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Avoid Irrigation Irritation

Fall is the time to drain and winterize your irrigation system.  sprinkler-pop_up_headBuried irrigation lines can freeze, leaving you with burst pipes  and broken sprinkler heads.  A few simple steps can save you some spring time Irrigation Irritation.

  1. Using the main valve, turn off the water that feeds the system.
  2. Turn off the automatic controller
  3. Remove water from the system by opening the drain valves.
  4. Remove above-ground sprinkler heads, shake any remaining water out and replace them.

Perhaps you don’t have drain valves or are unfamiliar with the system – Hire an irrigation professional to use an air compressor to blow out the system.  The $75-$150 charge is worth making sure the job is done right and not having repairs to make in the spring.

Simple Summer Tasks

Whether you’re cooling off indoors or working on your tan, take the time to perform some simple, routine home maintenance. Rising temperatures and sunny days make summer an ideal season for getting work done around the house. You’ll have a safer home if you catch problems and wear-and-tear before they become hazards.

 Keeping Cool Inside

Energy efficiency is a top priority when electricity bills climb as high as the temperatures outside. Hopefully you’ve had your air conditioning system checked in the spring, as repairmen are often busy in the summer and you may have to sweat it out until your appointment.

Ceiling fans provide an energy-efficient way of circulating cool air. Dust them if needed and balance any wobbly blades by tightening loose screws. For additional energy efficiency, check windows and doors for air leaks and seal with weather stripping or caulk as needed. You’re paying for the cool air, so take steps to be sure it’s not escaping outdoors.

Home Exterior Care and Landscaping

Take advantage of the warm weather and wash the outside of your windows and clean the siding. While it might be tempting to use a pressure washer, a garden hose is best to avoid potentially damaging the exterior of your home. Apply a coat of fresh paint if needed, and repair any damaged vinyl or aluminum siding.

Be aware of termites while you’re outside inspecting your home. Termites can easily go undetected until significant damage has been done. Look for telltale signs like flaking wood or mud buildup and tunneling systems in the exterior wood of your home. Professional pest control inspections are recommended if you have any suspicions of possible infestation.

Well-tended landscaping and a trim and tidy house are as welcoming to guests as the smells of a barbeque. Garden beds look their best when mulched and weeded. Summer annuals can be induced to produce more flowers and bloom longer when you deadhead them. Removing spent flowers also prevents the plant from going to seed. Check garden plants, trees, and shrubs for insect infestations. Unhealthy plants should be removed so that others may thrive.

Lush green grass is of course desirable; however, it is not always realistic or water-efficient. Encourage healthy grass growth with regular mowing, but remember: Keeping grass cut longer in the summer months will prevent roots from drying out as quickly.

Grass and plants should be watered in the morning to allow the water to soak through the soil throughout the day in order to completely nourish their root systems. Check to see if your municipality has water conservation restrictions before watering your lawn or garden.

Trees provide shady ambience and should be well cared for to avoid potential damage to your home. Keep their branches pruned and at a safe distance from your home to avoid storm-related damage. Inspect trees for signs of decay, such as cracks or hollowed limbs, and keep branches clear of your home and power lines. Arborists or tree care professionals can assist with the cutting and removal of large or high limbs.

Also, before planting additional trees and shrubs in your yard, take into consideration the plant’s size when mature and whether or not roots might intrude upon underground pipes or paved surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways.

Garage Upkeep

Hazardous materials such as paint and solvents should be disposed of properly. Don’t store heat-sensitive or combustible materials in the garage, as the temperature will be rising throughout the season. Inspect the floor for grease spots from leaking car fluids, and have your car serviced promptly if you find any.

If you have children, instruct them not to go in the garage unaccompanied. Store your hand tools and power tools behind a lock and key. Fertilizers, weed-killers, and pesticides should be stored out of a child’s reach or behind a locked cabinet. You might also consider organic gardening, which employs nontoxic alternatives to these poisonous chemicals.

Driveways And Walkways

Inspect the pavement for cracks and holes, and remedy them. This goes a long way in preventing accidental slips, trips, and falls. It also works to avoid larger repairs or resurfacing in the future. If you see weeds popping up between cracks in the pavement, resist the urge to pull them up. You’ll remove the upper part of the weed, but the root system will remain intact and new growth will return within a few weeks. For a cost-effective and chemical free solution, boil water in a kettle, carefully carry the kettle outside, and pour the water on any weeds to kill them off for the season.

