Landscape Purposefully: Trees

We’ve all seen “those” homes … you know, the ones which have a giant maple tree or some such arboreal entity looming about 2” from the house.

These trees are far too close to the house.

It may have looked cute when it was a sapling, but in full size, it’s far too close for comfort. And that’s just the part you can see. The part you can’t see, below ground, poses a huge threat to your home’s structural integrity. Let’s learn how to landscape purposefully to avoid such issues as your home ages.

These trees are planted well away from the home's foundation.

Space, the Final Frontier

When you plant trees, you must know exactly how far their roots will spread. Some species, such as willow, maple and aspen, send out roots very aggressively and invasively. These roots, seeking water, can infiltrate your underground pipes, break up your sidewalks and driveway or even damage your home’s foundation. It is wise to be proactive and to allow a great deal of space between your house and your tree plantings. A good rule of thumb is to gauge that the roots will extend to 3 times the tree’s crown’s circumference. So if a mature tree has a 10 foot crown, plant it 30 feet away from any structure it could damage. For willow, maple and aspen, add extra feet onto that. Another factor to consider is the location of power lines and overhead wires. Again, think about the mature size of the tree’s crown in relationship to those things as well. Space is the key. One more extremely important caution: before you dig, ALWAYS check to know where underground pipelines and conduits run. From any US state, call 811 and the local One Call System will mark where such underground hazards cross your property.

Scale

No, we’re not talking about how much your tree weighs. Rather, consider the mature scale of the tree compared to your home and other structures. Too large a tree can make a small house feel miniature. In the same way, a shorter-growing tree can make a two-story home loom and tower. Think proportionally, and always remember that when you first plant, while the distance between your new plantings might look huge, once those trees mature, they will appear much closer to each other.

Keep it Native

While the exotic tree from South America might seem like a cool idea, it’s best to choose trees and shrubs that are native to your area. Not only will they have a better chance of thriving, but also they will be more resistant to local pests and diseases. Another factor is that some non-native species can be invasive when planted where there are no inhibitions to growth. While not technically a tree, bamboo is an example of such a species.

Plant with Purpose

After considering all the above factors, finally, decide what purpose the tree will serve. Is it a shade tree? A fruit tree? A climbing tree for kids? An ornamental tree? The purpose will help determine further which tree to use in a particular place. For example, a shade tree near a patio area would need to only be about 10 feet tall when mature to provide sufficient shade, but a shade tree near a house would need greater height and crown spread to shade the home well. For an ornamental tree, consider growth shape, fall foliage color and maintenance, such as pruning needed.

With careful consideration, you will be able to landscape purposefully and create a stunning, safe and effective yard which compliments your beautiful, new home.

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Thank You, Veterans!

On this Memorial Day Weekend …

… we wish to express our heartfelt thanks to all those who have sacrificed for America’s freedom. Thank you to active service members, to veterans and to those service members who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. America, always remember that freedom is not free; it has been bought with a price. We are the land of the free … because of the brave! Why not thank a service member today?

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day!

Maximizing Outdoor Living in Your Remodeling Offerings

As we noted last year, a trend began in 2016 which sought to bring the outdoors inside. This trend utilized large windows and expansive patio doors which opened to an outdoor space. The outdoor living trend has only intensified in 2017. Spacious entertaining and cool areas without using a lot of energy are the primary driving forces which are promoting this trend.

Outdoor Entertaining, Outdoor Living

Top Remodeling Project

Adding a fully functional outdoor living space is one of the most requested remodeling projects reported by contractors across the US. Qualified Remodeler Magazine reports, in its April 2017 issue, that 84.4% of remodeling contractors indicate that they are doing outdoor space remodeling project requests. If you’ve not considered adding this offering to your remodeling services, you might be missing out!

Types of Outdoor Living Projects

What sorts of outdoor living projects are homeowners requesting? The most prominent request is that families want comfortable spaces outside where they can enjoy time with friends and family. Such spaces can include an outdoor living room, full-featured cooking and dining spaces and even entertainment centers complete with media systems and fireplaces. Decks, pergolas, and roofed but wall-less structures define these spaces.

