Many homeowners wonder: “Am I doing enough to keep my home safe from the outdoor elements?” Our experience over the past 20 years has proven that there are certain exterior maintenance items that are critical to the long-term health of the home. All too often we find that when serious issues arise, they are directly or indirectly due to these fundamental home maintenance items being neglected, either because they are not understood or forgotten. A regular schedule of maintenance will likely help to identify issues early so problems can be addressed in a timely manner and adverse effects can be minimized.
Trim, Windows and Shutters
- Maintenance Recommendation: Annual inspection, and caulking and paint touch up as necessary.
- Wooden trim, windows and shutters need annual maintenance and inspection to ensure the life of the wood, and to prevent unwanted water from entering the interior of the house. Even the best weather barrier in the world would not be sufficient if a steady supply of water is allowed to get behind the trim or windows. Caulking is the product used to prevent water infiltration and rot where trim and windows meet the primary exterior surface (siding, stone, stucco, etc.), as well as at the joints of shutters. The life span of caulking varies depending on the amount of exposure to the weather, and for this reason all windows, trim and shutters should be inspected annually and touched up as necessary to prevent any premature rot or water infiltration.
Gutters and Downspouts
- Maintenance Recommendation: Cleaned four times a year to ensure flow.
- When gutters and/or downspouts get blocked there is a greater risk that water will get into the home or cause damage to trim and/or the fascia boards to which they are mounted. Depending on the amount of trees around the home, gutters will need cleaning four or more times per year. Just as important as cleaning the gutters, is testing downspouts to ensure they are not blocked. It is not uncommon to have a downspout blocked near the bottom, and when this happens gutters will fill with water and leak over the front and the back of the gutter. If gutters and downspouts are not consistently maintained, they can eventually pull away from the house due to the weight burden of the standing water. One more thing, when cleaning gutters it is a good time to also clear debris from valleys and low pitched roofs.
- Maintenance Recommendation: Four times a year based on location, monitor during heavy rains. Drains must remain clear to ensure water flow.
- Many people have a floor/grate drain at the bottom of an exterior stairwell and/or underground drains connected to downspouts that take the water away from the house. Keeping these drains free and clear is as important as keeping your gutters and downspouts clean. In heavy rains, floor and grate drains can get clogged with debris, allowing water to build up and get into the house below an exterior door. A blocked underground drain can cause gutters to back up and overflow much like if a downspout is clogged (see Gutters and Downspouts). Keeping these free and clear will minimize the risk of unwanted water infiltration.
- Maintenance Recommendation: Inspect twice a year.
- Standing water and poor drainage raise the risk of water infiltration. Because of that, it is critical to keep water away from the home by providing and maintaining a sloped grade away from the house. Along with gutters, downspouts and drains, the grading around the exterior of the home plays a critical role in keeping water and excess moisture away from the structure. Also, when dirt is disturbed during construction or landscaping it often settles in unexplainable ways. Inspecting the exterior of the home twice a year to maintain positive drainage is critical to keeping things dry.
- Maintenance Recommendation: Turn off and drain hose bibs in the fall, and turn on in the spring.
- Hose bibs are the water faucets to which gardening hoses attach. Every year, basements become flooded because water is allowed to remain inside the pipes through the freezing winter months, which can cause pipes to burst. When spring rolls around, these busted pipes thaw and begin to leak. If not identified right away, this can lead to excessive water damage. All hose bibs, including those that are “Frost Free” should be shut off and drained during the winter months to prevent this from happening.
A regular schedule of home maintenance is critical to keeping your home healthy and family safe all year long. These baseline preventative maintenance steps should help to ensure your home’s exterior stays in top shape.