It’s that time of year again. Another season has arrived in the greater Seattle area, and it’s time to dive into some spring home maintenance. While there are some things we recommend a professional handle around the home, this guide gives homeowners a solid baseline of knowledge to get started on their own – for all the crafty DIYers out there who want to maintain a healthy, and safe home.
The Exterior of the Home
Jumping right into exterior spring home maintenance, we’ll begin with the home’s siding and perimeter. The first thing you’ll want to do is cut back your vegetation at least 6″ to 18” from your home to protect it from pests, insects, and weathering. While doing so, remove any soil in contact with wood siding to eliminate wood rot and moisture damage.
You’ll then want to check the exterior walls for peeling paint, especially around the window trims and door frames. If you notice any damaged caulking, fill in or replace any compromised areas.
Roof & Gutters
The next phase of exterior spring home maintenance is all about the roof. Begin by using binoculars to get a clear view of your roof from the ground. Roof damage, overgrown vegetation, and moss development may be visible from this vantage point. Severe roof damage can be caused by vegetation and moss growth over time, so the sooner it’s addressed, the better.
We suggest hiring a licensed professional to clean your roof and gutters as needed. They’ll be equipped with the necessary tools and knowledge to complete the task quickly and safely. Furthermore, getting your roof inspected by a roofing contractor every four to five years is a best practice for staying on top of repairs.
Cleaning Your Roof
Find moss on your roof? Do not pressure wash your roof if you discover moss or mildew. This can cause severe damage to your roof, requiring a need for significant repairs or roof replacement. Instead, we suggest applying a zinc solution and follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully for proper application. As mentioned above, hiring a professional is highly encouraged for roof and gutter cleaning.
If your home was built in the late 90s or early 2000s, you may find moisture staining under the eaves of the roofline. This is because installing protective flashing at the roof edge was not common practice at that time. Even if your home wasn’t built during that era, it’s still best to check under your roofline for any moisture stains or wood rot once a year.
Continuing on to your chimney, start with a simple inspection of the chimney bricks and mortar with binoculars from a distance. Look for moss or debris, and signs of cracking mortar. Also, you might see failing bricks breaking off onto the roof. Mortar work can’t be done in freezing weather, so spring is a great time to schedule those repairs and a regular chimney sweep cleaning.
Flowing right along! Examining the home’s drainage is the next crucial stage in your outdoor home inspection. Analyze all of your gutters and downspouts for damage and make sure they are in good working order. A quick and easy test of your downspouts is to tap on the metal and listen for a hollow or a solid sound. If it sounds hollow, it’s likely working okay, but if it sounds solid, it’s likely clogged with debris. Also, the ground should slope away from the house so that water drains away from the foundation. Reach out to a quality gutter professional for any repairs needed.
If you detect stains on the siding or water gathering near the foundation, you may have a drainage problem. To safeguard the home from potential structural damage, contact a skilled drainage contractor to inspect and repair any drainage issues.
Outdoor AC Unit
Seattle reached a record 108 degrees Fahrenheit last summer on June 28th, 2021. Before that hot weather hits again, you’ll want to clean the condenser coils on your AC unit. If you’ve made sure to trim any vegetation around the unit, all you need to do is spray down the unit with a garden hose. If you need to get your AC unit serviced, call an HVAC professional before they get booked up in the summer.
Still with us? Up next on the spring home maintenance guide is checking your retaining walls. The purpose of a retaining wall is to hold back soil and water from the house or yard that could otherwise cause erosion. These walls are typically made from brick, concrete, or wood and line a hillside or slope to contain it. Retaining walls only need to be checked about once a year to observe any cracking or leaning of the structure. Be aware that your retaining wall generally will not give out all at once – it’s often a slow process that builds up over time.
Starting with your deck, the first thing you’ll want to check is the ledger board. This board connects your deck to the structure of the house, but unfortunately, it’s often installed improperly. Ledger boards should be installed with structurally sound fasteners or hex bolts – not nails or deck screws. You should also see a piece of metal called “ledger flashing” at the top of the ledger board. This is installed to prevent water from flowing behind the ledger board which would create rot at the connection to the house. Improper installation can be dangerous, allowing the ledger board to detach from the structure. Nobody wants their deck to collapse during a dinner party!
That being said, deck inspection goes far beyond checking your ledger board and comes with several safety risks when performed by an amateur. A professional should inspect every trip/fall hazard, rusty bracket, rotting board, or wobbly railing. Once you are ensured your deck is safe to walk on, you can easily treat problems like mold, mildew, and algae on your own.
It’s almost time to work our way indoors, but first, let’s cover some spring home maintenance for your garage. Starting with the garage door, check the condition of its counterbalance spring, rollers, and door hinges. This set of instruction videos will walk you through the necessary steps. Then, test the function of the spring hinges on the main door that enters the home to ensure it closes properly.
