Watch this video to find out how to stay cool and help your home and yard withstand the heat and severe weather of summer, including:
- Preparing for severe weather
- Keeping you and your house cool in the heat
- Maintaining your home
- Natural mosquito repellents
- Keeping your yard in shape
Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner we’re getting ready for summer. More precisely, we’re looking at what we need to do to get our homes ready for summer. If you’re looking at warmer weather, you sure need to be looking at this.
As we move further into spring many of us start thinking ahead to summer time. You know, vacations at the beach. Or maybe those lazy Saturdays by the pool or the lake. But it’s also the time of the year where we face a lot of challenges as homeowners. And have to deal with all the stuff that mother nature dishes out. So, that’s what we’re doing this week. Think of it as a summer survival guide for your home. We’re going to give you some great tips on how your home can survive all the extreme temperatures as well as making your family a little more comfortable in and around your home.
Hey, think about it. This is the time of the year where we get the most punishment from the sun. And in some areas of the country the weather can really be severe. In my part of the world the sever summer weather we’re most concerned about is hurricanes and tropical storms. We’ve all seen the damage from big storms like Katrina, but even a small storm can make life miserable. The good news is that you usually get plenty of notice that they’re headed your way. So you can prepare by doing things like boarding up windows. Of course some people are still scurrying to buy supplies right at the last minute.
Now, whether you face hurricanes, tornados, or strong thunder storms there are a few things you can do to always be prepared. Keep your insurance policy information and contact numbers in an accessible place. And keep at least one cell phone fully charged at all times. A list with other emergency numbers and a first aid kit are also a good idea. Power outages are a given in these situations. So have plenty of batteries and non-perishable foods on hand to tide you over until power is restored. If you expect to use a portable generator be sure you know how to use it safely. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the greatest danger in these situations, so operate it outside away from the house.
One thing we all have in common during this time of the year is the heat. And that can mean different things depending on where you live in the country. If you live in an area of the country that has a lot of humidity that means all the building materials on the outside of your home are going to expand a little bit, creating cracks. The same can happen if you’re in a very dry, arid part of the country with that type of shrinkage around the outside of your home you’re still going to have cracks.
Perfect time to walk around your home with a very good quality flexible caulk, fill in all of those cracks. That way the expansion and contraction that’ll happen in the months and years ahead, no problem, it’ll hang right in there with it.
The same goes for any type of paint that you may be using. And I would suggest using a high-quality, acrylic latex paint. So that you have that elasticity so that’ll expand and contract throughout the year.
Now, heat can make you very uncomfortable. There are a few things that you can do to make life a little easier. One of the easiest ways to cool off this time of the year is the addition of a ceiling fan to a room. Even if you have air conditioning the constant moving air generated by a ceiling fan will make it feel cooler than it actually is. And adding one to an outside living area can make all the difference in how comfortable that space might be. The key thing to remember is that in warm weather you want that fan turning counter-clockwise as you look up at it from the ground.
Adding an exhaust fan to your attic is another great way to stay cool, because it pushes out the hot air at the top of your attic, drawing in cooler air from the socket or overhang areas. If you choose one that’s powered by its own solar cells you can see all these benefits without adding one cent to your utility bill.
To minimize heat gain in your home from exposure to the sun there’s several things that you can do. The easiest is simply draw the blinds to stop some solar heat gain, or add window film to the inside surface of single-pane windows to do the same thing without obstructing the view. The ideal solution though is to install windows with a Low-E coating. This coating filters the sunlight, letting in visible light while it blocks UV rays. So, you not only keep the inside cooler, you protect your furnishings from fading as well.
If your house has air conditioning, and it’s pretty much a necessity here in the South, you’ll want to show it just a little bit of love before you start relying on it this summer. Now, they tell us to have a check-up every year at the doctor, well, the same thing is true for your air conditioning system. You need to have a professional heating and cooling contractor come out to your house. And for a nominal fee they’ll check your refrigerant levels and do some internal cleaning to ensure that it’s working as efficient as it should. And it will also ensure that it’ll last as long as it should.
Now, there’s a couple things that you can do yourself. First of all, make sure you change that filter on a regular basis. And use a good quality filter. It’ll help your indoor air quality as well as, again, make your system work as efficiently as it should. The second thing is make sure you keep all of the landscaping cleared away from your air conditioning compressor unit outside so that it has a little room to breathe.
Hey, speaking of that, my buddy Joe has a great Simple Solution for you that’s readymade if you’re getting your house ready for summer.
Joe Truini: There aren’t many repairs a homeowner can make to a central air conditioning system, but here is one. When the compressor gets damaged on the outside the metal fins get crushed like this. It’s important to straighten them out. And here’s one way, with a stiff bristle plastic brush. This one’s made for cleaning tile and grout.
What you need to do is just run the brush up and down the fins using quite a bit of pressure. You’d be surprised you need quite a bit of pressure to straighten these out. Even though they’re only aluminum. And this is important because we want air to go completely through these. There we go. That’s better already, after just a few minutes. It takes three or four minutes to get them all the way straightened out.
