Wednesday, November 2, 2011

5 Simple ways to seal drafts in your home


Yes, it's that time of year again. Time to look for ways to make your home a little more comfortable by sealing up drafts around windows, doors and some other places that may not immediately come to mind.  

Here are 5 simple and relatively inexpensive ways to seal up those drafts now that winter is here:

Seal all of the electrical cover plates on your exterior walls. For less than $5 you can buy foam insulating pads that fit under the cover plates and seal off any drafts coming through the wall cavities.  
Check your fireplace damper and doors.  The fireplace should be completely sealed off when not in use or it can steal a lot of heat from your home.  This draft stopper costs about $50. Be careful and wait for the fireplace to cool off before you install it, but  you will be amazed at how much warmer you room will be with the fireplace sealed off.  Of course you can use insulation or some other material to seal it off but you may find it is not  easy to remove when you are ready to use the fireplace again.   A link to buy on-line  

Caulk around windows and trim.  A tube of caulk is less than $3 and with a good caulk gun and 1 or 2 tubes you should be able to get all your windows caulked.  Check for leaks around the window trim, too,  not just around the windows.  
Stop drafts under door with a door draft stopper.  You can buy one for about $15 and if you’re at all crafty make yourself a cute one like the little dog in the picture.  You can put these on window sills, too. A link to buy on-line here  
Insulate and seal attic access panels.  You can glue a piece of solid insulation foam board to the back and seal around the edges with removable sealant.  Just peel it away when you need to access the attic. A link to buy on-line
 
If you live in the Metro Denver area and would like more information on how to make your home more energy efficient and learn how to do it all yourself check out my weatherization class (it works to keep your home cool in the summer, too!)  You can visit my website at www.workshopforwomen.com  for a complete list of my home improvement classes for women.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Big Freeze - 5 things to think about before winter


As much as you may not want to admit it winter is just around the corner, at least here in Colorado.  For some of you winter may have already arrived but it shouldn't be too late to take care of these items before we have freezing temperatures for many days in a row.

All of these items are well within the skill level of most homeowners, although winterizing your irrigation system may be better left to a professional if you are not familiar with your system or have any concerns.

1. Be sure your sprinkler and irrigation systems have been winterized.  It’s not difficult to shut down your system for the winter by yourself but if you want to include some added protection from preventing damage due to freezing you may want to hire a professional to inspect it, shut it down and blow all of the water out of the system. Click on the picture to the right for a graphic description of the steps required to shut down a typical sprinkler system.

    2. Disconnect all hoses from exterior faucets, also know as hose bibs.  Even hose bibs that are designated as frost free can still freeze and burst if a hose is left connected to the faucet and the water was not drained out of the hose. You may want to even consider installing insulation and/or protection, too. 

    3. Shut down and winterize any evaporative (swamp) coolers.  If you would like a step by step tutorial on shutting down your swamp cooler for the winter contact me and I’ll send you a document with the information.  In addition to covering the unit it is also a good idea to cover and insulate the vent in your home to assure you aren’t sending expensive warm air directly to the outside.

    4. Do a quick check of all of your water supply lines.  Any water supply lines that are in unconditioned space (no heat) such as garages, crawl spaces and unfinished basements, you might want to consider insulating those pipes to assure they don’t freeze and burst this winter.

    5. Check all gutters and downspouts to be sure water will be directed away from walkways and driveways to reduce the chance for icy patches that can cause falls and injuries.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    Should I trim my trees in the fall or winter?

    Thanks go out to Matt Johnson for the content of this article and Arbor Scape Services for the excellent information and services they provide.Visit Arbor Scape Services at http://www.arborscapeservices.com/ or call them at 303-795-2381.

