Most people don't realize maintaining outdoor structures -- such as barns, garages, sheds and pool sheds -- is important. Proper maintenance on these structures is crucial to protecting whatever is inside them.
I was on a job where we needed to save hay that was stored in a barn. A leak in the roof wasn't just important, it meant the difference between life and death for animals on the farm.
And let's not forget that a shabby-looking shed can really downgrade your home's curb appeal.
And if you haven't kept up with the maintenance on a shed -- which is usually much easier than maintaining a house -- most people will assume the maintenance on your home hasn't been kept up either. If you're thinking of selling your house, repairing any structures on your property can be a good selling tool.
When it comes to winterizing outdoor structures, it's not all that different from winterizing your home. The main difference is that most outdoor structures aren't insulated, so we don't have to worry about keeping heat in.
But we do need to make sure they keep precipitation out. If precipitation gets in, it can damage whatever is in the shed. You can usually tell if moisture is coming in by looking on the inside of the structure. If it's made of wood look for water damage on the ceiling and in corners; if the roof is metal, check for rust around nails.
You can also do a water test by spraying the roof with water and then checking inside for any water.
When you're checking around the exterior of your structure, look for peeling paint and insect damage. Get rid of any wasp nests. Also check for animals that could have made a den underneath the shed. The burrowing can undermine the soil and cause the structure to tip or slant.
Also check the doors, and replace any that are falling apart. And check the hinges too -- make sure they're tight. You don't want the doors flinging open during a storm. If the shed has windows, check for loose panes and gaps in the window frame.
Any gaps should be sealed with caulking, and rubberized is best because it lasts longer and it's flexible. Just like we check the caulking around our homes every year, we should be doing the same with our sheds. Also seal around the bottom edge of the structure, where the siding meets the concrete pad.
Don't forget to check the roof. If the roof has shingles, they need to be secured. And I would trim any overhanging trees. Too much shade can lead to things like mould, rot and algae. Also, overhanging branches can cause extra precipitation to run off onto the roof, or if they break they can damage the roof.
Most outdoor structures don't have running water, but if they do, the pipes need to be drained before temperatures drop below freezing.
Nowadays you can get hot water tanks made specifically for outdoor structures such as barns. These have a super thick layer of insulation, so the water will not freeze. There are also frost-free hose bibs you can have installed. But most people don't need access to an outdoor water source year-round, so it's not necessary.
If your outdoor structure is made of wood, it needs more maintenance. Cedar is very weather-resistant, so it's usually a top choice when it comes to outdoor structures, as is pressure-treated wood. But no matter what kind of wood your structure is made from, always look for signs of water damage such as mould and rot. If any of the wood has started to rot, it must be replaced. If not, you could be looking at replacing the entire structure.
Replacement reality check
Are sheds and outdoor structures replaceable? To some degree.
If it's something as big as a barn, replacing it will be very expensive, whereas something like a shed can cost a couple thousand dollars, which is a lot for most people. I can think of better ways to spend that money.
Just because something can be replaced doesn't mean we build it to be replaced -- that's wasting materials, time and money. To me, anything worth doing is worth making it right.
-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2013
Catch Mike Holmes in an all-new season of Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.