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It's August Home Maintenance Time!

Stop those pests

There are many reasons – fire protection, air circulation, drainage, attractiveness and safety — to keep the outside walls of your home clear and free of debris. One more compelling reason is that piles and stacks of tools, lumber, ladders, yard waste and toys create a haven for spiders, rats, mice and wood-boring insects. Take an hour to circle your home outside, removing anything touching the siding. Donate, discard or store what you've removed.

Seal your garbage cans tightly. If you've had problems with rats, dogs or raccoons getting into the trash, make sure the cans have tight-fitting lids. Tighten the lids by linking a stretchy tie-down from handle to handle. Knot it to shorten it if necessary.

Don't let water sit around your yard or garden; it breeds mosquitoes. Change the birdbath and wading pool water at least weekly. Toss water out of pet dishes, flowerpot saucers, cans, buckets and anything else lying around that collects rain. Keep gutters clean.


Pamper the lawn

The best thing you can do to achieve a good-looking lawn is to mow frequently and high (three inches or more – or just set your mower blades as high as they'll go). This discourages weeds and trains the grass to grow in thickly. High, frequent cutting encourages roots to grow deep and retain water, so you'll need to water less frequently. Let the clippings fall onto the lawn to add nourishment.

If you've been watering the lawn this summer, keep it up: Water infrequently but deeply, giving it an inch to an inch and a half of water each time (measure by putting an empty tuna can on the lawn). Water early in the day to avoid evaporation — not at night, which invites disease. You'll know it's time to water when your footprints don't spring back when you walk across the grass, when the grass gets a blue tinge or when you can't easily push a screwdriver or steel rod into the soil.

If your lawn has turned brown, don't try to rescue it by watering now. That's hard on the grass plants and a waste of water. It'll come back when the rain starts in the fall.

The best time to fertilize depends on your climate and the grass type in your lawn. In general, avoid fertilizing during extremely hot weather or periods of drought.


Clean sink drains

If you've got a slow-draining sink, take action. First, try a homemade drain cleaner. We recommend mixing a solution of equal parts of salt, baking soda and vinegar. Pour it into the drain and chase it down with two quarts of boiling water. You can use this solution monthly. Avoid chemical drain cleaners; they can damage the pipes and create toxic exposure for you and your family.


Fix leaky faucets

Check faucets for leaks and install new rubber gaskets by unscrewing the faucet end, removing the old gasket and reassembling it. Also fix dripping faucets. First, shut off the water under the sink. For sinks with independent hot and cold water faucets, dismantle each faucet, removing the washers (rings made of rubber, plastic or brass). Put the washers in a sandwich bag and bring them to the hardware store to look for replacements. Reassemble the faucets and turn the water back on.


Get a furnace inspection

Have your heating system inspected and serviced by a professional. Call the company that sold it to you or your fuel distributor to get recommendations for servicers.


Blanket the water heater

Get one of those nice, fat insulating blankets for your water heater if it doesn't have one. You don't want to pay to heat all that water and then let the heat leak into the atmosphere.


Inspect and maintain the water heater

Have your water heater professionally serviced once a year. Inspect the water heater thoroughly and check the walls and floor around it for evidence of leaks, rust or corrosion. Also check the lines and connections to the heater. Even a small amount of moisture can rot the flooring and subfloor. Lie on the floor to look at the bottom of the heater from underneath, using a flashlight. If you find leaks, replace the water heater.


Test the water-heater valve

Test the valve that controls temperature and pressure on tank-type water heaters. Do this once a year because, if the valve becomes stuck in the on or off position, an explosion can result. Work carefully because the water in the tank is extremely hot. Do it during business hours on a weekday so you can get help if you find problems. Put a bucket under the water heater's overflow pipe to catch the drainage. The valve is at the top of the water heater and is recognizable because it has a small handle. Lift the test handle for five seconds to release a little water, then close it. If the valve refuses to close, or if nothing comes out, call a plumber immediately to replace it.



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