Begin Home Maintenance and Repair Now

In winter, a quiet calm settles over the Outer Banks and the rhythm of life shifts to a slower pace. Shorter days and colder temperatures may tempt you to snuggle down for a long winter’s nap. But wait! There’s work to be done! The winter months are a great time for year-round and vacation rental property owners to tackle home maintenance and repairs. If you do, you’ll find yourself way ahead of the game come spring.

Not convinced enough to shed your fleece blanket and fuzzy slippers? Consider the following: 

• When contractors are swamped with work during the busy spring season, it could mean higher rates and longer response times. Spring should be a time to enjoy the beautiful weather, to enjoy your kids’ soccer game, do some gardening and relax knowing your home is in tip-top shape.  

• Since you’ll be providing work for your contractor when his workload is light, you are likely to get excellent service and a faster turnaround. 

• For vacation property owners, your rental property is likely to be vacant, which will allow better access for making repairs and performing maintenance. 

• If problems arise while making repairs, you won’t be pressed for time and can take the necessary measures to have the work completed. 

• You can get a head start on meeting with contractors to discuss and schedule spring projects. You’ll be at the top of their list when the weather breaks, when the first purple crocus blooms appear. 

• You save time and money. Local businesses get much needed work. It’s a win-win!  

Note: If you have vacation rental property and utilize a property management company, review your contract to determine what items are covered in their preventative maintenance and repair policy.  

So, what are you waiting for? Pause that Netflix binge-fest. Grab a clipboard, take a walk around your house, inside and out, noting all areas requiring attention. Recruit family members or friends for jobs that require assistance. Work safely and smartly.

Indoor Maintenance & Repair Checklist:

Refrigerator: 
Vacuum the vents and coils. Check the drain pan for excess water. If you feel uncomfortable doing this yourself, contact a service technician. 

Exhaust fans:
In the kitchen and bath. Make sure power is off before cleaning. Vacuum excessive dust and wipe the cover and fan clean with damp cloth.   

Hot water heater:
These typically have a life span of 10 – 15 years. Observe for rust, visible water or moisture. Listen for rumbling, loud cracks and pops. Determine if water is warm but not hot. If in doubt, contact a service professional. 

Clothes dryer vent:
Disconnect the vent pipe and vacuum lint out of the pipe and the vent outlet. Wipe lint off the exterior dryer vent to enable the flap to easily open and close. Bear in mind that vents clogged with dryer lint are a leading cause of house fires.

Drains:
Pour one cup of baking soda in and around each sink drain, then follow with a half cup of white vinegar. After about 30 minutes, follow up with a cup or two of boiling water.  

Sinks and tubs:
Check kitchen and bath grout and caulking. Discoloration could be hiding damage. When the waterproof seal is broken, structural damage and harmful molds can find a home. 

Drain hoses:
Inspect your clothes washer, dishwasher, and icemaker. If there are cracks or drips, replace the hose. You don’t want to come home to a flood! 

Add Insulation:
Venturing into the attic is best done when temperatures are cooler. Are the ceiling joists visible? If so, you need more insulation. Check with your home improvement store for the correct insulation for your particular situation. Sufficient insulation also keeps cool air from escaping in the summer. 

Smoke detectors:
The National Fire Department Association states smoke detectors should be replaced 10 years from the date of manufacture (can be found on the side). Test monthly and replace batteries when they begin to chirp, signaling they are running low. 

Fire extinguishers:
Ensure it is easily accessible. Check gauge for adequate pressure.  

Windows:
Seal cracks and gaps in windows and doors with caulk or weather stripping. If possible, swap old, drafty windows for more energy-efficient models. Clean windows and screens, storing screens until warmer weather arrives.

Interior Painting:
Painting in the winter offers visual stimulation. A new coat of paint can dramatically lift you from the winter doldrums. Crack open the windows to let in some crisp, clean air or use low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint to avoid breathing toxic fumes. Choose a totally unexpected shade for a feature wall. Paint is an inexpensive way to transform a room. 

Carpet/Flooring:
Much like indoor painting, cool weather is the best time to change your carpet or rip it up and install new flooring throughout.  Refinishing your floors or replacing old carpet can be the perfect winter projects. Be sure to do some research on the exciting new flooring products that are also waterproof.  

Replace furniture:
This especially applies to rental property. Check sofas, chairs, dining tables, beds, dressers, mattresses, etc., for signs of wear and tear and replace or repair if necessary. Consider going with a more updated style, always keeping in mind the comfort of your guests. If you have enjoyed a successful rental history, your furniture has likely endured quite a bit of use.  

