Patio and Deck Maintenance Tips

 Monday, June 19, 2017     Suzanne Hooker     Home Maintenance Tips

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With summer upon us, now is the time to get outside and enjoy the weather. For most of us, this will involve venturing to our backyard oasis for a meal, a drink or just some quiet time with a book on your patio or deck. But is your patio or deck looking as good as it once did? Could it use a little sprucing up to bring back that ‘wow’ factor? If so, you will likely find this blog to be of interest to you.

1)    Stain and seal your deck every few years

Decks require ongoing maintenance to protect the wood and structure and ensure it lasts over the long-term. One such job is to seal your deck boards and railings every view years. The way to determine when to do it is when the colour of the stain has a worn or faded look to it. It’s also important to seal the deck boards to ensure the stain lasts as long as possible. Fortunately today there are a number of products on the market that are both stains and sealers so you can save yourself considerable time and money with these products.

Note: You don’t necessarily have to sand the deck prior to using a stain and sealer. Professionals only recommend sanding the deck if there are rough spots or wood splinters in certain areas of your deck.

2)    Avoid painting your deck if at all possible

Unlike staining, painting a deck creates a regular ‘make work’ project for homeowners when it comes to its maintenance. Moisture can easily get under the paint, leading to peeling and chipping and the need to repaint it (including sanding the entire surface). Use a stain and sealer combination instead.

3)    Patios don’t need a sealer

Unless you’re hell-bent on having that permanent ‘wet look’ to your patio, sealing your patio is an unnecessary step that will need to be redone every two years without fail. Sealers can also create a fairly slick surface, especially when wet, which can result in a more dangerous surface for children and seniors. So you’re better off going “au natural” and saving yourself considerable work.

4)    Avoid power washing your deck too often

Wood doesn’t take kindly to water and moisture, which is why most trees have bark to protect their wood from Mother Nature’s waterworks. Power washing or even scrubbing your deck with harsh cleansers can do more harm than good to your deck, drying out the wood and leading to warping and undo wear. It’s best to only power wash your deck every couple of years when it really needs it and instead spot clean your deck if it is dirty or stained.

The same can also be said for your natural stone patios, for many of the same reasons. Again, only clean when and where necessary, ideally with a mild household cleaner (dish detergent is a safe option for less stubborn stains) and never use a wire brush or other harsh materials to clean and scrub your patio and deck, even if they are stained. Only use harsher cleaners (like muriatic acid or chlorine) when absolutely necessary and then only sparingly. Otherwise you’re likely to do more permanent damage.

5)    Remove accumulated debris from your patio and deck

Leaves, snow, grass clippings, tarps and the like can, in sufficient quantities, create an environment that will cause damage to your deck and patio. Wherever possible, promptly remove these items from your deck or patio. Moisture build-up can create permanent damage. This would include removing and storing your patio furniture somewhere other than where you usually place it on your deck. Mold and mildew can build-up on your patio and deck due to their presence, creating unwanted problems.

6)    Repair any damaged deck boards or uneven patio stones promptly

Damaged deck boards and patio stones have a way of replicating themselves over time, in part because damaged areas put stress on neighbouring areas. So it’s best to remove and repair damaged boards or broken or uneven stones quickly before things spread. It’s equally important that you do a visual inspection of your deck or patio at least annually, ideally in the spring after the winter thaw. Look for damaged or cracked boards or support pieces, or for uneven or shifted patio stones.

Hopefully you’ve found the above tips and recommendation helpful, and that they will enable you to protect, preserve and ultimately gain greater enjoyment from your deck or patio. To learn more about the dos and don’ts for deck and patio maintenance, be sure to read a great article from the experts at HGTV that provides countless tips on how to take care of your patio and deck.

As you’ve likely noticed from many of the above suggestions, an ounce of prevention can save you a lot of time, aggravation and money over the long-term! Stay tuned for next month's blog where we will provide you with some helpful tips on how to take proper care of your pool.


