The time for a spring home maintenance checklist is now, and this one is designed to ease your mind. Whether you are about to buy, getting ready to sell, or just need a helpful list of to-dos, this checklist is key to retaining the value of your house. Also, if you are selling, your house will be facing one or more expert inspections. This list can reduce, or even eliminate, any surprises when the inspectors come knocking.
Getting Started with This Spring Home Maintenance Checklist
That said, a long checklist can be intimidating. If you look at the whole thing, it can leave you overwhelmed. Spring maintenance is more than just spring cleaning; it’s spring cleaning on steroids.
That’s why we designed this checklist to reduce your stress while making sure you get your spring home maintenance checklist completed. Is this a long list? Yes, but we have prioritized it, categorized it and taken the sting out of many of these tasks.
WANT TO START NOW? DOWNLOAD SPRING HOME MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST
STEP 1: Scan the tasks and cross off anything that does not apply to you. Don’t have a sump pump? Cross it off the list. Don’t have a pool? Delete that one. Don’t have a lawn? Lawnmower maintenance can be completely redacted.
STEP 2: Determine whether a task involves INSPECTION or ACTION. This step is important because inspecting something is quick and involves very little actual work besides just looking at something and forming an opinion. Action, on the other hand, means effort plus time, which equals real work.
STEP 3: Clearly label whether a task is something you can do yourself DIY and others where you will need, or want to, HIRE a professional.
At this point we feel the need to acknowledge that DIY is on a sliding scale. If you can adjust a carburetor or plumb a water heater, your idea of DIY is probably not the same as most people. If that’s the case, use your best judgment and we will try to use ours. DIY, for example, for people with limited mobility can be a very subjective call. Here we go.
YARD WORK Spring Home Maintenance Checklist
Action, DIY: You can begin by inspecting your flower beds, but sooner or later you are going to need to get dirty. Pull the dead leaves out and rake out whatever the winter deposited in there. The good news is, if you are into gardening, this is probably somewhat enjoyable. The better news is you then get to plan whatever flowers and shrubs and decorative plantware you are going to install to beautify your landscape.
Inspect, DIY: A quick review of your lawn will be able to show you where you might need to reseed or apply some weed control. Fertilizer should be used once between February and April once the lawn is showing some green and is actually growing. If you are in an area that gets snow, you might see snow mold–which looks like a gray patch in your lawn. Fungicide won’t help with snow mold; just rake the area so it will dry out. Then reseed that patch.
Action: Getting your lawn mower ready for the season might be a DIY project or you may want to hire a professional by taking it into the shop. Spark plug changing is fairly easy, but oil changing can turn into a mess. In terms of sharpening the blade, here’s a tip: price shop for a new blade rather than taking an angle grinder to the old blade. You will be amazed how affordable they are. Riding mowers is another matter. Sharpening may be more economical but getting access to the blade is more difficult.
Inspect: Check your walkways and driveway for cracks, especially if you have plants growing in the cracks.
Action, DIY: If you have cracking in your driveway or sidewalk, minor fissures can be fixed with either asphalt or concrete patching materials from the local home store. Seal coating an asphalt driveway only needs to be done once every three years, so you have a 66 percent chance of avoiding it this year.
Action, hire a professional: In cases where the cracking is substantial (i.e. wide cracks that are pervasive), you will want to hire someone. Installing asphalt or concrete correctly takes a lot more expertise than you might expect, and even the pros get it wrong sometimes. Make sure whoever you hire is certified and approved by the state asphalt or concrete trade association.
Inspect: You will be able to tell if they are dirty when you start setting them out for the spring. If they are, this will be the first, but not the last, time we will mention the benefits of a pressure washer. If you are considering a pressure washer, weigh the fragility of your lawn furniture against the power of the pressure generated. Rattan or wicker furniture, for example, may not stand up well to a pressure washer. Even a painted Adirondack chair can be stripped of its color if you are not careful.
Inspect: Look for dead branches on trees and brown areas on shrubs.
Action: For everything within reach, cutting out the dead spots is easy. If you have to get on a ladder to cut a dead branch, it’s time to question whether you can do it safely. Three things to consider are:
- The size of the branch
- Where it will fall
- Any overhead utility lines.
If the whole tree needs to go, that’s when to call in the professionals.
Action: If you have an irrigation system, spring is a good time to slowly open up the valves and see if all your sprinkler heads are working. You may need to clean them out a bit if they got clogged over the winter. You should also walk through all the zones of your yard to make sure you are getting good coverage.
