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Proper home maintenance in America isn’t one-size-fits-all. With an area of 3.8 million square miles, the U.S. has a vast range of climates that all take varying tolls on a house. In Duluth, Minnesota, where the average minimum monthly temperature is 1.5 F, your home’s enemy is the extreme cold. Miamians, on the other hand, need to worry about hurricanes and 62 inches of rain annually.
Poor maintenance becomes evident when the time comes to sell the house, and the home inspector writes you up for a decaying deck or water damage in the basement. Not to mention that without the right upkeep, your house will lose value over time.
So rather than download a generic task list, consult this seasonal home maintenance checklist tailored to regional weather patterns. The sooner you start protecting your abode against the area’s most threatening elements, the better.
Pacific Northwest: Gear up for wet weather
In the Pacific Northwest region, water damage is one of a homeowner’s biggest concerns. Most of the area’s rainfall happens between October and March, and according to The Weather Channel, cities like Portland and Seattle experience around 150 days of rain annually.
If you’re east of the Cascade mountains, you may experience drier, hotter summer weather than those closer to the coast, but you also experience colder winters. In either case, you can’t avoid the rain. But if you keep your house dry in all the right places, you can prevent mold and water damage, which can be a big deterrent to buyers.
Let’s go over a few areas to focus on.
- Gently remove moss from the roof.
- Clean out the leaves, sticks, and debris from your gutters.
- Trim your trees away from the house.
- Keep carpenter ants at bay.
- Seal up decks, patios, and any wood surfaces exposed to the elements.
Gently remove moss from the roof.
Moss thrives in wet, shady conditions, and as it spreads, it can lift your shingles, cause mold, and lead to cracks in your roof. Then, when it rains again, water gets inside your home and more mold and water damage ensues.
A tiny crack can cause big problems, so it’s a good idea to proactively get your roof inspected before the rainy season and make moss treatment a priority.
If you’ve caught the moss growth before it gets out of control, Bob Vila, an expert home improvement and repair advice site, has some great tips for moss removal using a soft-bristle scrub brush and cleansers like Wet Forget.
However, balancing a ladder against a roof isn’t every homeowner’s cup of tea and there’s a proper technique involved in this task. As such, moss removal is often a task better left to a professional roof cleaner.
“Cleaning a roof improperly can shorten its service life by removing the granules in the asphalt,” explains Mark Clement, a licensed contractor in Pennsylvania who’s worked behind the scenes on shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Clean out the leaves, sticks, and debris from your gutters.
Your house is one giant drainage system. So in addition to creating bad curb appeal, clogged gutters put a hitch in that drainage system by allowing water to run down the exterior of your house rather than away from it. “Sometimes that will penetrate your fascia board which will go into your walls,” says Forey Duckett, a top-selling agent in Seattle. This can cause mold growth and put your home’s foundation and structure at risk. For the same reason, Clement also recommends making sure your landscaping grades away from your foundation.
You can DIY your gutter cleaning with an extendable ladder, pair of rubber gloves, and plastic scoop. But this gets trickier if you have a two-story home—and you’ll need to clean gutters on the second floor as well. One way to source a local gutter cleaning professional is to ask your neighbors on Nextdoor for a recommendation.
Trim your trees away from the house.
For one, trimming your trees is just darn good for curb appeal. The yard is one of the first things Duckett looks at before listing a house. But it’s about more than aesthetics.
Maintaining trees and bushes also helps minimize storm and water damage. For example, when you trim back shrubs to be a safe distance from the siding, it allows for more air circulation so your exterior can dry properly. Tree branches should be trimmed away from all electrical, and remove dead debris that can blow off in windy conditions.
Keep carpenter ants at bay.
Carpenter ants are one of the most common pests in the Pacific Northwest, as they thrive in wet conditions. “The bad thing about carpenter ants is all they do is they chew and spit. They’ll just keep going,” says Duckett.
Leaving loose wood close to your house is asking for their attention. Even clogged gutters or water leaks can attract them to your home. Other ways to keep these critters at bay? Seal any cracks around the foundation and cut back branches close to the roof.
Finally, be sure to hire a professional pest inspector in the event you’re concerned about a carpenter ant infestation.
Seal up decks, patios, and any wood surfaces exposed to the elements.
No one likes rotting wood, so make sure outdoor decks are properly sealed. Note that anytime you power wash a wood patio or deck, it should be re-sealed within 3-5 days (but wait 48 to 72 hours to start the project). “That preventative maintenance will save you money in the long run,” says Duckett.
That goes for your roof, too. “We do still have cedar shake roofs here,” he explains. In that case, it’s even more important to keep your roof clean from tree debris and prevent mold growth before excessive rain.
While cleaning your roof should be left to the pros, stripping and sealing your deck is something you can DIY in a weekend or two. Start with the below video tutorial from Lowe’s.
