Here’s a topic that everyone will love: spring cleaning! Yay!
Wait, what? Are you not down with that? Oh, come on! While spring home chores are not exciting, doing them — and doing them early — can really help you save money in several ways.
You will save on energy costs, for one thing. You will also avoid bigger problems later on– problems that are costly, stressful, and will take time away from summer fun.
In the following list of things you need to do, we’ll skip washing windows and jump to the really important stuff. We’ll tell you how much each item will cost and how much money or energy you can save by doing the task.
One thing to keep in mind about this spring home checklist is that not all homes are alike. If you own a townhouse condo, for example, you might not be able to get to your roof to inspect the gutters (well, maybe you could, but you’d tick off the neighbours).
Still, we’ve presented the items in the order that you should tackle them, so if something simply doesn’t apply to you, move on to the next item on the list.
1. Repair Your Sump Pump, If Needed
Approximate Cost: About $470 on average.
Potential Savings: Thousands of dollars from water damage.
This spring home chore is best done before all of the snow and ice has disappeared. Making sure your sump pump works properly can prevent bigger issues from arising later.
Sump pump maintenance is something worth hiring a contractor for, particularly if you don’t know what you’re doing. They will fill the sump pit with water to make sure your pump discharges it and that the float works properly. They will then clean the air hole in the sump pump’s discharge pipe and listen for weird noises made by the motor. If required, they can replace the battery on the backup sump pump.
Sometimes, it’s cheaper to replace the sump pump rather than repair it. Either way, there are some signs that you might be looking at a repair job or replacement:
- The pump is seven years old or older.
- It runs all the time.
- It makes bizarre noises.
- It vibrates a lot when running.
- It hasn’t run since it last rained.
You may also have problems if:
- You see rust on the sump pump.
- You have a lot of moisture in your basement.
That last item on the preceding list is a particularly big problem. Your personal belongings could get damaged, or you may have mould or mildew issues to clean up. All the good reason to make sure your sump pump is in tip-top shape.
2. Check for Leaky Faucets and Pipes
Potential Savings: Up to $4,000 or more to replace water-damaged drywall and solve mould problems; costs can be much more if cabinets or flooring gets damaged.
Make sure your pipes and hoses under your kitchen and bathroom sinks are clog-free, tightly sealed and free of leaks. Check around appliances such as clothes washers and dishwashers for any moisture. Make sure your water heater isn’t showing any signs of leaks or corrosion, too.
Preventing leaks means that you’re less likely to have water damage to the walls of your home. You’ll also prevent mould and mildew from taking root. That will save you money from having to call in a professional to look for and fix the leak.
If you do find a small leak that has caused damage, you’ll also save money, in many cases, by treating it in its early stages. You’ll only be replacing a section of drywall, for instance, rather than an entire wall. Drywall repairs are annoying and messy, folks, so this is something you should get on top of early, rather than later.
3. Seal Air Leaks Inside Your Home
Cost: About $40 to $65 for materials, plus taxes.
Potential Savings: Up to 20 percent of your energy bill.
It’s a good idea to seal up any cracks in your windows and doors, as the Energy Star program says that about 20 to 30 percent of your heated or cooled air is lost to leaks in a typical home. The US government notes you can save between 10 and 20 percent of your energy bill by plugging up leaks.
If you use caulk or weather stripping, you can save as much as $108 or almost three percent of your home’s yearly energy bill.
You can find leaks and drafts for free by using a candle’s flame to see how it acts around your windows and doors. If there’s a draft, the flame will bend towards it. Note that all candles are a fire hazard, so be careful when doing this.
More money can be saved by sealing your ducts with mastic duct sealant that you paint onto ductwork cracks. This keeps air from getting into your attic or crawl spaces, and can save you up to 10 percent of your heating bill in the winter. It’ll also help cool air from escaping during the summer, so your air conditioner won’t work as hard — saving you money on electricity, too.
4. Clean Your Gutters and Downspouts
Cost: Free if you do it yourself, about $150 on average if you hire professionals to do it.
Potential Savings: Thousands in future costs from water damage to roofs, walls and foundation.
Each spring after the snow is gone, you should get rid of leaves and debris that are in your gutters. Plan to clean them more often if your home is in the shade or the Greater Toronto Area experiences more storms than usual.
You can do this yourself, but be sure that you have no problems with getting up on a ladder. Again, you can hire a professional to do this, but you’ll be spending more money with each additional storey they have to check.
If you have longer gutters, you’ll spend additional money to have them cleaned, too. Still, for safety’s sake, you might be better off hiring the pros if you have more than one storey to your home.
For about $50, you can buy a gutter cleaning kit that connects to a leaf blower. If you go this route, be sure to protect yourself from leaves and dirt that will be whipped around by wearing goggles and a dust mask.
Cleaning your gutters can save you a lot of money in home repair costs by preventing:
- Rotting wood in your home that can invite insects in.
- Cracked foundations.
- Leaky roofs.
