Your Home’s exterior shelters you and your home from
the sun, wind and rain. These forces of nature can be quite destructive. Your roof, gutters,
siding, windows and doors are your home’s first line of defense. Protect your home by inspecting and maintaining
it’s exterior regularly.
If you discover and repair exterior
problems early, you can avoid much larger problems later on. This HomeOwner’s Manual
focuses on inspection and preventative maintenance. Repairs are not discussed. There are many good home repair books at your local library
or book store. If you discover a problem, consult one of these books or call a home repair professional.
Remember that you really should consult a professional contractor
for most repair tasks.
It’s easy to ignore your roof unless it begins to leak.
Then the roof demands immediate attention. If you inspect your roof periodically, however,
you can correct minor problems before they cause major damage.
Do not go up on your roof unless
you feel comfortable working from heights, know how to safely use an extension ladder
and have the necessary tools and equipment. If you have a tile or slate roof, do not go on your roof for any reason. These
roofs are easily damaged. Tiles and slate shingles can be broken by the weight of a person. Call a professional contractor to perform roof maintenance if you are uncomfortable with heights, don’t like handling extension
ladders, have a tile or slate roof or have a steeply pitched roof.
A wide variety of roofing materials
are used on today’s homes. Some of the more common materials are discussed below.
Inspecting your roof is also discussed. If you discover signs of a leak or other roof
problem, call a professional roofing contractor immediately before the problem and any related damage becomes worse.
Many roofing materials come with manufacturer’s warranties.
However, in order to make a claim on a warranty, you may need to know the manufacturer’s name, the place purchased and the installer’s name. In addition, if roof repairs are necessary, you will want to use
roof materials that are the same brand, color and size as the original. If you record
this information on page 1-5 when repairing or replacing your roof, it will be easier to assert a warranty claim or
purchase replacement materials when needed.
The most common roofing material is composition shingles.
These shingles are made of organic or fiberglass material impregnated with asphalt. Colored mineral granules are embedded on the surface of the shingles. Many composition shingles are notched at regular intervals to form tabs. This
creates the appearance of smaller shingles. Composition shingles should last for 15 to 30 years.
During the roof inspection discussed
below, you should look for shingles that are cracked, torn or
curled. In addition, look for bald spots and accumulation of granules in the gutters. If you find damage, arrange to have
the roof repaired as soon as possible. If the damage is extensive, it may be time to
replace the entire roof.
When repairing the roof, use shingles
that remain from the original roof installation or try to purchase new shingles that
are the same brand, color and size. As discussed above, recording this information on
page 1-5 when repairing or replacing your roof will be make it easier to purchase replacement shingles when needed.
Wood shingles and shakes are popular
in many areas. Both shingles and shakes are made from western
red cedar. Wood shingles are cut by a saw so they have a smooth, finished appearance.
Shingles come in random widths and 16, 18 or 24 inch lengths. Shakes are thicker than shingles and are split by machine or
by hand for a rough-hewn look. Shakes also come in random widths, with 18 or 24 inch lengths.
Wood shingles and shakes usually last between 15 and 25 years.
You can add to your wood roof’s life by hiring a professional roofing contractor to treat the roof with preservatives every five years to prevent decay. Wood shakes should be replaced when the wood crumbles easily
between your fingers.
Look for moss or mildew growing on the wood shingles or shakes
during the roof inspection discussed below. Tiny roots from these organisms penetrate
the wood, allowing water and the elements to damage the shingles or shakes and
speeding decay. If you find moss or mildew on wood roofing, call a professional roofing contractor to treat your roof.
During the roof inspection, you should also look for shingles
or shakes that are curled, broken or split or that have been lifted by the wind. If you find damage, arrange to have the roof
repaired as soon as possible. If the damage is extensive, it may be time to replace the entire roof.
Tile roofs are high quality, no-maintenance
roofs. A tile roof should last 20 to 50 years or longer. It is not uncommon for tile
roof manufacturers to guarantee their products for 40 or 50 years.
