We think of the spring and fall as home clean up time but taking advantage of the warmer weather and time off from work makes summer the perfect time to do a home maintenance checkup.

Get Ready for Cooler Weather

Do an Energy Audit
Take a walk around your home and take an inventory of gaps and cracks. Plugging leaks can save you 20% on heating and cooling bills. Look for gaps under switch plates. If you find gaps install foam inserts. Make sure to turn off the electricity at the circuit box before doing this.

Don’t forget to check where windows meet walls, walls meet floors and pipes and wires enter the home. Plug all gaps with caulk. Other places to find leaks are fireplace dampers, mail slots, air conditioners, attic doors, baseboards and the weather stripping surrounding doors. Look for daylight, feel for drafts and listen for rattles; all clues to escaping heat.

Now look outside the house. Look for gaps or damage where pipes, vents or wiring enter. Also check siding for gaps or damage, pay attention to corners where the material joins and where it meets other materials, like chimneys, windows or the foundation.

Save Money on Heat and Hot Water
Save on heating costs next winter by insulating the hot-water pipes in the basement or crawl space. Insulating pipes is easy; all you need to do is snap foam jackets (called sleeves) around the pipes. Make sure you know the pipe’s diameter to get the correct fit.

Get the Outside in Tip-Top Shape

Pretty the Patio
There is nothing more uninviting than dirty patio furniture. Mix up a bucketful of soapy bleach solution to keep your patio furniture squeaky clean. Mix 2/3 cup trisodium phosphate (TSP), 1/3 cup laundry soap powder, a quart of bleach and three quarts of warm water. Use a rag and soft-bristle brush to remove embedded dirt on synthetic coverings, metal and wood furniture. Rinse thoroughly and let dry.

Don’t destroy the deck
Don’t let your pretty deck flowers rot your wood deck. Make drainage room in your potted plants by setting pots on pot “feet”. For a frugal solution; just prop bricks under the pots.

Look out for tree trouble
Trees that hang over your roof, rub against gutters or dropping loads of leaves and sticks onto the roof should be pruned. Overhanging branches can provide a ladder for rats and squirrels, and diseased or damaged trees may fall on your home in a storm.

Fix the fence
Look for damage along the fence line. Mow the grass next to the fence low so you can get good visibility. Keep your fence in tip-top shape by make prompt repairs. Check fence posts for signs of rot (poke soft spots in the wood for crumbling or decay). Remove and replace the damaged areas. Keep fences painted or stained to protect the wood. If dogs or other animals are tunneling under the fence attach a 2-foot-wide apron of wire mesh around the inside perimeter of the fence.

Many people think that if they live in a so-called “nice neighborhood” that they’re immune to residential crime. While it’s true that the probability of having their home or cars broken into may be lower than in urban or high-crime areas, there’s always the outside chance that there’s someone wandering through the neighborhood — especially at night — who doesn’t have the best of intentions.

While that does not mean you have to be in a state of “high alert” all the time, it does make sense to develop good habits with regard to home security. One thing to avoid is being lulled into a state of complacency by the the sight of manicured lawns, friendly neighbors, and the peaceful atmosphere of your neighborhood. Although those qualities are well worth appreciating and being grateful for, an ounce of prevention can help preserve the sanctity of your home and property.

Typical Security Mistakes Homeowners Make

Whether you’re talking about highway safety, food safety, or home security, you and your family can lead a safer, more secure life by following a few basic guidelines. Unfortunately, all-too-many people tend to let their guard down and leave themselves vulnerable to threats, like home break-ins, burglary, and other residential crimes.

Have you noticed any neighbors on your street who seem to “throw caution to the wind” when they’re away? Maybe you, too, have gotten a little too complacent or forgetful about basic home security measures. Here are a few of the common mistakes many people make — especially when they’re on vacation — which could be an invitation to trouble:

  1. Leaving a house key under the front door mat: Although it may seem like a convenient and somewhat discreet place to “hide” a key, it’s one of the first places a resourceful burglar is going to look. Not only that, but every time a friend or member of the family accesses that key, they could easily be observed by someone passing by. The longer it’s there, the more people are going to see it.
  2. Forgetting to suspend mail or newspaper delivery: When you go on vacation or visit relatives for more than a few days, your mind is already cluttered with travel plans and other arrangements. It’s easy to forget about details like mail delivery and newspapers accumulating in the driveway. However, if either of those items start piling up in front of your house, it’s equivalent to placing a flashing neon sign in your window, saying “Nobody’s home!” Rather than contacting the post office and newspaper circulation department, an easier method is to have a trusted neighbor or friend gather your deliveries and store them in a safe place — possibly inside your home. (If they’re a really good friend, they can also water your plants, feed your tropical fish, take care of your pets, and turn on a couple lights at night — but, maybe you don’t want to test the limits of your friendship that much!)
  3. Leaving lampposts and outdoor floodlights on continuously: Again, it’s like an advertisement that the house is unoccupied.
  4. Allowing the grass to get too long: It’s amazing how a little sunshine and rain, while you’re away, can cause an unexpected growth spurt in your lawn. Although it’s not as obvious as the previous items, it can be a tip off that the family is on vacation, blissfully unaware of the security breaches that are occurring. The overgrown grass problem can be prevented by either hiring a regular lawn mowing service or recruiting an enterprising teenager in the neighborhood to keep your property looking well tended while you’re away.

There are potentially dozens of home security measures you can take to ensure that your premises are completely burglarproof, but they can be expensive and complicated. However, if you just follow a few commonsense guidelines, both your possessions and your peace of mind should remain fully intact!

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