Outdoor Kitchen, Outdoor Dining

Materials

This trend emphasizes natural materials as well as easy-care products. For the flooring and structure, composite decking materials receive the highest rating, although pressure-treated wood is also popular because of its affordability. Another popular floor treatment is concrete paving, stamped in an attractive pattern. Many manufacturers offer weatherproof appliances, such as refrigerators, stove-tops, grills and storage units for outfitting the outdoor kitchen. Stone and manufactured stone surfaces provide weatherproof cabinetry and also protect the electrical and gas lines from weather damage. In addition, durable and weather-resistant furnishings for outside use have skyrocketed in variety and availability. Finally, don’t forget lighting needs as part of a remodel in the outdoors. From accent lighting to path lights, LED lights are taking the place of outdoor lights which use more electricity.

With your remodeling, don’t forget that American eBuilder offers 5-year Remodeler’s Warranties on your work. What a great way to give even your remodeling customers peace of mind and assurance that your work is the highest quality!

Roof and Rain Gutter Maintenance

As a new home owner, you want to keep your house and yard in like-new condition for as long as you can. If you do periodic maintenance, you will ensure that your home stays as beautiful as the day you bought it. Let’s start at the top: maintenance of the roof and drainage system.

Roof Types

A roof is a system of your home which is designed to last a long time, if you take proper care of it. Areas which require periodic attention include flashing, drainage waste vent stacks, shingles and gutters. To be sure everything is working as it should, you should have a professional roofer examine these areas every three years.

On the Roof

FLASHING: Flashing is metal, plastic or rubber pieces which protect your roof wherever there is a join – between roof and chimney, between dormers and roof or in valleys where two different roof slopes meet. These pieces ensure that no water infiltrates those areas. Usually, metal and plastic flashing will last as long as your roof does and will not need replacing until replacing your roof.

DRAINAGE WASTE VENT STACKS: These vents are the white pipes which protrude from your roof. They are designed to allow air to help your waste water flow without impediment. The vents are very durable, but the special flashing around them, called a “boot,” is not. Boots are typically made of rubber and extend from a seal around the base of the vent and under several rows of shingles. Sun and weather take a toll on these boots, and they typically will fail after about 5 years. If a boot fails, you will get water under your shingles, and may have roof damage or damage to your ceilings inside your home. If you have a roofer examine the boots every three years, he will be able to replace any faulty one before it causes a problem.

SHINGLES: Shingles, typically made from asphalt, slate, wood, metal or plastic, overlap and are designed to allow water to freely flow off your roof and into the rain gutters. Asphalt shingles, the most commonly used in America, will last between 15 and 20 years. As they weather and age, they will become brittle and begin to crack. That process signals you that it is time to replace the roof. Again, if you have a roofer examine the roof periodically, he will discover when the shingles are too brittle to function well and will need to be replaced.

Rain Gutter System

Assisting Your Roof

Another integral part of your roofing system is the gutters and downspouts. The rain gutters are the rain water evacuation system for your roof. Always keep them free-flowing – free of debris, ice and snow. Paying attention to the maintenance of these components will protect your home’s exterior as well as your foundation. When a gutter is clogged with debris, such as leaves, bird nests or tree limbs, rainwater overflows rather than drains. This drainage can crack your foundation! Keep the gutters clear!

Several products are on the market to help avoid debris clogging your gutters:

MESH: A mesh gutter guard attaches to your roof’s shingles and covers the gutter to prevent debris from entering. This guard has holes to allow rain to flow into the gutter. Small holes are better than large ones in this type of gutter cover.

BOTTLE BRUSH: A bottle brush gutter guard is covered with bristles which resemble a round, nylon hair brush. The bristles fill the gutter to prevent debris, but water filters through them and drains to the downspout.

REVERSE CURVE: This gutter guard bows upward to deflect debris, but has a small slit to direct water into the gutter.

