Mind in the gutter and other spring projects
Spring projects that are manageable and helpful
Everyone's got spring projects -- power wash the house, clean the flower beds, replace the mulch. But some projects carry a bigger bang for the buck than others.
The first project that anyone should undertake in Michigan this spring -- any spring -- is to take a walk around the house and look at what's going on. This winter had an especially high number of windstorms, so chances are there are some branches on your roof. You'll want to look above those branches to see if any shingles were damaged. Then you'll want to remove any branches you can safely reach. You'll also want to pick up or rake up any branches around the yard to protect your mower blades.
Thinking of lawn mowing leads me to my next point and project. In my college years I had an opportunity to work for a home inspector who was writing his own book for clients. It was kind of a workbook that gave clients a checklist of things to do every year after they owned the home. His BIGGEST pet peeve was when he saw gutters without extensions. And when we went and looked at a wet basement, nine times out of 10, there were no gutter extensions, just downspouts that ended very near the home's foundation.
It's now almost 25 years later and, as a Realtor, I still see the same problems. A good number of homes with wet basements can be remedied with simple four- or six-foot gutter extensions. Get that water away from your foundation and you'll find your wet basement problems might dry up substantially.
If you're really ambitious, you can bury your gutter extensions and have them drain into a dry well or stony area away from the home. For most of us, though, that kind of thing should be left to professionals.
Make the grade
While you have the gardening tools out, you'll also want to make sure that your gardens and lawns don't slope back toward the home. This is not uncommon in older houses because as the yard ages and the back-filling around the foundation settles, the ground level drops slightly. So all that surface water runs back toward your foundation. Not a good situation to have. So you'll want to make sure that you rake and landscape in a way that your yard slopes away from the foundation. This becomes especially important when there's still frost in the ground each spring and you get a substantial thaw. That's when that water finds its way across the surface of the ground and back toward your home.
I remember the windstorm of 1998 hitting our home in Ann Arbor. It took a quarter of our shingles and left our yard a mess. It also took one of the 1976-vintage faux shutters off the side of the house. Replacing this was not a job I was looking forward to. But it turned out to be ridiculously simple. Just drill a few holes and pop the plastic push-pins into the side of the home. It was that easy.
Sometimes houses that look like they've aged can be dressed up with simple inexpensive fixes like this. If your home needs a splash of color or a little decor, consider adding some of these for as little as $15 a pair. If you have a home with aging, fading shutters, consider updating them with the newer, more sun-resistant plastic models. People will notice something new about the home, but in a lot of cases, they won't be able to tell you what.
If you love living in the woods like I do, you know that 10 or 15 years after a new roof, you're going to have some new material up there -- moss. We live under very heavy shade and I've done removal of the moss by chemicals and by plastic snowshovel over the last few years. But if you live in the shade, the right way to handle this is with zinc or copper strips along your roof. Water picks up ions from the metal when it rains and the resulting runoff is toxic to moss without causing harm to your yard or garden or roof. It can be pricey, but if you've got 10 years left on your roof and don't want to figure out how to get a gallon jug and a 50-foot hose up on the roof, these strips are the way to go. Make sure the strips are about a third of the way down your roof. Remember that those are up there when you speak to your roofer about a new roof, though. They are pricey enough that you'll want them removed carefully and re-used on your new roof.