Spring lawn care tips

 Friday, April 21, 2017     Suzanne Hooker     Advice for Home Selling Home Maintenance Tips

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In last month’s blog we spoke about tips for your garden that will help get your yard back on the right foot after the ravages of the winter season. This month we’re going to provide you with some tips for a healthy lawn that will make it the envy of the neighbourhood and create the oasis you can enjoy throughout the summer.

1.     Raking

Once an annual rite of spring, raking the lawn has gone the way of the dodo bird for many simply because it’s a time-consuming and exhausting job! And as you’ll see below, the growing prevalence of aeration has made raking one’s lawn less of a concern. Nonetheless, if your lawn is or has been suffering from thatch (grass and other organic material at the base of your grass), this material may need to be removed through raking before it chokes out your lawn. Often times you’ll just need to rake the problem areas where thatch is most prevalent so it shouldn’t be as difficult a task as you might think.

2.     Lawn aeration

One of the best things you can do to kick-start a healthy lawn is through the process of aeration, which involves using a specialized machine to make small holes in your grass. The winter months can ravage your grass and the soil underneath, compacting it and making it difficult for water, air and nutrients to penetrate and reach its roots. Aeration helps to alleviate this problem and speeds up the return of a beautiful green lawn. Mid-spring is the best time to do this so act soon on this job.

3.     Overseeding and top dressing

Older lawns are bound to get bare or dead patches simply due to its age and the stresses of the summers and winters. The best way to alleviate this problem is to overseed these areas with new grass seed along with a 2 centimetre layer of black earth to provide a fertile environment for water retention and seed germination. It’s best to do this as early as possible in the spring while the weather is still cool and there is plenty of natural precipitation to help these seeds take root.

4.     Fertilizing

Another important step in getting your lawn in shape is to apply a quality fertilizer early on. A phosphorous-rich fertilizer is usually what is recommended at this time as your soil has been depleted of its nutrients over the winter and needs a push in the right direction. Many experts also recommend a weed-and-feed product at this time due to the inherent weaknesses in your lawn and the prevalence of those pesky weeds during these cool and wet days. Whichever fertilizer you use, be sure to fertilize as early on during the cool and wet conditions. And remember to apply a second round in late spring just before the real heat begins!

If you follow these four tips, you should be well on your way to a healthy and beautiful lawn. Combined with the beautiful garden you would have created with the help of our previous blog, your yard is bound to be the talk of the street. Just be prepared to have your neighbours come up to you and ask you for your ‘green thumb secrets’. We know you’ll be more than willing to share the knowledge!

If you’re looking for some more tips on getting your grass prepped this spring, be sure to check out this great blog on the topic.


6 spring gardening tips to bring your yard to life

 Friday, March 10, 2017     Suzanne Hooker     Home Maintenance Tips

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While things are still a little chilly and winter-like outside, there’s little doubt that spring is literally right around the corner. While this conjures up many exciting thoughts, it also means we need to get our gardens and yards prepped for the coming of the warmer weather and growing season.

To help make this an easier job, we’ve come up with this list of tasks you’ll need to complete to get the maximum beauty and enjoyment out of your garden this year.

1)    Slow and steady wins the race

One common mistake many weekend gardeners make at this time of year is going at it too hard from the get go, spending several hours on the first day cleaning and pruning their flower beds, grass, shrubs and trees for the coming of spring.

Many people don’t realize how physically demanding gardening can be, particularly when the temperature is cooler and muscles don’t warm up as easily as they would on a hot summer’s day. It’s best to take it easy the first couple of times you trek out to your garden to do some work. Be sure to keep yourself and your muscles warm, take things slowly, and most importantly be sure to stretch your back, arms and legs before, during and after your gardening workout. Your body will be happy you did!

