How often do you perform home preventive maintenance on the outside of your house in February?
When the windchill is -6 degrees Fahrenheit I’m not in the mood to pull out my home inspection form.
But having a home preventive maintenance checklist is the smart way to avoid big problems like dryer fires, electrical hazards, and mold issues.
Your car has a maintenance schedule. Why shouldn’t your house have one?
Your car is a depreciating heap of metal that kids throw up on and groceries carts dent.
A home is (hopefully) an appreciating asset that you throw parties in and can enjoy for 30 or more years.
We recently refinanced our house for 2.875% and we’re staying here for at least another 20 years.
This post shares 9 tips that will help you keep your house safe through the month of February.
You’ll spend 10-15 minutes doing the inspection. That’s less time than an episode of Big Bang Theory.
Here are the supplies you’ll need
- Camera or Smartphone (iPhone is my preference )
- Soapy solution in a spray bottle
- Binoculars (optional but preferable)
- Duct seal
Let’s get to it!
Winter Home Preventive Maintenance Checklist Tip #1: Ice Dam Inspection
Ice dams are caused by your gutters and downspouts being clogged.
Are clogged arteries good for your heart?
No. Gutters & downspouts are your home’s outdoor arteries.
When it snows, then thaws, then gets cold again the water that should have drained didn’t. And when it sits in the gutters it will freeze as the temperature drops.
The best way for you to avoid ice dams is to clean your gutters & downspouts twice yearly.
Do this once in the fall after all the leaves have dropped to the ground and once in the spring around April.
Why is preventing ice dams so important?
- The weight of the ice could detach the gutter. The gutter could fall and hurt you or a loved one.
- They will prevent water from draining properly off the roof. This water will then find its way into your house, which can lead to mold issues behind walls.
This happened to me once at our first house and I learned my lesson pretty quickly that cleaning the gutters & downspouts is way easier than replacing drywall!!
Winter Home Preventive Maintenance Checklist Tip #2: Dryer Duct Exhaust
Turn on your dryer, go outside, and check to see if the hot air is making its way outside.
You can easily check this in the winter when the air is cold. The warm air will be clearly visible and should appear like fog from a 1987 Def Leopard concert.
Why should your dryer duct exhaust be part of preventive maintenance?
It’s unsafe for the exhaust to be clogged or blocked. The warmth from the dryer can’t escape and your dryer could overheat or cause a fire.
Birds and mice love dryer vent exhausts because it’s warm and provides a safe home for them (but not for you!!)
The best time to inspect your dryer exhaust vent is the winter but do it again in July or August when you clean out your dryer vents (in case you missed my post on cleaning dryer ducts here’s the link http://www.homerepairtutor.com/dryer-duct-cleaning/)
Make sure the vent is properly secured to your house. The picture above shows that I need to caulk around the perimeter of our vent!!
Winter Home Preventive Maintenance Checklist Tip #3: Electric Meter Safety
Have you ever been told your house should have burned to the ground?
It’s not fun and I don’t recommend being put in this situation unless you’re trying to develop a natural nervous tic.
Do a visual inspection of your outside electric meter. Look for the following
- Meter openings that are closed and properly sealed (keeping moisture out is top priority)
- Ensure the meter is properly secured to your house
- Look for rust at the bottom of the meter or meter box (indicator that water might be getting into the wrong places)
- Inspect the seal between the service entrance cable and top of your meter box (there should be duct seal at this junction)
If you see anything that looks unsafe pickup your phone and call your electric company. Typically the meter and meter box is their responsibility.
The part of this home preventive maintenance tip is to make sure there is no rust on the inside or bottom of your breaker or fuse box. This indicates water is coming in from the outside and has created an electrical hazard. Call a qualified electrician ASAP.
I had this happen at one of our rental homes and Bill, the electrician I use for everything, said he was surprised the house didn’t burn down. Okay, that’s not something you want to hear. So please add this to your preventive maintenance checklist.
Winter Home Preventive Maintenance Checklist Tip #4: Furnace Exhaust Survey
This is super easy to do if you have a newer high-efficiency furnace.
High efficiency furnaces are vented to the outside using plastic pipes. Always make sure that snow and ice don’t block these pipes. Otherwise your high-efficiency furnace will shut down.
