Spring Clean From the Outside In

MPj03864650000[1]Maintenance Tips to Start the Season Off Right

It’s (nearly) time to shake off the last of winter’s chill and prepare our homes for what is perhaps one of the prettiest seasons in the south – SPRINGTIME. With an official start date of March 20 this year, Spring is often heralded by fresh flowers in the flowerbeds, new green growth in those long-dormant trees and the annual pastime called Spring Cleaning. Aside from the all-important surface stuff – like reorganizing closets and deep cleaning baseboards – there are a handful of issues you should pay close attention to before the season begins. With all of the rain, flooding, wind and low temperatures from late 2009 to early 2010, this winter may have been particularly rough on your home. The friendly folks at Highlight Homes and Highlight Home Restoration in Atlanta have compiled the following home maintenance checklist that you may want to follow in order to save yourself possible major expense and needlessly darken your dreams of Spring Break on a distant shore.

Spring Clean Home Maintenance Checklist 2010:

From the Outside:

  • Provide a Firm Foundation – Check for hairline cracks in your foundation walls – mark them with tape and keep an eye on them for a few months. If there’s no change, they probably indicate mild settling and can be patched up with an epoxy-injection system. If they’ve gotten worse, it may be time to call in a structural engineer. Other ways to ensure a firm foundation in your home include:

* Spy for holes in your siding or foundation walls and filling them in with expandable foam – this will prevent creatures and water from creeping in.

* Make sure that the ground around your home slopes AWAY from the foundation (about 1 inch) – otherwise, you could have a settling issue on your hands.

* Keep an eye out for shed wings or pellet-shaped droppings, which could indicate a possible termite infestation.

* Clear all the dead leaves from around the base of your home – rodents, snakes and spiders love to nest in these.

  • Make Sure You have a Good Roof Over Your Head – Check for damage to your roof by beginning in the attic or rooms directly under the roofline. Look for water stains or slight discolorations to the ceilings and rafters – indicating a possible troublesome leak. Next, examine your roof from the outside, look for missing or damaged shingles and pay close attention to the siding under the roof eaves. An ounce of prevention is ALWAYS worth a pound of cure – so make sure your gutters and downspouts are flowing freely and are clear of debris. If you believe you may have a leak, it’s always best to leave roof repairs to a professional. Keep in mind that asphalt shingles are designed to last about 20 years, so if you live in an older home – it may be time to replace the roof before those dreaded April showers begin. Highlight Home Restorations can help!
  • All Decked Out – Check for damage to your deck by paying particularly close attention to water stains and warping – especially where the deck connects to the house. This could indicate possible wood decay, which could weaken the structure of both your deck and your house. If you have any question about the overall structural integrity of your deck, call in a professional to check it out before you host your first seasonal grill-out. If you feel like your deck’s structure is in good shape, but could use a quick makeover – get rid of moss and mold by pressure washing and adding a fresh coat of deck stain. If you don’t have a deck, but have always wanted one – contact Highlight Home Restoration. We can custom design any outdoor living space to fit your family’s needs and unique personality!
  • Stay Cool – Make sure your outdoor A/C condenser is clean and free of debris by FIRST switching off the power, and then carefully removing leaves, twigs, and weeds. You can use gloved hands or tools such as a vacuum attachment, blower, or garden hose. To make sure it’s performing at its optimal level, you should have a professional air conditioning contractor inspect and maintain your system as recommended by your system’s manufacturer. Replace your air filters every 1 to 3 months.
  • All the Trimmings – Check the windows, doors and trim around your home for deterioration. At any indication of wood rot, call in a professional to patch and repair – or replace. If water gets behind the trim or window seals, you could be looking at a far costlier repair in the future.
  • A New Spring Coat – Carefully inspect your siding and trim to see if a new coat of paint is in order. Paint not only enhances the beauty of your home’s exterior, it also serves to seal and protect.
  • Stay Sharp – Check all of your outdoor tools to make sure your lawn mower blades, edgers and trimmers are clean and sharp, and ready to roll. Replace if necessary.
  • Go With the Flow: Check your lawn sprinkler system for leaky valves, exposed lines, and improperly working sprinkler heads. If there is an area of your yard that collects too much water or doesn’t get enough, run the sprinklers to try and pinpoint the problem. If it’s not something you can fix yourself, call a professional before the heat of late Spring/early Summer hits and your lawn needs water.
  • Outside Looking In: Stay on top of your window and door screens by cleaning them at the start of the season and checking for holes. If holes are bigger than a quarter, that is plenty of room for bugs to climb in. Patch holes or replace the screen entirely. It’s a wise move to store any screens you remove to patch holes next year. Tighten or repair any loose or damaged window and doorframes, and repaint. Replace broken, worn, or missing hardware. Make sure screens are securely fastened or a gusty wind could damage them beyond repair. Tighten and lubricate door hinges and closers.
  • Bug Off! In order to control pests, make certain to limit the amount of garbage and debris around the exterior of your home. Do what you would do inside, and get rid of junk. Inside, check the house for entrances and gaps where mice and insects may be tempted to come through. Seal up cracks, even if you just did so in the winter. Mulching the yard this spring? Use a liner underneath. It’s good to keep a barrier between your mulch and your home.
  • Garage Door Check-up: This is a great one for those brave do-it-yourselfers out there. 1. Begin by giving the door and mechanism a top-to-bottom inspection. If you notice that a pulley is out of line, move it into the correct position and secure it with lag bolts.2. Clean and lubricate all moving parts, including the pulleys, cables, tracks, rollers, and pins. A lightweight bicycle lubricant should work nicely, but consult the garage door manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you’re using approved lubricants and/or cleaners. Be sure to wear heavy rubber gloves when working with lubricants and cleaners.3. If approved by the door manufacturer, spray a bicycle cleaner/degreaser on the pulleys, then clean out the groove with a towel. You can also use an old toothbrush to clean the pulleys. 4. Spray some of the cleaner on your towel and wipe the cables on both sides of the door.5. Be sure to pay attention to all the moving parts, and don’t forget to lubricate the bearings of the rollers. Clean and wipe out the tracks for the rollers, too.6. Tighten any bolts holding the door sections together, and clean and lubricate the locking mechanism.7. If your garage door opener uses a chain drive, clean and lubricate the chain. Be sure to clean out the track for the chain. If you are at all uncomfortable doing any of these steps yourself, pick up the phone and enlist the help of a professional.