    Reasons NOT to trim in fall or winter

    The cons of trimming a tree in the fall or winter include:
    1. Not being able to visually identify dead vs. live growth. This can be especially disorienting if you have a tree service doing the trimming. However, properly trained tree trimmers recognize live growth even when trees are bare by gauging the flexibility of branches and assessing growth marks on the bark. 
    2. Different tree species especially in the Maple family will create lots of sap if trimmed to close to dormancy. Unfortunately this nuisance will not be readily apparent until the spring. 
    3. Take into consideration that a wintering tree is living off of stored energy reserves. So any wood taken out may effect the overall reserves of the tree. By knowing the internal, systemic processes of the tree we can prune it without hurting the energy production mechanism.
    Reasons TO trim in fall and winter

     The pros to pruning in fall and winter:
    1. Cheaper pricing.
    2. A dormant tree has less chance of spreading airborne fungi or other tree disease. For example, crabapple trees must be trimmed after all the leaves fall or you risk spreading fireblight to other branches or trees. 
    3. Trees may also experience less of a shock to the system. In summer we recommend combining a trim with a fertilization treatment to minimize temporary loss of leaves. This is not a factor in winter. 
    4. Tree trimming n winter also eliminates any temporary loss of shade and lush foliage. You may not realize, especially with your first arborist-led tree trim, how much wood may have to be taken out of a tree, especially if its been neglected. Since trees are already bare in winter, a trim is less noticeable so by the time summer rolls around, the tree will have had time to grow into its new trim.
    For  information and classes on other fall and winter home maintenance tasks visit my website at http://www.workshopforwomen.com or give Judy Browne a call at 303-284-6354.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Some cool and interesting products

    As I've stated here many times before one of my favorite magazines is "The Family Handyman".  In the August issue there were a few new products, at least new to me, that I thought I'd share with you.

    Future-proof dimmer switch - If you've taken my electrical basics class you know that you must buy
    special CFL, halogen or LED bulbs for dimming.  In many cases you must also buy a special dimmer switch.  Lutron has a special dimmer switch that has a dial behind the cover plate that you can adjust to make the dimmer work with whatever light bulb you are using now or in the future, this should eliminate the flickering, lack of adjustment at low settings and other problems you may be encountering. Drilling large holes in tile - If you have ever tried to drill holes in ceramic, granite or marble tile you probably know how difficult, if not impossible, it can be.  This handy drill with a guide and water delivery method for cooling may be the answer to your problem.  They are apparently available at home depot so give a try and let me know what you think.  Brutus tile hole sawTurn anything into a flashlight - It's a miniature flashlight that can be attached to just about  anything, you can turn it off and on easily with just your thumb and it has a replaceable battery, unlike some of the other types on the market.  Put it wherever you need a little extra light, for those of us over 40 that's just about everywhere:) Thumb Lite

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Pictures just for fun...

    Here are some pictures that are just for fun.  Some of these are pictures I've taken as I walk around my neighborhood, others are from home inspections and one from the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.
    I never cease to be amazed by what I see.
    I hope you enjoy these.

    Oops...don't think this will work

    A very unique swamp cooler installation
    Knob and tube wiring, in use, at the Stanley Hotel
    I think it is time for a new roof, don't you?
    DIY at it's Best
    Do you think the owner is a hair dresser?
    A totem pole in the neighborhood

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    He deserves the man cave!

