Keep It in the Easy Zone: Regular Maintenance Pays Off!

Question: How many times have you said, “I should really get this project done around the house” and then put it off another year? 

We won’t require you to answer (because then we’d have to admit the same thing ourselves…eek!)

The fact is, delaying maintenance just one year could mean the difference between one weekend and $500 in routine stain and caulking maintenance work and a $25,000 take-it-back-to-bare-wood restain job. Phew. No one wants that.

Do your semi-annual maintenance checks and keep the work, and the cost, in the Easy Zone. 

Here’s the low down.



When To Do Them

Spring: Look for winter damage from sitting snow, freezing water, chimney use, etc. and ready the home for hot summer temperatures and UV exposure.

Fall: Look for summer damage from driving rains, high temperatures, and summer bugs and ready the home for cold winter temperatures.

Tools of a Good Maintenance Check

  1. A rough sketch of the walls of the home, labeled North, South, East, West, garage, etc., with space to note maintenance needs on each side.
  2. Blue painter’s tape to mark locations needing attention.
  3. A camera, digital or your phone, to take pictures of areas where you might have questions or want to discuss further with someone. 
  4. This Maintenance Checklist.

Once you know what needs to be maintained, it is easier to put together a plan of attack to get the necessary work done in the least amount of time. It will also help you be prepared with the right tools and products when you go back to do the repairs. Use products made for the specific application. 

What to Look For

Start from the top and work your way down. Below is a list of items to look for and mark.



  • Loose, shifting or cracked shingles, shakes or tiles
  • Loose/raised nails 
  • Loose or warped flashing between chimney and roof
  • Cracks or leaks at roof penetrations (vents, skylights, etc.)
  • Signs of ice dams (more common with cathedral ceilings, tongue & groove ceilings, and poorly insulated attics)
  • Leaky gutters/downspouts 
  • Full or clogged gutters/downspouts 
  • Exposed rafters and water damage 
  • Missing or depleted borate rods (and if so, find out where the water is coming from to cause this)
  • Stain erosion

Contact a professional if you’re not sure of the extent of any damage. Contact us for resources.



  • Cracked mortar or flue pipe
  • Cracks between chimney and the roof 
  • Cracks between chimney and the walls
  • Birds nests and other obstructions (don’t move any wildlife until you’ve contacted local animal control)
  • Efflorescence (white, powdery stains, a sign of moisture infiltration)
  • Plants growing inside or out (sign of moisture infiltration)



  • Insect or other critter infiltration (Bats love to hide in the attic…)
  • Water staining on tongue & groove porch ceilings 
  • Cracks between roof and walls 
  • Fascia and soffit 
  • Damaged stain 
  • Soft wood



  • Cracked caulk or chinking:
    •  Around windows 
    •  Around doors 
    •  Around wall penetrations (fans, exhaust pipes, etc.) 
    •  In checks/cracks 
    •  Between log courses 
  • Cracks in brick, stone, or stucco surfaces
  • Efflorescence
  • New or widening cracks in logs or wood 
    •  ¼" wide or more = needs caulk 
    •  Less than ¼" wide = needs stain 
  • Popped knots
  • Insect infiltration 
  • Early signs of rot: 
    • Water staining 
    • Soft wood 
    • Mold/mildew 
  • Items stacked against the wall that should be moved (wood piles, leaves, furniture, etc.) 
  •  Stain issues:
    •  Erosion 
    •  Discoloration - Some darkening is normal. Fading should be marked.
    • Difference in sheen 
    •  Shedding or beading water — is the surface still repelling water?
    • Peeling or flaking 
  • Sprinklers, make sure they’re not hitting the walls. 
  • Spigots, are connections between hose and spigot tight so they’re not spraying the walls?
  • Damage from splash back near:
    • Leaky gutters and downspouts
    • Ground to wall


Windows & Sills

  • Sills, is proper drainage still in place?
  • Missing or damaged weather stripping
  • Flashing intact above windows, doors, wall projections, intersections
  • Borate rods: 
    • Do you need to install new ones, check to see if any existing ones need replacing



  • Cracks between foundation and walls 
  • Efflorescence 
  • Cracks in foundation (including in stone/brick fascia) 

Contact a professional foundation specialist if you’re not sure of the extent of any damage. Contact us for resources.



    • Stain erosion, peeling or discoloration 
    • Mold/mildew 
    • New checks 
    • Are spindle weep holes open and still draining water? 
    • Safety check, are all spindles tight?


  • Loose deck planks
  • Exposed or popped nail heads
  • Proper drainage from deck to ground – is it in place? 
  • Stain issues:
    • Peeling or erosion
    • Cracked or flaking wood
    • Discoloration 
    • Mold/mildew 


Patio & On the Ground

  • Proper drainage from ground away from the home 
  • Cracked concrete in patio, driveway, side walk, garage floor, etc.
  • Pot holes and spalling concrete
  • Landscaping: 
    • Are bushes or plants at least 18” away from wood walls?
    • Tree canopy: Is it cut back and/or monitored to control pollen, insects, moisture dripping, etc.?

One or two weekends a year should do the trick if you’re doing routine maintenance. Schedule it ahead of time and be sure to stock up on your favorite snacks to keep you motivated. 

When done, kick back and enjoy your (not-so-hard) work.


Download the printer-friendly version of this checklist here.