LESLIE: Well, spring is the season when the home improvement bug awakes in many of us and we can finally get started on projects that just weren’t possible with all those freezing temperatures and a whole lot of snow on the ground.
TOM: It’s also the time to restore and repair after the ravages of Old Man Winter and to get your home ready for the warmer weather ahead. Here to give us an essential spring-maintenance checklist is This Old House host Kevin O’Connor.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be back.
TOM: So this is the time when we really have to get the to-do list in order and let’s face it: when the weather turns warm, we get the energy to tackle those projects, as well. So, where should we start?
KEVIN: Well, in the spring, boy, it seems like there’s no end to places you could start. But think about this: it’s probably the first time you’re going to see your roof in three or four months, if you live where I live, right?
KEVIN: It’s been hidden under snow and ice for all those years. So, give your roof a once-over, an inspection. If you can get up there with a ladder and put eyes on it, that’s great. If you can’t, maybe break out a pair of binoculars or even a camera with a telephoto lens to get a close-up. See if the shingles are all intact. Check the flashing around some of the plumbing vents, maybe the chimney, as well.
And in my case, you might have to see if you gouged into the shingles with your hatchet when you were breaking up the ice dams, which you shouldn’t do. But it takes a beating from all the snow and ice and all …
LESLIE: And the Kevins.
KEVIN: And the Kevins. That’s right.
KEVIN: The angry Kevins that wish he didn’t have ice dams.
And also the gutters: those gutters which fill up with ice and they kind of expand and contract. Make sure that those are still in good shape, connected and the downspouts are attached to them, as well.
LESLIE: What about your dehumidifier? This time of year, you’ve got – the ground is thawing, you’re getting a lot more rain. I just feel like the ground is just so much more saturated and those below-grade rooms are just going to be so moist.
KEVIN: Saturated and in the spring, lots more wet weather coming our way, right? So we’re going to get those heavy spring rains and such. And the dehumidifier can be a great way to keep those basements dry, so I would say just make sure it’s in good, working condition. Give it a clean, take off the filters – clean the filters, that is, to say – make sure that it’s going to be doing the job it should be doing. And keep an eye on the moisture levels in the basement. They should be targeted around 30 to 50 percent. That dehumidifier can be a good friend of yours.
TOM: And also a good idea to manage the moisture, too. I mean when you’re outside taking a look at that roof, take a look at the gutters and make sure that they’re clean and that water is away from the foundation wall. Because the less water you lay against the house, the less you’re going to have to dehumidify out.
KEVIN: It’s probably the number-one question I get when we’re out there talking to folks and it’s: “How do I solve my wet-basement problem?”
KEVIN: And everyone wants to come up with the magic sealer, the thing that they can paint on the walls and stop everything.
TOM: Make the house float, right?
KEVIN: Yeah, right. But the reality is if you keep the water away from the house, you’re going to probably cut down your problems or get rid of them completely. So your point is excellent, you know? The best way to get that moisture problem under control is to get the water away from the house.
The amount of water that comes off our roofs in a rainstorm is extraordinary. Thousands of gallons of water. Don’t dump it right next to the foundation; move it away. Get those downspouts 3 feet away from the foundation. Make sure they’re in working order. If you can grade that area, definitely grade it so it’s all pitched away from the house.
LESLIE: Most of the United States had a lot of snow this past winter. So what should we be looking at on our decking systems to make sure that everything is sturdy and well-supported and …?
KEVIN: How exciting is it when you can finally see your deck again and you’re going to be getting out during the warm weather?
KEVIN: That really just says “go back to the outdoors.”
KEVIN: Give it a good look. Make sure that it’s clean on top. Sweep it off. See if there’s any peeling or blistering or cracking. If there is, you maybe want to sand those down. If it needs a good cleaning, clean it with a deck cleaner. It might even be the right time to refinish it, reseal it.
But also, get underneath it, right? Because this is oftentimes wood in contact with the ground or near the ground, so you might have rot. Give it a good look. Make sure the joists and the posts are all in good shape. And if they need to be fixed, obviously the time to do it is before you start using the deck a lot.
TOM: Yeah. And check that railing system, as well, right? Make sure it’s nice and sturdy.
What about your air-conditioning system? It seems like it’s the right time, say, before it gets super-hot and you end up standing in line and waiting for an A/C technician to show up to make sure it’s in good shape.
KEVIN: Yeah. It’s the same rule that applies to the heating system, right? Don’t wait until it breaks down in the middle of the winter. Get ahead of it. Make sure the guy comes out and does a check on the system of the heating, say, in October, possibly? Now the spring is the time before the hot days of summer come.
Let the pro look at it, service it if it needs it. They can do a lot of tests to make sure they’ve got the right pressures and such, that they’re working properly. Clear anything away from those outdoor compressors to make sure that they’re functioning properly. As you say, get ahead of it before you actually require this thing to keep your house comfortable in the middle of August and run the risk of it failing on you.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And window units should fall under the same rule, as well. Just because it’s a portable device that you take in and out, you should also maintain those.
KEVIN: The window units. I go down to my basement and I seem them there on the shelf and I say, “Ugh, I’ve got to install these things again.” But you want them working for you on those hot August days.
KEVIN: At least I know my kids do. So, yeah, make sure that they’re in good, working order. You can actually have them serviced, so get that done. Get it done now before you need them.
TOM: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House. Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: Always a pleasure, guys. Thank you.
LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.