It's spring (almost) and that means it's time to prioritize your exterior home maintenance projects and decide what you want to tackle this year. Admittedly you'll want to complete more projects than time or budget will support, so it's best to prioritize – start with safety in mind, then exterior home maintenance projects to keep water out and avoid water damage.
Safety is your first priority. Assume the perspective of a visitor coming to your house for the first time. Can they find your house number easily, and at night? Once they park their car, is the path to the front door well lit? Does the doorbell work? Are pathways around your home level and railings secure? A quick walk around your house is all that's needed to create a list of small projects like changing the light bulb over the garage and securing the gate at the top of the deck stairs.
That wasn't so hard, was it?
Exterior Home Maintenance Projects to Keep Your Home Dry
Keeping your home water tight is more challenging, especially when it's not easy to see your roof from the ground. Here's a secret though, to save you from climbing a ladder which you shouldn't do if you're not comfortable. Use binoculars or camera to inspect the roof. Save your roof photos so you can compare them year-to-year and before you know it, you'll get pretty good spotting problems that need to be addressed.
The goal here is to make sure your home is shedding rain water correctly, down to the ground and away from the house.
- Inspect the roof – to make sure there aren't any missing shingles, cracks, gaps or other ways that water can get under your roofing material, where it can cause the underlying roof deck to rot and/or leak into the house and cause more damage.
- Check gutters and downspouts – to make sure they're capturing all the water hitting your roof and directing it down to the ground and away from the roof. Gutters need to be cleaned periodically to get rid of airborne debris that can cause them to clog.
- Landscaping around the house – should let your house breathe and slope down, to move the water away from the foundation. You simply can't defy gravity and water pooled around your foundation will eventually find cracks and get into your house.
Exterior Home Maintenance Projects to Protect Your Investment
If your roof is like an umbrella, the siding is like a raincoat and both are there to shed water and keep your home dry. Your home's exterior is more complicated than a coat with the outer layer a part of the envelope that surrounds and protects your house (learn more about Home Envelopes and Saving Energy). So let's look at your exterior home maintenance projects around the sides of your house.
- Siding and trim – to do it's job must keep water out (sorry if I sound like a broken record but this is important). Many types of siding material are considered low maintenance as water won't damage them. The most common of these are aluminum, vinyl, brick, stucco, stone and composites like fiber cement from James Hardie. Wood though needs frequent painting. If you wait too long, you may need to repair or replace areas with wood rot (learn where the most common wood rot occurs on a house).
- Windows – are similar to siding where they may be vinyl or wood wrapped in aluminum which doesn't rot, and of course wood windows need more maintenance. You do need to insure that the caulking around all windows is water tight, or you may find wood rot hiding inside.
- Doors – are a lot like windows with fiberglass and steel doors needing less maintenance than wood. Wood doors need to be protected from the sun's ultraviolet rays, moisture and wind with a good stain or light-colored paint that reflects sunlight. Storm doors should be vented to allow hot air to escape and all doors should be inspected annually.
Curb Appeal & Enjoying the Outdoors
Beyond your house, there are many other outdoor structures that need attention, especially after a harsh and wet winter. By now you should realize that different types of building materials need different care.
- Decks, patios and porches – need to be cleaned, and wood decks need to be sealed (read Tips for Cleaning and Sealing Decks). You should also look for boards that need to be sanded (splinters) or replaced (warped).
- Sidewalks and driveways – need different types of home maintenance depending on the materials they're made of, and the problems you find when inspecting them visually. Often it makes sense to repair small problems, to avoid them growing into bigger problems. For example, a small crack in a concrete sidewalk if you have freezing weather, can get bigger each time water in the crack freezes.
- Retaining walls and fencing – also need to be inspected to determine what repairs are needed. A stone wall might start to crumble if there's no way for water behind the wall to escape (learn about weep holes). Fencing may need to be painted, or if the posts weren't installed properly (here's a video on how to install posts to prevent water damage), you may need some repairs.
Tackling some exterior home maintenance projects offers lets you get outdoors and get some exercise. Don't take on more than you can handle safely, and remember the most important thing is getting the projects done. If you don't have the time, tools or experience, these are projects that your local handyman can handle.