By Brian Mishler
Ah! Spring is finally in the air after a long dreary winter. With it will hopefully come the rains we all depend on for sustenance. With equal hope, we’ll avoid the flooding we see so often.
Early spring is the best time to get a lot done, before summer vacation season is upon us, and gives us a head start to prepare for summer activities as well as get a head start on – dare I say it – next winter.
As was mentioned last month, if you haven’t already, get your gutters and downspouts cleaned and checked as soon as possible; we don’t want that rain water to end up in the basement or under the house. Rain barrels are gaining popularity for watering gardens and other outdoor uses, and if you go that route, make sure the barrel has a way to direct overflow away from the house.
Now is the time to get the bushes and trees trimmed and away from the siding, and make sure the yard slopes away from the house. If you don’t want to tackle these projects, your local landscape contractor would love to hear from you. A few hundred dollars of (proper) exterior maintenance can save thousands on interior repairs, and reduce the potential for an insect invasion.
Call your local heating contractor to get the central air conditioning serviced, and go stock up on furnace filters; they actually need to be replaced more frequently during summer than winter.
If you’re like me, you’ve got plans for improvements this year: perhaps a new deck, sunroom, or pool? The most common issues I see during home inspections are self-inflicted. Do-it-yourselfers who don’t take the time to educate themselves on a project invariably paint themselves into the proverbial corner. Just because the big-box hardware store sells it, doesn’t mean it meets building standards. I’ve also seen components on a shelf, but not the proper fastener for that component. Before you pick up a hammer, pick up a book; you may discover it is more cost effective and safer to hire a competent contractor. Decks are the biggest culprit, but DIY mistakes pop up commonly in electrical, water/waste plumbing, roofs, kitchens and bathrooms. When in doubt, ask questions.
Regardless of what you intend to do, a plan is the most critical part. Often the most boring part of a project or homeownership, putting together a list or plan helps us stay on track, and get ‘er done!
Here is my spring check-up plan:
- Inspect roof, clean gutters, ensure downspout drainage
- Trim shrubs
- Hire tree trimmer
- Edge lawn at sidewalks, fence and driveway
- Clean porch, siding and windows, checking for damage.
- Clean retaining wall
- Repair damaged concrete
- Call landscape, patio, chimney company to get barbeque grill serviced
- Have outlets tested (Upgrade to Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) if necessary.)
- Open windows, enjoy the air!!!
- Room by room spring cleaning
- Change furnace filter
- Call heating contractor get A/C serviced.
- Check outdoor hose faucets for leaks; get repaired if necessary.
This year, I’m thinking about a new deck. Here is my initial plan:
- Layout – how much yard space will it take? Where will it meet the house, and how? Will it be multi-level? Where will the stairs be? Am I really going to put a hot tub on it? What about the barbeque?
- Overall size
- Footings – how deep? Concrete or helical piers?
- Posts – Metal or wood?
- Joists – Metal or wood?
- Flooring – Composite or wood?
- Rails – Vinyl or wood?
- Lighting – overhead, built in, or both?
- Will it have any roofing?
Once I answer these questions, and compose a list of expenses, I may find it more cost effective to hire a contractor; they have the tools and experience to build a better, safer, deck faster than I can. Don’t assume they will be more expensive than doing it yourself; you may be surprised, and it’s hard to predict the cost of mistakes. If you do choose to do it yourself, get a building permit from your local authority and make sure to get the necessary inspections done. Yes, this does generate some revenue for your municipality, but most importantly, it ensures the construction is correct – and your family and friends are safe.