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Spring home maintenance tips

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(MoneyWatch) Spring has finally sprung, and that means it's time for seasonal home maintenance. Whether it's a fresh coat of paint or a new roof, the experts at Travelers Insurance have tips to help homeowners get their space ready for the warmer months.

Before you call the handyman, do a thorough check of your home both inside and out. "Every dollar you spend on little repairs or fortifications can save four dollars in storm damage," says Jim Gustin, senior property specialist with Travelers' risk control department.

visual survey of your home is the first step to preventing damage from water, wind, and fire. Regular maintenance is necessary in every season to make sure your home is a danger-free zone.

Universal design: Good design that makes homes more livable

Prevent water damage from heavy spring rains. "Make sure the main components of your home -- the roof, foundation, windows, and doors -- are directing pooling water away from your home," Gustin says. Check gutters to ensure they are hanging properly and are free of debris, which could force water to collect on the roof. Position downspouts so they drain at least three feet away from your foundation.

Don't forget to check indoors for signs of existing leaks. Look at the ceilings and rafters for discoloration or water damage, and examine windows for peeling paint and caulk. If the paint or caulk is peeling up, fill the cracks and re-paint to ensure water doesn't find its way in.

If you find any issues with your appliances, call in a professional to fix them
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Make sure your appliances and pipes are in working order. According to Gustin, homeowners have more than rain to worry about. "Water damage from inside the home is one of the most frequent causes" of insurance claims, he says.

Inspect your plumbing to ensure there are no signs of leaks or corrosion. Flexible supply hoses, like those found on washing machines and dishwashers, should be examined annually for cracks or bulges.

Inspect all plumbing for leaks, and check toilet tanks for leaking flappers and fill valves. Gustin warns that these need to be replaced as soon as there's a problem because they waste water and "can fail catastrophically causing serious water damage." He also notes that dryer vents can be a leading cause of fire and reminds homeowners to clean out the exhaust duct. If you've never done this before, it may require professional help.

Inspect your roof for damage. Get on your roof and look for signs of damage. This includes missing or lifted shingles, holes, or wear. If you can't do this safely, call in a professional to check it for you and make any necessary repairs.


Look around your home for potential flying debris. In high winds anything can become airborne, so do a thorough examination of what's outside your house. Remove dead trees or limbs that are precariously close to your home. Are there any plants overhanging utility wires? Call the utility company to trim them. Make sure all deck furniture and grills are secured to keep them from flying into your home in high winds.

Trees growing too close to your home can cause major damage in high winds
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Check your smoke detectors. This should be done twice a year. Gustin suggests changing the batteries when you change the clocks for daylight savings. The folks at Travelers recommend a smoke detector on every floor and near all bedrooms.

Look over all electrical systems. Inspect your fuse or circuit-breaker box for excessive wear or tripped breakers. If you haven't done so already, label each circuit breaker with the location it serves. Check all electrical cords for fraying and replace if necessary.

Home repairs: Do it yourself or hire help?

Be smart: Fire is a risk any time of year, but Gustin notes that grilling can increase the danger during the spring and summer months. Look over your grill to make sure it's in good working order and make sure to pull it far away from the house when it's in use to reduce the risk of fire.

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    Ilyce R. Glink is an award-winning, nationally-syndicated columnist, best-selling book author and founder of Best Money Moves, an employee benefit program that helps reduce financial stress. She also owns ThinkGlink.com, where readers can find real estate and personal finance resources.