FOAM: A foam gutter guard fits into the gutter and blocks the debris from entering.

NYLON: Nylon gutter guards also insert into the gutters, but do not attach to the shingles.

In addition to preventing clogged gutters, you may need to do a few other tasks to keep your rainwater draining happily. While vinyl gutters never need painted, aluminum ones will need an occasional coat of paint. All other metals must be painted with rust resistant paint every 4 to 6 years.

After every winter, do a visual survey of your roof and rain gutters to assure that snow and ice have not caused any damage or detachment from your home. Also check your downspouts for clogs and install drainage hoses to direct water away from your foundation.

Year-Round Lawn Care

Everyone has one of “those” neighbors … you know, the ones whose gorgeous, lush emerald green lawn looks as if it popped right out of the pages of Better Homes and Gardens. Obviously they pay big bucks to achieve that level of lawn care, right? Great news – not necessarily! With some savvy and the right resources, you can also develop a lawn that is the envy of your entire neighborhood. It takes a little time, but you CAN do it!

Lawn Care 101: Lush and Healthy Emerald Green Grass

The important point to note is that nurturing your lawn into a thing of beauty is not just a summer activity. Throughout the year, you will need to take certain steps to achieve this. Let’s begin with the spring.

SPRING LAWN CARE

Spring Lawn Care: The new grass is light green in Spring

Test-Thatch-Treat is the triple play for spring. First, to figure out where you’re starting, begin with a soil test. You can pick up a soil tester at your local extension service or nearby nursery. Some nurseries even offer this for free. The results of this test will tell you the alkalinity or acidity (pH) of your soil. The best soil pH for healthy grass is around 6-7. If the pH of your soil is not correct, your nursery or garden center can help you in determining the proper treatment to apply. Generally, dolomite lime will raise the pH and make the soil more alkaline. Sulfur will lower the pH to make the soil more acidic.

After you’ve determined the pH and before you apply any treatment, do a bit of dethatching.  Unless you bag your grass or use a mulching mower, over time, dead grass builds up and packs into the turf. If the thatch remains, it will create a barrier which prevents air, water and nutrients from reaching the soil. Use a metal-tined rake to pull these dried grass clippings out and aerate the lawn. After dethatching, you might also want to run a plug aerator over the area. This will pull out small plugs of dirt and allow the soil to breathe.

The final spring activity is to treat. If your pH is in the normal 6-7 range, the best thing you can do is to put down a pre-emergent weed herbicide and a few weeks later, a slow-release nitrogen-based fertilizer. If you must modify the soil pH, do that several weeks before you do the pre-emergent herbicide.

A final spring note: if you have bare spots, this is also a great time to spread some grass seed; the seed will germinate and take root before the searing hot weather of summer.

SUMMER LAWN CARE

Summer Lawn Care: Grass needs water in the hot summer

Summer is mostly a lawn care maintenance time. If you gave your grass a healthy start in the spring, it should be looking rather robust by the summertime. One part of summer maintenance is applying a weed and feed product. Slow-release fertilizers work best in the summer; they do not burn the lawn as readily. Always apply summer weed and feed before rain, or water after application. This will also help to prevent burning. The weed element during the summer fertilizing actually kills existing weeds, but it will also make your lawn more vulnerable if there is a dry spell.

Did you know that lawns can get stressed? It’s true. The summer heat, especially in southern US states, is brutal to your lawn’s health. Part of our summer regimen will include alleviating that stress with watering. A normal lawn requires around an inch of water weekly to stay healthy. If rainfall is minimal, you will need to supplement this water requirement with sprinkling. A gentle watering over a prolonged period is better than a short, fast watering session. The hydration needs to reach the roots. In the summer, water thoroughly every 5 to 6 days, unless it’s extremely hot and dry.

Another aspect of nurturing a healthy lawn is to mow correctly. Always do your trimming BEFORE you mow. That way, the trimmed pieces will get cut more finely when you mow and be less likely to produce thatch. Also, many homeowners cut their lawns too short. Keep your grass at about 2 ½” high. This height will discourage weed germination and will protect the lawn from drying too much. While it’s tempting to lower the blade to reduce your mowing frequency and save time, resist that urge and allow your grass to thrive.

