Have you recently moved into your first home? Congratulations! Now you’ll have something to keep you busy almost every weekend: home maintenance. It can be overwhelming if you’re new to caring for a house’s exterior and its lawn or garden. Staying on top of everything outside your home is vital to helping it retain its value and helping you avoid potentially expensive repairs and other costs, like a higher energy bill.
Not sure where to begin? Don’t sweat it. We’ve prepared your seasonal guide to outdoor maintenance, from winterizing to protecting outside surfaces from the sun and rain.
Summertime — when the days are carefree, but your home is not so much. The warmest months of year bring unique challenges to your house and its lawn.
Take time to check your equipment and tools.
- Inspect your irrigation system and adjust the sprinkler heads, if necessary.
- Your outdoor faucets might have suffered during the cold of winter and spring’s thaw, so examine them for any damage, along with their washers.
- Also inventory your outdoor tools. Determine which ones need to be replaced due to wear and tear, and which tools you might be missing entirely — whether they’re lost, lent and not returned (thanks, neighbor!), or you never had them in the first place, but could use them now.
- Do you have gates and/or a garage door? Oil them if they’re squeaky or hard to open and give them a thorough review to decide if they’re in need of repairs.
Clean the exterior surfaces and appliances.
- Wash all the windows from the outside and the inside. Hire someone to handle this task if you don’t have the desire, a tall enough ladder or if you do have a fear of heights.
- Pressure wash all hard surfaces, including pavers, walkways, walls, fences and screens to remove mildew, dirt and other debris. You can purchase or rent pressure washers from your local hardware store. If you think you’ll get a lot of use out of a pressure washer, compare the cost to rent versus own. It might be more economical to buy one, although you might also become the most popular neighbor… keep track of who has your pressure washer if you lend it out.
- Scrub your grill to get it ready for those summer cookouts. Test it and assess it for any damage and replace the propane if it’s a gas grill.
Prune the landscaping.
- Trim the trees and shrubs. Cut away any dead and diseased branches, as well as weakened limbs. This process will encourage the tree or shrub’s healthy growth and potentially prevent injuries caused by falling branches. This is especially important if you live in a storm-prone area.
Prepare for storm season, if it’s applicable to your part of the country.
- Get out the hurricane shutters. If you don’t have any, consider purchasing some.
- Make space in the garage or a shed to store any outdoor furniture and planters in the case of an impending storm. (We know this might be easier said than done!) Learn how to organize your garage. Buy storage cabinets and other garage organization products and cleaning tools to help you straighten up the garage.
As autumn blows in, your mind might be on back to school or fantasy football, but it’s also the season to start thinking about preparing for colder temperatures.
Tidy up the yard.
- Rake or blow fallen leaves. If you have a wooded area behind your house, use a leaf blower to transport the leaves into the forest as natural mulch or compost. You can also pile and/or shred leaves for your own mulch or compost. If you rake the leaves, wait until they’re dry to move them to save yourself from unnecessary work. Don’t have a rake yet? Purchase one like True Temper’s Clog Free Rake or AMES Dual Tine Rake. A smaller rake will help you clean up under and around shrubbery.
- Prep your garden beds for winter. Add chopped leaves as a top layer to improve the soil. Remove vegetables that won’t tolerate frost and pull out any weeds. Cover the beds with a light layer of straw or mulch. Hardier plants like perennials and berries can remain in place but you might need to cut them back before mulching.
Get ready to build fires.
- Cut or buy firewood. Consider how you use firewood before you decide how much you need for the winter. Do you heat your house with fire daily or do you only occasionally build a fire? Do you have a firepit that also burns wood? Most households need one cord of wood, which measures eight feet wide, four feet tall and four feet deep.
- Prepare your firewood storage. Ensure it’s sturdy enough to hold two tons (or more of wood) and can withstand temperature changes. Store your firewood outside at least five feet away from the house.
