July 15, 2016

Home Maintenance Tips: Take care of your home while away on vacation.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 11:01 am

Home maintenance is relatively easy if you stay on top it and do it at regular intervals, but it becomes a bit more difficult to do if you are not anywhere near your home. That’s the situation for many homeowners in July, because they are traveling out of town for family vacations. That calls for unique home maintenance strategies, and these same approaches can be used throughout the year anytime you need to be out of town and cannot be physically present to take care of your property.

An App for That
App developers have been working overtime to raise the IQ of our mobile phones from smart to smarter. There are many examples of apps that are a great solution for homeowners who aren’t always home. To give you an idea of their capability, here is an overview of one of the most popular, named Canary. Rather than categorizing it as an app, it is more accurate to describe Canary as a full-featured home security and monitoring device or system that is also conveniently app-connected. The Canary replaces bulky home security systems with a small, inexpensive device that monitors motion, temperature, sound, and even air quality within your home, and you can view it from your phone.

How it Works
While you’re away you can watch live streams of your home, or recorded HD videos, and you can archive them if you want. Canary monitors such things as movement inside your home when you aren’t there, and if the system identifies something out of the ordinary, you’ll get a notification with recorded HD video of the event, as well as the option to watch it live. It is not a security system, per se, and no home security company or police are going to be notified by the app. That can be a good thing, because you can review your instant alerts on your app and then if it is a false alarm you didn’t trigger a response that is going to cost you money or embarrassment.

But if there is a problem there is the ability built into the app to respond to incidents directly from the Canary app. You can trigger a 90 decibel siren, or be connected directly to your home’s local emergency responders. Canary changes modes as you come and go, too, so you never have to remember a key code or set and reset or disarm anything. If you are home, you set notification preferences. When you are leaving for vacation, you set the system to monitor activity and send notifications.

Old Fashioned Strategies Are Still Relevant
As always, it is a good idea to enlist the help of a friend or neighbor who can be your eyes and ears while you are away. They can notify you of any problems that come up, and they can make sure that routine tasks like trash collection or mail delivery are monitored. That has a twofold purpose. On the one hand it ensures that everything runs smoothly in your absence, and it also gives your home the appearance of being occupied, which is a strong deterrent to thieves. If the person watching your house can turn the lights on at night and off in the morning that helps create the illusion that you are home, and if a vehicle can be parked at your house and then moved from time to time, that is also a good idea.

Don’t Forget the Yard
Homeowners often focus so much on taking care of pets and having someone check on the inside of their home while they are gone that they forget exterior maintenance. Even if you are only gone for several days, if a heat wave arrives it can scorch your gardens, flower beds, and lawn. So make sure that you either set up watering systems on a timer or have someone like a lawn maintenance professional keep an eye on those valuable features of your home.

June 1, 2016

Home Maintenance Tips: Keep cool and conserve energy.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 10:56 am

June is here, and meteorologists everywhere are already citing record high temperatures in many regions. To ensure your home doesn’t leak the cool air you are paying for, that your air conditioning system is in optimum working condition, and that you keep your home cool and comfortable even when the a/c is not on, here are a few timely home maintenance tips.

Use Blinds and Shades
As much as 30% of the heat that warms the rooms of your home is solar heat that comes in through the windows. That means that if you use your blinds and curtains more strategically during the summer, you can reduce the cost of cooling your home dramatically. But you don’t have to live in the dark, either. You can simply shade windows on the side of the house that is getting the most direct sunlight in the morning. Then, when the sun moves away from them, open them and let in the light. If the sun hits the opposite side of your home in the afternoon, then close the window coverings on that side until the sun goes down.

Don’t Set the Thermostat Too Low
Avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. Don’t try to make the a/c work harder just because you feel too warm or the house has gotten hot and stuffy. That won’t help since it will not cool your home any faster and will likely result in the a/c system working harder and cooling your home more than necessary – which lowers the mercury but raises the cost of cooling your home.

Upgrade to LED Bulbs
Many consumers have been reluctant to upgrade from incandescent bulbs to more energy efficient ones, because those old fashioned light bulbs are cheaper to buy. But they aren’t cheaper to use, so upgrading is not just good for the environment but it is also good for your utility bills. Did you know that only about 12% of the electricity used by an incandescent bulb goes into generating light or illumination? That’s true. The other 85-90% only generates heat. That means that every room of the house has heat sources working in the summertime. If you upgrade to compact fluorescent or LED bulbs they cost more to buy but last longer and do not generate that unwanted heat.

