The weather has turned and after a long sunny summer spent outdoors, I find myself indoors after a day’s work. It’s dark early and it’s dark late into the morning, and with shorter days come cooler temperatures and the fluffy white stuff that brings us back to the outside. It seems fall has all but slipped away and some home maintenance may have been neglected. It’s still not too late. Yearly and bi-yearly maintenance on the exterior of the home will help with the durability of your home and help keep the inhabitants healthy. Unlike building a home from the ground up I like to do home maintenance from the roof down. Caution! It is December so if the roof is not too steep there are a few places to check and some of these can be visible from the ground. The roof takes on the biggest brunt of weather, although if your home is on Douglas that is questionable with the winds that come up the channel. If the weather permits and the roof is not frosty clean the roof valleys and behind vent pipes. Check and clean any debris that can be easily pushed off with a broom. While on the roof check all the flashing and any penetrations through the roof like around chimneys and vents to ensure that there will not be any leaks. More caulking on leaks will often not sustain through a Southeast Alaska winter, it’s important a roof be flashed properly. A steel roof can be addressed in the same way an asphalt roof is maintained although take extra precaution that it will be very slick to walk on. After the roof is cleaned where does all the debris go? Well it’s probably in the gutters. Gutters are the next item on my list of home maintenance items for the exterior of the home. I will clean the gutters and make sure all the roof water is going into the gutters. I make sure the gutters are draining and sloped properly to the down spouts. It’s important to complete gutter maintenance in the fall as well as spring to assure snow and ice throughout the winter did not knock anything out of whack.
Most of the attic can be checked from the access but sometimes it is wise to check all under decking of the roof for signs of moisture if the roof is questionable. Though, not all water damaged areas of an attic are caused by roof failures or problems. Moisture can also find its way through the home and into the attic in vapor form and condense on the underside of a cool roof deck in colder temperatures. This condensation can happen on a daily basis if the home humidity level is high enough and the roof deck is at dew point temperature. The moisture should be very visible and roofing nails will be frosted or the underside of the roof decking may appear wet or actually raining. Another thing to check in the attic is any vent ducting running through the attic. Make sure all ducting is sealed correctly and vented to the exterior. It will also be easy to see the insulation in the attic and if the insulation is in place or time to add more.
Working your way to safer ground and down the home. It is good to check all windows and doors making sure there is no leaks or broken glass. Make sure all seals on the windows and doors are good. Check that all windows and doors are sealing tightly, keeping the heat in and the water out. Proper flashing and caulking plays a big role in how window perform on the exterior of the home. The exterior of the windows and doors should be checked at least once a year, however, the older the home is, I would probably be checking windows and doors in the spring and fall.
Next, do a walk around the house checking all the siding and paint. A good sign that something may be wrong will be bubbled or peeling paint, as well as, bubbled or bowed siding. Another thing to look for while checking the siding is any sign of critters and insect intrusion. With the introduction of exterior insulation many homes are now a very attractive place for insects and little animals, like shrews and mice to burrow into. This could greatly affect the insulating value of your home. Another part of the siding and exterior to check is where decks connect to the side of a home. The deck to house connection is where I see a lot of problems. Usually the connection takes a beating from the weather and water splashes against the home creating water problems and intrusion especially if the deck is not flashed and connected properly to the home.
Drainage around a home plays a very important role in keeping a home dry and healthy. If the slope around your home is not adequate water has the opportunity to back into the home if it is below grade or the home has a crawlspace. All a home needs is about a 2% slope away from the home for water to drain away from the home. A 2% slope equates to about a 1 inch drop for every 4 foot. Check your gutter downspouts. The downspouts should extend approximately 4’ away from the home or into a separate drain that extends away from the home, so any roof water draining will not back into the home.
Vents and intakes are another very important and usually need a quick cleaning twice a year. Dry vents are very important to check because lint build up can become a fire hazard and affect the efficiency of the dryer itself. Other exhaust vents include a kitchen vent and heat recover ventilator vents. These should be cleaned and checked that any flappers are working properly. If your home has a heat recovery ventilator then check the intake as well. The intake of a HRV will often collect a lot of insects during the summer months. One quick check of your outdoors spigots will save a lot of grief in the spring thaw. Make sure all hoses are not attached to the hose bib as the temperatures start to drop. What happens is that when a hose is left on the spigot, water cannot drain properly out of the cold part of the hose bib with a hose attached, thus freezing just inside the wall cavity. When the spring thaw comes, the frozen hose bib that is cracked by the ice expanding will release about seven gallons of water per minute into your home, properly flooding it.
One of the last things to check on the exterior of a home is bushes and trees. Do another walk around the home and make sure all bushes and trees are trimmed back from the home. Any trees, shrubs, or bushes in contact with a home can create problems with moisture, insects, or just plain rub a house the wrong way. Look for any dead limbs or trees that could fall when the Taku winds come blowing. This type of maintenance will help keep roofs and gutters clear. One of the most problematic areas of a home is the crawlspace. The crawlspace is one of those hidden gems, out of sight out of mind. If your home does not have a crawlspace then you are already ahead of the game. However, a lot of homes have crawlspaces. Check the crawlspace for standing water on the ground. If there is standing water check to see if the sump pump is working. If it is not working or there is not one present, look into getting the sump pump fixed, replaced, or installed. A vapor barrier must be present on the ground of the crawlspace to keep unwanted moisture out of the home. A vapor barrier must be sealed properly for it to be effective in keeping moisture out of the home. Lastly I check the structure and joists to see that everything is dry. Basements can be checked in much the same way as the crawlspace. Lastly, now that our heating systems are on and please check all carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms. This may be the most important item on the list because without these detectors we may not be around to do a spring home maintenance checklist.
Greg Stopher has over 16 years of experience in the construction field and earned a degree in Construction Technologies from the University of Alaska – Southeast. His company, Stopher Construction, LLC, is a general contracting company specializing in remodeling, custom finishes, additions and new home construction projects. He can be reached at 907-321-2350.