Though spring is still more than a month away, there are important tasks you can do around the house this month to prepare your home for the coming season.
“It’s vital to start on your winter-recovery checklist as soon as you start to feel the first shy breezes of spring blow in,” says Rob Morelli, chief executive of HomeKeepr.com, a referral network for home-service professionals.
These home maintenance tasks deserve your attention now, not later.
The dead of winter is when you’ll really notice drafts in your home. This will make it easier for you to identify air leaks and plug them, which will help prevent warm air loss now and cool air loss during warm spring days, Morelli says.
He says homeowners should pay particular attention to windows and doors. If you spot cracks or gaps, caulking or weatherstripping should fix the problem; both are simple, DIY projects. Weatherstripping windows, for example, requires only measuring tape, a utility knife and self-adhesive tape.
If your house has an older roof (think 20 years or older), inspecting its condition after a major snow or ice storm could be a good idea, as older shingles may have taken a beating. “Assuming the roof is walkable, you have an appropriate-size ladder and you’re comfortable going up, you certainly definitely check your roof,” advises Mark Clement, co-founder of MyFixitUpLife.com, a resource for DIY home remodeling.
Look for torn, warped or missing shingles, and contact a professional roofing company immediately if you discover any, as these can be an indication of deeper problems that might be plaguing your roof’s structural integrity. Just make sure you’ve given ice or snow time to melt before doing your inspection so you have clear visibility. (Another reason to wait: Walking around a slippery roof is a safety hazard.)
Heavy snow or ice can loosen fasteners and pull gutters away from your home, says Morelli, which may cause drainage issues. And, “with the heavy rain months approaching and winter getting behind us, you want to fix any damage to gutters now,” he says. Clearing gutters of winter debris will also prepare them for spring showers.
Morelli says February is a good time to check certain areas of your home for animals or critters that may have taken up residence inside your house to escape the cold. Search for pests in dryer vents, the attic and the basement; animals tend to hole up in warm spaces.
Sump pumps help keep basements and crawl spaces dry. If water accumulates in these areas, a sump pump will perform like a drain, sucking up the water and pumping it through a pipe that releases the water outside your home. Without a working sump pump, your home could be at risk of flooding, which is a real concern during spring showers, Morelli says.
Consider hiring a plumber to do an inspection for you, as most plumbers charge only $45 to $65 an hour for sump pump work, HomeAdvisor says.
If you’ve got a lawn to mow, tend to your equipment now so you’re ready to kick off the spring season without a hitch. You can start by draining old gas and oil from your mower, as lawn mower fuel that has been left to sit over the winter can deteriorate and harm small engines, says Missy Henriksen, a spokeswoman at the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Then, check your mower blades for wear and tear, replace spark plugs to ensure easy start-up, and inspect the air filter. (A clogged or dirty air filter can cause the machine to burn gas less efficiently.)
If your attic has no (or little) insulation, the room could become a sweatbox on a warm spring day. Adding insulation before warmer weather arrives will prevent that from happening. Another benefit of insulating your attic now: It will help reduce heat loss during the cold winter days ahead, says Clement.
Of course, there are different types of insulation to choose from: Blown-in cellulose, batt (such as fiberglass, mineral wool or cotton) and spray foam are three popular materials. Your best selection method: Reach out to an architect to evaluate the conditions of your attic and to provide recommendations for the best insulation for your budget (e.g. professionals charge $1,500 to $2,000 to insulate a 1,200-square-foot attic with blown-in cellulose, according to FamilyHandyman.com.)
If a pipe burst in your house during a recent cold snap, make sure the new one is well insulated. The last thing you want is for your newly replaced pipes to burst.
Foam pipe insulation can benefit your home year-round, because it acts as a protective cover against cold during the winter and heat during the summer (when condensation can build) for copper and PVC pipes; it costs about $1.50 to $3 per six feet at Home Depot.
If you cleaned and sealed your deck in the fall, you’re probably not going to need to worry much about damage. But if you didn’t, check carefully for signs of rot before power washing the deck boards to remove the salt and muck from winter.