It’s now officially spring, and that means it’s time to do some deep cleaning around your house.
As warmer weather creeps back into your life, be ready to scrub away the remnants of sidewalk salt left behind from winter, throw away items you don’t need and assess what needs repair in your home.
“It’s always good to do a really thorough walk-around of the house and just check everything,” says Carrie Bonney, director of public relations for Farmers Insurance.
Common spring weather patterns – from end-of-winter deep freezes to frequent rain storms, high winds, hail and tornadoes – can cause significant damage to your home. Farmers Insurance compiled historic data for insurance claims from homeowners in different parts of the country and found 60 percent of claims in the south central U.S. were related to hail between March and May. During the same period, the Southwest saw 41 percent of claims relating to water damage, while New England homeowners filed the most claims (32 percent) caused by ice dams and other snow or ice damage.
As you shift into spring cleaning mode, ensure your home is ready to take on the next round of difficult weather conditions. But don’t stop at the exterior; maintain appliancesand internal systems to get your home through spring, as well as summer and next fall.
The biggest question on many homeowners’ minds when it comes to routine maintenance and repairs is whether to call a professional – and all too often that question serves as an excuse to put off maintenance altogether.
A simple rule of thumb for tinkering around: If you have to deal with anything electrical, it’s best to bring in a pro, says Chris Granger, vice president and general manager for Sears Home Services. Granger says this is especially true when it comes to appliances connected to plumbing. “When I have water and electricity together, I call a professional,” he adds.
Here are seven repairs to get on top of this spring.
The roof. The roof over your head often takes the most abuse from the weather in winter and spring – from snow and ice to downpours and wind gusts. Once the snow and ice are gone, take a close look at your roof and note where you see loose shingles or cracks.
Knowing you’ll need your roof to be in top shape to keep out potential water damage from future rainstorms makes spring “a really good time for them to get up and look,” Bonney says.
The gutters and drains. Being the proactive homeowner you are, the gutters were likely cleared of leaves and debris in the fall, but now is the perfect time to make sure there’s nothing there to block water flowing away from the side of the house.
Bonney says you should also consider adding French drains to your property. The drains are a trench with gravel or rock that runs along areas that see a buildup of surface water and will help lead water away from your foundation and toward the street. “That’s something that will actually divert the water away from your house,” she says.
External vents. The next thing to look at would be vents that lead outside, which connect to your heating and cooling systems, dryer and more. A damaged or missing vent cap could allow birds or rodents in, clogging the vent and potentially releasing toxins into your home.
Dave Lavalle, founder of Dryer Vent Wizard, a national service based in Farmington Hills, Michigan, says the first warm weeks of spring send many birds into dryer vents looking for an ideal nesting spot, particularly when fruit trees begin blooming.
“That’s the time when birds are going to immediately want to nest. Couple that with some nice weather, and within a day or two things can change dramatically,” Lavalle says.
You can buy a kit to clean the dryer vent from major stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, Lavalle says, but suit up with protective gear, including a full respirator, to avoid breathing in bacteria and other toxins common in bird’s nests. When in doubt, call a pro.
The windows. As you do some of your simpler household spring cleaning, take a close look at window glass and casing, keeping an eye out for any cracks or gaps. You want to be sure all windows are properly sealed in anticipation of heavy rainstorms.
The HVAC. Aside from its ability to properly expel exhaust, you should always make sure your heating, ventilating and air conditioning system is functioning properly. Clean or change filters regularly, and if you didn’t have a routine check done on the system in the fall, do so now.
Granger recommends calling a pro especially if you’re planning to put your home on the market this season. Since the HVAC is an expensive system to replace, it’s a major part of a home inspection. A malfunctioning HVAC could cause problems with a pending deal.
“Have a preventative maintenance check done on it to make sure the area around it isn’t filled up with junk,” Granger says.
The refrigerator. A deep clean of the kitchen is almost certainly in order as part of your spring cleaning to-do list, so don’t forget about the refrigerator coils, which are located either at the back of your fridge or beneath it, accessible by removing the panel below the door.
“If they’re not clean, the refrigerator has to work harder to cool,” Granger says, noting pet hair, food and other dirt collects down there and is neglected by quick sweeps of the kitchen. Simply use the handheld hose on your vacuum to clear the coils – but take the time to do this more often, not just during spring cleaning.
The washer and dryer. Wipe out your washing machine and dryer in your laundry room, as laundry detergent, residue from dryer sheets and fabric softener can build up in the drum, detergent dispenser or lint trap and reduce the appliance’s effectiveness.
When you do notice a problem – a dryer that has suddenly stopped drying clothes fully, for example – check first for other issues. “Most often the consumer assumes the dryer is either broken or that [it’s old],” Lavalle says of a bird’s nest clogging a dryer vent. Before you replace the washer or dryer, give the appliance a thorough cleaning and check that other factors aren’t the cause of the problem.