July home-maintenance checklist
Patch cracks in concrete
Inspect concrete for cracks. To patch them, clean the cracked area well with a wire brush and small broom. To repair narrow cracks, use masonry crack filler. It comes in cartridges and can be injected into the crack. For bigger openings, apply vinyl concrete patching compound, smoothing the surface with a putty knife.
Patch cracks in asphalt
You can extend the life of an asphalt driveway or path by inspecting it two or three times a year and using a caulking gun and asphalt patching caulk ($5 to $15 a tube) to repair cracks. If you leave cracks, they’ll grow and plants can take root, widening the damage. Squirt the caulk into the cracks and use a disposable putty knife to even the surface. Every five years, treat asphalt to a coat of asphalt sealer ($50-$100 for a five-gallon bucket). Brush it on with a squeegee or push broom.
Prune or remove problem trees
Get a certified arborist to inspect your trees and tell you if any are hazardous. Trees hanging over your roof, rubbing against gutters or dropping loads of leaves and sticks onto the roof should be pruned. Overhanging branches can provide a ladder for rats and squirrels, and diseased or damaged trees may fall on your home in a storm. A typical arborist’s fee is $65 an hour. (Use the American Society of Consulting Arborists’ directory to find an arborist near you.) For pruning or tree removal, call a tree-care service (here’s the International Society of Arboriculture’s directory.)
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Trees can bring up boundary issues. They may straddle the property line between you and your neighbor or the branches from your neighbor’s tree may drop fruit onto your land. Although state tree laws vary, in general you have the right to trim branches on your side of the property line as long as you don’t endanger the life of the tree. If you kill the neighbor’s tree, you are liable. An arborist who understands local laws can be a great mediator between neighbors.
Clean exhaust fans
Exhaust fans do a lot of work in your home. In bathrooms, they push out moisture to keep walls and floors dry and prevent the growth of mold. (Be sure to run the fan before taking a bath or shower and keep it running for 15 minutes after you leave the room, so moisture has a chance to clear.) Before you begin cleaning the fan, turn off its power at the circuit-breaker box. Dust the vents on the fan’s cover (do this monthly). Use a screwdriver to remove the cover. Gently clean the inside of the cover and the fan blade with a slightly damp cloth or spray cleaner and a paper towel. Dry and reassemble. Do this twice a year.
In kitchens, exhaust fans vent moisture along with oily fumes. Making sure the electricity is disconnected at the circuit breaker box, start by removing the washable filter from the stove's exhaust fan. You’ll find the fan either in the range between the burners or in a hood over the stove. If the fan can be pulled out, unplug it, remove it and extract the filter. Otherwise, just remove the filter. Put it through the dishwasher or soak it in warm soapy water. Vacuum the opening of the fan, then clean the blades and housing with a cloth and spray cleaner or degreaser.
Mend the fence
Even the cheapest new fences cost thousands of dollars. Protect your investment by looking for damage and making prompt repairs. Before touring your fence line, mow the grass low so you’ll have good visibility. Watch for signs that dogs have tunneled under the fence. Training and a watchful eye are the best ways to prevent dogs from digging. Otherwise, attaching a 2-foot-wide apron of wire mesh around the inside perimeter of the fence may work.
- On our blog, 'Listed': Does your fence need mending? Here's how to do it
As you walk the fence, test the strength of the connections by gently tugging posts and slats to ensure they’re well-attached. Check fence posts for signs of rot (poke soft spots in the wood for crumbling or decay). Remove and replace the damaged areas. Keep fences painted or stained to protect the wood. Repaint or stain when the original finish is thin, cracked or peeling. Before painting, hose off and scrub dirty boards, letting them dry thoroughly.
Deer can demolish hundreds or thousands of dollars of landscaping in an evening or two. There are several things you can do to keep deer away from your investment:
- Use deer-proof plantings. Identify deer-resistant plants or check a plant’s status with Rutgers University’s New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station’s tool. Bear in mind that such lists are no guarantee: Deer often eat plants they’re not supposed to like.
- Install a mini fence or put bird netting around prized plants. Garden stores have these materials and can instruct you how to use them.
- Spray with a home-made deer repellent. Search online garden forums for recipes for repellents that blend eggs, hot sauce (or cayenne pepper), raw garlic, yogurt or buttermilk and dish soap. Spray every three or four days and after a rain.
- Purchase one of the better commercial deer repellent sprays. Check with your local garden store or cooperative extension master gardeners for recommendations. Wikipedia lists cooperative-extension services around the country, as does Bayer.
Draining a small amount of water can be questionable. I had a water heater that was only 3 years old, drained it every year and the thing rumbled like crazy.
The house I'm in now more than likely never had the water heater drained (or even a little bit). I haven't done it in 3 years and don't intend to do so its on year 15.