One precaution, do not walk on a tile roof for any reason.
The weight of a person can break the tiles. Broken tiles may allow water to leak into your home. Call a home maintenance professional
if it is necessary to go up on your tile roof for any reason.
If you notice a buildup of moss or
debris on your roof tiles during the inspection discussed below,
you can have a professional contractor rinse your roof with a pressure washer. However,
do not walk on the roof yourself to perform this task.
During your roof inspection, look for any tiles that may be damaged or broken. If any repairs appear to be needed, call a professional roofing contractor.
Cement-fiber shingles are a relatively
new roofing material. As the name suggests, cement is mixed
with a fiber, such as wood chips. The result is a durable, versatile, light weight, long
lasting roof material. Cement-fiber shingles can be formed to resemble natural materials
such as wood shakes, slate shingles and clay tiles or different looks can be created.
Manufacturer’s warranties of 30 to 50 years indicate the long life of this product. Like
tile roofs, little maintenance is required for cement-fiber shingles.
If you notice a buildup of moss
or debris on the shingles during the inspection discussed below,
you can have a professional contractor rinse your roof with a pressure washer. During your roof inspection, look for any shingles that may be damaged or broken. If any repairs appear to be needed, call a professional roofing contractor.
A unique trait of cement products
is a white powder that can form on the product’s surface.
This natural process is known as efflorescence. If a powder forms on your shingles, you
can have the shingles rinsed to restore their natural state.
Slate shingles are a natural, long lasting roofing material. They can last for 30 to 100 years, or longer.
Although slate shingles are extremely durable, they are brittle
and expensive to replace. Do not walk on your slate roof for any reason. If you have any problems with your roof, contact a professional roofing contractor that is experienced with slate roofs. Do not settle for anything
less than an experienced slate roofing contractor.
If you notice a buildup of moss or debris on the shingles
during the inspection discussed below, you can have a professional contractor rinse your
roof with a pressure washer. During your roof inspection, look for any shingles
that may be damaged or broken. If any repairs appear to be needed, call an experienced slate roofing contractor.
Metal roofs come in a variety of materials and shapes. Aluminum,
steel and copper are common metal roofing materials for homes. Aluminum does not rust and is coated in a variety of colors. Steel is also color coated for style and corrosion protection. Since copper does not rust,
copper roofs are not coated. This allows the distinctive color of the copper to add to
the character of the home. Metal roofing can be formed into shingles, tiles and sheets.
If properly maintained, a metal roof should last 40 years
or longer. When inspecting a metal roof, as discussed below, look for rust spots. If
rust appears, you can preserve your roof by having a professional roofing contractor
scrape the corrosion off and paint the roof with special paint or compounds. Re-paint the roof as needed to preserve
Inspect a metal sheet roof by looking for cracks or open
joints at the soldered seams. As the metal sheets expand and contract, stress is placed
on these joints. The stress can break the seal and cause leaks. Have any problems repaired by a professional roofer.
When inspecting metal shingles or
tiles, look for loose, missing or damaged shingles or tiles. Have any problems repaired
by a professional roofer.
Built-up or “tar-and-gravel”
roofs are found on flat or low-sloping roofs. Layers of roofing
felt are covered with alternating layers of roofing tar to form a continuous sealed surface. The top layer is covered with
rock or crushed gravel to protect the roof from the sun, wind
and rain. This roof is given its name because it is “built-up” into several layers.
Built-up roofs should be inspected
regularly as discussed below. During the inspection, look for patched areas, cracking,
blistering, surface erosion, alligatoring and wrinkling. Look for cracks at roof joints,
near roof mounted structures and the flanged metal strip along the roof perimeter.
All leaks, cracks, blisters and other problem areas should be sealed or patched and sealed.
Do not step on any blisters when walking on your roof. Blisters
are usually caused by air or water vapor trapped between layers of roofing felt. A person’s
weight on a blister can crack the roofing felt.
