The Checklist: Tackle home projects now so you can enjoy the summer

June 1, 2011

June is a great time to tackle projects because you can enjoy the results all summer. Here’s a to-do list.

Clean out the garage

Open the garage door and enjoy the fresh air as you sort through your boxes and sweep away dirt that has collected since winter. Instead of dividing items by ones you will keep, toss or donate, save time by establishing more-specific categories. For example, rather than creating a giveaway pile, set out boxes labeled for things your friends might use, ones you will donate to a thrift shop and those you will try to sell.

If you decide to have a yard sale, ask your local planning department about sign regulations and whether you need a permit. Sign rules can be quite specific, elaborate and stringent. So ask first.

Test outlets

Before you plug in that electric weed-cutter or the rotisserie on your barbecue, take a few minutes to test the ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) on your outdoor electrical outlets, as well as those in the basement, garage, bathrooms and kitchen. GFCIs, which help protect people from electrical shock, have “test” and “reset” buttons. To test a GFCI outlet, plug in a night light or other lamp and switch it on. Press the “test” button.

l If the “reset” button doesn’t pop out, replace the outlet. Hardware and building-supply companies sell GFCI outlets for about $12 each. (Turn off the circuit breaker before you begin work or call an electrician.)

l If the “reset” button pops out but the light stays on, the outlet isn’t properly wired. An electrician can fix it.

l If the “reset” button pops out and the light shuts off, the outlet is working correctly. Press “reset” to restore power.

Feel the breeze

If you have a ceiling fan that’s still set for wintertime operation, get out a step-stool or ladder so you can reach the slide switch that controls the direction that the blades rotate. Most switches are designed to be slid downward for summer. Check by turning on the fan and seeing whether the blades tilt upward when they rotate; this pushes air down to create a breeze underneath.

Using a ceiling fan can reduce your electric bill, but only if you also adjust the thermostat so the air conditioner switches on at a higher temperature, use energy-efficient lights (if your fan includes them) and switch off the fan when no one is in the room. Ceiling fans cool people by helping sweat evaporate. The air temperature doesn’t change, though, so leaving the fan running when no one is around just wastes electricity.

If you’re buying a ceiling fan, get one with an Energy Star rating. It will move air more efficiently than other models. Consumer Reports magazine recommends buying the largest fan that fits in a space. You’ll be able to run a large fan on lower speeds, minimizing noise.

Clean the deck

Wooden decks and even those made of wood-and-plastic composites need regular maintenance. At a minimum, sweep off leaves and pollen and scrub away any slippery moss. Use a scrub brush and a hose if you want to avoid risking the wood damage that a power washer might cause. Run a putty knife between boards to dislodge twigs or other debris. This helps air to circulate around the boards so they dry more quickly after a rainstorm and are less likely to rot or become covered with mildew.

If you have a wooden deck and it still looks dirty, it’s probably time to refinish it. Use a deck stain and finish remover to strip away any paint, stain or water repellent. If the decking is uncoated, use an oxygen-bleach cleaner to remove mildew stains and loose wood fibers.

For the new coating, avoid paint because film-forming finishes tend to peel when wood is exposed to the weather in a horizontal position. Instead, use a stain that includes pigments that block ultraviolet light, which degrades wood fibers. Opaque stains last longer than ones that are more transparent, but don’t apply several layers, because they build up into a film that’s likely to peel.

Recoat the driveway

If you have an asphalt driveway, June is a good month to recoat the pavement with a sealer. But you might be using a different product than you did the last time you tackled this chore. Two summers ago, in an effort to protect water quality in the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and Chesapeake Bay, the District outlawed sale and use of coal-tar sealers. A study by the U.S. Geological Survey linked this kind of sealer to dust that is high in toxic materials called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Asphalt-based sealers, which can still be sold, don’t have the same problem.

The basic application method is the same: Clean the driveway (use a degreaser on any oily spots) and fill cracks with a patch material made for asphalt. The next day, when the surface is dry, spread the resurfacing material with a squeegee. Wait to walk or drive on the material until it’s dry enough so that a cotton rag stays clean when you rub it on the surface.

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