by Jim Slagle, Associate Editor
Our house…our home is not unlike a member of the family. Most of the time, we take it for granted, but when something goes wrong, we spring into action.
The thing is, unlike mortals, houses have no ability to heal themselves. With time, problems only get worse—and cost more to fix. That stain on the ceiling or wet corner of the basement will never get better on its own. I repeat. House problems never get better on their own.
This not a how-to column on home maintenance. It’s simply a reminder to keep up with the sometimes-overwhelming task of keeping a house doing its job of providing shelter, comfort and joy to its inhabitants. You can either hire a professional or do it yourself, but do it.
Furnaces, air conditioners and chimneys are so hardworking and central to our comfort and well-being that most of us assign their maintenance to experienced technicians. Many homeowners elect annual contracts on these essential components to ensure uninterrupted service.
On the other hand, it’s a good idea to inspect your own house every so often, perhaps at the beginning of each season. We’ll start with the exterior of the structure and any outbuildings. Try looking at your house as a potential buyer would see it: if the homeowner hasn’t attended to relatively minor issues, chances are he hasn’t dealt with the major ones either.
Take a walk around your house with a pad of paper and a pencil and make a list of maintenance tasks. (Better yet, use an electronic device so you can snap pictures.) This is important, so if you are unable, enlist a friend of family member to make the list.
Look at the roof from all angles to check for weather damage, missing, crooked or curling shingles, cracks and rust in the flashing. Check for tree branches overhanging the roof, and for accumulation of leaves, moss or other debris.
If you’re handy with a ladder, the solution can be a simple as a rinse with a garden hose. If you hire someone to clean your gutters, they can handle this for you. If the problem is shingles, call a roofer.
Check for failing paint or caulking as you go. Make a plan to deal with cracked, peeling or blistered areas. If the siding is looking dingy or mossy, plan on either a professional or do-it-yourself power washing. Be prepared to touch up paint or caulk that comes loose from the washing.
Inspect the driveway and walks for cracks and gaps, and fill if necessary. Plan to sealcoat your asphalt driveway every 3 years to keep it in tip-top condition. It’s cheaper in the long run.
Also check for foundation crack and gaps, as well as soil erosion that directs water toward, rather than away from your house. Standing water anywhere in the yard is a problem best left to a professional.
If your basement and attic are accessible, inspect them both. In the basement, look for water stains on walls and floors. Musty odors can indicate mold and mildew. If a dehumidifier doesn’t help, it’s time to call a pro. In the attic, look for stains or rot on the ceiling that may indicate a leak. Also, check for evidence of squirrels or other unwelcome critters.
One of the key responsibilities of owning a home is staying on top of maintenance. While it may be tempting to ignore the hassle of doing small maintenance jobs, seemingly inconsequential issues can add up quickly and become major problems that are costly and inconvenient to fix.
Home renovation is a significant investment of time, money, and energy. However, if managed properly, it will add value to your home and prepare you for selling potential in the long run. Neglecting these expenses can be costly, both in the short-run and the long-term, so it’s best to take the routine steps now to avoid expensive pitfalls down the line.
* ”An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is one of Benjamin Franklin’s most famous quotations, written as part of a campaign to establish a fire department in Philadelphia.