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Get your home ready for spring

By Diane Kockler, Staff Writer
Published On: May 16 2011 02:51:48 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 08 2013 12:54:37 PM CDT
spring cleaning

When Old Man Winter finally dies down and spring breezes blow in, it's easy to focus only on the garden and forget to do some maintenance on the house.
However, experts agree that a do-it-yourself home inspection is important in the spring. By following these guidelines, you can save money on repairs in the long run.
Head Outside

Start on the exterior of the house. Use binoculars and scan the roof for any missing or damaged shingles, paying special attention around chimneys and vents.
Inspect gutters and downspouts to see that they haven't pulled loose and that they aren't clogged. Make sure downspouts are extended away from the foundation.
"If (gutters) didn't get cleaned of debris in the late fall, get them cleaned before the April showers," said Reggie Marston, a longtime certified home inspector and owner of Residential Equity Management Home Inspections in Springfield, Va.
While you're outside, check the paint and caulking around the house -- be sure all of the caulking is intact to stop leaks around windows and doors. Inspect the siding and scan all brickwork for cracks. Check that there are no bushes or plantings within a foot of the air conditioning unit, and make sure there aren't any animal nests inside the unit, Marston said.
Check the dirt grading around the foundation. The dirt should slope away from the foundation at least 6 inches in the first 10 feet.
"This is an easy eyeball inspection. If water pools at the base of a wall, you don't have adequate drainage. Proper grading always sheds water away from the foundation of the house to prevent damage from moisture," said David Lupberger, a home improvement expert at Service Magic, which is a free service that helps homeowners find pre-screened home service professionals, such as contractors, electricians and plumbers.
If you have a deck or porch, check for rotting materials, mold and make sure all nuts and bolts are tightened. If the deck shakes or sways, extra bracing should be added. Decks and porches should be cleaned and sealed every two to three years.
Check Your Basement

Moving inside, grab a flashlight and scan everything in the basement. Check the water and sewer pipes for leaks, look at the basement walls and floor for large cracks or mold, and look for signs of pests or rot, Marston said.
If there is any water in the basement, it should be addressed immediately.
"Always make sure you do not have water getting into your basement. Over time, water causes small problems that lead to big problems," such as damage to the foundation and mold, Lupberger said.
Most of the time, basement water problems can be addressed by regrading the exterior, extending a downspout or cleaning a gutter. Also, install a dehumidifier to dry out moist basements.
Be sure to check for rust on the hot water heater, Lupberger said. Spring is a good time to service hot water heaters and all heating, ventilation and air conditioning units (HVAC). All HVAC systems should be professionally inspected and serviced twice a year, and a hot water heater should be serviced at least once a year.
If there are cracks in the walls, take a picture with a ruler next to them, or measure them and monitor any changes. Cracks approaching 1/4 of an inch or larger should be assessed by a professional, Marston said.
Electrical Maintenance

Experts don't recommend for homeowners to tinker with the electrical panel -- that's a job best left for a professional electrician. However, if there is any buzzing or humming from the panel, call a pro, Marston said.
If any circuits are repeatedly being tripped, it may mean the panel is being overworked, especially in older homes that don't have a high amp capacity, Lupberger said.
Also check for any frayed electrical cords in the house, and make sure that extension cords aren't being used as permanent wiring.
Check For Leaks

Homeowners should inspect the plumbing system by starting where the water supply enters the home. Turn the main water valve off and on, checking for any leaks. Grab a flashlight and scan all visible pipes for leaks. If accessible, check the areas below bathrooms to ensure there aren't any leaks into ceilings, basements or crawlspaces.
"The homeowner should work (his or her) way through the entire house, checking all valves, fixtures and appliances," Marston said.
If there is low water pressure, it could mean there is a leak or a rusting pipe, Lupberger said.
Windows And Doors Matter

Go room by room and open and close all doors and windows. Tighten the screws in any loose hinges, and lubricate with a silicone spray if any are squeaking.
If any windows or doors rattle during a windstorm, they are no longer sealing out the outdoors, Lupberger said. Seal any peeling paint or cracked caulking, which may be letting moisture into the house.
Climb Up To The Attic

Shine a flashlight into the attic eaves and look for any signs of pests. If you find any, contact a professional immediately.
Look for any streams of light coming in through holes in the roof. Make sure there is enough insulation for summer and winter. If there is too little insulation, you could get ice dams in the attic, Lupberger said.
When To Call A Professional

If your home needs repairs that are beyond your capabilities or if there are safety concerns, it's often best to call a professional. Home service contractors can be found in the yellow pages or online, through such websites as ServiceMagic.com or Handyman.com.
A home inspector can also be a good source of information for new homeowners or those with difficulties maintaining a residence. Home inspectors across the country can be found at The American Society of Home Inspectors.

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