Record the location of any cracked or patched areas on a work sheet. Look inside your home for leaks around the areas noted on the work sheet.
Built-up roofs should last 10 to 20 years, depending on the sun’s intensity. Erosion of
the gravel, dry felt and blistering are signs that your roof is due to be replaced.
Another material used on flat or low sloped roofs is mineral
felt or roll roofing. The material comes in rolls of roofing felt that has been impregnated with asphalt. Colored mineral granules may be embedded on the surface of the material. One or two layers of the roofing is applied
over the roof’s surface. Joints are sealed or the entire surface is coated with tar.
During the inspection discussed below,
look for blisters, cracks and eroded, torn or curled sections.
Look for cracks at roof joints, near roof mounted structures and along the roof perimeter. All leaks, cracks, blisters and
other problem areas should be sealed or patched and sealed.
Do not step on any blisters when walking on your roof. Blisters
are usually caused by air or water vapor trapped between layers of roofing felt. A person’s
weight on a blister can crack the roofing felt.
Record the location of any cracked or patched areas on a work sheet. Look inside your home for leaks around the areas noted on the work sheet.
Roll roofs should last 10 years or
so, depending on the sun’s intensity in your area. Erosion of the surface, dry felt and blistering are signs that your
roof is due to be replaced.
Single-ply membrane roofing is a relatively new material
for flat or low sloped roofs. A single sheet of thin rubber or resilient plastic is glued
or fastened to the roof’s surface. A layer of stones may be added for extra protection.
During the inspection discussed below,
look for cuts, gaps, blisters, wrinkles and open seams in the
protective coating. Look along joints, near roof mounted structures and along the roof perimeter. All leaks, cuts, blisters
and other problem areas should be sealed or patched and sealed by a roofing contractor
familiar with the material. Your membrane roof should last 15 to 25 years.
You should inspect your roof each fall before the winter
weather moves in, after heavy wind or snow storms to inspect for damage and again in the spring to look for winter damage.
If you discover any problems, call a roofing professional.
Inspecting from inside. Begin your
roof inspection in the attic. Examine the main roof ridge, rafters and sheathing for
moisture or signs of moisture such as water stains, dark-colored areas of wet wood and
soft spots that may indicate dry rot. Use a strong flashlight to inspect visually, then use a knife or thin screwdriver
to probe for dry rot. Mark any problem areas with chalk so you can find the areas later.
If it is necessary to remove fiberglass insulation to examine
the sheathing, wear loose clothing, gloves, goggles and a respirator for protection.
Next, turn off the lights and look
for shafts of light coming through the roof. This is a sign of
holes, cracks or other problems. Small shafts of light coming in at an angle indicate cracks that may swell shut when shingles
are wet. If you see any holes above you, drive nails or poke wire through the holes so
they will be visible from the roof’s surface.
Inspecting pitched roofs. You should also inspect your roof
from the outside. It is often safer and more convenient to inspect sloped or pitched
roofs from the ground. Step away from your home until you are able to see all exposed sections of your roof. Then,
use binoculars to visually inspect all portions of your roof. Binoculars allow you to
get a close-up view of your roof without the inconvenience of climbing up and
moving around on a sloped surface.
By using binoculars, you avoid damaging your roof by walking
on it. Some roofing materials are more easily damaged by the weight of a person than others. Tile and slate roofs, for example,
can break easily when walked on. No matter what the material, you should avoid walking on your roof if you can.
During the inspection, check the
roof structure first by looking at the lines of the ridge and
rafters. The ridge line should be perfectly horizontal. Inspect the line of the rafters by looking along the plane of each roof section. The plane should be straight. If either the ridge line or the plane of a roof section sags, call a professional contractor. You may have a structural
Next, inspect the roof’s surface. Look for the signs
of wear and damage discussed above for the particular roofing material or materials found
on your home. Discuss any problems with a professional roofing contractor. Repair or replace any defective roof material.
If the damage is extensive, consider replacing the entire roof.
