Concrete - Expect concrete to crack. While cracking cannot be prevented, sometimes it can be minimized by:
- Applying a water repellent in the summer (product requires warmer temperatures to be applied properly)
- Filling cracks with an appropriate concrete caulking
- Filling in low spots or settled areas near/under walks, patios, porches or drives
- Draining water away from the slab/foundation
- Removing ice and snow as soon as possible, but never use de-ices or salts as some products will chemically attack and damage concrete. As alternate sources for traction, try using either cat litter or sand.
If you missed the timeframe to apply a water repellent (containing silane/siloxane) to exterior concrete (driveways, sidewalks, steps, and porches) during homeowner maintenance projects this summer, you will want to post a big reminder to do so in the spring. Application of a water repellent to exterior concrete helps reduce porosity and potential damage from the elements and street salts. Unfortunately, the city/county road maintenance, applies salt to the streets during the winter. Salt (concrete’s enemy) is then carried by vehicles on to the drive and garage floor. Then the salt water drips from vehicles causing permanent damage to the concrete.
Exterior Caulking and Paint Touch-Up - Repair, caulk, and touch-up paint on exterior trim, doors, and windows. Be sure to replace caulk, as needed, around windows at brick areas.
Exterior Doors - Adjust or replace weather stripping and sweeps as needed. Check the fit of exterior doors at the thresholds. Adjust accordingly to keep out water, dust, insects and drafts.
Storm Doors - Be sure the storm door is vented to minimize heat build-up between the storm door and the exterior door. Review the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper installation/venting. Always close the storm door so it latches tightly since the vacuum between the two doors could prevent it from doing so. If not, damage to the storm door and jam could result if the door is caught by winds.
Overhead Garage Door - It is a good idea to have a yearly maintenance check done by a professional. They can adjust, lubricate, and repair as needed.
Gutters and Downspouts - Keep gutters clean from leaves and debris to avoid overflowing. Downspouts should direct water away from the foundation. Be sure splash blocks are positioned at the base of the downspouts to drain water away from the house.
Hose Bibs - Disconnect garden hoses/attachments to hose bibs before freezing weather. Why risk water damage to the home from a frozen/burst pipe?
Ice Damming - During the winter, ice and snow build-up on roofs and gutters block the water from running off the roof. This is called ice damming. As the ice and snow mass begins to form at the lower portion of valleys and gutters, the mass increases in size, pushes up and penetrates under the shingles, valleys, and soft it areas of the home. When snow and ice begin to melt and refreeze—having no place to go—ice will back up under the roofing material. This causes water to leak into the house. Since homes are made to shed water downward, this upward pushing of the ice is not normal and is considered an Act of God. If ice damming happens to your home, resulting in damage, please contact your insurance company immediately.
Pests - If you have a problem with wildlife intrusion, contact a company who specializes in pest detection and removal.
Swales - Be sure to keep rear swales unobstructed and in good condition to allow excess water to make its way to the drainage beehive. Over-seed this area with lawn grass seed (never sod) to establish a good residential-standard grass cover.
Frozen Pipes - When the temperature drops below 32 degrees, some water pipes could freeze.
- Keep the home heated at a minimum of 65 degrees. Open cabinet doors in the kitchen so that warm air can reach pipes under the sink. This includes any rooms that have plumbing located on outside walls.
- Know where the primary plumbing shut-off valve is located and how it operates.
- Insulate pipes (heat tape or weatherproof insulation) that are exposed to cold air, especially in the garage, basement, or crawl space.
- Let water flow at zero or below. Leave a thin stream of water dripping/running from all faucets in the home when the temperature remains below zero. Continuous water flow from at least one faucet can help keep either cold air or frozen ground from freezing pipes and plumbing fixtures.
- Remember, after a long cold spell, the ground can still be frozen even when the outside temperature is above freezing.
- When a pipe freezes, open a faucet at the end of the pipe to give the water some place to go after it thaws.
- Do not leave garage doors open for extended periods of time.
- If there is any damage to the home from a frozen pipe, contact your homeowner’s insurance agent as soon as possible.
Leaks - Moisture can cause costly damage to a home, so it needs to be addressed promptly. Leaky plumbing or sources of water penetration should be repaired immediately. Inspect and replace caulking around tubs, showers, sinks, and countertops as needed. Use the appropriate caulk and follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully. Prevent moisture intrusion of any sort.
Drains - Preventative maintenance helps you stay away from sewer cleaning bills. Fixing the drain is less disgusting than ignoring it. The first step in cleaning a drain is to make sure the clog is a local problem, not a systemic one. Plunger to the rescue! If two or more drains (toilets, sinks, washer, etc.) suddenly plug up, become sluggish or gurgle when used, call the plumber. Minimize use of toilets, showers, dishwashers, washing machines, etc. until an “all clear” is given.
Heating System - Have you had your furnace serviced yet? The manufacturer recommends having a professional, seasonal maintenance done to keep the system running at peak efficiency. A seasonal maintenance and trial run in the fall are more convenient to determine service needs before winter hits. Balance registers and make other minor adjustments for seasonal changes. Vacuum registers and grilles to keep free of dust, dirt, and grime. Filters should be replaced once a month. Clogged/dirty filters are one of the main causes of system failures.
Fireplaces - Before lighting, the damper must be in the full open position. Fireplaces with doors should always be operated with the doors fully open or fully closed. Refer to the fireplace manual for proper lighting and operating instructions. While fireplaces give a cozy atmosphere, they can be a source of drafts. To minimize drafts and loss of warm air, be sure the damper is closed when not in use.
Counter Tops - Towels and rubber drain mats left on counter tops can trap moisture underneath them. Water or other liquids left unattended can seep under sink rims and into joints/seams. Extended exposure of moisture to counter tops can cause the laminate to warp and blister. Please be careful.
“Drop-in” bowl cleaners - Can cause deterioration of some internal parts in the toilet and void the manufacturer’s warranty.
Dryer Fire - Blocked lint screens or build-up in the venting system can start a fire. If the lint screen is clogged, or, if there is an obstruction in the vent, the drying time is longer, and eventually moisture build-up in the vent line can result causing damage to drywall and other surrounding areas. Clean the lint screen before each load.
Faucets/Aerators - Hard water prevails in this area. Minerals can enter the supply line and cause faucets to drip because the washers wear more rapidly when they come in contact with foreign matter. Periodically remove and clean the aerators on faucets and showerheads to allow the proper flow of water. Consider a water softener unit to reduce hard-water problems.
Smoke Detectors - Dust or vacuum to keep dust and debris from interfering with sensors. Test by pushing the test button on the smoke alarm cover until the alarm sounds, then release. The alarm sounds if the electronic circuitry, horn, and battery are working. If no alarm sounds, the unit may have a defective battery or other failure. Refer to the operating manual for detailed instructions.
Electrical Outlets - Save time and service calls. Check GFI’s before calling the electrician. It might just take a simple reset to resolve the problem.