Jon Eakes

Weekly Maintenance for your Home

November – Week 46

Just like preventative maintenance on your car, if you take care of a few small items around the house every week, you can avoid many emergency breakdowns and expensive repairs.

The HOUSE STRUCTURE itself is something we rarely look at, unless something is drastically wrong. Once a year, just before the winter snow load, I like to focus my attention on signs of possible structural problems. For this I usually start in the basement and work my way up through the house and outside. It only takes 15 minutes to assure yourself that nothing has changed for the worse.

IN THE BASEMENT you start by looking for any cracking or shifting in the concrete floor and walls. A small crack is not really a problem if it happened once and has not moved since. If you have visible cracks, draw a line across the crack and put marks on the line on each side of the crack, exactly two inches apart. When you inspect the cracks six months later, you will be able to tell if the crack has moved or if it is stable. If it is moving, you may need to call in a specialist to evaluate the problem. If it is not moving, you can simply seal the crack. Check the SEARCH tab above "Concrete - Cracks" for more details.

While in the basement you should look for signs of the floor above sagging. If you have a finished basement, look for cracks in the drywall toward the centre of the room. If you have an exposed ceiling, look for loose cross bracing or even cracked floor joists.

IN THE HOUSE above you can check out that same floor by walking heavily on the floor and seeing if it has developed any "spring". Floor spring will also cause floor tile grout, if not the tiles themselves to crack. If this is a problem you will usually have to work in the basement below to fix it. For details check the SEARCH tab above for "Floors - Structure".

Look for cracks in drywall and plaster, both in the walls and the ceilings. House movement often shows up here and a professional can often identify the cause, and recommend solutions. Some cracks happen once, such as when a big truck drove by or you had a small earthquake, and do not represent a continuing problem. You are looking for cracks that continually re-appear, or continue to get worse as they are the ones that are signals of a structural problem. Often the same crack will show up on the outside of the house, like a confirmation of the seriousness of the problem.

STEP OUTSIDE THE HOUSE and take a good look all around and from the roof to the ground. On the roof you are looking for anything out of flat. That can mean bumps rising up, but usually an area of the roof that is sagging down. This is often a sign of condensation and wood rot in the attic and should be looked at carefully, maybe by a professional carpenter, before you burden the roof with a winter's load of snow. For more details check the SEARCH tab above for "Roof - Structure".

INSPECT THE SIDING as it can tell you about house movement that you may not see elsewhere. Brick and stucco siding will show diagonal cracks if one corner of the house is sinking or lifting. Although other sidings tend to hide house movement, if you study caulking joints you can learn a lot. If the caulking is simply shrinking and pulling away from itself or from the wall, that is not a structural problem. But if the caulking is cracking because one side is sliding up or down, that likely indicates a structural shift that should be checked out with a professional.