18 things for you (or the handyman) to tackle now to help prepare your home for the warmer months and keep it in top shape.
If you’re still trying to catch up on that precious hour of sleep you lost last weekend, you’re probably not thinking too much about starting those annual spring cleaning chores?and there are plenty.
As you go about your annual spring-cleaning ritual, take a few additional steps to save money on energy bills this summer, improve your home’s appearance and ward off big-ticket repairs later.
1. Inspect the AC, Part 1
Note: Dirty filters make your air conditioner work harder, increasing energy costs and possibly damaging your equipment. Check them monthly and replace as needed, or at least every three months.
2. Inspect the AC, Part 2
3. Put the Temperature on Autopilot
Energy Star says that for an initial investment of $50 to $150 for a programmable thermostat, you can save about $180 annually on cooling and heating bills — if you can live with higher indoor temperatures in summer (and cooler temperatures in winter). Set the “hold” or “vacation” feature for a constant, efficient temperature when you’re away for the weekend or on vacation.
In summer, you can make those settings more tolerable if you install ceiling fans. Just remember that a ceiling fan cools people, not a room, so turn it off when you leave the room.
4. Re-Install AC Window Units
Before you heft units to the window sills, take a moment to clean them. Remove a unit’s front grill, then its air filter, and clean dust and dirt from the filter. Check the filter periodically throughout the cooling season.
5. Clean the Swamp Cooler
If you live in a hot, dry climate and cool your home with an evaporative, or “swamp,” cooler, you must drain and clean the cooler seasonally to remove built-up sediment and minerals.
Energysavers.gov?says that the more a cooler runs, the more maintenance it will need, requiring that you look at the pads, filters, reservoir and pump at least monthly.
6. Caulk the Cracks
If the gap around a door or window is wider than a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk, says Bill Richardson, past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Check window-glazing putty, too, which seals glass into the window frame.
Add weatherstripping around doors, making sure that you can’t see any daylight from inside your home. You’ll save money on air conditioning and you won’t have to repeat this task in the fall.
7. Clean Out the Gutters
Nature’s detritus — decomposed leaves, twigs, and spring petals and seeds (think maple-tree “helicopters”) — may be worse in spring than in fall. Gutter cleaning generally costs $90 to $225 for a 2,000-square-foot home (with about 180 linear feet of gutter).
Add extensions to downspouts to carry water at least 3 to 4 feet away from your home’s foundation. You can use 4-inch corrugated plastic pipe (about $7 for 10 feet).
8. Repair Your Roof
An easy way to inspect the roof to find damaged, loose or missing shingles without risking life and limb is to use a pair of binoculars. If need be, hire a handyman to repair a few shingles ($95 to $125 for asphalt shingles, according to?www.costhelper.com). If the damaged section is more extensive, you’ll need a roofer (who will charge $100 to $350 to replace a 10-by-10-square-foot area). Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys, too.
If your home has a flat roof with a parapet (a short wall around the perimeter), look for wear and tear in the roof surface. Check the flashing that seals the joint between the parapet and roof. Heavy snow can split the flashing, resulting in leaks. If you need repairs, look for a roofer at the Web site of the?National Roofing Contractors Association.
Clean out any roof drains or scuppers (openings in the parapet that allow water to drain) to avoid ponding, which could damage your roof and cause leaks below. A “roof repair” or “sewer and pipe cleaning” company can help.
9. Remove Stains From Your Roof
10. Pressure Wash Your Home
Spring-clean your home’s exterior to remove accumulated dirt, mold, stains and the like from the siding, deck, sidewalks, driveway and garage floor, fences, and lawn furniture. You can rent a pressure washer for $40 to $75 a day or hire help for 8 to 80 cents per square foot, according to CostHelper.com, depending on the amount and type of crud.
11. Wash the Windows
To find a professional window washer in Louisville, visit the Better Business Bureau’s list of accredited window washers.
12. Repair Sidewalks and Driveways
Fix any breakdown in concrete or asphalt before it worsens. You can patch or fill surface cracks, chips or flaking in concrete yourself using cement-repair products, such as those made by Quikrete (to learn how, search for “fill concrete cracks“ at YouTube.com). For deeper cracks, settling or sunken concrete, or frost heaves (when moisture beneath the concrete has frozen and jacked up the slab), call a pro, whether a handyman or a concrete contractor (www.concretenetwork.com/contractors). For approximate costs by project, visit CostHelper.com and search for “Concrete Repair Cost.”?
Asphalt is harder to work with, so call a pro. Look for a member of the?National Pavement Contractors Association?or look under “paving contractors” in the Yellow Pages.
To increase the longevity of your driveway, have asphalt resealed every two to five years, depending on climate and wear patterns, and have concrete resealed every one to three years (you can probably do the concrete job yourself). Contractors will charge from 9 cents to 24 cents per square foot
13. Keep Your Basement Dry
14. Check Your Deck
Resealing is always a good idea to protect the wood. But more important, before you invite the clan for a reunion, make sure your deck can handle the load. The North American Deck and Railing Association says that deck components inevitably age, but that salt air can hasten deterioration and heavy snow can cause stress damage.
At a minimum, test several areas of the deck for decay, especially those that tend to stay damp. Two signs: The wood is soft and spongy, and it doesn’t splinter if you poke it with an ice pick or screwdriver. (For a complete checklist, visit?www.nadra.org, or find a home inspector at?www.inspectorseek.org.)
15. Call a Chimney Sweep
At the end of the heating season you’ll have no problem getting an appointment. Look for chimney sweeps certified by the?Chimney Safety Institute of America. The sweep will make sure that the chimney caps are in place and the damper is working properly. With a wood-burning fireplace, you can close the damper whenever the fireplace is not in use. In summer, you’ll save energy and reduce unpleasant odors carried by the inflow of air and aggravated by humidity.
For the greatest energy savings, insert a fireplace “draft stopper” in the?flue, preferably after you’ve had the chimney cleaned.
16. Prepare to Mow
17. Reset an Irrigation System
If you have an irrigation system, you may be overwatering (and wasting money on water bills) because a controller isn’t properly set for your yard’s needs or because of broken or leaky components. For tips on getting an irrigation audit (about $200 to $300) and other ways to use less water on your yard, see?”Smarter Ways to Water Your Lawn.”