Atlanta Home Maintenance & Repair Checklist
How hard was the winter on your home? It’s time to find out! Your house is ready for its annual detailing—a spring cleaning of all of its cracks, crevices and mechanics. Arm yourself with this checklist, a stocked tool belt and a telephone to call a pro when needed.
Gutters and downspouts
❍ Clean leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts to avoid drainage problems.
❍ Inspect for ice damage: gutters that have pulled away from the home, separation of the seams, etc. Fix or replace as needed.
Windows and doors
❍ Check the perimeter of windows and doors to ensure caulking is still in place. Re-caulk as needed.
❍ Check the sealant or gasket where the glass meets the frame. If the sealant or gasket is loose, seal the glass using a clear silicone caulk to prevent water damage.
❍ Remove and store storm windows and doors. Wash and reinstall window screens, ensuring there are no gaps around the screen, allowing insects to enter.
❍ Wash and inspect windowsills for softening or rotting wood. Paint as needed after caulking.
❍ To ensure the automatic reversal is working on your garage-door opener, place a roll of paper towels where the door meets the ground. When the door hits the towels, it should reverse. If it doesn’t, consult your owner’s manual or have it checked by a pro.
❍ Visually inspect garage-door hardware; tighten or replace loose or missing bolts or hinges. Clean and lubricate the hardware.
❍ Check the garage door springs for operation and tension. It is always best to have a garage pro do this for safety.
Roof and facade
❍ Using a pair of binoculars, inspect your roof for any visible damage, such as shingles that may be starting to curl or mortar on the chimney masonry that may be coming apart. Also, be sure to check flashings for evidence of water leakage. Fix as needed.
❍ Clean algae or moss from the roof’s surface.
❍ Inspect exterior vents for openings to prevent rodent intrusion.
❍ Take a walk around your home to look for loose or cracked siding, cracked brick, peeling paint, loose trim, signs of decay or insect damage. Repair as needed.
❍ Pressure wash siding to remove excess dirt and mildew.
❍ Caulk siding joints where old caulk is missing or worn away.
❍ Prune shrubs and trees a minimum of 12 inches from exterior walls and full clearance from the roof to avoid insect infestation.
❍ If you have solar panels, schedule a cleaning. Dirt can impair the solar cells’ ability to receive the full benefit of the sun, reducing generation by up to 40 percent.
Patios, porches and decks
❍ Clean the patio, porch and deck to remove excess debris.
❍ Paint or water-seal all exterior wood, including decks, overhangs and railings.
❍ Trim back vegetation around patio covers and railings to avoid storm damage.
❍ Inspect all railings for rot or loose bolts. Fix as needed.
❍ The freeze-and-thaw cycle may have changed the slope of concrete slabs. Ensure that your sidewalks, patio, driveways, etc., are sloping away from the house to avoid water damage. If needed, slabs can be repaired or rebuilt by a professional.
❍ Fill or patch any cracks or chipping sections of concrete.
❍ Check brick-paved areas for damaged, settled or heaved sections and repair/replace as needed.
❍ Check flashing where the deck and the house meet for damage or deterioration. Fix as needed.
❍ Apply anti-skid coating to any exterior steps.
❍ Consider having your deck professionally inspected for quality and safety if it has any signs of movement.
❍ Check irrigation pipes for leaks and damage that could have occurred during the freeze-thaw cycle.
❍ Inspect pipes between the spigot and shut-off valve for signs of frost damage or splits in the piping. Also check for separated joints. If all is fine, turn on the valve inside your home and connect your exterior hoses.
❍ Check all exterior outlets and faucets for cracks and leaks. Repair as needed.
❍ Install yellow lights in outdoor fixtures. Yellow lights attract fewer flying insects and spiders.
❍ Remove piles of wood, stone or other debris from around the house to avoid rodent, insect, termite or spider infestation.
❍ Inspect and replace any broken or malfunctioning exterior lighting, and reset your lighting timers to coincide with the longer spring days.
❍ Check all fencing and retaining walls for shifting or damage and repair as needed.
❍ Clean filters in ponds, water-filtration and water-storage systems.
❍ Check your driveway for cracks and repair as needed.
❍ Replace your furnace air filter with a high-performance filter. Change filters every three months or more if needed.
❍ Have your heating and cooling ducts inspected for damage or mold and dust deposits.
❍ Have your cooling system inspected and, if necessary, charged with refrigerant.
❍ Remove debris from the condensate tray under the coils in your air conditioner (near the mechanical blower).
❍ Wipe all ducts and grills so they’re free from dust and other blockage.
❍ When turning your air conditioner on for the first time, be sure to set your programmable thermostat(s) to reduce energy use when you’re sleeping or away from home.
❍ Shut off and clean humidifiers.
❍ Test your attic and roof fans to make sure that power is getting to the thermostat and the fan is functioning properly.
❍ Vacuum all of your registers.
Plumbing and water-heating systems
❍ Install a backflow valve in the floor drain of your basement if you live in an area where sewers sometimes back up into homes. This device will prevent future backups.
❍ Inspect for slow leaks in your home by taking a reading on your water meter before bedtime. The next morning, without using any water overnight, take another reading. If the reading has changed, you have a leak that should be repaired. If it is moving and every faucet is off inside the house, you may have a water leak somewhere.
❍ Check the temperature setting on the water heater. It should be set no higher than 125 degrees to prevent scalding and reduce energy use.
❍ Carefully drain several gallons from the water heater tank (until water is clear) to flush out corrosion-causing sediment, which reduces heating efficiency and shortens the life of the heater.