 

Spring Cleaning

Spring has sprung and while we often think of “Spring Cleaning”, it’s important to consider the Exterior of your home.  After protecting and keeping you warm during the long winter, your house could use a little massage.  Preventative maintenance is crucial to the value of your home.  How do you keep the place in Tip-Top Shape?  Regular checks and simple maintenance can help you avoid expensive headaches in the future.

Outside The House

Roofs And Gutters

Brutal winter temperatures coupled with ice, snow and winds can wreak havoc on your roof.  You may want to call a contractor if you haven’t inspected your roof in several years.  Give it a good once over noting any lifting or curling areas or missing shingles.  Leaks typically occur around an inadequately flashed chimney, skylight, or other opening. They’re easiest to spot in the attic, so look closely in attic at the rafters for water stains. If you find something of concern, contact a professional for evaluation and repair.  Examine the siding under roof eaves for water or discoloration, indications that ice dams might have created leaks along the roof edge.

Next, check to see if the gutters are safely attached and haven’t sprung any leaks. Clear gutters of debris and check them for corrosion, joint separation, and loose fasteners. Flush out downspouts and be sure they are directing water away from teh foundation to prevent potential flooding.

Right The Foundation

Inspect the foundation around your house before the spring rains. Look for cracks or imperfections, and seal them or call a contractor if necessary. Hairline cracks in foundation walls might be the result of concrete curing or minor settling and aren’t automatically cause for alarm. Mark them with tape and check them again in a few months. If they’ve worsened, call a structural engineer. If they’re stable, fill them with an epoxy-injection system.

  • Fill in holes in siding and foundation walls with expandable foam.
  • Check that the ground around the foundation slopes away from the house (about 1 inch per foot).
  • Look for pellet-shaped droppings or shed wings from termites.
  • Clear the area of leaves, in which rodents can nest.

Also look for low areas in the yard near the foundation that might pool water during a heavy rain. Level these yard depressions by filling them with compacted soil. Tend to any other “ponding” areas around the yard, too, because after a hard rain, standing water can develop. These puddles can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Addtional Structures

Next time you have that craving for BBQ – be sure to take a look at the deck.  Look for water stains where the deck ties to the house. Ongoing leakage can lead to wood decay, weakening the deck structure and the house. If you have any doubt about the structure’s integrity – call a pro to check it out!

Rid your deck of moss and mold. Pressure washers are quite effective, while a stiff shop broom and a little elbow grease can go a long way too!

Looking for more spring maintenance tips?  Wondering what maintenance items to focus on?  Be sure to check our website for more Spring Maintenane Tips or download our sprint

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Different regions have different kinds of falls. In some places, it’s cool and rainy, and in others, it’s sunny and dry. Often, fall is a time for gathering in the harvest and preparing for festive holidays indoors. No matter what kind of fall you have, these steps can help during the transition from summer to winter.

Inside the home

Fall is a good time to complete indoor projects.

  • Repair vinyl and wood floors
  • Examine and repair indoor staircases
  • Test the furnace to make sure it works properly
  • Maintain locks, lubricating as necessary
  • Repair and replace caulking in floors and baseboards and around windows and doors
  • Remove and replace crumbling caulk around the bathtub, sink, or toilet, and also make sure there is no moisture under the bathtub or shower stall
  • Test for radon gas
  • Lubricate squeaking doors
  • Evaluate insulation
  • Have ventilation ducts cleaned, inspected, and repaired
  • Check for mice and rats—put out traps in areas pests might sneak into the home
  • Patch and paint holes and cracks in walls and ceilings, watch for indications of water damage
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace batteries if needed
  • Repair indoor woodwork
  • Check the stove exhaust fan and remove dust and grease build-up  
  • Install plastic sheets on windows that require extra wind protection
  • Add weather stripping around doors

Outside the Home

With shorter days and the approach of winter, take some time to check the exterior of your home.

  • Check the roof for summer wear and tear
  • Clean gutters and downspouts
  • Drain the evaporative cooler
  • Inspect and service the heating unit
  • Repair cracks in siding and shingles
  • Repair any damaged masonry
  • Insulate water pipes that are exposed to extreme cold
  • Cover outdoor water faucets
  • Remove screens, clean them, and store away for the winter
  • Seal any concrete walkways
  • Check exterior ventilation flaps, making sure they are intact and functional

In the Garage

During the fall, take time to prepare your garage for the upcoming winter.