Inspecting flat roofs. Flat roofs
are not visible from the ground. If you have a flat roof, you must inspect it from the
roof itself. If your roof is higher than a single story, look for a way to access the roof from a door, window, access panel
or other interior access. If the roof is higher than one story and does not have an interior
access, then it is best to have the roof inspected by a professional roofer.
If you use a ladder to access your
single story flat roof, you do so at your own risk. Follow all safety precautions recommended by the ladder’s manufacturer.
If you have any questions regarding ladder safety, consult a home repair book or magazine
that discusses ladder safety or talk to an experienced building material merchant that carries ladders.
During your inspection, look for
puddles of water. Although some people used to believe standing water on a flat roof
would help keep the home cool during the summer, the disadvantages far outweigh any cooling
benefits. Insects, plants and fungi can breed and grow in the water. Roots from growing plants can puncture your roofing material.
During the winter, freezing water can cause serious roof damage. If you see standing water or signs of past water puddles, discuss this matter with a professional roofing contractor.
Your flat roof should drain along the roof edges and into
downspouts or through drains located in the roof itself. Gutter and downspout maintenance is discussed later in this section. If your roof has one or more interior drains, inspect the drains to make sure they
flow freely and are not clogged with debris.
Flashing protects your roof from leaks around protrusions
and roof joints. These are your roof’s vulnerable points. Flashing is the sheet
metal or other durable material that protects these joints from water penetration.
You will find flashing sealing roof
valleys, roof and plumbing vents, around chimneys, along eaves
and anywhere water can seep through open joints into the roof sheathing. The flashing’s edges are sometimes sealed with caulk or roof cement. Flashing is a key to keeping your roof watertight.
Roof leaks are common along flashed areas. If you ever have
a leaking roof, be sure to remember to inspect your flashing. You do not want to replace your entire roof when you can stop the leak by re-caulking a dried out flashing seam. With proper maintenance, you can guard against
Inspect your roof flashing twice a
year during the roof inspection discussed in the previous section. Once again, if you have a pitched roof, use binoculars
to perform a visual inspection. Inspect those areas listed above where flashing is likely.
Have a professional roofing contractor repair any problems.
During the inspection, look for any
flashing that has buckled or pulled away from the joints it is supposed to protect. Next,
look for holes and rust spots along the flashing surface. Small holes and rust patches
can be patched or sealed. You should have the flashing replaced if you find large
holes or extensive corrosion. Also look for loose nails and exposed nail heads.
They should be re-nailed and covered with caulk or roofing cement. Finally, examine the flashing seams for dried or
cracked roofing cement. Re-seal as necessary.
Gutters and Downspouts
Gutters and downspouts collect water
from the roof and carry it away from the house. This prevents topsoil erosion around
concrete footings, basement flooding, siding and woodwork decay, paint failure, wall damage and other problems. Uneven soil
moisture caused by water runoff can even cause serious foundation problems. Gutters and downspouts that leak or that are clogged
with debris cannot perform their vital task. Therefore, it is important that you inspect,
clean and maintain your gutters and downspouts regularly.
When inspecting your roof with binoculars, check your gutters
for any loose spikes or support straps and have repaired as necessary. Gutters should slope gently towards the downspouts. Reset gutters that sag or slope improperly. Inspect seams, corner joints and downspout joints for proper fit. These joints should be repaired or sealed with caulk if they allow water to
Gutters collect leaves, sticks, seed
pods, mineral granules from roofing products and other debris.
They should be cleaned in the fall after most of the leaves have fallen and again in the spring after the trees have bloomed. If you have low gutters and know how to safely use extension ladders, you may feel comfortable performing this task yourself. If you have a multistory home,
don’t like working from heights or don’t like handling extension ladders, you may want to hire a contractor to
clean your gutters.
During the gutter cleaning, the wood
boards behind the gutters should be inspected for dry rot. Probe
the boards with a knife or thin screwdriver for soft spots. Any decay should be repaired.