Invest in a Better Thermostat
You should set the thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer, because even a few degrees can add up to hundreds of dollars worth of utility bills. But the problem is that most people keep turning the a/c on and off to adjust it, and each time the unit has to power-up again that also uses up extra electricity. The most efficient way to manage your HVAC setting is with a programmable or “smart” thermostat, which can adapt to your lifestyle while also managing the a/c system to ensure optimum functioning at the lowest possible cost.

Take Advantage of Fans
Set ceiling fans to spin counter-clockwise in the summertime, so that airflow will push air downward and keep cooling the warmer air as it rises toward the ceiling. If you use the exhaust fans in your bathroom after a hot bath, and be sure to run them in the kitchen when you’re cooking, that will also cool the house and ultimately save on utility bills – since fans are cheaper to run than air conditioning units.

April 1, 2016

Home Maintenance for April: Spring cleaning can improve your health.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 10:43 am

One of the most longstanding home maintenance traditions, across all cultures, is a deep cleaning when the weather warms up after a cold winter. The first chance to open up your home and rid of accumulated clutter, dust, and grime is a natural response to springtime, and a spring cleaning can have a dramatic visible effect while also being emotionally uplifting. What we often overlook, though, is that spring cleaning is also one of the most important steps you can take to ensure better health and quality of life for you and your family. That’s why it’s a fantastic idea to schedule a spring cleaning weekend this time of year.

Intense Allergens
There are unseen threats to your health dust mites and pet dander than gather on window coverings, carpets, and upholstery while your home is closed-up and you’re hunkered down during the cold months. When spring comes, along with a significant elevation of the pollen count as plants bloom and flower, those allergens can conspire to make you really sick. But if you steam clean your rugs and carpets, vacuum your house especially well, and then wipe down everything – the ceiling fans, walls, floors, blinds, and furnishings – you can get rid of those annoying mites and the sneeze-triggering dander.

Bedrooms and Bathrooms
Believe it or not, we spend about half of our life in bedrooms and bathrooms, and doing a deep-clean of bedding is really important to do at least once a year. Wash everything in hot water with a little added bleach, clean the blankets and put them away for summer storage in plastic containers, and remove anything under the beds and clean beneath them with a vengeance. Then attack the bathrooms, keeping in mind that because they are also rooms with high humidity and moisture, they are virtual laboratories for breeding mold, mildew, and mites.

Empty the shelves and drawers and wipe everything clean with disinfectant, and consider replacing any shower curtains that are getting a little drab. Check for leaky faucets and pipes, which can lead to mold, and clean out the sink drain’s trap because it is probably clogged with hair. If you spot mold growth, scrub it off with detergent and water. Don’t use chlorine bleach to kill it without completely removing it. Why is that important? Most people don’t know that even dead mold can still trigger allergies and cause illness.

The Kitchen and Pantry
Clean the places that usually get neglected in the kitchen, such as behind the oven and fridge where dust and grime can accumulate. While you’re at it, clean the refrigerator coils so that it works more efficiently. If you store recyclables like paper bags that can attract roaches, make sure they are in airtight containers with secure lids. Clean out the pantry and wash it down, and don’t forget to clean and dust on top of your cabinetry as well as the fridge, because those are places where allergens often accumulate but go unnoticed.

Basements, Attics, and Garages
Clutter removal and reorganization is the name of the game in places that are mostly used for storage, but don’t forget to check for moisture, which can be fertile ground for mold and mildew. Look especially closely near sources of water such as plumbing pipes that run across the ceiling and could point to mildew on the ceiling; sinks and the walls behind them; and exterior walls that could be improperly sealed and letting moisture migrate or weep into your home’s interior.

In all of your rooms a coat of paint with a good mildew-resistant primer is a great idea, and can make your home look brighter and newer. If you decide to paint, give yourself plenty of time for caulking, because the effort you put into sealing those little crevices and gaps will make the paint job look more professional and will also make your home more energy efficient. That will pay you back all summer by keeping that costly air conditioning inside instead of letting it leak into the great outdoors.

