Ensuring that a home is show-ready at all times can be a daunting task. However, keeping the lawn and landscape in tip-top shape can be even more challenging. A home that is appealing, both inside and out, will be more likely to sell, and at a higher price. While homeowners are ultimately responsible for keeping up on their landscaping to-do list when a home is on the market, there are several tasks that can be performed to make sure a lawn makes a smooth transition between a cold winter and a green spring.
During the warming months of early spring, the lawn is just beginning to produce new growth. As the sun warms the cold soil, it’s important to remember that plants are in dire need of nutrients to assist this new growth. As soon as the snow has cleared and the lawn has begun to thaw, apply fertilizer.
This will help to eliminate the brown or yellow spots produced by the freeze or thaw cycle, or any dead spots caused prior to the winter freeze. Fertilizer will also help to reduce the amount of weeds and crabgrass that appear with the new growth.
2) Apply weed killer
This is the perfect time to apply any weed killers. Pre-emergents block weeds and help prevent crabgrass from seeding or reseeding itself into the lawn. Some pre-emergent solutions also contain fertilizers, allowing you to save yourself a step. Applying a pre-emergent solution won’t necessarily kill or prevent all weeds, but it will drastically reduce their occurrence.
3) Clear debris
Make sure the lawn is free of any leaves, branches, or other additional debris. It’s easy to allow these items to take up residence when they’re covered by several feet of snow, but make sure they’re cleared away so that sunlight is better able to reach your lawn, and so that you don’t accidentally pick them up with a mower or other equipment. These items can be raked and chopped or bagged, or placed in a compost pile to break down naturally
4) Service any equipment
Perform any necessary maintenance on your equipment now, before it’s time to use it. Don’t wait until problems appear to service a lawn mower, weed wacker, or other equipment. Have the blades sharpened by a dealer, or learn how to do it yourself to save time and money.
5) Aerate Soil
Many people aerate in the fall, but this can also be done in the spring if you have exceptionally compacted soils. Soils frequently become compacted from excessive foot or vehicle traffic on the lawn, actions which you should try to avoid at all costs during the winter months. Lawn aerators use hollow tines to remove plugs of soil from a lawn. This allows roots to breathe and develop more fully
6) Remove snow mold
While snow mold isn’t terribly common for many homeowners, it does sometimes affect landscapes that have seen an excessive, lengthy period of snow cover throughout the winter months. Areas with regular freeze-thaw cycles typically don’t have snow mold, because there was time for the soil to be exposed to the air between snowfalls.
Snow mold is technically a fungus, and looks like dead patches of grass. It kills the leaves of plants but usually doesn’t kill the plant itself, so it can be removed by using a light leaf rake to fluff it up. This helps to improve circulation and remove the fungus.
7) Seed patchy spots
Seed or overseed into any areas of the lawn that are looking a little bare or unhealthy. It’s a good idea to save a bit of grass seed between seasons, but if you didn’t, you can often find local blends at garden centers. They tend to carry the grass types that grow well in Cleveland and the surrounding area that thrive in that hardiness zone, giving you a better bet at matching the plants that are already growing.
Over the winter lawns will often develop something called “snow mold” which is just matted down dead looking patches of grass. Snow mold can kill the leaves, but 99 times out of 100 it does not kill the plant itself. If you use a light leaf rake to fluff it up once it dries out to improve air circulation, the plants should turn green again as they start to grow. If you want, throw a little grass seed down to jumpstart the process after raking.
8) Plan your first mowing
Mowing in the spring doesn’t have to be extensive, but you should plan to mow your lawn early in the season to help remove dead tops and jumpstart growth. Usually you can get by with mowing about two or so inches, but as soon as the grass begins to grow, another mowing should be performed at about four inches.
Spring lawn care doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With a little bit of planning and forward thinking, you can stay on top of these landscaping tasks to allow you to better enjoy the warming weather to come.
This article was originally written by Timothy Johnson with Lawn Starter. Timothy is a green living and landscaping expert. He can often be found hiking with his two dogs or in the lavish garden he curates in his backyard.
With the end of the year fast approaching, you might be tempted to put off routine home maintenance in favor of holiday decor or your resolutions for the new year. Before you start inflating the reindeer, you’ll want to ensure that your home is prepared to weather the winter months by completing a few simple maintenance checks that will save you time and money in the long run. Once you cross these tasks off your to-do list, your home will be cozy and safe—allowing you to say that there’s truly no place like home for the holidays.
