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Don’t Forget to Check the House When Taking Out the Holiday Lights

Don’t Forget to Check the House When Taking Out the Holiday Lights

The holiday lights and decorations are on — you can see the house from space — and we’re celebrating the season. But what we noticed while hanging those amazing lights is something troubling.

Was that crack last year? Is this a big problem? What about that muddy line on the concrete block foundation? Or is that gutter still full of leaves?

Experts say this time of year is a great time to make repairs that should be on your New Year’s resolution list. And if the house is already decorated, pay attention to that when you clear everything out.

Mark Montgomery works for AFS Foundation and Waterproofing Specialists in Huntsville, Alabama, one of the companies that specialize in this job. He talks this week about what we can see outside and what it means.

Q: I’m pulling decor boxes out of the crawlspace or putting them back. what am i looking at

A: A lot of times you’re going to see bricks here or there in doors or windows that are cracked. Sometimes you can see those cracks at the corner of the house. If you see a crack in the corner, walk around the corner. In most cases you are going to see what we call a “sister crack” on the opposite side.

You can see places where water can stand. You can see things from the downspout that can make a hole in the soil near the yard. One important thing that can settle a house is if there is too much moisture at the base of the house.

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QUESTION: Okay, so I’ve looked into that and I think I’m fine. Now I am dimming the lights by climbing the ladder. what am i looking at

A: Sometimes you will see siding damage. You will notice a sag in your vinyl siding like it is almost being pulled away from the house or has a wave. In most cases, siding is kept fairly level and fairly straight, so if you start to see sags or bubbles, that’s a good sign of a problem.

Q: What else am I checking here?

A: More importantly, you are spending a lot of your time staring at the fascia boards of the house. This trim runs just below the roofline. What you especially want to notice are the corners. Typically, the metal is joined at those corners on the fascia board. This is not a piece. If you notice that the board has separated in the corners, that’s a telltale sign of a solution issue. This means that the trim itself has received some sort of pressure that has caused the caulk to crack, which means the house is settling. It is always better to get ahead of the curve than to wait, as there is no expense that is greater than one that can be avoided.

Q: I have gutters. I usually clean them before Christmas but sometimes I don’t. I guess I just need to do it, don’t I?

Montgomery: You definitely want to clear those gutters so as not to put extra pressure on the fascia board. When gutters are clogged with debris the added weight begins to pull the trim away from the house, which enables water to flow behind the fascia board which encourages rot.

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Q: You recommend that I keep an eye out for insect nests. what am i looking for there?

A: You always want to keep an eye out for wasp nests of any kind. A lot of times they’ll find the area in the soffit, which is the vinyl that runs under the eaves, under the fascia board. Any time there is an infestation in trimming at home, it is always a concern for those specific pests. And usually, some sort of settlement causes these types of holes to open.

Q: I have an older house on a concrete block foundation. Some previous owner drilled a hole in that foundation about the size of a paperback book to run some wiring. I think I’ve sealed it, but how big of a problem is this potentially?

A: This is a big problem. The best way to get a proper answer is to have a professional come in. This depends on whether the foundation wall itself has broken through and caused a hole or a through hole was drilled. If it’s a small hole, you’ll want to fill it with some sort of sealant to prevent any cockroaches from crawling through it.

Q: It’s Christmas and some of us have already spent a lot of money. Is one of these things so, if I see it, I better go ahead and at least get a professional to check it out?

A: We always keep it under the control of the homeowner. Finances around Christmas time can obviously be finicky for all of us. (Companies like AFS) provide financial solutions to take care of that problem area and spread the cost over time. Sometimes we go out of our way to offer a solution, but sometimes a customer needs peace of mind.

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But take a look around and see if you can see stains on the foundation wall itself. We call those mudlines. If you have a water problem in your crawlspace, you are going to see ringing in most situations. You may see a combination of mold which can cause rot and of course cause the smell.

If you open the crawlspace and it makes your breath smell bad, you more than likely have some mold under your house coming from groundwater seeping through that perimeter foundation.

Q: I am fortunate to have a large attic to store Christmas decorations. What am I looking at up there?

A: Inside, just be careful to look in your doorways and in the corners of your rooms, look at your window seals. What you’re looking for are cracks in the drywall. They usually mean you have some compromise going on. If it’s an interior wall, usually it’s going to tell you that some of the wall isn’t being supported correctly.

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