Spring into Action

Focus On Home Improvement

April 06, 2003|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,SUN STAFF

This year's record snow may seem a distant memory to you, but your home may still be feeling its effects. Don't just sit there and ignore the house's suffering. Pick up a toolbox. Pitch in. Help out. It's the least a homeowner can do. The Sun consulted some leading authorities on the subject and collected a top 10 list of spring maintenance chores. Step one: Take this page and post it on your refrigerator. There's no time like the present to get started.

1. Check out the roof. Even if you aren't comfortable making repairs, it's wise to check for potential lost or damaged shingles. Also, take a look at flashing, chimneys and vents. You can use a pair of binoculars, if necessary, but the best way is to get as close as possible. "If you think there might be damage, you can always look for damp spots in the attic," says David Steed, senior vice president of building materials for North Carolina-based Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse.

2. Caulk the outside where needed. Just a small bead of caulk can make a huge difference in future heating and air-conditioning bills. Look closely at the joints around windows and doors and where the siding comes in contact with the eaves.

3. Try out the windows. To get them unstuck, try tapping them with a hammer and a wooden block. Don't strike the window frame directly; use the wooden block to prevent dents. Make sure the exterior paint is not cracked or peeling. Don't apply fresh paint until conditions are dry -- four or five warm, mild days should do nicely.

4. Nurse your deck. Winter is particularly tough on wood, so it's wise to think about replacing rotten boards or resinking popped nails or screws. If the deck is in particularly bad shape, you may want to consider replacing it altogether. Maintenance-free decks have become quite popular in recent years.

5. Have your air- conditioning system inspected. Yes, it's early but it's a lot easier to find help right now than in July when things really get hot. Ron Hazelton, host of the syndicated Ron Hazelton's HouseCalls TV show, suggests wall-mounted units also be inspected, their filters cleaned, and foam seals be replaced "if they are deteriorated or crumbling."

6. Tour the basement or crawl space to check for excess moisture. Sometimes a wet crawl space can be caused by something as simple as a blocked vent. In fact, it's a good idea to check all vents around the house. The one from a clothes dryer can become blocked by lint.

7. Monitor the foundation for cracks. They need to be repaired immediately to avoid further water damage to your home. Don't worry about hairline cracks, says Dean Uhler, a home inspector and president of Boswell Building Surveys in Baltimore. "Large cracks that present structural problems will need professional attention," he says.

8. Repair or replace window and door screens. Hardware stores sell kits that can make this a surprisingly easy job if you've never tackled it before. It's also wise to make sure outdoor lights are working properly, particularly those automatic lights that help deter burglars.

9. Don't forget your garage. The snow might not have had much impact on it, but chances are your garage door could use a little maintenance, too: Lubricate rollers, hinges and the spring; check settings; and replace weather stripping, if needed. It's also a good time to patch and seal your driveway so that little cracks don't get bigger.

10. Inspect your gutters. They took a bruising. For less accessible spots, try using a mirror taped to a long handle to see if the gutter is clogged. Make sure gutters are properly aligned as well. With a pair of pliers, you can tighten loosened wire supports, if necessary.

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