Now, it’s never going to be perfect. But you can straighten them out so that at least it’s operating pretty efficiently. Now, if you find any fins that are completely crushed you can very carefully straighten them out with a putty knife. But, again, be careful because you don’t want to damage the fins.
Danny Lipford: This week we’re mapping out our summer survival guide so that you can get your house ready for the warmer months ahead. Now, earlier we talked about how you can stay cool inside your house, but outside, hey, swimming pool’s not a bad idea. But you have to keep in mind during the summer months the sunlight will deplete the chlorine in the pool and you’ll need to make sure you keep a close eye on that. If it’s a salt type pool like this, it’s less of a concern.
Now most people want to combine the inside and the outside of the home, which is real easy when you have a retractable screen like this. It’s basically invisible. It’ll fold right out of the way. But it gives you an opportunity to keep your home a little cooler and keep all those insects out of the house. And this Phantom screen system is so flexible you can use it on almost any opening on your home.
Beyond doors and windows retractable screens can be added to larger openings to provide the same protection from bugs to even bigger spaces like patios, porches and decks. And when the weather really heats up bugs aren’t the only thing these screens keep out, because Phantom offers solar screen options that block heat gain as well. That effectively converts these areas into usable living space for three seasons of the year without the intrusion of a permanent fixed screen structure to block the view or detract from the home’s architecture.
Allen Lyle: Etymologists have surmised that there are anywhere from six to ten million species of insects in the world. Now, we’re not going to talk about all of those. We’re going to talk about one today. But, come on, what would a summer survival guide be without a chapter on mosquitoes? I hate those things. Take an average-sized yard like this, put 50 people in it. Put me on that side and one mosquito on that side and that mosquito’s going to find me.
Now, for most people just an over the counter repellant is going to get you through the summer. But me, I don’t like spraying chemicals on my skin. So, here’s some chemical-free alternatives that you may want to think about. For topical applications. Just take about two tablespoons of olive oil and add some essential oil to it. About 20 drops of eucalyptus oil, cinnamon oil, lemon oil. It’s actually is tingly on the skin. It feels great, it smells wonderful. But mosquitoes can’t stand it, so there’s a good option.
If you’re in one location, here’s something really simple. It involves nothing more than a fan. If you just stand in the way of a fan that’s moving the air pretty much prevents those mosquitoes from landing on you.
Around the yard, I love this tip. Think about this. They look nice, they smell good to you but mosquitoes can’t stand it. lavender, sage, lemon Thai grass, rosemary, very fragrant. Something this simple. Look, marigolds. These are beautiful flowers with a wonderful aroma. Mosquitoes do not like it. So, plant these around your yard.
Now, my favorite tip of all. If you’re doing any barbequing take a sprig of rosemary and soak it in water five to 10 minutes. And then when you’re ready to barbeque you take that sprig and put it on the grill, put it on top of the coals. It’s going to create this beautiful smoky aroma. Your own personal mosquito fogger, and here’s the best part, it’s going to make your steaks and hamburgers taste wonderful.
Danny Lipford: A big part of being outside during this time of the year is protecting yourself from the sun. Now, over the last few decades we’ve learned a lot about how the sun’s ultraviolet rays can really damage your skin. So, I hope you’re doing your part in limiting your exposure to the sun as well as making sure you regularly use sunscreen.
Now, just as the sun can damage your skin, it can also damage those natural fibers like wood outside on your wood deck. So, it needs to have somewhat of a sunscreen to protect it.
For a deck that comes in the form of a wood stain which beautifies the wood and prolongs its life. New wood needs a little time to cure before it’s stained. So check it by pouring a cup of water on the surface to see if it’s absorbed within 30 seconds or so.
Before staining, the surface needs to be cleaned well to prepare it. A concentrated cleaner/brightener mixed with water is a great way to get it ready. Apply it to the wood and scrub it in with a stiff bristle nylon brush. Then let it sit for 20 or 30 minutes before rinsing it all off.
Normally you would need to let the wood dry for two or three days before applying the stain, but this new product called OneCoat from Flood can be applied while the wood is still damp. Whether you roll it on or spray it on, be sure to back brush the stain so that it works it down into the pores of the wood. This is part of the protection it provides. Besides blocking the sun’s UV rays, the stain also seals these pores, preventing water from entering them and leading to earlier decay.
One of the side benefits of staining your deck is because you’re sealing off the pores you’re also going to be discouraging any dirt from getting down in the pores. That means the deck will stay a lot cleaner for a lot longer. Just think, in the course of a weekend how much of a difference you can make on your deck.
Hey, another thing you may want to enhance a little bit is your lawn; and in this week’s Best New Product, Jodi has something that can help you out.
Jodi Marks: You know, I find it harder and harder every year to predict what the weather in the summer is going to be like. I mean, you never know. Is it going to rain? Are we going to have a drought? How’s my lawn going to look?
Well, Scotts has come out with a Turf Builder. It’s going to help eliminate some of that guess work. Take a look at this. This is called their Turf Builder with SummerGuard. And what that SummerGuard does is it helps resist and repel bugs. It also kills them.
It also strengthens the lawn. And there’s a thing called WaterSmart formula in there. So, what that WaterSmart formula does is it helps the roots and the plants and the flowers and also your grass absorb and maintain water in case there is a drought.
