At last the long-awaited spring season has officially arrived. The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer, buds are forming on the tree limbs, and flowers are beginning to bloom. Although there is much to celebrate and enjoy as winter gives way to spring, it’s important to remember that with the arrival of a brand-new season comes the need to check over your home for any issues that arose during the long, cold winter months—and to properly prepare your property for spring and summer. Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, the following are some of the most important maintenance items that should make their way onto your to-do list as you’re sprucing up your home for spring and summer.
Examine the Roof for Loose Shingles, Leaks and Punctures
If there is one single spring maintenance must-do item a homeowner should never skip when checking over their property for damage caused over the course of a long, harsh winter, it’s performing a careful and thorough examination of the roof. While living in a region that regularly receives large amounts of heavy snow puts your roof at a greater risk of collapse, you don’t have to reside in the Northeast or the Upper Midwest to have a home in danger of being damaged during the fall, winter and early spring. Strong gusts or sustained coastal winds in southern states that experience little or no snowfall can still fall victim to various types of roof damage ranging from excessive moisture and missing shingles to minor leaks and major punctures from wind-tossed debris.
Should high winds or heavy snowfalls from a particular winter storm cause significant damage to your roof—such as a partial collapse under the pressure of the snow or a large leak coming from a compromised spot—you will likely discover the issue within just a few minutes or hours of its occurrence. However, other common types of roof damage that take place during the winter are not as visible or easy to notice without an up-close examination.
Because even the smallest issues can result in major damage if they are left unattended for any period of time, the best course of action for every homeowner is to get onto the roof and conduct a visual inspection. In addition to missing shingles that have been blown off in high winds, keep an eye out for shingles that have simply curled up or come loose, leaving the wood and materials below them vulnerable to water damage that can eventually seep into the interior of your home.
Loose shingles can easily be nailed back into place, and missing shingles can be replaced; however, more serious damage—such as a collapsed portion of the roof due to the weight of the snow or an area that has already become affected by excess moisture and begun to leak—will probably require the assistance of an experienced professional roofer. Although many homeowners are hesitant to shell out a considerable amount of cash to hire a professional for roof repairs, keep in mind that the problems you’ll likely face down the road if you don’t address the issues as soon as they occur—such as mold, rotted framing, soggy insulation and damaged ceilings—will cost you much more money when the damage progresses and you’re finally forced to address them in the future.
Inspect Wood Decks and Outside Stairs for Damage from Excessive Moisture
Day after day of wet winter weather that lasts for months on end can take a serious toll on any of your home’s structures that consist of wood. Decks and stairways are particularly prone to moisture and can quickly become a hazard in the spring and summer season if the damage that was done by snow and ice isn’t properly taken care of. Even just a few inches of snowfall every few weeks can cause serious problems if the weather doesn’t warm up enough between snowstorms to melt the cold, wet layer of flurries and allow the wood to dry out sufficiently.
Although the vast majority of decks and outdoor stairs are constructed with treated lumber that is designed to be durable enough to withstand harsh elements, moisture that is allowed to stick around for too long will result in the growth of unsightly—and often slippery—mildew and can cause boards to warp or split. Because bent or broken boards can become a potential tripping hazard for your family, friends and visitors, it’s imperative to examine your wood structures for any damage caused by winter weather as soon as possible.
Remove any lingering snow and ice from your deck and stairs using a plastic shovel that won’t create further damage to the vulnerable wood below as you gently scrape the structure clean, always shoveling along the length of the boards and never straight across. Don’t be tempted to apply any salt or chemicals to your deck in an attempt to melt the remaining snow and ice more quickly—these substances may speed up the melting process, but cutting corners and applying chemicals will only weaken the protective coating on the treated lumber and result in discoloration down the road.
If you discover a layer of mildew on your deck and stairs after you’ve cleared the surface of snow and ice, you should begin treating the wood right away in order to avoid further damage. Purchase a mildew removal solution from your local hardware store or whip up your own by carefully mixing three cups of water with three squirts of liquid dishwashing soap and one cup of oxygen bleach. Spray the solution onto the wood and allow it to penetrate the surface for 20 minutes. Then thoroughly rinse the deck or stairs with water, stopping to scrub any stubborn bits of mildew with a coarse scrub brush as you go along. Once your deck and stairs are clean of any mildew—and any warped or split boards are repaired—apply a sealant to revitalize the wood and properly protect it from the elements for several seasons to come.
Scope Out Wind Damage on Screen Doors and Windows
The ultimate purpose of screening in a deck or patio is to prevent pesky pests from invading your living space while you try to kick back and relax to enjoy the great outdoors. Nothing has the ability to ruin an al fresco dining experience quite like a swarm of mosquitoes that force you to spend more time swatting bugs away than savoring good food, good drinks and good company on your screened-in porch.
Regardless of what region you live in—whether it’s a coastal community characterized by gusty, gale-force winds from a nor’easter or a northern state that receives several inches of snow every season and shards of ice that cling to window coverings, winter weather can wreak a considerable amount of havoc on the wire mesh or synthetic fiber screen material that covers your doors and windows.
Now that spring has sprung, it’s time to take inventory of any damage your screens have sustained and get them back in tip-top shape for the warm and sunny months you’ll want to spend outside. While some screens may have large, gaping holes or other obvious signs of destruction, be sure to look closely at each unit, as even the smallest hole in the mesh or a tiny tear along the side can be just big enough to give unwanted pests easy access to your next patio party.
For minor issues, simply purchase a screen repair kit from your local hardware store and patch the holes up yourself. Major damage will often require the help of a professional who can properly secure a brand-new screen to your existing frames as long as they’re still in good shape and haven’t suffered any bends or breaks during the winter. Tip: If you’re patching a tear or hole in vinyl screens, apply a thin layer of clear nail polish along the edges of the patch to prevent fraying from occurring in the future.
**Stay tuned for the second installment of our Spring Maintenance Checklist for Homeowners for more tips to get your residence ready for spring and summer!