February 15, 2016

Homeowner Maintenance: New home maintenance gadgets & tools.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 3:38 pm

Residential home improvement spending was in decline for the past few years, partly because of a constricted economy and high levels of unemployment. Now economists predict that in 2016 that trend will be reversed. According to a report just published by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, home improvement activity will nearly double during the first half of the year, and both recent home buyers and owners who have been in their homes for a long time will fuel this change. One of the indicators the researchers noticed was an uptick in spending on home improvement products. So here is an overview of a few of the newer, more innovative home maintenance gadgets that are now on the market, to help you shop for smart tools to make home maintenance easier and more efficient.

The Right Drill for the Job
The pros at the home improvement TV show This Old House suggest that you forget about using an 18-volt cordless drill, and instead go with a lightweight 12-volt model. Not only is it smaller, it lets you work a lot longer before your hand and arm tire out. But you don’t have to sacrifice power because today’s lithium-ion drills are more efficient, and have all the power you need for most home maintenance projects.

• The Ryobi company also has a new cordless screwdriver, dubbed the Quick Turn, which instantly converts from a traditional pistol grip into a horizontally aligned inline screwdriver. That makes it much more flexible for working in tight or odd-shaped spaces.

• If you are frustrated with losing your hand tools while working in dimly light and dark spaces like closets, basements, or under the sink, invest in some of the pliers, screwdrivers, and other basic tools made by Klein – from its Glow in the Dark collection. They have handles that glow in the dark – a simple innovation that can make a pleasantly big difference if you’re working under lightless conditions such as during an electrical power failure this winter.

• Meanwhile Hammerhead has come out with a handheld cordless rechargeable screwdriver with built-in LED work lights, a wire-bending hole and wire stripper, a magnetic bit holder, and a unique safety feature to prevent accidentally shocks or electrocution. The screwdriver has a non-contact voltage detector, that can detect current in live wires from up to an inch away, with both a warning buzzer sound and LED lights.

Smarter and More Secure
• Belkin now offers window and door sensors that monitor whether they are opened or closed, and these can be configured to work with other Belkin products that can shut off your cooling system if windows are open. The company that makes popular Nest electronic thermostats has also come out a product called Ecovent, a thermostat system that individually sets the temperature in every room. Everything can be controlled from your smartphone.

• Where home security is concerned, there is a facial-recognition security camera system now on the market, the Netatmo Welcome. While an old-fashioned deadbolt lock on every door and other proven security measures are still the recommended way to secure and protect your home, this particular product could be very helpful for times when you are traveling or otherwise away from home. The system works via a smartphone app, which also tracks the time that people arrived on your property. If the facial recognition technology does not recognize someone it will give you a “ping” on your phone.

• You can also use the app to view video live-streaming in real time, and the video is recorded to a local SD card – which means you do not have to pay for a monthly subscription service. You could install the system but only activate it at those times, for instance, like when you go on vacation. Then, if unknown persons are lurking around your home you’ll be notified, and you also have the advantage of seeing via video exactly what’s going on at home while you are not there.

Laundry Machines for the Digital Age
For those who are updating their laundry room or building a new home, modern interpretations of the old washer and dryer workhorses are finally here, engineered for the digital age. The LG company, for instance, recently debuted a new mega-capacity top loading washer-dryer pair, which includes a 5.7 cu. ft. capacity washer and a 9.0 cu. ft. capacity dryer. They utilize a new system that enables them to hold more laundry that similar-sized models, too, plus these units are more efficient for reduced washing times.
Some new washer-dryer models also offer wireless technology so you can troubleshoot problems with your machines using a smartphone-connected diagnostic feature. Similarly, you can start your laundry via smartphone when you are away from home or in a different part of the house and also receive notifications by phone when your clothes are ready to be transferred to the dryer.

January 15, 2016

January Homeowner Maintenance Tips for Health and Safety

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 3:21 pm

December turned out to be unseasonably mild in many parts of North America, but experience has taught us that tropical temps in December often give way to frigid conditions as soon as we ring in the New Year. With that in mind, here are some important tips for homeowners to help prepare them to deal with ice and snow to protect their homes, without compromising their own health and safety.

Don’t Overdo It

You may already know – or might be surprised to learn – that the biggest days for heart attacks in the USA are Christmas and New Year’s. It seems that people are in the mood to eat, drink, and be merry on those days – but then they go out and overexert themselves. Homeowners and do-it-yourselfers push tons of snow around, cut and move heavy tree limbs that came down in a holiday blizzard, or get busy removing Christmas ornaments and hauling extra-big amounts of trash to the curb.