COVER EXTERIOR GAPS
Examine the foundation and lower exterior of your home for any gaps, especially around windows. Apply caulk to seal gaps around window frames, and install heavy-duty screens or hardware cloth over vents. This will ensure that uninvited guests like mice and other rodents won’t cozy up in your home during the winter months.
TOUCH-UP EXTERIOR PAINT
Check over any painted areas on the exterior of your home, and repaint any areas where you notice cracks or blisters in the surface of the paint. The worn down paint or seal in these areas of your home will not protect the wood below from damage from harsh winter weather, which could lead to more costly damage later on.
PROTECT YOUR PIPES
Insulate any pipes by windows or doors and any unheated areas of your home to protect them from freezing during cold weather. Use foam pipe insulation around the water pipes, and leave water dripping in faucets that might be prone to freezing. Make sure to disconnect your water hose from the outside faucet, and cover any outdoor spigots with foam covers. Of course, make sure to keep heat set no lower than 55 degrees if you are away from home during winter months.
CHECK YOUR CHIMNEY
Before you start roasting chestnuts on an open fire, make sure your fireplace and chimney is in proper working order. An inspection to see if a cleaning is required should cost under $100, and the cleaning itself only $100-300. These small check-ups will protect your family, your home, and your possessions from chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Once your fireplace and chimney are in proper working order, stock up on firewood so your family can enjoy cozy nights around the fireplace.
INSPECT YOUR GUTTERS
Clogged gutters can lead to an ice dam on your roof, which can eventually cause water leakage inside your home. Before foul weather hits, remove all debris from your rain gutters to prevent any water back ups. While you’re at it, replace any missing screws or gutter straps to ensure that your gutters remain attached to your home, and replace or patch any damaged gutters.
You should also consider extending your downspouts to divert water away from your home by at least three feet, which can prevent ice buildup, flooding, mold, and other damage to the foundation of your home. If you don’t feel comfortable assessing these systems, hire a professional to inspect your gutters and roof. It will be much less costly to proactively prevent damage, plus you won’t want to deal with a leaky roof over the holidays.
TRIM YOUR TREES
In late winter, prune any precarious branches and limbs, especially those near your house to protect your roof and windows from damage during winter storms. After heavy snowfall, use a broom to brush snow off of branches to ease the burden of the snow and prevent brittle branches from breaking.
To prevent drafts and heat loss during the coldest months, make sure to reinforce the windows and doors around your home with weather stripping and window film. Check the existing weather stripping around doors and replace any damaged portions. If you still notice a substantial loss of heat around your front door, consider purchasing a draft stopper for use during winter months. Apply window film on any drafty windows, especially in upper level rooms. Overall, blocking these drafts around doors and windows can save you 30% in energy costs for the year.
CHANGE CEILING FAN DIRECTION
Turn off your ceiling fan and flip the direction switch on the motor housing of your fan to run the fan’s blades in a clockwise direction during colder months when you turn on the heat. This will produce an updraft, pushing heated air down into the room. Some newer fans might have a remote control or a wall switch with a reverse button. If your fan does not have a direction switch, you may have an older fan that does not have a reversible motor. If that is the case, you can adjust the blade pitch to change the direction of airflow. In winter, tilting the blade pitch to the right will push air down, keeping warm air inside your home.
DEFEND YOUR FLOORS
Protect your floors at all major doorways with floor mats both outside and inside the door. Set up a shoe cleaning station with a boot scraper or brush and a waterproof tray for wet winter shoes. If your family and friends can safely stow their slushy snowshoes at the door, you won’t have to worry about them tracking salt and melted snow through your home and floors.
CHECK SMOKE AND CARBON DIOXIDE DETECTORS
Check the batteries in all your detectors monthly during winter months, and ensure that you keep one of each in every bedroom, on every floor of your house, and in the kitchen. Also pick up a few packs of extra batteries so you’ll have them handy when cold weather or winter storms hit.
STOCK UP ON SUPPLIES
You’ll want to be prepared for anything during winter months, so before foul weather strikes, make sure to stock up on emergency supplies like batteries, flashlights, bottled water, first aid kits, and a portable cell phone charger. Also pick up some sand or pet-safe salt for de-icing any stairs or walkways around your home, and make sure you have a shovel or snow blower to keep your driveway clear.
Don’t forget to pick up some fun winter treats to keep your home festive during the winter months. Pick up hot beverages like seasonal teas and hot cocoa, plush wool socks for yourself and your family, and soft, warm blankets to keep on the couch. These cozy delights around your home will help you pass the time on snowy days.
