Making Home Maintenance for Fall Simple
This is a simple five step process for fall home maintenance. No this is not a long list of items of recommended home maintenance items that you know will never get done. At Fresh Start we know that your time is precious and we want to cut through all of the typical and give the most important items to address in your fall home maintenance. These simple five steps will help your home be healthy, warm and hopefully more economical. In addition, these items will also help protect your home from the common water damage issues that face homeowners during the fall and winter seasons.
1. Adding Insulation for Energy Star Efficiency
Most homes within the Kansas City area have insufficient amount of insulation. Even many new homes have an attic insulation depth of only 10-15 inches. The Department of Energy recommends an attic insulation depth of 15 to 25 inches for the Kansas City area. R-Value is a rating of insulation quality. So, a depth of 15-inches is an R-38 rating. The higher the number the greater amount of insulation benefits. At FreshStart, we provide insulation services at all depth levels requested by the homeowner. However, our customers see the greatest benefits from the higher R-60+ rating that 20 to 25 inches of blown-in insulation provides. Therefore, we recommend the higher end of the Department of Energy’s recommended rannge. Standard building practices over the last 30 years have used on average only 10 to 12 inches of attic insulation. So the majority of homes in the metro area do not even have the minimum recommendation of 15 inches / R-39 rating. We can simply add any additional depth needed on top of existing insulation that is in good condition. Adding an additional 10 to 15 inches is very inexpensive. Yet, the cost savings are notable. Utility savings pay for the insulation install in six months or less! One of the primary ways in the winter to know that an attic has insufficient insulation is that the snow will quickly melt from the roof due. This is caused by heat escaping from the home through the attic. Having greater attic insulation helps tremendously with temperature differences between floors. Frequently homes in our area experience a 5 to 10 degrees difference between lower and upper levels. These temperature variances reduce dramatically with sufficient attic insulation. This will cause the house to feel more even and comfortable. Inferior insulation in your attic causes major heat loss through the roof. Accounting for 40% of your home’s energy loss. Costing you thousands each year in unnecessary heat loss. This heat loss can also cause other expensive issues like ice damming, roof leaks, and even mold damage.
2. Gutter Cleaning & Foundation Grading
With fall many times come hard rains. This is a great time to think and focus on effective water management around your home. Gutters are one of the leading causes of groundwater damage to basements and ground levels. Inspecting gutters for any leaks or clogs during a rain is a great place to start. Notice if any of your gutters overflow. Does the water flow freely and rapidly from your downspouts? Simple gutter cleaning and repairs many times can solve most of your gutter problems. Occasionally, you will find that the gutters or downspouts are an inferior size depending on the roof size and pitch. This happens to us at our previous home. We frequently had gutters overflowing and basement leaks. Once we replaced the gutters with a larger diameter to handle the amount of water coming from the roof, our overflow problems stopped and our basement became dry. Gutter guards or screens are a must have especially for properties with trees as this keeps debris in the gutters to a minimum. Screens are a very cost effective maintenance measure and lower your gutter maintenance year around. Gutters are a huge part of your home maintenance and shouldn’t be forgotten this Fall!!
Foundation grading is a simple and cost effective way to build up soil erosion around your home’s foundation. This is a vital maintenance item when it comes to water management. If the soil around your home is slopped with a negative grade against your foundation, you will hold water and snow against your foundation for long-period of time and can result in water damage and mold problems. To simplify, you want a slight hill go down and away from your homes’s foundation so that water will flow away from your home.
3. Roof Inspections
Your roof being sealed and tight is a big deal during winter snowfalls and ice buildups. Last year our company did a number of water damage and mold remediation jobs that were caused by leaking roofs and ice dams. Nothing puts your roof to the test like the weight of heavy snow and ice! Start with a self-inspection of your roof from top to bottom. Get physically on the roof if possible or use binoculars to inspect as closely as possible. You will want to pay special attention to ridge shingles. You are looking for cracked, damaged or missing shingles. In addition, inspecting the flashing is high priority as the flashing is what has gaps. Flashing is normally located in the valleys, around vents and chimneys and next to ridges. Look for any signs that the flashing is out of place, missing or appears to be damaged. We also encourage your to inspect your gutters and down spouts for any signs of “granules”. Granules many times appear when the roof starts to lose it’s coating and if not rectified can cause serious roof problems. If you see any of these items on your roof we encourage you to contact your local roofing contractor.
3. Winterize Plumbing & HVAC Maintenance
The primary objective to winterizing your pipes is to prevent water damage to your home. Freezing temperatures can cause any trapped water in the water lines and burst in the wall causing serious water damage. The process is simple to winterize your exterior faucets. You simply locate all interior shut off valves for exterior faucets and turn them off. Once completed, remove all water hoses to storage and open exterior water faucet until any water is expelled and then shut off. Insulated exterior faucets with covers are not necessary if the water line is shut off, but still can be used upon your own discretion. In the Kansas City area, we do not recommend using the insulted covers alone without shutting off the water line.
The fall is one of the most important times to service your HVAC system with a bi-annual maintenance by your HVAC contractor. One of the most important steps in home maintenance is servicing the HVAC system. At no other time of year like winter do you and your family spend more time indoors. In addition, the winter is ample time for illnesses. Poor indoor air quality can cause or exasperate all kinds of illnesses from the common cold to more serious health issues. We highly recommend vent cleaning with antimicrobial treatment in the Fall, as the heat from the furnace can cause any mold in the lines to be exasperated. In addition, we also recommend a professional grade air filter that uses antimicrobial treated materials to filter the air like the PerfectFit Filter.
5. Caulk the Gaps
Caulking is a very inexpensive home maintenance item that can literally save you hundreds. When I was a maintenance supervisor for commercial and residential real estate, gap inspections and caulking was something that we did twice per year. Our repair budget dropped significantly when we began this process as we were able to spot problem areas and be proactive verses reactive with our building’s maintenance. From this experience, I saw that caulking and bi-annual inspections, of even your home that you see every day, are vital to reducing repair costs and preventing further damage. In our daily busyness we many times fail to see the small home maintenance items that need attention. Especially in areas like door jams and around windows. In our own home we had great high quality Pella windows and it, just seemed our rooms were cold, especially those on the North and West sides of the property. After close inspection, it was evident that the window installers did not properly caulk the windows and we were letting large amounts of cold air in. With a simple $5 tube of silicone caulk we were able to greatly improve the chill of our rooms and saved hundreds on our utility bills. We recommend caulking and gap inspections in the following areas:
- Doors – caulk around the door frame on both the interior and exterior sides of the frame. Also, look for gaps in the door jam itself and caulk any areas where possible air may get through.
- Windows – caulk around the window on both the interior and exterior sides of the frame. You will want to caulk both around the frame and the inside of the frame that meets the window itself.
- Attic – look for any discolored insulation as this can indicate where an air leak is located. Caulk or use spray can insulation to fill any gaps found.
- Basement – caulk any gaps around the foundation and around any incoming lines from vents, electrical lines, and water or gas pipes. Another area to take notice is along the top of the concrete basement wall that comes in contact with the wood frame.
- Other Areas – caulk around any penetrations coming from the exterior which includes a variety of things from pipes, wires, cables, etc. Inspecting all exterior penetrations and caulking around each thoroughly.