Shed Cleaning and Maintenance Tips for Homeowners
Millions of homeowners own a shed or other outbuilding on their properties. These structures provide a necessary place for storage and space for activities like woodworking or home repairs. Many people buy a shed because it is cheaper than adding onto their homes, since outbuildings are usually not outfitted to the same level.
Maintenance helps to keep a shed in good condition for many years. Regular cleaning and repairs make outbuildings more useful and protect the belongings inside. With the following information, homeowners will know which areas are most likely to need upkeep, and how they can complete certain maintenance tasks effectively.
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Although many homeowners may not look at it very frequently, the roof of a shed or outbuilding is one of the most important parts. Without regular maintenance of the roof, the entire structure is more likely to be compromised, particularly during wet or cold weather. Minor upkeep and repairs on occasion are the best way to protect the investment. People should plan to perform regular maintenance on the roof at least once or twice a year. Otherwise, leaks, missing shingles, or signs of visible damage are indicators that maintenance and possibly repair is needed.
Debris on the top of the roof may not seem like a big concern, because leaves and dirt may fall to the roof at any time of year. However, the accumulation of debris on the roof can damage the top layer and increase the likelihood of mold, rot, pests, and other problems. As a general rule, people should remove debris from the roof several times a year. The best time to do it is shortly after a storm that triggers falling leaves or branches.
Depending on the size and height of the shed, people may be able to access most of the roof from the ground. Homeowners should take care to wear protective gear like eyewear and gloves if they are planning to sweep debris to the ground. Brushing debris while standing on top of the roof may be more effective, but people may also want to hire a professional to do this task, for safety reasons.
Few people enjoy clearing out gutters, but cleaning them is one of the most important aspects of proper roof function. If the gutters fill up with dirt and debris, the water cannot easily run off the roof. It collects inside the gutters, where it can freeze or grow mold. A clogged gutter is also an ideal home for rodents, birds, and other pests. If the gutter freezes full of debris, it can even break off, causing significant damage to the roof.
To clean out the gutters, homeowners should use a ladder and have a second person on hand to ensure that it remains steady. Protective eyewear and gloves will minimize risk of contamination while cleaning. People can gather debris out of the gutter and put it into a bucket for disposal. Once the gutter is generally clear, they can rinse it to confirm that it drains properly away from the structure.
Gaps and Leaks
Gaps and leaks in the roof can be a significant problem, particularly the longer they are allowed to continue. Most types of roofing use shingles that can rot, break, or blow away in the wind, which can leave gaps in the roofing structure. Although the roof is designed to prevent leaks, missing shingles compromise the protection. Without the shingle, the underlayment gets wet and can start to leak. Homeowners will probably notice signs of dripping inside the shed, or when the roof starts to sag.
The best way for homeowners to solve a minor leak in the roof is to inspect it for signs of missing shingles and replace them promptly. If the underlayment is significantly damaged, people may have to replace a portion of the roof. Leaks also come as the result of gaps around the flashings, which are commonly installed around chimneys or skylights. Sealing the flashing with new caulk can eliminate these leaks.
Trees that grow close to the shed or outbuilding can present a threat to the structure, particularly the roof. Trees with branches that grow over the roof are more likely to shed debris directly onto the surface. This raises maintenance needs and increases the likelihood of accumulation that can cause damage over time. If any of the branches break off the tree during a storm with strong winds or heavy snow, the impact to the roof could break parts of it or cause it to collapse.
In this case, the best defense is regular pruning of trees and bushes that may grow next to the shed. Trees do not have to be significantly taller than the shed to have branches that cause damage during a storm. Homeowners should observe the growth of the trees over time, and make plans to remove branches that pose a problem.
The floor of the shed is another component that is vital to the structure’s condition and longevity. Although many homeowners may install a DIY shed on top of bare ground, experts usually recommend installing a concrete pad at the bare minimum. This provides a level surface for the shed, which is easier for people to walk on and decreases the likelihood that the building will shift over time. Proper maintenance for the flooring depends on the material. In some cases, people may want to upgrade the flooring to a material that works better for their needs.
An outbuilding floor that is dirty or piled with debris is a surface that can become a safety hazard. Dirty floors may accumulate grease or other spills, which makes it more difficult for people to clean up. Additionally, floors with garbage or yard debris provide an ideal cover for rodents or insects. Once they burrow in, people may have a very difficult time getting these rodents or insects out.
Almost any shed flooring material can sustain a regular sweeping. People who have a vacuum design for different types of indoor flooring may also want to vacuum it occasionally and use a hose attachment in the corners. Hard, smooth surfaces like concrete or metal usually tolerate mopping as well. However, wood surfaces require spot treatment to handle spills. If people soak wood surfaces in water, then the surfaces will likely rot or warp.