Here’s a short helpful video (I admit the actor in it has a weird look on his face at the point where he’s chipping ice from an exhaust pipe but looks like he’s swinging a sledgehammer)
Here’s what you need to do for furnace exhaust safety
- Make sure ice or snow isn’t blocking the exhaust vent if you have a high-efficiency furnace
- Run the furnace when it’s cold and check for vapor at the vent (this verifies proper venting)
- Call a qualified HVAC contractor to inspect older furnaces that are vented through the chimney
- Always have a qualified HVAC contractor inspect your furnace annually in October
- BIG TIP: Setup your HVAC appointment before winter begins in case a part needs to be ordered or you need to get quotes for a large repair (I learned this when we had to replace a boiler and boy was I lucky because I saved $2000 in the process)
Winter Home Preventive Maintenance Checklist Tip #5: Electrical Wire Seals
Cable, telephone, and other electrical wires that enter your house should be properly sealed.
Otherwise your home will be drafty.
Plus, small insects like ants, spiders, cockroaches, & termites will find small openings.
How do you seal these spaces where wires enter your home?
You can use Great Stuff insulating foam to seal all sorts of cracks or gaps. In case you don’t know about this awesome product, here’s the link to their site http://greatstuff.dow.com/.
Another option is to use Duct Seal. This is a putty-like product that can be molded into gaps to stop moisture and pest infiltration.
Duct Seal looks like some kind of explosive that Mr. T would use in the A-Team. But fortunately it’s non-corrosive, doesn’t stain surfaces, and remains malleable.
Winter Home Preventive Maintenance Checklist Tip #6: Gas Line Safety Check
Have you ever seen a gas line leak?
Probably not since it’s virtually undetectable to the human eye UNLESS you use bubbles (but chances are you will smell it).
Mix up a 50/50 solution of water and Dawn dishwashing soap. Spray every fitting on your gas meter outside the house.
If you see any bubbles forming on the fittings this is sign there’s a gas leak. Call your gas company to see if it’s their responsibility or yours. Hopefully it’s their duty to fix the issue but if it’s not you’re kind of up the creek and will need to call a plumber.
In a prior post I explain why you should consider utility line insurance because it can save you thousands of dollars on gas, water, and sewer line problems (here’s the link if you’re interested http://www.homerepairtutor.com/escape-sewer-water-line-repairs-without-paying-a-penny/)
Winter Home Preventive Maintenance Checklist Tip #7: Exterior GFCI Testing
Home preventive maintenance Tip #3 dealt with your electrical meter box. GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets are just as important.
I’ll keep it simple, exterior GFCIs keep you from being shocked and consequently adopting Doc Brown’s hairstyle from Back to the Future.
The directions on any GFCI say you should press the Test button once a month to make sure it will trip and shut off electricity. After pressing the Test button you can restore the electricity by pressing the Reset button.
If you use holiday lights or power tools outside then GFCIs are a must (not to mention required by code).
No worries though if you don’t know how to do this easy weekend project. You can view my tutorial on exterior GFCI outlets here http://www.homerepairtutor.com/outdoor-gfci-electrical-outlet-installation/
Winter Home Preventive Maintenance Checklist Tip #8: Oven Hood Exhaust
This preventive maintenance tip is probably the easiest. Just look to see if anything is obstructing the exhaust.
Chances are the answer will be no but you can never say never (primarily because of Murphy’s Law which states anything that can go wrong will go wrong).
At the very least turn on your oven’s hood fan and see if the exhaust is blowing outside.
Winter Home Preventive Maintenance Checklist Tip #9: Tree Branch Hazards
This last tip is only if you’ve got trees on your lot.
If there was a 50 foot oak tree in your backyard that looked like something from Harry Potter would you be concerned?
I’m in this situation and it frankly scares the bejesus out of me because if this tree falls on the house it will be a disaster.
There are so many tree branches on it that have fallen, too. And I’m not talking about tiny ones. There’ve been 10 foot sections that are 3-4 inches thick that have plummeted to the ground.
If these had dropped on one of our kids we’d be calling an ambulance.
Do a visual inspection of your tree branches to see if any are broken or teetering loose. You can also use binoculars to get a closer look. If it’s unsafe for you to remove the tree limbs you can call an arborist who specializes in all things related to tree trimming.
So these are 9 home preventive maintenance checklist tips you can do on the outside of your house in less than 20 minutes. You’ll discover they’re easy to perform and will make you feel safer.
Remember, your house is probably your biggest asset. Keep it that way.
If you found this post useful, do your friends or family members a favor and share it with them because their homes are probably in need of a checkup
Make it a great day!
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