1) Replace furnace filters
Why: To keep your furnace running efficiently, you need to change the filters every three months. These filters collect airborne debris and allergens. Keeping a dirty filter means your furnace has to work twice as hard to push out heat.
How: Slide your old filter out (and put it in the garbage. Slide the new filter in. When in doubt, check your furnace’s manual (either hard copy or online). If your filter is not disposable you will need to hand wash the filter to get rid of all dirt and debris. Remember, use a non-toxic cleaner and tap water—nothing else.
2) Measure and grade your soil
Why: Soil and landscaping needs to be graded away from your home. This means that the slope of your lawn needs to be moving away from your house. This is because water will take the path of least resistance. If the dirt in your yard slopes towards your home, water will follow the slope and then find the easiest point of entry into your foundation.
How: For efficient drainage paved surfaces should have a minimum 1% slope, while turf, such as grass, or landscaped areas should have a minimum slope of 2%. To help you calculate: a 2 feet drop over a 100 foot long yard would create a 2% grade (or slope). If the distance is 10 feet, you’ll need a fall of 0.2 feet (roughly 2.5 inches) to create a 2% slope. If you only need minor adjustments to recreate the right grade, use a landscaper’s rake (aluminum rake on a handle that can grasp and clean debris out of lawns and dirt). For more comprehensive grading go online for how-to videos.
3) Fill foundation cracks
Why: Water can enter into small cracks and holes in your foundation and, over time, can cause significant damage to your foundation. To protect your home repair these cracks and holes.
How: Clean away dirt and debris and then fill the holes and cracks with sealant.
4) Clean up mold and mildew
Why: Mold and mildew grow where water sits on absorbent surfaces. Left alone, the spores will continue to grow and making the mold/mildew patch grow in size. Left even longer and the spores will eventually penetrate from the surface to the inside of its host (say a wooden window frame) and eventually start to sprout and grow in other areas where moisture is an issue.
How: Using rubbing alcohol and water spray the mold and mildew and then scrub it away. Remember to use gloves and a face mask as mold and mildew can be a respiratory irritant.
5) Replace cracked caulking around windows and doors
Why: Wooden windowsills and doorframes are prone to rot and this becomes an easy access point for pests, such as termites or carpenter ants or wasps to enter (as well as a great place for mold and mildew to start sprouting).
How: Don’t caulk over the old caulking. Instead, use a knife to remove the old caulking and then reapply a new seal around the window/door. As an added bonus, the new caulking will also help eliminate any drafts which will decrease your summer and winter energy bills.
6) Replace worn shingles and cracked or bent roof flashing
Why: Your roof is your home’s first line of defence when it comes to keeping out the elements. But this means your roof also takes a beating. Now that the weather is better you’ll want to inspect your roof. Any loose shingles will be a weak spot in your roof’s defence system—a place where water and pests can gain entry into your home.
How: The initial inspection should be from the ground. Note any areas where shingles look loose or out of place. Once done, you’ll want to take a ladder and inspect the shingles a little closer. Remember to use a harness (or hire a professional). To replace shingles, you’ll need a roof tile, roof nails and a hammer. Remember to remove the damaged shingle and inspect the board underneath for damage. For the flashing (the metal that joins the seams of each roof line) make sure there are no parts lifted up or curled. Also make sure the caulking is sealed and solid.
7) Test your hot water’s pressure tank valve
Why: Hot water tank valves do, on occasion, get blocked up and this can turn your tank into a pressurized bomb. To make sure you don’t have a dangerous hazard in your home, simply test the valve once per year.
How: Place a bowl underneath the valve (don’t use your hand or a cloth as the water is scalding hot). Then turn the valve. The valve is working if water pours out.
8) Test all faucets for leaks
Why: A leaky faucet doesn’t seem like a big deal, but did you know that one leaky faucet can lose up to 34 gallons per year.
How: Place a bucket or bowl under each external and internal faucet. Come back the next day. If there’s water in the bowl, your faucet leaks. If it leaks, first change the washer located in the faucet (shut the water off first). After that you may want to call a plumber (or if you’re really handy go online for some DIY videos).
9) Locate and check main shut off valve for water
Why: Typically your plumbing pipes won’t stop working (although they may spring a leak). But the reason why you want to test your main shut off valves once per year is to ensure that this shut off hasn’t seized. Too many times, a homeowner forgets about the shut off valve until one day a plumbing nightmare happens. To repair it (or at least prevent more damage) the homeowner will rush to shut off the water in the home, only to find the shut off valve is seized.
How: Simply twist the handle left and right. Open it up all the way and close it down all the way. If there is rust or gunk, consider cleaning off the dirt and spraying a bit of lubricant. You just want to make sure the valve is in good operating condition.
10) Check bulbs, outlets and cords
Why: Bulbs in outdoor lights, indoor and outdoor electrical outlets and cords should all be examined.
How: Broken bulbs should be replaced. Broken outlet covers should also be replaced. Outlets and cords that get hot to the touch should also be replaced, as it means the lifespan of this product is coming to an end.