You’ve closed on your new home: congratulations! You moved in and unpacked, but what happens next? Regardless of whether you are a seasoned home owner or if this is your first real estate purchase, this is a great to have list of maintenance to keep your home in great shape. This two-part series will focus on all of the important items to pay attention to and part 1 will focus on the exterior of the home.
Tips to get started:
- The most urgent items are usually taken care of by the seller (hopefully) during the contract period. At the very least you are aware of items that need immediate attention because the inspection report listed them.
- Designate an easily accessible place to keep all of your closing documents, instruction manuals, receipts, maintenance documentation, and insurance papers. These items are considered due diligence documents and you can give them to the next home owner to show how well you took care of the home. These documents would also be helpful for a potential tax reduction if you decide to sell within 2 years of your purchase. Please consult your tax advisor.
- You won’t be overwhelmed with home maintenance if you do a little bit at a time. Consider scheduling seasonal maintenance at various times of the year.
1. Start with the Inspection Report
When you’re ready to begin home maintenance you can simply start with the inspection report. You can think of this report as a honey-do list and take care of any items that were not already addressed by the seller.
The inspection report will have helpful notes about where main utility shut offs are located. Some inspectors even label those items for you. Familiarize yourself with those locations so you know where they are when needed (make sure to turn off the water in your home when you go on vacation).
Don’t be alarmed if you notice:
- Drywall cracks or nail pops (where you can see the nail heads showing on the drywall of your home)
- Cracks in grout
- Carpet buckling
2. Keep water away from the foundation
Walk around your home and note where you might have negative slope or any slope around the home that guides precipitation towards your basement. Concrete is porous and water can gather at your foundation walls if you have a negative slope. Water could penetrate the walls and get into your basement, or even shift soils around or under your home over time. Correcting the negative slope in dirt is fairly easy but can be labor intensive. Concrete with a negative slope is a bit more involved. (Disclaimer: you might be able to find an easier way to do this with enough YouTube research).
- Use downspout extenders to guide the water coming off the roof further away from home.
- Keep flowers and plants away from the home. Their roots and constant watering can damage the foundation.
- Review your home’s landscaping, especially if your home is located in an established neighborhood with mature trees and shrubs. Roots can cause damage in sewer and other pipes around the foundation.
3. Natural Disaster Safety
Wildfires (mainly in the northern part of town and west of I-25, but wildfires are possible in any area)
- Make sure all landscaping and trees are not within 15 feet of your home. This defensible space is important to keep your home safe in case of a wildfire.
- Check underneath your deck for combustible debris and remove it.
- The city offers a chipper service to certain neighborhoods to chip larger landscaping debris that you have piled up in front of your home.
Flash Floods/Heavy Rain
We are a very dry state but even a little rain can have a huge impact on our homes. This is particularly a concern if your area has recently been affected by a wildfire. The lack of vegetation prevents the soil from absorbing precipitation. Important note: check with your insurance to learn which flooding incidences are covered. This could include water intrusion through a window (especially in window well), malfunctioning sump pump, toilet overflow, water through the foundation, etc.)
- You already had to purchase flood insurance as part of your loan process if your home is in an official flood zone.
- Follow instructions to correct negative slope and keep water away from the foundation.
- Test your sump pump annually.
- Perform gutter and downspout maintenance.
- Check out the basement before a big storm to make sure that there is no water entry. It’s easier to discover this with an unfinished basement, but if your basement is finished you can feel around windows and walls for any water intrusion. Do the same if you have a crawl space by looking in corners and feeling for moisture if necessary. Call a professional if you find water.
Colorado can get really strong winds. They are pretty common in the spring and fall when we have big temperature swings. 40-70 mph winds are fairly typical but we have had storms with winds over 100mph. If we have strong winds coming, secure any items that could blow away (think patio furniture, pillows, potted plants, and even grills). The eastern plains will occasionally have tornados so it really is a great idea to sign up with the Peak Alerts to receive early warnings.
Wood or Composite
Siding in Colorado is exposed to extreme weather and this can make any siding vulnerable to decay. If the siding has chipped paint or missing caulk it will be exposed to water, moisture, and ice. You will start seeing wood rot very quickly. Therefore, it is important to keep any moisture away from the siding. New siding products like cement composite have made maintenance much easier when it comes to moisture damage.
- Clear all vegetation away from the exterior of the home – even tree limbs reaching over the roof.
- Soil should not touch the siding where it ends and the foundation begins.
- Replace any rotting siding and wood trim, especially around windows.
- It is particularly important that flat, horizontal surfaces (which accumulate condensation) and exposed edges of the wood grain are maintained. When left unsealed, wood grain has a natural tendency to absorb moisture. Patch, caulk, seal and repaint all damaged areas.
- Inspect areas on your roof where snow is unlikely to melt quickly after a snowstorm. Remove all snow if possible. If that’s not an option, make sure the siding is protected with additional layers of paint and caulking/sealing.
- During a rainfall inspect gutters and downspouts. Note any potential leaks between roof and gutters. Install a drip edge to resolve this issue.
- Clean gutters and downspouts.