The final summer task for a lovely lawn is to treat for pests. Rather than using a fertilizer that has built-in bug control, buy a separate bug control product that is catered to the type of critters your lawn has, such as grubs.

For summer, if you see brown spots appear, you may need to spot treat. Pet waste can cause such spots, but so can grubs or fungus. The best approach is for you to snap a photo on your phone and take the photo to your extension office for them to diagnose it. Never take a sample in unless they request it, as you do not want to spread any contamination.

FALL LAWN CARE

Fall Lawn Care: Clean up leaves on your lawn in Fall.

The fall season of lawn care begins with a good raking to collect leaves and branches. If you are ambitious, instead of bagging the leaves or putting them out for collection, try creating a compost pile. Leaves which have composted add nutrient-rich elements back into your landscape beds and plantings. Next, in early fall, apply a fall fertilizer, which is high in potassium rather than nitrogen.

It’s time for another aeration in the fall. This creates holes for the top-dressing. Top-dressing is a mixture of sand, compost and loam, which you brush into the aerated lawn holes. Do not leave any top-dressing on the grass, as it will smother the lawn and will not allow sunlight to penetrate.

The final fall task is re-seeding any bare spots. Since the ground is still warm, the seed will germinate and root without the stress of summer heat.

WINTER LAWN CARE

Winter Lawn Care: Not much to do here

There’s no a lot to do in the winter. But take note of two things. First, be sure to winterize any gas-powered equipment with a gas stabilizer. Second, mark your walks and driveways so that when you do snow removal you will not damage your lovely lawn.

If you follow these lawn care tips, your grass will look progressively better with each passing year. Then YOU will be the envy of all your neighbors!

Maintenance Tasks for the Spring – House Exterior

Spring is just around the corner! Now is the time to be thinking about what exterior house and yard maintenance tasks need to be done for the season. Take a look at these areas and prep by purchasing any materials or parts necessary for the job. Then, when warmer weather hits, you’ll be set to GO!

Forsythia and Tulips grace the home exterior

House Exterior

Roof and Chimney:

Just as with the inside, start at the top. While you might not feel comfortable getting up on a ladder, if you have a pair of binoculars, you can step back from the house and examine pretty much the entire roof from the ground. On the roof, look for missing shingles, shingles which are raised up, flashing that’s out of place, or nail pops. Around the chimney, if it’s made of brick or stone, look for missing mortar or any greenery growing out between the joints. Also examine the flashing around the chimney and places where different roof pitches meet. Be aware that if you have any vents on your roof, the rubber boots around them, which create a waterproof seal, can deteriorate over time. These boots must be replaced at least every 4-5 years. The final roof area to examine is your rain gutters and downspouts. Check that they are secure, have no blockages and are not bent from ice or snow.

Exterior Walls:

No matter your finish, examine the exterior walls for any issues. If you have a brick or stone finish, look at the mortar joints to note any holes or gaps. If you have siding, look for any panels which may have been displaced by winter weather. For all finishes, note any staining, which could indicate water infiltration from gutter problems. For exposed wood, look for holes or damage that would invite wood bees, carpenter ants or woodpeckers to wreak havoc. Fill these with a high grade wood filler.

Exterior Foundation:

If your foundation shows any cracks, don’t delay getting a pro in to do a repair. A stable foundation is vital to your entire home, and this is not a repair you can adequately do yourself. While some do-it-yourself sites may tell you to repair it with caulking or masonry crack repair, the only way to truly stabilize cracks is with a special epoxy that chemically bonds the cracks.

Yard:

In addition to raking up debris and tidying up your landscaping, this is the time to begin your lawn fertilization program for pre-emergent weeds and healthy grass. When you’re working in your landscape beds, keep an eye out for larval termites. It’s far better to stop them there than to let them mature and to eat their way into your home! If you have any patio or deck area, again check the wood and masonry as you did for your house exterior.

