If you have become a homeowner for the first time, you are probably spending a lot of time admiring your property and checking every last bit of it for work that needs to be done. But what exactly are you looking for? You don’t want to get in a state about cosmetic jobs that are not urgent, but the old adage holds true that “a stitch in time saves nine.” Learn how to keep your home in good condition without losing sleep.
There are basically three situations that you are looking for:
- Some are potentially dangerous
- Some are letting water into your home
- Some are wasting your money
The roof is your first line of defense against the elements. If it lets in water, then sooner or later you are going to get structural damage. Water has two downsides: it causes rot and mold, which are bad for your health and bad for the structure; and it freezes in winter and expands, turning small cracks into big ones.
Look inside your roof for signs of water getting in, like damp patches and daylight. Go outside with a pair of binoculars and have a good look around. Loose tiles or shingles can let water in, and heavier tiles or slates can be in danger of sliding off and hurting someone. Look carefully at the flashing around chimneys and other joints and take action if it doesn’t seem to fit snugly.
If you have a complicated roof structure, it may well be worth getting an expert assessment of the actual and potential risks. In the St Louis area, WildwoodRoof.com is the website of a contractor with experience in all types of roof.
Your gutters and downspouts are designed to move the water as efficiently as possible from where it could do damage. There always tends to be debris, moss and leaves mixed up with the water and this can block the system at any point.
Go outside when it is raining and look to see if there is water overflowing from the gutters or the downspouts—not during a deluge as there is a limit to any system’s capacity! Have an annual clear-out of all your gutters and downspouts—more often if you live in an area with a heavy leaf fall. Stains on the walls may also indicate a place where the gutter is regularly overflowing.
Check that the water is running away easily into the underground drains. If not, use drain rods to clear what you can or get a drains contractor in to ensure it is clear right the way through to the public drains or your soakaway.
Walls and Windows
Visually check all your windows for gaps or deterioration. Drafts from badly fitting doors and windows are one of the main causes of overspending on heating. Wooden window and door frames need to be protected by good paintwork or preservatives. Rotting window frames should be replaced.
If your boiler vents through the wall, inspect the vent to see that it is clear of any vegetation that may affect its flow. Blocked vents can lead to dangerous gasses escaping into the house. Sooty deposits around the vent may indicate that the boiler is not working efficiently.
Look for cracks in the walls. Small cracks around windows and doors can be filled with caulk to keep the water out. Cracks in the main structure of the wall should be inspected by an expert.
Flat surfaces are designed with a slight slope to allow water to run off, but can easily change shape over time and let puddles form. If this happens you may need a roofer to attend to your flat roof, or a builder to relay your paving.
Paths which become excessively uneven can be a potential hazard. Once they start to break up, the winter ice will rapidly make them worse.
Decking with rotten or slippery boards can cause a nasty accident. Have a program to regularly inspect, treat, and replace suspect boards.
Enjoy Your Home
Having a home of your own is a great privilege and a great responsibility. It should not be a cause of worry and anxiety, but a house needs to be loved and a measure of careful attention to its needs will pay dividends. Watching what happens to your house through the seasons and a program of regular inspection and maintenance will help you to relax and enjoy it.
Liam Reynolds has worked as a builder for many, many years. Now approaching retirement age he is sharing some of his knowledge with homeowners around the internet with his useful articles.