Do It Yourself Guide to Home Maintenance March
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Do It Yourself Guide to Home Maintenance March

Home maintenance for March to prepare your house for heavy rain and winds this spring.

No that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s time to start thinking about spring. In most places, spring can mean heavy rains and even damaging winds and lightning. This month’s article will focus on preparing your home for wet weather and repairing damage to your home that occurred during winter.

Roofing, Gutters, and Downspouts

Although I have talked about this item in February, I can’t emphasize how important it is to keep water out of your home. With the recent winter storms in the Mid-Atlantic region, heavy snow has ripped gutters off of eaves and fallen branches can alter the pitch of gutters causing them to overflow when the rains come.

Check your downspouts and gutters for any wind related damage. If you have had heavy snow or ice, you should also check that your gutters are not loose. If you have freezing temperatures you may want to make sure that ice has not formed at the bottom of the downspouts blocking the flow of rain water. If this persists, the enter downspout can fill with water during a heavy rain, causing your gutters to overflow. This may damage your eaves and soak attic and wall insulation. Frozen downspouts can also split which will require replacement. You may have to wait until warmer weather before you can attempt any repair, or you may want to hire a qualified roofing contractor to repair them for you.

Damaged Trees and Shrubs

As stated before, ice and snow and strong winds can damage trees and shrubs. Once the snow melts you should try to remove any damaged limbs before it gets too warm. Insects will be out in full force on the first warm day, so the sooner you can cut away any split branches, the better prepared your landscaping will be to fight off any pests.

If you have heavy damage at or near the tops of trees you should ask yourself two questions: Does the condition of the tree warrant repair and can you handle the repair yourself? Heavy damage near the top of a tree can be difficult to correct and usually requires professional assessment. Efforts can be made to maintain a tree’s appearance and value to your property, but if the whole side or top is gone, it's questionable whether it's worth spending the time and money to salvage the tree. This is especially true if it's one with brittle wood that lends itself to similar problems in the future. Certain trees like Bradford Pear can split right down the middle, so even though it will survive, do you really want to look at it?

Broken limbs should be removed if the branch has not split away from the trunk. The broken segment should be removed back to the next major adjacent branch. Do not leave branch stubs since they encourage rot and decay.

Many times a damaged limb may strip healthy bark from the tree. To repair this type of damage, cut any ragged edges of torn bark away from the damaged area. Limit the amount of healthy, tight bark removed; gently pull on the bark to see if it is separated from the sapwood. The repair cut should be made with a sharp knife into healthy bark should leave a wound shaped like an elongated football with the pointed ends of the cut running vertically along the trunk or limb or as near parallel to the initial damage as possible.

Some small to medium-sized trees may have been uprooted in high winds. It is possible to straighten these trees and brace them with guy wires. There needs to be at least one-third of the tree's original root system still in the soil and the remaining exposed roots should be compact and undisturbed for it to have any chance at working. Before straightening the tree, remove some of the soil from the hole beneath the tree so the roots will be placed below the existing grade level. Attach three guy wires to the trunk and anchor the wires 10 to 12 feet away from the tree. Use pieces of garden hose and thread the wire through them to protect the trunk from the wires. Some garden center sell plastic tree tying supplies called “Chain lock” that does not require cushioning. You can also use biodegradable jute strapping which lasts 12 months or Polypropylene tree tie which will last about 3 years. Use wooden stakes inserted into the ground at about a 30 degree angle away from the trunk.

Adjustable tree tie (Use ½-inch ties for tree calipers under 2 inches and 1-inch ties for trees over 2 inches)

Power equipment should never be operated from a ladder or in the tree where firm footing is questionable. Removing hanging limbs should be left to professional tree services.

Inspect you Sump Pump

Again, if you usually experience heavy rain in the spring or you are waiting for the snow to melt. You should inspect your sump pump now to make sure you are ready for any water entering your basement. In places where the ground is frozen, it will typically thaw faster near the foundation due to the heat radiating from the home. This can cause a small gap to form between the ground and the foundation wall and allow water to run straight down to the footing of your basement. If your sump pump is not functioning properly, you will have serious problems.

A good way to see if even thing is working smoothly is to kill two birds with one stone. Attach a hose to your hot water heater’s drain valve and drain off 2 or 3 gallons of water into the sump pit, or until the float activates the pump. Check to make sure that the internal or external float works. External floats can get hung up on the pump or piping, so make sure that it has a clear path up and down. If it hangs up while it is still running you can burn out your pump running it dry in less than an hour.

Inspect the check valve and make sure that it is not leaking while the pump is running and that most of the water stays in the pipe after it shuts off. There will be some water draining back into the pit from the pipe between the check valve and the pump.

Check valves are available any home center or hardware store.

Most check valves are secured by way of hose clamps on either end of the valve. Make sure that these are tight. If the valve passes or is cracked, replace it. Water can spray over 20 feet in any direction if it splits or if one of the clamps gives way. The pump will keep working even time the pit fills with water, so if you aren’t home if this happens, there can be quite a bit of damage.

Products

Trench Drains

If you have problem areas at the bottom of your driveway, near your garage where downspouts drain onto your driveway, or any other paved area or sidewalk, consider installing a trench drain to keep water from flowing over planting and potentially getting into your home.

Dura Slope manufactures a trench drain system consisting of neutral and pre-sloped sections of trench drain. Manufactured from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), this trench drain offers a durable alternative to concrete channel that saves time and reduces the cost of installation.

Features and Benefits

• Interlocking tongue and groove joints for secure alignment and easy installation

• Duraloc integral joint lock to prevent joint movement

• No extra screws or clamps needed at installation

• Lightweight sections for easier handling and lowered freight costs

• Blank grate inserts eliminate need for plywood

• Sloped and Non-sloped sections with bottom outlets offers system versatility

• Various grate options

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