If you work like that in the summertime you usually get so hot that you chug plenty of water or at least Gatorade or iced tea. That staves off thirst as well as potentially dangerous dehydration. But in the wintertime that lack of hydration can really sneak up on you. To make it worse, we tend to drink lots of coffee or have some holiday eggnog or a shot of some other liquid warmth to keep us feeling cozy outdoors on a cold day. But those drinks actually rob your body of vital hydration. So the takeaway is this: Don’t work without frequent breaks. Drink a lot of water. It’s okay to take it a little easy – after all, that’s what the holidays are for!

Shoveling Snow

The hardware stores are stocked with lots of wide-bladed metal snow shovels this time of year, but many professionals walk right past those heavy-duty tools and instead buy much lighter shovels made with plastic or polymers. Why? They understand that investing in a metal tool may ensure that it lasts more seasons, because it will wear out slower.

But your body might wear out a whole lot faster. Professionals often advise buying a lightweight snow shovel because it will move snow just as effectively but is easier to maneuver and puts much less strain on your back and arms. So take a tip from the guys who do it for a living, and lighten your load. Those lighter shovels cost less, too, so even if yours has a somewhat shorter life it won’t be that expensive to replace it.

Snow Blower Safety

Of course many homeowners lighten the load considerably by skipping the hand tools and using a motorized snow blower. But what the majority of consumers don’t know is that snow blowers are one of the most potentially dangerous power tools of all. That’s right – they are ranked in the top of the list, with super-hazardous power tools such as chain saws and wood chippers. That’s because if you aren’t careful, very aware, and strict about following manufacturer guidelines you can wind up in a terrible accident.

Yes, it’s gruesome, but we’re talking amputated hands and fingers and even deaths. Nearly 6,000 people will be rushed to emergency rooms across the USA this winter because of injuries related to snow blowers. The biggest mistake? Reaching into the collector or discharge chute while the snow blower is still running. So by all means, always turn the power completely off before trying to free a blockage or anything of that nature. Just as you tell your children, when you go out to play in the snow, play it safe.

October 15, 2015

Homeowner Tips: Perform annual appliance maintenance.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 11:13 am

One of the best, most efficient ways to organize and stay on top of your home maintenance tasks is to create lists of yearly projects, and then assign them to a particular month.

There are two reasons why this works really well. The first is that unless you put yearly maintenance on your calendar, chances are you won’t do these jobs on an annual basis. Instead you’ll do them as you remember them or have time to schedule them. That’s sort of like changing the oil in your car when you get around to it, versus every 3,500 miles. Change it after 2,500 miles and you might be wasting money. Change it after 5,000 miles and the procrastination might add unnecessary wear and tear on the engine.
The other reason is that when you assign tasks to a particular month you don’t have to worry about adding too much to your workload during a particular month and you also have fewer worries that something will break down and need a repair when you least expect it. That’s because doing annual maintenance helps you avoid repairs, while it extends the life of the systems, gadgets, and components of your home.

With that in mind, here are some appliance chores that you should tend to at least once a year. If you have room on your calendar, add them as an annual October project list.

Refrigerators
Fridges run constantly, and to maintain peak efficiency you should perform routine inspections that you can do yourself as the homeowner. Start by running your fingers along the seal or gasket that is on the door of the fridge, the soft rubber part that literally seals in the cold air and keeps it from leaking. If that seal is cracked, loose, torn, separated, or otherwise damaged you’ll want to have it replaced by an appliance specialist.

Regularly vacuum the coils of the fridge, too. These are typically located below or behind the unit, and cleaning them removes lint, dust, and dirt that can compromise their performance.

Washers and Dryers
Washing machines don’t have that many moving parts, but it’s the ones that do not move that often cause the biggest headaches. The water hoses on your clothes washer can cause havoc if they burst. In fact, hoses that break can allow up to 650 gallons of water per hour to flow into your home’s interior. That’s why water damage from washing machines is one of the top five causes of homeowner’s insurance claims, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety. If your machine has rubber hoses, replace those immediately with steel-jacketed ones that are less prone to deterioration. If you have steel-jacketed hoses, check them once a year for corrosion that can cause those types of hoses to fail.
Dryers, on the other hand, can erupt in flames if lint build-up too much in the machine or ductwork. Replace flimsy vinyl plastic ducts with metal ones, and check the vent where the warm air escapes on an outside wall of your home to ensure that it is cleaned-out and not blocked by accumulated lint. Dryers cause about 15,000 fires a year in the USA alone, so this simple maintenance is a vitally important one.

