Depending on the time of year, there are different areas to focus on when performing a home maintenance inspection in the greater Seattle area. In this blog, we’ll outline the key steps of home maintenance and cover some specific areas you should monitor this fall season.
While there are many technical aspects of home maintenance where utilizing a professional is recommended, this overview will provide fundamental home maintenance knowledge anyone can use. Let’s get started!
The Exterior of the Home
The Roof and Siding
Your exterior fall home inspection should begin with the roof. Start by getting a quick view of your roof, from the ground, with binoculars. From this viewpoint, you may see roof damage, excessive vegetation, and moss growth. Vegetation and moss growth can cause roof damage over time, so the sooner it gets taken care of, the better.
We recommend hiring a licensed expert to clean your roof and gutters as needed. They will have the right tools and expertise to get the job done efficiently and safely. Furthermore, having a roofing professional inspect your roof every four or five years is a great way to stay on top of repairs.
To maintain your exterior siding, cut vegetation away and remove all soil in contact with the siding. A good rule of thumb: leave enough space for you to stand between the vegetation and your home, and leave at least a 6” space between the ground and the siding so that you can see the concrete foundation wall all-around your house.
The next critical step in your exterior home inspection is to examine the home’s drainage. Review all your gutters and downspouts to make sure they are in good condition and free of damage. Water should drain away from the home’s foundation, and the ground should slope away from the home.
If you notice stains on the siding or pooling water next to the foundation, this could signify a drainage issue. Contact a qualified drainage contractor to review and remedy in order to protect the home from potential structural damage.
The Interior of the Home
Windows and Doors
Check your windows and doors for air drafts and damage. Air drafts can cause excessive energy loss and increase the cost to heat and cool your home. You’ll also want to look for signs of weather stripping damage around your doors and damaged caulking around your windows. Clean the window tracks of debris to ensure the drains at the bottom window frame allow water to properly drain away.
To begin your plumbing inspection, first, locate your main water shutoff valve in case you need to quickly shut off the water supply. Then, run the water and take a peek under the sink to check the plumbing connections while looking for water leaks. Run your hand around the supply valves and drain lines to feel for seeping water. It’s wise to clean the P-traps in the fall to remove any hair, debris, or grease that can clog the drain. Next, you should locate your hot water tank and look for any rust or water leaks on the exterior of the tank. If you do find water leaking from the tank, it’s time to call a plumber. If your water heater is over ten years old, it’s time to budget for a replacement sooner rather than later.
Moving on, run hot water in your home to test it out. Does the hot water run at the correct temperature of 120°F? It’s important you properly test your water heater and learn how to adjust the temperature.
If your home uses natural gas, look outside to ensure you have easy access to the gas meter and shut-off valve. Then, take a moment to familiarize yourself with how to shut off the gas valve at the meter in the event of an emergency. Natural gas has an additive that makes it smell like rotten eggs. While it’s common to smell natural gas when starting your gas cooktop, if you smell rotten eggs at other times, you should leave your home immediately and call the utility company or 911. Follow these safety guidelines when you smell natural gas.
Inspecting the Home’s Electrical System
Completing a general check of your home’s electrical system shouldn’t take long. Some homes have electrical wires overhead coming from the street utility pole to the house. Start by looking at these. Look for signs that the trees and vegetation growing around the wire are not putting additional stress onto the electrical line. If this is the case, contact your local utility company to have them prune the vegetation. Next, find your electric panel — often found in the garage, but sometimes in the basement or another part of the home. Familiarize yourself with how to shut off the main power to your home at the electric panel in the event of an emergency. These main power breakers are sometimes labeled “Service Disconnect” or “Main Principle.”
If you have a newer home, check the operation of your AFCI breakers inside your electric panel. Simply push the button that says “test” on the breaker, and it will shut off power to that electric circuit. Next, push the breaker to the full-off position and then switch it back to the on position. If the breaker completes this test, it’s working correctly. If you find that a breaker doesn’t function as described, it’s time to call an electrician. Always make sure you have easy access to your electric panel. It’s best to leave a refrigerator-sized space in front of your electric panel for servicing and quick access in the event of an emergency.
Continuing the electric inspection, look for any damaged cords to lamps and other electronics and check the life of all batteries in the house. It’s best to regularly replace batteries in smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and water detectors to ensure proper function. Moving along, check the function of all your GFCI receptacles that are typically found in your garage, kitchen, bathrooms, and outside electrical outlets. Like the AFCI breakers, simply push the test button on the GFCI receptacle and then push the reset button. If these outlets do not turn off when the test button is pressed or do not turn back on when the reset button is pushed, it’s time to call an electrician. Finally, make sure to replace any missing or damaged outlet covers. They’re easy to find at any hardware store.
Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation. Oh My.
A thorough review of your home’s HVAC system is a must-needed step in your home maintenance inspection. We encourage you to get your furnace serviced regularly and your air filters replaced or cleaned. Regular maintenance on your heating and cooling systems will help you avoid major repairs down the road. As a typical guide, you should be replacing your disposable air filters 3-4 times per year, following the manufacturer’s directions, and scheduling furnace maintenance once a year. Furthermore, consider hiring a professional company every four or five years to vacuum the interior of your HVAC ductwork to remove excess dust and debris buildup inside the system.
With a large focus on big picture issues during your fall maintenance inspection, home appliances can be easily forgotten. Starting with the fridge, it’s a good practice to make sure the water filter is being replaced as often as recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure to also look for any pooling water inside the fridge, towards the bottom. If you find pooling water, this likely means there’s a blocked or clogged defrost drain tube in your fridge, which can leak out and damage your flooring underneath. Consider hiring an appliance professional to get this repaired.
For cooking appliances, we suggest you clean your cooking vent at least twice a year and that you take the time to clean under all of your appliances. We know it’s a lot of work, but we think you’ll find it worth the effort to help increase your indoor air quality and eliminate a build-up of dust, mold, grease, and food particles that may attract bugs and other pests.
Finishing up in the kitchen, always check your dishwasher for leaks by looking for hard water stains or corrosion around the edge of the door panel. You can also remove the bottom plate of the dishwasher to search for any leaks under the appliance. If your kitchen has a garbage disposal, run water in the sink, turn on the disposal and listen to determine that it’s running smoothly. Often, small debris gets caught in the sink’s garbage disposal, causing excessive noise, and will need removal. To ensure this is done safely, follow these guidelines.
Attics, Basements, and Crawl Spaces
Taking a look inside your attic will often require using a step ladder, so this is where following ladder safety practices are essential. Make sure your step ladder is tall enough to view the attic space while standing on a lower rung of the ladder. Having a clear view of the attic structure, insulation, and other components while staying on the step ladder is the safest way to inspect your attic. Once you have a solid understanding of ladder usage, put on your safety glasses, mask, and gloves and get ready to open the attic’s access panel. Wearing a headlamp and having a tool belt to carry a flashlight is recommended so your hands are free to grip the ladder and open the access panel. Be prepared to have some insulation fall out of the attic when opening the panel. This can easily be managed by placing a drop cloth under your ladder and a vacuum to clean up the mess.
Entering your attic is not recommended as one step in the wrong place can cause injury to yourself or damage to your ceiling. By using a powerful flashlight, you can look at the roof trusses or rafters for any sign of roof leaks, like wetness, moisture staining, or damage to the attic structure. If you see any of this, it’s time to call a roofing specialist. Be sure to also check for missing or displaced insulation. We recommend observing the insulation for signs of damage from rodents or pests — such as nests, animal droppings, or dead bugs. If you see any sign of pest activity, it’s time to call a professional Pest Control Operator. Lastly, from the attic, inspect the bathroom fan ventilation lines to ensure they are securely connected and free of any blockages. If you find any concerns inside the attic, we recommend hiring a professional to repair the issue.
Basement & Crawl Space
We’ve come to the last section of our fall home maintenance overview! To analyze your crawl space and/or basement, first wear protective gear such as face masks, safety glasses, gloves, and a headlamp. Then, start by looking for standing water. Groundwater can seep into crawl spaces and basements and can damage the structure of your home. If you see standing water, call a professional drainage contractor. Next, follow your plumbing lines and search for signs of plumbing leaks. Sometimes you can see water dripping from the pipes. Another clue is to look at the ground for puddles of water. If you find a leak in the plumbing, it’s time to hire a professional plumbing contractor. Search your crawl space for falling or low hanging insulation, as this can be a sign of rodent activity. If there’s a pest problem, it should be easy to spot as they tend to be active in these areas of the home. Generally speaking, if you see some pests, there are often more, so it’s best to call a professional Pest Control Operator for further examination and to remedy the issue.
The Zoom Home Inspections Checklist
We hope this fall maintenance guide has been a helpful resource and that it allows you to learn more about caring for your home in the long term! If you’re looking for a home maintenance checklist that goes into more depth, click here to view our complete list. While we encourage homeowners to educate themselves on home maintenance, getting a thorough inspection periodically by a professional is suggested. If you’re interested in our home inspection services, visit us online for more information.
“Brian was very thorough, personable and excellent at explaining things to make them easy to understand.” – Maya R.