Preparing for Spring

The weather shifts weekly, even daily, it seems. Only a few weeks ago, Mother Nature showcased no less than three seasons all in less than seven days – put together. And yet, despite her erratic behavior and the blasts of wind and rain outside my window as type this, spring is here. It arrived on March 20th.

We are now a little over a month into the spring season. And while it’s perfectly lovely to daydream about warmer days and budding kitchen gardens, it’s a good idea, and an important one at that, to prepare your home for this lovely season and beyond. For whenever it truly feels like it has arrived.

In an effort to bring you the very best advice, Lisa Danbrot and I poured our years of experience into this article. Not only as Realtors but as homeowners who have managed large-scale home renovation and DIY projects. And to bring an additional level of authenticity to it, we interviewed several home service professionals who really know their stuff.

In no particular order, let’s dig in!

The Basics

Ernie Borsellino, owner of All-Pro Home Inspections and former president of the American Society of Home Inspectors Garden State Chapter, shared some simple, yet very important tasks that we should all take some time to complete:

  • Make sure roof gutters are clean and not damaged. Gutters should be cleaned three to four times a year. Think leaves in the fall, and pollen in the spring.
  • Check roof leaders to make sure they were not moved and still terminate away from the foundation.
  • Check outdoor hold faucets to make sure they didn’t freeze and crack during the winter.
  • Change your central air conditioner’s filter. Make sure to check the manufacturer’s recommended replacement schedule. You may also ask your heating and cooling specialist.
  • It’s a good time to check GFCI outlets to make sure they trip – most homeowners never check this!
  • Change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • If you or your landscaper turned off your lawn irrigation system, now is a good time to turn it on and make sure the timers are set appropriately for the season.

Your Home’s Inspection Report

Do you remember that very long report detailing the status of your home and accompanying photography? You received it somewhere in the middle of your home purchase transaction. You may have filed away and haven’t looked at it since.

Pull it out now!

Both Lisa Danbrot and I recommend that our buyer clients keep it handy until each repair has been Here are a few tips:

  • Create a checklist from your inspection report, prioritizing each item as you comb through it.
  • Don’t put pressure on yourself. Tackle each one when your time and budget allow.
  • To help wrap your head around it, put yourself on a schedule. For instance, A, B, and C will be fixed this year, while X, Y, and Z will be dealt with the following year.
  • Perhaps you pick up all the low-hanging fruit in a single year. Just accomplishing that will make you feel good!
  • Just don’t forget about the report. Deferred maintenance can significantly decrease a home’s value.

End of Heating Season Boiler Shutdown

John Cataneo, a master plumber and member of the teaching staff at NYC’s Mechanics Institute as a fellow Steam And Hydronics course instructor laid out end-of-season boiler maintenance for us.

“Perhaps one of the most important home maintenance projects you can take on right now is to shut down your boiler. We could just shut the power switch or lower the heating thermostat, sure, but some of us might prefer to take this a step further.”

“In our part of the world, the boiler shutdown season is long. In fact, it’s much longer than the season we actually use our boilers and a lot can happen in that time. Small leaks, rust spots, discolored areas, little piles of flakey sediment, and many more telltale signs of imminent failure that many of us figure are just part of the scenery is giving us fair warning that some maintenance is needed.”

“Take pictures of all four sides of the boiler before putting it out of your mind for the next eight months. Draw a circle or make an outline of problem areas so that you or a technician can see if the problem has spread during the off-season.”

“Remember that most boilers act like a vacuum that pulls in air from the room around it as natural updraft through the chimney is nearly constant. Activity around the boiler during the warmer months should never include dust-producing tasks like sanding wood or paint or those impurities will most definitely be sucked into the boiler, gather on the internal sections, and wreak havoc once the unit is called upon to fire up again. “

Clean the Nooks & Crannies

Even if you keep a tidy home, chances are you aren’t cleaning the big stuff in the small spaces. Wipe down baseboard moldings, window and door casements, and blinds. Use very damp microfiber clothe. For areas with heavy dirt, add a squirt of plant-based dish soap. Make sure to dry everything with a dry microfibre cloth; this will also remove any residual dust and dirt. You may purchase the microfibre cloth in bulk from Amazon.com.

Clean your light fixtures. Remove glass globes and run them through the dishwasher on the “crystal and china” cycle. You’ll find that the glass dries to a beautiful shine with little water residue. Dust the fixtures themselves and remove the cobwebs!

Wash your windows – both the interiors and exteriors. Dirt build-up can contribute to paint erosion. I find homemade solutions to be the best. This one from Bob Villa closely matches my own, but I use plant-based dish soap. And don’t forget your screens. Vacuum them with a brush extension. For stubborn bits of dirt, gently scrub with a toothbrush and vinegar. For antique windows and storms, hire a professional who can climb a ladder with ease.

Wash your walls. If your stairwells are like ours, they are smeared with greasy little fingerprints. Using a very damp microfibre cloth with a squirt of plant-based dish soap will get most of those smudges off. For scuffs, a magic eraser works best. Just make sure to wipe down the fine white residue they leave behind, particularly on walls with color.

