If you’re anything like me, you tend to wait until the last minute to do anything around the house. As a fairly new homeowner, I didn’t even realize the amount of work that goes into getting your home ready for the wear and tear of summer. But now that I’m aware, I thought I’d pass on some tips to the rest of you. Because – as I always like to say – better late than never.
I’m going to break it down into The Good, The Bad & The Ugly…aka, from the easier, fun jobs to the hard-core tasks that require a bit more work. So grab your bottle of water, put on your old sneakers and get ready to summer-ize your home!
SEND WINTER PACKING. Update your home from winter to summer by bringing in some lighter, brighter accessories. Put anything away in storage that evokes heat – fire logs, heavy rugs and draperies, heaters, and thick blankets. Add some fresh cut flowers around for a nice spring/summer vibe and trade in your winter mats for lightweight ones. You can also swap out your throw pillows for some with bright, fun colors and lighter fabrics.
MAKE ROOM FOR POPSICLES! Empty your freezer and defrost it fully, which will melt any icy build-up. Then, check to see what’s actually in there - certain products lose texture and flavor over time, so toss out anything that’s been in there over a year. With the extra freezer capacity, you can stock up on a summer staple – popsicles!
BE READY TO PARTY. Be the queen bee of patio parties with a variety of outdoor entertaining xxx. Make sure your blender is pina colada-ready and that your cookbooks have the mojito and summer dip recipes flagged. Invest in accident-proof dishware from serving trays to drinking glasses (think melamine) so even if your guests have one too many margaritas and drop their cup on the patio, you won’t have to worry about broken glass. Target is a good place to find these types of items on the cheap.
FRESHEN UP YOUR AIRFLOW. Ensure a cool, cool summer – not to mention a lower energy output – with a few simple air-flow updates. Turn your ceiling fan to counter-clockwise (the blades are tilted upward as they spin) to push air downward and create a stronger draft.
PUT YOUR PAINTING PANTS ON. Summer is the perfect time to update your deck, door, trim, picnic table or chairs with a fresh coat of paint. If you’re dealing with peeling paint, sand the furniture and then paint with a durable exterior paint. A good one to try is Krylon Fusion Spray Paint as it eliminates the need for priming. For more details on how to paint all kinds of outdoor furniture, check out this link: http://www.styleathome.com/how-to/renovations/article/how-to-paint-outdoor-furniture.
INVITE THE SUMMER INSIDE. The inside of your home can be made nice and summery with sun-kissed windows that have sparkling-clean glass and fresh, breezy window treatments. Thoroughly wash your windows – inside and out. You’ll need a cloth or brush to tackle some of the larger outdoor debris, an equal parts water-vinegar solution and a squeegee. For the interior, some good old Windex should do the trick. Next, do away with those heavy winter drapes. Clean and store them away and put up some thin sheers in light, airy colors that embrace the summer sun.
STOCK UP ON THE ESSENTIALS. Stock up on summer essentials! Fill your medicine cabinet with sun block (I replace mine every year no matter how full it is – sunburns are no joke), aloe and insect repellant. In your linen closet, store some fresh and fluffy beach towels. In the pantry, keep a basket prepped with biodegradable plates, cups and utensils at the ready for your next BBQ. Fill your garage with backyard items such as a Cornhole set, an inflatable pool to cool off in, or – if you’re lucky enough – rafts and floaties for an actual pool.
BREAK OUT THE BBQ. Before you can throw those burgers on the BBQ pit, you need to give it a deep clean. Disconnect the gas, disassemble the barbeque from roof to tray (according to manufacturer instructions) and clean with soapy water. Tackle the grill separately with a hard-wire brush – use oven or barbeque cleaner on particularly tough build-up. After cleaning, heat the barbeque, letting it run on high for about 10 minutes, before it cools fully. Finally, wipe the grates with a thin layer of cooking oil. Your guests will thank you.
MAKE YOUR DECK OR PATIO YOUR FAVORITE “ROOM” IN THE HOUSE. Use a deck brush or a power washer plus a deck-cleaning solution (like Cabot Ready to Use wood cleaner pump spray from Ace Hardware) to remove mold, dirt, and mildew. If the finish is worn, let the wood dry for a few days, then reseal it. If you have a concrete patio, a mix of dishwashing soap and water will do just fine. Spray it down and then hose it off.
Next, create an outdoor extension of your indoor living space: comfortable, clean and filled with your favorite things. After cleaning your deck or patio area and arranging your furniture, create some ambiance with outdoor lights or lanterns, and punctuate the space with flowering planters, candles and outdoor throw pillows.
CLEAN UP YOUR YARD. Clear out the weeds (easier said than done, I know – my backyard looks like Jumanji filmed there) and apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch to any existing flower beds. Remove leaves and twigs and de-thatch dead grass with a metal rake. Quick Tip: Weed-killing fertilizer will work fastest if applied right before it rains.
WASH OR UPDATE THOSE CUSHIONS. Most outdoor fabrics are safe to throw in a warm wash. Air-dry them and then put the cover back on the insert while it's still slightly damp to keep it smooth. If the fabric isn't removable, clean it using a soft scrub brush, dish detergent, and warm water. If they’re too far gone but you don’t have the money to replace or recover them? Spray them. No, seriously. Try Simply Spray Upholstery Fabric Spray (Amazon.com) to change the look of your outdoor cushions. This spray is safe for the environment, non-toxic, non-flammable, eco-friendly and is permanent.
