Angie's List: What to look for in a midwinter inspection
Halfway through winter, you may be tempted to stay in a warm and cozy cocoon inside your house. And who could blame you?
But even if you thoroughly prepared your home for the cold months, the best laid plans can and sometimes will go awry. Perform a midwinter checkup to ensure your home stays in good shape for the remaining cold weeks and the spring to follow. Even if you don’t find emerging problems, this checkup can help you determine your home improvement priorities for the year to come.
INSPECTING YOUR INTERIOR
Walk through your house and study it as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Perform a room-by-room sweep and write down the condition of major elements such as windows, doors, trim and molding. Take note of potential problem areas, especially things that have fallen victim to wear and tear that you might overlook every day.
Check your HVAC filter and change it if necessary. Even if you changed it recently, heavy-duty conditions, such as the recent polar vortex that swept through much of the nation, can easily load up your filter with debris and gunk.
Examine your windows and doors and feel for air drafts. See if your windows open and close smoothly and keep a tight seal afterwards. Winter weather and excess moisture can give wood windows a serious beating. You’ll spend less money to repair the problem if you identify it early.
Check all the weather stripping and caulk you set up earlier in the season. Wear and tear can catch up to them very quickly.
CHECKING FOR PROBLEMS OUTSIDE
Winter wreaks havoc on siding, especially aluminum and vinyl siding. Walk around your home and inspect to see if pieces have become loose, damaged or pulled away. Loose siding can allow water to enter the space behind it, causing water damage and mold growth.
Check your foundation for mold, cracks and water damage.
Take a look at your gutters and verify they’re clear of winter gunk and buildup. If necessary, hire a gutter cleaner to clear them out.
When the temperature is above freezing, sweep up the remnants of salt or other ice-melting agents on your sidewalks. You don’t want to track that into your home, and too much runoff into your lawn can damage your grass.
Check bushes and trees for dead limbs or branches. Trim away damaged portions as quickly as you can. Dead branches pose a hazard, and you’ll get the best results if you trim them before they begin spring growth.
If you’ve experienced significant ice damming on your roof or large icicles hanging from your gutters, check your attic insulation. An excessively warm attic can lead to ice dams. Don’t wait to address ice dam problems; they can cause serious roof damage and lead to expensive leaks.
Paul F.P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.