March home maintenance checklist-Outdoors

Part 1 of 2:

Become a moisture detective to keep your investment in good repair and get rid of musty household smells.

A new homeowner's guide to maintenance (© Kim Steele/Digital Vision/Photolibrary)

It’s time to see what winter’s wind, rain and snow have done to your home and make fixes quickly to head off water-related damage. First, head outside.

Spiff up the front entry.
One way to stay on top of your home’s maintenance and protect your investment is to look at it as though you’re a stranger considering it for purchase. Perform repairs as the need arises and try each year to add a little to the home’s attractiveness on the outside. One good way to boost curb appeal, as real-estate agents call it, is to make the entrance more appealing. Once the weather is dry, check steps, decks and porches for wood rot and peeling paint. Repaint porch steps and railings yearly with durable deck paint. Wash winter grime and dust off the front door and door frame. Repaint or stain the front door to protect wood doors and give the whole home a little face lift. Consider using a fun accent color such as barn red, black, hunter green, navy blue or gold, depending on the other colors on your home’s exterior. You may want to add built-in planters to a deck or front porch and change the plants with the season.

Check for roof dams. Now that the worst of the weather is behind us, pull a ladder up to the roof to check the valleys and remove accumulations of sticks, leaves, tree needles and other storm debris. Similar to the dangers posed by melting snow on a roof, dammed-up debris can let moisture penetrate the roofing and reach into structural timbers and walls, causing rot and mold. Also, check the flashings, or metal seals, around roof joints, chimneys, skylights and other structures that penetrate a roof for holes or rust. Make repairs or call a professional.

Check for water under the house. While spring rains are still falling, or shortly after, get beneath the house to see if there’s any accumulated water. It should be dry there, even when it’s raining outside. If not, first eliminate the possibility of leaks from inside the house by checking the underside of the floor for dripping water or water stains. Track down any plumbing leaks and repair them or call a plumber. If an inside leak is not to blame, look next for seepage from outside the house. Check where the foundation meets the ground for spots where the earth slopes toward the house. Even dirt mounded around shrubs should be corrected by replanting. Fix any sloping earth so that it directs water away from the house. If you live at the bottom of a hill, that may mean calling a drainage expert to diagnose problems or help devise solutions. Keep up preventive maintenance by trimming trees and shrubs to keep them from touching the house and channeling water down the walls; remove ladders, wheelbarrows and other equipment stacked against the outside of your home. Install extensions on gutter downspouts to keep water far from the structure.

 Book a home inspector. The only time most folks meet a home inspector is during the sale of their home. But by then, you’re learning about troubles too late. To stay on top of your home’s maintenance and head off expensive repairs, hire a home inspector to scrutinize your home from top to bottom. Cost: about $300. (Read “4 tips for finding the best home inspector.”) Tag along on the inspection so you can see any problems for yourself and learn about your home by asking questions. The inspection will give you either peace of mind that everything’s in good shape or a list of chores to be done. Ask the inspector to help you prioritize the repairs.

Tomorrow; part 2:  March home maintenance checklist-Indoors

Marilyn Lewis of MSN Real Estate

DISCLAIMER: Neither Indiana USDA Mortgages ( nor Luminate Home Loans is affiliated with any government agencies, including the USDA.

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