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Better safe than sorry

Roofer-199x300Hail, strong winds and pounding rain – the past few weeks have not produced the gentle April showers made famous in song and verse.

Instead the area has experienced early spring storms that may have damaged homes or exposed problems that had been previously overlooked… which is all the more reason to perform some spring cleaning and home maintenance tasks.

Roofs and gutters

The National Association of Home Builders advises homeowners to get their roofs inspected every three years. Most people don’t follow that advice, but when a home has withstood hail, a windstorm or other extreme weather, it’s wise to have a professional inspect for damage such as cracked, curled, or missing shingles; loose material or wear around chimneys, pipes and other penetrations; and shingle granules in gutters.

Left alone, a damaged roof can result in mold growth, leaks and costly repairs.

After holding snow, carrying large amounts of water and being battered by high winds, gutters can begin to show signs of wear and tear. When clearing gutters of debris it’s wise to check for corrosion, joint separation and loose fasteners. Leaders should extend at least 5 feet from the base of the downspout to direct water away from the home’s foundation.

Siding and decks

Wind and rain also can take a toll on decks and siding.

Siding is particularly vulnerable to water infiltration where it meets windows, doors and corner moldings. When inspecting a home’s exterior, look for caulk that has cracked due to age or has pulled away from adjacent surfaces, leaving gaps in those areas. Examine brick for crumbling mortar joints; on stucco exteriors, look for cracks and chips. Inspect wood siding and decks for water stains, wood decay and mold.

Surfaces should be repaired before spring cleaning (power washing is best left to professionals) and resealing or painting can begin.

Foundations and basements

When working to keep spring showers out of a home, maintaining its foundation is as important as maintaining its roof.

Check for hairline cracks in foundation walls, mark them with tape and check them again in a few months. If they have worsened, call a structural engineer. If they’re stable, fill them with an epoxy-injection system.

Also fill in holes in siding and foundation walls with expandable foam, check that the ground around the foundation slopes away from the house (about 1 inch per foot), look for pellet-shaped droppings or shed wings from termites and rake leaves away from the home.

Air conditioners

Some maintenance – such as clearing leaves and debris away from outdoor condensers with the use of a vent brush, power blower or  garden hose – is simple enough for homeowners to do on their own. However, having a certified HVAC professional perform preseason maintenance is the best way to ensure trouble-free and energy-efficient operation in the heat of summer.

An HVAC professional will be able to take spring cleaning even further by inspecting the unit’s fan motor and fan blades and lubricate as needed; inspecting the control box, wiring and connections; and inspecting the compressor and associated tubing. HVAC professionals also will inspect the indoor unit and perform repairs or maintenance as needed.

Weakened trees

After spring storms, it’s important to inspect trees for broken or damaged branches that could fall on the home, power lines or vehicles.

Roots poking through the soil can be a sign that the tree’s support system is weakening. This is especially true in tree varieties that are known to have shallow root systems, such as Bradford Pear trees and some evergreens. Check to make sure that the tree is not starting to list; if it is, call an arborist to have it inspected.

Also, if large branches fail to produce leaves, call an arborist to have them safely removed.

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