October is a good time for outdoor chores

October 3, 2011

If you have outdoor chores that you've been putting off, October is the month to tackle them. Daylight saving time is in effect through Nov. 6, so you should still have enough light to get you through a chore or two after work.

Whisk away webs

Just in time for Halloween, spiders make their webs unusually noticeable this month. Neither webs nor the spiders damage a house, but torn webs clogged with insect parts do look unkempt. So a little tidying up may be in order.

Indoors, whisk away webs with a brush attachment on a vacuum wand. Outdoors, pin an electrostatic-charged dust cloth around a broom before you sweep. Warehouse stores sell these cloths by the bundle in the auto-care section. You can wash and reuse them numerous times.


(Michael Probst/AP)

Except for black widow spiders, which live mostly in secluded spaces outdoors, most of the spiders in the Washington area aren't particularly dangerous. Most spider bites here probably come from yellow house spiders, which cause lesions that can take two weeks to heal. These spiders move into houses in early fall. To keep them out of your house, the best strategy is to plug gaps with caulk or weatherstripping and clear an 18-inch-wide band free of plants and debris around your house.

Check sweeps

All those Halloween decorations featuring brooms are good reminders to pay attention to sweeps of a different sort: ones that close gaps at the bottom of exterior doors. Sweeps come in different styles but have just two basic components: a mounting strip that you attach along the back of the door and a flexible blade that brushes against the threshold, the bottom trim in the doorway.

If you don't like the look of a sweep, another option is a door cap, which hugs the bottom edge. Sweeps adjust easily to fit uneven gaps where floors sag. Caps are more complicated to install because you need to take the door off its hinges first, and they aren't as forgiving when gaps are uneven.

Both styles depend on having a fairly flat surface to seal against. If a threshold is rough, you might need to replace it. Hardware stores, lumberyards and home centers carry the parts.

Add light

With nightfall coming earlier each day, this is a good time to assess whether the outdoor lighting at your house is what it should be. This doesn't mean adding spotlights, which can make things in shadows even harder to see. Instead, focus on illuminating areas where someone might trip. Choose fixtures that shield the bulb and aim the light low at your feet.

Low-voltage lights are safe and effective. Solar lights are a breeze to install because they need no wiring. But even though they are good for marking out a path, they often don't put out enough light to help people see uneven surfaces.

Blow out water

If you have a sprinkler system for your lawn, it's time to winterize it. You don't want pipes full of water when freezing weather hits, because water expands as it freezes, and this could crack the pipes. If your system has a manual or automatic drain, winterizing is a simple step.

If there is no drain or if you aren't sure whether you have one, hire a landscaper to push out the water by injecting compressed air. Compressed air can cause serious injuries, which is why it makes sense to hire someone who knows how to do it safely. If you want to do it yourself, click here for a guide to "Winterizing Your Irrigation System" on the Web site of Hunter Industries, a maker of irrigation supplies.

Clean carpets

Don't wait until the holiday season to have carpets cleaned. If you do it now, while the weather is still relatively mild, you'll be able to leave windows open while the carpets dry. You'll also reduce your holiday stress. And you'll have more time to enjoy clean carpets before visitors arrive and the inevitable spills begin.

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