This is the time of year to take advantage of the warm weather while enjoying time with friends and family or spending time taking care of outdoor chores to make your home and landscaping look beautiful. By paying attention to these areas, you'll learn to spot deterioration or changes before they turn into problems.
Give your home an energy audit: take some time to walk around your home and take note of all of the gaps and cracks. Experts estimate that you can save 20% on heating and cooling bills by fixing leaks. Begin your inspection inside. Turn off the electricity at the circuit box, and then remove switch-plate covers to look for gaps. (Replace them with insulated covers for $3-$4 each or install foam inserts). Next, check the junctures where windows meet walls, walls meet floors, and pipes and wires enter the home, plug the gaps with caulking. Look for daylight; feel for drafts and listen for rattles, all are clues to escaping heat. Next, check the house from the outside, examining the place where pipes, vents, or wiring enter. Examine siding for gaps or damage, paying attention to corners where the material joins and where it meets other materials, like windows or the foundation.
Insulate hot-water pipes: insulate the hot water in the basement or crawl space to save on heating costs next winter. Snapping foam jackets does insulating pipes—use pre-slit, hollow-core, flexible foam pipe insulation, purchased at a hardware store. When purchasing the pipe, know your pipe's diameter to get the right fit. Run your wastewater as you fixing the pipe. Running it as you wait for it to heat up will show you where the heat is lost as hot water runs through the exposed pipes.
Cleaning concrete: power washers can be dangerous to decks, but they're just the tool for cleaning concrete. While washing concrete, watch to ensure that the hard surface directs water away from the home's foundation. If the concrete sends water towards the foundation, take action. First inspect around the outside of the foundation for damage, looking for cracks and crumbling. Then check from the inside for water stains in your basement or crawl space. If water is getting into the foundation, hire a home inspector or structural engineer to help find a solution. You may need to redirect the drainage by removing or correcting the slope of the concrete. If that's not feasible, a sump pump could be used to mechanically remove the water. A sump pump's operation is triggered when water reaches a predetermined level under the home, setting off a floating switch.
Patch cracks in concrete: inspect concrete for cracks. To patch them, clean the cracked area well with a wire brush and small broom. To repair narrow cracks, use masonry crack filler. It comes in cartridges and can be injected into the crack. For bigger openings, apply vinyl concrete patching compound, smoothing the surface with a putty knife.
Patch cracks in asphalt: you can extend the life of an asphalt driveway or path by inspecting it two or three times a year and using a caulking gun and asphalt patching to repair cracks. If you leave cracks, they'll grow and plants can take root, widening the damage. Squirt the caulk into the cracks and use a disposable putty knife to even the surface. Every five years, treat asphalt to a coat of asphalt sealer. Brush it on with a squeegee or push broom.
Prune or remove problem trees: hire a certified arbourist to inspect your trees and tell you if any are hazardous. Trees hanging over your roof, rubbing against gutters or dropping loads of leaves and sticks onto the roof should be pruned. Overhanging branches can provide access for animals such as birds and squirrels, and diseased or damaged trees may fall on your home during a storm.
Clean exhaust fans: exhaust fans do a lot of work in your home. In bathrooms, they push out moisture to keep walls and floors dry and prevent the growth of mould. Before you begin cleaning the fan, turn off its power at the circuit breaker. Dust the vents on the fan cover and the fan blade. Once it's clean and dry then reassemble. It is best to do this twice a year. For oven and stove vents, when cleaning make sure the electricity is disconnected at the circuit breaker box. Start by removing the washable filter from the stove's exhaust fan. You'll find the fan either in range between the burners or in a hood over the stove. If the fan can be pulled out, unplug it, remove it and extract the filter. Wash the filter and vacuum the opening of the fan, then clean the blades and housing with a cloth.
Mend the fence: even the cheapest new fence costs thousands of dollars. Before investing in a new fence, look for damages and determine if you can fix the fence yourself. Before touring your fence line, mow the grass low enough so you'll have good visibility. As you walk the fence, test the strength of the connections by gently tugging posts and slats to ensure they're well attached. Check fence posts for signs of rot. Remove and replace the damaged areas. Keep fences painted or stained to protect the wood. Repaint or stain when the original finish is thin, cracked or peeling.
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