You should also take a minute to scan your garage for signs of water staining. While it’s normal to track water into the garage on wet cars, many homeowners ignore leaks coming from the home’s plumbing above the garage. So, make sure you’re always on the lookout for moisture staining on the ceiling and unusual water puddles on the ground.
The Interior of the Home
Walls, Floors, Ceiling & Stairways
You did it! We’ve made it halfway through our spring home maintenance guide. Let’s talk about the home’s interior. Starting with some structural elements, check for signs of staining or water damage on the walls, ceilings, and floors. When looking for moisture stains, it helps to use a flashlight to spot signs of water damage.
If the staining appears to originate from the attic or a skylight, you may need to call a roofing professional. Presuming you find stains on the first-floor ceiling (below bathrooms or kitchens), you may need to hire a plumbing contractor. Lastly, suppose the staining is located at the lower section of your basement wall. In that case, groundwater may be seeping in, and you may need to contact a waterproofing or drainage contractor.
Windows & Doors
Once that’s complete, you can move on to inspect your windows and doors. Always open and close all your windows and doors to check for function and clear window tracks to promote drainage away from the house. Lastly, go around and test the sturdiness of your handrails, railings, and balusters. If anything feels unsafe, you should take a closer look. As a good rule of thumb, sturdy railings should withstand the pressure of an adult’s body weight without wavering.
Foundation, Basement, Crawlspace & Attic
When it comes to your attic, crawlspace, and basement inspection, wear gloves, a mask, safety glasses, a headlamp, and carry a flashlight. You’ll want to be prepared to search for signs of pest or rodent activity, standing water, plumbing leaks, etc.
Before entering your attic, it’s best to prepare the area with a drop cloth on the floor and protect personal items that might be nearby with sheets or towels. To look for roof leaks in your attic without climbing all the way up there:
- Use a sturdy ladder that’s tall enough to stand on a lower rung while being able to comfortably view all areas of your attic.
- Be careful when opening the attic space cover; insulation and attic debris can fall out, so protect your eyes.
- Aim your flashlight to shine into the attic to spot any staining or water reflection.
- Look for moisture stains dripping down from the trusses or rafters.
It can be difficult to determine if a moisture stain is active or if it’s simply staining from a roof leak that occurred decades ago. When in doubt, call a professional roofing contractor. You should be able to inspect your bathroom and cooking ventilation ductwork to make sure it’s connected and venting to the outdoors. From your ladder, you’ll be able to view the structure of your roof to make sure everything appears in line and uniform. You can also view your insulation to look for missing or displaced areas.
The condition of your insulation can also give you clues about rodent activity. Active rodents in your attic will leave trails through the insulation, and by looking carefully; you may be able to see their burrow holes into the insulation product. Also, when rodent activity is present, the rodent droppings can often be found near the attic access panel. Contact a qualified pest control professional if rodent activity is found.
With further inspection, you may be able to spot signs of fungal growth on your sheathing or roof deck. This is the plywood that’s attached to your rafters or trusses. Fungal growth in this area can be a sign of poor ventilation, inadequate insulation, or encroachment of living space air into the unconditioned attic space. An environmental contractor can assess fungal growth in their laboratory to determine if it might be a hazardous mold that requires remediation. If you find any of the issues mentioned above, it’s best to call a professional for the appropriate repairs because working in your attic can be dangerous.
Heading on down to the crawlspace (literally), the first thing you should check is the vapor barrier. A vapor barrier is the plastic covering on the ground of your crawlspace. When you’re down there, make sure the vapor barrier covers all the soil. Soil has moisture, which will get into your house if it’s not covered. We all know that moisture can cause damage and mold growth, and nobody wants that.
While in your crawlspace, remove any excess wood debris. Wood debris also contains moisture and is a delicious snack for those pesky wood-destroying organisms, like ants and termites.
While sump pumps are not standard in all households, it’s essential to check them if you have one. Sump pumps are usually present in areas with a higher water table, which is somewhat common in the Seattle region. The nature of a sump pump is hazardous because it’s an electric machine submerged in water. So, having a professional waterproofing contractor come out to inspect it is best. Ensure the sump pump system is protected with a GFCI receptacle and has an alarm to give an audible warning if the sump pump stops working. Note that sump pumps are typically replaced every ten years.
When checking for damaged heating and insulation ducts, most of the issues are easy to spot, such as an unattached duct, or falling insulation. You’ll also want to focus on checking the vent connections to your dryer and cooking vent. If you come across any of the problems listed above, consult an HVAC specialist.
