Aaah…spring! That first warm day when you throw the windows open and let the fresh air in. And with the change of season, homeowners can start a fresh checklist for home repairs and improvements.
Many times, once you get started with cleaning and small repairs, bigger ideas emerge. So, if your deck cleaning project turns into a repair or replacement project, you may need a source for additional funding. You may be able to affordably finance your new deck PLUS other improvements with a low-rate home equity line of credit. Even simple landscaping projects can quickly increase from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. An emergency expense fund along with a project checklist with good estimates might greatly help as you tackle the following:
Inspect HVAC. One of the best ways to ensure your A/C doesn’t die in the middle of July is to keep up with changing filters and having your HVAC inspected twice a year to prepare for the most extreme seasons. Part of the regular maintenance should be to vacuum any debris from the furnace blower. If you have a heat pump, it’s a good idea to lubricate the blower motor.
Inspect gutters and downspouts. Make sure gutters and downspouts are free of debris and damage to correctly direct water away from the foundation. Even if you don’t typically get much rain, check both to prevent a surprise if a storm hits. You don’t want to learn about a clog by seeing water seeping in to your home or in the basement. Be sure to reattach gutters or downspouts that have pulled away from the house. Run a hose on the roof and check for proper drainage – if you find a leak, use caulking or epoxy to seal it.
Clean and repair decks and wooden exteriors, steps and window sills. Check the wood around your home for loose rails and rot. If boards are soft or splintering, they may be unsafe and need to be replaced. You may get by with some sanding, filling, caulking and resealing. Decks and wood fences need to be treated every 4-6 years, depending on how much exposure they get to sun and rain. If the stain doesn’t look like it should or water has turned some of the wood a dark grey, hire a professional to treat your deck and fence.
Trim trees and shrubs. It’s time to trim back the bushes and shrubs; making them ready for new, clean growth, as well as to prevent overgrown branches from scratching the paint on your siding. A little trimming can save a lot of money in the long run.
Remove mold and mildew. Too much dampness and not enough sun will turn siding brown and green. Ditto for sidewalks, decks, patios and lawn furniture. Rent a pressure washer and you’ll be amazed how much dirt will be washed away and how great everything looks once you’re done. While you’re power washing, if you find cracks on cement walkways, you may be able to patch them. Or, maybe it’s time to replace the walkway with something you like better? Check out this DIY video on installing a flagstone walkway.
Check window screens for holes. Give your window screens a once-over to ensure no critters or insects can work their way through bent frames, holes or tears. Keep shrubs trimmed below window screens so that birds aren’t tempted to make nests using your plastic screens. If you have to replace them, opt for aluminum screens.
Inspect hoses on washer and other appliances. Most household floods and water damage are caused by plumbing (62%) or appliance failure (30%), according to a study by plumbing company Roto-Rooter. Horror stories abound from homeowners who come home from work or, worse, vacation—to find a cracked laundry hose has burst, opening the floodgates into their homes. The result? Thousands of dollars in damage. Burst pipes, leaky appliances and flooded basements often lead homeowners to discover—good or bad—the details of their home insurance policies.
In addition to the washer, check out the dishwasher, toilet, and refrigerator (with ice maker or water dispenser). Inspect these hoses and connections quarterly; they will eventually wear out on a timetable similar to your water heater—you don’t know when it’s going to die, but you know one day it will. Look for cracking, bubbling, swelling, dripping and fraying and replace with metal where possible.
Check out your roof. Look for missing or dislocated shingles and nail pops on your roof. You can usually inspect the roof safely from the ground with the naked eye or binoculars. But if you have pipes or vents in the roof, you may need to have a professional roofer take a look and handle any repairs.
To DIY or Not? Which home improvements can I DIY and which should I leave to a pro? Sometimes those Mr. Fix-It repairs can end in disaster—plumbing projects come to mind. Ditto for the roof repairs—unless your day job has you up on a trapeze, you should call a pro. What about tree removal? Power tools, heights, electrical wires—what could go wrong there? Often times, you can’t put a price on the expertise and licensing of a good plumber, electrician or home improvement contractor. Good luck with your project, but here’s some advice for hiring a pro in case your project’s scope widens.
Resources: HomeAdvisor, Inc.com; MrHandyman.com; Angie’s List; DIYNetwork.com; U.S. News.com, Roto-Rooter