As spring weather ushers away the final storms of winter, now is the time to get busy with home repairs and improvements. Though many homeowners tend to begin home improvements when summer arrives, you can save time and money by starting them now.
If you wait until summer, expect to get in line behind the multitudes of other homeowners doing projects around the house. Contractors will be swamped with work, which usually means higher rates and longer waits for their services. Home improvement centers become jammed with do-it-yourselfers. And the ticking clock swings into motion -- a major summer project that runs longer than expected can scuttle vacation plans and lap over into fall.
Getting a head start, on the other hand, allows you to get competitive bids from contractors who are eagerly seeking work, navigate the aisles of the home improvement centers without crowds and take the time you need to do your project right.
You can also benefit by attacking problems while they're still fresh in your mind and solving issues before they get worse. Last but not least, doing projects now that involve getting your house and yard in shape for recreation and entertaining will increase your family's enjoyment -- and your free time -- this summer.
Here are eight summer home repair and improvement projects to jump on now.
Repair winter damage. First things first: Repair any damage caused by winter storms so small problems don't become big ones. Start by taking stock of how well your home handled the weather. Did rainwater leak through the roof or run in through siding? Did the basement flood?
Address a leaky roof, damaged siding or a soggy basement or crawlspace as soon as possible. Water damage and chronic moisture ultimately cause rot and mold. For this work, call roofing or siding contractors, a waterproofing contractor or a general contractor.
Clean gutters and downspouts. Though the worst of winter storms may have passed, spring showers are a given. Where gutters and downspouts don't properly capture and carry away rainwater runoff, water damage can occur. Following winter, gutters and downspouts are often jammed with debris. If they are, clean them out.
You can hire a gutter service to do this. Or, if you can work safely and comfortably from a ladder and your gutters aren't too high, you can do it yourself. Wear heavy work gloves to scoop out loose debris, and then blast gutters and downspouts with a high-pressure nozzle on a hose. If downspouts are too clogged to flush with the hose, use a plumber's snake to clear them.
Paint siding and trim. If your home's siding or trim needs painting, spring is a great time to begin this job because preparation, including scraping and sanding, may take a week or more.
Paint should be applied in still, dry weather -- ideally during temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees. Plan to finish painting before summer's hot weather arrives. When the temperature gets hot, fresh paint dries too quickly, compromising its adhesion and durability.
Insulate the attic. Some jobs are much easier and far more comfortable to handle before the arrival of summer heat. Insulating the attic is one of those. If your home is already fully insulated, you don't need to worry about this job. But if you felt a chill during the winter as heat escaped through your attic, you'll probably feel the burn when summer heat arrives. In this case, get started on insulating now, particularly if you intend to do the job yourself. Working in a super-heated attic can be miserable.
If you intend to hire an insulation contractor to do the work, get bids now and schedule the work. Insulation contractors become very busy once summer arrives and don't want to work in a hot attic any more than you do.
Prepare for summer heat. In addition to sealing out the heat, make sure your air conditioner or heat pump, ceiling fans, dehumidifier and other cooling appliances work properly. So your air conditioner will run efficiently and won't break down during summer's first heat spell, when you need it most, have an HVAC contractor check out your system and replace filters now. It can be nearly impossible to find a competent and affordable HVAC contractor during a heat-spell emergency.
Now is also a good time to think about installing curtains, shades, blinds, awnings and window films to help control summer heat gain through windows.
Plant trees and improve lawns. Some types of lawn and garden jobs are best begun in the spring. Planting trees, for example, is a job to do when trees are dormant. Roots like cool soil. But don't start too soon -- not only is frozen ground hard to dig, but freezing temperatures damage roots by keeping moisture from reaching them.
Prune dormant trees and shrubs before they start producing foliage. Generally speaking, plants are less susceptible to diseases and insects when pruned in winter.
Lawns and gardens welcome early work, too. Spring is a good time to aerate the lawn and spray for weeds. And you should be sure sprinklers and garden irrigation work well in preparation for summer heat.
As with other kinds of contractors and services, landscapers and lawn services are more likely to be very busy once summer arrives.
Get started with outdoor building. If you intend to take on outdoor improvements such as re-plastering the pool, building a fence, putting in a new patio, reviving your wood deck or installing play equipment, don't wait for summer. Some of these projects take weeks to accomplish. Get them done now so your family can enjoy them as soon as summer arrives.
Begin major improvements. Starting a major home improvement such as a remodel or room addition in the spring gives you breathing room. When doing major improvements, you will need lead-time because planning, design and permitting can take months. These are all tasks that you can -- and should -- handle well before summer.
Don Vandervort is the founder of HomeTips.com, where he offers more information about summer projects to do now.
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