Seasonal Tips from HomeAdvisor

Jan 27, 2017
HomeAdvisor is the free and easy way for homeowners to find and connect with trusted home improvement, maintenance and repair professionals. As the nation’s largest online home improvement marketplace, they’ve connected more than 35 million homeowners to their network of pre-screened home service professionals since they started in 1999. And, because planning is integral to the completion of any great home project, they also offer design inspiration, budgeting tools and advice.


To help get you ready for the change in seasons, HomeAdvisor wanted to share their top home maintenance tips. Check 'em out below and be sure to connect with hundreds of home improvement experts at the Raleigh Home Show.

Getting Ready for Spring
by David Hollies

Spring is the perfect time to give your home a check-up. Every home needs some maintenance each year, and most folks do about one home improvement project a year. As you look ahead to the best months for exterior repairs and remodeling, a little planning can save you both money and time. Here are answers to some of the most common spring maintenance questions:

Q: My air conditioning company sells a service plan that includes a spring tune-up. Is that necessary or just a way to get more money out of me? 

A: Many heating and air conditioning companies sell such services. If you still have the paperwork that came with the air conditioning unit, it will include recommended maintenance. Most units do not require annual, professional maintenance. However, there are simple things you can and should do yourself. Most important, you should keep the outside unit clear of debris, vines and shrubs. Give your home the gift of curb appeal! Many people opt to have annual servicing by a professional firm to reduce the chances of a breakdown during a heat wave. The technician can often spot problems before they are noticeable to you, and by taking care of it on the spot, prevent a system failure at a time when it might be very hard to get a technician out to your home.

Q: I barely have time to deal with the obvious repair items, how am I supposed to find time to do a thorough inspection of my home? 

A: Most people who use a checklist as an organizing tool report that ultimately saves time. When you know the full range of projects you face, you can group projects. How many times have you had a plumber out for one problem, like clearing a drain or fixing a leak, but forgotten to have him fix a toilet or change a washer at the same time. If you have a complete to-do list, you'll get all your plumbing problems taken care of in just one visit by the plumber. This is true for electrical projects as well. For small painting and carpentry jobs, you can save a huge amount of time by getting it all done as one project.

Q: My house just needs one or two minor repairs, but I can't find anyone who's willing to do such small jobs. What can I do?

A: If you take the time to look over your whole home, you'll probably find there are quite a few minor things. Besides repairs, there might be small improvements as well - things like adding a shelf in the pantry, replacing faulty kitchen cabinet handles, or adding a longer handrail to the back steps. If you take a little time you will usually find that you can put together a bundle of small jobs that starts to be pretty attractive to a carpenter or a handyman. If you are planning a more significant project this season, such as a deck or porch enclosure, it is fairly easy to get the small items taken care of in conjunction with the larger project.

Q: I'm a retired widow and my husband used to take care of all the house things. I don't think I can do an inspection myself. What can I do?

A: Working with a good checklist, almost everyone can inspect his or her own home. While you won't be as effective as someone with more experience, you'll get better every time you do it. It's a good idea to get more familiar with your home, and doing an inspection is an ideal way to start.

Q: This past winter, we had problems with ice dams forming on the roof. We haven't had any more leaks for the last few weeks, but now that the weather is improved, we'd like to do what we can to prevent future problems. What do you suggest?

A: There is very little that can be done about an ice dam when it is occurring, so you are smart to focus on prevention. Ice dams are caused, in the majority of cases, by poor attic ventilation. There should be unobstructed vents along the peak of your roof or in the gables (the triangular walls below the roofline at the ends of your house). There should also be openings along all the eaves. On many homes, these eave vents are either covered with insulation on the inside of the attic, or covered with siding material on the outside of the eaves. Either one will defeat effective attic ventilation and invite ice dams during winter snowstorms. If insulation is the problem, pull it back far enough so that it can't resettle on top of the vents. If your eaves (also called overhangs or soffits) are obstructed, replace the covering material with the kind with holes in it. Also make sure the vents are free of cobwebs, leaves and other debris. Ice dams are very rare in homes with good attic ventilation.

Q: Do you have any tips for pet owners? 

A: As Jon Nunan reminds us, though most of us have never actually seen a bull in a china shop, many who've lived with dogs and puppies get the gist of the saying all too well. When a puppy is involved, the scene might have a certain charm, but most would agree that we'd rather watch it online or on TV than have it take place in our home. Some rooms of the house simply contain too many things to break, bite, or batter. When you're not always there to say "No", many find that one or two well-placed pet gates can do a pretty good job of protecting furniture, carpet, and many other items from that most lovable terror: the family dog. (Note: right after a cat learns to jump, it becomes immune to most barricades. If you need to keep a cat out of a room, you're probably going to have to install a door!)

When shopping around, it becomes quickly apparent that baby gates and pet gates are often one and the same. It makes sense enough, seeing as how the function of both is quite similar. Child gates that double as pet gates are acceptable, especially for puppies or small dogs - Rottweiler, and St. Bernard owners, however, should beware. Some gates that can stop a toddler in his or her tracks may not hold up against a puppy the size of a pony (and when they get older, some breeds will be able to leap these gates not unlike a well trained Arabian). The fact of the matter is, larger breeds, at maturity, will most likely be able to get over, around, or through just about anything you might put in their way that isn't about 5 feet tall and made of reinforced steel. Big dogs need to be trained, and trained quickly, on what the gate represents. If they learn when they're a puppy, they'll respect that boundary when they are older, even if it's no problem for them to jump over it.

Different styles of pet gates are appropriate for different types and ages of dogs. Some are also site specific, and will work better or worse depending on where they are placed. Freestanding pet gates are great for puppies and small dogs. They need no installation, so there will be no remnants of their removal. They work well blocking doorways, and are a good way to keep Spot out of trouble while he's still too little to know the rules.

A pressure mounted pet gate is also great during training. Once again, they need no installation and can easily be moved from one doorway to another. Pressure pet gates are not recommended for use on stairways or in between surfaces that are not solid (like drywall). The pressure used to keep them in place can either be too little to keep it where it's supposed to be or too much, which could cause damage to the surfaces it's placed between.

Hardware mounted pet gates are meant for permanent or semi-permanent installation. They are screwed into a wall or doorway and cannot be easily moved. They are the only type of pet gate that is meant for use around stairs. These models will be a little more difficult to install and will probably be more pricey than freestanding or pressure gates. On the plus side, wall mounted pet gates are generally quite high quality. The materials they are made of vary greatly, and are designed to match whatever style of decorating your home already has. Available in metal and in hardwood, this type of gate can look natural in any household; sometimes the quality is such that it can even add aesthetic appeal!

We hope these tips help get you ready for the season. Another bit of advice we'd like to share? Head to the Raleigh Home Show, February 17-19 at the Raleigh Convention Center to connect with hundreds of local home improvement experts who can help you complete the suggested maintenance above. Don't have tickets yet? Connect with us on Facebook to get 2-for-1 and treat a friend or family member to the show - we can't wait to see you there!

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FEBRUARY 17-19, 2017.