Photo: James Bombales

With summer in full swing, now is a great time to take advantage of the warmer weather and ensure your home is in optimal shape. A little TLC goes a long way to prevent future maintenance problems, so you can enjoy that well-deserved vacation or chill margarita by the beach without worrying about the state of your home.

“Summer is a great time for home maintenance,” says Jordan Spear, Toronto 2019 Fall Home Show’s DIY Expert. “The ground has dried out from all the snow melt and thaw, the rains of spring generally have subsided, and the temperature is enjoyable to get this done!”

“Safety also plays a part,” adds Shawn Monteith, Canada’s Handyman. “To repair weather stripping on a second floor window, I would rather place a ladder on dry, sound ground than icy, slippery or frozen ground.”

To help keep your abode in tip-top shape, we turned to these two professional handymen and home improvement experts for a checklist of 13 summer home maintenance tasks that you should tackle this season.

1. Replace the air filters throughout your home


Photo: Ivy Dawned / Flickr

The heating and air-conditioning system in your home works by intaking air from a room, which is then heated or cooled by coils and gets blown back into your home through the floor vents. Inside, your furnace’s air filter acts as the lungs of the system by preventing dust, pollen and other airborne particles from entering and getting blown back into other rooms. With such an important role in keeping your house and its occupants healthy, it’s vital that homeowners replace the filter on a regular basis.

“Once you’ve replaced the air filter in your furnace, take some time to change the other filters found throughout your home,” says Monteith. “Everything from A/C units to dishwashers, range hoods and hot tubs. Even the filter on a tap may need cleaning if your water flow is acting up.”

2. Ensure all air vents are clean and uncluttered


Photo: James Bombales, design by Karin Bennett

In keeping with maintaining proper air flow throughout your home, it’s important to make sure all air vents and returns (ducts that suck air into the HVAC system) are clear of any clutter.

“Make sure your vents are not obstructed by furniture, drapes or rugs,” says Spear. “With the A/C running, check each vent in the home for air flow. If you notice any vents that are not blowing enough air, they may have an obstruction in them.”

3. Monitor your home’s humidity levels with a hygrometer


Photo: Rebecca Siegel / Flickr

We’ve all experienced the effect of high humidity on our skin and hair, but did you know that humidity and moisture levels also affect the health of your home? Excess moisture and humidity can lead to mold growth, hardwood floor damage, and attract creepy crawlers like roaches, spiders and silverfish.

“During humid summer months, wooden items including hardwood floors expand as they absorb air moisture — It’s the nature of wood,” explains Spear. “If hardwood floors (even laminate) are not properly gapped along the walls, warping can occur.”

To accurately monitor your home’s humidity level, use a device called a hygrometer, which measures moisture in the air. It’s expressed as the relative humidity, or the percentage of water vapour in the air compared to the amount needed for saturation (100 percent humidity).

“Higher humidity is often observed in the basement, so monitor this area for relative humidity levels and keep it below 60 percent,” says Spear.

4. Switch off your humidifier and use a dehumidifier instead


Photo: James Bombales

Newer HVAC systems often have a built-in, flow-through humidifier. These systems add humidity back into your indoor air and are often used in the winter to reduce static electricity, and prevent dry air from affecting your sinuses and causing chapped or cracked lips. However, leaving it on in the summer will cause your central air conditioner to work harder, creating more wear and tear on the system leading to higher energy bills.

“Turn off your humidifier or switch it to summer mode and consider installing a dehumidifier if humidity levels are high,” says Spear. “If you already have a dehumidifier, check and clean or replace the filters to ensure they are in good operating condition.”

5. Switch off your Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)


Photo: James Bombales

HRVs bring in fresh air from the outdoors and exhaust stale air from the inside of your home. For the HRV to work effectively, you only want to run it when the outside air contains less moisture than the air inside — which is usually only the case during the winter months.

“Essentially, once the furnace’s heat setting is turned off for the season, so should the HRV,” says Spear. “HRVs could be used if the inside ambient air moisture is higher than the humidity outside, but generally it’s best to let your A/C unit remove relative humidity from inside air through its condensate pipe.”

6. Ensure your air conditioning unit is properly maintained


Photo: James Bombales

A broken or inefficient air conditioning system can be costly, so before the summer heat waves hit, be sure to have the system inspected for any necessary repairs.

“Proper consistent maintenance pays off in the long run,” says Monteith. “This includes cleaning the coils in the A/C unit, checking the fins for damage and making sure the unit is level.”

“If the unit is full of debris, you can remove the fan cover and clean the interior of the unit,” adds Spear. “But make sure to switch off the thermostat and A/C breaker first before attempting this!”

7. Use a programmable thermostat to save on energy bills


Photo: James Bombales

For a more comfortable home and lower energy bills, set your thermostat at a constant temperature and increase it at night when everyone is asleep or during the day when no one’s around. Having a programmable or smart thermostat makes this even easier since homeowners can set the temperature for different times of the day, or while they’re away on summer vacation.

