The wear and tear on your home from the outside elements each season is something you should never ignore as a homeowner. Wind, rain, sun and the occasional icy weather can cause damage over a period of time if left unchecked.
Whether you’re living in a single-family home or a townhome, you need to schedule regular maintenance that tackles the exterior of your home and your yard if you have one.
Even for condo owners, you should make sure your association is taking care of these items too, especially if you are living in a smaller building and/or self- managed building.
By keeping up with these seasonal tasks, you can avoid some costly repair bills from damage that could have been prevented. And remember, that a well-cared for property can better retain its value and attract buyers when it comes time to sell.
Your exterior and yard maintenance can include some DIY tasks or regular service appointments from professionals. Here’s a breakdown of what you should put on your to-do list each season for outside maintenance.
Spring (Early March – End of May)
Clean Gutters and Down Spouts
Your gutters and downspouts are an integral part of your home. They control the flow of rainwater on your house, and they protect your roof, walls, and foundation from water damage. If you allow leaves, sticks, and debris to build up in the gutters and downspouts, it will not only block the water flow but will also make a nice home for mold, pests, bees, and rodents. Clean them at least twice a year (or more frequently, depending on how many trees surround your property and hang over your roof). If they’re sagging, reattach the gutters, or replace them with new hardware. Use caulking to seal holes and prevent leaking. Make sure downspouts face away from the foundation of your home for proper draining. Remember, if you plan on cleaning them yourself, be careful when using a ladder. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, approximately 500,000 people seek medical attention each year for ladder-related injuries. You can also hire a professional gutter cleaner, a service that can cost $125 to $175, depending on the size of your home, according to Angie’s List.
Give the House a Bath
Spring is a good time to give your house a scrub, washing all the winter away. Your home can get dirty, and grit stuck to the façade can damage paint and masonry over time. To start, close all windows and doors and cover the ground and hedges with plastic sheeting. You don’t need to rent a power washer, as it may not be necessary and could damage the façade of the home. In most cases, an ordinary garden hose will do. Attach a siding cleaning kit to the hose and get to work. Spot-clean heavily soiled areas. Use detergent sparingly, as it can harm your plants. Also, don’t forget to clean your windows both inside and out.
Check the Drainage
Does rainwater flow away from the house? Puddles should not stand around your home for more than 24 hours. If water does stagnate or move towards your foundation, you have a few options. First, check your gutters. It could be a bad spout or a loose connection. They may also just need cleaning. Second, you can grade the area around the home yourself with some dirt. Third, for pavement, you can have professionals come out and raise it, so it drains away from your home.
Check the Cement and Concrete
Take a walk around your property to look for cracks in the driveway, walkways or pool deck. Your driveway especially takes on a lot of wear and tear throughout the year so inspect it for signs of cracks or movement. Fill cracks with a concrete crack filler or silicone caulk. If you notice severe cracking then you should reseal it. Otherwise, water will get into the cracks further accelerating the damage and potentially causing foundation issues. Remember, all exterior slabs except pool decks should drain away from the home’s foundation.
Reseal Exterior Woodwork
Your wooden deck, fence, railings, trellises, pergolas, and other outdoor structures take a lot of punishment from the elements over the course of the year. Give them a thorough inspection checking for water stains, discoloration, warping, splintering, and loose nails. Pull out any leaves and debris. Then thoroughly clean them by wetting them down with a garden hose and applying a cleaning solution. After ten minutes or so, scrub them down and spray again with a water hose. Next, treat the wood with borate to prevent wood rot. Lastly, wait a few days to stain and reseal. This should be done every year to two years to maximize the life of your home’s woodwork.
To increase public awareness that regular inspections and maintenance of existing decks and proper installation of new decks save lives and prevent injuries, the North American Deck and Railing Association has designated May as National Deck Safety Month.
Summer (June – end of August)
By summer, you and your mower should be close friends. Set your mower on the highest setting so you don’t cut the grass too short and expose it to drought and weeds. If you have a landscaper, request that they adhere to this guideline. Also, make sure your lawn and garden get plenty of water during hot summer days. Water early in the day, but not daily. Lawns and plants prefer a good soaking a few times a week rather than a light drizzle every day.
Plants and Foliage
Dig up the weeds (this should be a weekly affair). Water the plants and remove flowers that are past their bloom. These steps will keep your garden looking tidy, and your neighbors’ happy. Also, clear dead plants and shrubs from the house. Plants can weasel their way into cracks and holes on the exterior of your home, causing damage and shortening longevity. Nip that in the bud before it’s an issue. If you have decorative vines on the exterior, pay close attention to them.
