After a tough winter with a lot of time spent indoors, homeowners are ready to get outside and enjoy warmer temperatures. With warmer temperatures comes the ability to tackle all those pesky home maintenance projects that were impossible to do when the mercury dipped below freezing. While the park and athletic fields may beckon, area contractors agree that it’s important to address any home maintenance issues that came up over the long winter season.

Up above

Steve Johnsen, of Forest Park-based Chicago Roof and Gutter, says that it’s always a good idea to address problems when the weather is warm enough. 

“Once you get past Thanksgiving, it can be dangerous to go up on a roof. The shingles become slick. If it’s truly an emergency, we can get up there, but it’s best to wait until it gets warmer.”

He says winter weather often brings to light existing problems in a house. 

“When people defer roofing or gutter work, it might not manifest itself until after the snow and ice hit. The biggest problem on a roof is typically ice damming with the gutters. A lot of times, the downspouts freeze at the very bottom, so no other water can come down. The downspout turns into an icicle which creates an edge of ice on the roof. That shelf of ice creates damming and if you don’t have ice and water shield under your shingles, you can start to see damage to the ceilings around the edges of your house.”

Johnsen notes that current codes in the west suburbs call for up to three feet of ice and water shield under roof shingles, but older roofs may not have the protection in place. He also says Oak Park and River Forest’s old housing stock can present a different gutter challenge.

“In a lot of newer homes, gutter brackets sit flat against the fascia, and you can get them on so tight you can almost stand on them. The older houses might have crown molding-like edges, not flat fascia, so you have to use a hanging brackets with a strap that sneaks under the shingles of the roof. Even if these are tight originally, ice sliding on the roof can loosen them.”

Big ice sliding down can wreak havoc on gutters in the winter, and Johnsen says he already has several repair jobs lined up once the weather turns warmer. He recommends calling for roofing or gutter repairs as soon as it’s warm enough.

“In the spring everyone is so busy, and they wait until fall to call us because they want the work done before winter. You’ll get your best deal in spring and early summer. When the days are longer, we can get a roof done in almost a day, but that same roof may take three days in the fall.” 

Down below

The top of your house might need some attention after a long winter, but so too might the ground beneath your feet. Contractor Bob Lee, of Robert E. Lee and Sons Concrete, Construction and Excavation, says that spring is a busy season for driveway, sidewalk and patio projects.

“In Oak Park and River Forest everyone has a deadline, whether it’s graduation, first communion or housewalk season. They want me to be the first one in so that they can get the landscaping finished and then enjoy the rest of the summer in their yards.”

While winter weather may have people dreaming of outdoor projects, Lee says its best to wait until the timing is right.

“Right now, you probably have 18 inches of frost in the ground. Everything needs to thaw before you can start a lot of projects. The freeze and thaw cycle of tough winters can eventually cause problems in aging concrete. Older patios, sidewalks or driveways might heave on one side or one section, making a tripping hazard. A freeze can lift a slab up and cause it to settle so that it’s not level. Also, salt is not good for concrete and can cause pitting and other issues.”

Lee says that in a perfect world, work on sidewalks and driveways ends at Halloween. “Concrete needs to cure 30 days before it can take a hard freeze without damage.”

He tells customers that April 1 is a good start date for most concrete projects, with the possibility of an earlier start if the weather is cooperating. 

“I have several clients already lined up for the first week of work,” he says. “The good thing about concrete is that once done right, it lasts a long time. We’ve been around long enough that we’re now doing work for our original clients’ kids.”

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