Wake your home from winter hibernation
It’s starting to warm up a bit and your home is coming out of its winter hibernation. Winter plays havoc on houses, and spring should be a time to toss on some shorts and take a walk around your house to get that spring chore list in order. Here are few additional areas to pay attention to:
Wood decks can take a real beating during the winter. Make a slow and thorough examination of deck boards, railings, posts, stairs and other structural members. Look for loose fasteners, cracks, dry rot, or other damage. Tighten or replace the bolts that hold the railings in place to ensure a sturdy railing system. Remove loose nails from decking boards — hammering them back in won’t do any good — and replace them with weather-resistant decking screws that are made for that purpose. Use a screw that’s longer than the original nail.
Permanent, in-ground sprinklers are great, as long as they’re properly adjusted. Run each set of sprinklers through a cycle, and watch how and where the water is hitting. Adjust or replace any sprinklers that are hitting your siding, washing out loose soil areas, spraying over foundation vents, or in any other way wetting areas on and around your house that shouldn’t be getting wet.
Fans and air conditioners
Spring is a great time to check all of your exhaust fans, cooling fans and air conditioners. Check dampers for smooth operation. Remove interior fan covers, and wash in mild soapy water. Clean dust and debris from inside the fan unit using a shop vacuum — do not operate the fan with the cover removed.
Check the roof or wall caps where the fan ducts terminate to make sure they are undamaged and well sealed. Check the dryer vent hose and cap for damage or loose connections, and clean out lint buildup. Check outdoor central-air-conditioning units for damage or debris buildup. Clean and check window or wall air conditioners, especially the filters.
Vent blocks and outdoor faucets
As soon as you’re comfortable that the danger of winter freezing is over, remove foundation vent blocks or open vent covers to allow air circulation in the crawlspace. While removing the vent covers, check the grade level around the foundation vents. Winter weather can move soil and create buildups or grade problems that will allow ground water to drain through the vents into the crawlspace, so re-grade as necessary. Remove outdoor faucet covers. Turn on the water supply to outdoor faucets if it’s been shut off.
Fences and gates
Fence posts are especially susceptible to ground water saturation, and will loosen up and tilt if the soil around them gets soaked too deeply. Check fence posts in various areas by wiggling them to see how solidly embedded they are. If any are loose, wait until the surrounding soil has dried out from winter’s rains, then excavate around the bottom of the posts and pour additional concrete to stabilize them.
Can someone find your house easily, especially in the dark? Spring is a great time to check that your house numbers are clearly visible from the street, that they are painted a contrasting color from whatever surface they are mounted on, that they are somehow hit by exterior lighting at night, and that they are not obscured by overgrown foliage.
As always when it’s time to change the clocks, you want to check your smoke detectors. Replace the batteries, clean the covers, and test the detector’s operation before it’s too late. If you have gas-fired appliances in the house, including a water heater, now is also a great time to consider adding a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide detectors are inexpensive and easy to install, and are available at most home centers and other retailers of electrical parts and supplies.