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When it comes to home maintenance, better to be safe than sorry

Woman in need of home repair
Proper maintenance can help prevent emergency repairs. (Source: Adobe Stock)

When it comes to your home, take some advice from Ben. 

In 1735, Benjamin Franklin sent a letter to The Pennsylvania Gazette, a paper he owned, urging that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While today that axiom is often associated with healthcare, Franklin was actually writing about how the city could protect itself from fire.

So, in a nod to Mr. Franklin, let’s start with fire protection for your home. 

First, every home needs high-quality, interconnected smoke detectors equipped with a 10-year battery and installed in bedrooms and public spaces, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Second, spring is a great time to have your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned. Fireplace smells can get much worse with warmer weather, plus emissions like creosote left on the flue liner and mixed with moisture (humidity) can result in corrosion and potentially costly repairs. Plus, if repairs are needed, your sweep will have all summer to make them. 

Since, we’re already up on the roof, let’s work from the top down. 

The National Association of Home Builders advises homeowners to get their roofs inspected every three years. It’s money well spent to hire a professional to 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.

To ensure that water drains safely away from the home, really good gutters, downspouts and leaders are critical.  During your roof inspection, make sure your gutters are checked 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.

Maintaining a home’s foundation is as important as maintaining its roof. 

Homeowners can check for hairline cracks in foundation walls, mark them with tape and check them again in a few months. If they have worsened, it’s time to call a structural engineer. Also, call in a professional if you see signs of dampness, stains and mold, bugs and changes in walls and ceilings that could indicate foundation settling. 

Two bugs you really don’t want to find evidence of are termites and carpenter ants. 

When inspecting a home’s exterior, look for caulk that has cracked due to age or has pulled away from adjacent surfaces, leaving gaps where moisture can penetrate. Examine brick surfaces for crumbling mortar joints, and when stucco is present look for cracks and chips. Inspect wood siding and decks for water stains, wood decay and mold. And look for pellet-shaped droppings or shed wings from termites or piles of wood shavings that could indicate the presence of carpenter ants. Having an inspection conducted by a pest removal pro is the surest way to achieve peace of mind or remedy a situation that will only get worse over time.  

Outdoor appliances, including air conditioners, should be cleaned and inspected each spring. 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,  a certified HVAC professional will be able to inspect the unit’s fan motor and fan blades; inspect the control box, wiring and connections; and inspect the compressor and associated tubing, performing general maintenance or making repairs as needed.

With the house in good order, the last thing you want is to have it damaged by falling limbs or trees. 

Spring is the ideal time to check your trees for broken or damaged branches. 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. Also check to make sure that the tree is not starting to list; if it is, call an arborist to have it inspected. 

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