2)    Cleanup time

The first thing you need to do when you get outside is clean up your yard and flower beds. There can be anything from leaves to damaged tree limbs and shrubs around your yard, not to mention garbage that’s blown in from the neighbours. Be sure to clean up as much as you can; your goal is to provide an ideal environment to promote growth. Anything that might get in the way of this needs to be removed. This includes removing any dead leaves and growth from around your perennials.

3)    Revitalize the soil

The soil is the basis for healthy plant growth throughout your yard so it’s essential your soil is healthy and rich in nutrients. A common item that many experienced gardeners add to their flower beds to rejuvenate the soil is one of either compost, peat moss or manure. Either one will enhance the quality of your soil, providing an optimal growing environment for your plants and shrubs.

4)    Prune your plants

Besides cleaning away any dead parts of your shrubs and plants, you also need to prune some of them back, particularly those that may have lost their shape or become overgrown last summer. It’s best to prune your plants in mid-April to early May to avoid the risk of any frost damage to newly pruned plants.

5)    The importance of mulch

Mulch is one of the most important items for any flower bed, shrub or young tree. That’s because of the many beneficial qualities it provides to your garden, from beautifying your garden to preventing the growth of weeds to helping with moisture retention and regulating ground temperature on very hot days. You will likely need to top up your mulch annually as it decomposes over time, especially over the winter. Be sure to have at least 2-4 centimetres of mulch in all your beds.

6)    Replanting

Winters can be rather harsh, resulting in damage or death to some of your plants and shrubs that then may need to be replaced. Be sure to choose plants based on the soil condition and the amount of sun in the given location. Perennials are the best option for most flower beds since they don’t have to be replaced very year. You can add annuals to all your pots and planters around your home.

While this may look like an overwhelming list of tasks to complete, as we first said, the key is to take your time and do things one step at a time. Before you know it you will have a beautiful garden that will be the envy of the neighbourhood. Happy gardening!


4 Winter Home Maintenance Tips

 Friday, January 13, 2017     Suzanne Hooker     Advice for Home Buyers Advice for Home Selling Home Maintenance Tips

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With Christmas now a distant memory, we’re officially into the heart of the winter season. In fact, January has traditionally been the coldest month of the year so it’s important that your home is prepared for anything Mother Nature might dish out in the coming months. With this in mind, we’ve come up with a list of the more common issues homeowners face in the winter, along with some possible solutions.

  1. Ice Dams

Ice dams are formed from the build-up of snow and ice on your roof. Through a process of thawing and freezing, ice begins to accumulate in and around your gutters and eavestroughs.

This accumulating ice can add significant weight to your eaves, thus damaging them and causing them to separate from the roof. It can also loosen your shingles and cause water to back up on your roof, leading to leaks in your home.

The only solution for ice dams is to be extra vigilant and inspect your roof on a regular basis, especially when the temperature swings above and below freezing within a short period of time. You can learn how to prevent ice dams by reading this article.

  1. Furnace care

High-efficiency furnaces have two PVC pipes that vent through your foundation to the exterior of your home. One is an exhaust pipe while the other brings clean air into your home to help with the combustion process.

When either or both of these pipes are blocked by snow or ice, serious problems can occur, including your furnace shutting itself off to prevent damage. It’s best to inspect this area regularly to ensure it’s free of ice and snow. You can also do the same to the area around your natural gas and electricity meters while you’re at it!

The cold winter weather can also make your furnace work overtime to keep you warm. This may result in your furnace filter getting dirtier more quickly than normal, particularly if you live in an area prone to dirt and dust. It’s a good idea to inspect your furnace filter monthly during the winter months to make sure it isn’t too dirty, which could cause it to stop working.

  1. Frozen water pipes

Nothing can be more frightening to a homeowner than the thought of returning home to a flooded house due to a burst water pipe from the cold weather. Unfortunately this is much more common occurrence than many people realize. And it doesn’t only happen in older homes either.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you never turn your thermostat below 16ºC (60ºF) when you’re away from the house, even for just the day. Colder houses are more likely to cause your pipes to freeze and burst. You can also insulate your water pipes, particularly those on exterior walls of your house.

