Rummage through the salvaged building materials at Community Forklift in Edmonston. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

September’s to-do list

September’s to-do list

With summer vacations over and cold weather still a way out, September is a great month to invest a burst of energy in home-repair projects.

Get a professional while you can

Don’t wait until you need to turn up the heat to schedule annual maintenance chores. The good pros will all be too busy then. So if you have an oil or gas furnace, now’s the time to arrange for the annual tune-up. If you burn wood, schedule a chimney cleaning. If you have electric baseboard or wall heaters, vacuum out any lint and wipe down the grills. It’s not too early to think about fall leaves, either. If you use a leaf blower, change the fuel and make sure it starts. If it needs a tune-up, you’ll get faster attention now than you would later. Also, if you’re not comfortable working on a ladder, line up a gutter-cleaner now, but hold off on getting the service until the leaves have fallen.

Replace weatherstripping

You probably won’t notice a drafty door until the weather becomes cold. But if you wait until then to replace mangled weatherstripping, your fingers are likely to become numb before you finish the job. Take advantage of a pleasant September day and do the job now. Felt or foam weatherstripping is inexpensive and easy to apply, but it doesn’t last long. So you’re probably better off going with vinyl, silicone or metal. The U.S. Energy Department’s Web site ( has a chart that compares the various options.

Touch up paint

With its mild temperatures and moderate humidity, September is a great month to paint, indoors or out. But unless you want to change the color or the old paint is in really bad shape, consider just touching up the existing paint. It’s faster, easier and cheaper. Paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams ( offers some clever advice about the tricky part: getting the new paint to blend in with the old. It turns out that the final color of the patch is affected by the amount of moisture in the touch-up layer that wicks into the background paint. So, to compensate, the company recommends diluting the touch-up paint by 5 to 10 percent with water for latex paint or with mineral spirits for oil-based paint. Also, particularly on exterior paint, the sun might have bleached the original layer enough so the leftover paint you saved for touch-ups no longer matches. You might be able to blend in the new paint by feathering out the edges, beginning at the center of each repainted area and going out. Test an area and evaluate it the next day, after the paint is thoroughly dry. If the patch is too noticeable, buy new touch-up paint that matches the bleached color.

Say hello to salvage

Are you drawn to the idea of repairing and repurposing materials for home-improvement projects, but not sure where to start? Or perhaps you’ve tried to shop at a salvaged materials store but have had a hard time finding what you need amid aisles filled with cast-off sinks, old chairs, stacks of flooring and the like. Community Forklift (, the Washington area’s largest thrift store for home improvement supplies, is planning a Pirate Party Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with games designed to reveal the hidden treasures in the store, at 4671 Tanglewood Dr. in Edmonston. There will also be free workshops on topics such as how to remove paint and rust from wood and metal, how to use chalk paint on vintage furniture, and how to repurpose antiques. Wannabe-pirate kids can play games and learn to make eye patches, spyglasses and hats.

Take a class

As kids head back to school and new high school graduates head off to college, consider expanding your mind as well — while improving the look of your home. If you’re stumped for ideas about how to pull the room together, consider taking an interior design class to get you thinking in fresh ways. “In My Home,” a seven-session course offered by Corcoran College of Art and Design ( is designed for homeowners focused on their own homes. Classes are in Georgetown on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. beginning Sept. 22 and on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting Sept. 18. Fees total $500. Or, for a quicker introduction, consider the interior decorating seminar 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at the McLean Community Center ( The fee is $75, or $65 for residents.

Take a break

There are plenty of reasons not to spend every September weekend working on the house. One of them is the Capital Home Show ( at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, running Sept. 20-22. For a $10 ticket—or $7 if you buy it online — you’ll get remodeling tips and a chance to have your silver, glass, jewelry or other vintage items appraised by Todd Peenstra, president of Peenstra Antiques Appraisals. Another option, with free admission, is the Suburban Maryland Fall Home, Hot Tub & Landscape Show ( on Saturday and Sunday at Discovery Sports Center at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds. If your house dreams have less to do with redoing the kitchen or adding a hot tub and more about designing your own little (really little) house, consider enrolling in the Tiny House Design Workshop (
) on Sept. 14 and 15 at a church in the District’s Mount Vernon Square neighborhood. For $350 (or $500 for two people), you’ll learn how to design and build your own petite cabin and will get a tour of models at Boneyard Studios, a tiny-house community in Washington.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.