It’s time to open your windows again, but don’t stop at refreshing your air. Refresh your home with annual spring cleaning and maintenance too. Check off each of the following tasks to make your living space feel brand new:
Gutters and downspouts
• Clean leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts to avoid drainage problems.
• Inspect for ice damage: gutters that have pulled away from the home, splits in the seams of downspouts, etc. Fix or replace as needed.
Windows and doors
• Check the perimeter of windows and doors to ensure caulking is still in place. Re-caulk as needed.
• Check the sealant or gasket
where the glass meets the frame. If the sealant or gasket is loose, seal the glass using a clear silicone caulk to prevent water damage.
• Remove and store storm windows and doors. Wash and reinstall window screens, ensuring there are no gaps around the screen, allowing insects to enter.
• Wash and inspect windowsills for softening or rotting wood.
• To ensure the automatic reversal is working on your garage-door opener, place a roll of paper towels where the door meets the ground. When the door hits the towels, it should reverse. If it doesn’t, consult your owner’s manual or have it checked by a pro.
• Visually inspect garage-door hardware; tighten or replace loose or missing bolts or hinges. Clean and lubricate the hardware.
Roof and facade
• Using a pair of binoculars, inspect your roof for any visible damage, such as shingles that may be starting to curl or mortar on the chimney masonry that may be coming apart. Also, be sure to check flashings for evidence of water leakage. Fix as needed.
• Take a walk around your home to look for loose or cracked siding, cracked brick, peeling paint, loose trim, signs of decay or insect damage. Repair as needed.
• Clean algae or moss from the roof’s surface.
• Inspect exterior vents for openings to prevent rodent intrusion.
• Power-wash siding to remove excess dirt and mildew.
• Caulk siding joints where old caulk is missing or worn away.
• Prune shrubs and trees away from exterior walls and the roof to avoid insect infestation.
• If you have solar panels, schedule a cleaning. Dirt can impair the solar cells’ ability to receive the full benefit of the sun, reducing generation by up to 40 percent.
Patios, porches and decks
• Power-wash the patio, porch and deck to remove excess debris. Or, to save water, use a water broom (www.waterbroom.com).
• Paint or water-seal all exterior wood, including decks, overhangs and railings.
• Trim back vegetation around patio covers and railings to avoid storm damage.
• Inspect all railings for rot or loose bolts. Fix as needed.
• The freeze-and-thaw cycle may have changed the slope of concrete slabs. Ensure that your sidewalks, patio, driveways, etc., are sloping away from the house to avoid water damage. If needed, slabs can be repaired or rebuilt by a professional.
• Fill or patch any cracks or chipping sections of concrete.
• Check brick-paved areas for damaged, settled or heaved sections and repair/replace as needed.
• Check flashing where the deck and the house meet for damage or deterioration. Fix as needed.
• Apply anti-skid coating to any exterior steps.
• Check irrigation pipes for leaks and damage that could have ocurred during the freeze-thaw cycle.
• Inspect pipes between the spigot and shut-off valve for signs of frost damage or splits in the piping. Also check for separated joints. If all is fine, turn on the valve inside your home and connect your exterior hoses.
• Check all exterior outlets and faucets for cracks and leaks. Repair as needed.
• Install yellow lights in outdoor fixtures. Yellow lights attract fewer flying insects and spiders.
• Remove piles of wood, stone or other debris from around the house to avoid rodent, insect or spider infestation.
• Inspect and replace any broken or malfunctioning exterior lighting, and reset your lighting timers to coincide with the longer spring days.
• Check all fencing and retaining walls for shifting or damage and repair as needed.
• Clean filters in ponds, water-filtration and water-storage systems.
• Check your driveway for cracks and repair as needed.
• Replace your furnace air filter with a high-performance filter. Change filters every three months or more if needed.
• Have your heating and cooling ducts inspected for damage or mold and dust deposits.
• Have your cooling system inspected and, if necessary, charged with refrigerant.
• Remove debris from the condensate tray under the coils in your air conditioner (near the mechanical blower).
• Wipe all ducts and grills so they’re free from dust and other blockage.
• When turning your air conditioner on for the first time, be sure to set your programmable thermostat(s) to reduce energy use when you’re sleeping or away from home.
