Are You Ready for Happy Season? Time to Conduct a Home Self-inspection

John M. Dabbs

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Neglecting home maintenance will cause you grief over time. Some 25 years ago I became certified as a home inspector. I'm going to share some seasonal tips for you to keep your home ready for the change in seasons.

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Seals

As a homeowner, fall is an appropriate time to double-check your home and prepare for winter. You'll want to start by looking at your windows and doors. Not only are you looking for broken panes or frames, you'll want to inspect the weatherstripping and caulk. Replace damaged or missing weatherstripping around doors and repair or replace any caulk.

Roof

Take a good look at your roof and any shingles on your siding. If any appear damaged, loose, or missing, you will want to repair or replace these promptly. A few dollars spent early on can prevent major damage in near future here. Don't be afraid to call in a professional to do the job right.

Grading

Make sure you haven't developed a pile of mulch or dirt near your foundation that will prevent water from draining away from the house. If you have a leak in your basement or crawl-space, you should have it repaired or remediated sooner rather than later. Putting these issues off can cause more problems down the road. Water coming into the foundation and foundation walls can cause even more problems when the freeze and thaw cycles of winter begin - making matters worse, and more expensive to fix.

Fall Checklist

  • Clean the yard - rake leaves and remove them from flowerbeds and gardens
  • Check your guttering - clean them out, install gutter guards if needed (still must be kept clear), and make sure they are tight and snug against the roofline
  • Windows and Doors - replace missing or broken caulk, and replace any worn weatherstripping
  • Trim - Look for dead and dying trees and brush, trim these and remove them or call an expert to do it for you.
  • Roof - make sure your roof is solid - inspect for and repair any missing or damaged shingles
  • Walkways - Secure loose pavers, steps, and railings
  • Patio - Store outdoor furniture for the season and bring in any potted plants
  • Pipes - Drain and dover outdoor faucets and cover them. Also cover any exposed pipes with insulating tape or pipe wrap.

It's not rocket science, it just a matter of diligence to keep your home ready for the season. Keep this list handy, as we'll be into winter before you know it.

Winter Maintenance Checklist:

  • Decorate with safety in mind. All outdoor lights should be rated for outdoor use - holiday lights included. Don't attempt to repair damaged holiday lights unless you are a professional - it's much safer and easier to pitch them in the garbage and buy new ones.
  • Icicles are a hazard. Remember what happened to Ralph in "A Christmas Story"? even though they can put your eye out, the thing about icicles is they may indicate an issue with your roof. Insufficient insulation in the attic can cause heat to escape in areas, and icicles can form. Make sure your attic is fully insulated, and the soffits are clear, allowing ventilation between the rafters. The heat stays in the house - not the attic.
  • Clear paths - Keep your sidewalks, driveways, and decks clear of snow and dead leaves. Shovel snow away from your home's foundation, vents, and access areas around your home. Keep all entryways, windows, and decks clear. It will prevent leaks from developing and reduce the chance of injuries associated with the weather when coming and going.

Where winter is concerned, remember that candles and open flames are used inside more often than during the rest of the year. Check smoke detectors frequently to make sure they are working and the batteries are good.

Check for cracks in your walkways and driveway. Not only can they become a trip-hazard, the coming weather and force more water into the cracks and make them bigger - and make more of them. Seal the cracks and fix them. You and usually find suitable repair materials at your local home-improvement warehouse (i.e.- Lowe's, Home Depot, Ace Hardware).

Don't forget to check on your pipes. Those not within the insulated zones of your home (crawlspaces, garage, some exterior walls) should be protected with insulating wraps. This will reduce the likelihood of a frozen or burst water pipe - these often show themselves at the worst possible moment. My last experience was finding a frozen water fountain beside my home after working all night and coming home the next morning.

More

You can find many more resources on the internet, and as close as your local library. The key is to be vigilant and actually look at home for problem spots before they become major issues. Take the time to look critically at your home at the change of each season. You too can be prepared for the changing weather.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN
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