4 for the 4th

The Fourth of July is a time for barbecue, fireworks, and fun. But for many of us, it’s also an extra day off – so why not use the holiday to tackle some summer maintenance? You can spruce up your home before your friends come over…or maybe wait and rope them into helping.

First, if you can handle the heat, take a walk around the yard and jot down some notes on what needs a touch-up. There are many tasks you can handle which will save you money, including outdoor maintenance.

Here’s a bit of a checklist to get you started: Is the wood in your deck or fence drying out? Do you have concrete or pavers that need sealing? Do your lawn, plants, or flower beds need fertilizing or mulch?

How about around the house itself: Any cracks or shrinkage in window caulking? Chalky or peeling paint? Fading fascia board? Up top, are the gutters clear? Are your shingles and flashing in good condition?

Here are 4 for the 4th

1. Painting

Retouching paint is cheap and easy, but repainting an entire house isn’t. So the best way to save is obvious: Do more to touch up your existing paint, and you’ll do fewer complete repaints.

But cheap paint means doing the job more often. So go where the paint is cheapest, but don’t buy the cheapest paint.

2. Gardening

Mulch works like fallen leaves in the forest – it returns nutrients to the soil, slows the growth of weeds, and helps the soil retain water. You could go buy a bag of mulch, but why not get some free ground-up plant matter?

Once again, the first place to check is your city’s public works department. The tree trimmers they employ often let residents shovel it into bags and cart it off, and some municipalities offer it free to your doorstep. Why? It saves them (and taxpayers) disposal costs. In addition there is private tree and landscaping services. They’re doing the same job and may also prefer to give you the mulch instead of carting it to a landfill. If not, one more (less tidy) option is to make your own by mowing the grass and recycling the clippings.

3. Sealing

Cleaning and treating unpainted wood and other home surfaces will make decks, fences, and patios last longer and look better. How often you need to clean and apply stains and sealants depends on both the material and the climate, but it’s usually at least every two to three years. You can tell if wood needs sealing by dropping water on it: If it’s soaking in rather than beading up, it’s time. Lowe’s has a short how to video on its website. Like paint, quality is typically worth the extra money. Check for local producers before you hit the hardware store, though. You may be able to buy sealants from the companies who make them at cost, instead of at a 30 percent retail markup.

4. Pest control

Mosquitoes can be a real buzzkill – so don’t leave them any breeding or play grounds in your yard. They like still, stagnant water and are attracted to non-natural scents like scented candles and garbage.

So if you have a birdbath or a pond, try surrounding them with plants mosquitoes dislike: rosemary, marigolds, and lavender. If water collects in certain parts of your yard after a rain, see if you can improve your drainage by using a shovel to level the ground or encouraging run-off away from your house.

Make sure the lid on your garbage can fits snugly or replace it. Remove scented candles or anything else that emits a perfumed smell, and if you leave a water bowl out for pets, keep it empty when they’re indoors.

For other crawlies, you can make an all-natural pesticide instead of buying expensive, harmful chemicals. Hot pepper sprays, used dishwater, or 1 teaspoon of liquid soap to a gallon of water will all do the trick. Marigolds will get rid of beetles, while mint, garlic, and chives will discourage other harmful insects.

Spending a little time and money now will save you a ton of time, money, and aggravation later – so get a little yard work done before kicking back with a beer, if you can tolerate the heat.





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