation and replace the batteries
Ok – I know, we’re supposed to be talking about what to look for on a spring walk outside, right? But, and this is a big but, one of our overriding goals at Home Intentional is to help keep you and your family safe. What good is a perfectly maintained, smoothly operating, completely peaceful and enjoyable home, if you aren’t there to enjoy it? Please – take 6 minutes, grab your step stool, and go press the test buttons on each detector. I said please, so now you have to, right?
Your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested at least monthly, and the batteries should be replaced at least twice a year (daylight savings time changes are a great reminder for this). The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) has a great page on smoke alarms, including info on testing, installation, and when to replace your smoke detectors. That info can be found HERE.
#2: Siding condition — especially near the ground
If you live in an area that gets any kind of significant snow – your siding can take a big hit during the winter months. The bottom edge of many siding materials can act like a dry sponge, and soak up any moisture it finds. If the snow piles up next to the home and melts, this can wreak havoc on the condition of your siding. Catch this issue early, and it can be a minor repair. Wait months or years, and you may be replacing more siding than you can imagine. It happens fast – don’t delay on this repair!
#3: Electrical service overhead conductors
Ok. This has to be said. And I might need to shout. DO NOT MESS AROUND WITH POWER LINES! Are there trees, branches, a kite, a crazy gang of squirrels, or ANYTHING on or near your power line – between the transformer and the connection point on your home (often called the service drop or weather-head)? If yes, PLEASE call an expert to correct the issue. DO NOT GET ANYWHERE NEAR THE OVERHEAD POWER LINE. Are you feelin’ me? It may seem like a simple task to move one little branch away from the power line – and it might be. But it is NOT worth risking your life to save a few bucks. Call a tree specialist. Call the power company. Call someone who deals with these issues for a living. I want you to come back next week. Got it?
#4: Drainage – from roof to “away”
This one is huge – especially with spring/summer rain on its way. Allowing water to collect near the foundation is one of the most common causes of structural damage to a home. And I’m not talking about flood water here. Simply allowing rainwater to stay near a foundation can dramatically increase the pressure against the foundation wall. Water near a slab foundation can crack and heave portions of the floor upward, or undermine the area and cause it to settle. I’ve seen a LOT of foundation damage over the years, and a great deal (I would even say most) of this damage could have been avoided with something as simple as proper grading.
The good news? If water IS collecting around your foundation, this issue is often fairly easy to correct. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean, and draining correctly. Check the slope of the gutters along the roof edge; do they drain properly towards a downspout? Heavy snows may have caused a sag in a portion of the gutter. Check the downspouts and splash blocks. BTW – I wouldn’t extend those downspout extensions onto your neighbor’s property. They don’t like that.
And – very important here – make sure the grade around the home slopes away from the house for at least the first 10 feet. Get the water as far away from your home as possible. Suggestion: next rainy day, grab your umbrella, and take a slow walk around your home. Where does the water go? Does it drain quickly away from your home? Does it pool anywhere? Does it collect near the foundation? This needs corrected for sure. Watch this blog for a future deep dive on how to correct improper grading around your home.
#5: All exterior woodwork – decks, fences, window trim, fascia, etc.
Spring is a great time to review the condition of all exterior surfaces. Carry a screwdriver or a putty knife with you – check the condition of all wood surfaces. Press gently on suspect areas. Is the surface firm, or does the tool sink in easily? Paint in good shape? Joints and seams sealed or caulked? Any signs of rot, deterioration or decay? Pay close attention to corners of walls and bottom corners of windows and door trim, and check closely around downspouts!
#6: Exterior faucets – check for leaks inside too!
Even with “frost proof” faucets, water lines can freeze and burst deep inside a wall. Often, this problem does not show until the first time you turn on a faucet in the spring. If at all possible – grab someone and ask them to stand inside your house, directly opposite the exterior faucet, and watch and listen for leaks. It can take a while for water to work through a wall, especially a small leak, so don’t walk away too soon. A plumbing repair can be expensive. Replacing drywall, carpet, trim and furniture because your basement flooded while you were outside or away can be REALLY expensive!
#7 Damaged concrete?
If you live in a region that experiences hard freezing, your concrete surfaces (flat work) can suffer significant damage during the winter. If the concrete happens to be near your home, say in the form of a sidewalk or patio, this can cause even more problems if it allows water to penetrate below the surface and collect near the foundation.
Take a look at all the flat surfaces around your home – porches, steps, sidewalks, driveways, patios, etc. Look for new cracks, sunken or heaved portions, and any significant deterioration. It’s a good idea to take a broom or shovel with you, turn it upside down and tap on the concrete with the end of the handle. As you tap, listen. Does it sound hollow? If so, it’s quite likely that the subsurface has washed out. You’ll want to keep an eye on this area as the months and years go by.
Finally – take a broader look at all of these flat surfaces. Does the concrete surface pitch away from the home so that the water will run away quickly? Or does this surface tilt back towards the home, allowing water to collect?
So – that’s 7. There are a lot more to review, but this is a solid start. If you’d like to take it to the next level, download the Spring Walk Checklist, which can be found on the resources page, or download right now by clicking HERE.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. – You thought I forgot, didn’t ya. — What about that foundation crack from last week’s post?
Foundation construction and damage analysis is a big subject – one that took me years to get a hold of. Even after 20 years doing structural inspections, I still see things that surprise me. But – the short story is – all concrete cracks. Ask any contractor – the only guarantee that comes with concrete work is that it WILL crack. In my experience, more often than not, vertical cracks do not indicate significant structural problems. Please note – this is NOT a 100% rule. But I have found that, typically, the cracks to worry about are diagonal or horizontal in nature. These types of cracks often indicate that the wall is moving inwards. If you have a new or newly expanding crack in a foundation wall, look for inward movement on the wall. Be watching for a future in-depth article on foundation issues.
This one – I’ll watch as the years go by – but I won’t lose any sleep over it!