Spring Cleaning Checklist

Posted by Dylan Taft on Tuesday, May 10th, 2016 at 12:54pm.

Ahh, the sweet scent of summer is practically at our doorsteps, but it might not be in our homes just yet. Yes, it’s time to open up those windows, let in some fresh, spring country air and de-winterize, Hudson Valley!

If you’re thinking of listing your home on the market this spring, it’s more important than ever to be on top of your spring cleaning and de-winterizing game if you want to avoid any potential headaches down the road in the sales process. Sometimes a clean, bright, uncluttered space is all that it takes to get the offer that you were looking for as opposed to no offer at all. Proper de-winterizing and preventative maintenance is also much easier to keep up with, rather than waiting and hearing some disconcerting news after a home inspection has taken place. Taking some time out of your schedule now to address any possible home maintenance issues could mean keeping more money in your pockets during closing time.

So all you snowbirds ready to fly north for the summer and unwrap your vacation homes, potential home sellers and to Hudson Valley homeowners in general, take note...We’re sharing tips on how you can get your house in top shape after the winter (and make it market ready)!

Spring Cleaning Checklist

  • Inspect windows, doors and other drafty areas to assess potential heat loss.

Many New York residents (especially those who fully winterize their properties if uninhabited most of the winter or for those older homes, such as farmhouses, with single paned windows) apply a plastic shrink film to their windows to keep their home better insulated in the winter. While removing that plastic in the spring, it’s an excellent time to check the caulking, weather stripping and basic insulation around your windows and doors to see if you can improve your home’s ability to hold heat. Home insulation is a key factor in many buyer’s decision making process, so make sure you don’t fall short.  

We typically see attics having a below average level of insulation. Many builders and inspectors will reference a home’s “heating envelop” which is essentially the box of the home where you live- the heated conditioned space if you will from the ceiling or attic floor at the top, the basement ceiling or lowest level floor, and all the four walls.  Adequately insulating that envelop is crucial. The attic should remain as cool and dry as possible with plenty of ventilation and the same applies to the basement for the most part , with the exception of being cold.  Basements don’t need to be cold so much as they need to be dry and also be properly ventilated.  Long story short, insulate well and prevent heat loss from the main living spaces.  Doors and windows are where you want to keep up on, but don’t forget about having proper attic insulation because heat rises and will most often will escape through any openings in the ceiling, windows, and doors.  

  • Inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys.

After using your fireplace or woodstove all winter, it’s time for a deep clean, especially if your plan is to sell! This is also true if you have a woodstove that serves as a main heating source for your home because the soot that gets built up in the chimney is highly flammable and a major fire hazard. Even if you only use your fireplace minimally, it is still suggested to have it inspected from time to time to prevent pests and animals from entering and creating nests {See our exterior and roofing section below for more on pests, chimney and exterior maintenance!} Most inspectors will immediately call out a chimney, even if it isn’t that dirty and almost always recommend that it be cleaned before purchasing, just to be safe. If you’re thinking of selling, why not eliminate that potential concern completely by having the chimney inspected and cleaned prior to going on market?

  • Clean furnace and air conditioning system filters.

Ideally your furnace and air conditioning system filter should be cleaned, or better yet replaced, at least once or twice per year, but if you tend to forget, make sure to check it now! Clean filters could save you money on your heating/cooling bills, as well as improve indoor air quality.  Who doesn’t want to breath cleaner air?  Some homes have multiple filters and they’re sometimes located in hard to reach places, but this is a job you don’t want to put off.  You’ll thank yourself down the road for being proactive about these things. It may not be a bad idea to have your entire heating and air conditioning system serviced if you don’t already do that annually.  Filters is one thing, but if you want to put your best foot forward before going on the market, a full inspection and servicing of the systems in your home will go a long way when showing buyers how well you keep your home.  

  • Inspect plumbing for any leaks after winterized.

This step is especially important for homes that have been locked up tight most of the winter months.  Water left in pipes or faucets in the winter could freeze, causing lines and pipes to leak when water is turned back on if not properly winterized. When turning water back on, do it slowly, one small turn at a time so you can determine if there are any leaks in the system.  We always recommend having a plumber evaluate before and/or after winterizing the home so that any potential issues can be avoided.  Depending on what type of heating system you have, additional precautions may need to be taken. Hot water baseboard heating systems or boilers have extra plumbing pipes that need to be protected.  Forced air or electric heating systems come with their own challenges, so just make sure you protect what you have and consult with a professional on any questions or concerns you might have.  Fixing broken or burst pipes is one thing, but replacing damaged furniture or other personal property after water damage can be an entirely different and more s costly thing.  

  • Clean out gutters and inspect roof.

