Month of May Home Maintenance
8 tasks for your May home maintenance checklist
Advice by Jeanne Huber
May is too wonderful a month to stay cooped up indoors. But if you play all month, you’ll pay come summer, when the itch to relax gets even stronger. There’s a simple way to resolve this quandary: Focus this month on chores that get you outside.
Get the grill ready
If you cleaned the grill before stowing it for the winter, you might just need to dust off a few cobwebs. But if not, the interior is probably covered in crud. To clean, you’ll need a new or at least perfectly clean wire grill brush, a bucket, gloves and some dishwasher detergent, which is more alkaline and cuts through grease better than hand dishwashing detergent.
Remove the grates and soak them in the bucket filled with warm water and some of the detergent. Meanwhile, clean the grill. Start with the tubing where gas flows out and makes flames because the wire bristles need to be clean for this step. (You might need to lift off heat-distribution bars to access the tubing.) Scrub across the tubing, not side-to-side, to avoid moving dirt into neighboring holes. Then scrub the rest of the grill’s interior, including the inside of the lid. Wipe off the surfaces with a rag. By this point, the grates should be nicely soaked. Put on gloves and scrub with the wire brush. Rinse thoroughly and put everything back in place. Slide in a new drip pan, wipe off the exterior of the grill and you’re ready to go.
Wash and inspect the house
Near the end of May, you’re likely to notice a big drop-off in pollen, the majority of which comes from trees. That’s a signal that it’s time to clean the exterior of your house. Use a hose with a nozzle, not a pressure washer (the idea is to take off dirt, not paint). A soft-bristle brush with an extendible handle, whisks away spider eggs and minimizes the need for a ladder. The process makes a house look fresh and gives you an up-close look at other issues that might need attention. If you find a bare paint spot, for example, wait for the wood to dry, lightly sand to remove weathered wood fibers and touch up the paint. (Avoid sanding if the underlying paint might contain lead.) Shrubbery growing too close to walls is also a problem; the branches can nick paint and all the greenery keeps walls damp, inviting mildew and rot. Bring clippers while you clean so you can tidy up as you go.
You can wash window interiors any time, but for the exteriors, wait for a rain-free day after the pollen eases. Hire a professional if the windows are hard to reach and you’re not comfortable working on a ladder. If you tackle the job yourself, use warm water with a little hand-dishwashing detergent — about a teaspoon of soap to two gallons of water. Wipe off the window frame and sill, then clean the glass with a non-scratch scrub pad, sponge or washcloth and plenty of the cleaning solution. Use a squeegee to dry the glass rather than paper towels or a cloth. Inspect the blade first and replace it if it’s nicked. Wipe the glass in vertical passes, top to bottom, angling the blade a bit so excess water drips onto glass you will cover in the next pass.
Fix and clean screens
Before you open your house up for fresh air, wash and patch window screens. Remove the screens and clean them in a bathtub or on a lawn. Use a soft brush or a sponge and warm, soapy water. Rinse with clean water, allow to dry, then reinstall.
If you spot small holes in the screens, get patch material that you can stick on by blasting it with hot air from a hair dryer for one minute. If you need a bigger patch, make one from screen material about a half-inch oversize in all directions. Sew it on with a needle and either standard thread or fishing line. If it’s a big rip, get the screen replaced, either by a hardware store or a window or screen shop.
Install an outdoor clothesline
Celebrate spring by getting set up to enjoy the scent and texture of air-dried sheets and towels — and the satisfaction of taking a small step toward using less energy. If you have a tiny outdoor space, or if you live where condo or subdivision rules prohibit outdoor clotheslines, invest in a foldaway stand or a retractable clothesline and use it toward dusk. If you have more flexibility, consider an umbrella-style clothesline that folds up and lifts out for storage. Or, for a larger option, you can install a retro-style clothesline with wooden or metal T-posts at each end. Old Farmers Almanac recommends cotton clothesline over plastic or nylon. A polyethylene-coated stainless steel cable is another good option.
Clean gutters and deal with the water
This is a chore that may warrant doing in the spring, not just in the fall, especially if you have evergreens, which shed needles year round, or trees such as oaks that take a long time to drop leaves in the fall.
One difference about gutter-cleaning in the spring, though, is that any drainage issues related to gutter water are far more pleasant to deal with now than when the weather is getting colder by the day. During a rainstorm, watch how water flows from gutter downspouts. If it puddles by the foundation, divert the water farther away, ideally at least 10 feet. You might need underground piping that leads to a dry well (an underground pit filled with round rocks), which a landscaper can install. Or you can pipe the water to a rain garden.
Spring clean outside
“Spring cleaning” is a term usually applied to interior chores, but an outdoor cleanup makes a lot of sense, too. Hauling away piles of branches, half-rotted wood and other debris can go a long way toward making your yard more inviting for summertime barbecues — and less hospitable to rodents. Check with your local solid-waste agency or company to find out how to deal with yard waste, bricks, concrete and other construction and demolition materials. Piling bricks or other reusable items at the curb with a “Free” sign might also work.
Get the dehumidifier ready
With humid summer days on the way, now’s the time to make sure you have an operating dehumidifier to combat musty odors. Dehumidifiers operate most efficiently when their coils are clean. To clear dust and other debris, remove screws on the cover, lift the casing and go over the coils with a soft brush. If the unit has an air filter, wash it in warm water with a little hand dishwashing detergent or white vinegar, rinse and let dry. Also wash out the bucket. Cleaning coils is usually an annual chore. Wash the filter monthly and the bucket every week or two — or even more often if mildew is a problem.
If you need to buy a dehumidifier, you can find a good overview of features and options through the federal Energy Star program.