De-clutter: 
This is an ongoing battle. Winter is a great time to work on getting organized. Devote time each day to de-cluttering in general and organizing what you decide to keep. This applies to vacation property owners as well. A clutter-free environment is especially appealing to vacation guests.  

Redecorate:
Travelers choose their vacation homes based almost entirely on photos they view in real estate catalogs. This is a good time to get your property ready for its close-up. Spruce up your home inexpensively with colorful pillows, a uniquely textured throw, or a vibrant area rug. Rotate existing art and add unusual items of interest. Keep the décor current and inject a little whimsy here and there.  

Update light fixtures – installing lighting next to beds is a thoughtful touch. Replace shower curtains, towels, and bed linens. Catch items at reduced prices during “white sales.” Don’t forget to enhance outdoor spaces, too. A comfortable and well-maintained home will make guests feel welcome. And your repeat renters will be delighted to see all the improvements you’ve made. 

Don’t Forget Outdoor Items: 

Roof: 
Inspect for missing, loose, or damaged shingles and leaks. Check the flashing around chimney and examine pipe collars around plumbing vents. Inspect skylights for leaks. Address a leaky roof as soon as possible. Water damage and chronic moisture ultimately cause rot and mold. Contact a roofing contractor if needed. 

Gutters:
Where gutters and downspouts don’t properly capture and carry away rainwater runoff, water damage can occur. Clear leaves, dirt, and pine needles from gutters and examine downspouts for damage or loose pieces. If you can work safely and comfortably from a ladder and your gutters aren’t too high, you can do the job yourself. Wear heavy work gloves to scoop out loose debris, and then blast gutters and downspouts with a high-pressure nozzle on a hose. If downspouts are too clogged to flush with the hose, use a plumber’s snake to clear them. If the job’s too much for you, hire someone. Make any necessary repairs to ensure your home is ready to handle spring showers.  

Siding and trim:
Repair or replace cracked siding. If areas of trim work need painting, let the weather dictate whether to paint or not. On the Outer Banks, it’s not unheard of to have unseasonably warm temperatures in winter, causing us to revert to our summer uniform of shorts, T-shirt, and flip flops. Ideally, for exterior painting, the outside temperature should be 50 degrees or above. If the forecast indicates a few days of warm weather, you could very well wrap up your paint job and check it off your list.  

Crawl space:
Check for standing water, compromised joists, mold, evidence of insects or other critters. Beware! There will be spiders. 

Air onditioner:
During a heat spell, a HVAC contractor may be as hard to find as a parking space at Jennette’s Pier. People get cranky when they’re overheated. You do not want that on your conscience. Help them keep their cool. Have an HVAC contractor service your system, replace filters, and check Freon levels. Additionally, installing window treatments such as curtains, shades, or blinds will diminish summer heat seeping through the windows. 

Have garden power tools serviced:
Take your lawnmower, trimmer, and other tools to get blades sharpened and fluids checked.  

Landscaping:
Winter is generally not thought of as the time to get down and dirty in the yard, but there’s no reason you can’t go ahead and prune some dormant trees and shrubs. It’s easier to see which branches need to be removed and it makes them less susceptible to diseases and insects. Caution: Know your shrubs – you don’t want to trim away next season’s blooms.

As with other types of contractors and services, landscaping and lawn services are likely to be busy once summer arrives. If you have a big improvement project, use this time to meet with them, draw up a plan, and get on their schedule.  

Begin outdoor projects:
You may intend to take on outdoor improvements such as building a fence, adding an outdoor shower, enclosing a screened porch, adding a deck or a fire pit. There’s no reason you can’t get some of the groundwork started. Thinking of installing an in-ground pool? Now is the time to meet with a contractor to share your plans. Your vacation guests will love it! 

Begin major improvements: 
Starting a major home improvement project such as a remodel or room addition in the winter gives you breathing room. When doing major improvements, you will need lead-time because planning, design and permitting can take months. Bathrooms make great winter remodel projects. Replacing a faucet, re-grouting tile, and painting are all relatively easy for the do-it-yourselfer. But if you get more ambitious, i.e., replacing the tile floor or installing a new toilet, call in professional help. 

Routine maintenance and repairs are important to keep your home functioning and looking its best. Continue performing check-ups on the exterior, appliances, heating/cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems throughout the year. It’s also wise to keep records of maintenance and to file away receipts for tax-deductible expenses. 

The work is done and you have earned that winter nap! With visions of sunny beach days dancing in your head, you’ll rest easy knowing that all is well with your castle by the sea. ♦

Kimberly Armstrong

Kimberly Armstrong’s artistic talents are limited to drawing conclusions. However, she can perform a rollicking rendition of “The Skater’s Waltz” on the piano.

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