After the worst winter the country – never mind the capital – has seen for decades the exterior of your home could well be fighting a losing battle against the elements.
The first sunny days of spring always tend to highlight all those areas that need a little bit of TLC after coping with the cold and damp, but the prolonged spell of snow and ice we’ve just experienced may have caused a lot more damage than the mild winters we’d grown used to.
Roofs, chimney stacks, gutters, paths, driveways and exterior woodwork could all have been affected in one way or another – and problems with these crucial areas need sorting as soon as possible. Now could be the time to call in an expert tradesman who can stop a minor crisis turning into a major – and expensive – drama later on.
The roof is your home’s first line of defence and will have taken a pounding this winter. The weight of snow or ice could have caused tiles or slates to slip or even crack, allowing water to penetrate. Other potential trouble spots include flaunching – the mortar securing a chimney pot to the stack – and mortar fillets where roofs abut walls. The mortar deteriorates over time, but freeze-thaw action could accelerate the process, allowing water to soak into brickwork or leaving the chimney in an unstable condition.
Like the proverbial stitch, when caught in time these defects are straightforward to remedy – but given the heights and ladderwork involved, are best left to the experts. And it’s worth bearing in mind that although the winter may have made things worse, problems of this kind may be the first indication that the roof is reaching the end of its useful life – an inspection from a reputable tradesman could be timely.
And don’t forget flat roofs. Even the best only has a lifespan of around 15 years and being under snow for days at a time will have tested even sound felt roofs to the limit. Damp patches can show up a long way from the source of a leak as the water tracks under the felt until it finds a way through, so damage isn’t always easy to find. An expert will know the likely trouble spots – perhaps where a window cleaner props a ladder – and should be able to make a simple patch repair if the felt is still in good condition.
Gutters and downpipes have had a lot of water to deal with over the winter – but it’s the weight of the frozen variety that could have caused damage. Plastic gutters may have cracked or distorted while festooned with icicles or when hit by mini-avalanches sliding off the roof. Gutter supports may have broken, allowing the gutter to sag and joints may have been opened up too.
A good downpour will show up these problems immediately, as water spills from sagging gutters or cascades through failed joints. At best this is a nuisance, at worst it can create damp areas on walls that can be unsightly or even potentially damaging. Replacing guttering is a simple job for a tradesman – and while he’s up there, get him to unblock downpipes and fit a guard to prevent clogging from leaves and debris doing so again.
Exterior woodwork never looks at its best come the spring, and again, the long cold spell will have made cracked or flaking areas worse. Get those bargeboards, soffits, doors, windows and more repainted to keep rot at bay – and to keep your home looking its best. At the same time, make sure that any missing or crumbling putty or sealant around frames is repaired to prevent water penetration.
Most of us will have noticed the poor state of the roads after the winter – freeze-thaw action has wreaked havoc, leaving potholes everywhere. Paths and driveways are subject to the same forces – and may have suffered just as much. Not only are holes and cracks potential trip hazards, but once started, the damage will go on getting worse. Unfortunately you can’t call in the council – but there are plenty of tradesmen who’ll be able to repair a concrete or tarmac area without major expense.