  • Protect and cover lawn equipment and garden tools
  • Drain lawnmower of gasoline and oil
  • Check for leaks in the doors and repair
  • Examine and repair the weatherstripping at the bottom of the garage door

In the Yard

The freezing and thawing of the impending winter can cause damage to outdoor furniture and your swimming pool.

  • Cover and protect your patio furniture
  • Drain the pool
  • Trim tree limbs that could break under the weight of snow and ice

In the Garden

With the arrival of fall, you can begin your early garden work and check any grading issues.  Keeping landscaping in check can help prevent leaking and foundation damage. 

  • Trim trees, bushes and other ground cover that may be near the foundation
  • Add a protective layer of mulch to your perennials, shrubs, and trees
  • Clean flower beds of spent summer blossoms and plants
  • Turn the compost
  • Remove the garden hose and place inside for the winter
 

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Fall Maintenance

As the leaves change and the days get shorter, take the time this autumn to prepare for the oncoming cold weather. Ready the furnace for the months of work it will have ahead, and clean out the fireplace. Test them both to ensure they’ll be working when you need the heat. Don’t wait until it’s snowing to clear out your gutters. With upkeep in the fall, you’ll have peace of mind in the winter and more time to hibernate.

Inside The House

Heating System Checkup

Be sure to change the air filter in your furnace and check its efficiency before the cold weather begins. Call in an HVAC contractor to test the heating output and give the system a tune-up. This technician can also check for and correct possibly hazardous carbon monoxide levels generated by your heating system. Stock up on several air filters for the winter, and change them every month. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, purchase one for the system to help lower your energy costs.

After your furnace has been tuned up to its maximum efficiency, take a moment to inspect your heating ducts and vents. Dust them off and clear away anything that may have gotten into them over the summer. Then check your windows for any leaks that may compromise your heating efficiency. If you feel cold air coming in, purchase a plastic sealing kit from the hardware store and place the plastic around the window to keep the heat from escaping. Be sure to check your doors as well, and fix their weather-stripping if needed.

Check The Fireplace & Chimney

Most chimney sweeps recommend an annual sweeping, but depending on how often you use the fireplace, you might be able to wait on a full sweep. But if you will be using the fireplace often, call a chimney sweep for an inspection. For further information, read the Chimney and Woodburning Fireplace Safety guide.

Hopefully you will have your older, seasoned firewood now ready for use after sitting for the spring and summer. It’s recommended to keep the firewood at least 30 feet from the house and covered. Seasoned wood is best for fires, as it burns cleaner and longer.

Review Home Fire Safety

The introduction of the heating season brings new potential for fire hazards, so take a moment to review fire safety in your home. Check and replace fire extinguishers if necessary, and change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Also go over the home fire evacuation plan with your family.

Outside The House

The Gutters

It’s best to inspect and clean the gutters a few times during the fall, especially if there are many leafy trees around your house. If gutters remain clogged, water will spill over them and onto the ground next to the foundation, which may cause damage to the foundation. Gutters and downspouts should be kept clean and should direct water away from the foundation, as well as from walkways and driveways, so that they do not become slippery or icy.

Yard Maintenance

The orange, yellow, and brown colors of the autumn leaves don’t look as nice on the ground as they do on the trees. Rake the leaves into piles and scoop them into yard waste bags. Most areas have ordinances about burning leaves, so check with your local area government first. When sweeping the leaves off your patio, don’t forget to clean, pack up, and store any patio furniture for the winter. Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the section of pipe just inside the house.

In The Garage

It is recommended that you empty out unused fuel from any gas-powered equipment stored in the garage, such as a lawnmower, because sediment can build up and clog the fuel lines. Store gasoline in tanks out of children’s reach and have it ready for use in your snowblower or emergency generator, if need be.

Test Your Emergency Generator

It’s a good idea to have an emergency generator if you live in an area that sees a lot of ice storms, as these are a major cause of blackouts during the winter. So if you have one, haul it out and give it a test run to see if it is in good working order. Make sure you never run the generator in any enclosed space – like your garage – as it will present a carbon monoxide hazard.

 

Information from State Farm Insurance:  Visit www.StateFarm.com  for more details.