With the changing of the seasons and school back in session, you may have some extra time to take care of things around the house. Now is the time to make sure your systems and appliances are ready for the season change. Check these fall maintenance tips off your list!
Check and see if your roof is ready for the colder weather. Curled, missing or loose shingles can let rain and moisture into your home and cause water damage. Look for any dips or sags, which may indicate a problem with the wood underneath your roof shingles. If the roof is more than 20 years old, you may want to schedule an inspection with a professional roofing contractor.
While you’re taking care of your roof, check your chimney. Don’t make the mistake of trying to fire up your fireplace without cleaning your chimney first. Dirt, debris, and even bird’s nests can become wedged in your chimney, preventing it from venting properly. This can be incredibly dangerous if not properly addressed, but a thorough cleaning will keep you safe.
Preventative maintenance is especially crucial for your home’s heating system. Fall is a great time to have your furnace checked and tuned up if necessary. Don’t wait for extreme temperatures to arrive due to service companies being slammed with emergency calls. Between tune-ups you can keep your system performing optimally by cleaning and/or replacing air filters.
4) ATTIC INSULATION
Checking insulation will have a major effect on heating and cooling during the winter. Make sure the insulation is thick and is leveled evenly all the way across the attic to keep hot air inside. If this happens, a home could end up with ice dams – which occur when a roof is too hot in the middle, melting the snow, only to have it refreeze down near the gutters.
5) WATER HEATER
First thing you should do is flush your water heater. Water heaters build up sediment in the bottom and should be flushed. If left un-flushed, the heat source can cook the sediment into a heavy brick of minerals and deposits. It not only diminishes the volume of water your tank can hold, but if heavy enough it will cause the tank to leak.
You’ll want to use your garage more as the temperatures get colder and you’ll store your vehicles inside. Lubricate your garage door’s springs, chain and joints. Make sure that the batteries for your garage door opener and garage door motor are replaced. You can also put weather stripping along the bottom of your garage door to trap in heat and keep small animals outside.
7) WINDOWS & DOORS
Save some energy around the house! According to the U.S. Department of Energy, all those little cracks around your windows and doors can add up to 10% of your heating bill. Go through your home and open windows to ensure the seal and caulking around the window frame is in good condition. Think of adding heavier drapery around windows that are extra drafty to help block some air infiltration.
This is one that you should save for last, as you’ll want to make sure all or most of the leaves have fallen. If you clean your gutters too early, then they’ll just fill back up with leaves and debris so wait as long as possible before cleaning them of all leaves and debris. Clogged gutters are one of the number one causes of ice dams and can cause very expensive damages.
With the ever-expanding internet resources on do it yourself projects, you might feel like you can tackle any home improvement project on your to-do list. However, there are many projects that can be dangerous if undertaken without the proper knowledge and professional help. Accidents from DIY accidents often result in serious injuries that can add up to serious medical bills and time off from work. A DIY project gone wrong can cause damage to your home that could be costly and difficult to repair. Follow these tips to ensure you don’t turn a DIY project into a “What did I do?” project.
QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK YOURSELF
Before taking on a renovation project, ask yourself these questions that might help make this decision easier.
IS THERE A POSSIBILITY YOU’LL SEVERELY HURT YOURSELF OR SEVERELY DAMAGE YOUR HOME?
Professionals are trained to safely handle those big jobs, so let them do the job. Saving a few bucks is not worth your own safety and health.
DO YOU REALLY KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING?
This might be the most important question to ask yourself. By simply hiring a pro rather than fixing a major mistake yourself, you can save yourself a lot of money.
WILL THE POSSIBLE HEADACHE BE WORTH THE MONEY SAVED?
Always think of your time as money and evaluate what your time means to you. DIY projects are time intensive and should not be rushed.
1) FLOOR REFINISHING
If you have lovely hardwood floors in your home, they may have been tarnished from years of wear. The original wood can be salvaged by resurfacing, sanding down, and then refinishing the floor.
However this is a messy process producing a huge amount of dust, irregular sanding marks, and exposing nail heads that shred the sandpaper. You can rent a sanding machine, but you’ll find it difficult working on your knees while wrestling with the sander. These machines typically require the right touch by a professional who does this job day in and day out. After all, these are mostly likely original hardwood floors that should be preserved with the right amount of attention to detail and experience. Bite the bullet and get the job done right and all at once by hiring a pro.
