Truth be told, it’s already a little late in the year for this kind of cleanup of our homes’ exteriors — we should have been on it last month. But we’re all human and putting off the outdoor work until winter had definitely left. So let’s get to it now. Here are some tips for going over our properties to fix any problems our cold climate caused.
1. Gut it out
Every to-do list in both late fall or early spring starts with “Clear the gutters”. For good reason. Your eaves and downspouts direct moisture off your roof, past your walls and windows, and away from your home’s foundations. If they are clogged with leaves and twigs, or if tree branches are interfering with them, you’re begging for water problems, which could be costly to repair. The snow buildup on your roof may also have caused damage that makes them dysfunctional.
2. Don’t hit the roof
While you’re up there, check on the state of your shingles, chimney and vents. Do a visual check to make sure that nothing is loose or buckling. But if you spot any problems — and you’re not a professional in this line of work yourself — resist the urge to climb onto the roof to fix it. This is a major scenario for serious accidents around the home. Instead, call in the pros.
3. Spout off
Also inspect your downspouts to ensure they’re clear of debris that might cause problems later on. Especially check for blockages at the connection of downspout to trough and at any bends. Make sure the joints are firm too. Run water from a hose through the whole system to make sure it all works.
4. Walk this way
Winters can also damage your walkways. Go over your sidewalks, garden paths and patio surfaces to spot any problems, rather than discover them later when someone stumbles over them. And prevent giving rain any openings to seep into your home. Patch any gaps, replace broken flagstones, reset loose bricks, and seal cracked pavement.
5. Hit the slopes
Make sure your outdoor surfaces are sloping away from your home, directing water from your foundations. Frost may have caused the ground to heave around your house. You may have to move tools, firewood, mulch or other debris away from the outside walls — which you should do anyway — to get a good look at the ground level.
Next to your home you want to have hard ground sloping gently away. The drop could be as little as a centimetre every 24 centimetres. Tamp it down firmly to direct surface water away from your home’s foundations.
6. Power wash
Check for any new stains on your outdoor surfaces. You can clean them up using a power washer or chemicals.
7. Act caulk-sure
Your windows are vulnerable points in your house — often letting out the heat in winter, wasting the air conditioning in summer, and letting destructive moisture seep in all seasons. They can even provide entrance for pests.
So now that the snow has gone, this is the time to check your windows and window frames for gaps.
If you find any cracks or crumbling in the caulking, scrape away the old material and recaulk.
8. Say no to rot
While you’re at it, look at the trim and window sills for decay. Rot is a sign your windows have allowed moisture inside. You may need to replace or upgrade those features.
9. Give your home some space
How are your trees hanging? If winter has any major branches leaning near your buildings, you need to remove them. This will of course prevent them from causing damage should they fall, but also prevent critters from accessing your roof and eaves to do their own special damage.
Needless to say, you also need to remove dead trees in your yard for similar reasons. In Toronto, you need a permit to remove large trees, even if they are on your private property. Consult an arborist who can make the determination.