Making the Most of the Spring SeasonSpring is synonymous with warmer weather, rain, beautiful flowers and chores. Whether it’s checking to make sure your finances are in order or cleaning out your closets, the spring months are the ideal time of the year to get organized. House chores shouldn’t be absent from your spring to-do list. MainStreet asked experts to share insight on how to get the home ready for spring, especially when it comes to your lawn, patio furniture, swimming pool and getting that air conditioner in tip-top shape for the warm months ahead.
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Outdoor FurnitureAfter a long winter, the outdoor furniture is going to need some attention. Painting or staining your outdoor furniture gives the furniture a younger look. Chris Ring, Vice President of Operations and Training for ProTect Painters, suggests the following steps for a successful outdoor furniture makeover:
- Start out with a clean, dull and dry surface.
- If the furniture is shiny, mechanical abrasion (sanding) will be required. You don't need to remove it all down to bare metal or wood, but a sound solid base is important for the new primer and paint to adhere to.
- Dirt, residue, and peeling, flaking paint should not be painted over - these are bond breakers and most likely will cause your new coats to peel off.
- Many paint manufacturers now have some very durable products that come in aerosol cans to finish exterior metal furniture.
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DecksReviving an older wooden deck in your yard is a much larger undertaking - one that requires many more steps. Ring offers some more tips on staining a deck:
- Pour a small amount of water onto the horizontal surfaces of the deck floor and tops of the handrails. If the water soaks in right away, or relatively quickly (within a few minutes), then the wood pores are open, and are ready to take a stain/sealer. If the water still beads up on these surfaces, then some additional work might be required for the wood to be ready to soak in stain.
- Removing dirt and some of the old color/stains/mildew is best achieved via power washing.
- Once dry, start on the railings - use a drop cloth underneath the railing to protect the splash or drip marks from getting onto the floor below.
- The key to a proper deck is to brush in the stain/sealer no more than three boards at a time - following those boards from one end to another. Rollers don’t do a good job working the stain into the wood. They fail to sufficiently cover the grooves between the boards.
- Read the cans carefully for dry times before putting on a second coat. If the surface is still wet or still seems tacky or sticky, do not put on that second coat until completely dry.
- Wait at least two days before putting the furniture back on – and longer if there are heavy items. Ring cautions against staining your deck on a sunny day, as this leaves brush marks.
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The Best Time to PaintWhen you’re planning a major outdoor painting project, rain isn’t the only weather condition that you should be thinking about – humidity is important, too. Ring suggests painting on days when it’s less humid outside.
“Most paints dry or harden by evaporation. When it's humid, the air is saturated with water and therefore the water in the paint cannot evaporate out of the film to allow it to dry and harden,” he says. “This slows down the drying time.”
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Cleaning FurnitureCan you imagine all of the mud and dirt that has accumulated on your outdoor furniture since last summer? Here are a few ways to create your own cleaner to make your outdoor tables and chairs spotless, courtesy of MollyMaid President Kristi Mailloux:
- Cleaning Lawn Chairs: Brighten lawn chairs by combining three-fourths of cup of household bleach and 1 tablespoon of powdered or liquid laundry detergent, combined with 1 gallon of warm water. Wearing rubber gloves, scrub with a soft-bristle brush or sponge. Let mixture stay on the chair for 5-15 minutes, then rinse well.
- Cleaning Wicker Furniture: Scrub surface with a mixture of 1 cup of household ammonia, one-half of a cup of vinegar and 1 gallon of water. Rinse well and wipe with an absorbent cloth to remove excess moisture.
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Cleaning Cushions and UmbrellasFor those upcoming barbeques, none of your guests will want sit on dirty chair cushions. And while you’re at it, it doesn’t hurt to clean the umbrella to your patio table. Here are some of Mailloux’s solutions when it comes to cleaning cushions and umbrellas:
- Cleaning Cushions: Mix together 1 tsp. of dishwashing detergent and 1 tsp. Borax in 1 quart warm water. Put the mixture in a spray bottle and apply generously to saturate the cushions on both sides. This will help get rid of mold and mildew. Let sit for 15 minutes and spray the solution off with a hose – then allow it to air dry.
- Cleaning Outdoor Umbrellas/Sunshades: Mix up a mild solution of dish detergent and water - wash the entire umbrella. Focus on the crevices around the top where dirt collects. Once you've washed it thoroughly, let it sit open in the sun for a full day.
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Trimming TreesAs we head into spring and summer, the chance for severe thunderstorms increases – and having trees too close to your home is a recipe for disaster. This is where the help of a professional comes in.
“An arborist, or experienced landscaping company, can work to make the appropriate trimmings and determine the tree’s health," advises Bob Welther, assistant vice president, Risk Consulting Operations at ACE Private Risk Services. "When significant trimming is necessary, these experts can ensure it is done in a safe way without any damage to the home or homeowners.”
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Landscaping and MulchAside from choosing your favorite flowers to plant, be sure to incorporate mulch into the flowerbeds. In addition to aesthetics, mulch helps prevent weeds from growing and shields the soil from the stifling summer temperatures. Mulching won’t break the bank either. An entire bag of mulch costs less than $5.
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Prepping the Swimming PoolOpening up backyard swimming pools for the spring and summer is a painful process. Willian Johnson, CEO of VivoPools mentions the importance of checking the pool’s heater, filter and surface:
- Heater: Inspect and clean the swimming pool heater as spider webs, dirt and other debris can accumulate during the winter months that may cause the heater to not fire, or otherwise work properly·
- Filter: Organic and inorganic microorganisms can get stuck and if not properly cleaned, can result in cloudy water, unsafe water and stress on the pool pump and motor.
- Surface: Make sure the surface of the pool is free of leaves or tree branches to prevent them from sinking to the bottom and becoming a larger mess.
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Indoor ChecklistAs for the list of chores inside your house, replacing the air conditioning filters should be at the top of the list. The inevitable triple-digit heat waves in the summer will have your air conditioner working hard – and the last thing you want is dust and mold circulating around the house. It’s also important to check that the screens on the windows are not torn or ripped.
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Spring is also the perfect time to re-examine your homeowner’s insurance. Know what is and isn’t covered. “You need to make sure you have enough coverage to fully rebuild your home in case of a natural disaster such as a tornado," Whelther says. "Most homes in the U.S. are underinsured. The safe route is to seek a policy that offers full replacement cost coverage.”
Scott Gamm is the founder of the personal finance website HelpSaveMyDollars.com. He has appeared on NBC’s TODAY, MSNBC and CNN. Follow Scott on Facebook and Twitter.
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