By Erik J. Martin
For many, it was a cold and rough winter. But if you own a home, you found a warm and safe sanctuary inside and were comfortably protected by the elements.
The same can’t be said of your home’s exterior, which stood naked against the full wrath of Jack Frost and Mother Nature over the past several months. And once the weather thaws and you can take a closer look around your property, you’ll likely find fresh flaws in winter’s wake – from damaged gutters to loose siding to missing roof shingles.
Winter can really take a toll on a home, exposing any weaknesses and potentially being the first domino of bad events to come. During the colder months, for example, water melts and freezes constantly, getting into crevices, which can wreak havoc. Inspecting your property after winter is crucial to make sure there are no issues and, if there are, fix them as soon as possible.
Case in point: Gutters can fill with snow and ice, causing them to sag, separate, or come apart at the corners, resulting in leakage, water damage to roofs, ceilings, and walls, and erosion and cracks in your foundation – not to mention basement flooding. What’s more, leaves and debris can accumulate in gutters and downspouts, preventing proper drainage.
The fix? Climb a ladder (if you are capable and the roof isn’t too high up) and clean out, fix, or refasten your gutters. Make sure the downspouts are properly connected, as well. But ensure you are following the proper slope or pitch of the gutter toward the downspout. If it’s placed too high, water can pool, and trapped debris can start to grow mold.
If you experienced ice dams that resulted in water damage to your home, hire a roofer to install an ice-and-water shield membrane beneath the first few feet of shingles toward your roof’s edge to prevent further occurrences. This expert can also repair or replace any loose or missing shingles you notice, as well.
Don’t be surprised if you discover siding or flashing that has become detached or needs replacing, too.
Consistent, heavy snow can lead to warping, dry rot, and paint peeling on wood siding.
Try swapping out any damaged pieces with new ones that match if you can find them. If you cannot fasten the piece securely, check to see if the materials underneath are compromised and need to be replaced.
For instance, you may have a rotted fascia board, which would be akin to screwing something into cardboard.
Additionally, look around your exterior thoroughly for cracks, crevices, and entry points where insects and critters may find entry.
“Check for any soft spots in the wood, loose or missing soffit pieces, flashing, or shingles, as well as any construction gaps. Also, ensure your AC condenser line is not clogged and tree branches are trimmed, so they don’t touch your shingles. Garage sweeps and door seals are also very important to check, as a gap provides entry for many pests,” recommends Adrienne Vosseler, wildlife specialist for Chicago-headquartered Critter Control. “Unsealed roof returns, gable vents, crawlspace vents, and ridge vents provide other easy access points for animals, too. Animal-proof materials like galvanized steel and cement can be used to make repairs.”
Take time to look carefully around your home’s foundation for warning signs, as well. Any cracks you notice are a potential sign of air leakage and a possible unstable foundation, which can be a major safety hazard. Pull away branches and shrubbery that may be obscuring your view. Small cracks can be patched by a handy homeowner using repair kit materials, but larger cracks should be evaluated and filled by a professional.
Next, assess your front porch and/or deck for wear and tear. Long-term exposure to snow, ice, and cold weather could lead to mildew, warping, and splitting. Use an appropriate filler material to plug gaps and cracks, replacing rotted or compromised planks and boards, and sanding and re-staining/repainting wood materials.
If you have a basement, you might have window wells that need to be cleaned out. After removing any debris, clean the window and well thoroughly and reseal any gaps with caulk.
Despite your best DIY intentions, know your limitations and avoid taking unnecessary chances.
If you don’t feel safe, don’t risk it, especially when ice, snow, roofs, and tall heights are involved. Hire a professional who has the expertise and special equipment to get the job done without risk to you.