Action: This item may not be on everyones’ Spring home maintenance checklist, but if it’s on yours, you have a lot of work ahead of you. On the other hand, if you own a pool, this is not news to you. Here is an incomplete list of things you should check (a comprehensive list would be too long).
- Check the landscaping around the pool so nearby trees and shrubs aren’t going to be dropping debris in the pool all year.
- Don’t wait. If you get the pool running early, you can avoid some of the worst algae blooms later in the summer.
- Early in this case means when the freezing stops and daily highs are consistently in the 70s.
- Get your chemicals and testing kits. Helpful hint: pool stores will often test your water chemistry for free if you bring in a sample after the pool is up and running.
- Fill the pool. *
- Clean out all the floating debris.
- Clean the sides and bottom
- Make sure the hardware is all working: filters, pumps, etc.
*If you keep your pool filled all year, replace this step with “remove the cover.”
Action: There isn’t much inspection necessary but there will be a lot of soapy water and elbow grease involved. First clean the outside of grease and whatever winter left on it. Then open the lid and add a wire brush to the equation. If you cleaned the grates last fall, congratulations. The worst part is over. If not, spray the grates with equal parts vinegar and water and let them set for an hour. A lot of the grease should come off that way.
Once clean, you can cure your grates by wiping them down with vegetable oil and baking them in a 450 degree oven for two hours. After that, it’s time to wipe down in the interior grill box with your favorite degreaser. Check all the gas hoses and the burners to make sure they don’t have holes where they aren’t supposed to. The best way to check the gas feed from the propane tank is to coat the hose with soapy water and turn the gas on for a few seconds. If bubbles appear on the hose, you have a leak.
INFRASTRUCTURE Spring Home Maintenance Checklist
Inspect: Houses move over time, and that can cause cracks in your foundation. Spring, after the freeze- thaw cycle of the winter is over, is a good time to check for cracks. That means an inspection of the foundation and masonry is necessary.
Sometimes, you may not see anything wrong at the ground level. If, however, you see cracks in your ceiling where it meets the top of the wall, it may indicate a foundation shift. Experts suggest that if you can fit a nickel between a crack, it’s time to hire a professional foundation expert. At the risk of insulting your DIY chops, almost all foundation work should be handled by experts (perhaps even the inspection).
Action: Another dirty job is gutter cleaning, and it’s compounded by the fact that you may be doing it on a ladder. If a quick inspection shows they are not clogged by leaves from last fall, you’re in luck. If not, the DIY solution is moving the ladder from section to section, cleaning out the debri (a tarp on the lawn gives you a place to toss the gunk) and running water through the gutter to make sure water is flowing freely.
The alternative is not good. Clogged gutters can cause stress on the whole gutter system, bad smells and water buildup near the foundation–which can trickle down to the basement. That’s a trifecta of bad.
Inspect: Check the trim and siding–if you have wood siding–for signs of cracking or peeling paint. If it looks good, you are done. If not, you may have a substantial summer project in front of you. Depending on the scope of the project, you may want to hire a professional company to paint your house, but get on their schedule early. That means right now.
Action: A quick inspection of your exterior walls will tell you whether you need to wash the siding on your house. If so, there are two schools of thought on this: pressure washer or no pressure washer. On one hand, a pressure washer will save you a lot of work and time. On the other hand, these tools can be too much for siding and may loosen the panels if you aren’t careful. A hose with an attachment that sprays some gentle cleaning solution on your siding is a safer route to a clean house.
Inspect: Check the deck for raised nails and general wear. If it looks like it needs rejuvenation, this is where a pressure washer is really going to save you some time. It will remove mold, algae, moss and darn near everything else. If the deck is stained, the pressure washer may do a number on the stain, so you may need to re-stain. Conventional wisdom says you only need to re-stain wood decks once every two or three years, so you may want to be careful with the pressure washer.
If you have a crawl space under your deck, spring is the time to check for critters.
Roof and Chimney
Inspect: This is the point where you trade in your ladder for some binoculars. With them you can inspect without crawling up on the roof. You should look for three things:
- Loose or missing shingles
- Damaged flashing around the chimney
If some shingles are loose or missing, or the flashing isn’t tight against the chimney, it’s time to hire a professional.
Stains, on the other hand, can be handled with a hose and sprayer attachment. Here’s another case where a pressure washer may do more harm than good. Some say you can use bleach or lye solutions for this job, but they have drawbacks in terms of damaging flashing, gutters and the plant life surrounding your house. Home stores have solutions that can be safer for your roof and your landscaping.
