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Summer should be the stuff dreams are made of: long, sunny days and warm nights filled with important questions like, “Ice cream on the porch, or another pint on the patio?”
Summer also comes with bugs, heat, humidity, and other annoyances around the house. So this year, eradicate 13 of the worst irritations of summer before they crush your summer buzz. Here’s how:
These ubiquitous party crashers can suck the fun out of any outdoor fiesta.
What to do:
Clean your gutters. “That’s often a main, and neglected, breeding site for mosquitoes,” says Chris Enroth, a horticulture educator with the University of Illinois Extension office in Macomb.
Plug in a fan. Or install a ceiling fan. “Mosquitoes don’t like flying in high wind,” Enroth says. Cheers for cool breezes sans bug bites!
Wooden doors can swell, outgrowing their jambs (what holds doors steady as you open and close them) on humid days, causing an annoyingly sticky situation.
Tighten the hinge screws. There’s a chance your door’s just slipped out of alignment.
Scale back the weather stripping. If you installed it in the winter to keep out drafts, it could be too thick come summer.
Shave down the door. As a last resort, use a planer or sander to trim down the door ever so slightly, concentrating on the area with a visibly worn finish. Seal the newly exposed edge with paint or wood sealant to block out future humidity.
Although named for a helpful trade, both carpenter ants and carpenter bees often make their nests by burrowing into your home’s wood, which can cause some really pricey damage on top of their annoying presence.
Keep all exposed wood sealed or painted. Don’t forget the bottoms of window sills!
Direct water away from wood.Gutters and flashing will help keep wood dry, says Bob Boucher, owner of a handyman company in Concord, N.H.
Evict existing colonies. Look for sawdust trails to find the entrance, then use a rinsed squeezable ketchup bottle to blow an insecticide dust or boric acid powder into the hole.
Moving from your first-floor kitchen to a second-floor bedroom shouldn’t require a wardrobe change.
Check your ductwork. Look for unsealed joints or hire a pro to make sure your ducts are properly sized. Both can affect your system’s ability to deliver conditioned air to each room.
Set your whole-house fan to “on.” This continuous circulation will mix the air so no space is too hot or too cold.
Direct more cool air upstairs. Look for ductwork dampers in the basement to open during the summer months.
Because fruit flies lay their eggs on decaying organic material (yeah, yuck), summer’s bounty of fresh fruits and veggies can invite these disgusting freeloaders into your home. There’s a ton of solutions on the Internet, but preventative measures work best.
Keep sinks, drains, and disposals clean. Even dirty dishes can harbor fruit flies.
Freeze food waste. Place rotting fruit, meat scraps, etc. in a bag in your freezer until garbage day.
Pitch overripe fruit. And until you eradicate the flies, keep all other produce in the fridge or a sealed container.
Pour bleach or boiling water down the drain. This will kill any eggs or remaining adult flies.
Besides ruining a well-manicured view, resilient weeds can crack or shift your pavement. Again, prevention’s best.
Block new growth. Fill the weed-free cracks with asphalt or cement crack filler, sand, or corn gluten meal, which prevents future germination. If you’re too late, you need to…
Pull ‘em. Especially if you don’t want to use an herbicide, which can spread and damage desirable plants. Sorry!
You want to throw open the shades and revel in that summer sunshine, but your furnishings and flooring are sensitive to the fading and drying effects of UV rays.
Add transparent window film. It shuts out 99% of UVA and UVB rays without blocking sunlight or a welcome view. Today’s films are undetectable when properly installed and won’t tint the light coming into your home.
Spray furnishings with a protectant. Spritz upholstery, curtains, and rugs with a UV-blocking fabric protector and treat wood with a varnish — which provides better sun protection than other types of sealant.
As long as the decking is in otherwise good shape, your bare feet don’t have to suffer through a gauntlet of splinters again this summer.
Resurface it. Apply one of the newer deck restoration products that essentially gives your deck a coating that will prevent splinters. This works best for small splinters, before they’ve gotten too bad.
Sand it.Best if splinters are deep and big. Then apply a water-repelling, UV-resistant sealer.
Dust mite populations peak in summer’s heat and humidity, inflicting stuffy noses, sneezing, and coughing upon those who are allergic.
Make your home inhospitable. Clean more frequently and use your AC to keep indoor humidity to 50% or less.
Get a new pillow. If your pillow is older than three years and has not been washed (experts recommend it twice a year), toss it: It’s likely loaded with dust mites.
Slam. Slam. Slam. Annoying, right? Beyond rattling your bliss, this sound of summer can damage the hinges of your screen door.
Adjust your door closer. If your door has a closer, find the perfect bang-free tension by simply turning the screw on pneumatic models or rotating the body on hydraulic styles.
Add a closer. It costs just $10 to $20 to retrofit an older screen door.
Apply felt pads to the door frame. How’s that for a low-cost option?
Hot dogs and burgers should be the only things you risk burning on your patio this summer.
Throw some shade. Position an umbrella or pergola over frequently used areas.
Add an outdoor rug. Choose a lighter color that won’t absorb as much heat. Plastic styles, in particular, are touted for keeping their cool.
Refinish the surface. Again, choose a lighter color. Resurfacing products and overlays are available for all types of patio and deck surfaces.
Widespread browning, rather than patches of brown grass, has two common causes: lawn care oversights and a cool-season grass going dormant.
Sharpen or replace your mower blades. This could be all that’s needed if just the tips of your grass are brown and jagged.
Set the blade height to 3 inches. When you take less off the top, it helps grass absorb water before it evaporates.
Water less frequently, for longer periods of time. This helps grass develop deeper, drought- and disease-resistant roots. Aim for 1 to 1.5 inches of water a week, and even a cool-season grass can keep its green during the summer.
When humid air meets cool surfaces in an unconditioned basement, condensation occurs — setting the stage for mold and mildew, and that noxious, nose-wrinkling smell.
Check for other sources of humidity. Leaking floors and walls, improperly vented clothes dryers and bathrooms, poorly graded landscaping, and ill-positioned downspouts all can direct water into the basement.
Buy a dehumidifier sized for your needs. Use the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers’ “Directory of Verified Dehumidifiers” to find your match.Set the dehumidifier to “auto” (i.e. running only when needed). Running continuously, even a small model could cost $20 a month.
Amy Howell Hirt has written about home design for 13 years. Her work has been published by outlets including "The Home Depot", "USA Today" and Yahoo! Homes. She previously served as home and garden writer and columnist for "The Cincinnati Enquirer".
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