Inspecting your home’s plumbing involves looking for leaks EVERYWHERE. Check for leaks under the sink, on water valves, P-traps, drain lines, hot water tanks, boilers, and water meters. If your water meter leak detection gauge is spinning when water is not in use, you could have a leak on the water supply side of your plumbing system. For instructions on checking your water meter, view the digital meter video here and the analog video here. To test the leak detection gauge, watch the meter while your spouse, family member, or neighbor turns on the hose bib near the meter. Even a very small amount of water flowing will spin the leak detection gauge.
In addition to searching for leaks, remember to check the water supply hoses connected to your sinks and toilets. These should be in good condition and free of kinks or damage.
One area you should never overlook during your plumbing inspection is your water heater. There are so many different types of water heaters it’s difficult to summarize a one-size-fits-all approach for proper maintenance. However, a few steps can be applied to all water heaters.
- Inspect the water heater for signs of water, leaks, or rust.
- Make sure the water temperature is set to 120°F or 49°C. Higher temperatures can easily scald skin and shorten the life of the water heater.
- Inspect the test & pressure valve for proper function and ensure the drain line slopes downward and is aimed toward the ground at the discharge point.
When your water heater is a tank model, make sure there are two seismic straps around the upper and lower sections of the tank, and the straps are bolted to your house structure. Be sure to flush your tank water heater once a year to remove sediment buildup. If your water heater is an electric type, inspect the electrical connection to make sure it’s in good condition, grounded, and protected with armored cable. When your water heater is an electric hybrid model, look for a filter on top of the tank and make sure it’s free of debris. Wash the filter regularly to promote efficient operation of the water heater.
If your water heater is a tankless style, it’s important to schedule regular maintenance by a qualified plumber to flush out the system with white vinegar to remove limescale. The tankless water heaters build up a limescale sediment inside the boiler that needs regular maintenance.
Lastly, if your water heater is a tank design that burns natural gas, inspect the vent line to make sure it’s sloping uphill and in good condition. Regular maintenance of all water heaters should include flushing and removing sediment and debris. Contact a qualified plumbing contractor for the servicing of your water heater.
Electrical & Home Appliances
You’re zapping through our spring home maintenance guide! Get it? Speaking of zaps, let’s discuss electrical systems. A simple first step is to look around the house for any damaged cords or broken outlets.
Alarms, AFCI & GFCI
Next, change out the batteries for all alarms. Complete this twice a year (once in the spring and then again in the fall) for maximum safety. On a monthly basis, you should test your AFCI breakers found in your electrical panel. All you need to do is push the test button, and the AFCI breaker will trip, then switch the breaker to the off position and back to the on position. If it resets without any issues, it’s working as it should.
Also, test your GFCI receptacles found in your kitchen, bathroom, garage, and outdoor locations. Push the test button on the front of the GFCI receptacles and then push the reset button to restore the power. If any of these electrical components do not test or reset, it’s time to call an electrical contractor.
Moving on to home appliances! Many new homeowners regret not testing out home appliances before buying their homes, so be sure to cover your bases.
To check the condition of the garbage disposal, click here to watch this instruction video. Then, look for leaks on the dishwasher, washer hoses, and drain connections. After this, check your refrigerator’s water connection and be sure to clean under all your appliances to prevent attracting pests. You’d be surprised how much food and greasy dust bunnies can get caught under there!
Heating & Ventilation
Dryer & Foundation Vents
When we say “dryer vent,” we’re not talking about your lint trap. Your dryer vent goes all the way from your dryer to the outside of your home. In some houses, dryer vents are located on the roof, so homeowners aren’t always aware of them. Not only can lint and dust get caught in your vents, but pests and birds can also sneak their way in through damaged exterior vents.
Up next, foundation vents! Foundation vents allow moist air to escape from the crawlspace and help keep your crawlspace healthy and dry. But the screens can get damaged or the vents can become covered by trees, debris, and soil. Clear away all debris and make sure these vents are well above the ground. A hole in your foundation screens or soffit vents is one of the most common causes of rodent and pest entry, so be mindful to correctly repair any damaged screens. If you find foundation vents below ground level, a simple solution is to install foundation vent well covers.
Bathroom Ventilation Fans
If you’re cleaning your bathroom vent fan for the first time, don’t worry. It’s much easier than you might think. Simply take an appropriate vacuum attachment and clean up the dust without removing the cover. If there is excessive dust and debris, you’ll want to remove the cover. Click here to watch a detailed video explaining this process.
Preparing for Spring with Zoom Home Inspections
We hope that you’ve found this spring home maintenance guide helpful. Check out our tips on fall home maintenance to get ahead of the game! If these home maintenance tasks are out of your comfort zone, don’t hesitate to hire a professional. We can’t stress the importance of safety enough, and a professional with the proper tools and training helps ensure the job is done right.
At Zoom Home Inspections, the help doesn’t have to stop here. If you have more questions for us or are interested in our home inspection services, feel free to contact us by calling (425) 301-2747 or via email at email@example.com. To view Zoom’s complete home maintenance checklist, click here.