There is one other thing homeowners can do if they know they’ll be away for an extended period of time - turning off the water in your house at the main valve (usually located in the basement next to the water meter). This will greatly reduce the likelihood of flooding due to a burst pipe.

  1. Snow, ice and your roof and trees

Wet snow and ice can cause considerable damage to your home and in particular to your roof due to its significant weight. If you don’t have a high peaked roof, inspect your roof after big snowfalls and especially after a series of snowstorms.

If there appears to be too much snow on it, you may need to remove some or all of it. Just be careful when doing so as the shingles on your roof could be very icy and slippery. If in doubt, hire a professional to take care of this for you. They will have the proper equipment and experience to do it safely.

The trees around your house are no different than your roof. In many cases they are even more vulnerable to wet snow and ice depending on their size, type and age. If you experience an ice storm or wet snow, inspect the trees around your house, taking special attention to those in close proximity to your dwelling. This includes any trees in your neighbour’s yard.

Watch out for bowing tree limbs due to the excessive snow and ice. If necessary, call an arborist to cut down these limbs if you’re concerned they may come crashing down on your house.

We hope you’ve found these tips to be helpful. They should you give you a better idea of things to be on the lookout for when winter strikes.  


Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

 Wednesday, November 2, 2016     Suzanne Hooker     Advice for Home Selling Home Maintenance Tips

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It’s almost here. The month of November means we’re that much closer to winter and our first snowfall. Is your home prepared for whatever Jack Frost might have in store for us this winter?

The ultimate to-do list

To prepare your house for winter while also saving some money requires careful planning and organization on your part. That’s why we developed the checklist below. It will help you better organize your time so you can complete these important tasks before the cold arrives.

Windows, doors and roofs

  • Check the weather-stripping and caulking around your windows and doors for excessive wear and/or leaks that will lead to heat loss.
  • Remove all window screens to prevent excessive wear and to allow the maximum amount of sunlight to get into your house, thus increasing its temperature.
  • Check for missing or damaged shingles on your roof and have them replaced if possible before winter hits. Cold winds and the weight of snow can make matters worse.
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts and make sure they’re properly secured to your house and aren’t loose or sagging. The weight of snow and ice can pull gutters off your house. Melting snow also needs somewhere to go.

Garden and yard

  • Rake the leaves on your lawn. A leaf-covered lawn can ‘choke’ your grass, hastening root rot and slowing its growth in the spring.
  • Reseed any bare patches on your lawn as soon as possible. Use a fall fertilizer to ensure deep root growth come spring.
  • Clean all flower beds, cutting back your perennials. Remove and store any pots and decorative items that may get damaged by the snow and cold temperatures.
  • Store your garden hoses and shut off all exterior water faucets to prevent any freezing during the colder weather.
  • Store all patio furniture in a garden shed or garage, or at minimum in a protected area covered by a durable tarp with bungee cords.

Inside the home

  • Remember to adjust your vents for colder weather. Open up any vents and cold air returns in your basement to keep the entire house warm.
  • Reverse the flow of any ceiling fans you may have to a clockwise rotation. This will bring warm air down from the ceiling so you can enjoy it more.
  • Reset your programmable thermostat for the colder weather. Also be sure to change your furnace filter now to ensure optimal efficiency for your home.

 

Outside the home

  • Make sure your snowblower is tuned up and ready to go. At least make sure to run it now for a few minutes so you know it will start when you’ll need it most.
  • Snowblower owners should have some gas on hand (with gas stabilizer). If a snowstorm does hit, it may be difficult to get to your local gas station for a fill up!
  • Adjust any timers you might have for your exterior lights to account for the shorter days. Replace any old or burnt out bulbs now before it gets too cold.

 

This checklist should help you identify some of the things you’ll need to do before winter rears its ugly head in The Orchard and the rest of Burlington and area. Feel free to add to this list with go-to winter preparation tasks by commenting on our blog.