Spring is finally here, and this month’s home maintenance to-do list includes lots of opportunities to be outside in the fresh air.
A change of seasons always necessitates a few special chores, and spring is also a great time to tackle some annual tasks that shouldn’t be forgotten. From roof repair to foundation drainage, these chores will get your home in shape from top to bottom.
Read on to find out more.
To-Do #1: Inspect and Repair Roof
If you can access your attic, check underneath your roof during or just after a heavy rain for signs of damp spots or drips. Pay particular attention to chimneys, where leaks around the flashing are common.
Next, inspect your roof from the outside, either using a ladder to climb up on the roof or with binoculars from the ground. If you’re on the roof, sweep away any leaves and debris to prevent water buildup and to get a better look at the condition of your roof.
Examine your shingles closely to see if any are missing or loose. You can do basic DIY roof repairs yourself, or hire a roofing contractor to do them for you.
Inspect your chimney for loose or damaged flashing and missing mortar. Seal small cracks where the flashing meets the chimney with masonry caulk, and repair and reattach loose flashing with masonry nails or screws covered with roofing cement.
Watch our video on How to Repair Leaking Chimney Flashing to find out more.
To-Do #2: Check Foundation Drainage
To keep rainwater out of your home’s basement or crawl space, check to make sure that the ground slopes away from the house on all sides. For proper drainage, the soil around your home should follow the “6 in 10” rule: six inches of ground slope in the first 10 feet next to the house foundation.
If you have gutters on your house, make sure the downspouts have extension pipes or splash blocks on the ground at the bottom to direct any rainwater away from your home.
Watch our video on How to Keep Water from Damaging a House Foundation to find out more.
To-Do #3: Check for Plumbing Leaks
If your water bill has suddenly increased, or even if it hasn’t, take some time to check the water meter for unseen leaks in your plumbing. Even a small leak can add up to thousands of gallons of wasted water, which not only hurts your wallet but also wastes precious, clean water.
Checking water meter for leaks:
- Turn off all water sources in and around the house, including toilets, sinks, icemakers, sprinklers, and water using appliances—such as washing machines and dishwashers.
- Remove the cover on your water meter.
- Most water meters have a flow indicator, which is a small triangle shaped gauge that rotates when even a very small amount of water flows through the pipe. Watch the flow indicator for a minute or so to see if it moves. If it does, you have a leak.
- If your meter doesn’t have a flow indicator, you can write down the numbers on the meter, and come back an hour later and see if they’ve changed.
Read our article on How To Check a Water Meter for Plumbing Leaks to find out more.
Finding a plumbing leak
If your water meter indicates you have a leak, the next job is finding it. The most common culprits of unseen water leaks are toilets, followed by outdoor spigots and irrigation systems. Another possibility after a cold winter is plumbing pipes on exterior walls that may have frozen and cracked.
Start by monitoring toilets to see if the water level in the tank goes down when the water is turned off. If it does, you probably need to replace the flapper valve .
Next, branch out to other plumbing fixtures until you find the source. If the leak is in an underground pipe, you’ll likely need professional assistance to find and repair it.
Read our article on How to Find a Plumbing Leak to learn more.
To-Do #4: Septic Tank or Grinder Pump Inspection
Most of us don’t pay any attention to our home’s sewer/septic system until it stops working! Rather than dealing with the aftermath of a sewer backup in your home, take some time each year to have your septic tank or grinder pump inspected to be sure it’s in proper working order.
Septic tanks are buried underground. As water and waste enter the tank, anaerobic bacteria break down the waste and the solids sink to the bottom. The liquid flows out into leach field lines, where aerobic bacteria complete the decomposition process.
Septic tanks need to have the solid waste pumped out every three to five years. In the meantime, regular inspections can make sure the tank’s levels are safe, the bacteria is doing its job, and the leach field pipes are draining properly.
Slow drainage and wet, spongy soil are signs of a problem with your system and require emergency repair.
Grinder pumps are installed in homes which are built downhill from the sewer line or in neighborhoods with pressurized sewer lines. The pump is located inside a small, buried tank.
Water and waste enter the tank and are then ground up and pumped uphill to the sewer line. These pumps and tanks need to be inspected regularly to ensure that everything is in working order.
To-Do #5: Fireplace Maintenance
When warm weather has arrived and your fireplace is no longer needed for the year, shovel out any ashes and make sure the damper is closed to prevent drafts, rainwater, or animals from entering your home through your chimney.
Once the fireplace has cooled down, take a look inside to locate the damper. The damper is a metal flap that closes over the opening to the chimney flue.
It will have a handle—with a metal loop, lever, or set of chains—usually located near the front of your fireplace opening to use to close it.
It may require a flashlight to see how to close the damper, and you may also want to wear work gloves to keep your hands from getting sooty.
Types of Dampers:
- Metal loop dampers can be closed by hand, or by inserting a poker into the loop and moving the flap closed.
- Lever dampers are closed by lifting slightly on the lever to disengage it, then pushing or pulling it closed.
- Chain dampers are closed by pulling on first the longer chain to disengage the mechanism, then the shorter chain to close the flap.
To-Do #6: Seal Tile Grout
Ceramic tile may be one of the lowest-maintenance and toughest flooring options available, but the grout between the tiles is porous and easily absorbs stains. Take some time this month to clean and seal your tile grout to keep it looking like new.
To Seal Tile Grout:
- Start by cleaning grout lines with a scrub brush or old toothbrush using a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar. A mixture of bleach and water can also be used to remove stubborn stains. Be sure to remove all the stains you can, since any remaining dirt will be trapped beneath the grout sealer.
- Allow the grout to dry completely after cleaning.
- Apply commercial grout sealer using a roller applicator bottle that puts the sealer right on the grout lines or a small artist’s paintbrush. Be careful not to get sealer on the tile.
- If your grout is stained beyond repair, a grout stain can be applied to add color to the grout.
- If your floors are new, you’ll need to wait 30 days for the grout to cure before sealing it.
Watch our video on Sealing Grout in Tile Floors to find out more.
To-Do #7: Clean and Sharpen Garden Tools
Spring also heralds the arrival of the lawn and garden season! If you left your garden shed in disarray last fall, take some time now to clean and sharpen garden tools to give you a fresh start.
Clean, sharp tools not only make the job easier, but they also help prevent the spread of garden diseases and pests that may be hiding out in the soil.
- Hand Tools: Cleaning and sharpening gardening hand tools, such as shovels and trowels, is a simple job involving a little elbow grease. Use steel wool or a wire brush to thoroughly clean and remove rust from the tools, then use a steel file to remove burrs and lightly sharpen the edges. Sand wooden handles with medium-grit sandpaper. Finally, apply a coat of oil to the blades and wooden handles to seal and protect the surfaces.
- Pruning Tools: Fine cutting tools, such as pruning shears, will benefit from being taken apart and carefully sharpened using a honing stone.
- Lawn Mower: Sharpen lawn mower blades by removing the spark plug wire, then loosening the bolt to remove the blade. Sharpen the blade using a metal file, bench grinder, or belt sander. Replace the blade, making sure it’s facing the same direction it was before, and tighten up the bolt before replacing the spark plug wire.