Winter home maintenance projects - part I
Traditionally winter is the season most likely to make you wish you'd never become a homeowner, and for the most part your time will be most usefully deployed by making notes of any suspect banging sounds, dripping, smells or patches of dampness that you can address once the torrential downpours have subsided. But before you snuggle back under the covers, your new found zeal for all things homely can start right now.
Winter is the best time of the year to tackle the outstanding maintenance projects in and around a home to not only keep your home looking good, but also ensure that a small repair today won't turn into a large, expensive repair later on. Take a walk around the outside of your home to inspect and take stock of what repairs are needed. A visit to your local Builders Warehouse or hardware store will provide you with all the materials and tools needed for most household repair jobs.
Out of sight - out of mind
One area that is often overlooked is a roof, as well as gutters and downspouts. Debris like branches, leaves, and other miscellaneous items left over from late autumn and blown by winter winds and into your gutters and downspouts may become a problem if not discovered before the rainy season.
You will need a ladder to inspect the roof and gutters and to better be able to see damage not visible from below. Check along seams and ridges for loose cement and areas where flashing is not fixed properly. Loose or broken roof tiles can become a major problem if not attended to immediately.
While not being pleasant, keeping gutters and downspouts clean is a maintenance task that should be performed annually. When your gutters and downspouts are clogged with leaves, branches and other debris, water will not be able to drain properly, which could contribute to water issues around the foundation of your home. During the cleaning process you can also inspect gutters and downspouts for leaks and patch up any suspect area.
Safety First: When using ladders, make sure the ground is firm and dry under the supports. If the ground is too soft, your ladder support could sink into the ground, potentially causing you to fall. You should also wear safety goggles when cleaning gutters and downspouts to protect your eyes against twigs and debris, as well as work gloves to protect your hands.
All cracked up
As you walk around your home, use this opportunity to thoroughly inspect walls, foundations, window and door frames for cracks and damage. Cracked, loose or missing mortar around brick work should be repaired as soon as possible.
Repair hairline or small cracks by removing any loose or flaking plaster, cleaning out the crack and then apply a flexible sealer that is suitable for exterior use. Larger cracks need to be slightly enlarged by chipping away the surrounding plaster work and using a chisel to reach the base of the crack and form a 'V' shape upwards towards the surface. This reduces the possibility of a crack re-appearing once repaired. Fill a deep crack with thin layers - not more than 3 to 4mm thick - of exterior crack filler, letting each layer dry thoroughly before applying the next layer.
Large cracks, or cracks in foundations, should be investigated by a professional.