All houses need maintenance, but beach houses require extra TLC. Here’s how to do it in Southern California.
Photo by Paul Jonason
Between the sun, the salty air, and the seagull waste, there’s a lot of quarterly, biannual, and annual things you need to do to avoid expensive California beach home repairs down the road. I always err on the side of more maintenance than less. A South Bay beach house is a premium investment, so you’ll want to take excellent care of it. Living at the beach is worth the investment in maintenance.
Replace HVAC Filters.
You’ll need to replace your HVAC filters more often when you live at the beach, since the system is dealing with sand and more fine particles. Do this monthly rather than quarterly, to keep things flowing cleanly.
Stick To a Pressure Washing Schedule.
The ocean breeze that makes coastal living so relaxing can also dust your home’s exterior with a nearly invisible layer of sand. These particles land and stick, thanks to condensation from humid air. Then there’s seagull waste and salt, both of which can break down wood or stucco over time.
You’ll want to pressure wash the exterior of your home every three to six months, to keep it in good shape long-term. This is one of the easiest and most important things to do in terms of home maintenance, and it’s probably something you can do yourself.
With my own home, I simply use a pressure washer and water. If you want to use soap, make sure it’s mild, chemical-free, and non-abrasive—something like liquid dishwashing detergent or Simple Green cleanser.
Pressure Wash Your Windows To Maintain Warranty
Window cladding requires ongoing maintenance since salt will corrode metal and humidity weakens wood. Wood clad windows usually come with 20-year warranties, but the warranty on your windows is void without regular upkeep. Windows should be pressure-washed every three to six months. A good rule of thumb is to pressure-wash your windows when you do your house.
Inspect Wood Frequently
Any exposed wood—decks, railings, wood cladding, wooden garage doors, eaves, etc.—needs to be monitored for rot and touched up with paint every six months to three years, depending on sun exposure. South and west-facing surfaces will get sun-damage faster than north and east-facing surfaces.
I repainted my entire wooden garage door within a year after moving in, because it’s south-facing. Repainting involves stripping old paint, and it’s a big job. But you’re going to end up with worse problems if you’re not doing it.
If you notice warped or rotting wood, replace it immediately.
Check Metal Railings & Surfaces
Powder-coated metal is more expensive, but it’s much more rust resistant. And stainless steel holds up well, so it’s a good choice for exterior metal. Eventually, the mix of salt and sun causes white deposits on all exterior metal. You could be dealing with this as frequently as every three months or as infrequently as every year, depending on the placement and type of metal. When this happens, the metal needs to be repainted. Be sure to sand the old paint off first.
Take Care of Your Stucco
Photo by Lauren Pressey
Peeling paint is your first line of defense against dampness in your building envelope. If you notice peeling or bubbling stucco, it needs to be addressed immediately. Water may be getting in between the stucco and underlying structure, causing the metal web to pull away. This undermines the structure and leads to mold.
At the bottom of your stucco, there’s a weep screen. This is a metal trim with holes that allow condensation to escape. Because stucco is porous, it absorbs moisture. A water-proofing membrane between the plywood and the stucco directs the water to drain out of weep holes. If the holes get clogged or blocked, the stucco may retain moisture, which can cause significant damage.
Check these weep holes annually to make sure they’re clear. The best way to prevent stains and moisture damage is to seal stucco. That option costs around $30,000, but it comes with a decade-long warranty.
Keep Your Exterior Tile Clean
Exterior tile-work needs to be pressure-washed, with a new topcoat of sealer applied, every six months. Sand and other grit will scratch tile and can permanently discolor it.
Inspect For Termites
Termites love high humidity. Every year, you need a professional termite inspection. Once you have termites, they’re difficult and expensive to clear.
Don’t want to deal with an annual inspection? Hearty artisan siding or any sort of cement board costs more upfront, but it’s termite-resistant and will hold up better over time.
Invest In Marine-Grade Exterior Fixtures
Marine-grade fixtures are designed to stand up to the elements. They can take salt, sand, wind, and rain and are less likely to corrode. But marine-grade isn’t magic, so all exterior fixtures need to be meticulously cleaned every three to six months. This means you should wipe them down with a nonabrasive soap and microfiber towels. If your fixture opens, such as a lantern, wipe down the inside as well.
Copper is great for outside fixtures. It naturally patinas, which adds to its charm and makes it easier to maintain.
Don’t Forget Indoor Surfaces
All that sticky, salty air gets inside your house too. You’ll need to wipe down surfaces more often in a California beach home to prevent salt from wearing down finishes.
The California Beach Home Hand-Off
We spend a year and a half building your home. During that time, we take complete ownership of everything—the big stuff and the tiny details. Then you’re move-in ready, and we hand you a packet with a detailed maintenance schedule and information about all the materials, finishes, and appliances that were lovingly and expertly installed in your new beach house. That’s when the house becomes your baby, and it’s up to you to protect your investment.
If you’re not super-handy or experienced, you may want to hire a professional to handle more labor-intensive tasks, such as repainting.
Thanks for reading,