September Home Maintence Checklist

School is back in session and mornings are crisp, making this a great month for tackling home projects.

Ever wake up in early September and notice that the air smells different? School begins, days get shorter, and a sense of responsibility begins to creep up on most of us.  We’ve always wondered why “fall cleaning” isn’t as popular as “spring cleaning.” The air on brisk September mornings inspires us to dutifully button up the home in preparation for cooler days and longer nights.

Add weather-stripping to doors and windows

Weather-stripping can be plastic, foam, felt or metal; its job is to seal small gaps, keeping moisture and cold air outside where they belong. Look around your doors and windows: Is the weather-stripping torn or missing? This can become expensive if ignored. On doors, make sure the bottom seal is working properly — there are many sweeps, gaskets and thresholds designed to seal this gap. Doors generally need weather-stripping in their jambs as well. Adhesive-backed foam pads are easy to install for this purpose. Newer, energy-efficient windows generally don’t require added weather-stripping, but if your windows are older, weather-stripping can keep drafts at bay and energy costs down.

Check storm windows

If you have storm windows that are cracked or dirty, repair and clean them now — prior to autumn installation.

Fight winter with plywood

Find a couple of scrap sheets of plywood and set them aside. When the weatherman predicts a cold snap, set the boards against the exterior basement vents on whichever side of your house bears the brunt of your prevailing weather patterns. This bit of scrappiness could help prevent frozen pipes. Be sure to remove the boards once the weather warms up — those vents are there for a reason.

Insulation speculation

This is a good time to check the condition of insulation and see if you need more, especially if you live in an older home. You can purchase unbacked or loose-fill insulation if you are just beefing up what is already there. If you are adding batted insulation to a spot that has none, remember that the foil-backed side is the vapor barrier, and it must face the heated area. For example, if you are laying fiberglass insulation in an unfinished attic floor to keep heat in the living room below, you should see pink when you’re done — not foil. If your walls lack insulation, consider having a professional install blown-in insulation foam. The energy savings will probably offset the cost of the procedure in a couple of years.

Check gutters

Do a quick visual check to make sure gutters are clear — they’ll be performing double duty soon with rainstorms and falling leaves.

Keep mice out

September inspires nesting in mice as well as humans. Mice are looking for a winter home now, and that newly insulated attic would be just the spot. Mice can squeeze through quarter-inch openings; rats need a half-inch. Make sure all exterior vents are screened, and that there are no gaps underneath garage doors. If you are careless about leaving doors and windows open this time of year, you’ll be setting mousetraps later. Pet doors are another favorite access point for rodents.

Caulk exterior

Think of caulk as weather-stripping in a tube. Any gap on the outside of your home can be a candidate for caulking. Look at transition spots: corners, windows, doors, areas where masonry joins siding, or places where vents and other objects protrude from walls. Carefully read manufacturer’s directions to make sure the caulk you buy will work where you plan to use it, and don’t forget to purchase a caulking gun.  Early fall is a good time for this task because caulk becomes difficult to apply when the temperature falls.

Got wood?

If you have a wood stove, it’s not too early to lay in a supply of firewood. Though most of us buy whatever’s local, bear in mind that soft woods like fir and cedar burn faster and create hazardous creosote in the chimney, thus requiring more system maintenance and more wood. Hardwoods such as oak, hickory and maple are slow, hot, clean burners. Wood piles attract insect and animal pests, so stack wood away from the house. Wood dries best when it’s protected from rain and has air circulating around it, so under the roof of a wall-less carport would be an ideal wood storage spot.

Clean dryer vent

This is another one of those tasks that should be on your to-do list every six months. Scoot your clothes dryer away from the wall, unplug it, and vacuum behind it. (If it’s a gas dryer, turn off the gas supply to the dryer at the appliance shutoff valve.) Unhook the tube that leads to the vent and clear as much lint from the tube as you can. Grab a shop vacuum, go outside, and tackle the outside dryer vent as well.