    As I mentioned in my previous post, Family Room or Man Cave?, we are beginning the remodel of our family room.  No where near as ambitious as Kellee's kitchen remodel but we'll tackle our kitchen at a later date.
    Brick Hearth Before
    No Brick Hearth!
    We spent 4 hours and 3 trips to Home Depot just removing the ugly brick hearth and brick step.  I cannot tell you how happy I am to see them gone.  Now all we need to do is cover up what is left and they will be a faint and distant memory where is exactly where they belong.
    First let me start off with this fact...removing brick is VERY HARD WORK!
    I did some internet research on the best way to remove brick and the only suggestion I saw on the DIY websites I tend to peruse was the use of an air hammer.  Now, I had only heard of these for use in heavy duty construction or for mechanics.  I looked on line and found an air hammer at Home Depot for $16, definitely in my price range.  Of course I should have been suspicious by the low price but I headed off to Home Depot to check it out.  I found what I was looking for but was very confused by the instructions and tried to get some help from the clerks there.  I won't spend a lot of time detailing what a waste of time that was but suffice to say the first guy who helped me would have let me leave with a tool that would not have worked AT ALL. The 2nd guy only managed to confirm what I was reading on the label which essentially said I needed a $1000 compressor to run the air hammer.  I then went off to the rental section to see what they might have that I could use.  The clerk there was much more helpful and recommended a demolition tool but it seemed like more than I would be able to handle and I didn't want my husband to have to do all the work.  That trip left us no better off than we were to start with.  The thought of trying to remove all that brick with a hammer and chisel was way more than either of us cold imagine so back to Home Depot. We left with a smaller demolition hammer that looked like something I could handle but it was actually worse than the hammer and chisel idea.  Back to Home Depot and ended up with the one we should have gotten the first time. It was basically a hand held version of a jack hammer.  It was a lot of work and we were both exhausted by the time we finished but it's all done!
    Today we (really my husband did most of the work) loaded all the brick in the back of the pickup truck and took it over to the Englwood Transfer Station (otherwise known as a dump).  I know, I know you're all cringing and thinking that we should have recycled the brick.  Well, first there is NO way we were going to be able to remove the brick without damaging the majority of it.  The few bricks that made it through unbroken had so much mortar on them it was not worth the effort to remove it to reuse.  That's my story (excuse) and I'm sticking with it.
    So why does my husband deserve the man cave?  First and foremost it is because he hasn't filed for divorce after having to remove all of that brick.  He would have been perfectly happy with finding a way to either cover it up or to just work with it.   But because he is the wonderful man that he is, he allowed me to have my way even though this is supposed to be his room.  Now that is one wonderful (and smart) man.

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Family Room or Man Cave?

    We have decided it is finally time to do something about our family room.  We have talked about doing this almost since we first moved in 3 years ago but other things have taken precedence, like spending all last summer building our gazebo, 2 raised bed gardens and putting in a path from our porch to our gazebo.  We have been enjoying our back yard immensely and have become bee-keepers this summer, too.  Now it's on to working on our house room by room.

    We live in a small brick ranch home in Englewood.  One of the previous owners added a family room onto the back of the house which we haven't really used all that much for a number of reasons.  We want to turn the room into something that is functional and that we can enjoy.  It will most likely be more a room for my husband, hence the "man cave" comment in the title, since that is where we plan to move the TV.

    There are a couple challenges to start with.  The room has the most hideous brick wall with a hearth that runs the width of the room. The hearth sticks out from the wall about 2 ft making that entire wall useless for placing furniture. There are not words strong enough to describe how much I dislike that wall and hearth. 

    The next challenge is the entry door, which we use all the time.  The door is smack in the middle of the long wall making the room feel like a huge entry way rather than a nice comfy room. We will need to come up with some way to make this door less of a problem.  We have some ideas which I will share here.

    We also have to remove a huge brick 'step' that is at the entry from the kitchen into the family room. Another 'feature' I can't stand.

    I will be posting on our progress as I did with the gazebo. I'm always grateful for comments and suggestions.

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Denver Tree Pruning Guidlines

    The entire post can be found at ArborScape Services website. 
    Thanks go out to Matt Johnson and Arbor Scape Services for the excellent information and services they provide.
    ********************************************************************
    Unlike most major cities, in Denver, property owners are responsible for the care of “their” street trees even though they’re technically owned by the People of Denver.
    That means you are responsible for obeying city tree pruning ordinances. Private trees, such as those in your backyard, have fewer restrictions, but you still are required by city ordinance to maintain and prune trees to ISA standards.
    Here are the top 10 rules and guidelines you need to know if you’re pruning a tree in Denver.
    1. A permit is required to trim or remove any street tree, even if you do it yourself. There is no charge for a permit.
    2. If you have a dispute with a neighbor over a tree, it is a negotiated civil matter.  City arborists can not intervene unless a tree is a legitimate structural hazard.
    3. Right of way trees abutting your property are you’re responsibility. That includes removing diseased trees.
    Read More Here

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    A Simple Summer To-Do List


    We all have things we'd rather be doing this summer than taking care of home maintenance tasks but there are a few simple things you should be doing just to make sure your home is running smoothly.

