Fix-Ups for Fall

Fall is the time of year, at least in the Northern US, when homeowners prep their house and yard for the coming cold weather. Obviously, closing the pool and raking leaves are necessary, but what other tasks do homeowners need to do to be ready for winter? Read on to find out!

DCF 1.0

Lawn

If your only lawn prep for winter is to rake your leaves, you are missing out on some important steps. After you’ve done the raking, cut your grass one last time.

mowing

Then, use an aerator over your entire yard to remove plugs of soil and allow the roots to have better access to nutrients. After that, apply a fall fertilizer to the lawn. Finally, water the lawn to distribute and dissolve the fertilizer. These steps will give your grass a head-start in the spring, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your lawn greens and revives after the cold months.

Landscaping

Fall is the perfect time to do any replanting or thinning of your landscape plants. At this point, the plants are beginning to go dormant, and digging them up will not harm the roots. If you have any areas which have become weed-infested, apply some Round-Up in the fall, and you will not have to deal with them in the spring. If you have any ornamental grasses, you should tie twine around them near the base and about halfway up. This will help them to not be damaged by heavy snowfall, and it will also make cutting them back in the spring a lot easier as well, as they will be pre-bundled.

gardening

Fall is also the time to prune back flowering shrubs, such as some hydrangeas and crepe myrtles. Be cautious with the hydrangeas – the Mophead variety sets its buds for the next season’s blooms in the fall, so if you cut those off, you will not get any flowers!

House

Exterior house prep involves several areas. First, when you take your hose in for the winter, be sure to drain the spigot line of water so you do not get frozen pipes in your basement. It’s a wise idea to install a valve on the water line inside your basement so you can turn off the water supply to the spigot outside and drain that portion of the line.

water-spigot

Next, fall is a great time to wash your windows. While commercial cleaners are just fine, a simple mixture of ¼ cup of white vinegar, ½ tsp. of dish soap and 2 cups of water does a fabulous job as well. Apply the cleaner to your windows, scrub gently, rinse with a spray bottle of clear water and finish with a squeegee for a streak-free, sparkling shine.

The roof is next. Visually check your roof for any signs of damage before the rigors of winter weather hit. While you’re up there, clean debris out of your gutters. If you have an aversion to the sludge in the gutters, use a plastic spatula to lift and scrape the debris into your trash bag. It will keep your hands clean, and it won’t scratch or damage your gutters. In addition, use a plumber’s auger on your downspouts to assure there are no clogs of leaves or debris.

Snow Prep

It’s a good idea to put some stakes along your driveway, sidewalks and landscaping which borders on the driveway or walks. These stakes will give you a visual cue how far you can go with your snow blower after snow has obscured the edges. Also protect landscaping plants, such as arborvitae and juniper, which snow might damage.

arborvitae-wrapped

Pruning will help to avoid damage, but you may want to also consider using strips of cloth to wrap the shrub’s branches in a diagonal pattern (like how the grid  runs on a waffle cone) to keep snow from breaking and deforming them.

Hang it Up! (Decorating Your New Home)

You’ve purchased your new home. You’ve moved everything in, and unpacked all the boxes. You pretty much have furniture positioned where you want it, and it almost feels like home. But as you look at your walls, you realize that to get a true homey vibe, you need some wall art! You might have pieces you brought with you, but you also might want to get some new pieces which work with your new space. Whatever the case, once you’ve gotten your wall décor selected, stop and read our advice below before you begin pounding holes into your pristine, new walls!

Artwork on Wall
Hanging pictures properly takes planning!

To Nail or Not to Nail?

Most of us have grown up thinking that in order to hang wall décor, we need to pound nails into our walls. While sometimes the weight of the picture dictates that only a nail or screw will do, modern technology offers many other options for lighter items. A rule of thumb is that if your wall art weighs more than 8 pounds, you will need to go with one or more nails or screws. But if it’s lighter, you might be able to use a far less invasive hanger, which adheres securely but also pulls off with no damage or residue when you need to move it.

