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Old House Stewardship: Spring Edition

Spring Break is over. Easter chocolate and jelly beans have been consumed. Taxes are filed. So, what’s next? Here’s my calendar for the upcoming month, full of items that need tending to.


After a long season of fireside planning, life is shifting outdoors again. I’ve already dipped a toe in the garden – hooking up hoses, planting peas and cleaning out the flower and vegetable beds (discovering herbs, greens and carrots that successfully overwintered!) once chances of a hard freeze have passed.


As soon as possible, we need to get up on the roof and check for any damage in the surface and flashing in the valleys and around chimneys or vents. Some of our roofs are coated metal and are ready to be repainted. 


While we’re up there, we’ll check on gutters and clean out any leaves or muck (we did this in the fall, too, since choked-up gutters can cause ice to form and get up into your roof eaves and walls – the dreaded “ice dams”). We’ll also inspect the chimneys for cracks that need to be repointed.


The name of the game in all seasons is to get water away from your house. Every part of the exterior – roof, gutters, downspouts, even siding and porch decking – should be designed to direct water beyond the perimeter of the foundation. (If you see water in your basement, the culprit could well be ineffective drainage.) That includes soil and plantings – your house should sit on a little “hill”, the earth sloping down from the base to ensure proper water shedding, and any vegetation should be well clear of the siding to allow for air circulation. Moisture build-up next to your house will cause mildew and rot.


I’ve noticed a lot of tree limbs down after storms, none of which did any house damage fortunately. So we’ll need to have some pruning done.


One of my favorite spring milestones is getting to open up windows and swapping out the storms for the screens (bug season will be here soon).


And, finally, we’re gearing up for some porch work, including major rehab of one (repairing rotten posts, restoring missing decorative brackets and redesigning steps that were altered many years ago) and some light seasonal repair and repainting on others.


These aren’t sexy transformational makeover projects, just another season in the life of an old house!


For some observations about how deferred maintenance can turn houses into “fixer-uppers”, head over to my CIRCA Old Houses blog post .

KATE WOOD grew up criss-crossing the country in the family’s Volkswagen Bus, visiting house museums, battlefields, Main Streets, and national parks. Today, she is an award-winning preservationist, real estate broker and principal of the full-service historic rehabilitation consulting firm, Worth Preserving. Kate believes in the essential value of old-building stewardship to sustain community character. For her, each property is a cause and each client a fellow advocate. She specializes in matching people with properties, skilled contractors, historic tax credits and other benefits to support top-tier rehabilitation projects. For advice and solutions to help unlock the potential of your old house join My Newsletter.