Now, it also fertilizes your lawn without burning it up. Of course, because you don’t want that during the summer. So, this is a great easy application that you can put on your lawn or in your garden. And it will help kind of strengthen the roots so that you’ll have a beautiful green lawn all summer long.
Danny Lipford: This week we’re looking at different ways to help you and your home survive those long, hot days of summer. Now, it depends on where you live in the country as to how much rainfall that you may get. And many times during this time of the year it’s kind of feast or famine as far as rainfall. And either of those extremes is really not good for a healthy lawn.
Now, if you get way too much rain, especially in a shady area of your yard, you can get a lot of diseases, fungus. You also can experience a lot of erosion or drainage problems in different areas of the yard. None of that’s good and has to be addressed.
But if you’re dealing with really dry and arid conditions, drought can be the worst. The best place to start drought-proofing your lawn and garden is with a selection of what they include. Some plants are naturally more drought tolerant than others. Which not only means they will survive a dry spell, it also means they will require less maintenance and attention from you. You can also reduce your lawn’s need for water in drought conditions by mowing it a little higher than normal. It puts less strain on the plants.
You might also want to avoid fertilizing when rain is scarce. So you don’t force new growth while the lawn is working hard to sustain itself. Around trees, flowers and vegetables a thick layer of mulch will help insulate the soil and retain the moisture you do have so it doesn’t evaporate too quickly. Now, speaking of that, when you do water, do it early in the morning when the temperatures are cooler and the evaporation rate is lower. Your lawn and garden will get more benefit from the water you’re able to give it.
If you live in an area of the country that gets a lot of annual rainfall, well, your lawn is probably going to love it. But it can have a very negative effect on your house. Now, of course your siding and your eaves, your roof all designed to keep the moisture out of the house. But outside, with a lot of rain and a lot of warm temperatures you’re going to have a little bit of mold and mildew if you don’t keep everything clean.
Now, this mold and mildew can grow on the outside of your house. Fences, arbors, you name it. That’s why it’s so important to know exactly how to handle this situation as a homeowner and to be able to survive the summer. Besides looking bad, this stuff can accelerate the deterioration of paint and the building materials it protects.
The most common treatment for removing mold from outdoor surfaces is cleaning it with a solution of one part bleach to three parts water. If you prefer not to deal with bleach you can use a TSP mixture or try sodium phosphate or a premixed cleaning solution. All of these approaches when combined with scrubbing or pressure washing will work on non-porous surfaces to remove mold and stop its growth.
That doesn’t mean you won’t have to repeat the process year after year, but it does get rid of the existing mold. This should also be done prior to any kind of exterior painting. Then, to lengthen the time between cleanings, choose a paint with a mildewcide in the formula or mix in a mildewcide additive to the paint you use. For a porous surface you’ll have to kill the mold spores themselves or they will quickly grow back. To do this you’ll need an anti-microbial solution that can soak into the pores and attack the spores there. Even this will have to be reapplied year after year to keep mold at bay.
Allen Lyle: Take a look around your house and you might be surprised at how many concrete surfaces you have. I’m talking about your driveways, sidewalks, porches, patios, garages. Now, keep those in mind and consider this statement made by some pretty big players. I’m talking about the American Concrete Institute, the Portland Cement Association, the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association. All of these people have said that the bulk of all concrete damage can be attributed to moisture infiltration.
Now, concrete looks pretty solid, but it’s actually a very porous surface. So, for those large expanses you may want to consider a concrete sealer. That will seal up the pores, prevent any water from infiltrating down below. For cracks, when you get them, and I say “when” not “if,” it will happen, it’s the nature of the beast. When you get cracks like this, what happens is the water starts rushing down in through those cracks and it erodes the soil underneath. Eventually you’re going to get these empty, hollow pockets underneath driveway, walkways. And in this case, you can see we’ve had a truck come across here and found one of those pockets. You don’t want this to happen.
So prevent it ahead of time. When you see cracks like this you want to pick up a tube of concrete repair caulk. It’s textured. That’s the best kind. If you can get something that has a polyurethane base to it, it will flex with the concrete, that’s great. You just apply it like you would any other caulk and that’s going to prevent that water infiltration. And listen, this is a very inexpensive investment for your concrete surfaces.
Melissa asks: What causes my windows to sweat?
Danny Lipford: Now, that is probably the most common question I’ve heard over the last couple of years. And it is quite a problem for a lot of homeowners regardless of the type of windows that you have. Now, condensation on the inside of windows is simply a result of excessive moisture in your home. And that emphasizes the need to use, on a regular basis, your kitchen and bath exhaust fans.
Also, you want to make sure your heating and cooling system is working properly to keep your humidity in your house under control. Now, to see if you have any kind of a problem like that you can pick up one of these. It’s a very simple hydrometer. Only costs about $20. And it’ll tell you exactly the percentage of relative humidity you have in your home. Ideally, you need it to be below 40% to control condensation on your windows. And in more severe situations you may have to install a de-humidifier.
Hey, thanks for being with us. We’ll see you next week.