Portable Heaters and Ceiling Fans
In winter ceiling fans should usually run in a clockwise direction to push the warm air back down away from the ceiling so that it continues to circulate down below and warm your room. There should be a button or slider switch on the fan housing, and if your fan is now operating counter-clockwise switching that to the other setting will cause the fan blades to turn clockwise. While you’re at it, clean the blades of accumulated dust to cut down on allergens that can cause respiratory problems.

All space heaters need to away from flammable materials, and those that burn pellets or other fuel must be properly ventilated. Be sure that all of your space heaters are in top working order, and when in doubt have them – and their safe installation, hookup, and venting – checked and verified by a heating professional.

February 15, 2015

Homeowner Maintenance: Dealing with winter ice.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 2:46 pm

Most of North America is in a deep freeze this month, and as weather patterns seem to intensify year after year, this could be an especially treacherous February. Winter in many regions will continue right on through March, and oftentimes major snowstorms will even hit in April.

As a homeowner you want to be vigilant in order to protect yourself and your family from potential injuries, and you also want to ensure that nobody else who visits you could slip and fall and hold you accountable. You also want to protect your home, of course, and ice can do considerable damage that can lead to costly repairs. So here are some helpful homeowner and home maintenance tips for dealing with ice so that you avoid problems and stay safe and healthy.

Should You Salt?
• Salting walkways and driveways can help to melt treacherous ice, but there are also downsides to salting with conventional salt. Salt can drain into the soil, for example, where it can be toxic to your lawn or to plants.

• But there are many excellent deicer products on the market today that don’t use conventional salt. Instead they are made from more environmentally-friendly chemicals. So you may want to shop for those products and keep them on hand for eliminating your icy walkways.

• After the deicer material melts the ice it sometimes freezes again, creating another hazard for slipping and falling. For that reason it is often wise to also use sand along with the deicer. Sand doesn’t melt ice, but it does add traction that can help you avoid slipping and sliding.

Keep an Eye on the Roof
Ice hazards are not just underfoot, though, so be sure to keep an eye on the roof during winter storms. Accumulated snow and ice can be heavy and even lead to sagging or a structural collapse of your roof. If you experience severe, heavy snows, you may need to enlist the help of a contractor to help you remove some of the weighty load from your roof.
A more common problem is that sheets of hard ice will accumulate on the roof, and then when temperatures warm they can be dislodged. If one of those falls on you it can be extremely dangerous. You can minimize the chance of this happening, while also eliminating many of those similarly hazardous large heavy icicles, by ensuring that your roof and gutter system are in proper working condition. When ice melts and is able to drain safely off the roof and away from your home through your gutters, for example, it presents much less of a potential problem.

Take Preventative Measures
• The best way to deal with ice and snow, of course, is to keep your home in tip-top shape so that it will not be at risk for issues that are exacerbated by harsh winter weather and freezing temperature.

• Many trees that are unhealthy cannot support the weight of ice and snow in winter, and the results can be catastrophic. Be sure to also keep a close eye on trees that could fall on you, your home, your automobile, or a vital utility wire.

• Have an arborist visit your home once a year and trim away any branches that are rubbing against the house or any dead or rotting wood that could cause a limb to come crashing down.

• Make sure your roof and gutters are in good repair, and keep your gutters clear of debris that can block them and render them useless for diverting melting ice and snow in winter.

• If you have cracks in your sidewalks those can fill with water than turns to ice and then acts as a wedge to split them even wider. So tend to those when the weather permits, too, so you’ll be better prepared to fend off damage from ice.

Make sure you have enough supplies like drinking water, candles, flashlights, batteries, and food to comfortably and safely handle a winter power outage, too. Sometimes despite your best efforts and ice storm can knock you off the power grid, but if you are ready you can keep your family safe and warm throughout that experience.

February 15, 2014

February Home Maintenance: Avoiding frozen water pipes.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 1:14 pm

February is usually the coldest month of the year, and in the middle of a deep freeze you do not want to have to go outside and conduct home maintenance repairs. You also don’t want to wake up to find that your pipes have frozen and that there is no longer any running water in your home for bathing, cleaning, cooking, or flushing toilets. But plenty of homeowners will have that dreaded experience this month because they neglected to do rather simple and easy do-it-yourself home maintenance to keep those pipes warm and fully functional.

