7 Ways to Spend a Little to Save a Fortune This Spring

Congratulations. You and your home survived another winter. If you got through it without frozen pipes, a damaged roof or furnace failure, consider yourself fortunate. Don’t press your luck now that spring has arrived.

Spending a few dollars or hours on low-cost or DIY maintenance this spring can stave off thousands in repairs down the road. Here are seven of the more doable and valuable home maintenance tasks on your to-do list:

Get After Those Gutters

Water will always flow in the path of least resistance. Ideally, it’s through wide open gutters and downspouts. But leaves, sticks and other debris can create dams that block rainwater and force it where it shouldn’t go—into your soffits or cascading down to your foundation (and eventually your basement or crawlspace).

If climbing a ladder to scoop out all that tree debris isn’t safe or possible for you, find someone to do it for you. Or invest $30-$50 for a handy leaf-blower attachment designed for cleaning gutters. They’re a lot cheaper than new gutters, wood-rot repair or water damage.

Improve Your Grades

Ever notice how the ground around your foundation seems to sink a few inches or more every year? That’s the natural settling or erosion of the soil. Maintain a downward slope or water will flow toward instead of away from the house.

If the ground looks flat—or worse, slanted toward your foundation—buy as many bags of inexpensive topsoil as necessary to build up and reverse the slope. This will also help insulate your foundation from peak summer heat and drought that can weaken your foundation. Even 100 bags of topsoil is cheaper than the average foundation repair.

Seal the Deal

If the Grand Canyon can be carved by water, so can your driveway. Whether concrete, blacktop or brick, your driveway, walkways and patio need a little TLC. Once the pollen, samaras and other tree-borne debris stops falling, be sure to fill any cracks in your paved surfaces and apply a sealant.

A professional crack-fill-and-seal job may cost you $300-$400. You can DIY for half that or less. Either way, it’s a lot less than replacing the typical driveway.

Snake it Out

It’s been a long winter for your drains. All those laundry loads, toilet flushes and greasy holiday dishes can build up quite a mess in your sewer pipes. You can’t see it, but there’s no mistaking the consequences. This is one job most people don’t do until it’s too late.

Why not prevent disaster and a hefty plumbing and/or restoration bill with a little proactivity? Find your sewer cleanout cap or floor drain access and run a snake through it. For less than the price of a professional rooter service call, you can buy your own power snake auger and clear the drain yourself. Note: If you have large trees in the yard, it may be a good move to hire a professional rooter. Their snakes have teeth that can clear your drain of damaging tree roots.

Clear the Air

It will be a long summer for your central air-conditioning unit. Some simple spring training and tuning will help it power through the season. There are two parts to this system, and both need attention. Inside, spend $10 and 10 seconds replacing or cleaning the air filter (same thing, same place as your furnace filter). Outside, clean the housing around the fan and condenser (in your yard) of debris and clear any landscaping or vegetation away from it.

If it’s been a couple years or more since your last professional inspection, a check-up or tune-up may be in order. It may cost you $100 or so, but early diagnosis and treatment is cheaper than a new unit.

Respect the Wood

If you have an exposed wood deck, fencing, shutters, fascia, Adirondack chairs or even the kids’ swing-set, now is a good time to protect the wood from the stress of summer. Staining or waterproofing it will add years of life.

Without protection, the combination of moisture and excessive heat will age pine, cedar and redwood lumber, often past the point of no return. At $20 or less per gallon, stains and sealants are attractive compared to replacing the wood.

Sweep the Chimney

Sure, the warmth of a crackling fire may not be a spring and summer activity, but fall and winter are only half a year into the future. When was the last time you thought about the health of your chimney? Probably when you bought the house and had it inspected.

Over time, ashes and soot form a dangerous coating on the walls of your chimney. If it gets thick enough, that cozy fire you light next fall could ignite disaster—a burned out chimney or worse. Hiring a chimney sweep is a small price to pay for a job no homeowner is equipped to do. And it brings peace of mind knowing you have a safe chimney.

Spring has sprung, or it will soon depending on where you live. A few hours or dollars spent preparing for the season ahead will help your home and your wallet survive whatever the rest of the year holds in store.

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