• Shut off and clean humidifiers.
• Test your attic and roof fans to make sure that power is getting to the thermostat and the fan is functioning properly.
Plumbing and water-heating systems
• Install a backflow valve in the floor drain of your basement if you live in an area where sewers sometimes back up into homes. This device will prevent future backups.
• Inspect for slow leaks in your home by taking a reading on your water meter before bedtime. The next morning, without using any water overnight, take another reading. If the reading has changed, you have a leak that should be repaired.
• Check the temperature setting on the water heater. It should be set no higher than 125 degrees to prevent scalding and reduce energy use.
• Carefully drain several gallons from the water heater tank (until water is clear) to flush out corrosion-causing sediment, which reduces heating efficiency and shortens the life of the heater.
• Perform a general inspection of your septic system: check for any leaks, and consider using a yeast-based additive to maintain the “health” of the system.
Kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room
• Clean the lint buildup from the dryer vent to prevent fire.
• Clean accumulated smoke and grease from kitchen cabinets.
• Check all faucets and toilets for drips or leaks and make any needed repairs. To check toilets for hidden leaks, add six drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes.
• Exercise water-supply valves (turn them back and forth) under sinks and toilets to prevent them from sticking.
• Clean mineral deposits from showerheads by unscrewing the devices and soaking them in vinegar overnight, then gently scrubbing them with an old toothbrush.
• Check washing machine, dishwasher and icemaker supply hoses for bulges or leaks. Replace hoses showing signs of weakness or those older than 10 years.
• Use a plumber’s snake tool to remove hair and other blockage in your tubs and sinks.
• Inspect tile walls and replace any missing caulk or grout.
• If your faucets have aerators, remove and clean them.
• Clean the inside of your toilet tank to ensure you have clean water in the bowl and that it operates properly.
• Check the filter on your range hood. Clean or replace as needed.
• Check the flame pattern on gas burners for a blue-green base. If you have white or mostly yellow flames, arrange for a professional adjustment.
• Test and, if necessary, replace your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors’ batteries.
• Have your carpets and upholstered furniture professionally cleaned to reduce allergens and keep them looking good.
• Buy new entry mats or clean your current mats to reduce toxins tracked inside the home.
• Check your basement for moisture and rotten wood. There could be a leaky pipe in the walls, a downspout that isn’t draining away from the house or possibly moisture coming in through a cracked concrete foundation.
• Schedule a chimney sweep to avoid the sour smell of creosote buildup.
Checklist items provided by: Ace Hardware, California Closets, CertainTeed Corporation, Clopay, Envirovue Home Inspection, Green Irene, HouseMaster Home Inspections, Kudzu.com, Lennox Industries, Mr. Handyman, Owens Corning, author Philip Schmidt, Roto-Rooter Corp., Terminix and AVI, a Marvin Design Gallery
12 High-Impact Home Projects
1. Replace Old Windows — Cost: $189 and up
Windows more than 10 years old might need to be replaced, and now is a good time to do it when temperatures are mild. Look for double-paned, double-strength glass or consider a more energy-efficient alternative: a low-e window filled with argon gas that blocks heat in the summer and keeps it inside during the winter. An investment now will save money for years to come.
—David Bosley, Window World Atlanta; www.windowworldatlanta.com
2. Add Curb Appeal — Cost: Price varies depending on materials and type of installation
The façade of your home is the first thing visitors see, so it should stand out (especially if you’re trying to sell!) Improvements can be as easy as replacing or installing outdoor lighting, new hardware, shutters and window boxes or building a new porch or portico.
—Karen King, DogGoneHandy HandyMan Services; www.doggonehandy.com
3. Repair or Replace the Deck — Cost: $1,000 and up for repairs; $7,000 and up to replace a 12-by-16-foot deck
Decks should be checked every spring to make sure they are stable after winter rains and cold weather, especially if the deck is older than seven to 10 years. Perform a self-check or hire a building inspector to conduct a safety check for signs of rust, wood rot, loose handrails, shaky stairs, bowing posts and separation where the main framing joist connects with the outer band. The ledger board that attaches the deck to the house should also be inspected.