Here are some tips to help you with this kind of project so that your water keeps flowing no matter how low the temperatures go this winter.

Locate and Examine the Pipes
First you want to find and follow your plumbing pipes. Oftentimes they will be diverted along the inside of an exterior wall as they go to rooms like the kitchen, for example. But the closer they are to the outdoors the greater the chance is that they can get cold enough to freeze. That is especially true if they are not insulated and are not within a protected space. Of course the worst situation is when a water pipe is directly exposed to the weather. That can happen to taps outside in the yard which need to be well protected during winter, and it can also occur when pipes enclosed within the building structure are left vulnerable because they are in an unheated area like a basement or crawl space.

Evaluate their Environment
Even in those unheated spaces pipes may be safe as long as they are insulated and are also keep within an enclosed space. But if you have a water pipe in an unheated basement and a broken window in that basement, for instance, that small opening can be enough to plunge the temperature. That is why is it critical that spaces under the house where pipes are laid need to be maintained with no gaps, holes, broken windows, or doors that blow open during a windstorm. Otherwise – especially when wind chill factors magnify the threat of frozen pipes – even a small opening that lets outside air in can be enough to freeze your pipes and potentially cause them to burst.

Make Needed Repairs / Insulation Installations
The key is to get these updates like insulation, repairs to windows in your basement, or gaping holes leading to the crawlspace done ASAP. Wrapping insulation around water pipes can take as little as one afternoon as a do-it-yourself job. Procrastinate until a pipe breaks, though, and you will have a domino effect of terrible things to deal with during the worst, coldest time of year. Your family won’t have running water so you might be reduced to melting snow to flush toilets. You may have a burst pipe inside a wall or in a basement but you may only realize it burst when the temperatures warm back up again and suddenly you have a geyser in your home. If you’re away at work when that happens it could cause extensive flood damage, electrical hazards, and burn up your water pump if you have one. Plus you will still need to repair your plumbing. Don’t risk a disaster that can cause you tens of thousands of dollars in damage and take weeks or months to fix just to save on a few dollars worth of pipe insulation and a little time devoted to upkeep. Do it now, feel proud, and sleep peacefully when the arctic weather comes.

January 15, 2014

Homeowner Tips for the New Year

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 7:24 am

Every January it is the right time to make those annual goals and promises to yourself that will ensure a healthier and happier year. If you’re a homeowner you should also incorporate home maintenance plans and projects into the scheme of things, to ensure that your home not only stays safe and sound but that you also preserve your investment in it and grow your equity as much as possible.

The trouble with New Year’s resolutions, of course, is that most people either don’t make any or they make those that are not practical and achievable. Setting goals that are too lofty and ambitious can undermine the whole strategy and just leave you feeling as if you aren’t capable. We don’t want to start down that path, so the first step is to set realistic and doable goals.

A really great way to accomplish this is to create a home maintenance calendar of events. That way, all throughout the year, you can glance at your calendar to find out what home maintenance tasks have priority that particular month.

Here are some good guidelines that will work well with most people living in regions of typical climate across North America:
1st Quarter
January: Make sure your holiday decorations are taken down and stored away. Check your stock of emergency supplies like candles, flashlights, food and water, and a portable camping stove in case you get stranded by winter storms.

February: Be sure the handrails are sturdy and that you keep the steps and walkways clear of hazardous ice underfoot. Buy more de-icer if necessary before the next storm hits.
March: With winter winding down and high winds coming, it is a good time to police the grounds and look for damaged tree limbs. Set up an appointment with a tree surgeon if necessary to trim away dead or damaged limbs. Start planning your spring garden and lawn projects now, so that you’ll be ready as soon as the weather warms up enough to plant.

2nd Quarter

April: April traditionally brings lots of rain, and if your drainage is inadequate that could contribute to bigger problems. Check the drainage around your home and if puddles are gathering near the foundation have a contractor troubleshoot the problem.

May: Don’t forget to add mulch and compost to your flower beds or vegetable garden to keep the plants fertilized and capture as much moisture as possible, even when there is little rain.
June: June is a good month to schedule an annual termite inspection. Termites and other wood-boring insects can cause catastrophic damage, but if you check for them once a year you will have no worries.