The main difference between shed flooring and interior flooring is that the floor of an outbuilding is more likely to be affected by the climate. For example, cold weather can cause a concrete surface to crack or shift, a problem that is known as frost heave. If people do not take prompt action to seal the cracks or otherwise repair the top, the cracks will get worse, and the entire foundation may separate. Small cracks are relatively simple to fix with caulk made out of epoxy or latex. Significant surface damage that is not very deep may be solved with a self-leveling compound.
Homeowners who have shed flooring made out of timber or plywood may need to take greater care with its upkeep. Sealing timber at least once every two years will help to minimize warping. If certain boards or sheets of plywood have signs of water damage, people may be able to pry up those boards and replace them with new ones. If they start to sag or warp, they will need replacing.
Although people may not consider investing in their shed flooring, upgrades could be an ideal way to improve the use of the outbuilding and extend its lifespan. Upgrading the flooring does not necessarily require removing the original. For example, if someone has a concrete pad as a base for their shed, they could add:
- Epoxy coating
- Diamond plate
- Rubber mats
- Outdoor carpet
These upgrades can make the shed look much better than it did before and also offer practical functions. Epoxy coating makes spills easier to clean. Diamond plate provides a durable, nonslip surface. Rubber mats are comfortable for people to stand on for hours. Carpet provides additional insulation to maintain a more comfortable temperature while people are inside.
The siding for the outbuilding also requires care at least a few times a year. Like the roof, the siding provides protection from wind, rain, and other weather throughout the year. If the siding is in good condition, it will prevent leaks, mold, and pests. Siding lasts about 10 to 25 years, depending on the material and maintenance. Regular cleaning and occasional repainting are two things that homeowners can do to extend the lifespan of the siding and keep its appearance.
Many homeowners do not think about repainting their siding until it is so faded or chipped that they must replace it instead. However, painting the siding is an important part of its ability to protect the inside of the outbuilding. For some materials, such as wood shake, painting the siding increases its wind and water resistance. Paint that is chipped or worn away exposes an absorbent layer beneath. If it does not receive a fresh coat, it may need replacement by the following season.
The way that people can paint the siding depends on the material. Wood needs to be painted once every year or two. Vinyl siding comes in a variety of colors and is generally not meant to be repainted, as the color is generated as part of the manufacturing process. Homeowners can paint vinyl siding if they choose, but they should select a product that is rated for outdoor use. Many fiber cement products will accept painting, but they may not necessarily need it.
The siding for the shed requires regular cleaning to preserve its condition. Homeowners should take care in the approaches that they use, because some can cause damage to the siding. For example, pressure washing is generally not recommended. The force of the water can loosen siding pieces or panels, which allows water and pests to find an easy path inside. People may get a good result with hose washing and then wiping panels that are particularly dirty.
While people clean the siding, they can take this opportunity to examine the panels and see if they need repair or replacement. In many cases, a loose panel only needs to have a screw tightened. At other times, cracked or dented panels will need to be replaced. Homeowners who notice this kind of damage should not wait until the next season. Leaky or loose siding may not seem like much, but it can compromise the entire structure if left alone all winter.
Unfortunately, outbuildings tend to be out of regular sight, and therefore, out of mind for many people. Many of the most common fire hazards for outbuildings are similar to hazards that people must avoid inside the house. By following a set of guidelines, people can lower their risk of fire:
- Keep fuel and ignition separate
- Place fuel containers out of direct sunlight
- Avoid stacking piles of wood, papers, or other inflammable materials
- Use space heaters only under careful supervision, preferably not at all
- Trimming bushes or trees around the outside of the shed
As a general rule, it is fairly safe for homeowners to assume that outbuildings will have pest problems. However, the extent of the concern depends on how long they have been there and the condition of the environment. People can tell that there are pests by looking for obvious signs, such as:
- Insect wings
- Small piles of sawdust
- Torn pieces of paper
- Outdoor gear and clothing that appears chewed
People should know that they will probably not see the pests openly until the infestation is relatively severe. As such, they should do what they can to identify problems before they get out of hand.
The best way for homeowners to avoid pests building a home inside their shed is to take away the things that pests need to survive. Rodents want a soft, warm place with food and water nearby, so keeping the floor and the walls clear of debris and loose materials will make it harder for them to build a home. Insects also look for food and water. If there is a significant infestation, homeowners may find evidence of pests like spiders or birds. Sealing all food and liquids in airtight containers, and ensuring that there is no standing water, will dramatically reduce the chances that pests can build a permanent residence.
Homeowners who have sheds with windows should invest at least a few hours a year to clean and inspect them for signs of damage. For a shed or other outbuilding, window maintenance may be as much a function of protection as it is for visibility or appearance. Windows that are excessively dirty can hide signs of damage, especially around the framing. If the outbuilding was not installed on a flat surface like a concrete pad, settling can create significant gaps around the window frame. Those gaps make it easier for pests and water to get in, and increase the likelihood that the window could break on impact.
