CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — The recent unseasonably warm weather in many parts of the country has homeowners already contemplating post-winter home repairs and improvements as they begin their spring cleaning.
Some projects should take top priority: Those that will not only make your home safer, but will save you money down the road. In fact, some improvements even will help you shave some bucks off your home-insurance premiums.
Ideally, homeowners should inspect their houses twice a year, once before heavy spring rains and then again in the fall, said Jim Hunt, owner of Hunt Home Remodeling in Omaha, Neb. That way, they can catch small problems before they become overwhelming. In the springtime, many homeowners also have the advantage of having a fresh tax-refund check in hand, and funding repairs is easier.
It’s not an exhaustive list, but here are seven spring inspections and repairs homeowners should consider in the weeks ahead.
1. Clean and repair gutters
Taking care of a home’s gutters is one of the most requested jobs Hunt’s company handles this time of year. At about $100 to $150 for an average home, it won’t cost that much, he said. But it will prevent plenty of headaches down the road, especially if they weren’t cleaned in the fall.
“It’s not [replacing] the gutter that’s expensive. It’s the water damage” that results from neglected gutters, Hunt said.
When gutters aren’t functioning properly, water may seep into the home’s foundation, for example, and make for costly repair bills. Also look for other areas where water is liable to pool near the foundation.
2. Check the roof
After the winter, it’s a good idea to have your roof checked before spring showers hit, Hunt said. During the inspection, it’s common to find broken shingles that need to be replaced.
Checking it out won’t break the bank: It may cost a couple hundred dollars for a check and minor repairs, he said. Just make sure you’re using a reputable company for the inspection.
An inspection might reveal it’s time to replace the roof. For areas prone to hail, impact-resistant roofing is an option — and may earn homeowners a discount on home insurance. For example, insurer State Farm offers a discount of up to 30% for the upgrade in areas that are prone to hailstorms, said Missy Dundov, a company spokeswoman.
3. Prepare for bad weather
It’s also the time to brace for storms in the months ahead. Making proactive improvements will have an impact on the amount of damage to a home, improving safety and lessening storm repair costs, said Jim Gustin, senior property specialist for Travelers, an insurance firm.
Those in areas prone to damaging winds might consider installing a reinforced garage door or retrofitting an existing one, Gustin said. The garage door is one of a house’s weakest points, and strong winds can blow it in, pressurizing the home and potentially lifting off the roof, he said.
Other proactive measures homeowners may consider include installing storm shutters in hurricane-prone areas and a generator in places where homes tend to lose electricity for stretches of time.
Make sure to ask your insurance carrier about discounts that may come with these improvements. Discounts vary by state and by company, said Jeanne Salvatore, spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute.
4. Clean out vents
Soffit vents can get clogged with dust and other debris, and can be easily cleaned with a small compressed air can, Hunt said. This will ensure proper ventilation in the attic, and make heating and cooling more efficient.
It’s also a good idea to get your air conditioner serviced now, so it’s running efficiently when you need to run it in the hotter months, he said. Along those same lines, make sure your caulking is in good condition around doors and windows.
5. Repair the deck
Give your deck a good cleaning, and you may stumble across damage that needs to be addressed, Hunt said. Check for loose and rotten boards and get them taken care of before summer, since the deck is often a popular hangout spot during parties and barbecues.
While you’re at it, pay attention for cracked sidewalks that can be a trip hazard, he said. Repairing them often isn’t as expensive as you may think.
6. Improve home security
Many homeowners know to check the batteries in their smoke detector around the time they change the clocks for daylight saving time. But it could pay to take even more steps to improve your home’s security: According to the Insurance Information Institute, it’s not unusual to get discounts of 5% for a smoke detector, burglar alarm or deadbolt locks.
Customers of State Farm award this combination with up to a 2% discount: Deadbolts on your doors, fire extinguishers and updated smoke alarms, Dundov said. The addition of carbon monoxide detectors often don’t come with discounts, but are recommended nonetheless.
For a more sophisticated security system, such as one that alerts a control center of fire or burglary, or a sprinkler system, insurance companies often provide an even bigger discount on insurance premiums.
7. Check appliances
While doing your spring cleaning, take a good look at your appliances. It pays to inspect appliance hoses such as those connected to washing machines, since weaknesses could lead to water damage down the road.
Too often, people discover weak hoses after it’s too late. Homeowners “don’t realize it until something happens and a hose breaks or bursts and they wind up with a lot of water damage in the home,” Gustin said.
Dryers and water heaters also require regular maintenance, he added.