Patch & Paint

After you wash your walls, inspect them for dings and dents that require patching. I really like this Wall Mending Agent by SKRMISDA. Once it is dried, sand lightly, if necessary, and paint. Now would be a great time to update your library of paint colors that you use throughout your home. Some homeowners keep the original paint cans and some record them and file them away.

In addition to painting the walls, if you have painted woodwork, I bet it’s taken some dings. The corners of door casements suffer the most damage. You can restore the woodwork without replacing it by “rebuilding” the missing chunks of wood and filling in the dents. I really like SculpWood. It allows you to recreate the milled details often found in antique woodwork. I admit, it takes some trial and error to get used to sanding and molding it.

When repairing walls and paint in old homes, in particular, those built before 1978, please follow all EPA guidelines for lead paint safety.

Professionally Clean Upholstery, Rugs, and Carpets

You would be shocked at how much dirt gets embedded in your upholstery. OK, maybe you wouldn’t be. We pick up dirt everywhere and transfer it so easily onto our upholstered furniture, rugs, and carpets. The spring is a great time to press reset; hire a professional to clean them well. And if you have little kids or pets that go outside or both, you may want to think about getting it all cleaned professionally cleaned at least twice a year.

Takedown your curtains and bring them to the dry cleaner or if machine washable, toss them in!

HINT: I love my Little Green® Portable Carpet Cleaner from Bissell. It is easy to handle and can steam clean multiple surfaces with ease – including pet and food stains.

Declutter, Declutter, Declutter

NAPO Specialist in Residential Organizing and owner of Irie Design, Frances Greene, knows all about the journey through decluttering that ends in an organized home. It is a task that should be done with regularity and as such, why not make it fun and worthwhile?

Frances tells us, “Spring is about new life and new beginnings, making it the perfect time to open our windows and clear out the clutter that is holding us back from realizing our new selves. Unfortunately, we don’t all have a day, an afternoon, or even an hour to devote to this game-changing process.”

Frances’ No-Fuss Tip for Beginners

So where do we begin? According to Frances, we can start small, so no worries, friends, “Start out with five minutes, and start with your junk drawer. Pull the garbage can over and throw away all the low-hanging fruit.”

“Next, take out anything that doesn’t belong there, and bring those items to their true homes. Pause here and continue each day/night.”

“Start with a 5 minutes timer, and just like exercise, don’t be afraid to increase by a minute or two each day, capping yourself at 15 minutes (unless otherwise inspired). The more you flex the declutter muscle, the stronger it gets! “

In addition to selling items you no longer want on local online swaps, don’t forget that you may also donate your clutter to some very worthwhile organizations o sell your wares and make some money. If you need to get rid of hazardous waste, please read Lis Danbort’s article, “How-To: Hazardous Household Waste Disposal (aka Paint!).”

Look Up at the Giants (A.K. A Trees)

Once the trees are clothed in their beautiful green leaves, look up. If you see dead branches, call a professionally trained arborist to cut them down. Dead tree limbs are quite heavy and can fall with a fierce velocity that can injure a person or damage property. In fact, hiring an arborist to look at the overall health of your trees is a good idea. Good pruning can last a few years.

Clean Your Refrigerator and Defrost Freezer

Why is this important? I have heard this advice off and on for years. Every time you open the freezer door or drawer, the warm air from just outside of it swarms in and creates a little frost. This builds up over time. It takes up valuable space. It traps pieces of frozen food that have fallen out of their storage bags. It will eventually turn to ice that will grow over interior air vents and temperature sensors. Read the manufacturer’s directions for the best practices. If you misplaced it or threw it out, have no fear, most user guides can be found online.

For most freezers, the process is simple:

  • Turn off the freezer. Remove all the food; store in coolers.
  • Ice turns into water, so be armed with plastic tarps and old rags to sop up the water.
  • Once the ice is completely melted, clean the freezer.
  • Turn it back on!

And There You Have It

We hope you got something from this. It certainly isn’t definitive as every home has its own needs. If you have any items on your spring prep checklist, we would love to hear from you. Please drop us a line!

Happy spring everyone!

FOUNDER & LEAD CONTENT STRATEGIST This blog is a creative outlet for the love of home design and art, doable DIY, indulging in good eats, and throwing a good party. While I write many of our articles, I’m not the only voice. Interior designers, architects, tradespersons, makers, and good friends with special talents share what they know. I live in a gorgeous 1895 Victorian, No.139, with my husband Gary McDaniel, our three kids, a cranky old cat, and a golden retriver. While only four other families have called this place home, some of them made really bad choices that altered it’s classic design. And there was a cheap flipper in the mix too. Now, we’re cleaning up their messes. My day (and weekend) job as a REALTOR®-Salesperson for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Maplewood, NJ, gives me a unique opportunity to peek inside homes. Whether a it’s a sparkling or still-in-the-rough kind of diamond – all are dream worthy. In 2018, Lisa Danbrot and I co-founded the annual trade show, Resource Home Show.

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