Spring has been here for a while now, and the cool weather is mostly over. It's a good time to get started on some late-spring maintenance on the house. Here are a few weekend chores that, done in a timely fashion, can avoid larger problems later.
Clean out the gutters
If your house is in a wooded setting and the gutters haven't been cleaned since the fall, they've become clogged. The last of the autumn leaves floated down into them during the winter, and spring flowers from tall trees such as oaks and tulip poplars have done their part. Check the alignment of the gutters as well - even if they're not clogged with leaves, gutters will overflow if they've sagged or pulled loose due to winter ice and snow.
Check downspouts for loose connections and leaks
A detached downspout defeats the purpose of the rain gutters by dumping all the roof drainage next to the house. Also check extensions and splash blocks at the bases of downspouts - they should direct rainwater 30 inches or more away from the foundation of the house.
Inspect surface grading next to the house
Maintain a slight down slope from the house where possible, adding additional soil as needed - this reduces infiltration of rainwater into the backfill surrounding the foundation, helping to prevent a damp basement or crawlspace.
Examine painted exterior surfaces, especially wood trim
Paint failure, water damage and mildew should be corrected before serious rot can occur. Touch up caulk joints in exterior siding and trim.
Even small separations in caulk joints often allow water to be drawn in and saturate the underlying wood, causing the wood to rot.
Look for torn or missing shingles on the roof
If shingles were damaged by winter wind and weather, they often can be spotted from the ground. But if possible, get a close-up look at an accessible part of the roof - preferably on the sunny side of the house - to check for split shingles and other deterioration. On flat roofs, look for split seams, separation at edges and blisters under the roof surface.
Examine roof flashings at chimneys, plumbing vent stacks and roof edges
These flashings often have caulk joints that need periodic recaulking to remain watertight.
Check the air conditioner
Replace the filter if it's dirty. If it's a reusable type, clean and reinstall it. Repeat this monthly or, at least, mid-season to maximize efficiency of the air conditioner and extend its life. Dust or other buildup can block condensate drains, causing water to leak from the unit inside the house. Check for leakage at the evaporator housing - above the furnace or at the air handler - after the air conditioner has been running for a while.