Despite the wide range of building materials: both natural and manufactured, that lay claim to being no-maintenance, there isn’t a building exterior in the world that doesn’t require some attention periodically. Combined effects of sun, rain, salt air, wind, snow and ice ultimately take their toll. In some regional climates, homes have to endure temperature swings from sub freezing winter storms to scorching summer afternoons. Even materials we might think of as permanent degrade over time and change in response to temperature and humidity. More vulnerable still are the connections where dissimilar materials meet: glass to metal, wood to stone, vinyl to brick masonry. These areas tend to move the most and create gaps for water to penetrate. Aside from natural disasters or such catastrophic events as fire, ordinary water damage ranks as the biggest threat to most homes. Making periodic inspections to identify and fix potential trouble spots can prevent many problems, although others won’t show up until the damage is already done.
Preventive maintenance is much less expensive than install work, so pay attention to key features on your home before problems grow large. Start with the roof by viewing the surface with binoculars. If there’s apparent damage, follow up with a closer inspection, provided conditions are safe. Look for damaged or missing shingles, bent flashing, loose mortar or bricks in a chimney, and other paths that water might take. Don’t assume an exterior roof leak will be directly above interior areas that suffer water damage. Water often migrates along rafters and other surfaces before it sneaks into the house. Also look for water stains and other signs of ice damming at the roof edges, and check to see that gutters are clean and drain-ing properly. On wall surfaces, patch any cracks or holes, tuck point weak mortar joints and caulk or flash joints between siding and trim to prevent water penetration. For more suggestions, see the checklist at right.
Think of exterior maintenance as a spring ritual, a routine to follow before summer projects or vacations occupy your time and attention. Taking ay. inventory of these items will help you catch problems and normal wear while they’re still manageable and easy to fix. Remember one basic rule: Water flows downhill. This simple principle can guide you through everything from roof flashing to grading the landscape.
- ❑ Fill masonry cracks.
- ❑ Re-caulk joints between siding and other materials.
- ❑ Check window wells and cellar ways for debris; check window well covers for damage.
- ❑ Check wood surfaces for paint failure and damage.
- ❑ Check for carpenter ants and wasp nests.
- ❑ Check for damaged shingles.
- ❑ Inspect flashings at chimney, dormers, valleys and vents.
- ❑ Replace loose mortar between chimney bricks; check condition of chimney cap.
- ❑ Clean gutters, downspouts and leaf strainers.
- ❑ Check for leaks at gutter seams and joints.
- ❑ Checks vents and louvers for broken screens.
- ❑ Check fascia and soffit for paint failure and decay.
- ❑ Check that antenna support wires and satellite dish brackets haven’t dam-aged roof.
Doors and Windows
- ❑ Replace cracked window glass; re-putty loose windows.
- ❑ Clean and install screens
- ❑ Replace worn or damaged weather stripping
- ❑ Apply new caulk around windows and doors as needed.
- ❑ Lubricate hinges, locks and closers. u Clean and lubricate tracks of gliding doors
- ❑ Check storm drains for is cracks
- ❑ Seal blacktop or concrete, if needed.
- ❑ Check foundation for signs of termites
- ❑ Check ground by house for standing puddles.
- ❑ Trim overgrown trees and shrubs that could damage siding or shingles.
- ❑ Check deck or patio for loose boards, bricks and stones.
How Long Should It Last?
Properly installed or applied, today’s exterior materials can weather a lot of abuse. Take shortcuts, however, and you’ll often pay dearly. For example, skip the tedious prep work on a paint job and you’ll be lucky to see two years free of peeling. Omit the sub-grade compaction beneath a new concrete drive way and you’ll see cracks develop in short order. That said, here’s a guide to what you can expect from some common exterior materials.