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Mike Holmes: Summer’s not just for major renovations

Summertime is the best time for building projects and renovations, such as refinishing the deck, putting up a fence or painting outdoors. Mother Nature is on our side, in terms of weather (for the most part), so we can really dig in and get our hands dirty to get that project done and checked off the list before fall.
But sometimes people forget about simple home maintenance that we should also be checking off our list, to help keep our homes safe and healthy.

1. Change your furnace filter

You should change it every at least every three months minimum (so, at the start of every season).
Everyone remembers to change their furnace filter in the winter, because when we think winter we think heating and the furnace. But for some reason, we forget that we use our furnaces over summer, too. Every time we use the A/C (central air, not the window units), we’re using the furnace. That means many furnaces might be working overdrive this summer, so change your filter. It’s a simple way to help keep the air in your home healthy and clean, and it also helps reduce allergies.

2. Stop pests

Summertime is when most insects make their way indoors, looking for cooler homes. Go around the exterior of your home and look for any potential entry points, such as around window and door framing, venting, tears in window screens and door screens, and cracks in the foundation, especially below windows and doorsteps.
I’ve seen swarms of bees and wasps find their way into homes through the tiniest cracks and openings. One house had a massive swarm of bees that made a home behind the kitchen cabinets (which were along an exterior wall). In another home, wasps found a tiny crack in the foundation below the front door steps that led directly into the cold room.
Also, watch for insect wings. If you see a bunch of wings around the exterior of your home, there’s a good chance you have termites. (Termites have wings, and once they find a new home they drop them.)
Gaps around window and door frames, as well as any venting, should be sealed with rubberized exterior caulking. Any cracks wider than a half inch (1.3 centimetres) should be filled with expanding foam — there are special low expanding foams that don’t put too much pressure on framing. Small foundation cracks can also be filled with an expandable foam or epoxy injection.
Torn window screens should also be replaced, and refill any gaps in your mortar (also known as tuck-pointing).

3. Be green to save green

During summer, we water our lawns, wash the deck, wash our cars, etc. Don’t use clean water that you pay for. Instead, talk to a pro about installing a greywater re-use system that collects the rainwater that comes off your roof. Not only is it environmentally friendly, it also helps protect your home. Rather than flowing down your eavestroughs to the side of your home and possibly flooding your basement, you can use that water the next time you water your lawn or wash your car. It’s free and you help the environment.
Also, think about switching to LEDs outside your home and using solar exterior lights.
Another trick to help you save is reversing ceiling fans. During winter, ceiling fans should turn clockwise — this helps circulate warm air trapped along the ceiling. But in the summer, if the fan works in reverse (so, counter-clockwise), it can help create a breeze.

4. Check for mould

That musty smell in your basement, crawl space or attic is mould. In fact, that smell is mould “digesting.” Address the problem by taking care of any moisture issues, for example, by stopping leaks, getting a dehumidifier, increasing air circulation, sealing around the building envelope and possibly boosting your insulation.
If you find surface mould and it’s less than 10 square feet, you can clean it yourself using proper safety gear (i.e., respirator and gloves) and a safe and effective product (like Concrobium). Do not use bleach! If you have a big mould issue, you will need to call a pro.

5. Enjoy the summer!

Summer lasts only three months of the year, so make the most of it and make it right!

Mike Holmes, Special to National Post