3rd Quarter
July: July is a good month for exterior painting. So if your house needs a touch-up now is one of the best chances for that before the weather changes and makes house painting harder to schedule.
August: Since August is such a hot month – and there are plenty of projects to do outdoors like gardening – be sure to play it safe. Drink plenty of water and don’t work during the hottest time of day. Stay hydrated and healthy.
September: Get ready for leaf season and make sure your rakes and leaf blower are in good shape. If you have a ladder and a friend to “spot” for you so it is safe you can give the gutters a good cleaning.

4th Quarter

October: Soon the snow and ice will come and if the roof is not in good shape it will contribute to all sorts of other home maintenance problems. Check the roof and make sure that it is in good shape with no curled shingles or missing flashing.

November: Make sure that all the plumbing pipes are well insulated and that the basement and attic are not leaking heat or letting cold air inside. Check the caulking around windows and the weather stripping around doors.

December: Be sure your car has a strong, charged battery and an emergency kit inside in case you get stranded on the road during winter. Make sure that any Christmas lights you put up are safe, and that if you have a tree inside you keep it watered so that it does not dry out and become a fire hazard.

Of course if you live in a really southern area or in the far north where the winters are long and colder you can adjust accordingly. The main thing is to start a calendar that works for you, with projects that are not going to take up so much time or cost so much money that you will never get around to them. Keep it simple, do what you can each month, and add you own ideas along the way. By this time next year you’ll have plenty of DIY home maintenance to feel proud about, and that’s something worth celebrating.

October 15, 2013

Home Maintenance Tips: How to plant a healthy tree.

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 11:28 am

There are two times a year that are most conducive for planting a tree, spring and fall. Autumn is here, and that means that this is an ideal time to plant those trees you’ve been meaning to add to your landscape. Investing in trees is a great idea, and can add value to your property in a variety ways.

Shade trees properly situated near your home, for example, can reduce the amount of heat that scorches your house during the summer months – and that can, in turn, reduce your air conditioning bills. Fruit trees can add edible beauty; flowering trees can boost your home’s curb appeal, and any kind of healthy and handsome tree can contribute significantly to your property’s market appeal if you decide to sell.

Before you go out to shop for a tree, however, it is important that you know what steps to avoid when planting. Otherwise your tree investment could get sick or die on you. Sure, you can trust the whole procedure to the delivery people who work at your local garden center. But sometimes they make mistakes, too, especially if they are more adept at lifting heavy trees and digging big holes than they are at understanding the subtleties involved in ensuring the vibrant health and well being of trees.

Here are some important expert tips:
• Even if the tree comes from the nursery already potted, remove enough dirt around the base of the trunk to clear it off down to the “collar” – the section of the tree where the trunk merges into the root ball.

• Don’t plant the root ball too deep. You should ensure that the collar described above has about one inch of clearance above the soil.

• Nurseries used to recommend adding a compost and fertilizer-rich soil around the root ball. But that’s an obsolete concept. Nowadays research shows that it is better to just use good soil with no extra additives, because that will encourage the roots to grow out and down in search of nutrients and minerals.

• When you have the tree planted, you should mulch the area around it in a large, wide circle. Try attempt to pile the mulch deep, though – instead going for a wide and shallow spread.
• Watering can be tricky, and it all depends on variables such as the weather, the humidity, and the kind of soil you have. But a good gauge is to push your finger into the dirt about three inches. The dirt at that depth should be moist but not saturated and wet. Overwatering can harm a tree just as much as not watering enough, too, so pay attention – especially during that first critical month or two.

Be sure to select trees that will flatter the landscape, be low-maintenance, and thrive in your particular region. That’s why consulting the nursery experts really helps. Planting a walnut near flowerbed or a vegetable garden, for example, can poison the flower and veggie plants because walnuts give off toxins to protect their root systems. Similarly, planting a mulberry near your patio or deck can create unwanted mess. If you plant a big tree like an oak, make sure you have tons of space above it – otherwise it might grow into your overhead utility lines.

You definitely do not want the hazard of limbs hanging over your roof or your neighbor’s car and driveway, either. The roots of trees can also cause catastrophic problems if they begin to force themselves up underneath your home’s foundation, too, and they can do considerable damage to walkways, driveways, and other patios. So before you pick out a tree be sure to think years ahead and envision what that tree will look like and what space it will occupy.

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