As you take your first few tentative steps out into the yard searching for crocus and early daffodil shoots, now is also a good time to inspect the exterior of the house as well. While the early spring flowers and plants may well be poking out towards the sun, for the most part your home will be free of taller foliage and a relatively unobstructed view is available. You want to be looking for minor wind and ice damage that could, if left uncorrected, result in more serious issues later on. Making a list of things to do early in the season leaves you time to make initial minor or temporary repairs (if warranted) and plan or budget for more expensive jobs later in the season.
Walkways, Steps and Decks:
Front and rear steps can take a beating during winter and the subsequent thaw season. You should look for evidence of frost and salt damage on both concrete walkways and wood decking. Frost/freeze-thaw damage can include widening of small cracks in concrete steps and walkways into something larger. Even worse, breakage and heaving will create uneven walking surfaces and tripping hazards. Damaged concrete can also contribute to settlement of flat surfaces towards the home which will improperly direct spring and rain runoff towards the foundation wall. Minor cracking and corrosion damage can generally be patched or recoated and there are a number of good products available at the local hardware stores for this purpose. More serious cracks and crumbling, collapsing or settling concrete steps and walkway issues should be reviewed by a Concrete Restoration Specialist.
Wooden Decks and steps also feel the ravages of salt, ice and shovelling during the winter months and the finish is often either corroded or worn. Or perhaps, the new sharp-edged shovel you purchased last October has taken a few bites out of the wood itself. This is the time to review the condition of your wooden steps, decks and railings and take note of where damaged finishes are providing an opening for re rot and insect damage to take hold. Broken, rotted and cracked decking and steps should be replaced and refinished. Surface mould and mildew should be scrubbed or washed away early in the season.
Be sure to test ALL handrails and guardrails for sturdiness and check for corrosion of the fasteners. While these items often do add architectural aesthetics to the home, their primary purpose is to prevent falls and sprained ankles or knees They have to be there when you need them…Incidentally, if you find yourself replacing handrails and guardrails, generally accepted standard now calls for balusters such that they are no further apart than 4” and a rail design that cannot be climbed by children. All stairs more than 3 risers high require at least one hand rail. Guardrails are required for decks and balconies higher than 24” above grade.
Contributed by Dan Marcotte - Canadian Residential Inspection Services