SEND THOSE BUGS PACKING.
If you don’t have a landlord to take care of pest control, or you just want to do it yourself, there are a number of ways to keep bugs from coming in. Because let’s be honest here – bugs are never invited to the party.
First off, make sure everything is properly sealed. And I mean EVERYTHING. Check the caulking around your windows and doors, then fix any drafts or gaps with new weather stripping and caulking. Next, spray your outdoor perimeter with a pesticide, along with baseboards, sinks, windows, and doors. Lastly, read all the applicable warnings on the pesticide and make sure it’s safe to use if you have kids or pets.
CLEAN OUT THE SHED. Say goodbye to your snow blower, shovels and salt (for a few months anyway) and say hello to your lawnmower, fertilizer, hose, sprinkler, and garden tools. Have them upfront, organized and easily accessible, so you won’t be rummaging through the remnants of winter to access to your outdoor summer needs.
CLEAN THE WALKWAY.
Pressure-wash the walkway (and you might as well do this when you wash your deck/patio), then replace damaged pavers or bricks, or just flip them over. If any pavers are sticking up too high, raise them, remove a little dirt, and drop them back in place. On concrete walkways fill in cracks with a masonry crack filler that matches the color of your concrete.
SPRUCE UP YOUR FRONT DOOR. Caulk any post-winter gaps before tightening hinges that may have come loose due to shifts in temperature. And now is as good of a time as any to paint or stain the door if it needs a bit of a boost. Try painting it a fun, bright color to add some visual interest to the front of your home.
CHECK YOUR FENCE. Replace warped or rotten pickets or posts, then give posts a good yank to make sure they're sturdy in the ground. Fence gotten a little too rickety for your liking? It might be time replace the entire thing. If you already have post holes, you’re ahead of the game as this is one of the hardest parts of putting a fence up. Want to put up a wooden privacy fence? Go for pressure-treated lumber, cedar or redwood. Or you can do an aluminum, steel or vinyl fence. Check out Lowe’s for a ton of options.
GIVE YOUR AC UNIT A TUNE UP.
First, replace your air filter to make sure the whole system runs smoothly. Clear any debris on or around your vents or exhausts and clean off any dirt from the main unit outside. From there, test the unit itself to make sure it’s doing its job. SafeElectricity.org says you can simply leave your AC on while you’re away and test it out.
If your unit isn’t working properly or efficiently, it might be time to call in a professional. They’ll test the unit itself and test your air ducts for any potential leaks. If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, now might be a good time to bite the bullet and invest in one. You may also consider a smart thermostat, that does the thinking (and programming) for you to save energy and keep you comfortable.
Depending on how often you use your air conditioning in summer, you can cut your electric bill quite a bit. If your AC unit is more than 15-20 years old, you might consider replacing it with a more energy-efficient, Energy Star unit (Bonus: you get a tax credit).
Also, hose down the air-conditioning condenser. Shut down the power on the electric panel, then clear away any leaves or branches lodged in the unit. Wash down all the coils with a garden hose. If you find any chewed wires, call a pro to repair them.
CLEAR OUT THOSE GUTTERS. Clean leaves and any debris from your gutters. The next time it rains, stand outside and look for breaks or leaks in your gutters and downspouts. I know, I know – this sounds like a huge pain but it’s important. If your gutters are clogged, this could lead to foundation damage, roof leaks, insect infestation (yuck), and a plethora of bigger, more expensive-to-fix problems.
REPAIR THE SIDING. If your house has wood siding or shingles, inspect for post-winter rot, repair any damaged areas, then touch up any faded stain or chipped paint. If you have engineered wood, vinyl or aluminum siding, a nylon scrub brush and all-purpose cleaner should eliminate any dirt and mold that has accumulated over the winter months.
INSPECT THE ROOF. Grab a pair of binoculars and look at your roof from across the street. (Maybe tell your neighbors what you’re doing first as this could appear creepy.) Locate any curling, cracked, or missing shingles. Also look out for damaged metal flashing around the chimney, pipes, and skylights. Get in touch with a roofer for fixes as this is a job for the pros.
PREVENT WATER DAMAGE.
Summer weather isn’t just hot and sticky. It can also be stormy and, sometimes, dangerous. Make sure your house is protected - this starts with your foundation. Check your basement for cracks and leaks. Build up dirt or place grates outside your house to direct water away from the foundation. If the dirt you currently have has settled around your house, water will start running toward your house. As a general rule, a grate of one-inch-per-foot will ensure proper water runoff. Again, make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed and caulked, too.
You should also test your gutters (once you’ve cleaned them, of course). Turn on your garden hose and place it inside the gutter so water begins to run. Then, walk around your home’s perimeter and check the gutter. Look for water coming out of any places it shouldn’t.
OK, that’s it, that’s all, that’s the list. Of course, there are other things you may have to do to get your home ready for summer (maybe you have a pool and have to get that up and going…if so, call me once it’s ready and I’ll be over with margaritas), but this is the basic rundown of what should be done. Maybe you’re one of those people who has already checked most of this off, or maybe you’re like me and have only just begun. Regardless, try to stick to this list and keep your home safe and happy for those fun summer months.
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