Plastic or metal screens can be installed over your gutters
to keep them free from debris. These screens can be effective but the screens themselves
must be cleaned. You must also continue to inspect your gutters and downspouts and clean as necessary.
You should also inspect your downspouts.
Repair or replace any disconnected downspouts. Check for corrosion,
clogged sections, improper connections, loose straps and missing sections. Repair any
problems. Make sure the downspouts direct water away from your home. There are many ways to modify the downspouts to direct
water away from your home.
Inspect your gutters and downspouts
during rainstorms. Look for leaks from holes or joints and for
water pouring over the sides. Make notes of any problems and repair when the weather
Your chimney should be cleaned and inspected each year after
the burning season ends. This reduces the risk of fire and increases chimney efficiency. A hot fire can ignite obstructions
such as bird nests, leaves and thick deposits of soot and tar and turn your chimney into a torch. Such obstructions will also
restrict the chimney’s draft and reduce your fireplace or wood stove’s efficiency.
Cleaning your chimney is a messy job requiring special tools.
You may want to hire a professional chimney sweep to clean your chimney. If you want to tackle this chore yourself, it is possible to clean the chimney from inside the house through the fireplace. A number of home
maintenance books are available at local bookstores to assist you.
If you have a masonry chimney, inspect the chimney in the
same manner as brick, block and stone siding discussed on page 4-10. If you ever notice
that the chimney appears to be “pulling away from the house,” is leaning, has bulging sections or has large
cracks, have the condition examined by a contractor. It may indicate structural problems.
Your home is protected from the sun,
wind, and rain by an exterior skin of wooden, masonry or manufactured
siding. This siding should last the life of your home if properly maintained.
However, even the most durable sidings can fail if the home owner does not follow through with a regular maintenance program. This section discusses siding materials
and how you can maintain those materials.
Wood siding is found on many homes. Wood shingles, shakes,
boards and panels come in a variety of shapes, styles, sizes, patterns and species. Yet, the various wood sidings are more alike than they are different. Wood siding is susceptible to water and insect damage.
The first line of defense is paint or stain. The second line of defense is regular
inspection and maintenance and periodic cleaning as discussed below.
Normal wood siding requires painting every 2 to 5 years. The wood siding should last as long as your home if properly maintained. Inspect and clean your wood siding regularly.
During the wood siding inspection, you should check for the following:
Protect your wood siding by inspecting for paint problems twice a year and repainting every five years, or as necessary.
Peeling or blistering paint is usually
caused by warm, moist vapor from the house flowing through the walls, reaching the cold
sheathing and condensing. Just a few drops of water between the siding and the film of
paint will cause paint to blister and peel. It may be necessary to install vents in the siding to remedy the moisture
problem. The defective areas should be properly prepared and repainted.
If you observe other paint problems, such as worn, flaking, wrinkling or “alligatoring”
paint, properly prepare and repaint the defective area.
Untreated wood must not be in contact
with the ground. Moisture from the soil can cause decay and insects can gain entry to your siding. Examine along the base
of your home to make sure you have at least six to eight inches of clearance between
the ground and any wood siding or wood trim. If necessary, re-grade your soil away from any wood.
Stain also protects wood siding
from moisture and insects. However, as the stain fades, so does its weather and insect
protection properties. Re-stain your siding every five to seven years, or as necessary, to restore color and preserve your
Dry Rot and Termite Damage
Dry rot is a fungus that causes wood
to crumble. Termites destroy wood by chewing out its interior.
Probe the edges of the wood siding with a knife or thin screw driver and look for soft,
spongy spots. Pay particular attention to any part of the siding that was close to the ground or in contact with the ground.
In addition, check for visible evidence
of termites. Look for their translucent one-halfinch-long
wings or the mud tubes they sometimes build. If you find evidence of dry rot or termites,
consult a licensed termite inspector or pest control professional.
