Home & Garden

Home maintenance calendar


As January comes to a close, make a list of projects you want to complete this year, then post it where you'll see it every day. Nothing like a little guilt to motivate you.


You know what's romantic? Fixing that leaky toilet. Well, no, it's not, but it will be more appreciated than that $26 box of chocolates. To check for leaks, add a drop or two of food coloring in the tank at bedtime. If the water in the bowl is tinged the same color, your flapper is leaking. It's an easy fix to replace the mechanism. And while you're in a bathroom state of mind, how about replacing those old shower heads with low-flow models?


Can you feel it? Spring is just around the corner. Time to get the house and yard ready for the warm weather and sunshine. Start by fixing window screens, repairing sagging fences and arbors, and making sure your deck is shipshape. Now would be a good time to give the deck a good cleaning and a fresh coat of sealer. Check for dry and rotted wood. Consider renting a power washer to scrub the deck, siding, driveway and even your house.


A fresh coat of paint can brighten up the homestead. Not up to painting? Then scrub that aluminum siding and wash down the stucco. While you're at it, check for damage. Fixing cracks and breaks now can prevent trouble down the road. And as long as we're in a cleaning mood, those windows can use a wash (use newspaper to wash and dry for a streak-free finish). Inside, clean your blinds, ceiling fans and heating/air conditioning vents. Schedule a checkup on your heating and cooling system.MAY

Ah, May. Memorial Day. Back-yard barbecues. Smart you, working on your deck in the spring. Now it's time to fire up the grill. But before striking a match, remove rust from the grill with a little elbow grease and a stiff brush. This also would be a good time to check the foundation around your home and crawl space, looking for signs of termite damage.


Before you hang the stars and stripes for Flag Day, check your flagpole holder to make sure it's still secure. As we reach the midway point in the year, check that list of projects you made in January. How are you doing? Rethink the list by moving some projects to the bottom, some to the top and adding a few more. Then look at all those "once a year" chores, such as cleaning behind the refrigerator and vacuuming its coils; checking and replacing, if needed, the water hoses to the washing machine; checking for leaks under the sinks and dishwasher; and testing circuit breakers.


We might be cranking up the air conditioner, so make sure the condensation drip tube flows freely. And take time to update your emergency kit. Don't have one? Then make one. Experts recommend a three-day supply of drinking water and food that you don't have to refrigerate or cook; first-aid supplies; a portable NOAA weather radio; a wrench and other basic tools; a flashlight; work gloves; emergency cooking equipment; portable lanterns; fresh batteries for each piece of equipment; clothing; blankets; baby items; prescription medicines; extra car and house keys; extra eyeglasses; credit cards and cash; and important documents, including insurance policies.


If you're planning a vacation this month, update your security with door and window alarms, motion-sensor lights and timers. Don't forget to stop newspaper and mail deliveries, and ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on things. Give them contact information in case there's an emergency. If you're planning a stay-cation, how about devoting a few hours to organizing the gardening and household tools in your garage or shed? Sell or donate tools you aren't using.SEPTEMBER

Take a look at your landscape with an eye toward safety. Your trees grew during spring and summer. Are they crowding power lines or brushing against your roof? Contact a professional to trim them. Check for plants growing too close to the foundation. They can encourage insect damage, weaken the foundation or create a fire hazard. And as loath as we are to admit it, cooler weather is just around the corner. Caulk windows and doors, and add weather stripping and new sweeps on doors.


Ugh — it's time to clean those gutters and downspouts. For fun, replace a downspout with a decorative "rain chain." You couldn't go wrong with a rain barrel or two, either. Time to start wrapping up the house for the coming winter, and don't forget the water heater. If it's warm to the touch and in an unheated garage or utility room, invest in an insulating blanket.


You might have some unexpected company this month, and we're not talking about crazy Uncle Harry and Aunt Prudence. We're talking mice and rats that will be looking for a home in your garage and house. Seal holes in the foundation — especially those around pipes and wires — and look for places where they might sneak in. An easy way is to plug holes with steel wool. Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and replace batteries.


The first rule of hanging holiday lights and decorations: Stay off the roof. Not only is it dangerous to be up there, but you can damage tiles and create leaks in the roof. Don't hammer directly into the roof to secure decorations; you're only asking for problems when it starts raining. Consider replacing older lights with newer LED lights that are safer and more energy-efficient.