Once spring showers end, your plants will need extra water from your sprinklers. Check your system by turning the sprinklers on manually, one station at a time. Then walk around the yard and check to make sure sprinkler heads are upright. Look for clogs and clean the valves out with water from the hose or a brush. Leaky valves probably need to be replaced. Also, make sure the spray is wide enough, and not blocked by any foliage. You may need to prune plants or adjust the flow on the valve. Finally, check the timers to ensure your sprinklers are running on queue. If you do notice leaks, pooling water or low pressure, it could be a sign that underground pipes are cracked, a problem that usually means it’s time to call a plumber. Hire a landscaper if you can’t do it yourself.
Clean your grill to ensure your barbeque is functioning optimally all summer long. For charcoal barbeques, empty the grill and wipe away all the dust. Clean the outside and inside with hot water and soap and let it dry before using. For gas grills, close the lid and turn the heat on high for about a half hour. Let the grill cool slightly and brush the grill. Clean the outside with a sponge and gentle cleanser. Then clean out the drip trays. This should do the trick.
Summer is their playground. And yes, unfortunately sometimes critters decide that your house is the perfect place to escape the heat. From snakes and squirrels to rats and mice, take steps to close off your home to non-pet animals by covering any holes that are more than a quarter-inch wide. Get your tree branches trimmed back so they don’t create a highway for squirrels and rats to your attic. Branches should be at least 8 feet from your roof. Also, make sure your outdoor trash bins are tightly sealed to prevent a buffet for pests, and do away with yard debris. Leaves and twigs are a haven for animals that might decide to invade your home.
Fall (September – End of November)
Spend some time in the flower beds
Remove weeds and apply mulch to protect plants from possible cold weather.
Trim Tree Limbs
Trees can cause roof and siding damage by trapping moisture near the house, scraping surfaces, and falling limbs. Pruning them will keep them away from the house. Avoid foundation plants if you own a home with stucco siding that extends all the way to the ground because the water required to maintain them can wick into the stucco, causing the stucco to fail. Plants should be kept at least 3 feet away from houses with full stucco siding.
Also, give your trees some TLC by removing debris and leaves from the lawn around them. Fall is the perfect time to give them some extra hydration too.
Gutters and downspouts
Fall is when gutters start to fail, mainly because they get clogged with leaves and debris. It’s easy to hire someone to clean your gutters and check the connections to make sure everything continues to work properly. You don’t want water running into your yard, driveway and porch.
Also, check the flow of the drains. Make sure the water drains from your house.
Once you’ve cleaned up your yard, it might be a good idea to paint your outside front door. Ensure all cracks and crevices are properly filled before applying another coat of fresh color for added protection.
Do the same for your driveway and walkways
It is not uncommon to see cracks or small breaks in these areas. A quick fix with a concrete plaster will make it as good as new, ready for winter weather.
Make sure outdoor lighting fixtures work properly by testing them out in the dark at night (obviously!). If bulbs need to be replaced, use LED if possible, as they burn brighter than standard bulbs and have a lower wattage. It’s also good to replace them after about five years, just for safety reasons.
Winter (October – End of February)
Check all Windows & Doors
Walk around the outside of the house, inspecting all windows and doors for gaps where the trim meets the siding. Fill any gaps around windows and doors with caulk. Check the condition of the weather stripping on the doors. A lit candle can be used to check for air leaks around windows and doors. The candle will flicker wherever the wind gets in. Maintaining weather stripping on doors and windows will improve home energy efficiency significantly. Consult a window professional if the problem persists.
Examine the Roof
It is critical to clean and inspect your roof on a yearly basis. Begin by removing leaves, tree branches, and other debris from your roof and gutters, paying particular attention to valleys and other areas where debris can accumulate and cause leaks. Next, examine the shingles and waterproofing components of your roof, including seals and flashings around penetrations such as pipes, vents, skylights, and chimneys. Since the summer heat can cause rubber seals and caulking to wear out prematurely, it’s a good idea to inspect these and replace any that are worn.
House paint isn’t just for decoration; it also protects the wood siding from moisture intrusion. Walk around your home and assess the condition of the paint. Retouch any deteriorated areas; if the paint is in poor overall condition, schedule a professional repainting job.
Catch up on what maintenance you may have missed over the last few months and get moving on any late spring and summer tasks. Hope this list has helped you know what to prioritize and what to plan on doing now and in the upcoming seasons!
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