Preparing for Spring in Ottawa: Home Maintenance Checklist
At last, the first signs of spring are here. And while many Ottawa residents are breathing a deep sigh of relief that the brutal Canadian winter is almost over, it’s important that we remember that our homes have gone through a lot of wear and tear over the last couple of months and that this has to be dealt with properly if we want to avoid issues in the warmer months.
To help homeowners cope with and prevent problems that can arise when temperatures start to rise and snow starts to melt, we’ve compiled a list of tips for your spring home maintenance routine.
Perform a visual inspection of your home’s exterior
Winter can wreak havoc on your home, so once all the snow and ice has melted, you should thoroughly inspect your building envelope.
The most common roof problems include cracked or missing shingles, failed fasteners, broken seals, and popped nails, all of which can allow water to penetrate into your home and damage building materials and belongings. Most of the time, these issues can be spotted from the ground; however, if you’d like a more thorough inspection of your roof, you should contact an expert.
A lot of professional roof inspectors now use infrared cameras to detect moisture penetration, water damage and air leaks, problems that are frequently missed during a routine visual inspection of a roof. Plus, most people aren’t comfortable climbing up onto their roofs, which is why professional help is usually the best way to go.
Exterior walls and foundation
Many materials, including wooden siding, stucco and brick, are prone to cracking caused by extreme temperatures and moisture, which can lead to major problems in the spring. Common trouble spots include under eaves and near gutter downspouts.
If you find water stains on your exterior walls, then your gutters likely aren’t channeling run-off from the roof properly. If you have wood siding, check it for cracks and gaps, which can allow ants, squirrels and other unwanted pests into your home. And if you do find cracks in your foundation, resist the urge for a quick fix with caulking; instead call a foundation expert to seal the cracks properly.
Where do we begin? Windows, quite possibly, provide the easiest way for moisture to enter your home. Think about itâ€”they are continuously exposed to adverse environmental conditions, including hail, snow, ice, rain, heavy wind, flying debris and, in Ottawa’s case, extreme cold.
Unfortunately, sometimes windows can’t withstand all of this abuse, leading to broken seals, cracks, and eventually water and air leakage. In the summer, this means that cool, conditioned air will be leaking out of your home and adding to your utility bills. In the winter, it means heat loss and even higher energy costs.
So what can you do? Make sure your windows are tightly sealed, meaning that any caulking and weather stripping around them is still intact post-winter. If you notice condensation forming on the surface of the windows, the seal has likely been compromised. You may want to consider updating your windows to quality, double- or triple-glazed, insulated windows with a high energy rating, especially if you live in an older home.
Prep your home from the inside
In addition to assessing the exterior condition of your property, there are several things you can do inside.
Clean, clean, clean
While dreaded by most, spring cleaning is actually quite necessary to ensuring a healthy and safe home. Among other tasks, it includes washing your windows, getting rid of extra stuff, organizing your closets, dusting and vacuuming, washing you furniture, curtains and other fabrics, and wiping away kitchen grease.
Why is spring cleaning so important? Besides the obvious, carefully cleaning every part of your home requires you to pay close attention to what you’re doing, allowing you to notice damage that’s usually overlooked. This can include missing grout, water damage and mold.
Inspect your basement
Basements often experience above-normal relative humidity due to poor ventilation. They’re also extremely prone to leaks and flooding, making them the ideal breeding ground for mold.
If water penetration is a concern for you, check your basement walls for cracks that could be allowing water from outside to seep into your home. You should also keep an eye out for condensation on walls, water stains and musty odoursâ€”these are all signs of a moisture problem and, quite possibly, mold growth.
Also, if you feel that the relative humidity in your basement is higher than normal, consider investing in a dehumidifier or even an all-in-one ventilation unit.
Check your attic
Any damage done to your roof during the winter will likely leave its mark in your attic. That’s why it’s crucial that you inspect your attic in the spring for signs of leaks, water damage, pests and other critters.
If ignored, a wet attic can quickly turn into a breeding ground for black mold, eventually compromising the air quality in the entire home. If you see any grey, green or black spots on the walls, floors or building materials of your attic, you likely have a mold problem and should hire a professional mold removal company as soon as possible.
To prevent toxic mold problems before they start, you need to properly insulate and ventilate your attic as well as to address excess moisture and water leaks immediately.
Prepare your air conditioning unit
Before you start your air conditioner for the first time this year, make sure it’s ready. This means changing the filter, vacuuming any accumulated dust, checking the hose connections, and ensuring the unit is draining properly.
Keep in mind that mold can grow inside the damp interior of air conditioning units. So, before turning your A/C on, make sure there’s no mold inside; otherwise, you will be releasing toxic mold spores into the air and breathing them in. Not good.
While spring is a welcome change to most Ottawa homeowners, warmer temperatures, melting snow and sunshine also present some risks to the structural integrity and safety of our homes.
This home maintenance checklist should serve you well, and if you come across any more serious issues, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice.