Getting Your Home Ready for Summer
As summer approaches the trees get leaves, the grass grows green and all that is dormant in winter comes to life. It’s all a part of the universal plan. Wood destroying insects, floods, water pushing in walls and mold are also a part of the plan. We should try to stay on the good side of Mother Nature and the universal plan. A simple, healthy and free way to greet warm weather is to open windows and doors. Fresh air is good for both the house and the inhabitants. Mold, mildew, bacteria, and other organic growth that are living in the dampness located in most walls need diluted with good, old fashioned fresh air. If you have a forced air furnace, use the “on” setting for the fan to circulate air through the home.
Basic Exterior “House Cleaning” Prevents Damage to Homes
Check and clean the roof and gutters. If you covered roof or other vents in an attempt to save energy, immediately uncover them. Ventilation is critical to maintaining a home. Make sure the screens for the vents do not have any holes. Openings that allow bats, wasps, sink bugs and rodents to enter a home can be a serious health hazard. As an example, by Pennsylvania law, if there is a bat infestation in a home, they can’t be removed between mid-May and late July. You really do not want bats or any other rodent infestation. The droppings they leave can cause lung infections or the disease, Histoplasmosis. Remove all of the leaves on decks, roofs, wood porches, and against oter wood surfaces. The organic debris is an open invitation for wood destroying organisms. Leaves against the home hold the dampness which causes rot and attracts wood destroying insects. Leaves also contain pigments that will permanently stain concrete, shingle and other surfaces. The tannin and the pigments in the leaves produce dark stains that are almost impossible to remove.
The best way to clean up the stains is a power washer. Now, I really am defining “best” from the point of view of using what I personally view as a favorite “man toy”, but it is a very good method. As an alternative method, stains can be removed by scrubbing using a solution of no more than a quarter cup of Clorox and a handful of trisodium phosphate added per gallon of water. If you use this solution, be extremely careful to protect skin, animal and plant surfaces. Use goggles, gloves, raincoats and any other suitable protective devices. Clean your exterior air conditioner compressor. A few moments of work with a garden hose can increase the efficiency of the air conditioner all season. It also pays to have the unit checked by a professional for refrigerant and proper operation.
Seal Exterior Openings to Protect the Home
Caulk where concrete and asphalt meet house walls with a high quality caulking. Water will leak into foundations at the small openings between those surfaces and house walls and be the source of damage, mold and wood destroying insect infestations.
Prevention of Infestations is Cheaper than the Cure
Summer maintenance requires that we need to prevent wood destroying insect infestations. Mother Nature’s “universal plan” includes a recycling program that is far more efficient and extensive than taking used newspapers to a center to be turned into insulation. Dead trees are turned into topsoil so that new plants and trees can grow. That miracle doesn’t seem so wondrous when the dead wood that is being recycled by termites, carpenter ants and carpenter bees is the wood in our homes.
If there are unpainted overhangs, siding areas or ceilings they should be primed and painted. With the milder winters of the last couple of years, carpenter bees have become a real common problem. They drill perfectly round ¼” inch holes in unpainted wood. They then drill a tunnel at 90 degrees to the face of the wood and lay a gallery of carpenter bee eggs. Painting exterior wood is the best defense against carpenter bees.
Mulch for the plants is often a part of summer preparation. The most common mulch is bark, which is also an open invitation for carpenter ants and other wood destroying insects. Rubber mulch, mushroom compost, peat moss and stone are all better selections than bark if the goal is to avoid carpenter ants.
Finally, there is the most important part of summer preparation. Clean the grill and fire it up for a summer picnic. There really should be a reward for all the work.