For first-time homeowners, it sometimes takes the hands-on experience to realize that outdoor home maintenance is just as important as interior upkeep. Worse still, most tasks aren’t visible to the naked eye — and, as a result, can often be skipped or missed. But after one year in my new home, I can assure you, exterior maintenance is almost always worth the cost and time.
What outdoor home maintenance is essential for first-time homeowners?
Growing up, green space may not have always been a part of your life. I grew up on an acreage, and the amount of land our family had to maintain was, at times, overwhelming. So, when I moved to my own place and began renting, I was purely interested in low maintenance apartments that didn’t require a tonne of work.
After nine years of moving from rental to rental, the decision to buy a home came with another choice: Do we want green space? And if so, how much?
Thankfully, the first question was easy to answer: absolutely, we wanted green space! I missed having an outdoor area to enjoy in our short but sweet Canadian summers. Now that I’ve been living in a detached home with both a front and backyard to manage, I want to share some essential tips for first-time buyers and those considering a move to a house with a yard.
What are the most critical tasks to keep on your annual outdoor home maintenance checklist?
To determine the essential outdoor home maintenance tips that homeowners need to consider, we spoke to Rob Van Veghel, a veteran landscape professional at Dreamscape Landscaping.
Clear out your eavestrough
While it may not seem like a concern given the fact that you can’t see inside your eavestrough with a glance at the home, these essential water collection channels are a preventative measure to control water around the perimeter of your home. Veghel recommends you clean your eavestrough out in the fall after the leaves have fallen, but it doesn’t hurt to take this task on a few times throughout the year – including spring. Debris and dirt can get into your gutters which may cause damming or flooding when the weather starts to warm up.
Bonus tip: During rainfall, make sure that you direct your downspouts away from the home.=
Clean your dryer vent
Although you use your dryer indoors, the exterior vent helps exhaust escape through an outer wall. Often, the vents can become clogged, leading to a decrease in airflow through your dryer (making drying clothes take longer) and moisture problems in the home. It would help if you cleaned your dryer vent four times a year to protect your home and family from a potential fire. Kitchen fires may be the most common type of house fire, but lint-clogged dryers are a close second.
Check the grade around your home
Most of the outdoor home maintenance you need to do to maintain your home is all to prevent potential damage. The grading around the property is no different. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), most leaks or flooding in basements is due to the improper control of surface water from rain or melting snow. Van Veghel says that if your ground level slopes towards the property, you can bring in some dirt to raise the grading or lift the interlock and regrade. “You always want the water to slope away from your foundation,” says Van Veghel.
Trim or prune overgrown plants
Most homeowners are always excited to start their home gardens and get creative with the look of their plants. Maintaining those plants can help ensure your home is safe, and also pleasant-looking. Van Veghel says that although plants like vines may look great, they can also cause a lot of damage in retrospect. Pruning vines or overgrown bushes and tree branches can prevent damage to windows, siding and soffits used to hold a retaining wall. Branches that are close to the roof are mostly a ladder for animals or pests. “Raccoons, squirrels and other animals would love to get into your house,” says Van Veghel. “Don’t let them.”
Fix uneven outdoor walking paths
A common tripping hazard, outdoor pathways or patio stones that aren’t flush with the rest of the ground can end up being an unnecessary risk for people walking, and they also aren’t very easy on the eyes. With our extreme weather in Canada, levelling out your ground might be equally as common as fixing potholes on city roads.
Mulch and weed your garden
One of the best feel-good moments for any homeowner is the chance to grow their own flowers or edibles. Van Veghel recommends that any new homeowner consider mulch, saying not only does it look great, but it also benefits your plants through the reduction of weeds. The more time you spend on your garden at the beginning of the year, the less work you’ll have to do long-term.
Water your lawn regularly
Outdoor home maintenance tips aren’t always complicated. One of the most important ways to maintain your home is by taking care of the yard. If you can, deep watering your grass twice a week will help it stay green and lush. You can use a sprinkler, garden hose, or you can add an underground sprinkler system. Keep in mind that if you do have an underground sprinkler system, you need to blow the water out of the house every fall to prevent frost from breaking your pipes. The best time to water your lawn is between 6:00 AM and 10:00 AM.
How difficult is it to maintain the exterior of your home — really?
Now that we know what type of tasks we should manage as homeowners, it’d be hard not to wonder the cost and length of time you dedicate to these chores. After all, it can be daunting to look at this long of a list. Van Veghel says that for starters, focus on doing a little bit at a time.
“Landscaping is pretty rewarding as you can see results almost instantly.” Van Veghel adds that depending on the size of your property, you can manage outdoor home maintenance in as little as 30 minutes each week, minus the time it takes you to mow the lawn. With suitable materials and supplies to help you start working on your exterior, you can cut back on the amount of manual labour. Van Veghel says you need a lawnmower, trimmer, soft rake, and a good set of pruners to get most maintenance tasks done around the property for summertime.
Should you hire a professional to maintain the exterior of your home?
If looking at this list stresses you out, or you’re ready to take a load off and have the professionals take over, there is always the option to hire a professional.
Before you do that, though, make sure you do your research to find a reasonable quote. Like hiring for any service, you should still shop around and interview potential candidates. You also need to consider your budget. Hiring a professional landscape architect can be costly, with average hourly rates from $60 per hour to nearly $300 per hour.
Regardless of your decision to hire or take on these tasks yourself, the crucial part is that you are doing all you can to prevent damage to your home and create a well-maintained exterior through the warmer months. For me, investing nearly one hour a week is not only peace of mind but also a fun way to spend my days outdoors. In my opinion, outdoor home maintenance is a necessity and is always worth the cost.