The Checklist: A to-do list for April in Washington

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring is in full swing, so take advantage of the warmer temperatures and tackle this to-do list for April.

-- Jeanne Huber

Tune up outdoor furniture

Dining outdoors is one of the great pleasures of spring and summer. Prepare for it by getting outdoor furniture in tiptop shape.

Wrought iron: If you see rust damage, scrub off as much as possible, ideally down to bare metal, with a wire brush. Scuff up other areas by sanding lightly. Paint with rust-inhibiting primer, then repaint.

Teak: If the wood is blotchy or black with mildew, scrub it with a teak cleaner and a synthetic or brass pad. One-part cleaners are safest; they don't damage the wood. Rinse and let dry. Then apply teak oil if you want the wood to stay its natural color. Skip the oil if you'd rather have wood that ages to a mellow gray.

Strap or plastic wicker: Remove brittle plastic and weave on new vinyl strapping. A lattice pattern with a double wrap on the frame is more durable than simple horizontal straps. Find materials by searching the phone book or local Web directory for "patio furniture repair."

Learn old-house tricks

If you own an older or historic home, consider heading south for Preservation Virginia's Restore Virginia event in Old Towne Petersburg, south of Richmond, on Saturday, April 24. Through workshops, demonstrations and talks by restoration experts, you can learn how to restore original windows, prevent water infiltration, boost energy efficiency and obtain tax credits for historic rehabilitation. You can also take advantage of free 10-minute consultations with preservation experts. Tickets cost $10 in advance at http://www.preservationvirginia.org or $12 at the door. If you can't make the trek, the D.C. Preservation League (http://www.dcpreservation.org) is hoping to cover some of the same information in programs in Washington neighborhoods, probably starting in May.

Schedule window washing

April's usually a good time to wash windows, but this year it's probably better to just schedule a window cleaning and have the work done in May. "You want to wait until most of the pollen is gone," suggests Ryan McPheters, manager at Virginia Window Cleaners in McLean (http://www.vawindow.com). "Because of all the weather we had, the trees are a little behind schedule." If you wait until May to schedule, though, window washers are likely to be backed up for several weeks.

Is it worth having a pro do the job? Prices range from $100 for humble digs to $2,000 for estates. McPheters's company typically charges $6.50 per double-hung window, plus $2.50 if it has a storm window.

His top tip for DIYers: Use a squeegee, not rags. Overlap passes, and wipe off the blade after each one.

Reseal the driveway

If you have an asphalt driveway and can see bare stones on it, it's time to reseal it. But use an asphalt-based sealer, not a coal-tar sealer. The District banned sale and use of those products last summer because chemicals in them were getting into streams, the Anacostia and Potomac rivers, and Chesapeake Bay. The fine for using or allowing someone else to use the products: $2,500 a day. The banned products usually have the words "coal," "tar," "refined coal tar pitch" or "RT-12" on the label.

Clear the air

If you haven't already done so, have your air conditioner serviced and install a fresh filter. Even if you don't need cool air yet, you could run the fan to filter out pollen. April is usually the peak of pollen season in the Washington area. Trees account for 90 percent of the pollen in our air each year; weeds and grasses contribute less than 4 percent each. People with allergies can find relief by staying indoors and switching on the air conditioner rather than opening windows.

But what if you have must-do outdoor chores?

-- Tackle them at mid-day. Pollen counts are usually highest in early morning and late afternoon.

-- Schedule projects when plants that trigger your hay fever aren't at peak bloom. Find local pollen counts and the chief culprits on the Web site of the National Allergy Bureau (http://www.aaaai.org/nab).

-- Wear a disposable respirator.


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