2) TREE REMOVAL
While you may not fully recognize the danger of tree removal, unless you have the right experience, it’s best to leave this job to the professionals. Falling trees are unpredictable. Browsing the internet you’ll find homeowners trying to remove trees then end up causing extensive damage to their home, vehicles, or surrounding power lines. If you don’t know what you’re doing, the tree is just as likely to fall on your house, as it is to fall in the direction you want it to. Professional tree trimmers have the right equipment, the right training, and countless of hours of experience to do the job safely and properly.
Low-level branches that can be easily trimmed off of bushes or small trees and reached with a ladder to cut with hedge trimmers, is an okay DIY project. Between coordinating a cut that doesn’t cause a tree falling into your dining room, renting or acquiring the tools necessary to cut it down, and finding a way to dispose of the tree altogether, you would have saved yourself time, money, safety and a headache.
3) ELECTRICAL WORK
It’s one thing to flip a fuse switch to the power in your home on or off, but another to attempt to repair faulty wiring or any other electrical issues without professional help. Working with electrical wires can be deadly and the proper precautions and knowledge are crucial.
Not only is it dangerous to fiddle with electric lines, in most municipalities, it’s illegal. You need special licensing, permits and knowledge of local building code requirements before working with electricity. Even without the legalities involved, you probably won’t have the expertise required for most electrical work. A single mistake could cause a fire. Shoddy electrical work is one of the most common causes of house fires.
Electrical work requires special expertise that the average homeowner won’t have. Additionally, electrical work can be extremely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. A single mistake can cause catastrophic electrical problems for your whole home. Even worse, you can be seriously injured or killed. If you have electrical work that needs doing, hire an electrician.
4) PLUMBING REPAIR
Any plumbing work beyond simple fixes such as unclogging a drain, replacing a faucet or shower head, should be left to an experienced plumber. Plumbing repairs can do extensive harm if not done correctly; one wrong move and you can end up with some serious flooding on your hands. Leaks can cause great structural problems and often times need tools that are not in an average home toolbox.
Professionals are equipped to handle copper piping (which requires welding), and other major pipe reconstruction or replacement in the most efficient way possible. If in doubt about what you can do on your own, hire a plumber at the outset rather than hiring a plumber to fix the thousands of dollars in damages you caused trying to save a few bucks.
5) STRUCTURAL CHANGES
When doing a major remodel, some homeowners opt to do the demolition stage themselves. There’s something therapeutic about taking a sledge hammer to that wall you’ve always wanted gone. But once again, this is a job best left to the professionals. Tearing down a load-bearing wall can have catastrophic consequences. Behind those walls are gas pipes, electrical wires, plumbing, etc.
Before you pick up your sledge hammer and affect the structural integrity of your home, better call in a contractor. You don’t want to start tearing down a wall only to find out that there is electrical wires or plumbing behind it. Also, the average homeowner doesn’t know the difference between a load-bearing wall and a non-load-bearing wall, which could leave a room caving in on you without this support.
Roof work requires special training, the right tools, and years of experience if you want to do the job right. You may think if you’ve repaired damaged shingles or cleaned your gutters, you are a roof expert. However, major roof repair should never be attempted by a homeowner without experience. Besides the fact that working on top of a roof is very risky because one could easily lose their footing and slip, it can also be detrimental to your home’s structure if you don’t know the proper way to install or repair roofing. If you have a warranty on your roof, avoid doing roof repairs that could void your warranty.
Overall, a good rule of thumb for DIY projects: Anything requiring a permit and/or professional license, you should leave to the pros!
A cost-effective way to enhance your home’s curb appeal and protecting the exterior is to paint the outside of your home. Few home maintenance projects are a major undertaking as exterior painting. Between choosing the right colors, what brush to use, and where to begin, it’s important to do the job correctly. Follow the tips below to help pave the way to a successful paint job for your home.
1) CLEAN UP THE EXTERIOR
Chances are if you’re thinking of painting the exterior of your home, there are imperfections in the surface such as cracking, blistering, and peeling. By using putty and caulk you can fill any imperfection so the exterior is smooth and free of cracks. Also be sure to use a paint scraper or power washer to remote mold, oil, or rust. A power washer can also take care of the exterior’s dirt and grime, but a stiff bristle brush does as good of a job.
2) PICKING THE PAINT
First, do you want water-based latex or oil-based alkyd for exterior paint? Professional painters prefer alkyd paint because it’s durable, stain-resistant, flows very smoothly, and dries with fewer brush marks, however alkyds have a strong solvent smell and dry slowly. For latex paint, it’s less likely to crack, will dry faster, has less of an odor, but you will need to prime the surface before you begin.
