Did your home's exterior take a beating over the winter?
From blizzards to arctic cold blasts, Jack Frost is known for delivering some harsh seasonal punishment. But it's after he moves on and warmer temperatures begin setting in that the evidence of his destructiveness can be fully observed, especially around your home's exterior and yard which, depending on what area of the country you live in, have likely endured brutal conditions for months.
Putting your property back in proper shape will require careful planning, and timing is of the essence here, as delaying any crucial cleanup and maintenance chores can result in damage that will require costly repairs.
"As with all household tasks, procrastination is enemy No. 1. Ignoring your exterior maintenance in late winter or early spring can lead to things like premature rotting of your siding, porch or deck, home foundation problems, death of your favorite bushes, and even insect infestations," says Douglas Dedrick, owner of Natural Landscape Designs in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. "As soon as the snow has cleared and the ground is somewhat thawed and workable, you should do at least some basic exterior maintenance."
This is particularly true of your lawn and landscaping.
"This is the time to strengthen your lawn in order to control weeds before they emerge and so that it can take on the summer heat," said Ben Hamza, director of technical operations for Memphis, Tennessee-based TruGreen.
Here's a checklist of recommended steps to take now to prevent damage and ensure a more attractive property come summertime:
• Inspect your property carefully. "Do an evaluation of your landscape and home exterior," says Dedrick. "Snow may have compacted your bushes, and they may need to be staked." Additionally, look for loose, damaged or lost roof shingles that may need to be replaced, broken large tree branches or limbs that could be a hazard, and other red flags.
• Clear dead leaves, dead foliage and debris from your home's perimeter, lawn, bushes, flower beds and gutters to prevent water damage, bug infestations and mold outbreaks. "If not removed, this layer of dead matter can smother your lawn and leave unsightly dead patches," warns Hamza.
• Aerate, fertilize and overseed your lawn. "This will thicken and strengthen your turf and improve your lawn's overall health," Hamza says.
• Apply a weed pre-emergent herbicide to your turf.
• Apply mulch to your garden to avoid weed growth. "This will help the soil retain its moisture," says Gena Lorainne, gardening expert for Fantastic Services based in London. "The layer should be just thick enough to act as an isolating cover."
• Prepare your lawn mower. "Check the spark plug, clean or replace the air filter, change the oil, and sharpen the blade," Hamza says.
• Prune your trees, bushes and shrubs to protect your property and fit the urban environment. "Consider hiring an arborist to inspect any trees you're concerned about. They can spot defects and deadwood and detect pest problems," Kathy Glassley, director of renewable services for Monster Tree Service Inc. in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, says.
• Power wash your patio, driveway, deck and/or home's exterior on a warm day to remove grime, salt and other deposits that have built up over winter. Take care not to use too much pressure when power washing siding and wooden decks.
• Inspect and repair your fencing. "Check your panels for damages or cracks caused by the winter frosts," Lorainne suggests.
• Mow when the time is right. "Wait until your grass is about 3 inches tall, and don't cut more than a third of the grass' height," recommends Hamza.
While these tasks may sound formidable, any do-it-yourselfer homeowner can accomplish them efficiently and effectively over a few weekends in April and May.
"I anticipate these early spring preparations to take around 10 hours or so," says Dedrick. "You can save a lot of money by doing it yourself, but if you need help you can hire professionals to get the job done."