Hope there’s a spring in your step after a look around

April 2, 2015

It’s time to give your house the once over for signs of trouble you could do without

   POSTAGE  by Rob Stamp

You have to admit it’s wonderfully delightful when the weather breaks every spring and you can’t wait to get outside for some fresh air. I hope you are able to venture out to enjoy it and, for those who can, allow me to dampen the mood and advise you to inspect the exterior of your home. Very few homeowners are going to find that they like everything they see. It’s the nature of the beast. You may discover unknown damage or be alerted to maintenance issues that may not mean much now, but could become a real big problem later if left unattended. Consider yourself lucky if you find nothing to attend to.

Here’s a suggested plan for a casual inspection of your house, be it a humble abobe, a fairytale castle in the clouds, or something in between:

  1. Take a walk around the property to look for areas that suffered winter damage. You can imagine what some of those poor folks in the Northeast are gonna find when they’re done digging out. Common problem areas include the roof, nearby trees and gutters. Prune limbs or branches within 10 feet of the property and ensure gutters are both firmly attached to the house and sloped for draining away from the home. As a rule, keep your gutters clear of debris and free from obstruction. As an exception, smell your fingers after cleaning a gutter and be glad you don’t do that for a living.
  2. Examine your roof, as best as you safely can. Look for obvious signs of distress, missing or upturned shingles. Many reputable roofing companies provide free inspections. Avoid, if you can, the many disreputable roofing companies that turn up suddenly following major weather events. If captured properly, and maintained at a precise temperature, the sand and grit from your shingles that gets washed through your gutters can be packaged and sold as an arts and crafts supply to most local dollar stores, where everything’s like a dollar.
  3. Look for the signs of water damage or roof leaks. If you spot water stains on ceilings, trusses, or the underside of a deck or porch, you’ve been randomly selected for water intrusion, and possibly, a leaky roof. Let me be up front and honest, if you please: There are only a few things a homeowners policy doesn’t cover. Water is one of them. Unfortunately, many of us have learned the hard way that water damage is almost never covered. You might pay extra for water backup coverage, but consider yourself SOL if your basement or foundation springs a leak or starts seaping.
  4. Inspect your sump pump for proper operation and regular draining — and don’t forget to examine the backup power supply, too. I could be way off base here, because I have absolutely no supporting evidence, but it makes sense to me that spring thaw and April showers would make a sump pump work more this season than all the other months combined.
  5. Check air conditioning systems to ensure drain lines are flowing freely, checking for plumbing leaks and investigating sealant around doors and windows. We’re not that far removed from the A/C running day and night, generating outrageously high electric bills, so you’ll be glad for any tighter seal (which sounds dirty, but isn’t.)

If you’re a homeowner, you know as well as I do that this only scratches at the surface. And this wouldn’t be a proper insurance discussion without mentioning that those surface scratches may not be covered any way. Coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions are found only in the actual policy itself (which is a lot easier to understand than it used to be, but still rather confusing and intimidating to all but the chosen few).