Q: What are the major exterior issues homeowners need to address going into winter?
A: Mostly problems stemming from lack of maintenance, such as bad paint, bad caulking and neglect. A good, quality paint should last eight to 10 years. Moisture is the biggest killer of a structure, and any kind of moisture is detrimental. A lot of the newer sidings are composite, not lumber, and are made from chips and fiber with glue. The majority are susceptible to moisture damage, and it's important for them to be sealed well. With a lot of new homes — spec homes especially — builders don't put enough paint on them. After two or three years, the paint goes to heck and wood starts going away, and then they've got problems.
Q: What areas need caulking?
A: Trim joints, window frames and door frames. Anywhere there is an intersection of materials, you will need a caulking line. How long it lasts depends on the quality of materials used. Some are good for 10 years, and some are needed every year, depending on the quality.
Q: What kind of neglect do you commonly see?
A: You start seeing moss growth and vegetation against the structure when it's neglected. Many times when people water their yards, sprinklers hit the house. Siding and paint are not made for continuous exposure to water, and that causes paint to peel or fade and deteriorate. Moss and vegetation retain the moisture. When they are in constant contact with a structure, it promotes insect infestations and all the things that go with that. If you've got moss activity, it's usually on (the) north side of the house where the sun doesn't strike. It can get away from you pretty quickly if you don't stay on top of it. Moss is fungus, and fungus is a precursor of dry rot. Keep plants trimmed away from the house and use mossicide.
Q: What major issues do you see with adjoining yards, retaining walls and embankments?
A: Drainage has to be in place and operate properly. If you don't have proper drainage, water collects at the base of a wall and will eventually permeate and deteriorate it. If there is water collecting at a wall, you need to make provision(s) for the water to go somewhere and not just build up behind the wall. The same applies to gutters and downspouts. If the water is dumped at the base of a foundation, over time you get erosion or settlement, and that affects the foundation.
Q: What can you do if water typically collects in your yard?
A: If water is coming from a hillside or higher level, you can put in a curtain drain, where water flows into (a) ditch to carry it around the house to a natural fall-off. In extreme cases, where you can't drain it away, a mechanical pump is needed to send the collected water away.
Q: How important is it to clean gutters?
A: If the gutters overflow, the water goes onto the fascia boards that support the gutters, causing rot and paint to peel. If the water goes directly down next to the foundation, pretty soon it will be showing up in your crawl space. Very few gutter systems work properly because they don't get maintained and cleaned.
Q: What should people who have fireplaces and chimneys do to prevent problems?
A: Have a chimney sweep come out every year or so to make sure it's drawing properly. In the winter months, when you have freezing temperatures, if you have cracks in the chimney or on the chimney cap, when the water freezes it will crack and pop apart chimney bricks The same thing can happen to a chimney liner. That's why it's important to have a chimney cap.
Q: Is interior moisture a problem?
A: Condensation on windows isn't so much of a problem these days with double-pane windows, but single panes tend to condensate, and the water will lay in the sill. Over time, it will cause rot damage to window sills. Homes with gas heat or a gas water heater are more prone to condensation on the inside of windows because the burning of the gas creates moisture in the atmosphere. People might want to make sure they have proper ventilation so the moisture gets out. If combustion is proper where the fuel and air mixture is right, it will create less moisture.
Q: Do you have other winterization ideas?
A: Caulk the voids around windows. Sometimes cold air comes in through electrical outlet covers, as well. They make insulator pads to go around the plates. If you've got a heat pump, you want to make sure it's not covered with foliage or dust. It doesn't work efficiently if air is restricted.
Reach Mail Tribune business editor Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, Economic Edge, at www.mailtribune.com/economicedge or follow @GregMTBusiness on Twitter.