- Slippery sidewalks (water from blocked downspouts can pool and freeze on your walkways during the winter.)
- Cracked driveways.
5. Look at Your Roof for Damage
Cost: Free to more than $250 for a roof inspection.
Potential Savings: More than $7,000 on average for a new roof – often much more.
While you’re up there on your roof, you should also make sure that everything is in order. Check for warped or missing shingles. Make sure that your shingles are nailed down properly. If you’re scared of getting up on the roof, or can’t get up there because your townhome has a neighbouring unit, you can use a pair of binoculars or a camera lens to take a look.
If you are thinking about paying for some repairs to your roof, many roof inspectors will do a general inspection free of charge. Some inspectors will charge to do an interior inspection from your attic as an extra service.
The cost of not checking your roof? It can run up to tens of thousands of dollars for a new roof due to water damage. So make sure you’ve plugged any leaks before they become a problem.
6. Examine Your Chimney and Foundation
Cost: Free to about $440 or more on average to repair a fireplace.
Potential Savings: Thousands in major repair costs.
You’re outside, and what’s next on your spring home maintenance checklist? Making sure that there are no problems with the chimney and foundation. Does your chimney lean like the Tower of Pisa? Then you have a foundation problem that needs to be addressed.
If there are plants growing between the cracks in your chimney, you have a water leak somewhere. That’s a major problem for next winter to repair now. The water will be acidic, and will rust dampers and damage any wood, including ceilings and floors, around your fireplace.
Carbon monoxide can escape through cracks caused by masonry joints expanding and contracting, and pose a hazard. If you have a wood burning furnace, hot ciders can find their way into these leaks and cracks, and start a house fire.
Examine your foundation for masonry cracks. If you have any, you’ll need to hire professionals to fix it. It’s too complicated for a home fixing job. If you have wood siding, make sure that it isn’t damaged so that insects won’t be attracted to tunnel their way into your house.
7. Attend to Outdoor Watering Systems
Cost: Free to about $230 on average to repair a sprinkler system.
Potential Savings: Hundreds or even thousands in damages to your home’s foundation.
After the threat of frost has passed in May, you can open up the water valves to the outside hose bibs. You should then check for damage to the outside hose faucets caused by winter freezing. Turn on the water and place your thumb over the opening. If the water flow stops, you’ll have an indoor pipe that’s damaged and needs to be replaced. Look at your garden hose for any rot, as well.
If you have an irrigation or water sprinkler system, you should check that it’s working as well. Check to see that:
No pipes have burst when you run water through the system.
Your sprinkler heads aren’t blocked by dirt. Adjust any heads spraying water at your house and windows.
Your timer on a sprinkler zone is working properly.
Calling a professional is best if you don’t know how to maintain your system.
8. Reseal Your Deck
Cost: About $800 on average, including both sealant and stain.
Potential Savings: Hundreds in damages to your home.
If your deck is starting to peel, it’s time to give it a reseal. Sealing your deck helps to protect it against the elements. It also prevents your house from being damaged, because a deck that can’t shed water allows moisture to pool against your home. This welcomes mould and mildew not only to your deck, but to your home’s walls and foundation, as well.
It might also be good to put waterproofing over your sealant and stain for a particularly rainy season. Waterproofing allows moisture to roll off your deck and away from your home. It may be worth the extra investment to protect your humble abode and all of its belongings.
9. Tune-Up Your Air Conditioner
Cost: About $120 to $150 to tune-up your AC.
Potential Savings: Up to $1,800 for major repairs.
There are lots of ways to save on cooling costs this summer. But you ensure you spend as little as possible when you do need your AC, giving your air conditioning system a little TLC will pay off, especially with electricity rates being the way they are.
When is it time to check your air conditioner? After your yard work is all done, so that any leaves or dead grass don’t get into the outdoor unit after you’ve cleaned it up.
Here are some steps to help you get started:
- Start by making sure branches and debris are clear of the AC. Clear about 60 centimeters or two feet of space around the unit to make sure enough airflow is going in and out of it.
- Remove the cover from the outside unit.
You can clean the condenser fins on the outdoor unit with a fine paintbrush. Just be careful that you don’t bend or damage these fins.
- Change the filter on your system indoors.
- Check for any leaks in the pipes and hoses indoors and out. Make sure that the drain pans are doing their job and are draining.
- Check that mice and rodents haven’t made a nest in your AC.
Beyond that, you should hire a professional to give your AC a tune-up. Be sure to call early enough in the season so that you’re not waiting in line when the weather starts to heat up.
With regular maintenance, you’ll be making sure your air conditioner lasts longer and runs more efficiently to save you money in cooling costs. Plus, you’ll save more with regular tune-ups than you would be paying for a major repair.
If you’re ready for that tune-up, you can learn more about our tune up service. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!
In the end, we hope you stay cool, relaxed and not dreading those spring home tasks that you have to do. Think of the potential money you’ll be saving and get to it!