- Whether you have a wood-burning or gas fireplace, it should be inspected annually. Look for an inspector who can also clean it and make any repairs.
Stow warm-weather items.
- Wipe down outdoor furniture and dry it out, if the cushions are damp, before storing it in the garage, attic or shed.
- Bring in your gardening tools and planters to avoid weather-related damage that could occur during the winter months. Educate yourself on how to care for your container plants so that they’ll stay healthy indoors for the winter.
Examine protective barriers.
- Take a close look at your fences. If anything needs replacing or fixing, hire a handyman to tackle the issues for you or do it yourself.
- Inspect the weather stripping around doors and windows and replace it, if needed. Damaged weather stripping can increase your heating costs, let insects inside and allow water and dirt to enter your home… yuck!
While you’re staying cozy indoors, your home’s exterior is working as hard as ever to withstand the inclement weather and keep you warm. Help it with its mission by tending to its highest cold-weather needs.
Winterize to prevent problems.
- Insulate your compost bin and place it in a sunny part of your yard to keep the microbes alive.
- Your air conditioner must be tended to in winter so that it will operate properly come summer. Wipe it down with a wet rag and pick up any debris from around the unit. Before you move to the next step, the unit should be totally dry. Turn off the power to your unit and cover it with a tarp or specially made covering. Secure the covering with bungee cords. Lastly, wrap the pipes with foam covers.
- Drain and store garden hoses to prevent freezing.
Cut certain shrubs.
- The time of year that you’ll want to prune your shrubs depends on when they bloom. If your shrubs flower in summer through fall, you’ll want to trim them back in late winter or early spring. This action helps the shrubs thrive on new growth. Shrubs that need this treatment include hibiscus, sumac, winterberry and butterfly bush.
This season evokes scenes of birds chirping, flowers blooming — and spring cleaning. It’s not only the interior of your home that requires a lot of attention. After a few months of enduring harsh conditions, your house and garden demand equal treatment.
Clean out and clean up.
- Return the outdoor furniture to the patio or deck. Give everything a good pressure washing and replace or recover cushions as needed. Alternatively, wipe down and scrub the furniture with cleaning brushes.
- Empty your dryer vent from the exterior. Check the vent hinges for signs of rust or disrepair. Remove lint with your hand or a long wire brush. Then wipe down the vent cover with a mixture of dishwashing soap and water.
- Inspect exterior walls, the driveway, the decking and your sidewalk for cracks. If there are any, have them repaired before they deepen or widen.
- Empty and clean your outdoor storage units, such as a shed or a bin.
- Clear out and clean the garage from top to bottom, throwing out any items that are no longer of use. Get the kids to help with this unenviable chore. Reorganize, if necessary.
- Pressure wash the deck so it’s fresh for hosting barbecues or just for you to enjoy an evening’s sunset. You can also scrub the deck with a specially designed brush.
- Remove small branches, leaves and debris from your downspouts and gutters. Stand on a sturdy ladder, preferably with someone spotting you on the ground, and use a garden trowel to scoop out gunk from the gutters. Turn on a high-powered hose and flush out the downspouts. Install leaf strainers at the tops of the drains to prevent future clogs.
Care for the landscaping.
- Aerate the lawn before adding any fertilizer. Save some money and help the environment by turning to your compost pile or other naturally occurring fertilizers for this portion of your yard maintenance.
- Replace mulch as needed.
- Plant seasonal flowers. Reach out to your local garden club or extension service (non-formal agriculture education provided by local governments) for advice on which flowers will grow best in your climate and how to care for them.
- Perform outdoor pest control. Locate a company that will do this for you or look into ways you can handle it yourself. If you choose to DIY, read all labels carefully and consider eco-friendly and pet-safe alternatives to chemical pesticides.
Taking the time and making the effort to accomplish these quarterly home maintenance tasks will pay off in the long run. You’ll have a beautiful and safe house that will last for years to come, not to mention peace of mind and a sense of pride.Gather your outdoor maintenance tools