Spring House Maintenance – Interior

Spring is just around the corner! Now is the time to be thinking about what house and yard maintenance tasks need to be done for the season. Take a look at these areas and prep by purchasing any materials or parts necessary for the job. Then, when warmer weather hits, you’ll be set to GO!

Early crocus are a harbinger of Springtime in the Northeast.

House Interior Maintenance

Spring Cleaning:

We know you keep your house meticulously clean. But in every home, there are areas which only need bi-annual attention. These are the areas to focus on in spring cleaning, working from high to low. First, do a thorough cleaning of fixtures, such as light covers, ceiling fans, window blinds and shades, duct-work cover louvers and the top of door and window trim. If you have draperies, take them down and have them professionally cleaned. You would be amazed at how much dust collects in these areas! Next, vacuum all upholstered furniture and bed mattresses. Finally, tackle baseboards, floors and carpeting. You can dust the baseboards with a dryer sheet to help repel dust. In the bathrooms and kitchen, you might want to wash the walls, if there is grease residue or mildewed areas. In the bathroom, check that the caulking and tile grout are intact and have no cracks or breaks which could allow water infiltration.

Basement:

As the weather warms, you will notice higher humidity levels in your basement area. Be sure to have a dehumidifier set up to control this. Also, check your basement foundation walls for cracks at the base and water seepage and look at any exposed framing for evidence of termite activity (furrows or mud tunnels). If you notice any bulging of your basement foundation, call in a professional ASAP.

Attic:

Check for signs of water leaks here as well. If your beams are exposed, look for darker areas that you don’t recall. Often, when water enters through a damaged roof, it will travels along the beams, so where you see the dark spot may not necessarily be where the leak is. Another thing to check in the attic is for critter infestations. These could be termites, mice, spiders, wasps, bats, or any number of pests. A final thing to check in the attic is for the presence of mold, which could indicate water infiltration. Mold will develop if humidity from your bathroom fan vents into the attic. Always be sure your vent leads to the outside, not to the attic area.

Pipes:

Is anything leaking? Examine hoses to your dishwasher, wash machine, hot water heater and ice maker – if there are cracks or bulges, replace them. In addition, examine the base of toilets and the water heater to be sure there is no wetness there. Toilets have a wax seal at the base to prevent leakage, but over time these seals deteriorate and need replaced. Water heaters can develop internal rust, which may cause leakage. It’s far better to notice this when it’s a small leak than to miss it and have a flooded basement.

Air Conditioning:

As with other hoses, check these as well. Also, be sure that the unit is open to free-flowing air on all sides, and gently vacuum out any dust or debris that may have gotten into the tines (take care, as they are very fragile). Also check the drain pan for good drainage and no obstructions. If you see any issues, such as leaks or bent tines, be sure to call a professional in for repair.

If you follow these maintenance steps, your house interior will be in top shape for the Spring.

What Does the New Home Warranty Cover?

We have put together an infographic which will give you a comprehensive overview of exactly what the American eBuilder warranty will cover, when you get one with your new home. Coverage is subject to terms and conditions specified in your written warranty, so please refer to that for details.

what-does-the-warranty-cover-labeled

For more comprehensive information, please visit our warranty coverage page on our main American eBuilder website.

Oh! Christmas Tree …

So it’s that time of year again, when you either dig your artificial tree out of storage or you take a trek to the local tree lot to pick up a fresh pine. Each tree type has it challenges, but when conquered, will give you a season of sparkly delight. Here are our tips for Christmas tree wrangling.

Getting it Home

Ok, so if you’re using the artificial one from the attic or basement, this doesn’t apply to you. (Just sit there and gloat while we help the folks trying to get a real one home.)

When you purchase a real Christmas tree, it will either be freely branching or it will have a mesh wrapping around it. The mesh wrapping is good! It will make your job much easier. If your tree is wild and free, you should use at least three bungee cords – top, middle, bottom – to bundle the branches before you try stuffing it in/on your car.