If you spot dry rot and termite problems early,
you can often prevent serious damage. Holes and Split, Warped or Loose Siding
Simple surface problems such as holes in the wood, split or cracked boards, warped or buckled boards and loose
siding should be repaired as soon as they appear.
Water will work its way through these
defects into the interior wall where rotting can take place undetected. Severely damaged
board siding must be replaced. Determine the cause of any serious damage before replacing
siding. If moisture is causing the problem, find the source by checking for deteriorating roofing, leaking gutters
or downspouts and poor drainage. Consult a professional contractor.
Stucco is a masonry siding made from
sand, cement and water. It is applied over wire lath fastened
to wood sheathing. Color is added to the final coat or the stucco is painted after it dries. Stucco is a durable, relatively maintenance-free siding. Elasteromeric paint can be applied over the stucco to make it even more durable and easier to maintain. Elasteromeric paint is a rubberized
paint that protects and preserves the stucco.
You should inspect your stucco siding
at least once and preferably twice a year. Early spring is a
good time for the first inspection. You will be able to spot any winter damage. In addition, shrubs around your home will not yet have leafed, enabling you to easily view your siding. During this inspection, look for hairline cracks in the stucco, vertical cracks running from the roof line or door or window openings, and bulges or holes in the stucco. Defects in the stucco can be repaired yourself or by a qualified plaster contractor by repainting with
Brick, concrete block and stone are
used as sidings on veneer walls and are also built into masonry walls. Veneer walls are
standard wood frame walls with a brick, block or stone facing for weather protection. The wood frame provides the structural
support. Masonry walls, on the other hand, use the brick, block or stone as both the structural
support and the weather protection.
Inspect your masonry chimney and
any brick, block or stone walls twice each year. Look for chipped,
cracked, loose, deteriorating and missing material. Any such problems should be repaired to keep water out of masonry material and from causing future damage.
You should also check the mortar joints for weak or crumbling
mortar. Use an old screwdriver to test the mortar by scratching along the mortar joints. The mortar should be firm. If it crumbles easily, is cracked or has fallen out, have the mortar joints repaired or water will enter
the joints and cause additional damage.
A white powdery substance that can
form on the surface of masonry work is known as efflorescence. It is caused by moisture
bringing salts to the surface. Efflorescence is common in new masonry work and can be washed off. If the condition persists,
it may be a sign that water is penetrating the wall through cracks, faulty mortar joints or defective caulking or flashing
around wall joints or openings. Have the problem investigated and repaired.
If you ever notice bulging sections
or large cracks in either a veneer or masonry wall, have the condition checked by a professional
contractor. It may indicate structural problems.
Aluminum, Steel & Vinyl Siding
These are the manufactured sidings. They are generally made
to resemble beveled horizontal wood board siding although other styles are available. Aluminum and steel siding usually have baked enamel paint finishes. The coloring in vinyl siding is imbedded in the material. The siding can be smooth or can be embossed with a wood-grain texture to resemble painted
These manufactured sidings are insect and water resistant. However, some maintenance is still required.
Aluminum and steel siding can show
scratches and can dent if struck by a baseball or other object.
Touch up scratches with paint. If dents are obvious, there are ways to remove them. Over time the color may fade and need
to be repainted. In many areas, local building codes require
that aluminum and steel siding be grounded at each corner of the building.
Vinyl will not dent like aluminum. If hit, it flexes to absorb
the shock and returns to its original shape. However, vinyl siding can crack. You should
replace any cracked sections.
You should inspect all manufactured siding for loose or damaged sections and open seams and joints. Repair or replace the siding when necessary.
Cleaning your home’s exterior surfaces regularly will
improve your home’s appearance and will help preserve your paint, stain or siding
finish. Cleaning once or twice a year will remove light soil as well as grime and pollutants that can damage your siding.
Wash from the bottom up with a solution of soap and warm
water. Washing from the bottom up prevents streaking. Pay particular attention to the
areas around door handles and window catches where dirt and grease will be heaviest. Rinse with fresh water from top
to bottom to prevent runs of dirty liquid on a newly cleaned surface. You can use a pressure washer or a garden hose and scrub
brush for this job.