    Cooling Your Home
    • If you have central air-conditioning don't forget to change your furnace filter throughout the summer.  Your air-conditioning system uses the blower in your furnace and the same duct work as your heating system to distribute cool air throughout your home.
    • Periodically check your condensing unit (it is the big cube outside your home) to be sure there is nothing blocking the unit that will reduce air flow.   
    • Check that the insulation on the coolant line is in good shape. Also check to be sure the condensing unit is sitting on a pad that is level.   
    All of these things will help your air conditioning system run at it's peak efficiency.
    If you have an Evaporative (Swamp) Cooler find out how to maintain it here:

    Drainage, Drainage, Drainage 
    Take advantage of the afternoon rainstorms to walk around outside your home and check to see where all the water is going.   
    • Check your gutters to be sure they are not overflowing, that there are no leaks at the seams or water running down behind the gutters.
    • Check your downspouts to be sure that they are not clogged or damaged and that downspout extensions are in place to direct all water away from the foundation
    • Check the paths and soil around the foundation of your home to be sure no water is pooling at or running back towards your foundation.
    Be sure to address any problems as quickly as possible, water can do a lot of damage to your home and drainage issues are the #1 problem I find on a typical home inspection, whether the house is 5 years old or 95 years old.   

    Here are some links to more information you might find useful:

    At Workshop for Women we offer fun hands-on classes in basic home maintenance and improvement skills for women. If you are interested in learning more about how to maintain your home, and live in the Metro Denver area, consider registering for our class, "The Morning After Closing - Basic Home Maintenance".

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Back to Basics - Operating your garage door manually

    Most homes today have not only a garage with an overhead door but one with an automatic opener.  Often during my inspections I find that home buyers often don’t realize that they may need to know how to operate the garage door manually in case of a power outage.  To do this you must disengage and re-engage the opener from the door. 

    This following post will give a simple description of how to disengage and re-engage your automatic door opener to allow you to operate it manually.
      Close the garage door and locate the main power unit for your opener and follow the track towards the door.  Near the door you should see a mechanism similar to the one in this picture with a rope or string attached and hanging down.

       
      With the door still closed pull firmly on the rope to disengage the carrier from the track.  You should feel it disengage.  You can now open and close the door manually. 
      When power is restored or you no longer are in need of operating the door manually the carrier needs to be re-engaged.   
      Depending on the type of automatic opener either the lever will spring back and re-engage automatically or you must manually pull the rope up towards the ceiling to put the lever back in place.  Once the lever is in place you can operate the control to open the door with the automatic opener and the carrier will re-engage and open the door.  
      I recommend you try this sometime before you actually need it, especially if you will have to do it during a power outage with a flashlight.


      Monday, May 2, 2011

      Top 10 Home inspection Issues

      I am often asked what the most common problems are that I find at home inspections. Here is a quick list that summarizes the things to look for when buying a home.  If you are in the market for a home and need a professional home inspection, just give Judy Browne a call (303-284-6354)
      Drainage issues – Water is the worst enemy of a home and drainage issues are common.  Things to look at are downspouts, areas of landscaping that direct water back towards the foundation and leaky or debris filled gutters.
      Roof Damage – Watch for tree branches that come in contact with the roof covering.  Inspect your roof for damage after severe weather such as hail or wind storms and look inside your attic on a regular basis to check for leaks.
      Exterior Damage (Siding, Brick, etc) Check for any exposed wood surfaces on siding and trim.  Also look for deterioration of mortar between bricks or areas where water can enter behind stucco.
      Structural Issues- Are most often caused by drainage issues and can be identified by cracks in the foundation walls, improper support of floor joists in the basement or crawlspace or evidence of efflorescence (a white powdery substance) on basement walls and floors which is evidence of previous water entry.
      Electrical – Look for aluminum wiring in homes built in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, also older homes often have an undersized supply.  Most modern homes have 150-200 amps available.  Another common problem is the use of extension cords in place of permanent wiring.
      Plumbing – Water heaters don’t last as long with life spans between 8 – 10 years. 
      Sewer Problems – I strongly recommend a sewer scope in all of our inspections.  Any problems with the sewer can result in very expensive repairs.  This is $100 very well spent.
      Heating systems – Lack of maintenance is the #1 problem we find with furnaces and boilers.  Filters should be changed often in forced air furnaces and all year round if the home has central air conditioning.
      General Lack of Maintenance – Unfortunately a general lack of basic home maintenance is more of an issue than you might imagine.  The typical home owner moves every 7 years and often neglects the regular maintenance to keep a home in top shape over the long haul.  Don’t neglect your home!
      DIY gone wrong – I am a huge advocate of "Do It Yourself projects", and teach home maintenance classes for women,  but it is imperative that home owners get some training before taking on the more difficult tasks.  Especially when dealing with plumbing and electrical projects, it is very easy to cause extensive damage if things go wrong.  Know when to call in the professionals.

