Spring Home Maintenance Saves Money
by Gary Foreman
Boy it's great to be out in the spring air. You almost don't mind doing those spring chores around the house. As if that great weather is not enough reason to get up and out there's one more reason to do some routine inspection and maintenance this spring. It will save you money. Yep, that's right. Just by spending a Saturday morning enjoying spring you can avoid some big expenses later.
Start with your roof. It's a great place to see if the birds are returning. Walk around and see if the roof seems sound under your feet. Any sign of sponginess should be checked from the underside. It could be a sign of damage. Look at every square foot of your roof. Ice dams can lift and damage shingles. You'll also want to check flashing around chimneys. Don't forget to make sure that gutters are free of debris.
Roof repairs can be very expensive. A hour spent inspecting now can save a major repair later. Most roof problems start out small. Many can be fixed by the average do-it- yourselfer. But a major job is beyond all but the most competent homeowner. It's also the kind of expense that can be a big shock to your budget.
Keeping your house sealed to the outside elements is one of the most important things you can do to save money later. At the least, you'll be wasting energy if your house is not weatherproofed properly. But water, air and other unwanted pests can do serious, expensive damage to your home.
Generally, you're looking for places where two dissimilar materials meet. Places where wood meets concrete or glass meets wood must all be sealed. Typically you'll be using caulk, glazing compound, weather stripping or a foam type product to seal these joints. Find a competent hardware professional to help you select the correct material for your job.
Remember that your goal is to take inexpensive measures today to prevent big bills later. All it takes is a slight crack to allow water to seep into your home. This quiet, continual invasion can destroy your home if left uncorrected over time. Insects and rodents can also enter uninvited. It's far easier to keep them outside than to exterminate them once they're in your castle.
Another area that merits your attention is the heating and air conditioning systems. (OK, so some of the jobs require you to be inside!) Begin with a general furnace inspection. Look for rust and scale. Listen for odd sounds. Have any strange smells checked. If something seems wrong call in a qualified professional.
It's also a good time to check out your fireplace. If you have a creosote build-up it will be much less expensive to have a chimney sweep take care of it during the summer months.
You can do a lot to make your a/c system more efficient by making sure that the cool air can flow freely. Clean or replace air filters. Remove dust from around grills and ducts. You should also venture into your attic to make sure that ducts are free from leaks. You won't spend much time or money to check your system. But the payback in lower cooling bills this summer could pay for more than one bar-b-que.
It's also a good time to inspect your plumbing systems. Check all your water supply lines. Are any of them dripping or leaking? A simple turn of the wrench or a 50 cent washer can save big bucks later. Put a couple of drops of food coloring in your toilet tank. Check back an hour or so later to see if the water in the bowl shares the color you put in the tank. If so it's time to replace the bowl 'flap valve'.
How are your drains? Do they flow freely? If they've begun to slow down flush them with 50/50 baking soda and vinegar mix. If that doesn't work try a lye product. Be careful to follow the instructions if you use lye. It can be dangerous. A few minutes now can prevent a visit from a plumber to clear a stopped up drain.
Your hot water heater could do with a little attention, too. Test the pressure relief valve. Your owner's manual will give you instructions. It's a good time to drain a few gallons from the bottom of the tank. That will help reduce the build-up of scale. You'll be increasing the efficiency and longevity of your water heater.
A quick safety check is also in order. If you have battery operated smoke or radon detectors it's a good idea to replace the battery. Make sure you use a new one! Walk through your house looking at lamp, appliance and extension cords. Replace any that are frayed or damaged.
If you have any ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) test them. Check any exposed wiring in your attic. If the insulation is damaged call in a professional to make necessary repairs. You might prevent a fire that could burn up your home.
The sum total of all of these inspections won't take more than a Saturday morning and part of the afternoon. You might find a minor repair or two that could consume a couple of more hours. But the savings could be substantial.
Many big home repair bills start small. Often you're not even aware that there's anything that needs fixing. But that little section of missing caulk could let in gallons of water over months or years. And that water could cause thousands of dollars of damage to your home.
Sure you're busy. But if you're too busy to find and solve problems while they're still small, how will you ever find the time and money to pay for big repair bills later?
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money and CreditCards.com. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.
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