With the summer winding down and the weather starting to get cooler, many homeowners’ main focus is: “Am I doing enough to keep my home safe from the outdoor elements?” Our experience over the past 27 years has proven that there are certain exterior maintenance items that are critical to the long-term health of the home. All too often, we find that when serious issues arise they are directly or indirectly due to maintenance basics. The following baseline preventative maintenance steps should help to ensure that your home’s exterior can handle the elements.
Trim, Windows and Shutters
Wooden trim, windows and shutters need annual maintenance and inspection to ensure the life of the wood, and to prevent unwanted water from entering the interior of the house. Even the best weather barrier in the world would not be sufficient if a steady supply of water is allowed to get behind the trim or windows. Caulking is the product used to prevent water infiltration and rot where trim and windows meet the primary exterior surface (siding, stone, stucco, etc.), as well as at the joints of shutters. The life span of caulking varies depending on the amount of exposure to the weather, and for this reason all windows, trim and shutters should be inspected annually and touched up as necessary to prevent any premature rot or water infiltration.
Maintenance Recommendation: Annual inspection, and caulking and paint touch up as necessary.
Gutters and Downspouts
When gutters and/or downspouts get blocked there is a greater risk that water will get into the home or cause damage to trim and/or the fascia boards to which they are mounted. Depending on the amount of trees around the home, gutters will need cleaning four or more times per year. Just as important as cleaning the gutters, is testing downspouts to ensure they are not blocked. It is not uncommon to have a downspout blocked near the bottom, and when this happens gutters will fill with water and leak over the front and the back of the gutter. If gutters and downspouts are not consistently maintained, they can eventually pull away from the house due to the weight burden of the standing water. Also, when cleaning gutters it is a good time to also clear debris from valleys and low-pitched roofs.
Maintenance Recommendation: Clean four times a year to ensure flow.
Many people have a floor or grate drain at the bottom of an exterior stairwell and/or underground drains connected to downspouts that take the water away from the house. Keeping these drains free and clear is as important as keeping your gutters and downspouts clean. In heavy rains, floor and grate drains can get clogged with debris, allowing water to build up and get into the house below an exterior door. Keeping these free and clear will minimize the risk of unwanted water infiltration.
Maintenance Recommendation: Four times a year based on location and monitor during heavy rains. Drains must remain clear to ensure water flow.
Standing water and poor drainage raise the risk of water infiltration. Because of that, it is critical to keep water away from the home by providing and maintaining a sloped grade away from the house. Along with gutters, downspouts and drains, the grading around the exterior of the home plays a critical role in keeping water and excess moisture away from the structure. Also, when dirt is disturbed during construction or landscaping it often settles in unexplainable ways. Inspecting the exterior of the home twice a year to maintain positive drainage is critical to keeping things dry.
Maintenance Recommendation: Inspect twice a year.
Hose bibs are the water faucets to which gardening hoses attach. Every year, basements become flooded because water is allowed to remain inside the pipes through the freezing winter months, which can cause pipes to burst. When spring rolls around, these busted pipes thaw and begin to leak. If not identified right away, this can lead to excessive water damage. All hose bibs, including those that are “Frost Free” should be shut off and drained during the winter months to prevent this from happening.
Maintenance Recommendation: Turn off and drain hose bibs in the fall, and turn back on in the spring.
With these maintenance steps, you’ll ensure that your home is prepared for the fall and winter months ahead. Also, keeping a regular schedule of home maintenance is critical to safeguarding your home for you and your family all year long.
Josh Baker is founder and co-chair of BOWA, an award-winning design and construction company specializing in luxury renovations, additions and condominium remodels in the greater Washington, D.C. area. BOWA has more than 27 years of experience and has been honored with 170 local and national awards. For more information, visit bowa.com, or call 703-734-9050.