❍ Perform a general inspection of your septic system: Check for any leaks, and consider using a yeast-based additive to maintain the “health” of the system.
Kitchen, bathrooms and
❍ Clean the lint buildup from the dryer vent to prevent fire.
❍ Clean accumulated smoke and grease from kitchen cabinets.
❍ Check all faucets and toilets for drips or leaks and make any needed repairs. To check toilets for hidden leaks, add six drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes.
❍ Exercise water-supply valves (turn them back and forth) under sinks and toilets to prevent them from sticking.
❍ Clean mineral deposits from showerheads by unscrewing the devices and soaking them in vinegar overnight, then gently scrubbing them with an old toothbrush.
❍ Check washing machine, dishwasher and icemaker supply hoses for bulges or leaks. Replace hoses showing signs of weakness or those older than 10 years. Change rubber washing machine lines to steel lines for safety.
❍ Use a plumber’s snake tool to remove hair and other blockage in your tub and sinks.
❍ Inspect tile walls and replace any missing caulk or grout.
❍ If your faucets have aerators, remove and clean them.
❍ Clean the inside of your toilet tank to ensure you have clean water in the bowl and that it operates properly.
❍ Check the filter on your range hood. Clean or replace as needed.
❍ Check the flame pattern on gas burners for a blue-green base. If you have white or mostly yellow flames, arrange for a professional adjustment.
❍ Test and replace your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors’ batteries.
❍ Have your carpets and upholstered furniture professionally cleaned to reduce allergens and keep them looking good.
❍ Buy new entry mats or clean your current mats to reduce toxins tracked inside the home.
❍ Check your basement for moisture and rotten wood. There could be a leaky pipe in the walls, a downspout that isn’t draining away from the house or possibly moisture coming in through a cracked concrete foundation.
❍ Schedule a chimney sweep to avoid the sour smell of creosote buildup.
—Checklist items provided by: Ace Hardware, California Closets, CertainTeed Corporation, Clopay, Envirovue Home Inspection, Green Irene, HouseMaster Home Inspections, Inspectors Associates, Inc., Lennox Industries, Mr. Handyman, Owens Corning, author Philip Schmidt, Roto-Rooter Corp. and Terminix.
Inspect Your Windows
Twice a year, perform a full inspection of your windows. First, check their exterior condition by looking at sash and frame joints and all caulk lines, both on the window and along the window frame, where it meets your home’s exterior. Look for discoloration, splitting wood, wood rot and worn-down caulk joints. If you find these conditions, fix immediately. Otherwise, water can penetrate into your wall cavities. Next, check your glass. If you have single-pane windows, check for any cracks. If you have insulated glass, look for a seal failure, which shows itself as fog, condensation or a milky appearance between the glass panels. Finally, check the windows’ locks, weather-stripping and operation. If your windows are in poor condition, your home’s energy efficiency will be noticeably affected.
—Pella Windows and Doors
Examine Your Deck
Once a year, perform both a general and detailed inspection of your deck. For the detailed inspection:
• Check the stability of the wood in several different areas, including the deck boards, stairs, support posts and joists under the deck and the ledger board (where the deck attaches to the house).
• Inspect any caulking that has been used for damage or openings and re-caulk as needed.
• Pay special attention to areas that tend to remain damp, are regularly exposed to water or are in contact with fasteners. If you are uncertain of the condition of the wood, use a tool like an ice pick or screwdriver to attempt to penetrate the wood surface. If you can break off a sliver of wood without splinters, easily penetrate ¼ to ½ inch or find that the wood is soft or spongy, decay may be present.
• Look for small holes in the wood that may indicate insect damage is present.
• Check the flashing along where the deck meets the house and along the deck perimeter to ensure it is firmly in place; replace as needed.
More than 40 million decks in the U.S. are over 20 years old, which means they were built prior to the current building-code standards. The National Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) offers a free consumer checklist for deck inspections on its website
—Norm Shafer, Duradek Georgia
Save Money on HVAC Bills
Aside from changing your furnace filters and utilizing a programmable thermostat, the following are a few ways to reduce your heating
and cooling costs:
• Clean the furnace area. Don’t keep chemicals or cleaning products near a heater, and don’t store anything next to it that could impede ventilation.
• Keep vents and returns free of obstructions. Don’t lay carpet or place furniture over or in front of vents and returns.
• Utilize humidifiers and dehumidifiers. Humidity in the summer makes you feel hotter, and dry air feels cooler than moist air in the winter. A simple humidifier and dehumidifier may make your home feel five degrees warmer/cooler.
—North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
Check Your Water Heater
Once a year, check the temperature and pressure valve on your water heater by lifting up the lever partially, then letting it snap back into place. This process should allow the water to be released into the relief line. If nothing happens, it may need to be replaced (Call a plumber). A properly functioning pressure valve prevents the temperature and internal pressure from building up to unsafe levels.
—Rescue Rooter Atlanta
A Breathe-Friendly Home
If you or someone in your family has asthma, COPD, allergies or other breathing problems, a home with these attributes will help you breathe more freely:
• Hard flooring only (no carpeting)
• An HVAC filter with a MERV rating of 8 or higher
• HVAC fans set to “continuous” rather than “auto”
• A whole-house or stand-alone dehumidifier holding the indoor humidity near or below 50 percent, with an automatic drain implemented
• All occupied areas served by an HVAC system
• No whole-house fan, or one that has been covered with plastic sheeting when not in use
• Bathroom and kitchen fans vented to the outside
• A small amount of “make-up air” to pressurize the house and dissipate indoor chemical pollutants
—Fulton Asthma Improvement & Reduction (F.A.I.R.) Coalition