Cold weather takes its toll on a house. With many parts of the country coming off a particularly severe winter with lots of snow, now is the time to survey the exterior of your property for weather damage and general maintenance needs. Such an annual springtime inspection could be important to your family's safety. And sometimes, "all you need is a really good pair of eyes," says Lon Grossman, president of Technihouse Inspections, a residential and commercial building-inspection company in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Go outside and look at the gutters to see if they're sagging or broken. Check around the foundation for cracks or rot in the wood frame of your home (see BW Online, 4/25/03, "Shoddy Building in the Housing Boom?").
While you can certainly do some of this inspection yourself, you might want to consult a professional roofer for help in spotting problems with a roof or chimney. The cost of repairs will depend on the extent of the damage, varying from less than $100 to replace some shingles to thousands of dollars for a new roof or major chimney work.
Be sure the screen atop your chimney is securely fastened, or animals may get into your home in the spring. Check that the cement cap encircling the chimney top isn't cracked or broken. Maintenance will keep bricks in place and keep out moisture, diminishing the chance of a smokey smell permeating your home days after you light a fire. Inspect the flue to make sure no blockage could cause a chimney fire.
DEAD WOOD. Up on the roof, arrange to replace damaged or loose shingles to prevent leaks from developing. And while you or a professional is up there, check the gutters closely. Make sure the weight of snow and ice hasn't pulled them away from the roof. Also clean out any debris that may have accumulated.
Finally, cut back branches that are within three feet of your roof, and remove any dead trees. This can cost anywhere from $75 to a couple of thousand, depending on the size of the trees. Probe the exterior of your home with a screwdriver for rotted wood. Small holes are easy to fix with a wood fillers such as Abatron or Bondo.
No one ever said it was easy to be a homeowner, but a good inspection can save you from major headaches later. By Toddi Gutner in New York