Spring Fix-Up: Valuable Tips For Inside And Out
Posted May 14, 2008 11:55 a.m. EDT
Updated May 16, 2008 10:05 a.m. EDT
Spring Cleaning doesn't have to stop at the front door. In fact, you should probably clean the front door along with the rest of your home's exterior. Dirt, grime, mold and mildew build up on the outside of our homes, and spring is the perfect time to clean them off. Cleaning is important not only for aesthetic reasons but also to maintain the integrity of the materials on your home.
The easiest way to approach this job is with a pressure washer . As the name implies this tool generates exceptionally high pressure water to blast away dirt. Though scrubbing is not required it is a good idea to use a detergent to speed up the process. A number of these products are available at home centers. It's important to make sure the cleaner you choose is designed for use in a pressure washer, if that's how you plan to apply it, and that it's intended for the type of surface you'll be cleaning. There are a number of cleaners for specific applications like siding, decks or masonry surfaces. Whether you buy ($200 to $600) or rent (about $50 per day) a pressure washer, be sure you know its strength and your limitations before you begin work. These tools can quickly do a lot of damage if they aren't handled properly.
Spring also means that the barbecue grill starts to heat up more often. Before you put on the first steak or batch of burgers give your grill its own spring cleaning. If it's a charcoal unit, the process is fairly simple. A gas grill will be a bit more involved, but the cooking grate is a good place to start for both types. A wire brush and a degreasing detergent will remove the residue from the last cookout and any rust that occurred during the winter. The burners on a gas unit should be cleaned and inspected for deterioration brought on by rust. The tiny holes in the burners should be clean and free of debris. If necessary, use a small piece of wire to clean them out. The bottom of the grill pan itself catches most of the grease (gas or charcoal) so more wire brushing and detergent are needed here. You may find that the outer surface of your grill is in need of paint. If so, prepare it properly by lightly sanding the surface and washing thoroughly to remove all grease. After it's totally dry, coat it with a high heat spray paint (often called barbecue and stove enamel).
Another outside area that needs our attention is the gutters. Those fall leaves have to come out so the spring rain runoff can get through. Here are a couple of tips to make that easier: Create a custom gutter scoop by cutting down a plastic container (like an antifreeze jug). Keep the jug handle and top and cut away the bottom diagonally. The resulting scoop is just the right width for your gutters. To rinse out gutters without leaving the ground build a U-shaped spray handle from a length of PVC pipe (3/4" works best) and several couplings. On one end of the pipe glue a female garden hose fitting then use two 90° elbow fittings to create the U-shape and get the water into the gutters.
If your home has an air conditioner you're about to put it to work, so have a pro check it out before the weather heats up too much. Small problems with air conditioners can be aggravated by excessive use, so you'll not only save the hassle of trying to get an AC guy on a 90° day, but you may save some money as well. While hiring a pro is a good idea, there are a few things you can do yourself. One of the easiest, and yet most overlooked, is changing your return air filter. If allergies are part of your springtime experience you'll want to consider using something more than a simple fiberglass filter. Some of the new pleated air filters actually catch the microscopic contaminants that cause problems for people with allergies and asthma. These filters also allow you to go 2 to 3 months between changes instead of every month.
Once that air conditioner stars running regularly you'll be looking for ways to control your power bill. One great way is to install a programmable setback thermostat. This unit replaces your existing thermostat by simply re-connecting a few wires. The advantage is that you can program the system to raise the temperature while you're away from home and then lower it again just before you return home. Most can be set up with different programs for all seven days of the week and can be overridden with a manual switch.
Once you get that air in the house cool you want to keep it there. Sealing up air leaks around your home will keep you more comfortable and keep your energy bill lower. Caulk is your chief weapon here. Seal all cracks around windows and doors and anywhere air can pass from the inside to the outside or vice versa. Weather-stripping is a must around doorways (including the one leading into your attic) and there are tons of styles to choose from. The real test is to close the door on a sunny day and look at it from the inside. If you see light getting around the door then you know the air is too.