“The number one way to save on energy bills is to install a programmable thermostat,” says Spear. “You can set a schedule for when you want the system to turn on or off, and many digital thermostats can even be remotely controlled from your smartphone.”

8. Use your ceiling fans to save on cooling cost


Photo: James Bombales, design by Lisa Canning

If it’s not too warm out, you can save a few dollars on your cooling costs by switching on your ceiling fans instead of your A/C unit. However, on those unbearably hot days, you can still save on energy costs by using your ceiling fans in tandem with an efficient air conditioner.

“Turn on your ceiling fans to allow the cool air to circulate,” says Spear. “The direction of the blades should be counter-clockwise so that you feel the air blowing down.”

9. Keep your windows closed, blinds shut and interior doors open


Photo: James Bombales

Modern homes and condominiums often “boast” large picture windows or floor-to-ceiling glass doors. And while they do allow for plenty of natural light, they can also make your home feel like an oven — especially those with south- and west-facing windows. Leaving doors open can also help improve air circulation — so keep those bedroom doors open whenever possible.

“In the summertime, make sure blinds and curtains are closed during the day to prevent the sun from warming interior surfaces,” says Spear. “Avoid opening windows on humid days to prevent excessive moisture from accumulating inside your home.”

10. Check exterior vents, window wells and caulking for any blockages or cracks


Photo: James Bombales

Proper ventilation is important inside and outside of your home. With warmer weather on your side, take some time to do a walkaround of the exterior of your home to confirm that roof louvres, vents and soffits are not blocked by leaves, branches or nests.

“Trim back plants and vegetation to ensure they are not blocking exhaust vents or air intakes and check that window wells are cleared of any debris to allow for proper drainage,” suggests Spear. “Gutters and downspouts should also be cleared of any clogs and make sure that downspouts are properly placed to direct water away from the property.”

Exterior maintenance items involving paints, stains and caulking are best addressed in the summer as these materials adhere better in the dry, warmer months than in the cold and wet seasons. Exterior caulking around windows and doors protect against water, moisture and mold, and helps keep insects out. When the material degrades over time, it can break open, allowing for moisture to penetrate the structure of your home, which can lead to expensive repairs and mold damage.

“When doing a walkaround, have a pencil and paper, look at all the areas and make a note of any red flags like loose or pop-up nails, insects entering the house or cracked caulking,” says Monteith. “Look for deteriorating caulking that needs replacement and remember to always cut and remove old caulking before applying new material.”

11. Reseal your driveway


Photo: James Bombales

Asphalt driveways require regular maintenance throughout their lifespan and are particularly susceptible to cracks due to the expansion and contraction of water with freezing and thawing temperatures. Fortunately, fixing a crack is a relatively easy DIY project and can be done using materials and tools readily available in your garage or at a local hardware store. Driveway sealing is also an easy and cost effective way to prolong the life of your driveway and should be completed every few years.

“Repaving your driveway is something best left to the professionals since they have the proper equipment and expertise,” says Monteith. “However, homeowners with an asphalt driveway can seal it themselves every few years — just be sure to check the forecast for any extreme weather.”

12. Inspect your decks and porches for any damage


Photo: James Bombales, design by Kate + Co. Design Inc.

Decks and porches get a lot of wear and tear from both weather and foot traffic throughout the year. The harsh winter months can cause finish issues, while the wet springtime can cause or accelerate rot. Make sure your home is ready to handle summer get-togethers and barbecues by inspecting for any cracks, damage or rot.

“Your deck’s footings may need to be replaced if it has heaved or sunk during the winter months, leaving you with a wonky, unlevel deck,” says Spear. “Look at the structure of the deck including the beams and joists for rotting or cracking. If the deck is attached to the home, ensure the ledger board is firmly attached and not pulling away from the house. Check all joists for joist hangers — if they were never installed, they can be easily retrofitted, creating a stronger connection.”

Decking surfaces generally take the most abuse from the elements and foot traffic, but the level of maintenance required depends on the material used.

“A composite material deck may only need a spray with a power washer every once in a while, whereas a cedar deck may need a good power wash spray and to be resealed every couple of years,” explains Monteith. “Learn how to use your power washer properly to avoid creating more damage than you started with!”

13. Have your swimming pool inspected for leaks and operational efficiency


Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

Another area of your home that will likely see a lot of use during the summer is your swimming pool. But before sending out invitations to your summer pool party, make sure that your pool is safe to use, inspected for leaks, and that heaters and pumps are operating normally.

“Inadequately protected or guarded pools are a safety hazard, so make sure that gates are locked when not in use and consider installing a safety cover, which will prevent people from sinking into the pool should they fall off the pool deck,” says Spear. “You should also be checking your pool water chemistry daily or during times of heavy use for proper pH levels. If you are unsure about how to operate a pool, consider an online course to familiarize yourself with the operation and chemistry of a pool.”

For more maintenance tips from home improvement and design experts, be sure to attend the 2019 Toronto Fall Home from October 4th to 6th at the Enercare Centre in Exhibition Place.

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