Spring Spruce-up

Men laying new hardwood flooring

To assist you in ensuring your home is ready for spring, click here to download a copy with which you can work, and make notes of what maintenance projects you need to undertake.


As the final frost melts away from your home, your tools and cleaning supplies are calling. Muster up your motivation and bring this to-do list for a comprehensive check-up on how your home has survived the winter and what you need to do to ready it for the spring and summer.


Exterior inspections

Gutters and downspouts

  • Clean leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts to avoid drainage problems.
  • Remove leaves from roof valleys and flat roofs. Leaves retain moisture and can cause rotting.
  • Inspect for ice damage: gutters that have pulled away from the home, splits in the seams of downspouts, etc. Fix or replace as needed.
  • Check the gutters a couple of times during heavy rainstorms. Make sure that they are not overflowing or leaking. Gutters can leak at the seams—inside and outside corners as well as splices—and if they are galvanized steel they will rust and leak, in turn causing the wood behind them to rot.

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 between the window or door frame and its glass. If the gasket is loose, seal the glass to the gasket using a clear silicone caulk to prevent water damage.
  • Wash and reinstall window screens, ensuring there are no gaps around the screen that would allow insects to enter.
  • Wash and inspect windowsills for softening or rotting wood.

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. Fix as needed.
  • Take a walk around your home to look for loose siding, cracked brick, peeling paint or loose trim. Repair as needed.
  • Clean algae or moss from the roof’s surface.
  • Inspect exterior vents for openings to prevent rodent intrusion.
  • Power-wash siding to remove excess dirt and mildew.
  • Caulk siding joints where old caulk is missing or worn away.
  • Prune shrubs and trees away from exterior walls and 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

  • Power-wash the patio, porch and deck to remove excess debris. Or, to save water, use a waterbroom (www.waterbroom.com).
  • 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.
  • Look for raised nails and split wood and repair as needed.
  • The freeze-and-thaw cycle may have changed the slope of concrete slabs. Ensure that your sidewalks, patios, driveways, etc. are sloping away from the house to avoid water damage. If needed, slabs can be re-elevated or rebuilt by a professional.
  • Re-point or replace grout in the cracks of a stone veneer patio. Every winter, water will creep into the cracks, freeze and exacerbate the cracking until the stones loosen.
  • Fill or patch any cracks or spalling 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.
  • Check the roof of covered porches for leaks and make sure that all of the gutters are working properly.

Everything else

  • Check your irrigation pipes for leaks and damage that could have occured during the freeze-thaw cycle.
  • Run your irrigation system and check the heads to eliminate wasted water and damaged landscaping.
  • Check your local watering restrictions and make sure you set your timer accordingly.
  • Inspect pipes between the spigot and shut-off valve for signs of frost damage or splits in the pipes. 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 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 of pond, water-filtration and water-storage systems.


Interior maintenance

HVAC systems

  • Replace your furnace air filter with a high-performance filter. Change filters every three months, or more often, if needed.
  • Have your heating and cooling ducts inspected for damage and make necessary repairs.
  • 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 your energy use when you’re sleeping or away from home.
  • Shut off and clean humidifiers.
  • Replace your old system with a new energy-efficient system that meets EarthCraft standards. Insist that a Manual J is performed to properly size the equipment. Remember that in the South, undersized is better than oversized.

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.
  • Check the temperature setting on the water heater. It should be set no higher than 125 degrees F 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 laundry room

  • 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.
  • Use a plumber’s snake tool to remove hair and other blockage in your tub and sinks.
  • Inspect your tile walls and replace any missing caulk or grout.
  • If you have aerators in your faucets, 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.
  • Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible in the kitchen and garage, and be sure to periodically test it.
  • 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.
  • Clean refrigerator coils. The refrigerator needs to be cleaned once a year in the areas you never see. Consult your owner’s manual to locate the coils.
  • Tighten all door and drawer pulls.


  • Check for dampness along walls.
  • Clean or replace dehumidifier filters, if present.
  • Check weather stripping around windows and doors, and replace as needed.
  • Visually inspect insulation on the walls and on HVAC ducts and Freon lines. Look for anything that has fallen or separated.
  • Visually inspect the foundation where the sewer and waterline penetrate. Look for signs of water intrusion, such as staining or mineral build-up. Have a waterproofing contractor make any necessary repairs.


  • Treat your home to an energy audit and watch your utilities drop in 2011.
  • Test and, if necessary, replace your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors’ batteries.
  • Have your carpets and upholstered furniture professionally cleaned to reduce allergens.
  • Buy new entry mats or clean your current mats to reduce toxins tracked inside the home.

—Checklist items provided by: Paul Abrams, Roto-Rooter Corp.; Angela J. Buckley, Green Irene; Ed Cholfin, AK Complete Home Renovations; Bill Cunningham, Lennox Industries; Rick Foster, Traton Homes; Stoy Hedges, Terminix; Kathleen A. Kuhn, HouseMaster Home Inspections; Mike Loughery, CertainTeed Corporation; Lou Manfredini, Ace Hardware; Steve Ramos, co-host of HGTV’s House Detective, EnviroVue Home Inspection; Todd Recknagel, Mr. Handyman; Ginny Snook Scott, California Closets; Bernie Smith, Masterworks Atlanta; Frank A. Wickstead, WicksteadWorks; Warren Williams, Warren Williams Remodeling


Install a French Drain
COST: $300 (materials and rental equipment)