Inspect your roof and chimney

If your roof isn’t too steep, and isn’t covered with slate or tile, you may be able to carefully walk on it on a dry day. Look for broken or missing shingles, missing or damaged flashing and seals around vent pipes and chimneys, and damage to boards along the eaves. Also peer down your chimney with a flashlight to make sure no animals have set up house in it. If you can’t get on your roof, perform this inspection with a ladder around the perimeter. Pay close attention to valleys and flashings — many leaks originate in these spots. Some patches and roofing cement now can prevent thousands of dollars of water damage later in the winter.

Easy Kitchen Upgrades

kitchen

Perhaps the kitchen in your home is less than ideal, but you are not ready or able to undertake a full-blown renovation. There are many ways you can improve your existing kitchen without spending a fortune. Here are just a few expert ideas to help you.

  • PAINT: If the cabinets are in decent condition but just tired, give them a new high-gloss color. Don’t skimp on surface preparation, including removing all traces of grease and grime, or the results will disappoint.
  • CHROME: Replace the hardware, faucet, or sink all are relatively easy do-it-yourself jobs.
  • CABINETS: For a little more investment, you can have the cabinet door fronts replaced or refaced and then remounted on the same boxes.
  • BACKSPLASH: Many high-end tile stores have outlet centers or bargain sections where you can score tile remnants at a fraction of the original cost. Or cover an old, ugly backsplash with self-stick mirror tile or a ready-to-install backsplash.
  • COUNTERTOP: If you’re working with a small budget, consider laminate, which offers true-to-life reproductions of more expensive wood and stone. A new laminate counter costs a few hundred dollars, including installation and can last for years.

*Source: Pillar to Post http://www.pillartopost.com/janpostnotes2013#upgrades (retrieved March 2014)

Dampness Check

dampnesscheck

Damp basements are one of the most common problems that plague homes. This includes old houses and new houses. Many damp basements can be improved simply and inexpensively. It is worth investigating a little yourself before calling in a basement expert.

Surface Water The common cause of damp basements is improper handling of exterior surface water (rain water). Surface water that saturates the soil immediately next to the home can make its way into the basement.

Condensation Condensation is a common problem in basements. Condensation looks and smells like basement leakage. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two. There are a few things you can do to improve the situation. First, try reducing the sources of interior moisture. If there is a shower or bathtub in the basement that is used regularly, make sure there is an exhaust vent and that it gets used. Verify that the clothes dryer vents outside. If the basement is clearly colder than the rest of the house, warm it up. This will reduce the relative humidity and reduce the potential for condensation. One of the most common scenarios is an air conditioned home where the basement is colder than the rest of the house. These basements often smell and feel damp. Reduce the flow of cold air to the basement by closing air registers. Consult with a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning technician to investigate the possibility of adding return air registers to the basement. If you see moisture on the surface of the foundation, you can test if it is water seeping through the foundation or if it is condensation. Tape a piece of clear plastic sheet, about one foot square, tight to the foundation wall. After a few days, see if moisture has formed on top or underneath the plastic. If the moisture is on top, you have a condensation problem.

Dehumidifiers Dehumidifiers sure do work to reduce the moisture in the air and thus tend to dry the basement. However, dehumidifiers use a great deal of energy. Try to deal with the source of the moisture first. Pillar To Post® inspectors have reported seeing many homes with clothes dryers venting gallons of moisture into the basement with dehumidifiers running continuously along side. This is a huge waste of energy!

Basement Floor Drain Basement floor drains should have water in them. This water is a vapor lock that prevents sewer smells from getting into the house. If your basement has a musty smell, check the floor drains. If the drain is dry, pour a bucket of water down the drain. Check it again an hour later to see if the drain keeps its prime. While some problems can be easily solved some dampness problems are more serious. In these situations, an expert will be required.

*Source: Pillar to Post http://www.pillartopost.com/septpostnotes2013#inspectioninsights (retrieved March 2014)