Midwest and Northeast: Brace for a harsh winter
Fun fact: Some cities like Miami, Atlanta, New York receive more inches of rain annually than Portland and Seattle; they just experience it in larger bursts over fewer days. So, if you live in any area with lots of precipitation (regardless of geography), you should also follow the tips above.
But first, snow, ice, and extremely cold temperatures: Let’s talk about how to protect your house in a winter wonderland.
- Insulate your rim joist.
- Prevent ice dams with proper attic insulation.
- Tackle minor indoor repairs.
- Check your sump pump.
- Make sure gutters are clean and landscaping grades away from your foundation.
Insulate your rim joist.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, insulating your rim joist, which is where your foundation meets the basement, will make your home more energy efficient.
“Without insulation, there’s only plywood and siding between inside and out,” explains Clement.
But in bitter, cold temperatures, it’s not enough to have just a thermal barrier, often provided by fiberglass batts. You’ll also want to air seal the area and create a vapor barrier.
According to the Pennsylvania Home Research Center at Penn State’s College of Engineering, this can prevent condensation and mold growth by not allowing the warm inside temperatures to meet the cold outside temps. Adding foam board and spray foam underneath the fiberglass is the one course of action. Here’s how you do it:
- Select a water-resistant foam board, categorized as EPS foam board.
- Cut the foam board into square inserts that fit the rim joist sections and leave a small gap around the edges.
- Use spray foam around the edges to fill in the holes. Reinsert the fiberglass. You can learn more about this process from the Building Science Corporation.
Prevent ice dams with proper attic insulation.
Icicles and ice dams are both signs of leaking air in your attic. Warm air escapes and melts the snow on your roof. That water then refreezes as it makes its way to your eaves and gutters. As more snow melts and freezes, it creates a dam where water can build and get under your shingles, resulting in interior water damage.
As explained by This Old House, a home improvement brand that’s been around since the 70s, the only permanent fix is to make sure your attic is properly sealed and ventilated.
First, air seal any smaller holes in your attic floor with cans of spray foam. Then, add a full layer of insulation in the form of loose fill or batts. You’ll need to choose the right insulation material and follow the proper steps for the insulation process.
Tackle minor indoor repairs.
Take advantage of the extra time spent indoors in the winter. Look around and identify what needs minor repairs—such as touch-up paint and caulking. Now’s a good time to get your handyman over at the house to tighten fixtures, fix loose doors, and patch up any damaged drywall.
You can also use this time to clean mineral deposits and hard water buildup off faucets and shower heads and deep clean your toilets, showers, and sinks so they sparkle.
Check your sump pump.
Your sump pump’s job is to collect groundwater from storms so it doesn’t affect the foundation of your home. If it’s clogged or broken, it can’t function and this could lead to flooding—not something prospective buyers are looking for.
Test your pump by pouring in a gallon or two of water. Reddi Root’r, a plumber in the Witchita area with over 50 years of experience, explains that the float should rise and activate the pump.
If it doesn’t or if it turns on but doesn’t pump the water, you might have a dead battery, broken switch, or frozen or blocked lines. Try cleaning your sump pump by following the steps in this video before calling in a plumber (always make sure power to the pump is off before doing this).
Then, consult HomeLight’s guide for selling your house with a sump pump and how to make this fixture something buyers will appreciate.
Make sure gutters are clean and landscaping grades away from your foundation.
According to home warranty company American Home Shield, clogged gutters can also contribute to ice dams. So in addition to sealing your attic, make sure your gutters are clean.
This allows melting snow to properly drain away from your roof, and it reduces the chances of frozen debris weighing your gutters down altogether.
When it comes to landscaping, builders have to make sure it slopes away from the home. However, your foundation settles over time and it may level out. In some cases you can correct the slope with basic garden supplies.
Southwest: Protect your roof and prepare for abrupt changes in temperature.
It’s common for temperatures in the Southwest to creep into the nineties and often above 100 degrees during the summer months. You may be able to cool your body with a day spent poolside, but it takes a little more work for a house to stand up to that kind of heat.
Homeowners in this region have to worry less about rain and water damage, but the constant UV attention presents its own issues. Here’s what to keep an eye on.
- Make life easier for HVAC systems.
- Check your roof for damage.
- Replace weather stripping.
- Seal exposed ducts.
Make life easier for HVAC systems.
When you live in hot climates, extending the life of your AC unit is the name of the game because it’s working overtime.
“Proper insulation, especially in attics, can help isolate the living space from unconditioned areas. Over the long haul, the easier it is for your HVAC system to maintain temperature, the longer it’ll last,” says Clement.
Start by using expanding foam (the stuff that comes in the can) to air seal small cracks and openings in your attic where wire and pipes run. Energy Star suggests using caulk for even smaller openings where junction boxes are. Then you’ll want to add a layer of insulation—either loose fill or batts—on your attic floor.