Window maintenance and cleaning are not particularly difficult tasks. Homeowners should choose a day with good weather and plan to spray down the windows from the outside. While some windows can handle pressure washing, many types of siding cannot. For layers of dirt, people can scrub with a soft cloth dipped in soapy water, and then rinse it clean. They should inspect the window for slight cracks or gaps around the framing. Sealing the gaps with a small amount of caulk will help to protect the window and keep pests out.
While windows are more likely to need cleaning alone, shed doors require other types of maintenance as well. The door serves as the main point of entry and exit for the outbuilding. so if the door is in poor condition, homeowners may not be able to access their belongings inside. Signs of door problems include:
- The door does not close
- The door is too tight within the frame
- The door handle is difficult to turn or has gaps around it
- The door locks are difficult to turn
- The door frame has obvious gaps around it
- The door is cracked or showing other signs of damage
In many cases, door locks are easy to fix with lubrication applied once or twice a year. A door that is difficult to close or keep closed may have expanded or contracted too much to fit inside the frame. People may also have this problem if the shed has settled on one side or the other, or if one of the hinges is broken. In these instances, people may need to re-hang the door, get a new frame for the door, or replace the door itself.
The condition of the shed’s foundation is another crucial aspect needed to preserve the shed’s lifespan as long as possible. Homeowners can typically choose one of two foundation types, depending on the size of the shed. Many people choose to install concrete blocks or timber directly on the ground, because it costs less and takes less time. Poured concrete foundations with concrete footings underground provide the most durable surface for the shed. Each option requires regular maintenance and inspection once a year to look for any potential problems.
Ideally, the outbuilding’s foundation will serve to keep moisture out. However, this depends on the material and its condition. A foundation made out of pressure-treated wood may not be particularly effective at moisture resistance, especially if it is not sealed every couple of years. Concrete does a better job of keeping water out, but only as long as it remains in its original form. If the area is not graded properly before pouring, or if the foundation sustains damage and cracks, moisture will have no trouble getting in.
The best way to block moisture from entering a shed is to seal the foundation at least once every two years. In areas with heavy moisture or very cold winters, it may be necessary to repair cracks or seal concrete more frequently. Adding a durable epoxy coating to a concrete surface can create a moisture barrier that prevents water passing through from underground.
Installation is the key for homeowners to ensure that the foundation will last for the maximum amount of time. Correct installation for a shed foundation requires a level surface. It is easy for people to think that they can lay down a number of cement blocks for an on-grade foundation with the expectation that the blocks will remain flat over time. However, this is unlikely to be true for more than a year or two.
Cold weather, heavy rain, and movement from above can shift the blocks, turning them into a tripping hazard and creating a place for water to accumulate. Ensuring that the foundation is level before pouring concrete or placing blocks is the best prevention. If homeowners discover that the shed is sinking to one side, then they may be able to bolster the foundation with additional blocks or poured concrete.
While the structure of the outbuilding is the most important part of its maintenance, the perimeter should also be considered by homeowners. As a general rule, people should plan to build a shed in a place in their yard that has at least two feet of clearance on all sides. This distance makes it easier for people to access it for maintenance, cleaning, or repairs. Keeping this area clear is a good way for people to minimize maintenance requirements related to the foundation, siding, and roof.
Unlike other aspects of the property, landscaping has a tendency to grow outside of its original spot. Homeowners should pay attention to the growth of landscaping both above ground and underground. For example, bushes that grow next to the shed may hide signs of rotting siding, damaged foundation, or pest infestation. Trees on the property can grow to hang over the shed, in addition to building an extensive root structure underground, especially those that are decades old.
People should consider the common size of a root structure for any existing trees before selecting a spot for the shed. Additionally, people can plan to trim bushes and hedges twice a year to provide a clear space around the shed. Pruning trees, particularly tall ones with branches that hang over the shed, will minimize debris accumulation and the risk of wind-related damage.
Storage and Stacking
Sheds are meant to be durable structures that can last up to 30 years with good care. However, many people may not know what they have to do to get the maximum lifespan. The structure is meant to sustain most weather conditions without toppling. However, long-term pressure on one or more sides can weaken the structure and cause it to tilt, break down, or collapse.
Homeowners who have a habit of stacking firewood, building materials, or yard debris against the side of the shed should find an alternative. This storage approach provides the ideal home for rodents and insects, particularly since people cannot see what is underneath the pile. It also puts excessive weight on the siding, which can cause it to come loose or compromise the wall. Keeping all sides of the shed clear will provide the best environment for the structure long-term.
A shed is a great way for homeowners to boost their functional space on the property without having to rent a storage unit or spend the money on a home addition. Outbuildings offer a great amount of potential, from a simple storage shed for gardening equipment to a wood shop or art studio with electricity and heating or air conditioning. Maintenance is the best route for people to keep the outbuilding in ideal condition from one year to the next, particularly before winter time. Following these tips help homeowners ensure their sheds will continue to meet their needs for years to come.