A French drain is a sub-surface drain (installed approximately 3-4 feet underground) that is designed to catch water moving underground from around the home and redirect it via drain pipes to the street gutters. These are best to install in the spring, when the ground is soft and easy to work with. Always use drain rock to backfill and a drain sleeve to minimize silt buildup inside the drain—never use sand for backfilling, as this will clog the drain and impede water flow. The tools required for this project range from a pick and shovel, to an auger designed for trenching, to a mini backhoe rental, depending on the size of the trench needed and the type of soil you have.
—Steve Ramos, co-host of HGTV’s House Detective, Certified Home Inspector with EnviroVue Home Inspection

Create a Mail Center
COST: $0-$700

Create a space for sorting mail, including cubbies for things to take action on (bills to pay, items to reply to), a recycling bin for throwing away envelopes and junk mail and an organization board for posting reminders, calendar items, etc. This can be done with existing items in your home or it can be custom-built to fit any space. By practicing simple strategies on a regular basis, your papers will stay organized, your bills will be paid on time, and you won’t miss an event you never RSVP’d to because it got stuck in the paper pile.
—Ginny Snook Scott, vice president of sales and marketing, California Closets

Install a Flood Alarm
COST: $14.95

Like a smoke alarm, a flood alarm is a battery-operated device that sounds an alarm when it comes in contact with water. It alerts you to potential flooding or leaks. Flood alarms are available online at www.rotorooter.com.
—Paul Abrams, Roto-Rooter Corp.

Infuse a New Color into Your Living Space
COST: $50-$250

Paint an accent color in one or more rooms as a quick and easy way to refresh any space for the season. Another way to infuse color is with a bold accent rug or runner. Consider carpet squares for versatility.
—Chip DeGrace, vice president of creative strategy, FLOR Inc.

Add Color to Your Front Door
COST: $30

Start by sanding the surface of the door and then apply a coat of primer. Choose a new, inviting color and apply at least two coats of paint (recommendation: Ace Hardware’s Cabinet and Trim Paint works well for this project). Allow each coat to dry to achieve a spray-paint finish with a brush.
—Lou Manfredini, Ace’s home expert, Ace Hardware

Install a New Screen/Storm Door
COST: $200-$500, depending on DIY or pro

Remove your old screen/storm door and measure the door frame. Purchase a screen/storm door that fits your measurements, install its frame, then install the door and add hardware.
—Kathleen A. Kuhn, president, HouseMaster Home Inpsections

Add Flower Boxes to the Front of Your Home
COST: $50-$70 per box

Measure the width of the windows and buy or make weather-resistant boxes accordingly. Start by mounting hardware under the windows to support the boxes. Use potting soil instead of topsoil, and plant flowers according to the amount of sunlight they will receive in that location.
—Lou Manfredini, Ace’s home expert, Ace Hardware

Install a Whole-House Fan
COST: $1,000-$2,000

A whole-house fan can pay for itself via reduced air-conditioning bills in one summer, depending on your region. An automatic switch turns the fan on to pull cool air into the attic, which provides a measure of insulation from the heat.
—Angela J. Buckley, eco consultant, Green Irene

Pressure Wash Your Home
COST: $75 rental fee; $25 for cleaning solution and bleach
Rent a pressure washer and get instructions from the rental yard on how to use it. Clean your house, driveway and any surface that needs it. Then, seal your wood deck, paint your trim, etc. This is the absolute lowest-cost, biggest-impact maintenance you can do.

—Bernie Smith, CEO, Masterworks Atlanta

Improve Indoor Air Quality
COST: $5,000-$20,000

Wet crawl spaces are the worst contributors to poor air quality in the home. If you have one, then encapsulate it. The price will range dramatically depending on the state and size of the crawl space. Take this one seriously. If your children have bad allergy symptoms and you have a wet crawl space, it is not a coincidence.
—Frank A. Wickstead, president, WicksteadWorks

Fully or Partially Replace Windows
COST: $200-$700 per window

If you see condensation or frost, feel a heavy draft when you’re near a closed window or notice that the trim is rotting or the glass is cracked in any area, it is likely time to replace your windows. Replacing all or some of the windows in your home has many benefits, including increased curb appeal, resale value and lower utility costs.
—Ed Cholfin, President, AK Complete Home Renovations


The EPA has named indoor air pollution one of the top five environmental risks to public health. Clean the air in your home. Add carbon dioxide detectors near gas appliances. Effective units can be inexpensively purchased and plugged into wall outlets. Replace air filters and consider adding a whole-house purification unit to your HVAC system. They will dramatically reduce the amount of particulates in the air you breathe. When you are spring cleaning, consider using natural cleaners or simply water and vinegar. Most household cleaners contain known carcinogens.
—Frank A. Wickstead, president, WicksteadWorks


When cleaning to eliminate germs, remember that spraying and wiping isn’t enough—the disinfectant needs to remain on the surface being cleaned for up to 10 minutes to effectively kill lingering germs and bacteria.
—Marie Stegnar, consumer health advocate, Maid Brigade


QUESTION: What is the ONLY home-maintenance project that can be done in 5 minutes and:

  • Saves up to 15 percent on your electricity bill every month?
  • Reduces the wear and tear on your heating and cooling system, and helps avoid costly repairs (averaging $375) or replacement (averaging $3,500)?
  • Improves your home’s indoor air quality, protecting your family’s health from airborne illnesses, pollutants and contaminants

—Marc Tillery, president, The Fresh Air Club

ANSWER: Changing your home’s air filters on a regular basis.

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