This article appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of This Old House Magazine. Click here to learn how to subscribe.
From pest control to deck maintenance, follow these simple tips to keep your home and its yard up to par this summer.
Summer Maintenance Checklist for Your Home
Lubricate and clean metal storms
Whenever you clean aluminum storm windows, give their metal frames extra attention—especially if they’re old and oxidized—to ensure they slide freely. Remove the storms, and vacuum the tracks and around the sill. Then lightly coat the tracks and spring-loaded locking tabs with a silicone lubricant spray such as B’laster (blasterproducts.com). Clean and dry the glass as usual, then pop the storms back in.
Halt carpenter bees
These damaging insects may resemble bumblebees, but they bore into wood to lay their eggs in ½-inch diameter tunnels. Wood decks, siding, window trim, and fascia boards are among their favorite nesting spots. The tunnels can let in water and, in extreme infestations, weaken the wood. See signs of damage? Spray the wood with citrus or almond oil to repel the bees. Treat active tunnels with pyrethrum, a natural insecticide, then slather wood filler into the holes.
Get rid of whitish streaks on masonry
White or gray stains on brick or stone walls and walkways are efflorescence, waterborne salts that leach out of wet masonry and are left behind once the water evaporates. Treat the deposits with a 1-to-4 solution of white vinegar and water.
Wait for a warm, dry day to spray the solution on the stains, then scour them away with a stiff-bristled brush. Rinse with fresh water. To prevent efflorescence from returning, coat masonry surfaces with a penetrating sealer containing siloxane or silane.
Keep bugs at bay
Holes in your screens? Here’s how to patch them yourself.
For metal screening:
- Remove the strands from opposite sides of a square patch, about ¼ inch in from the edges.
- Bend the freed wire ends 90° and place the patch over the hole, inserting the wires through the undamaged mesh.
- As shown above, secure the patch by folding the wire ends over on the screen’s opposite side.
For fiberglass screens:
- Use a heat-activated adhesive patch, such as ScreenMend (screen-mend.com).
- Place it on the screen with the strands lined up, and aim with a blow-dryer set on high. In about 30 seconds, the adhesive melts and sets the patch.
Seal leaking gutters
When compromised gutters send water next to the foundation, it can enter the basement, cause a mortared foundation to deteriorate, or even trigger soil to expand and crack poured foundation walls.
It’s easy to stop gutter leaks: Wait for dry weather, clean the gutter’s interior at the drip points, and then plug them from the inside with caulk or tape. Butyl rubber caulk is a good choice; it adheres well in hot or cold weather and creates a watertight seal that flexes as the metal expands and contracts. (Avoid silicone caulks; they’re not repairable.)
Or use a super-sticky UV-resistant membrane, like Gorilla Waterproof Patch & Seal Tape. It bonds instantly; there’s no wait for it to cure.
Spot-finish worn wood decking
A wood deck’s finish will inevitably wear away in high-traffic areas, but you don’t have to refinish the entire surface to protect the wood from sun and water—just give it a touch-up. First, see if the spot will accept a new finish by dribbling some water on it.
If the wood absorbs it within a minute, it’s ready. When the wood is dry, use a random-orbit sander to take only the worn boards down to bright wood, as shown. On boards with both worn and unworn wood, sand-worn areas as above, but at the border between the sanded and intact finish, give the intact finish a light scuff sanding an inch or two past this boundary.
Sweep and wipe away any sanding dust to leave a clean surface. Using a brush that’s the same width as the deck board, apply a coat of fresh finish to each of the sanded boards. Lap finish onto the scuffed boards to make the scuffing disappear, but keep finish off unscuffed decking. Allow it to dry and add another coat if needed.