This is time for spring cleaning. But it also can be time for spring maintenance if you're in the first year of living in a new home.
We asked four professional home inspectors what types of maintenance new homes need in their first year.
1. Seal your grout. You know, grout -- that white stuff between the tiles on kitchen counters and in bathrooms. The inspectors we interviewed didn't agree that this job is crucial to keep water from getting behind your tiles, but they said that sealed grout will stay cleaner longer. Ask your builder whether or not the grout was sealed before you moved in -- it isn't routinely done. Or look closely at your grout after you take a shower. Does it get dark when it's wet? Then it probably needs to be sealed. But make sure you seal it only when the grout is very dry.
2. Change the furnace filter. Or clean it, if it's the reusable kind. And if your filters are the disposable type, buy several so you can change them about four times over the next year -- twice during the winter. Your house may be new, but the heating system collects dust during construction, and sometimes the filter can be very dirty the day you move. Also consider getting the ducts professionally vacuumed, which is a way of flushing the whole system.
3. Make sure old air gets out. In technical terms, this means making sure you know how your interior ventilation system works. New houses are so energy-efficient that homeowners need to make sure the old air gets out, and the fresh air comes in. (And in a new house, that old air contains the chemicals that seep out of new construction materials -- not something you want around for long.) You can get information on your interior ventilation system from your builder.
4. Make sure the ducts aren't blocked. This involves a trip to the attic and the crawl space or basement. Check the vents -- your exterior ventilation system -- to make sure they aren't covered with insulation or plywood. If they are, moisture can't get out, and it settles down on the wood, where it can lead to mold and rot.
5. Inspect your crawl space. Grab that flashlight and take a look around. Is there any water there? If there is, don't panic. It could have gotten in before the builder put the roof on, and just hasn't dried. But you want to make sure it's not a sign that there's a problem with your gutters and downspouts or a crushed drainage pipe. The underground pipes that carry water from your downspouts away from your house can get crushed accidentally. Then water pools close to your house and can end up in the crawl space. You may need help from a licensed hTC drainage contractor or professional home inspector.
6. Inspect your crawl space II. There should be a vapor barrier in there -- that's the plastic sheeting that is supposed to cover 100 percent of the dirt. Without that barrier, moisture can accumulate.
7. Correct house-unfriendly landscaping. If there's a tree near the house, move it. Don't let it grow and damage your siding or fill your gutters with leaves and needles. If bushes are likely to block crawl space vents in the future, move them. In general, you want at least 6 inches of space between any vegetation and your house. Also make sure you can see 6 inches of foundation around the When dirt touches wood, it can damage your siding and attract insects.
8. Clean your gutters. One of our inspectors puts it succinctly: "The fastest way to get water into your crawl space or basement is by not taking care of drainage from your roof."
9. Keep a close eye on trim paint. Put this one on your to-do list for when your house is about a year old. Painters often don't put a thick coat of paint on trim, and after even one winter, repainting may be necessary. While you're at it, check the caulking.
10. Stack firewood away from the house. That nice pile you have neatly stacked right outside the back door? Banish it to the back of the yard. Firewood can have all kinds of pests in it, and they enjoy moving from woodpile to siding for a bigger meal.
11. Tweak your water heater. Open the drain valve on your water heater once or twice this year just for a minute or two. The tank will refill itself. This helps get some of the rust and corrosion out of the tank, which can extend the water heater's life. Also find the temperature and pressure-relief valve on the top or side of the water heater, and open and close it a few times a year to make sure this important safety device is in working order.
12. Be fire-safe. Speaking of safety, buy an all-purpose fire extinguisher for each floor. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Then relax. Open the windows and enjoy the spring.
Pub Date: 4/19/98