      Friday, April 22, 2011

      DIY concrete outdoor table

           I haven't posted here in this blog in a while but life just gets that way sometimes.  I am much more on top of my other blog posts at my other home improvement blog
           As many of you know my husband and I built a gazebo in our back yard last year and since then I've wanted some small outdoor end tables and just wasn't willing to spend the money for the crappy tables I found at various stores.  Sometime in the middle of this past winter I read about making concrete table tops in my favorite magazine, The Family Handyman (maybe one day they'll change the title), and have been thinking about it since then. 
           The weather has finally cooperated and I was able to start the project.  However, like with so many of the projects we decide to try on our own the instructions make it seem so much easier than it is.  Here is a description of the project so far and comments about what I ended up doing differently so far.  The table top is still in the garage curing at this time so you won't see the finished product for a few more days.
      I wanted to use the Quikrete counter top mix but couldn't find it anywhere locally.  My friends at Ace Hardware - Alameda Station put in a special order for me but the product won't be here for a few weeks. I did some research on line and this was the product other's had used so I decided to do some experimenting with this.  I want to make 4 tables and if this product doesn't work I will use it to make some stepping stones for our garden.
      I know I swore I'd never again make something with eight sides after all of the measuring and cutting we had to do for the gazebo but I just couldn't have square tables in an octagonal gazebo. I guess I have a little bit of OCD going on but this cutting and measuring was much easier.  This is a picture of the form I will be using for the table tops. The instructions recommended using melamine (the white laminated shelving stuff) but I thought it was too expensive.

      I painted the inside surfaces of the form to provide some protection for the wood to minimize the concrete sticking and to allow me to reuse the forms for additional table tops.  I also caulked all the of seams so I would have smoother edges and with the hope it will make it easier to remove the forms when I am done.
      If you are interested in details on how I made the forms, feel free to comment and I'll get those details to you.
      I filled the form with the concrete mix, made sure the form was sitting on a level surface, covered it with plastic and left it to set up in the garage.
      I forgot to add the colorant into the water before I mixed so this table top won't be black like I wanted.  This is just an experiment so I'm not too upset. 
      The instructions showed a mix that was very runny. I know enough about concrete to know that too much water is a bad thing.  I'm assuming the countertop mix may be different.  So the consistency I used was more like chunky peanut butter.
      I will be posting the pictures of how the table top turned out and, if successful, how to make and attach the legs.
      I'm thinking of having a class or clinic on making stepping stones or small table tops like this.  If you are interested please comment on this blog post or send me an email and I'll let you know what I'm planning.
      Judy Browne
      home improvement classes for women
      mail@workshopforwomen.com

      Monday, April 4, 2011

      Working safely with electricity outdoors

      4 Important things to consider before working with electrical devices outdoors.

      UL (Underwriters Laboratory) label
      Check your electrical devices and any extension cords for a UL label.  The UL Mark means that representative samples of the cord have been tested for foreseeable safety hazards.

      Choose the right size extension cord 
      Extension cords are labeled with valuable information as to the use, size and wattage rating of the cord.
      Is the extension cord designated for outdoor use? -  Be sure to check the label on the cord.  It should clearly state if it is suitable for outdoor use.
      Is the extension cord the right size for the tool you will be using? - Just because the extension cord is long enough to reach your work does not mean it’s the right size for the job.  Using an undersized extension cord could cause the cord to overheat and start a fire.  Look closely at the labeling on your extension cord and compare it to the requirements for the tool you will be using.   Here is a handy file with more information on sizing your extension cord.

