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Must-do spring maintenance for your home

Here’s an easy list with the bare essentials that you can tackle in a Saturday before you have friends over and fire up the grill

Spring is a good time to check the oil in your lawn mower and change its air filter. (iStock)

I can write a home-maintenance checklist as long as my arm, and there are 100 checklists like that out there for the super ambitious. Most of us, however, look at those lists, get overwhelmed and say forget it. Home maintenance is never totally done. You can always add one more thing to the list, but here’s an easy one with the bare essentials that you can tackle in a Saturday before you have friends over and fire up the grill.

The goal of spring maintenance is to get your home ready for the big rainstorms, set your yard up for easy summer maintenance, and prolong the life and performance of your major systems.

Getting your yard ready

Putting effort into your landscaping in the spring will drastically improve curb appeal and reduce the work you have to do over the summer.

· Rake it: Even if you raked well in the fall, debris builds up in your lawn over the winter. Leaves, sticks, bits of trash, dead grass and weeds are sitting on the scalp on your lawn. A quick raking removes them and slightly loosens the top layer of soil to help the seed you put down in the fall to germinate. A strong lawn is the best defense against weeds.

· Fertilize: There’s a race going on in your yard right now between your grass and the weeds. New grass will only germinate when the average temperature is below 85 degrees. Weeds will grow all summer, so give your grass as much head start as you can. Make sure not to over-fertilize. Your lawn will look great in spring, but it will suffer come summer.

· Lawn mower maintenance: Sharpen your lawn mower blade. It doesn’t have to be crazy. I use a belt sander and get it like a razor blade, but you can just take a general-purpose file and knock off the dings from the sticks and rocks you hit last year. A sharp blade makes a clean cut, which reduces stress on your grass. It’s also a good time to check the oil and change the air filter.

· NOTE: Don’t cut grass too short. Raise the blade on your lawn mower. I know you might think that cutting the grass shorter will give you more time until the next cut is needed, but it shocks and weakens your grass.

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· Moss! I hate it. Check the moist shady areas around your yard. If you see thick moss taking root, put down some moss killer. It knocks it right out. Moss will choke out your lawn.

· Get your mulch on: Get that mulch down now before the weeds start, and you won’t need to pull weeds later.

· Trim bushes and trees: Early spring is a good time to trim most of your trees and bushes. At the very least, make sure that your shrubbery is trimmed away from your home.

· Firewood: Pitch firewood that is rotten and moldy. Make sure your firewood pile is 12 to 18 inches off the ground and at least two feet away from your home.

· Go the extra mile: Do a pH test on your lawn. The application of some lime might a good investment.

Check your drainage

Tis the season for flooded basements. Before the next big rain do these things.

· Check your gutters: Every list says to check your roof and gutters, but if you have a two-story home, you’re probably not going to get a 40-foot ladder and climb up into peril. But, at the very least, take the time to go out in the next rainstorm and make sure your gutters are draining properly. Make sure water is not flowing over the side or pouring out of any seams. If you see this, then you definitely need to get up on a ladder and clean your gutters.

· Fill low spots: When you’re applying that mulch check, make sure low spots haven’t developed around your home’s foundation. Once you put mulch down, you might not see the standing water. Take some fill dirt and compact it in the low spots. Look specifically at your gutter downspouts to make sure your extenders are in place and that the water has not dug out a depression.

· Check your sump pump: Pop the lid on your sump and make sure it’s clear of debris. Take a bucket of water and dump it in and make sure your pump comes on and sounds correct. Make sure the float is in a position to move freely. If this pump goes out in a storm, you’re looking at a flooded basement and massive expense. If you have exterior stairs to your basement, then also make sure that drain is clear.

A little love for your major systems

· HVAC: It’s always a good idea to have your system inspected by a professional a couple of times of year. If you don’t want to do that, at least make sure to replace the air filter. This will reduce a lot of stress on your system and cut the amount of spring pollen floating around your home. Also, take a quick look at your exterior air compressor. If it has sunk and settled or if the wiring looks damaged or the insulation on the lines is coming off, you might want to splurge on a professional inspection.

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· Refrigerator: I don’t see this on many lists, but I’ve learned that you need to pull your fridge out a couple of times a year and clean the vents on the back. Modern refrigerators are expensive, complicated and they need more attention and love that their ancestors did. If your fridge can’t breathe right, it puts a lot of stress on the systems and that reduces its life expectancy.

Water heater and faucets

· Water heater: They say you should flush your water heater every six months. Nobody does. But at least take a look at it and make sure the area around it is clear of flammables, there is no rust on the tank and that no corrosion has built on the valves. If you see a salty-looking build-up on your valves, then you may want to get them changed before you have a problem.

· Exterior hose bibs: If you were on the ball in the fall, you probably shut off your outside faucets and drained them. Now is the time to turn that water back on and make sure the faucets are working properly. If you didn’t shut them off, then it’s even more important that you check them now. A good winter freeze may have compromised their functionality.

· Water shut-off valves: If you haven’t done it in a while, check all your water shut-off valves. Make sure they’re functioning properly. It’s just as simple as turning them off and see that the water stops flowing. You don’t want to have a pipe burst and then find out your shut-off valves don’t work.

Depending on your yard size, you could complete this checklist in one day, and that investment will pay off by reducing some of the work you have to do later in the summer. It will also make your home look and perform better, reduce maintenance costs and add value to your investment.

Justin Pierce is a real estate investor and real estate agent who regularly writes about his experiences buying, renovating and selling houses in the Washington area.

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