—Frank Pologruto, Decks and More; www.decksandmore.biz
4. If It’s Broke, Fix It — Cost: $75 an hour for a pro
Make a honey-do list that can be completed in a day or a weekend. Consider light electrical and plumbing projects such as installing new light fixtures, dimmers, bathroom toilets and faucets. Replace weather-stripping, windows, screens and doors, and repair drywall and wood rot. Hire a handyman to save time and look for a professional who is licensed and insured.
—Karen King, DogGoneHandy HandyMan Services; www.doggonehandy.com
5. Reduce Energy, Save $$$ — Cost: $3 and up
Cut down on energy use by replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. Energy-efficient fluorescents emit good-quality light and produce less heat, which means AC units don’t have to work as hard during the summer to cool the house. Look for Energy Star bulbs that have been tested for reliability and performance. Resist the urge to use specialty bulbs such as three-ways for regular applications.
—Oliver Curtis, Southface Energy Institute; www.southface.org
6. Eliminate Clutter — Cost: $112 and up
Lighten up. Give your home a thorough cleaning by getting rid of junk. Decide what to toss, what to donate and what to recycle, then call the experts to haul it away. 1-800-Got-Junk will send two completely insured workers to lift, load and remove anything you don’t want, from trash to furniture and old tools, inside or outside your home. No need to box or bag. Paint and chemicals not accepted.
7. Reuse and Recycle — Cost: $1 and up
When buying items for spring home improvement projects or discarding household merchandise someone else could use, consider Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore resale outlets. The Georgia-based nonprofit carries windows, doors, lighting fixtures, flooring, AC units, cabinets, granite, marble and home furnishings. It also has appliances that are under nine years old. ReStores only sell and accept donations that are new or gently used and in good working order. Check out the website for locations, hours and special offers.
—Habitat for Humanity ReStore; www.atlantahabitat.org/restore
8. Give Kitchen a Facelift — Cost: $4,000 to $7,000
A whole kitchen makeover can be costly and time-consuming. Consider the next best thing: Update your cabinets with exotic wood or glass, or refinish existing ones to bring out the natural beauty. Replacing cabinet doors, molding, drawers and hardware will make the kitchen look new and add to the value of your home.
—Martin Jimenez, Cabinet Transformations; www.cabinettransformations.net
9. Refinish Bath Surfaces — Cost: $300 and up
Resurface bathtubs, sinks, showers, countertops and tile. After years of stains and buildup, regular cleaning products won’t do the job. Restoring what you already have is the eco-friendly way to make home improvements and eliminates plumbing, construction and contractor costs. The Miracle Method cleaning system works on porcelain, steel, fiberglass and tile.
—Steve Tague, The Miracle Method; www.miraclemethod.com
10. Organize the Garage — Cost: $200 for cleanup; $500 and up for design and storage system installation
No room for cars in the garage? Install a storage system to create a place for everything, including toys, bicycles, sporting goods, auto accessories and vehicles. Start with a cleanup and finish with a custom-designed system to fit your needs. Add to the aesthetic with flooring that is easy to maintain and covers up imperfections.
—Scott Saffran, The Garage Dude; www.thegaragedude.com
11. Try a New Paint Color — Cost: Price varies
A bucket of paint is the quickest way to transform a room. The Pantone Color Institute’s hot colors this year include Tangerine Tango, Solar Power, Sodalite Blue, Cabaret, Margarita, Driftwood, Sweet Lilac and Starfish. Whether the color is bold or classic, a coat or two will do wonders. For an indoor weekend project, try painting a wall, a room or the ceiling, or go outside and spruce up the entry by painting the front door and mailbox. When selecting a color, buy a sample and apply a patch on the surface to be painted to see what the color looks like in different light. Make sure to prep before you paint.
—Laura Green; interior designer; www.lgreenstudios.com
12. Did you know?
Summer is the season for home break-ins when many families are away on vacation. Protect your home and AC unit from theft by taking precautionary measures now. Trim shrubbery, secure basement or ground-level windows and doors and make sure the perimeter of your home is well-lit with dusk-to-dawn or motion lights. For added security, consider installing decorative wrought iron doors, fences, AC cages and custom-designed window guards.
—Williams Security and Wrought Iron Manufacturers; www.williamssecurity.net