If you have a wood burning fireplace, a chimney sweep is a good idea either now or next fall.
Action: Cleaning your windows can be immensely satisfying. It immediately brightens the inside of your house by letting in more light and improves your view of the oncoming spring. A squeegee and a bucket of water with some vinegar will make this task a lot faster, but if you are in the “elbow grease” camp, by all means get out your Windex and lint-free rags.
If you have removable storm windows that need to be stored for the summer, that will take a bit more muscle and maybe a ladder.
Here’s a fact about your windows that might surprise you. On the sills of many windows there are drain holes, called weep holes, to make sure rain doesn’t accumulate. While you are window cleaning, check the weep holes and clean them out if they are clogged.
Action: Cleaning screens can be done with a hose and sprayer. As an alternative, try using a vacuum with a brush attachment. You might get the results you want without all the overspray.
If you’ve got pets–particularly large dogs who think screens are not really a barrier to going outside–spring is the time to repair your screen doors and windows for the summer. There are screen materials that resist the ravages of pets. If you use them, your German Shepherd can still punch through the screen, removing it from the frame, but it won’t actually tear the material. That will save multiple trips to the home store. Trust us on this one.
Inspect: If you live in places that freeze, we hope you turned off the water to those outside faucets last fall. Spring is the time to turn them on again, check for leaks, and reattach your hoses.
INTERIOR Spring Home Maintenance Checklist
Hire a Professional: One of the few things you can DIY with your heating and air conditioning system is change the filters. Do that in the spring, but you should probably be doing it more than once a year (every 3 months is recommended). After that, any maintenance and inspection should probably be done by professionals. The chimney that vents the exhaust from your furnace could also be checked in the spring. The thing you don’t want is your AC going out in the middle of a heat wave this summer. Always choose maintenance over emergencies.
AC Window Units
Action: If you rely on window units for your AC, this is the time to clean their filters (soak in warm, soapy water). Then clean the fins on both sides–inside and out. The outside fins, also called the condenser coil, are the most delicate. If they are bent and touching each other, the efficiency of your AC unit is compromised and your energy costs will go up. There is a tool called a fin comb that will help put bent fins back in position.
Action: If you don’t clean out your lint trap on your dryer on a regular basis, spring is a good time to do it. One third of the 2,900 dryer fires reported every year in the U.S. are caused by not cleaning out your lint trap. That’s the easy one.
Cleaning out the dryer vent, both inside and out, takes more work. You need to move the dryer away from the wall after you disconnect power (and the gas line if you use a gas dryer). Then you disconnect the back hose, and vacuum out the vent. You will also need to do this outside by disconnecting the dryer vent cover and vacuuming out the duct. If this sounds like a lot of work, you’re not wrong. This might be a case where you want to hire a professional.
Inspect: No spring home maintenance checklist would be complete without talking about the sump pump. While this is one of the inspection duties you may want to postpone, the sump pump, if your house needs one, is keeping water out of your basement. That has both long-term and short-term ramifications. Checking to see if it’s working, however, is dark work. The two simple ways to make sure it’s working include:
- Is it plugged in?
- Does it appear to be pumping water and keeping the area in the basement and around the foundation dry?
Besides these two obvious indicators, troubleshooting a sump pump may be best left to the professionals.
Action: If you have a programmable thermostat, spring is a good time to check the program and make sure you are cooling the house in the most efficient way possible. You may also need to change the clock.
Action: The rotation of your ceiling fans should change in the Spring to more efficiently cool your house. For warm weather, the rotation should be counterclockwise to create a downdraft. The switch to change the rotation is on the body of the motor housing. While you are up there (and the fan is shut off) you could give the blades a quick dust.
Inspect: Usually when daylight savings time kicks in each spring, there are reminders to check the batteries on your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Fortunately detectors are easy to test (but noisy).
Inspect: Looking under your outdoor deck for critters is a good idea, and it’s doubly important for your attic space. Animals and insects can do a lot of damage to an attic once they have invaded. If action needs to be taken, especially with dangerous guests like raccoons or wasps, it’s best to call animal control or hire a professional.
At the risk of being repetitive, implementing a spring home maintenance checklist is about maintaining the value of your home. It may seem like a lot of work right now, but the work will save you in the long run–not to mention the expenses–should be all the motivation you need.
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