Choosing the right paint color will be your next consideration. Take into account the color of the roof, house materials including the deck, stone, and brick to identify your paint palette. Take a look at your neighbors’ exterior color, the feel of the neighborhood, and the architectural style of your home. When buying the paint, stick to your budget, but keep in mind more expensive paints are typically higher quality and contain more pigments, producing a thicker, longer lasting and protective coating.
Lastly, read the directions on the paint can before applying the paint to get a good understanding of the best end-product for your job. The weather should have lower humidity, little rain, and the temperature shouldn’t be below 50 degrees.
3) PAINT TOOLS
The most efficient and effective result to getting your exterior painted correctly is with both a paintbrush and a roller. For getting hard to reach places, use a paintbrush to paint onto narrow surfaces, edges, and smaller areas. Just like painting your home’s interior, use a short, small-diameter roller to paint large and long surfaces such as siding and trim.
4) APPLYING THE PAINT
Start in the shaded areas of your home first, as painting on a direct sunlit surface will make fresh paint dry too quickly. As a result, it won’t adhere well and will flake prematurely. Wait for the sun to move and the other sides of the house to become shaded.
Paint near the top of the house and work your way down to the bottom. Apply paint to the bottom edge of the siding first, then paint the broad surfaces. To avoid lap marks, always try to brush from one wet surface onto another wet surface. When that’s not possible and you must paint onto a previously painted and dried surface, overlap onto the dried-paint surface by several inches.
5) ANNUAL MAINTENANCE
The last tip for exterior painting is to make the end project last. To extend the life between repaints, wash or power wash the house once a year to brighten up the appearance, as well as remove dust and cobwebs.
Whether your home is newly built or has seen generations of people pass through its doors, it is important to ensure that your home is designed to save energy and money for you and your family. New construction homes are designed to have energy-efficient standards, but if you live in an older home, it can be more of a challenge to turn your aging dwelling into the model of energy-efficient living. Regardless of whether your home is old or new, there are several things you can do to make sure it is as energy efficient as possible.
Find a way to conserve energy in every room of your house by using these energy saving tips. By simply making a few changes to your home and daily routine, you can significantly cut down costs on your energy bill.
The HVAC system in your basement accounts for nearly one half of the energy used in your home, so make sure you are getting the most out of your unit. Heating and cooling failure is typically characterized by neglect of your system or dirt build-up. Changing your system’s filter once every month should help combat any inefficiencies. Replacing a non-performing HVAC with an Energy Star certified system also helps reduce your energy bill.
Using your living room ceiling fan reduces energy costs while keeping the comfort of your home. On hot days, turning your thermostat up a few degrees and keeping your fan running can help you save on air conditioning costs. Using low wattage CFLs in your ceiling light fixture also keeps the room cooler and leads to even greater energy savings.
A programmable thermostat regulates your house’s temperature, eliminating the need to manually adjust the temperature when leaving the house or going to bed. A programmable thermostat with four settings could help save up to $180 on your yearly energy costs. Some think keeping your house cool at all times is more beneficial for your energy bill, allowing your house to not use as much energy to turn the air conditioner back on, however it’s more efficient to heat and cool your home according to need.
Install an Energy Star ventilation fan to control moisture in your bathroom. These fans prevent moisture problems by ensuring the fan duct leads outside. Run the fan during your bath or shower, including 15 minutes afterwards for proper ventilation and energy efficiency. On average, Energy Star fans use 60 percent less energy than standard models.
Your kitchen appliances should all be Energy Star certified, but most importantly your fridge, oven, and microwave. Cleaning out your refrigerator regularly helps lower energy consumption by ensuring proper air circulation. Try not to open the fridge door for unnecessary reasons due to the temperature dropping by 2-5 degrees. For every 30 seconds the door remains open, it can take up to 30 minutes to restore the fridge to its original temperature.
Ensure vent connectors and registers in your bedrooms are well sealed to the floors, walls, and ceilings. These common places often have disconnected ducts and leakage. Making sure furniture and rugs are kept away from vents also helps improve airflow. Install heat resistant reflectors between radiators and walls to reflect heat back into the room instead of onto walls.
Proper attic ventilation keeps energy costs down by eliminating an attic fan. Instead of a fan, using natural airflow prolongs the life of roof shingles and prevents the build-up of ice dams in the winter. Weatherizing materials or pre-made attic cover helps insulate your attic. The recommended amount for most attics is 12-15 inches, depending on attic type. If the insulation is below the attic joists, then more should be installed in order to keep your home at a comfortable temperature.