Our April home maintenance to-do list will get your house in shape for spring and ready for the hot weather ahead.
From gutter repair and tree pruning to garage organization and attic ventilation, find out what you need to tackle around your house this month.
Read on to find out more.
To-Do #1: Replace Air Conditioner Filter
Replace the return air filter on your central heating and cooling system every one to three months so the unit will work at maximum efficiency. A quality air filter that’s rated to remove microscopic particles, including mold and pollen, will reduce dust and improve the air quality in your home.
The air filter is usually located behind the air return grate on your heating/cooling system. In some HVAC systems, you can find the filter in the return duct near the air handler unit.
To replace the air filter on a central system:
- Turn the unit off, and wait until it stops running.
- Remove the grate or louvered cover on the air return.
- Take out the dirty air filter.
- Write the current date on the new air filter.
- Position the new air filter in the opening so the arrow on the edge of the filter is pointing in the direction of airflow. For wall and floor-mounted returns, the arrow should point toward the return duct. For filters in the ductwork near the air handler, the arrow should point toward the air conditioner unit.
- Close the cover on the air return.
- Turn the air conditioner back on.
Check out our video on Changing Air Filters to find out more.
To-Do #2: Clean and Repair Gutters and Downspouts
It’s important to clean gutters and downspouts regularly to prevent water damage to your home.
To clean and repair gutters:
- Remove Gutter Debris: Use a garden trowel or your hands to remove leaves and other debris from gutters. You can also use a utility knife to cut the right size plastic container into a scoop for easy debris removal. Once you’ve removed all the debris, use a garden hose to blast the last of the gunk away.
- Check Downspouts: Insert the garden hose in each downspout, and make sure water is flowing freely out the bottom. If it’s not, you can use a standard plumber’s drain snake to remove the clog. See our video on Unclogging Downspouts to find out how.
- Repair Sagging Gutters: To drain properly, gutters need to slope slightly downhill toward each downspout and be firmly attached to the eaves on your house. When cleaning your gutters, mark any low areas where water sits in the gutters. Remove the gutter hangers or spikes around the low area, and raise the gutters until they slope properly (1/4-inch drop for 10 feet of gutter). Watch our video on Fixing Sagging Gutters to find out more.
- Fix Gutter Leaks: Mark any leaks in the gutters joints and seams you find. After the gutters are dry, apply gutter sealant or quality exterior caulk to the inside of the gutter seams to seal the leaks. Read our article on Gutter Cleaning and Repair to find out more.
To-Do #3: Inspect and Repair Animal Damage
Winter and early spring are peak seasons for animal damage to your home. Cold weather drives animals inside where they make dens and nests to raise their young in the spring. The usual animal suspects include:
- Squirrels: Damage from squirrels comes mostly from chewing exterior trim, siding, shutters, and vents. If squirrels manage to get inside your walls or attic, they can cause extensive damage to insulation, wiring, plumbing, and stored items. You don’t even want to know what they can do if they manage to get inside your home!
- Mice and Rats: Like squirrels, mice and rats can chew the building materials and stored items in your attic to shreds for nesting materials. Rodents are particularly prone to chewing wiring, which can damage your electrical system and result in a potential fire hazard.
- Raccoons: While cute to look at, raccoons can do a great deal of damage trying to gain entry to your attic and wall spaces – such as ripped fascia boards, torn soffits and shingles, and broken vents. Once inside, the masked bandits can turn your attic into a war zone by shredding insulation and damaging wiring and ductwork, as well as spreading fleas and other pests.
- Opossums: These animals, like raccoons, will do whatever it takes to get inside your attic, basement, playhouse, or garden shed. Once they’ve settled into their new home, they’ll bring in all sorts of food scraps and garbage to rot and smell up the place. And if that isn’t enough, opossums emit a nasty odor of their own that’s similar to a skunk.