Next, decide if the tree will fit inside your vehicle, or if it needs to go on the top. If putting it into your car, be sure to insert it top first, as that part is narrower and it will make pulling it out when you get home much easier. If you have a hatchback, you may let the base of the tree stick out, but be sure to secure it inside the car, as you don’t want to lose it if you stop suddenly. Also if it sticks out, tie an orange strip to the base to alert drivers behind you. If the tree must travel on the top of your vehicle, open all four doors. Place the tree on top, with the base pointing to the front of the car. This will provide stability. Then tie the tree in place with at least three ropes which go over the tree and in through the open doors (never the windows). When you close the doors, they will hold the tree securely in place.

Setting it Up

The most stable stand for an artificial tree is one with four legs. While a three-legged stand will work, it will be more prone to tipping. For a real tree, get a plastic stand that has a wide base/water reservoir and at least four securing pins. Avoid the metal, three-legged stands which have a tiny water reservoir under the feet. While the setting up the base might seem like a ho-hum task, it is vital that this step be very solid and secure.

Once securely in the stand, add water to the reservoir and add a tree skirt before you begin to decorate. These tasks are much easier when there are no fragile, dangling lovelies in your way.

Decorate Like a Ninja

The first step in decorating is to add lights. If your tree is pre-lit, take a nap now. Many novice tree-decorators just wrap the lights around and around, but YOU are not a newbie! Instead, apply the lights in an in-and-out pattern, spiraling down the tree. In other words, start at each branch tip, then push the light string in toward the center, then out toward the next branch tip, etc. This will fill your tree with light and will avoid the pitfall of empty or dark spots.

Next up is the beads or ribbon. Again, do NOT wrap them around and around in a downward spiral, but instead, let’s add these baubles with some finesse! For beads, begin at the top, securing the end with an ornament hook. then, working gradually around and downward, let the beads drape on longer branches in a graceful swoop. Secure the end with another ornament hook.

beadsbeads2

If you choose to use ribbon rather than beads, follow a similar technique – no wrapping, like the left image, but instead, drape the ribbon as the beads on the right image. It’s best to use wired ribbon to have better control. Also, use small straight pins to secure the ribbon on several branches. This will assure that it stays put! Another technique when draping ribbon is to twist the spool as you do the drapes. This twisting creates graceful loops in the ribbon, and looks quite lovely. Secure the ribbon end with another straight pin.

tree1

If you use ribbon or beads, you can also repeat the process with a coordinating color to add interest and variety. The tree at the right uses two different ribbons – a gold lamé and a cream with gold stripe.

After the beads or ribbons are in place, it’s time to add all the other ornaments you associate with decorating the tree!

When deciding which ornaments to use, select a color theme, such as cream and gold or gold and burgundy or red and green. Try to use ornaments which fall into that color scheme, and your tree will have a polished, homogeneous feel.

Use larger balls and ornaments near the tree base. You might even wish to group three balls together in clumps, if you have no large ones to put near the bottom. As you fill in the decorations, occasionally step back and look at the big picture. This will help you notice empty areas as well as spots which have too much in one location. Adjust accordingly.

The Topper

At last, you should put on the tree topper. If you’re like us, you’ve probably struggled either getting that angel or star to:
1. Stay in place
or
2. Be straight!

There are secrets you can use to even conquer this! You could visit a pricey store and purchase a green-colored rod to secure to the topmost branch. But why pay that much? Just grab a wooden dowel rod at your favorite craft store, paint it green, and twistie-tie it in place. The dowel will give stability and support when you insert the topper. Another option, if your topper has a cone-shaped base, is to purchase a cone of floral arranging Styrofoam. Insert this cone onto your center branch and slip the topper over the cone. fluff the branches around the floral cone to hide it. The Styrofoam cone will give much greater stability to your topper. And you won’t have any falling stars or fallen angels randomly crashing to the floor!

We hope these tree-decorating tips help your Holiday Season be merry and bright! Here’s our finished version:

tree2

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.