Winter is coming! You’ll be ready for Winter’s worst and prevent expensive repairs by taking care of some basic yearly maintenance tasks….
To-Do #1: Seal Up Cracks and Gaps
Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk ($5 for a 12-ounce tube) and make a journey around your home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive — and most important — of your fall maintenance jobs. You’ll also seal air leaks that waste energy.
Pick a nice day when temps are above 50 degrees so caulk flows easily.
Check the following key areas for leaks:
- Around door and window frames.
- Gaps around electrical outlets, phone lines, and outdoor faucets.
- Around heating and/or cooling units.
- The seal around room air conditioners.
- At corners formed by siding.
- Openings around drain pipes in bathrooms and kitchens.
So…How Do I Caulk?
Good question, now that you have identified the problem areas around your home, it’s time to seal them up. Below are some simple steps to make it happen
- Start by cleaning the surface to remove dirt, loose paint, and old caulk
- Determine which caulk to use based on the size of crack or gap and the surrounding material.
- Cut the tip off the tube of caulking at a 45° angle and load it into the caulking gun. Since the tip is tapered, the more you cut off, the wider the bead of caulk.
- Use a long nail or the puncture tool found on caulking guns to break the inner seal.
- Apply a uniform bead of caulk to the gap, making sure it covers both sides and completely fills the crack.
- Remove any excess then smooth the bead of caulk with your finger before it begins to set.
- Insert a tight fitting nail in the end of the tube of caulking to prevent it from drying out.
To-Do #2: Give Your Fireplace A Once-Over
To make sure your fireplace is safe, grab a flashlight and look up inside your fireplace flue to make sure the damper opens and closes properly. Open the damper and look up into the flue to make sure it’s free of birds’ nests, branches and leaves, or other obstructions. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney.
Check the firebox for cracked or missing bricks and mortar. If you spot any damage, order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. An inspection costs $79 to $500.
You fireplace flue should be cleaned of creosote buildup every other year. A professional chimney sweep will charge $150 to $250 for the service
To-Do #3: Inspect Your Roof
If you live in the Pacific Northwest like I do, you know that November 1st basically brings the rainy season for the next 6 months, which makes this step one of the most important things you can do to prevent moisture penetration in your home.
If you have a steep roof or a multistory house, stay safe and use binoculars to inspect your roof from the ground.
Look for warning signs: Shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately.
Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath. Call in a pro roofer for a $50 to $100 eval. Tom and Lori with Twin Peaks Roofing are wonderful to work with, affordable AND professional.
A plumbing vent stack usually is flashed with a rubber collar — called a boot — that may crack or loosen over time. They’ll wear out before your roof does, so make sure they’re in good shape. A pro roofer will charge $75 to $150 to replace a boot, depending on how steep your roof is.
To-Do #4: Clean and Repair Gutters
Clogged rain gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts.
If you find colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in your gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Look closely for other signs of roof damage (#5, below); it may be time for a roofing replacement.
Your downspouts should extend at least 5 feet away from your house to prevent foundation problems. If they don’t, add downspout extensions; $10 to $20 each.
To-Do #5: Trim Back Trees and Bushes
Trimming your trees and hedges in the fall not only leaves you with less mess, it also improves the appearance of your shrubbery and can prevent or correct a safety hazard. While power tools are terrific (and a must for a large number of trees and bushes) most seasonal pruning and trimming can be taken care of with a few affordable hand tools.
Hand pruners, hedge trimmers, loping shears, and a pruning saw will take care of most small branches and limbs. First look for and remove dead or diseased limbs, then cut back excessive growth and trim the bush into the desired shape.
For taller trees and thicker limbs, consider calling in a professional especially if branches are dangerously close to power lines, Arbor Magic Tree Services have been a client favorite. You may also consider contacting your town or utility company, as major tree trimming may be their responsibility.
To-Do #6: Get Your Furnace In Tune
Schedule an appointment with a heating and cooling pro to get your heating system checked and tuned up for the coming heating season. You’ll pay $50 to $100 for a checkup.
An annual maintenance contract ensures you’re at the top of the list for checks and shaves 20% off the cost of a single visit.
Change your furnace filters, too. This is a job you should do every two months anyway, but if you haven’t, now’s the time. If your HVAC includes a built-in humidifier, make sure the contractor replaces that filter.
Below is a helpful visual checklist: