Things to Check Off Your List in an Hour or Less

Things to Check Off Your List in an Hour or Less

1. Keep mosquitoes at bay. Having warmer weather and longer days means we’re entering mosquito season. Take preventative measures by regularly checking your property for standing water and emptying it. Any open containers (empty flowerpots and saucers, a wheelbarrow) can become mosquito breeding grounds when filled with rainwater, so store items like these upside down or in a shed.

2. Inspect paths and driveway. Repeated freezing and thawing can take a toll on asphalt and concrete. Check your driveway and paths for cracks, scheduling repairs as needed.

3. Clean out trash cans and recycling bins. Take empty cans outside and spray them with a hose to start. Spritz inside and out with the cleaning spray of your choice. Let the bins sit for a few minutes before scrubbing them with a stiff-bristle brush. Rinse with the hose and leave them upside down to dry.

4. Check safety devices. Test batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, replacing them as needed. It’s also a good idea to periodically check for recalls of your home safety products; you can find up-to-date listings at


Tackle These Tasks Over a Weekend

5. Clear clutter. Create more space in your home by clearing out unloved items. If you have a lot to get rid of, set a date to hold a yard sale. Or contact a local charity to schedule a pickup — some will send a truck free of charge if you’re donating large items like furniture. If you have a lot of one type of item (for example, books or baby clothes), look for a consignment shop in your town where you may be able to sell them.

6. Schedule cooling-system maintenance. If you have central air conditioning, be sure to schedule professional maintenance before the start of summer. A properly maintained system cools better, uses less energy and lasts longer.

7. Spruce up the front porch. Clean the porch floor, exterior windows, windowsills and front door. Wipe cobwebs from the ceiling and high corners. Lay down a fresh doormat, and plant a pot of flowers. If you have porch furniture, clean it off and wash the cushions.

8. Test sprinklers and irrigation system. Don’t let the first sign of a malfunctioning irrigation system be a drooping garden! Take the time this month to test each part, adjusting or repairing as needed. And if you don’t already have drip irrigation for your garden, consider putting it in — a properly installed system can save time and water.

9. Wash windows. Welcome the spring sunshine by clearing dirt and grime from windows inside and out. After cleaning the glass, take an extra moment to wipe the window frame and sill.

10. Clean and inspect screen doors and windows. Pollen and grime can also build up on window screens, so it’s a good idea to clean them once a year. For a quick cleaning, leave screens in place and vacuum with a dusting attachment. For a deeper cleaning, remove screens (mark which is which if cleaning multiple windows) and gently scrub with warm, soapy water. Rinse and let dry. Before putting up window screens and screen doors, inspect each one for holes and rips — even small tears can let in mosquitoes. If you find any holes, repair them with a screen patch kit (available at most hardware stores)

11. Clean out the garage. Can you park your car in your garage? If not (or if it’s a tight fit), it may be time to make some more space.

Clear out the junk, and schedule time to take unused paint, motor oil and other hazardous items to a recycling center that accepts them. (If you’re not sure where to go, search Earth911 to find a center near you.) Once your garage is cleaned out, consider adding wall-mounted storage to keep things neat and off the floor.

12. Wash siding. Using a regular garden hose, attach a siding cleaning kit (available at most home improvement stores) to clear away winter grime from your home’s siding. If your siding could use a really deep cleaning, it can be tempting to use a pressure washer to get the job done quickly. But if you do, use it with care: Consumer Reports advises avoiding any pressure washer that comes with a 0-degree nozzle, because it can be too dangerous (to you and your house) and wider nozzles can get the job done just as well.

13. Clean gutters and downspouts. Having your home’s gutters and downspouts cleaned (and repaired if necessary) is one of the first important tasks to schedule this season. Clogged gutters during a rainy spring can cause water to pool, potentially damaging the roof and siding.

14. Boost curb appeal. Spring is a wonderful time to make upgrades to your home’s exterior, and even small changes — like putting up bold house numbers and a shiny new mailbox — can make a big impact. If you’re planning to put your house on the market this spring, increasing curb appeal can help lure in potential buyers, making it especially important.

15. Maintain wood decks and fences. Keep outdoor woodwork in top shape by staining or resealing it each spring. Check gates, fencing, decks, railings, pergolas and other outdoor structures, and make repairs as needed.

16. Keep an eye out for termites. From now through May or June, be on the lookout for these winged insects. “Termites swarm in the spring,” says Victor Sedinger, certified home inspector and owner of House Exam Inspection and Consulting. “If there’s a bunch of winged insects flying out of a hole in the woodwork, that’s probably termites.” If you notice any, call a licensed professional pest-control company.





ARB APPLICATION & Upcoming projects



If you are getting your spring/summer project list ready, you will need to submit an ARB application to the HOA for approval before beginning work.

This is just a small list of items that need approval before starting. If you have a question, please do not to contact the onsite HOA office to check about ARB application submittal.

  • Decks (staining, adding stairs and building a new deck).
  • Installation of a new fence. Also the staining of an existing fence.
  • Installation of a new roof.
  • Patio installation.
  • Landscape changes.
  • Tree removal or planting.
  • Addition of privacy screening to decks.
  • Installation of a new shed.
  • Painting of exterior wood trim, shutters and front doors, do not need ARB approval, but you will need to contact the HOA for the correct colors.
  • New front doors.
  • New storm doors.
  • Concrete staining.

What to do when your pet goes missing

Critter Corner

What to do when your pet goes missing

By Karen Peak – 2/24/2018

Things like proper fencing, not letting dogs or cats roam loose, using caution around open doors all reduce the risk of a pet becoming lost. However, sometimes things happen.  

One nice, spring day my dogs were outside when I heard a crash. A neighbor’s tree came down and severely damaged a section of my fence.

I had a cat who learned how to lift screens in our first home. We learned fast to open all windows from the top down because of her.

Long before anything happens, do two things: microchip and take frequent pictures of your pet. According to data from the American Humane Association, the American Kennel Club’s Reunite and others, the recovery rate more than doubled for dogs with a registered microchip. The recovery rate for cats increases almost 20 times with a registered microchip.

Update information if you move or change your phone number. A chip registered to your old information does no good. Periodically ask your vet staff to scan the chip and make sure it is functioning.

That cute puppy or kitten will change a lot over the years. Make sure you have current and clear pictures. Pictures of curled up dogs and cats may be cute, but they are hard to see markings that may help finders identify the pet as yours.  Get shots of both sides and the front of your pet.

Quick action is needed when your pet goes missing. Send out alerts through Paws Boost, Fido Finder and similar websites. Be aware that some sites that put out alerts are free, others are not.

Contact animal control in your county and the surrounding areas in at least a 50-mile radius. Check/call shelters daily.  Not all shelter staff will remember to call you if your pet may have been turned in.  Alert social media groups such as lost/found pet groups on Facebook. Post on your local Patch pages, Craigslist, etc.  

Alert the company your microchip is registered through.  Post color fliers at all regional vet clinics.  When you post fliers in your neighborhood, slip them in plastic sleeves to help protect from the weather.  Talk to postal carriers.  Post signs in pet supply stores, laundromats, post offices if they will allow it, grocery store and library community boards.  Get door hangers (the ads that people hang on doorknobs) made and put them on all doors is your area. Offer a reward.  Make signs bilingual.  When you go looking for your pet, take pictures with you.

If your lost pet is a cat, ask neighbors to check sheds, garages and under porches.  Cats can squeeze into small spaces. Put out food, a litter box, a secure, sheltered box with a towel or shirt that smells like you.   
If your pet is a lost dog add these steps.  If your dog get excited at the sound of a specific squeaky toy, car keys jangling, bring that with you.  Check areas your dog may be drawn to, such as dogs down the street or a local park you frequent or schools.  

Put out things with your scent on them.  Put out food. Drag things that smell like you and your dog in the area and back to your home.  

Do you have access to a female in season?  If so, try spreading her scent in the area. Set humane traps.

Hopefully your pet will never go missing, but be prepared to act just in case.

Maintenance Items to check for the Spring

Maintenance Items to check for the Spring

Examine Roof Shingles

Examine roof shingles to see if any were lost or damaged during winter. If your home has an older roof covering, you may want to start a budget for replacement. The summer sun can really damage roof shingles. Shingles that are cracked, buckled or loose or are missing granules need to be replaced. Flashing around plumbing vents, skylights and chimneys need to be checked and repaired by a qualified roofer.

Probe the Wood Trim

Use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around windows, doors, railings and decks. Make repairs now before the spring rains do more damage to the exposed wood.

Use Compacted Soil

Low areas in the yard or next to the foundation should be filled with compacted soil. Spring rains can cause yard flooding, which can lead to foundation flooding and damage. Also, when water pools in these low areas in summer, it creates a breeding ground for insects.

Inspect the Concrete

Inspect concrete slabs for signs of cracks or movement. All exterior slabs except pool decks should drain away from the home’s foundation. Fill cracks with a concrete crack filler or silicone caulk. When weather permits, power-wash and then seal the concrete.

Check Outside Faucets

Check outside hose faucets for freeze damage. Turn the water on and place your thumb or finger over the opening. If you can stop the flow of water, it is likely the pipe inside the home is damaged and will need to be replaced. While you’re at it, check the garden hose for dry rot.

Service the AC Unit

Have a qualified heating and cooling contractor clean and service the outside unit of the air conditioning system. Clean coils operate more efficiently, and an annual service call will keep the system working at peak performance levels. Change interior filters on a regular basis.

Check Power Equipment

Check your gas- and battery-powered lawn equipment to make sure it is ready for summer use. Clean equipment and sharp cutting blades will make yardwork easier.

How to replace an exterior light fixture

An exterior sconce should rest tightly against the wall without any gaps that might let in water. But it’s not easy to get a weather tight fit against siding with overlapping pieces, such as shingles, clapboards, and vinyl.


One solution is a rigid-foam mounting block, notched on the back side to mirror the profile of the overlap. The notches fit on top of the siding as snugly as a puzzle piece; no cutting is needed. These blocks fit over vinyl or wood siding with a 4- or 5-inch-wide exposure and ½– or -inch-thick butt edges. (If your siding doesn’t match these measurements, you’ll need to make your own block.)


To install the light, simply caulk around the top and sides of the block’s back face, and press it against the siding. Leave the bottom uncaulked so that any water that seeps in can escape. Now pull through the wires from the receptacle box, connect them to the fixture, and screw the light to the electrical box in the wall. Finally, caulk around the sides and top of the lamp base where it meets the block and the sides and top of the block where it meets the siding.



Illustration by Harry Bates

Repair a Leaking Outdoor Faucet Hose Bibb

How to Repair a Leaking Outdoor Faucet Hose Bibb

By: Allen Lyle

Repairing a dripping outdoor spigot is often at the bottom of a homeowner’s to-do list, since the leak is outside the house. But left unchecked, it doesn’t take long for even a small leak from a hose bibb to waste hundreds of gallons of water.

Another common problem on outside spigots is leaking around the valve stem when the water is turned on. The good news is that both of these problems can often be easily fixed simply by tighten the packing nut behind the handle 1/8 to 1/4 turn.

If the faucet still leaks after tightening the packing nut, the washer on the end of the valve stem needs to be replaced. Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Turn the water off at the water meter using a cut-off key.
  2. Unscrew the packing nut beneath the handle of the faucet.
  3. Grasp the faucet handle, and pull the valve stem out of the hose bibb.
  4. Remove the screw on the valve stem holding the faucet washer.
  5. Replace the washer with one of the same size and thickness.
  6. Push the valve stem back into the hose bibb housing.
  7. Tighten the packing nut on the hose bibb until snug.
  8. Use the cut-off key to turn the water back on at the meter.
  9. Turn the spigot back on to remove any air from the line.
  10. Check for leaks around the packing nut on the valve stem.
  11. Turn the faucet off and check the spigot for leaks.

Fix any size tear in your window screens

Follow these easy steps to fix any size tear in your window screens

Small tears

For small tears in metal screens, use tweezers to twist the strands into shape and then seal them with a dab of superglue. With a fiberglass screen, use a needle and fishing line to stitch the tear, then seal it with superglue. Don’t pull too hard, or the screen will buckle and you’ll create an uneven pattern.