Small cracks are common in stucco since it is a cement product. Repair stucco cracks as soon as you notice them to prevent any water intrusion during heavy rains.
- Wash and clean stucco cracks to remove any debris.
- Caulk cracks with a high-quality exterior caulk and touch up the caulked area with paint.
- It can be difficult to match stucco color. If the damage to a stucco seems too large (like after a hail storm), consider having the stucco professionally sealed. It will offer a new life to your stucco exterior without the cost of replacing it. It will also be more aesthetically pleasing with a complete area redone and not just spot repaired.
You will notice small spaces left between some of the bricks at the bottom of your home’s exterior. These spaces are called weep holes and their purpose is to allow any moisture that gets behind the bricks to escape. It is important that you keep all weep holes clear so that water will not build up behind the brick on your home. Avoid painting over the weep holes should you decide to paint your brick.
Minor cracks in the mortar of your brick are not unusual and do not affect the structural integrity of the brick wall. Many professionals do not recommend patching minor mortar cracks because the patch is usually more noticeable than the crack itself.
5. Exterior Doors, Trim and Windows
Inspect your exterior doors, trip and windows and note any areas that need caulking. Luckily, once you have caulked you won’t have to redo it for a couple of seasons. Take a good look at the weather stripping at your door and replace if necessary.
- Remove any loose or failing caulk using a retractable razor-knife or putty knife.
- Trim the end of a new tube of caulk and place it in a caulk gun.
- Place the caulk gun over the gap or joint between the window and door frame and the house siding and gently but steadily pull on the caulk gun handle to apply an even, smooth bead of caulk in the gap around the perimeter of the window or door. If accessible, be sure to include the window sill or door threshold as well.
- Smooth the caulk with a small putty knife so that it fills the gap and is flush with the two sides of the gap.
- To finish, wipe the newly sealed joint very gently with a damp cloth and take care not to pull any of the fresh caulk from the gap.
- Let the caulk dry completely before painting (if desired).
There are two types of caulk used in your home:
- Silicone caulks are generally used in the wet areas of your home – tubs, showers and sinks. Paint will not adhere to silicone caulk.
- Latex caulks are used with more porous surfaces such as around trim and painted areas. During installation, it can be cleaned with water whereas silicone caulk cannot.
6. Wood Decks
Wood decks should be cleaned and sealed on an annual basis. If this has been previously skipped, it should be one of the first things on your to do list. Wood prices have increased tremendously in 2020, so replacing a wood deck has become almost cost prohibitive. Avoid this expense by performing regular maintenance on your deck.
- Clean the wood using a wood cleaning product. Scrub to remove all dirt and previous paint.
- Wood brightener can be used on areas that have discoloration or rust stains from nail heads.
- It is important that you repair any loose railings or posts and replace any weak boards in a timely manner.
- If the wood sealant is rather old and not doing its job anymore, it is time to re-stain the deck to extend its life.
You might have heard the saying: “There are two kinds of concrete: one that’s cracked and one that will crack.” So true. Cracks can’t be avoided but you can certainly extend the life of your concrete with good care:
- Don’t use salt to melt snow and ice off your driveway
- Seal cracks when they appear
That’s half the battle. Here are some more suggestions for extra credit:
Try these solutions for concrete stains:
- Rust – RESOLVE® Spray ‘n Wash, let it sit for a while and then rinse. CLR and Lime a Way also work well.
- Grease stains – Sprinkle powdered detergent on the grease stain and work into the concrete with a wet brush.
Other concrete products we have found to be successful include Clean-Rite® Purple Power® Driveway & Concrete Cleaner, Zep® Driveway, Concrete and Masonry Cleaner, and Simple Green® Concrete & Driveway Cleaner.
You will need to repair any minor cracks in the concrete flatwork around your home with a gray silicone sealant (available at most hardware and home improvement stores). Always clean the area before applying the sealant and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Repair the crack as quickly as possible so that water does not get beneath the concrete.
Apply a penetrating oil or graphite lubricant at all rollers and hinges at least once a year. Do not use WD-40 or similar types of products because they will cause build up. Tighten any loose screws, bolts or nuts to prevent any parts from falling out of adjustment. Test the automatic reverse at least once a year (probably best before the summer when big and little kids start moving things around in the garage).
Problems with a garage door lock can usually be attributed to a lock bar that is out of alignment. This can be adjusted by loosening the screws, realigning the mechanism, and tightening the screws.
Use a graphite lubricant to keep the lock turning freely. Do not use oil on a lock because it will stiffen in cold weather and make the lock difficult to operate.
9. Air Conditioner
Follow our seasonal maintenance checklist for protecting the air conditioning condenser unit on the outside of your home.
10. Sprinkler/Hose Bibs
- Have the sprinkler lines blown out and winterized when the weather gets cold (most Colorado Springs residents use October 1st as a guideline).
- Disconnect hoses from your exterior hose bibs. Hose bibs of older homes will need additional protection with Styrofoam covers. Newer homes have bib lines that go deep enough into the home, to (generally) keep lines from bursting.
- Identify the locations of your sprinkler water shut off and your main water line shut off.