How To Repair and Prevent Animal Damage:
- Remove Animals: If you have animals nesting in your home, the first step is to call a licensed animal control professional to remove the animals. Don’t be tempted to simply wait for the animal to leave, then seal up the opening. Imagine the damage that can be caused by a panicked mother raccoon trying to get back inside to her babies you didn’t know were there!
- Seal Openings: Once you’ve evicted your animal tenants, seal any entry points with hard, durable materials such as fiber cement, sheet metal, or auto body filler. Simply tacking the damaged boards back up won’t do.
- Cover Vents: All attic vents and openings, including gable and soffit vents along with power vent fans, should be backed with steel hardware cloth that’s firmly attached with screws. Make sure your chimney is capped and sealed off with hardware cloth as well.
- Trim Trees: Keep tree limbs cut back at least 6 to 8 feet from the roof and sides of your house to deter animals from climbing onto your roof or siding.
To-Do #4: Check Attic Vents and Power Vent Fans
Spring is also a good time to inspect your attic vents to make sure they’re unobstructed, the screens are in good condition, and motors on power vents work properly before it becomes too hot to venture up into the attic.
When vents become clogged or fans stop working, summer heat and humidity become trapped in your attic. This can cause your air conditioner to work harder, damage your roof shingles by overheating, and cause mold and mildew to form in the attic.
If your attic is unvented or poorly vented, consider adding vents to your attic. For adequate air circulation, your home needs:
- Soffit Vents: To allow air to flow in under the eaves.
- Ridge and Gable Vents: To allow hot air to rise and escape out the top.
- Power Vent Fans: For extra circulation in hot or humid areas, install power vent fans near the peak of your roof or behind gable vents to assist hot air from escaping. Attic vent fans can be hardwired or solar-powered. They often are controlled by a thermostat or humidity sensor.
To see if your home has adequate attic venting, check out our article on Calculating Attic Vent Area.
To determine the size power vent fan needed, go to our article on How to Size Attic Exhaust Vent Fans.
To-Do #5: Cut Trees and Shrubs Away From House
To reduce damage to your home’s exterior, prune shrubs or trees away from your house.
Overgrown shrubs can rub and damage your siding, windows, and roof; while vegetation near or against your home leads to moisture damage and rot.
In addition, rodents and insects can use overhanging branches as a highway right into your house!
So get out your pruning shears and saws and do a little trimming.
Here’s what to do:
- Trees: Prune tree limbs back six to eight feet away from your home’s roof and chimney. Fallen limbs can cause a great deal of damage to roofs, and overhanging branches allow animal access and can be a fire hazard near your chimney.
- Shrubs: Prune shrubs back at least 18 inches away from the side of your home.
- New Plantings: When planting new trees and shrubs, locate them far enough away from your house so they can grow to their natural width without the need for excessive trimming. For most small shrubs, 3′ to 4′ away is usually enough distance.
To-Do #6: Clean Out and Organize Garage
Now that the weather’s finally warm enough to open your doors, give your garage a good spring cleaning and organization makeover!
Garage Cleaning and Organizing Tips:
- Clean Out: Start by thoroughly cleaning the garage. Get control of the clutter by sorting everything into: things to keep, things to give away or sell, and things to recycle or throw away. Large plastic bins are helpful for sorting the keepers into categories such as hand tools, power tools, painting supplies, sports equipment, etc.
- Spruce Up: While the garage is empty it’s a good time to clean or pressure wash the floor. Improve the look of your garage by painting the walls, then seal or paint the floor to repel stains.
- Add Storage: A little storage space goes a long way in keeping a garage neat. Bike hooks are great for keeping bikes out of the way. You can also stow bikes overhead using ropes and pulleys. Hanging racks help organize rakes and other garden tools, and building storage shelves can be used to square away tools, boxes, and storage containers.
- Keep It Clean: Remember that the garage is an entry to your home — sometimes the most often-used one — so you should keep it tidy and welcoming. Keep a doormat by the door into the house, along with a place to leave muddy boots. A shelf or bench near the door is great for putting grocery sacks or packages while you find your keys. Make sure there’s adequate lighting in the garage and that the entry steps are in good condition.
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