To the Inside:MPj03864710000[1]

  • Safety First – To protect your home and family against fire:

* Clean the stove exhaust hood and air filter in your kitchen
* Have a professional electrician inspect your electrical system
* Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher on hand and easily accessible to all family members
* Make sure all your light fixtures contain light bulbs with the correct wattage
* Protect all of your computers, TVs and electrical appliances from power surges and lightning with surge protectors
* Clean your clothes dryer exhaust duct, damper, and space under the dryer
* Replace all extension cords that have become brittle, worn or damaged
* Inspect and clean dust from the covers of your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and replace batteries, if needed
* Review your fire escape plan with your family

  • Bottoms Up – Protect your home’s basement by installing a sump pump. If you already have a sump pump, but have invested in having your basement finished -“ you may also want to consider having a battery operated backup pump, just in case. Finishing your basement not only adds living space to your existing home, but it also increases the enjoyment of the space for every member of your family. If you haven’t finished your basement, contact Highlight Home Restoration for a quote.
  • Cabinet Clean-Up – Kitchen cabinets are notorious for collecting all sorts of grease and dirt from various sources such as stovetop cooking and oils from your skin. Be sure to clean them every couple weeks or whenever you clean the rest of the kitchen. Cabinets are often overlooked because their grime is not easily seen. However, you should be careful what you use to clean your cabinets. A cleaner containing large amounts of alcohol may penetrate a wooden cabinet’s finish, causing drying and cracking of the wood cabinet – ultimately doing more damage than good. Test any product you are going to use on a small part on the inside of the cabinet door. We recommend that you clean your cabinets with a mixture of one gallon of water and 1/4 cup of mild soap or oil soap. Simply scrub the cabinets with the solution, and then use the dry rag to wipe off any moisture that is left. To remove sticky residue left behind by stubborn fingerprints, try rubbing the spots with mineral spirits and No. 0000 steel wool. Once clean, a good tip for protecting cabinets from future grease and moisture build-ups is to apply a coat of wax to them. To do this, use a light furniture wax — either liquid or paste will do the job. Rub the wax into one small area at a time in the direction of the grain. If you use a spray wax, make sure you spray it onto the cloth, not the surface because the cloth will absorb and distribute the wax evenly onto the surface. Repeat this every six months to keep the protective coat effective. Avoid mounting or placing any small appliances underneath your cabinets. The heat from these appliances will damage the integrity of the wood in your cabinets. QUICK TIPS: For cabinet interiors we suggest that instead of using shelf paper, use old place mats to keep kitchen shelves clean. One way to avoid direct contact with the cabinets is to add a ribbon pull that matches the decor of the kitchen to the handle or knob of the cabinet door. Make sure it dangles down enough so it is easy to grab and pull. When it gets dirty, simply throw it in the washing machine. If you want a new look in your kitchen, simply replace the hinges and knobs on the cabinet doors. They can drastically change the look of the kitchen without a lot of time and money.
  • Down the Drain – Except for a coffee maker, anything dripping in your house is probably a bad sign. Check for leaking faucets or sweating pipes, clogged drains and faulty water drainage systems. On laundry day, look at the washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or dampness. Check under the kitchen sink for leaks, and make note of moisture around the dishwasher. Inspect your water heater for leaks and corrosion (see below for more tips for maintaining your hot water heater.)
  • Some Like it Hot!: In order to properly maintain your hot water heater, you should follow these simple steps – 1. Turn off the Water Supply. If you have an electric water heater, turn off the power at the breaker-box. If yours is a gas heater, turn the thermostat to the “pilot” setting. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve located close to the thermostat, but don’t open the valve yet. Turn off the cold-water supply that feeds the water-heater. 2. Drain the Hot Water. Open up one of the hot-water faucets in one of your sinks or tubs. This will prevent a vacuum from forming in the lines. Go back to the water-heater, and open the drain valve to drain the hot water out of the tank. Make sure the far end of the hose is draining somewhere that won’t be harmed by hot water. (an outside driveway is ideal.) 