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Home Maintenance Tips

Winter in the Pacific Northwest means rain -- and time to make sure your home is going to shed all that water for another season. Here's what you can do to ensure your home stays dry and safe from water damage.

Gutters

First rule: Work safely! Situate your ladder on stable ground at all times. Scoop all the crud out of the gutters all the way around. If you have trouble reaching all the debris you can try moving it along with a strong spray from the hose to a more convenient location. Be careful not to hose the debris into the downspouts.

Once the gutters are cleaned out make sure all of the downspouts are clear. Next, use your hose to run some water through all gutters. Look for leaks or holes in both gutters and downspouts. Make sure that all of the downspouts are connected firmly to the gutters and directing the water downhill and away from the house. If they are pouring out next to the house or allowing the water to run back to the foundation you will need to correct this with splash blocks or drain lines .

If your downspouts terminate into drain lines, now is a good time to run some water into these drains. If they back up you'll have to call someone to roto-root out the lines. If they don't back up and you see water or moisture in the basement or in the crawlspace then there is a problem with the line and it will need repair.

Before you put the ladder away take another look in the gutters. Has the water run out? If there is standing water in the gutters they will tend to leak at the corners and rust out prematurely. They will need to be realigned so that they drain towards the downspouts.

Roofs

Some simple maintenance can lengthen the life of your roof. The trick is to do this before there is a problem. While you were cleaning the gutters you may have noticed that the same fir needles and leaves that had filled your gutters have built up on your roof. Most often this debris tends to build up in valleys, and behind horizontal surfaces like chimneys, skylights, and vents. Flat and low slope roofs are most vulnerable. It is important to regularly clean off any debris that has built up on the roof. How often you have to do this depends on your home's surroundings and style. We have lots of roof moss here in the land of the rain. You tend see it on the north side of the roof or in shaded areas. Moss will suck life out of your roof. It works like a sponge that soaks up moisture and holds it against the roof. It breaks down the fibers in the roofing material that can result in leaks and damage not only the roofing material, but also the sheathing, and anything below.

The answer is to eliminate moss from the roof. Treat the roof with a moss killer first. It's important to follow the instructions on the label as most of these products are harmful to other plants, and can be corrosive to your flashing and gutter metal if it is not cleaned off properly. Some people say they have had success with broadcasting powdered Tide detergent on the roof to kill the moss; it's worth a try. When the moss has been killed, brush or scrape it off the roof (before you clean the gutters). Be careful not to damage the roofing material. Composition roofs deteriorate rapidly wherever they lose their imbedded stone protection, so be gentle. After you've done this the first time it will be easier next time. But if you would like to avoid doing it again you can install zinc galvanized strips or copper ridge on the roof. These can help inhibit the growth of fungus and moss.

Trim overhanging branches away from the roof to eliminate the shady condition. And while you are at it, it is a good idea to trim any and all plants away from the building in general. Plants touching or too close to the building will hold moisture against the siding and roof creating a conducive conditions for wood destroying organisms like fungal rot, termites, carpenter ants or wood boring beetles. Leave a 12" clearance and let your house have some breathing room.

One last roofing item. One of the most commonly found defects is missing or improper flashing. Some roofers have a habit of installing a new roof over the old flashing rather than replacing it or at least weaving the old flashing into the new roof properly. Then they cover the flashing with tar to seal it. This is a temporary solution as the 25-year roof now is depending on tar that may last a couple of years to seal all the roof penetrations. This means that you have to go up and check it every year to see if it has cracked and needs more tar. The permanent solution is to properly install the right kind of flashing at the chimney, wall junctions, vents and skylights. Have a professional do this for you.

FALL CHECK LIST:

  1. Check the caulk around all your windows and doors and caulk any voids.

  2. Touch up paint where it is needed.

  3. Clean debris out of window wells.

  4. Replace glazing on windows where it is missing or cracked and replace broken window panes.

  5. Insulate any plumbing pipes that are exposed in the crawlspace or any unheated space.

  6. If you were planning to insulate the walls of your home and haven't done it yet, now is a good time. There are plenty of reputable companies that will blow in insulation for a reasonable price.

  7. Have your chimney inspected and cleaned if you burn a wood stove or use you fireplace often.

  8. Stack your cord wood away from the house.

  9. Service your furnace. Furnaces need regular tune-ups to keep them running cleanly and safely. If you have a gas water heater, have it done at the same time.

  10. Relax knowing you are ready for winter.

SPRING & SUMMER CHECK LIST:

  1. Clean and service the air conditioning system.

  2. De-winterize outside faucets.

  3. Check the roof for any repairs needed before the rainy season.

  4. Planned paint jobs should be started now.

  5. Any exterior major home improvement projects should be started now.

  6. Repair any damaged screens.

  7. Replace any insulated glass where the thermal pane window seal has failed as evidenced by fogging between the sealed glass.

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Deb Wenneman brings over twenty years of remodel and construction experience to your side of the negotiating table. A Dakota Home Inspection report will prepare you to make a confident and informed decision.

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