Protect your home, from the outside in
It's time to roll up those sleeves and tackle the maintenance jobs around your home.
“Taking care of your home requires regular maintenance all year round,” says Paula Higgins, founder and CEO of the national HomeOwners Alliance. “Everyone’s property is different, so no single list of things to do is exhaustive, but every homeowner has one thing in common – property is one of our biggest investments and we need to take care of it.”
So what are some of the key things you would be wise to check?
Up on the roof
This is the most exposed part of your home and often the most likely to suffer damage from the weather. “First, check your loft to see if any water has got in,” advises Mike Edwards, founder of online home improvement hub DIY Doctor. “Then take a look at your roof from the ground. You should be able to see if any tiles have cracked or slipped. If so, they will need replacing by a professional roofer.”
Inspect any chimneys, too – you may be able to do this from the ground using binoculars – to see if they need repointing. “Telltale signs will include any areas of missing grout, or moss or weeds growing around the chimney,” says Lindsey Davis, associate editor at Realhomes.com. “It’s essential to repoint. If neglected, water can get into the chimney stack, leading to instability and even disintegration.”
If you find repairs are needed, and you live in a semi-detached or terraced property, your stack will probably be part of the party wall. If this is the case, it might be worth asking your neighbour to contribute towards any costs.
And while you’re looking at chimneys, remember that in spring, birds will be building nests. Ensure that chimney pots are clear and cages are installed over them to prevent our feathered friends from making their homes there.
“Even if you cleared these of fallen leaves in the autumn, the new year is a good time to look at them again,” advises Edwards. “Check the guttering on a rainy day so you can see if there are any problems – wintry weather dislodges moss from roofs into gutters and downpipes, causing them to block, overflow and even split or break, which in turn leads to water damage on brickwork. If you have a ladder and a head for heights, you can do this carefully yourself, but it is recommended to use a professional.”
Remember to check and clear out traps at the bottom of downpipes, too.
“Check that roofs on sheds and summerhouses are sound and replace any felt where necessary,” says Davis. “Treat wooden buildings with a weatherproof coating and ensure windows are properly sealed with a waterproof silicon inside and out – this will help stop cold getting in and damaging any machinery or tools that may be stored inside.”
“Extreme winter conditions can cause your brickwork to deteriorate – water penetrates the concrete or masonry, then freezes, and because ice expands in the cracks, repeated freezing and thawing can force the brickwork to break up,” explains Edwards. “Again, check inside the property for any evidence of water getting in, and then examine your external walls for any cracks that may have appeared in the bricks or render and assess the state of the pointing. Any defective pointing needs raking or chopping out to a depth of at least 12mm – or down to pointing that is sound – before being refilled.” If in doubt, contact a builder or specialist repointing company.
Also, make sure air bricks are clear and move away any mud or dirt that has stuck to the bottom of walls to help prevent damp.
Clean windows so you can see any defects that may have developed, inside and out. “Outside, timber windows and doors need repainting at least every three years, and the early part of the year is a good time to patch up any flaking areas that may have developed over a particularly cold or wet winter,” says Davis.
“If necessary, rub down the wood, cut out any damp or rotting timber and remedy with a suitable wood filler. Check the caulking and weather-stripping around windows – and, of course, fix any broken or cracked panes.”
Gates and fencing
Fencing needs to be firm and secure, so check for any weather damage, loose panels or erosion. It’s advisable to treat wooden fencing with a wood preservative every few years to prevent water damage and rot.
“You’ve paid a lot of money for your home,” says Higgins, “so it’s important to keep it as well-maintained as possible. Regular checks should keep it in good order so it can keep you warm, dry, and safe and sound for years to come.”