It's that time of the year. The first cool breezes are waking us up in the morning and promising a change of season. No one says that you have to start cleaning around your house, but doesn't it make sense? Winter will be here soon with its chilling blasts and damaging effects. Better get your home ready! Here are some great suggestions for do it yourself home maintenance projects.
This is an obvious home maintenance project for the fall. An old plastic spatula makes a great tool for cleaning debris from gutters. It doesn't scratch up the gutter, and you can cut it to fit gutter contours with snips. Grime wipes right off the spatula too, making cleanup a breeze. Don't feel like putting in that much elbow grease?
Straighten Your Gutters
Ice coming off your roof can bend the spikes that secure your gutters to the fascia board. One simple way to straighten them without removing them is to use a 2-ft. length of angle iron and a link of heavy metal chain. The angle iron and chain link provide sufficient leverage to straighten the spike and pull the gutter back into alignment.
Clean Your Downspouts
This is an ongoing fall chore that you shouldn't overlook — clean all those wet autumn leaves from gutter spouts before the blockages damage your gutters. Your plumber's snake is a great tool for pulling clumps of wet leaves out of clogged downspouts.
Check Your Smoke Detectors
With furnaces turned on, the windows closed and portable heaters humming along, fall is a great time to make sure your smoke and CO detectors are working. Check batteries and expiration dates. The new sealed smoke detectors are good for 10 years, and CO detectors last about six years. You can order packs of three at Costco for less than a single one costs at your local hardware store.
Water Your Lawn Even in the Fall
Your lawn needs water in autumn, even though the leaves are changing, the growing season is winding down and your grass isn't growing as fast. Fall watering helps your lawn recover from summer stress and gain strength for the winter ahead. Also, if you fertilize in the fall, watering is necessary for the fertilizer to dissolve and soak into the ground where it's needed. So don't put your hoses or sprinklers away until the ground starts to freeze — your fall grass still needs the water.
Fertilize in the Fall
If you want the best lawn in town, fertilize three or four times a year. But if you only want to fertilize once a year, you still can have a great lawn if you fertilize in the fall. Choose a fertilizer that's labeled 4-1-2. (Those numbers refer to the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer.) Better yet, ask an expert at a garden center for advice about the best fertilizer blend for your fall grass type and local soil conditions. Apply the fertilizer about three weeks before the last mowing of the season. Fertilizing in the fall provides energy and nutrients for the grass roots as they multiply in cooler weather before the grass goes dormant. The roots store food for the winter as well, which gives the grass an initial growth spurt when it emerges from dormancy in the spring.
Aerate the Soil
Aerating simply means making holes in the ground by removing plugs of soil. And it's the single most important task you can perform to maintain a healthy lawn. It relieves compaction caused by foot traffic and creates extra pore space in the soil, allowing air, nutrients and water to enter. All of that helps roots to thrive. Aerate your lawn at least once a year, preferably in the fall. Or do it twice or even three times each year if you can. You can rent a lawn aerator at any home and garden equipment rental store. Be sure to get one that actually removes plugs of soil rather than one that just pokes holes in the ground.
Clean Out Your Window Wells and Put a Cover on Them
If you've never had a problem with water in a window well, you may not think to clean it out. One homeowner in Washington DC recently learned a hard lesson. After an average rainfall, not even a heavy downpour, a clogged gutter dumped a lot of water next to his house and into his window well. The leaves in the well matted down under all the rain, preventing drainage, and the water level rose higher and higher until the pressure broke the basement windows. Gallons and gallons of water poured into the basement, ruining everything in sight. The frosting on this cake is that some insurance companies don't provide coverage for that type of flood. So.... keep window wells clean with a cover, available at home centers. Be sure to measure your window wells before you head off to Home Depot. Not all window wells are created equal - as I recently found out.
Clean and Winterize Your Gas Grill
To me one of the best things about having a gas grill is that you can pop out of your house even in the dead of winter, turn the gas on and cook a delicious dinner. However, freezing over your steak in January isn't for everyone. If you're not a winter griller, now's the time to pack away your grill before it's covered with a foot of snow. In addition to giving your grill a thorough cleaning to remove grease and food scraps, take these steps so you are ready to start grilling again next spring.
Shut off the gas at the LP tank, unfasten the burner, slip the gas tubes off the gas lines and lift out the unit. Coat the burners and other metal parts with cooking oil to repel moisture that can build up over the winter and to prevent rust. Then wrap the burner unit in a plastic bag to keep spiders and insects from nesting in the gas tubes during the winter. This is a common problem that can make for balky starts, uneven flames or even a one-alarm fire the next time you light your grill.
If you're storing your grill outside during the winter, just keep the propane tank connected (but shut off) and put a protective cover over the entire grill when you're done cleaning it. If you're storing the grill indoors, don't bring the tank inside, even into the garage or a storage shed. A small gas leak can cause a huge explosion if the tank is stored in an enclosed space. Instead, disconnect the tank and store it outside in an upright position away from dryer and furnace vents and children's play areas. Tape a plastic bag over the grill's gas line opening to prevent insects from nesting.
Change Your Furnace Filter
Changing your filter is one of the easiest things you can do to keep your furnace in good shape. If you haven't changed it in a while, make sure you have a fresh one before your turn your furnace on for the first time. Better yet, go online and find one of those services that sends you a new filter each month. The filter will arrive and you will change the filter like clockwork.
If all this sounds like too much work and suddenly a condo sounds like a better idea, then you should definitely call the Bethesda Condo Queen to start your search. Whether you are looking for a new condo in Bethesda or anywhere in the DC metro area - or a new single family home or townhouse, just give us a call at 240-401-5577 or email us at Lise@lisehowe.com. We are looking forward to talking with you!