If you find mildew on your siding, apply household bleach directly to any affected areas and rinse with a garden hose.
Caulking is used to seal joints, gaps and seams in exterior
walls. Without caulking, cool air, water and insects could enter your home through these openings. All caulking compounds dry out over time. Check for cracked, loose or missing caulking as part of your spring and autumn
maintenance inspections. Typically, your home should be re-caulked every five years or
less. Caulking around some areas may deteriorate sooner. Repair deteriorated caulking as soon as it appears.
Where to Inspect
You will find caulking where different surfaces meet. These
surfaces include the roof where one flashing meets another flashing, where flashing and a roof or dormer surface meet and where a chimney, flue, plumbing or electrical pipe, attic fan or skylight protrudes through the roof
Caulking is found on exterior walls
where siding and trim meet at corners, around window and door frames, between badly fitting
pieces of siding, where pipes, framing members and other protrusions pass through siding,
and where siding meets the foundation, patio, deck or any other different part of your home.
Caulking is one of the simplest jobs a home owner can perform.
No special skills or expensive tools are required and it does not consume much time. However, you must prepare the area to be caulked properly. Begin by removing the old caulk. Then clean the area before applying
the new caulk. Different caulks have different uses and are to be applied in different ways. Read the caulk manufacturer's
instructions carefully before applying the new caulk.
Your foundation supports your home and keeps it from shifting. You should inspect your foundation twice a year
to ensure it lasts for the life of your home.
The type of foundation you have depends
on your home's design and your particular soil conditions. In areas where flooding or
weak soil is a problem, houses are often built on piers or pilings. In some areas, pressure-treated wood foundations have
become popular. The most common foundation, however, is a concrete or masonry perimeter enclosing a crawl space, full cellar
Begin your inspection by looking
for cracks along the foundation’s outside wall. Heaving soil, settling soil and
lateral pressure against the foundation put stress upon your foundation. These stresses can cause foundation cracks. Normal
curing of concrete and mortar joints can also cause cracks. Most cracks are normal and are structurally insignificant. Cracks
wider than 1/16 inch should be investigated , possibly with the assistance of an engineer or qualified inspector, to determine
whether the cracks are a cause for concern.
Wet soil can contribute to the forces acting upon your foundation.
Heavy wet soil can increase the lateral pressure against the foundation. Uneven soil
moisture can cause uneven heaving or settling. It is important to maintain your gutters and downspouts and direct downspout
flow away from the foundation as discussed on page 4-7.
Next, check the slope of the ground around your foundation. The ground should slope away from
your home so rain water will flow away from, not toward the foundation. Back filled soil along the house can settle over time.
This can create a depression that will collect water near the foundation. Correct any
depressions by raising the grade with topsoil (not sand or gravel) so that the ground slopes two inches per horizontal foot
for 8 to 10 feet from the foundation.
Settling along the foundation can also cause concrete patios
and walkways to break and direct water towards your home. A contractor can add a new
layer of concrete to reverse the slope.
You should watch for condensation, basement leaks and crawl space moisture. These problems can cause wood structural members to decay.
Condensation is caused when warm,
moist air comes in contact with a colder surface such as a window, exposed pipe or bare
concrete basement wall. It can look as if the window, pipe or wall is leaking. Condensation
can be worse in new homes as water from concrete walls evaporate as part of the
normal curing process. Proper ventilation can control condensation.
There are a variety of ways to repair
basement leaks, depending on the reason for the leak and its
seriousness. Most leaks, however, can be solved by redirecting surface water away from
the home by regrading around the foundation and directing downspout water away from the foundation. If this does not work,
get several opinions and proposals from professional contractors so that you can make
an informed decision on how to proceed.
Crawl Space Moisture
Soil under a crawl space can draw water into the space through capillary attraction. This moisture can cause beams,
floor joist, subfloors and even roof sheathing to decay.
