As the snow finally melts, homeowners in many parts of the country are warily welcoming spring and starting to assess of the damage wrought by one of the worst winters in recent history.
“You’ll want to make sure the entire house is still weather-proofed and take care of any issues that you find now,” says Steve Howland, owner of A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections in Northern Colorado. “You want to be ready for summer, and there’s another winter right around the corner after that.”
Homeowners spend an average of 0.40 percent of their home’s cost each year on maintenance, according to RealtyTrac, or about $1,200 annually on a $300,000 house. The typical price for the following projects will vary based on your location and the materials that you use. It’s worth spending a bit of money now on a minor problem like a broken shingle or a small crack in a driveway in order to prevent the expense of a major project like a roof or driveway replacement.
Here are eight potential problems you should look for and address:
1. Dead trees or limbs. You’ll want to not only remove any trees that didn’t survive the winter, but also examine at surviving trees to see if they’ve got dead branches that need removal, or have jagged edges where they lost branches during the winter. A jagged edge where a branch broke off leaves a tree susceptible to disease and insect infestations, so it’s best to have a professional saw off the limb in the proper place. An arborist can help you determine whether a tree that sustained a lot of damage this past winter can be save.
2. Trouble spots on your lawn. Many lawns throughout the northeast and the Midwest spent the winter beneath a foot or more of snow, which is bad news for your grass. Pay special attention to the curb area between the sidewalk and the street, where shoveled and plowed snow tends to accumulate. Such conditions can lead to something called snow mold, a fungus that causes grass to appear matted and flat. It looks worse than it is, says Dave Vojita, owner of Spring-Green Lawn Care in Peoria, Ill. “The best fix is just a vigorous raking, and some warm weather.”
You’ll also want to examine that area for rocks thrown off from the road and for salt damage. Remove the rocks, and put down some extra seeding in areas where the salt has killed the grass. You may also need to apply some extra seeding in the areas underneath shade trees, where grass tends to be more fragile.
3. Cracks or buckling in your driveway. The pothole-ridden roads to show the damage that snow and freezing temperatures can have on asphalt. Small cracks and holes only grow bigger over time, so it’s best to take care of them as soon they appear. For minor, cosmetic issues, resealing the driveway may be all the fix you need. “It’s a good practice to reseal your driveway every couple of years, anyway,” says Adam Ondrick, president of Ted Ondrick Material and Construction Group in Chicopee, Mass. “That will extend its life.”
4. Foundation problems. Large swings in temperature, can lead to cracks in concrete, and those cracks can cause additional settling even for older homes. Inspect your foundation from both the inside and outside of your home for any visible cracks. Small cracks may not be a major problem, but keep an eye on them. If they begin to get larger, call in a home inspector or a structural engineer to see if there are serious problems.
5. Caulking around windows and doors. Wondering why the temperature inside your home is far below your thermostat setting? It might be because the weather sealing around your windows and doors can crack or shrink in extreme temperatures, allowing in air and water. Tackling project soon will help save you on air conditioning bills once the summer hits.
6. Damaged roof or shingles. Start on the inside, checking your ceiling and attic for any water damage that could indicate a leaky roof. You’ll need to assess the exterior roof as well. In most cases you don’t have to physically climb onto the roof in order to do a basic assessment of damage. Walking around on your roof is not just dangerous – it could cause additional damage. Instead, do a visual inspection from the ground, or prop a ladder against your house and examine your roof from the top rung without physically setting foot on the roof.
You’re looking for any shingles that went missing or were damaged by snow or high winds. Pay particular attention to the flashing which seals the joints between a roof and protrusions like a chimney or a vent. “Even a novice will be able to tell if something is awry,” says Mike Fischer, codes and standards director with the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association.
7. Gutter and rooftop debris. Clear off any twigs, leaves, or other items that have landed in your gutters or downspouts or are collecting in the valley where sections of your roof meet. As summer arrives, such debris can become a fire hazard, or cause pooling water which can lead to leaks and other problems over time. You can buy a specialized broom-like tool from your local hardware store to help with the project.
While you’re eyeing your gutters, be sure they haven’t recently gotten loose or sprung any leaks.
8. Grading issues. All of the melting snow and frequent thaws this winter could have changed on your lawn’s grading. To avoid flooding issues, make sure your law slopes away from your home rather than toward it. You may need to have a landscaper build up additional soil and grass, where needed.
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