Medium tears

  1. If the damage is more than an inch on a metal screen, you’ll want to make a patch. Remove the screen from the window and place it on a flat surface. Use a sharp utility knife to cut out a clean square where the damage is.
  2. From the replacement screening, cut a patch that’s slightly larger than the damaged portion. Unravel the edges and bend the strands through the existing screen until they’re interwoven. Glue the border with adhesive rated for use with your screen type.

Large tears

  1. For large holes or tears that are longer than a few inches in fiberglass mesh-type screening, you’ll want to replace the whole piece of screen fabric. Lay the screen on a flat work surface. Use a flat-head screwdriver to pry up the spline that runs around the perimeter of the frame, holding the fabric in place. Remove the old spline and the screen fabric.
  2. You’ll need a piece of screen that’s larger than the size of the frame, because the excess is trimmed to fit. While you’re at the store, also buy a spline roller and a new spline material that will fit the groove of your screen (you can use the old spline if it’s not damaged). You could also use a putty knife instead of a spline roller so you don’t need to buy a new tool. Lay the new screen over the frame, making sure you have a couple inches of overlap on all four sides. Starting on the top edge, place the spline into the groove and press it in place with the spline roller or putty knife, letting the excess hang over. Check to make sure the screen material is not crooked.
  3. Once the top is secure, stretch the screen fabric taut and secure it along the bottom. Then secure each side Trim off the excess material with the utility knife.

11 Ideas for Organizing Your Shed

11 Ideas for Organizing Your Shed

The Family Handyman

Elizabeth Flaherty

Make Use of a Mobile Cart

A mobile cart is a great solution to keep your frequently used garden tools and supplies (gloves, soil, trowels, etc.) in one spot and properly organized. You have two choices here: First, you can try our DIY garden cart project to use materials you may already have. Second, you can buy a durable garden center that can hold a wider variety of items. Both are a great fit for organizing your shed.

Install a Track for Holding Tools

We particularly like the GearTrack rack for organizing your shed, because it’s easy to install. These tracks can hold a variety of different-sized tools, making them ideal for your shed. Remember to install the rack fairly high up in your shed to free up floor space.

Create a Garden Supply Cupboard on an External Wall

A garden supply cupboard is a fun little cubby that you can mount on the outside of your shed. Pull the box open, and it can hold common garden tools or supplies you use every day. This helps when organizing your shed and makes cleanup easier, too. Check out our plans for a cupboard to see if it works for you.

Make Space for a Pegboard Organizer

Pegboard is one of the best materials for organizing your shed. Install a wall of pegboard, and with the right hooks and attachments you can transform that wall into whatever type of storage space you need. Add a few labels for better organization, and you’ve got a great solution. Here’s our guide on how to use pegboard for storage

Seal Up Patio Cushions and Related Items

If you use your garden shed to store patio cushions and other seasonal items, then you need a way to protect those cushions and keep them from cluttering up your shelves. We suggest a cushion storage bag, which is designed for this very thing, but you can also repurpose any large, sealable plastic bags.

Simple Rack for Long-Handled Tools

This compact rack is strong and simple to build. You can store shovels, rakes, a sledgehammer—any long-handled tools—conveniently up and out of the way.


Add a Potting Bench

We have plans for a beautiful cedar potting bench that you can construct for your garden shed. This allows you to concentrate the messiness of working with plants into a single area that’s made for just that kind of work.

Include Plenty of Toy Storage

Do you end up using your shed to store a lot of yard toys that tend to get cluttered, even when they are ‘put away’? This handy cubbyhole-based project has space for lots of toys and gear.

Build a Lumber Rack

If you use your shed for storing rough lumber and boards, you need a rack or two to keep the boards off the floor and to allow space between boards for air to circulate. If you also have plywood to store, this rack is perfect to help organize your shed.

Storing Hazardous Materials

If you store any cleaners, pesticides, pool chemicals or other hazardous materials in your shed, consider keeping them up and away from kids and pets in a wall cabinet or similar lockable storage area.

Storage Drawers

These drawers are a great way to organize all those tools and supplies kicking around your shed.