A harsh winter in New York has the potential to wreak havoc on your gutters, roof and siding from accumulations of snow and ice. Now is the perfect time to evaluate the exterior of your home from any damage done by heavy snow/ice and ice damming. Despite being one of the most important parts to a home, many homeowners neglect the gutters. Gutters remove storm water away from the perimeter of the home and foundation. Clean gutters lead to dry ground and dry ground should man dry basements.  Dry basements make for happy homes.  Gutters serve a very important purpose in that regard and therefore at least 2-3 times a year leaves and other debris should be removed so water can flow freely to its intended destination- which is away from the home’s foundation.  Any shingles torn off or damaged should be monitored if not replaced to avoid any potential for leaks.  Chimneys caps should be inspected and repaired or replaced as needed to prevent the inner chimney from the elements and also to prevent mice, squirrels, etc. from entering the home.  

  • Restore your home’s curb appeal.

After winter, your yard needs some TLC. Fertilizing the lawn, pruning shrubbery, picking up winter debris and other landscaping chores will give your yard a much needed facelift after being buried under snow for months. Your yard however isn’t the only element to focus on when restoring curb appeal- don’t forget to repair and maintain the driveway! Plow trucks in the northeast can wreak havoc on driveways, especially gravel and stone driveways where loose stones have been pushed far from the driveway and potholes may have formed. It’s always a good idea, especially for longer driveways and access roads to fill or repair potholes, re-grade and clean up loose stones in the spring. First impressions are extremely important  when trying to sell your home and you don’t want to have a buyer’s teeth chattering as they hit bump after bump from all the potholes in the driveway. Don’t make the buyer wonder about other home maintenance areas before they even open the front door!

  • Give the walls new life.

There is nothing better than the smell of fresh paint when your home is hitting the market. Buyers will appreciate the fresh look and it shows them how well you have maintained your home- something that adds lots of value in their eyes. However, if you’re strapped for time before a showing, and need to do something about those dingy, dirty looking walls, a good scrub may be all you need give those walls a quick facelift. Grease, dust and smoke can adhere to your walls, especially so in the winter when a lack of air movement and ventilation in your home can accelerate the buildup. In a pinch, wash your walls using hot water and a general all-purpose cleaner for fast cleanup- but be wary, latex paints don’t absorb too much water, so be gentle.

  • Test CO1 and smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms should be frequently checked to make sure that they are in proper working condition, but we are all guilty of forgetting at times (until a burnt meal reminds us that the fire alarm is working).  Spring cleaning and winterization are two great times to always make sure that these systems are in proper working order. We always suggest that you don’t use combo smoke/C01 detectors, or at least not as a your sole stand-alone option, and that you separate your carbon monoxide detectors from smoke detectors. Since carbon monoxide is often detected at lower levels, we encourage using a digital plug in version to check for low levels on each floor of the home, in conjunction with any combo battery operated detectors placed on or near ceilings. Having this separation and having digital detectors can help detect carbon monoxide faster than battery operated ceiling detectors can, which lessens your chance of exposing yourself to low levels of carbon monoxide that can still be harmful with prolonged exposure.   

  • Inspect and pump out your septic tank.

For homes on municipal water and sewer this won't apply but for many homes in the Hudson Valley this will be something to keep in mind, especially if this hasn’t been done in the last 5 to 10 years.  Technically, a well designed septic system should never require that the tank be pumped out. However, in today's modern chemical heavy environment we live in, with bleaches, and other unnatural cleaning products being used and flushed down drains and toilets and also wastewater from washing machines, sometimes the natural breakdown of waste material is compromised, causing the waste to build up over time. In those extreme cases pumping of the tank is more common.  Usually every 2-4 years a tank can or should be pumped out.  While some people take it to the annual level, others can go a decade or more without having any issues because each system is different and unique based on the location, ground soil composition, size of home, among other variables.  The larger the family in the home, the higher the amount of waste being removed and therefore a higher level of stress on the system from year to year.  Homeowners should keep these variables and factors in mind and decide to pump their tanks accordingly.  If you are preparing your home for market and plan to sell, pumping out your tank may be a good idea.  It shows the buyer you pay attention to the little things than can sometimes cause big messes, no pun intended!

TAFT STREET REALTY LOGO JPEG 2016.jpgThese are our suggested areas to monitor and keep up on as a homeowner.  If you plan to sell we highly recommend addressing any deficiencies before going on market and we even encourage homeowners to consider a basic pre-listing home inspection to reveal these and many other typical inspection issues ahead of time before a buyer does.  Sometimes it’s the buyer’s perception of how a home is maintained that makes the difference more so than the actual level of maintenance.  Showing buyers early on that there are no issues will go along way to securing the highest price in the fastest time.  

Want more tips on how to get your home in top shape this spring? Check out more on our blog, linked below and be sure to follow us on Facebook for more home selling and home maintenance tips!


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