3. Flush out the Remaining Sediment. Once the water stops flowing out of the far end of the hose, turn the water supply back on. This will flush out any remaining sediment left behind in the heater. Once the water runs clear from the end of the hose, close the DRAIN valve. Don’t forget to turn the hot-water faucet inside your house back off. The heating element could possibly blow if there is no water in the tank. Some tanks may need to be completely full in order to prevent damage. When in doubt, always read the warnings and instructions on the tank label carefully because each tank may vary! 4. Test the Pressure-Release Valve. Turn the power-supply to the water heater back on at the breaker box (or the thermostat), after the tank has filled with water. Once the water temperature has been brought back up, test the pressure-relief valve according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This safety device is designed to prevent excess pressure build-up or overheating inside the tank. If it’s faulty, you may need to have it replaced by a licensed plumber.
  • Light up the Room – Clean all light fixtures and chandeliers. This is a great time to LOOK UP and notice those collections of little bugs and debris that may have gotten trapped in light fixtures, or spider webs that have taken up residence in your chandeliers. Carefully remove globes and shades and put what you can in the dishwasher. Place crystal in warm soapy water, then rinse and dry. Delicate or fragile things – like painted glass shades – will need to be carefully hand washed then set out of the way where they won’t get broken. Take this opportunity to replace any blown out bulbs & check for the proper wattage
  • Scrub-a-dub-dub – To avoid a major Spring Clean in your bathrooms each year, get into the habit of wiping down shower walls and tub after each use to eliminate soap and scum build-up. However – while you’re in spring-cleaning mode, pay attention to worn grout between floor tiles In the bathroom or kitchen. A small crack in the grout or caulk can lead to an expensive repair later. If necessary, re-seal as soon as possible.
  • The Ground You Walk On – It’s important to maintain the carpet throughout your home. After all, carpet can either enhance or detract from the overall appearance of your home. In order to protect the ground you walk on, we recommend the following tips1. Get in the habit of removing your shoes before entering a carpeted room. Shoes can drag all sorts of unwelcome things into a home so considering placing a special mat or shelving unit at the door to hold them. Buy some slippers that can only be worn in the house to change into. 2. Keep a “carpet cleaning kit” handy. Begin by soaking up as much of the stain or spill with a lint-free rag as possible. Be careful not to rub as this will push the spill into the carpet fibers. Coat the area with a dry, foam or liquid cleaner. The best bet is to let the cleaner set, and then remove as much of it as you can with a plastic scraper. This allows you to scrape away as much of the cleaner as possible without rubbing it into the carpet fibers. Once that’s done, blot away the rest with a clean rag. The last item in your kit should be a soft-bristle brush to brush the fibers of the carpet back into shape.3. Vacuum at least two times a week and more if the room gets a lot of foot traffic. Your vacuum is the best defense against early retirement for a carpet so keep it maintained. Change the bag before it gets full, remove debris such as string or fibers from the brushes (these cause the vacuum belt to work harder, possibly damaging the motor) and wipe the vacuum with a little white vinegar to keep it dust free. Always check the hose to see if any obstruction is blocking the airflow before starting it (pet hair and new carpet fibers lost from the manufacturing process can really clog the hose up). 4. UV rays from sunlight can age carpet so shut blinds or drapes before you leave for the day. This simple step will really make a difference in the longevity of your carpet, especially with darker carpet colors.
  • Tip Top Shape – At the start of Spring, it’s a good idea to check your attic for proper ventilation and birds nests. Aside from the inspections mentioned earlier for water spots, roof flashing leaks and wet spots on insulation, you should also keep an eye out for obstructions over vents and damaged soffit panels. These things will ensure good airflow, which could save you money when it comes to cooling your home during the long hot summer. Remember to wear long sleeves and gloves to protect yourself from insulation when you’re rooting around up there. If necessary, you can add extra insulation to help the efficiency of your heating & cooling units.

Spring is also a great time to consider a makeover! The talented professionals at Highlight Home Restoration can visit your home and develop a plan to increase the overall flow and enjoyment of the interior and/or exterior of your home. To get started, simply call us at (678) 873-9234 or e-mail us at info@highlighthomesga.com. To learn more about Highlight Homes and Highlight Home Restoration, we invite you to visit our website at http://www.highlighthomesga.com.

Spring Clean From the Outside In