Inspect all crawl spaces with a flashlight. If it is necessary
to go into the crawl space to view the entire area, wear a face mask. You can stir up
insecticides and other chemicals that settled on the ground.
Look for a moisture barrier
All bare soil should be covered
with a moisture barrier of 6-mil polyethylene plastic. The plastic should go up the foundation walls to a point higher than
the outside grade line and be weighted down with bricks, gravel, soil or other nonorganic
Look for standing water
There should never be standing water under your home. If there is, consult a professional contractor for drainage options.
Inspect the foundation vents
Foundation vents help control moisture
in the crawl space. Make sure the vents are open and not blocked
by soil, leaves or other debris. If the crawl space smells musty, you need more ventilation.
Insects are another threat you should watch for as part of
your foundation maintenance. Insects can damage wood structural members and indicate
moisture is present that could lead to wood decay.
If you live in an area where termites, carpenter ants or
insect infestations are known to be a problem or you see signs of insect infestation, call a licensed pest control contractor.
Controlling insects requires specialized training to know where to look, what to look
for and what action to take. It is not a do-it-yourself task.
You can prevent many garage door problems
with regular maintenance. Periodically clean the tracks, hinges and rollers and lubricate
them with penetrating oil or silicone spray. Lubricate the locks with graphite powder. The screws that fasten the hardware
to the door will loosen over time as the door settles or as wood doors shrink as they age. Tighten the garage door screws
every 12 months.
Inspect the springs regularly. Replace any springs that develop
bulges or are unevenly spaced. Inspect the tracks for proper alignment, crimps in the track and other damage. If the door binds or drags, it is likely the tracks are poorly aligned or need lubrication. Keep wood doors sealed
and painted, particularly along the bottom edge, to prevent swelling and moisture damage.
Garage Door Opener
An improperly adjusted garage door opener can cause a serious
accident. Your openers have an automatic return switch so that the doors will reverse automatically if they meet an obstacle. Test your garage door openers by blocking the door with your hands while the door is closing. If the door does not reverse when it encounters your hands, adjust the automatic reverse
How far the doors open and close is controlled by height adjustment nuts. If your doors do not open or close properly, you can reset the adjustment nuts.
If the drive unit works but the door won’t open, the belt connecting the pulley with the motor may need adjusting.
See your owner’s manual for more information on how to make these adjustments and other repairs.
Driveways, Walks & Steps
Concrete driveways, walks and steps
usually have expansion joints to minimize cracking. However, cracking
is a natural characteristic of concrete that cannot be eliminated. Normal cracks should
not create serious problems.
Snow and ice can damage concrete driveways, walks and steps.
Remove snow and ice promptly to protect your concrete. If you cannot remove a thin layer of ice, sprinkle sand or cat litter
on the ice for traction. Do not use salt or chemicals to melt the ice. Salt and chemicals can damage your concrete and kill
nearby grass, trees and shrubs.
Cedar or redwood boards, treated wood
and stained or painted wood are common materials for wood decks.
Cedar and redwood are naturally weather resistant without paint, stains or chemical preservatives.
Cedar and redwood are more expensive
than other decking materials but do not need to be painted or pressure treated. As the
cedar weathers, it will turn a distinctive driftwood gray color. Redwood darkens to a natural hue as it weathers.
Your wood decking will expand and
contract with the elements. This will cause nails to pull away from the boards and could
cause some boards to warp. Reset any pulled nails and re-nail any warped boards with
a finishing hammer. Do not use a regular hammer. The head of a regular carpenter’s hammer will dent the wood
around the nail.
There should be gaps between the deck boards so that water
can drain from the deck. These gaps, however, can collect dirt, leaves and other debris.
The obstructions can then soak up water and cause the wood to decay. Places where deck boards rest on joists underneath
the deck are particularly prone to collecting obstructions. Your deck will last longer if you clean between the deck boards
with a pressure washer once a year.