      Protect yourself from shock hazards
      Are you plugging the extension cord or tool into a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protected circuit?  Newer homes were built to electrical codes which require that any receptacle that is located outdoors must be on a GFCI protected circuit.  Older homes did not have this requirement.  If you’re not sure, you can either test the receptacle with a tester or purchase a GFCI protected power cord.  They can be a little pricey but you’re safety is worth the cost.

      Inspect your electrical cords and plugs
      Check your extension cords and power cords and plugs prior to use.  Be sure there are no cuts or damage to the insulating cover on the cords.  Check plugs to be sure they are not damaged.  Never use a cord with a 3 prong plug that has the round ground pin removed.  This is a safety hazard!

      For more information and a list of home improvement classes available to learn more about doing things yourself visit www.workshopforwomen.com

      Some of my favorite things for doing it yourself

      Spring is in the air and I've had a bit of spring fever which has me working on projects but not keeping up with my blogging.  The latest issue of the Family Handyman prompted me to make this list of some of my favorite DIY products. I've include some of my personal favorites, which I've used, and some new favorites that I've just recently discovered.
      Some of my personal favorites...

      Shark Bite Plumbing Connectors
      The shark bite plumbing connection system allows you to make leak free connections between copper, PEX and CPVC without soldering or adhesives.  Perfect for the DIY plumber.  I’ve used these myself and I love them.  They can be a little more expensive but they are so easy to use they are well worth the extra cost.  In fact, this past weekend my husband and I replaced the back flow preventer on our sprinkler system using shark bite connectors. If you're interested in learning how to work on your own plumbing consider taking my Plumbing 101 class.
      Paver Sand (Polymeric)
      Last summer when we were working on our gazebo and landscaping our back yard we discovered this wonderful paver sand.  We debated making a path to our gazebo using pavers because I don’t like having to constantly pull weeds and grass out from between the stones.  But this stuff works like a charm and we have no weeds between our pavers.  After laying your pavers you simply fill the cracks with this special paver sand, wet it with a hose and let it dry.  One disadvantage is the need to completely remove the entire product from the top of the pavers or it will stain them. Unfortunately for us the label indicated it was non-staining and I believed the label.  Don't make the same mistake.
      Self Leveling Concrete Filler
      If you’re working on repairing the damage to your concrete from the winter weather consider using this concrete filler.  It comes in tubes that fit in your caulk gun, is easy to use and leaves a nice smooth joint.  It’s best for narrow and shallow cracks (less than 3/8”) but for deeper cracks just fill in with sand or backer rod before using the filler.  We used this on our driveway and were happy with the results.

      Some of my new favorites...

      Instant electrical connections
      I just read about these in the April issue of The Family Handyman, one of my favorite magazines.  For those of you who have taken my electrical class you know how much room a wire nut can take up in an electrical box, not leaving much room to work or to add additional things, like a dimmer switch.  These handy gadgets are sure to be added to my tool box.  They cost a little more and you will have to have a variety on hand but it looks like a winner to me.
      Snap Toggles
      I first saw these types of toggle bolts when I was working with a DIY closet organizing system called Easy Track.  At the time I couldn’t find these types of toggle fasteners in any of the stores, but now it looks like they’re available.  Another thing I’ll be adding to my tool box.  They are so easy to use; I can’t imagine going back to the traditional style.  I'll be adding these to my class on how to hang things on your walls & ceilings.
      KwikWood or QuickWood
      This is a simple, easy to use, quick setting wood filler and it’s not messy.  Great for filling screw holes when repair door knobs and catches or filling damage to wood trim.  You simply cut off a slice, need it together (it’s a 2 part epoxy product) and complete your repair.  You have about 15-20 minutes before it sets up.

      If you live in the Denver Metro area and are interested in taking in person classes to learn many DIY techniques you can find more information at www.workshopforwomen.com

      Wednesday, March 2, 2011

      5 Things to do this spring...


      Spring is in the air, at least here in the Denver Metro Area, and it’s time to start making plans to clean up the mess often left by winter storms.  Maybe the nice weather will entice you to head outdoors to spruce up your house for the summer.

