Welcome to part 2 of the Fall Home Maintenance guide! In the first part of this series, we talked all about HVAC systems and what to do to prepare them for the winter. Part 2 will focus on the exterior of your home and how to check and clear your eavestroughs and downspouts, chimney, and roof, as well as how to repair minor cracks and holes in your foundation. Part 3 , which will be about interior home preparation, is coming next Monday!
EAVESTROUGH & DOWNSPOUTS
The job of eavestroughs and downspouts is to direct water away from the foundation of your home in order to prevent water damage. Unfortunately, their jobs are impeded by organic debris like leaves and twigs clogging them up. Ideally, you should clear both your eavestroughs and downspouts of debris at least twice a year, more if your home is located close to trees. Plan to clean out your eavestroughs once in the early fall and check back right before the snow starts to fall in order to make sure it is clear. Luckily, this is an inexpensive and relatively easy task to DIY.
How do you do this?
To begin, gather an extendable ladder (and a buddy to spot you!), clothing you don't mind getting dirty, rubber gloves, a bucket or tarp to collect the debris, and a gutter scoop like this one from Canadian Tire (or a children’s plastic shovel will work just as well). You may also need extra gutter spikes, bead silicone sealing, and/or a rivet gun and rivets.
When you are ready to clean, start at one end and scoop out everything from the eavestrough into the bucket or tarp. Once you have cleared all the big bits of debris from the eavestrough, make sure that the downspout is clear and water flows through easily. Both must be clear in order to avoid water pooling and overflowing.
Once this is all done, have your helper pass you the hose and run water all along the eavestrough to remove the last bits of debris left behind. This is a good time to check for any leaks.
To repair any cracks, use a product like bead silicon sealing (follow instructions carefully). Check the rivets on the downspout and replace/tighten rivets as needed. The last step is to check to see if any eavestrough spikes have broken. These spikes secure the eavestrough to your home and can fall off your home entirely if you do not repair it. They are readily available at hardware stores like Canadian Tire and easy to install.
Once you are done, simply compost all the organic debris and recycle or throw away any garbage!
You can purchase something called a "gutter guard" to put on top of your eavestroughs which stop debris from building up, however this solution is not as handy as you may think. If debris builds up too much on top of the guard, water will no longer flow into the system and lead to mildew growth as well as water pooling on your roof and potentially causing severe structural damage.
As homeowners, we often neglect our chimney, especially if it’s rarely used. A damaged chimney can cause a lot of damage to your roof over time and can also injure someone walking below. A cracked or damaged chimney could cost around $1,000 to repair, but could more than triple in cost if left to further deteriorate.
This is a job best left to a professional, however if you are feeling confident, check out this DIY chimney repair from familyhandyman.com.
While you are up on the roof checking for damage to your chimney, use this time to also look for any nests or signs that animals that may have taken up residence. Most chimneys have chimney caps, which do a decent job deterring animals from building a home, but this solution is not foolproof. If you do not have a chimney cap, it is recommended to install one.
If you have a wood burning fireplace, whether it is to heat your home or strictly for cozy winter evenings, you should clean it at least once a year (quarterly if you use it often). Over time, chimneys become clogged up with creosote, which is an organic carbon compound. Creosote is not dangerous itself, however, if it builds up, it can catch fire and lead to anything from smoke inhalation to a house fire. The typical indicator that it is time to clean your chimney is when you see black streaks on the outside of your chimney, however you should do this at minimum annually regardless of the appearance of these streaks or not.
How do you do this?
You can hire a professional chimney sweep or do it yourself! For the DIY option, measure your chimney in order to purchase the correct length (and width) of chimney brush, which you can get at any home maintenance store. Also pick up a large plastic sheet and tape to secure the plastic sheet to the opening of your chimney inside your home. This will catch the debris so that it doesn’t spread into your home.
From the roof, remove the chimney cap and insert the brush. Add the extension attachments so that you can push the brush to the very bottom of the chimney opening. Use vigorous twisting and up and down motions to dislodge build up. Use a flashlight to confirm that you have removed all the build up and replace your chimney cap. Use a shop-vac to vacuum out all the dust from inside your fireplace and dispose of the collected debris.
While you are on your roof inspecting and cleaning your chimney, check the condition of your roof shingles and flashing (the metal located at every angle and roof joint to prevent water damage).
How do you do this?
Look closely for any curled or separating shingles, for any waves or dips in your roof (this indicated rot in the attic trusses), and the amount of asphalt grit that has accumulated in your eavestrough (read part 1!). If there is a noticeable amount of grit (¼ inch or more), this is a sign that it's time to replace your roof.
You can repair a few loose shingles and use a sealant to reattach separating flashing. For anything more, it is best to call a roofing professional to assess the damage and create an action plan. If you leave a damaged roof for too long, moisture will enter your roof and cause damage to your entire home structure.
While you are cleaning up outside, check the parts of your foundation that are visible for cracks and holes. If a crack or a hole is less than an eighth of an inch wide, monitor it by marking its length and noting the date.
If the crack is greater than an eighth of an inch to half of an inch, you can repair it on your own using the tips below. If the crack is greater than ½ of an inch, it would be a good idea to call in a professional to assess the damage and repair.
This is a good time of year to spend a few hours repairing these spots as they could lead to thousands of dollars of damage in the future. This is a tedious job that requires at minimum an hour to complete, but costs less than $25 and only has to be done once a year.
How do you do this?
To repair small cracks and holes in your foundation, all you will need is a caulk gun, a durable urethane caulk, and a spoon you will no longer be eating from. A crack under half of an inch will most likely not cause any structural problems and simply needs to be sealed to prevent water seeping in and causing further damage.
To repair, clean the area of debris and make sure it is dry. Snip the top of the dispenser tube at a 30 degree angle, being careful to keep the opening approximately the same width as the crack you will be filling. Follow all instructions on your product of choice. Fill the crack with the urethane caulk using a smooth motion, being careful to only fill to the surface of the crack or hole. Smooth down with the back of an old spoon. Use a rag dampened with mineral spirits to clean as needed.
Here is a great guide to different types of foundations cracks and what they most likely mean for your home.
Stay tuned for next week's post for part 3 of fall home maintenance! If you need any professional refferals or are looking to buy or sell your home, give me a call!