If you usually see your own home just from the driveway and garage, you may be missing a lot. Stroll around the outside of your house now and then. While you are at it, take note of its condition. This is a good idea when seasons change or after a storm. But any time at all is a good time to take an exterior maintenance tour.
You are not peering into every crevice like an assessor. This is an opportunity to get accustomed to what is “normal” so that anything new pops out at you. Your exterior maintenance tour is a combination of enjoying the home you have and being watchful over it so that any small issues get caught early (and addressed).
Though you might also want to wander around the lawn and check out the landscaping, our emphasis here is on spotting exterior home maintenance issues. What sorts of issues? It’s a long-ish list of things to look at, but the actual effort is not very intense. The point is to pay attention to the things that might suffer wear and tear.
If you do find things that need investigation or attention, they may be outside what you want to tackle yourself. That’s OK. The point is to be observant. Notice potential problems before they become huge. Having professional home repair and home maintenance folks you can call takes a lot of the worry out of problems you may spot.
Here are (all) the parts of a home to pay some attention to. We are going to go into each in some more detail in later posts in this series. Today is a brief glance at the major areas.
If you can see some of the actual roof without climbing a ladder, so much the better. We are emphasizing a walking tour – not a detailed investigation. If you see something amiss, you can always come back with a ladder to check it out later in more detail.
For our exterior maintenance tour, we are interested in things you can see from the ground. By “roof”, we are also thinking of the flat edging at the ends of rafters (fascia) and the under-eaves enclosure (soffit).
- loose shingles on the lawn are a sure sign to check the roof condition more closely
- uneven or sagging shingle edges along the edge of the roof
- plants growing on the roof (vines, seedlings, moss)
- nests on the roof or just under the eaves
- loose or missing sections of soffit or fascia
- holes in the fascia or soffit (prime nesting areas for small animals and birds)
- damage or rot in ornamental structures like cupolas, balustrades, widow’s walk, etc.
- chimney or vent damage
Gutters keep water away from the foundation of your home – a good thing. Gutters do need cleaning, but that is not on our list for your exterior maintenance tour. As you are strolling around, notice:
Are they clogged? Are they still firmly attached to the house? Have they been bent or damaged by yard equipment? Does the run-off still go where it should?
Do they sag? Have they pulled away from the house? Is the connection between gutter and downspout clean and free of leaks? Is there evidence of places where the water pours over the edge of the gutter and erodes or pools on the ground? Can you see seedlings growing in the gutters or bird nests (or baseballs) clogging the gutters?
Whether your house is brick, stone, vinyl, stucco, or some other siding material, you are looking for signs that something may be amiss with the exterior covering of your home.
- loose or missing siding material
- bulging (may indicate a water problem or a nest of some sort under the siding)
- blistering paint (likely to indicate a water problem)
- rotted wood – particularly in areas of trim
- mold or moss or discoloration. You can probably power wash this away but it may indicate an underlying issue.
As you are walking around your house, notice the foundation and how the ground meets it. What your exterior maintenance tour is most likely to spot are problems with the ground itself – not the foundation material. However, be on the look-out for:
- holes or pits where the ground has pulled away (or eroded) from your foundation
- cracks or crumbled areas in the foundation
- holes in the foundation
- standing water by the foundation
- animal burrows
As with the siding, your exterior maintenance tour is looking for evidence of damage or age. Something major like broken glass would be unlikely to be missed. But something minor, like a wasp nest developing in a rarely-opened window, can be spotted and removed before it becomes a safety issue. Notice:
- broken glass
- blistering paint on frames
- rotting wood in trim pieces
- missing or cracked caulk around the glass
- insect nests or active insect trails ending at the window
- creeping vegetation (vines growing over windowsills)
- animal or bird nests
- holes in the trim or sills
As with your windows, the operational aspects of your doors are something you would work with on a regular basis. What you are looking for here, again, is evidence of neglect or damage or age that can be addressed. Particularly apt to happen in the spring without your notice are insect or bird nests being built near (or above) your doors.
- rotting (swollen, bulging, or broken) wood
- insect nests, insect trails
- bird nests
- holes in which animals might hide or nest
- deteriorated paint or finish on the door itself
- blistered/missing paint
- vines growing over/into the door frame
Decks see a lot of use. They may be near other play areas like pools or grills or picnic tables or gazebos. Depending on what they are made of, the maintenance issues will differ. But in all cases, your goal is to spot signs of damage.
- blackened or rotted wood
- blistering paint
- loose fasteners
- uneven flooring
- loose railings
- poor drainage
- sagging structures
- insect nests in areas that would threaten humans (particularly wasp or bee or hornet nests)
- animal nests (porcupines nesting under your deck are not amusing)
Safety as well as appearance is important to notice in this section of your exterior maintenance tour. Exterior steps may shift over time. Weather and wind and water may damage the finish or erode the support. Look for:
- uneven rise (too high or too low or inconsistent from one step to the next). Though this can be rustic and attractive, it can also be dangerous to people who use the steps
- unstable (wobbly) stair tread
- loose railings
- cracked step material
In general, the pavement on your property (driveway, walks) is outside the realm of most amateur home maintenance folks. Your exterior maintenance tour can still spot areas that need investigation by professional home repair folks. Water and weather are the usual forces damaging your paving materials. Look for:
- sagging sections
- heaving (uneven) joints between sections
Taking an exterior maintenance tour of your house is an easy way to keep abreast of natural changes that may (or may not) need some home maintenance attention. It is also another way to enjoy the details of your home and to appreciate its beauty and value. Even if you don’t want to be too systematic about the tour itself, seeing your house from another vantage point can be a real pleasure and well worth the effort.
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