      Here are a 5 things to do this spring to get your house ready for summer:

      1. Inspect & repair your roof
      The main purpose of your roof is to protect you and the inside of your home from the weather.  Water, wind and snow can take it’s toll on a roof and repairs should be made as soon as possible to prevent even more damage to the inside of your home.
      Roof
      • If you can’t get up onto your roof to do the inspection the best alternative is to look into your attic for signs of leaks and use a pair of binoculars to inspect the shingles. 
      • Closely inspect around vents, pipes and chimneys – anything that protrudes through the roof.  If there are any signs of moisture such as rust on metal piping or stains on the wood sheathing around the pipes it means there is a leak.  
      • Use binoculars to inspect the outside of your roof covering and look for missing or damaged shingles.
      Repair the roof
      It is important to get any leaks sealed up as soon as possible.  Minor leaks can be repaired using roofing tar, available in caulk tubes. 
      More significant damage to shingles and flashing may require a professional contractor to make repairs.  Before calling a professional roofing company check out this blog post from 2009 about roofing scams and how to protect yourself.
      2. Inspect & repair gutters and downspouts.
      Gutters are intended to gather the water running off of the roof and direct it to the downspouts.  Anything that prevents the water from freely flowing through the gutters is a problem. Downspouts and extensions are intended to direct the water, running through the gutters off of the roof and away from the foundation.
      Gutters
      • Look for leaks focusing on seams, corners and transitions.
      • Look for any water running over the front edge of gutters.  This may indicate the gutters are clogged with debris and need to be cleaned or that the gutters are damaged and not directing water to the downspouts.
      • Look for evidence, such as staining, that indicates water is dripping behind the gutter. This may indicate the gutter has been pulled away from the roof or that the flashing is missing or damaged.
      Downspouts
      • Look for any damage such as holes, cracks or sections that have become disengaged. 
      • Look for damaged extensions that are crushed or missing.
      • Check any underground drainage pipes for clogs.
      Clean and repair gutters and downspouts
      • Clean your gutters using a Shop Vac, leaf blower or simply scoop out the debris with gloved hands into a bucket.  Place a tarp underneath you when you’re working to help with clean up afterward.
      • Repair gutter leaks with gutter repair/sealant which can be purchased in a caulk tube.
      • Repair or replace any damaged downspouts
      • Clean out any clogs in underground drainage by hooking up a hose and running large volumes of water through the drain to force out debris.  If necessary you can use a drain auger (drain snake) to clear the blockage, too.
      • Add  longer extensions to downspouts, where necessary,  to be sure all water is directed away from the foundation.

      3. Inspect & repair all exterior finishes
      Wood Siding & Trim - Any exposed wood surfaces will deteriorate much more quickly and may result in costly repairs or replacements in the future.  Be sure to inspect all wood siding and trim for missing, peeling or chipping paint or stain.  Paint and seal all exposed wood surfaces and  don’t forget about the bottom edges of wood siding, especially on the lower rows. 

      Brick and Stucco -  Look for cracks or deterioration of brick mortar or stucco covering.  You can buy mortar and stucco repair products in caulk tubes.  Be sure all cracks are filled and sealed to prevent water from entering and causing additional damages.

      4.  Inspect & repair damaged concrete
      Inspect all exterior concrete areas such as porches, walkways and driveways.  Seal all gaps and cracks to reduce water entry, prolong life and prevent further damage from the freeze/thaw cycle.
      Visit this previous blog posting for tips on repairing cracks in concrete.

      5. Inspect & repair damaged screens
      Repair any holes in screens with screen repair products.  You can also re-screen any screens yourself or have your local Ace Hardware Store do it for you.


      If you'd like to learn more about your home and the maintenance tasks you should be performing check out our class, "The Morning After Closing" (Home Maintenance and Repair).

      Visit our website for a complete listing of all of our home maintenance, repair and improvement classes along with a calendar of upcoming events.