Check your roof for damage.
Because homes in the Southwest experience some of the harshest UV rays, poor ventilation in your attic can lead to blistering shingles on your roof, which is a loss of asphalt. This can happen in as little as a year’s time, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
“If you have a house where you can’t see the roof shingles from the ground—say there’s a dormer—it’s important to get someone up there,” says Clement. You may find that your roof is in excellent condition; just don’t neglect to get it checked at least once a year so you can stop minor problems in their tracks.
Replace weather stripping.
This is one of those minor home maintenance tasks that’s overlooked all too often. By inspecting and replacing (if needed) the weather stripping around your doors and windows once a year, you can prevent drafts and air leaks that make it harder for your HVAC system to cool your home.
Here’s a quick how-to from Advantage Inspection in Arizona. Know that there are several types of weather stripping, each with certain strengths and weaknesses. The Department of Energy breaks down the pros and cons of each in this helpful chart.
Seal exposed ducts.
In addition to air sealing leaks in your attic caused by holes around piping, wires, and recessed lighting, it’s smart to seal around your ductwork.
Your home builder may have skimped when it came to this task. In fact, it’s usually not a priority, and one poll found that 50% of builders don’t do it.
If you notice that it’s hard to heat and cool your home, this is likely part of the problem. It’ll take you less than a day’s work plus a day of drying time. Check out this tutorial from Lowe’s to discover what you need and how to get the job done.
Coastal homes: Recover from storm season
Dreamy views and quaint beach towns make coastal states ideal places to live, but sunny weather and a moderate climate don’t make homeownership here any easier.
Homes close to the water are more prone to storm surges as well as heavy rainfall and precipitation. And if you are in places like Oregon, New Jersey, and the Carolinas, it’s not all sunshine and surfing. You also have to deal with harsher winters (see tips above) than states like California.
Here’s what to keep in mind for maintaining a coastal home, and it all comes down to making salt your enemy.
- Inspect your deck for salt water damage.
- Have your HVAC coils cleaned a couple times a year.
- Clean windows to prevent corrosion.
- Spray down the siding and check the home exterior for wear and tear.
- Recover from storm damage.
Inspect your deck for salt water damage.
If your deck or home are splashed with salt water repeatedly, you may have a problem on your hands at inspection time in the form of corroded metal or damaged wood. Even consistent exposure to salty, ocean air can have the same effects.
According to the Department of Agriculture, salt can damage wood in as little as 5 years, which you can spot by its fuzzy appearance. So, in addition to looking for hardware that’s begun to rust and corrode, Clement recommends checking that the ledger board is firmly bolted to the house and that posts are in good shape.
Have your HVAC coils cleaned a couple times a year.
All that salty air travels through your heating and A/C system where it can fester and and start to corrode coils. By having them cleaned, you can prolong the life of the HVAC system, a costly item to replace, and make that a selling point for your property.
Clean windows to prevent corrosion.
Say it again, salt is your enemy. Just as the salt air and water can corrode hardware on decks, the framing on doors and windows can also suffer. A real estate broker in Carmel, CA, advises that homeowners clean windows every week to prevent damage. And if you don’t already have it, swapping to doors and windows with fiberglass framing is ideal because of its anti-corrosive quality.
Spray down the siding and check the home exterior for wear and tear.
For all the aforementioned reasons, it’s a good idea to occasionally spray down the exterior of your house with fresh water to prevent salt from crystalizing, which is what can damage siding and other wood elements.
Both the salt and sand in the air can settle and cause paint to chip. So if it’s been a while since you’ve done anything to the home’s exterior, break out the power washer. Consider calling in the pros to reseal and repaint if you have any chipping or flaking. After all, curb appeal goes a long way when making a first impression on buyers.
Recover from storm damage.
If you’ve experienced extreme weather or a series of storms that caused flooding or excessive exposure to salt water, call a professional removal and restoration service. Salt can corrode your foundation over time and cause pretty hefty structural issues if it’s not taken care of properly. But salt water conducts electric currents, so it’s not something you should DIY.
Focus on seasonal home maintenance where it counts
You home experiences a lot from summer nights and snowy days, and mother nature takes its toll. If you live in the desert, you may not be as concerned about how the rain can damage your foundation as someone in the suburbs of Washington.
The bottom line is to consider your region’s climate as you’re crafting your home maintenance task list, and you may find that buyers take notice where it counts most.
“It’s nice to stay on top of [home maintenance],” says Duckett. “It’s nice when we walk into situations where all we have to do is clean and get it ready for the market.”
We couldn’t possibly cover every home maintenance task in one list, though, so to further tailor this checklist to your individual home and climate, chat with a local real estate agent about how to give your house the TLC it needs for a smooth sale.
Article Image Source: (Ariel Schmunck/ Unsplash)