With spring officially in bloom, the Mid-South has plenty of beautiful flowers, green grass, chirping birds, and warm sunshine to spare. All these new beginnings can bring a bit of spring cleaning fever with them, so this is the perfect time to think about checking up on your home’s health. Judy McLellan and The JudyMac Team of Crye-Leike Realtors aren’t just about buying and selling homes – we also want to keep your house as safe, secure, and beautiful as it was on the day you moved in! Steve Campbell, ACI of Memphis Inspections, is our go-to “Inspection Guy,” so we asked him for his top tips for home maintenance this spring. Check out his super helpful suggestions below!
Clean the dryer vent
Clothes dryers account for over 15K structure fires, more than a dozen deaths, and hundreds of injuries every year. 80% of these dryer fires happen in residential buildings, and a “failure to clean” is the #1 reason they occur. To protect your property and your family, you should replace the dryer vent behind the dryer annually, and also clean the pipe leading to the exterior of your home.
Have your HVAC tuned up
HVAC units require routine maintenance throughout the year, with cleaning in the spring for the air conditioning and in the fall for the furnace. Although this can technically be done on your own, we always recommend having an HVAC professional carry out any important check-ups. They have the ability to check the freon levels and can clean the evaporator coil as well as the condenser. If you have trouble with your unit freezing up or running continuously, have the thermal expansion valve checked, too. This can sometimes mimic freon loss or over-charging.
Replace all exterior light bulbs for safety
Take the time to check all your outside light bulbs and make sure they’re still working correctly. If you don’t already have this kind of lighting, spring and summer are an excellent time to invest in it since you’ll likely be spending more time in your outdoor entertainment areas. The right exterior lighting not only creates a pleasing ambiance, it also helps to keep your home secure. Entryways, garages, and walkways that are well-illuminated deter potential intruders, and also make it easier to navigate your property safely at night.
Review your roof
Have your roof inspected by a roofing professional, or take a look yourself (using all safety precautions OR a pair of binoculars.) Remove all debris, including restricted valleys. If the roofing boots are deteriorated, have them replaced to extend the life of the shingles. You’ll also want to be sure your attic has plenty of ventilation for the upcoming summer heat and attic exhaust fans are functioning properly. If an attic gets too hot, it can actually cook the shingles from the inside out.
Clean and inspect your gutters and downspouts
Did you know that one inch of rain on a 1,000 square foot roof can produce approximately 623 gallons of water? Rain gutters and downspouts that have properly installed drain lines with extensions will be able to efficiently move water away from the roof and keep it from dropping directly on to your foundation wall base. This reduces the risk of water intrusion into your home, termite activity, rusted metal materials, staining on any brick veneer and siding, and will also help prevent the build-up of moss. Gutters do need routine maintenance to prevent build-up, and downspouts may need periodic cleaning to remove any debris that’s clogged inside.
Check irrigation systems
We recommend having your irrigation system reviewed by a professional at the beginning of each season, especially when it is de-winterized, to be certain that water isn’t being wasted in some areas. Heads can be dislodged by lawn mowers, weed eaters, or even feet, resulting in water spraying the house, sidewalk, or driveway. Water that is spraying the house is especially problematic, since it can rot the wood around your windows and doors over time. Look for a water flow that is effective without over-saturating the ground or watering anything other than the grass or landscaping. During the rainy season (like now!), be sure to adjust your water use appropriately.
Keep an eye on your vegetation
Climbing vegetation like ivy and wisteria can adversely affect wood windows, shutters, roof shingles, and gutters. It also allows easy access for pests and rodents into your home under the eaves. If you have siding, vegetation can hold moisture in, giving termites soft wood to burrow into, so be aware of how close it is growing. In general, you shouldn’t shouldn’t allow any vegetation to grow on your home or around your condensers.
Clean and inspect all fireplaces after winter use
It’s often cheaper to clean your fireplace at this time of year, and many professionals can also clean the dryer vent at the same time they service the chimney. You should always use a pro for this, as they can effectively seal any cracks in the mortar between bricks which may pose a safety hazard. He or she should also review gas logs for proper installation and safety, and check for any damage. Damaged gas logs are dangerous to use, and not having them in the proper position doesn’t allow for proper ventilation.
If you happen to notice any charring of your logs, stop using them immediately until they can be reviewed by a qualified professional. Gas logs DO have a shelf life, and the lifespan of your logs will vary depending on their design, the quality of their construction, and how often you use the fireplace. With proper maintenance, a vented set of ceramic logs can last ten years or more. Unvented logs tend to have an average lifespan of about three to five years.
Every year, you’ll want to inspect the log set for leaks. This is very important, and not a step that should be skipped. You can do it yourself by turning on your gas supply, then using a spray bottle to spray a small amount of water and soap on the gas line connection. If bubbles form, you’ll know there’s a leak, and the connection should be tightened or the gas line completely replaced. You should replace all aged flexible gas lines for safety.
Inspect and open all windows for fire safety and deterioration
There should be two avenues of escape from each bedroom. If the door can’t be used due to smoke, heat, or gases, a window is often the only other option to get outside. If you have casement windows, they will require routine maintenance, including wiping down the interior of sashes on a regular basis to prevent condensation from damaging the wood.
Many sliders and vinyl windows have “weep holes” on the bottom of the frame that have been designed to drain condensation so it doesn’t collect in the frame’s bottom channel. Weep holes can become plugged with bugs and debris over time, causing damp window sills and providing an invitation to certain pests. To check that your weep holes are working properly, watch during a rainstorm or spray the outside of the window with a garden hose. If you don’t see a steady stream of water exiting the weep hole, try clearing it with floral wire or an old toothbrush. If the flap designed to keep out driving wind is stuck shut, it can easily be removed and replaced.
Replace all batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors
Since a smoke alarm works 24/7, it tends to have a lifespan of about ten years. If you don’t already, you should have smoke detectors installed in all bedroom hallways, the laundry room, the attic and basement, all rooms with fireplaces or furnaces, and the kitchen. Your local fire department may change your smoke detectors for you at no cost, and it’s worth calling and asking if they offer this service.
It’s also important to have carbon monoxide detectors available around your home. Since your family is most vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping, place at least one alarm as close to everyone’s sleeping area as possible. However, you should ideally have carbon monoxide detectors placed throughout your home, just like smoke alarms. If you live in a multi-story home, be sure to place at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level, as well as the basement, laundry room, and your garage.
If you already have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in all these areas, take this opportunity to replace the old batteries with fresh ones!
Extra tips for home maintenance
Steve tells us that homeowners should be inspecting all GFCI receptacles and AFCI circuit breakers each year by testing them and replacing any that fail to trip and reset properly. Your garage door tracks should also be inspected around this time, and lubricated if necessary. In fact, the springs, rollers, tracks, and hinges could all use a little TLC once every few months to keep your garage door functioning smoothly.
Spruce up your home this spring
Whether you’re in Memphis, Germantown, Collierville, or beyond take advantage of the beautiful spring weather to throw open the windows and make sure your home is safe and sound for the season ahead! Remember that Judy McLellan and The JudyMac Team of Crye-Leike Realtors are always here to help if you’re getting a house ready for the market, or are looking to make a move in the Mid-South. Whether you’re buying or selling, you deserve the best, and our team has what it takes to provide exactly that!