Connecticut Home & Garden: Home Planning Calendar


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Like socks in a dryer, the screens at my house have a habit of disappearing. Sometimes they fall out of windows into the shrubbery and go missing for months. And sometimes one or two will simply vanish over the winter (even if my boys swear they stacked them all in the shed). More often, they emerge with tiny holes in them; Connecticut field mice apparently have very strong teeth. The point is, I’d like to be better at screen maintenance, but I’m not sure how to do it. So this assignment on seasonal home repairs couldn’t have come at a better time.

In order to bring you a smart and useful best-practices guide, we reached out to professionals in the know—from the home policy experts at Allstate and USAA Insurance and the folks at Lowe’s home improvement stores (who identified the top DIY projects by month), to property-maintenance pros who take care of people’s houses for a living, and even a top-selling real estate agent (Brian Burke with Coldwell Banker in South Windsor), who knows better than most how important it is to keep a house in tip-top condition.  

What makes a project seasonally appropriate? Most home repair projects are informed by a) the climate, b) the size and type of home you live in, and c) your lifestyle (obviously, if you don’t garden you can skip all those backyard tips). All are additionally determined by a combination of need vs. budget; for example, repaving the driveway, though advisable, may have to wait a year if your storm-damaged roof requires repairs. So while no homeowner will follow any guide to the letter, this compilation of sound advice is a good place to start.

More than anything else, home repairs made in winter (December, January, February) are subject to the weather. It seems like everything we do in the Northeast is part of an overall effort to keep the cold at bay.

✔ Check out and test your portable generator (and be sure to use it only outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from doors, windows and vents).
✔ Insulate any exposed pipes in an underheated basement.
✔ Be frugal, but keep your home warm enough to prevent damage by setting your heat no lower than 55 degrees.
✔ Keep tabs on your water heater and turn it up when the weather goes from merely cold to frigid.
✔ Vacuum your refrigerator’s condens­er coils, usually found on the back of the fridge (unplug it, then use your vac­uum’s brush attachment).
✔ Clear away accumulated snow from roofs and walkways.
✔ Keep in mind that thefts frequently take place over the holidays, so insurance experts advise that you invest in a security system; it’s also a good time to take inventory of your valuables (itemized and with photos).

Winter’s top DIY projects:
• December is the month in which most homeowners make improvements to the master bath. It’s a good time to change out hardware, faucets and showerheads. There’s also a trend toward creating spa-like environments by painting walls in soothing colors and adding Asian accents. If your budget allows, install a soaking tub, and winter won’t seem nearly as long.

• Without question, January is home organization month. Whether you choose to start in a closet, garage, pantry or kitchen, it’s the perfect time to clear clutter and install shelving and other storage and organizing products.

February is a good time to hurry the warm weather along by planning your garden, ordering seeds, and even starting some plants indoors.

Cabin fever can get the best of us in spring (March, April, May), but keep in mind that some projects are best undertaken when the ground has thoroughly thawed.

✔ Break out the mops and dust cloths. Take this opportunity to give your interior a serious once-over, including washing windows.
✔ When the danger of frost is over, power wash your home’s siding and decks.
✔ Check for any storm damage to your roof, clean gutters and make sure downspouts are in working order.
✔ Replace air conditioning filters and have your AC system inspected and serviced, if needed.
✔ Remove any dead trees or branches in your yard, and be sure that healthy trees and bushes are trimmed and away from utility wires.
✔ Mulch and plant your flowerbeds.
✔ Change batteries and check smoke/carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they function properly.
✔ Give your lawn mower a checkup to be sure it’s in good working order.
✔ Keep in mind that termites and other destructive critters like spring, too. Have your home checked for pests before they can do any structural damage.

Spring’s top DIY projects:
March is the official start to the gardening season. Seed and fertilize your lawn, plant your spring bulbs, fix up your beds and (once the danger of frost is past) plant your vegetable garden.

• Homeowners tend to take notice of fixtures, faucets and hardware in April. Kitchen updates (including new knobs, pulls and lighting) can go a long way toward making your kitchen feel spring-fresh.

May is when the importance of curb appeal kicks in. Homeowners typically update the front entrance with new door paint, plants, a welcome mat, hardware, kick plates and house numbers.

All too brief in New England, summer (June, July, August) is usually chock-full of activities, making it hard to turn our attention to home repairs. Still, many outdoor projects require summer’s long and temperate days.

✔ Paint your home’s exterior or repair siding, if needed.
✔ Check the deck or patio for wear and safety hazards; make repairs.
✔ Replace any missing roof shingles.
✔ Trim, fertilize and irrigate the lawn.
✔ Call in the big guns (a tree service) for large trees or high-up branches that need removal.
✔ Repave or repair the driveway.
✔ Inspect and replace washing machine hoses if necessary.
✔ Keep propane gas tanks filled for cooking out.
✔ Make any needed repairs to masonry.
✔ Test your garage-door opener to avoid accidents (make sure the path of the electronic-beam sensor is clear).

Summer’s top DIY projects:
June is when homeowners like to add or update landscape lighting; they’ll often install solar or LED lighting on the way to the front porch or around the deck.

July is a good time to install the ceiling fans you’ve always wanted (and suddenly need desperately).

August tends to be the month for pricier outdoor updates, such as installing a patio or irrigation/sprinkler system.

If there ever was a season for fix-ups, odd jobs and clearing clutter, it’s fall (September, October, November). Our instincts draw us inward as the days start to cool, so it’s wise to handle the outside work first.

✔ Put your garden to bed.
✔ Prune trees, taking care to remove any dead branches hanging over the house or garage.  
✔ Clean gutters after the last leaves have fallen.
✔ Have your furnace cleaned and serviced (if desired, lock in rates from your fuel company).
✔ Change batteries and check smoke/carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they function properly.
✔ Inspect your chimney and fireplace and have them cleaned if needed.
✔ Drain and shut off your sprinkler system.
✔ Turn off valves to any exterior hose bibs, and drain to prevent freezing.
✔ Service snow-removal equipment before the first big snow.
✔ Another pre-snow project: Clear pathways of leaves and debris and stock up on ice-melting compound.
✔ Remove screens and install storm windows (this is optional; see “Screen Test,” below).
✔ Make sure the clothes dryer exhaust duct is clean. If your dryer vents to the area behind foundation plantings, this is not a task you want to undertake with snow on the ground.

Fall’s top DIY projects:
September is all about lawn care—including leaf removal, aerating, seeding and fertilizing—because the more you nurture your lawn in the fall, the better it will look in the spring.

• The focus is on energy efficiency in October. This is the prime month for sealing windows and doors with caulk and weather-stripping, as well as changing out air filters to improve circulation.

November is a good time to make some improvements to your guest accommodations in anticipation of the holidays: Paint your guest room, switch out the old mattress,  and update the decor.



Connecticut Home & Garden: Home Planning Calendar

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