If You MUST Hammer/Drill …

If your artwork is heavy, you have two options with drywall. When you are hanging it where there is a stud behind the drywall, a simple nailed-in hook should work great. But if you are hanging heavy art between studs, you will need to use some sort of securing mechanism that protects your drywall. Options include screw-in anchors, expanding plastic sleeves, tap-in expanding anchors, or toggle bolts. Each of these hangers has an area which expands after the hanger is inserted in the wall. This expansion helps to distribute the load and to secure the hanger from pulling out. However, they are very invasive and will leave a hole in your wall should you ever decide to remove them. With very heavy artwork, you may need to use several hangers to further distribute the weight.

To Avoid the Damage …

To avoid the damage that an expanding hanger can cause, opt for adhesive options if your item weighs less than 8 pounds. Adhesive options include picture hanging strips, adhesive hooks in various weights, mounting tape or reusable adhesive. All of these are designed to remove with ease, to leave no residue and to not damage painted surfaces (but check the package label to verify this).

Picture Hanging Strips

First, you can put picture hanging strips on the back of your picture and then adhere it to the wall. These function with adhesive and Velcro. Each picture strip is two parts: the part that adheres to your artwork and the part that sticks to the wall. Begin by cleaning both surfaces with Isopropyl (“Rubbing”) Alcohol and allow to dry. Next, press the two parts of each picture strip together. Remove the liner of the picture side of the strip and press it against the picture for 30 seconds. Repeat this process if you are using more than one strip on the artwork. When all strips are secured to the artwork, position and mark the location where you wish to hang it. Then, remove the liner on the wall side of the strips, position the art and press in place. Now, very carefully pull the strips apart so the picture part is on the artwork and the wall part is on the wall. Press the wall strip securely to the wall for 30 seconds. Wait an hour before actually hanging the wall art back on the strips. As a guide, one strip can support about 3 pounds, so two strips can hold around 6 pounds, and four strips can bear approximately 12 pounds.

Adhesive Hooks

As with the picture hanging strips, adhesive hooks have a liner on the backside which covers the adhesive part. Hooks work best for wreaths, scarf valances and other lightweight items which do not need to rest flush against the wall. Begin by marking the desired location of your wall décor. Next, clean the wall where the hook will stick with Isopropyl Alcohol and let dry. Remove the backing from the hook adhesive and push into place. Allow to set for an hour to be sure the adhesive has achieved full strength before hanging your artwork. The packaging will indicate the maximum weight one hook can support.

Adhesive Tape

Quite similar to picture strips, adhesive tape has two sticky sides. Be certain that the tape you choose is specifically designed to use on painted surfaces; regular double-sided tape will damage paint! Just as with the other adhesive fasteners, you will need to clean both the wall surface and the picture surface before applying adhesive tape. Begin by peeling the backing off of the side that faces the artwork and press in place. Next, remove the liner from the opposite side of the tape and adhere to the wall surface. Please note that adhesive tape has far less holding power than picture strips or adhesive hooks. It can only support up to a pound.

Reusable Adhesive

To use reusable adhesive, prepare the wall and artwork surfaces by wiping with Isopropyl Alcohol. In addition, wash your hands, as finger oils will diminish the adhesive bond. Next, pull off a piece of adhesive, which resembles putty, and soften it by rolling and kneading it. Shape the adhesive into a little ball and press onto your artwork. You might need to use several balls of adhesive to secure your pieces. Press into place on the wall. Reusable adhesive will only hold up to a pound.

A Final Note on Plaster

If you happen to have plaster walls, you must be extra careful before using any sort of fastener which gets nailed or screwed into your wall. Plaster has a tendency to crumble and chip at the point of fastening. Before you drill or nail, place a piece of tape over the spot where you intend to create the hole. then nail or drill into the tape. After your hanging fastener is attached, carefully pull away the tape.  You will see far less damage to your plaster if you do this.

Happy Decorating!

American eWarranty is a US company specializing in 10-year new home warranties and 5-year remodeling warranties. Learn more at our website, www.americanewarranty.com.