It's been a long, chilly winter. Now that spring is here, it's time to give your home, car and lawn a checkup to make sure there's no lasting damage — and to prepare for the warmer months ahead.
Here's a roundup of maintenance tips from the experts.
Your home likely took a beating over winter, with all the snow, sleet, wind and frost.
Starting with the exterior, take a look at the roof: Check whether any shingles were lost or damaged and, if so, replace them. You should also check your attic for stains or mold from a leaky roof.
While you're at it, check gutters and downspouts. Loose or leaky gutters can create drainage problems, which can lead to water in your basement or crawl space. Downspouts can also get clogged with debris over the winter.
"Even though you may have cleaned your gutters in the fall, you need to check them after the snow melts, before it starts to get rainy," said Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors. "Animals can build nests in your gutters and leaves can fall really late in the year."
As for downspouts, make sure they are extended away from the house so that the water doesn't drain toward the foundation.
If you have an air-conditioning unit, make sure it's clear of leaves, brush and other vegetation. Mice and other critters have been known to build nests in A/C units. They can chew the wires.
Lesh recommends keeping your air-conditioning unit uncovered, even during the winter. Putting on a cover can be an invitation for mice, chipmunks or other animals to make themselves at home.
Don't forget to check your windows and siding, too. Scrape off any old paint or caulk that's peeling — it can trap moisture and lead to rot — and if you decide to give your home a power wash, do so gently.
Lesh also recommends performing some easy spring maintenance inside your home, particularly in the bathroom. Clean the exhaust fan in the bathroom: Because most people leave their windows closed all winter, the fan likely works overtime and can get especially bogged down with dirt and dust (just make sure the fan is off when you clean it).
And if you haven't already been testing it regularly, check your GFCI receptacle (the outlet in the bathroom with the buttons in the middle), which protects you from electrical shock. If it's not working, replace it.
Your lawn and garden
Do you have visions of a lush, green lawn or a garden overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables?
Be careful not to start too early, or you might spoil your chances.
Here's what Beth Berlin, a horticulture extension educator for the University of Minnesota Extension, wrote about spring lawn care:
Lawn care should not begin until the ground has firmed up and the soil is no longer cold and muddy. Raking too early may cause damage in two ways: the first is by uprooting many healthy grass plants, and the second is causing compaction to the soils simply by walking on it.
Once your yard is ready, remove the mulch and leaves on top of your perennial plants and get rid of the debris in your yard, said Mary Meyer, horticulture professor at the University of Minnesota. She told MPR News last month that homeowners should allow their lawns dry out before raking.
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has compiled a seasonal list of gardening tips. Among other maintenance suggestions for this month:
• Seed bare spots in your lawn.
• Divide flowering perennials.
• Rent a core aerator and go over high-traffic areas to reduce soil compaction.
Like your house, your car probably took some hits over the winter.
Tony Molla, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence's (ASE) vice president for communications, recommends first taking it to a repair shop for an overall inspection, so technicians can look for damage — bent rims, for example — and check the radiator, among other things.
If your vehicle is given a good bill of health, take it to the car wash for an undercarriage wash. That will knock off grime and road salt from the winter.
Check your wiper blades. "Spring is going to be the rainy season in most places, so you want to make sure they're working well and weren't damaged (over the winter)," Molla said.
It's also a good idea to rotate your tires and check the air pressure. Low pressure can lead to tire failure and affects fuel economy.