August home-maintenance checklist

Fend off pests outdoors, pamper lawns, keep drains flowing, clean grout and maintain water heaters this month.

By Marilyn Lewis of MSN Real Estate

Remove pest magnets
There are many reasons – fire protection, air circulation, drainage, attractiveness and safety — to keep the outside walls of your home clear and free of debris. One more compelling reason is that piles and stacks of tools, lumber, ladders, yard waste and toys create a haven for spiders, rats, mice and wood-boring insects. Take an hour to circle your home outside, removing anything touching the siding. Donate, discard or store what you’ve removed.

Firewood is one common hiding place. Stacking it under the eaves of the house keeps it dry, but there’s a price: The wood creates a home for spiders and invites them into the house. Also, wood piles trap moisture against the siding and prevent circulation. If left long enough, the dampness could rot siding or trim. Instead, store firewood at least two feet from the house and 18 inches above the ground. Keep it dry by building a little shelter over the top of the pile.

In addition, discourage pests by clearing out vegetation under decks that might give them a safe place to hide. And pick fruit from trees as soon as it is ripe. Keep the ground clean under fruit and nut trees.

Seal garbage cans tightly. If you’ve had problems with rats, dogs or raccoons getting into the trash, make sure the cans have tight-fitting lids. Tighten the lids by linking a stretchy tie-down from handle to handle. Knot it to shorten it if necessary. Buy or build a small enclosure for your cans.

Wash and rinse items you intend to recycle. Keep them waiting for disposal indoors or in a sealed enclosure. If you store pet food in a garage or carport, keep it in containers with tight lids. Also, if your bird feeder is attracting rats, get rid of it. To see if you’ve got “four-legged birds,” shine a light on the feeder in the middle of the night or in the wee hours of the morning.

Don’t let water sit around your yard or garden; it breeds mosquitoes. Change the birdbath and wading pool water at least weekly. Toss water out of pet dishes, flowerpot saucers, cans, buckets and anything else lying around that collects rain. Keep gutters clean.

Pamper the lawn
Homeowners can’t successfully emulate the tightly trimmed golf-course look because they don’t have a golf course’s budget and army of maintenance professionals. Instead, the best thing you can do to achieve a good-looking lawn is to mow frequently and high (three inches or more – or just set your mower blades as high as they’ll go). This discourages weeds and trains the grass to grow in thickly. High, frequent cutting encourages roots to grow deep and retain water, so you’ll need to water less frequently. Let the clippings fall onto the lawn to add nourishment.

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