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INSPECT GROUNDS AND HOME EXTERIOR FOR WINTER DAMAGE

Checking the exterior of a house and grounds after a severe winter such as this past one can often pinpoint damage that needs quick repairs.

Following are some of the most important areas to cover in a post-winter inspection:-Roofs. A quick roof inspection is best conducted from the ground. If necessary, use binoculars for close-ups of the areas around chimneys, vents and other vulnerable points. Look for loose, torn or missing shingles and loose metal flashing at the bases of chimneys. If damage is found, either arrange for repairs by a contractor or mount the roof on a fair, dry day and make the repairs yourself.

Wear sneakers on a roof and always have a helper on the ground. Loose or torn shingle tabs are easily fastened down with dabs of plastic roofing cement, sold in cans and caulking-gun cartridges at home centers and hardware stores. Gaps in flashing also can be sealed with roofing cement.

-Rain gutters. Ice and snow sometimes cause gutters or downspouts to sag or pull loose. Start by cleaning any debris, such as autumn leaves, from the gutters. Re-tighten, replace or add fasteners to realign and secure the gutters and downspouts. An inexpensive rivet gun, with aluminum rivets, is a handy tool for securing loose fittings and downspouts.

-Loose caulk. Check around windows and doors for caulking compound that has pulled away from joints. Tight caulk is important in spring and summer to prevent moisture from getting inside walls. Scrape off loose caulk, remove dust and dirt with a brush, and reseal joints with high-quality caulking compound.

-Loose glazing compound. Older wood windows frequently need new glazing com-pound in the spring. Look for loose or badly cracked compound, carefully scrape it out, and apply fresh compound with a putty knife. If damaged compound resists removal, soften it with a heat gun.

-Peeled paint. Scrape loose paint from exterior woodwork such as doors, window frames and sills, and porch railings. Touching up deteriorated spots, rather than complete repainting, will often suffice until there is time and warmer weather. Before painting bare wood, prime it with an exterior primer.

-Outdoor steps and railings. These should be inspected periodically, especially in spring and fall. Check wood steps for loose joints, popped nails and rot. Concrete steps should be checked for cracks; minor cracks can be repaired with a crack filler. Metal or wood railings should be securely attached, with all bolts, screws or nails well-anchored. It is better to replace severely deteriorated stair parts than repair them.

-Masonry surfaces. Cracks or openings in masonry surfaces such as brick walls and concrete sidewalks should be repaired quickly to prevent additional damage from water entry. Brick joints with cracked or crumbled mortar should be cleaned out with a narrow chisel and repacked with fresh mortar, sold in bags at building-supply outlets.

A variety of concrete-repair products is available, such as bagged mixes, and crack patchers in cans, caulking-gun cartridges and squeeze bottles. For sizable concrete repairs requiring patches or pours more than two inches thick, use concrete mix. For repairs requiring thicknesses from about 1/2 inch to two inches, use sand mix, a bagged mixture of cement and sand. For thin repairs, such as resurfacing a chipped area, use a special cement mix that can be spread to a feather edge without cracking.