April Showers & Post-Winter Repairs
The old cliché “April Showers Bring May Flowers” may be true for your garden, but, for colder parts of the country, April is also the first post-snow opportunity to inspect the condition of roofing, metal flashings and rain gutters and downspouts. Unless you have experience working on the roof, we suggest you make your inspection with both feet planted firmly on the ground. Using a pair of binoculars, look for cracked, broken or missing shingles. Pay particular attention to metal flashing around chimneys, at valleys and surrounding plumbing vents. Excessive changes in temperature throughout the year can cause caulking to shrivel up and peel away from flashings, thus, resulting in telltale leaks.
You may also find mortar and brick or stone at your chimney to be a little worse for the wear after a long winter. The “freeze and thaw” condition that exists in cold climates can cause mortar, bricks and stone to crack and spaul. This usually calls for selective brick or stone repair or replacement and a little mortar repair or “repointing.” This is a process wherein cracked or loose mortar is removed by using a hammer and chisel. New mortar is applied and tooled to match the existing material that is still in good shape.
Future damage to brick, stone and mortar can be greatly minimized by sealing the entire exterior surface of the chimney with a high quality brick and stone sealer.
Most roofing contractors will be able to make all repairs; roofing, flashing, caulking and/or mortar. If your roof is in great shape, but you suspect that the other elements may need work, consult a sheet metal contractor or a stone mason.
With the exception of a few possible April showers, your rain gutters and downspouts have probably done their job for the season. However, we suggest that you consider cleaning and flushing the gutters and downspouts one final time after the rains have ceased. Doing so will ensure that they are clean – in event of a sudden and unexpected downpour – and it acts as a great opportunity to look for leaks at seams and gaps.
A ladder and garden hose are all you will need to perform this task. Be sure that the ladder is on solid footing and prevent stuff from getting into your eyes by wearing safety goggles. Remove rust with a wire brush and a chemical rust remover. Use a high quality exterior caulk to seal holes, joints and gaps. A fresh coat of paint will finish the job and offer added protection for next season.
Snow shoveling and ice melt can leave your concrete driveway and paths looking as if they were in a war zone. The freeze and thaw condition that we discussed earlier with a brick or stone chimney can also cause spauling or pitting of concrete surfaces.
When it comes to repairing concrete, there is both good news and bad news. The good news is that it is easy and inexpensive. The bad news is that depending upon the size and number of blemishes, the appearance of the concrete won’t look as good as before, but better than an otherwise crater-filled surface.
Begin the repair by removing all loose concrete and other surface grime using a garden hose attached to a power washer. Mix up a batch of vinyl latex concrete patching compound and, using a metal concrete trowel, pack the patching compound into the voids. Remove the excess and use the trowel to level the patch even with the surrounding concrete – such as you would when spackling a hole in wallboard.
After the patch material has had two to three days to dry, seal the entire surface with a high quality concrete sealer. The sealer will prevent water from making its way into the concrete, which leads to spauling. Also, consider using a non-corrosive ice melt to further prevent damage.
If you simply can’t live with the look of the repaired concrete, don’t go pulling out the jack hammer just yet. Consider applying a penetrating pigmented concrete stain. Concrete stain will conceal most repairs and the same protection as a clear concrete sealer. Most concrete stains and sealers can be applied using a paint roller. Remember, less is more. It is better to apply two thin coats than one thick coat to achieve full penetration and prevent pudding. Keep in mind that once you seal or stain concrete, as with a deck, this is a maintenance task that will need to be performed every three to five years.
For more home improvement tips and information search our website at www.onthehouse.com or call our listener hot line 24/7 at 1-800-737-2474.