Spring Maintenance Checklist

    1. CLEAN AIR CONDITIONER CONDENSERS AND EVAPORATORS
    A little sweat equity now will help both your wallet and your comfort level later when summer’s heat sets in. After cutting off the electricity to the unit, vacuum the outdoor condenser’s exterior fins with a soft-bristled brush, and clear away bushes, weeds and overgrown grass within two feet of the unit. Indoors, replace the furnace filter on the evaporator unit, vacuum the blower compartment, and clean the condensation drain.

    2. RE-PAINT THE FRONT DOOR
    Ask any paint manufacturer–painting is a task that’s best done when the weather is mild outside, typically above 50 degrees and not too humid. For best results, remove the door from the hinges and remove all of its hardware. Give it a good cleaning to allow the paint to adhere properly, and scrape off any buildups of paint or areas where the old paint is chipping off. When your prep is done, use a high-quality brush to edge in around the door’s windows and panels, then switch to a high-density foam roller to apply two light coats to the whole door–that will ensure no brush marks.

    3. REPAIR ROTTED WOOD
    If you find any areas in need of replacement, use a polyester filler to rebuild the damaged areas. First, use a 5-in-1 tool to remove the rotted wood from the area. Then press the filler into the recesses of the wood with a putty knife, building up the layers as needed until you have a smooth profile. You should have between 10-15 minutes to work with the polyester filler before it begins to harden. The new structure will take paint well and won’t rot again in the future.

    4. SHARPEN GARDEN TOOLS
    Pruning, clipping and shearing are most useful when clean, precise cuts to the plant are accomplished, and the only way to guarantee that is to regularly maintain your tools.

    5. CHECK YOUR DECK
    Perform an annual inspection on the whole structure to ensure everything is safe and in top shape. Problems to look for are rotted or wobbly posts, weak post connections, properly-fastened ledger boards, and missing flasher ledging.

    6. RE-CAULK OUTSIDE
    In the spring, it’s a good idea to walk around the outside of the house and look for areas in need of caulk where water may be working its way inside, or signs of existing but failing caulk. Clean out the area and apply either an acrylic or polyurethane formula. Acrylic is easier to use and clean up, and is a good choice for cracks narrower than ¼ inch. Polyurethane, which is more difficult to work with, may be worth the effort for concrete, roof, or gaps wider than ¼ inch. Thoroughly clean the area before application.

    7. PATCH DRIVEWAY CRACKS
    Not only are driveway cracks unsightly, but if left unattended, they can take years off the life of your driveway. The most surefire way to repair cracks for good are by using melt-in filler, which, unlike squeeze bottle and caulk tube-type products, will not shrink over time. Plan on spending a full day to repair several cracks, and wait for a warm day with no rain in the forecast. Thoroughly clean the cracks of dirt and debris with a leaf blower or air compressor before applying the filler.

    8. CLEAN WEEP HOLES
    Weep holes may be the tiniest feature of many sliding windows and vinyl replacement windows, but they serve a big function. The little holes, located on the exterior bottom of the frame, are an outlet for rainwater to drain away from the home, but they often can become clogged up with debris. To make sure they’re working properly, spray the outside of the window with a garden hose–a steady stream of clean water should exit from the holes. If it doesn’t, use a wire hanger or compressed air to force the blockage out. Re-test with fresh water to ensure they’re completely cleaned.

    9. TUNE UP THE LAWN MOWER
    A few upgrades to your lawn mower in early spring will extend the life of the machine and give your grass a cleaner cut. At the start of the season, empty any old gasoline left over from the previous year into a clearly-marked container and replace it with fresh fuel. Next, change the oil–this should be done every 25 hours of use or so. Run the mower for a few minutes to get the oil warmed up, which will help it to drain more smoothly. Last, swap out the old air filter and change the spark plug. Spark plugs can be found at the hardware store for about $3, and are critical in starting and running the engine.

    10. TEST AND REPLACE THE BATTERIES IN SMOKE DETECTORS
    Smoke detectors should be tested monthly, and the batteries should be replaced every year. Test the batteries by simply pressing the “test” button and making sure the unit chirps. Even if it works, replace the battery (or back-up battery, if yours is a hardwired model) and re-test it. If the alarm does not pass the test, replace it immediately.

    Smoke detectors have a lifespan of 10 years, so look for a “replace by” sticker or date embossed on the inside of the unit to see if it needs to be replaced, even if it passes the chirp test. If you can’t find a date, replace it anyway immediately. On new detectors, make sure to write the “installed” date on the inside cover on a piece of masking tape.

    MSN | The Family Handyman | 1/20/2017

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