The Washington Post
9 tasks for your March home-maintenance checklist
The calendar says spring begins March 20. But you don’t need to wait to get started on early-spring home-maintenance tasks. Especially if your home includes a garden, this is a super busy time of year, so go ahead and take advantage of the warming days and longer daylight hours. Here are nine chores that should be on your to-do list this month.
1. Cut back spent perennials
Good for you if you didn’t cut back asters, coreopsis, echinacea, rudbeckia or other perennials in the fall, and left the seed heads for birds to enjoy over the winter. But now it’s time. Sometimes you can just tug on a spent stem and it will cleanly break off at the soil line. But if doing that also brings up roots, clip the spent stems close to the ground while avoiding damage to new shoots. If perennials have grown into a clump that’s bigger than you want, then dig them up. Replant some of the most vigorous specimens. Compost or give away the others, or use them to populate a different part of your garden.
2. Look underfoot
Check outdoor steps, walkways and decks to make sure they are stable and don’t have slippery spots. If treads are coated with algae or moss, kill the growth with a bleach solution or a product labeled for that purpose. Scrub off the growth by hand or with a power washer adjusted to a setting appropriate to the material. The pressure can be higher if you’re cleaning stone or concrete than if you’re dealing with wood. If your house has wooden steps and boards are loose, inspect them to make sure the wood isn’t rotten. Replace any pieces that are, and screw the others back into place. And fix or replace any wobbly handrails.
3. Delve into the freezer
March 6 is National Frozen Food Day, first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. Yes, it’s silly. But it’s a good reminder to dig deep and rediscover what you’ve stored in the freezer. Although food that stays frozen doesn’t become unsafe to eat over time, it can become unappetizing, especially in the freezer compartment of a frost-free refrigerator, where temperatures cycle up and down to prevent ice from forming. So cull what you’re unlikely to eat.
If you have a chest freezer, you will probably also need to remove ice buildup. Unplug the freezer, take out everything and use a hair dryer to coax the ice to melt faster. When you restock, sort the food by categories that work for your household: meat, veggies, desserts, leftovers. It’s tempting to organize with separate crates for different kinds of food, but freezing makes many plastics brittle. Fabric shopping bags are a good alternative.
4. Tune up your air conditioner
While the weather’s still cool, schedule a tuneup for your air conditioner. Maintenance should include checking the components, lubricating fans and motors, tightening or changing belts, testing the capacitors and crankcase heater, and calibrating the thermostat. There are also a few things you can do yourself: Clear leaves, grass clippings, pollen and other debris from the screen of the condensing unit; clean out the condensate hose, so it doesn’t become blocked with algae; and keep an eye out for drip marks on the compressor and tube, because these could indicate a leak.
5. Freshen up the entryway
If the entryway to your home screams winter — a plastic tray out for dripping boots, a closet clogged with coats — try giving it a facelift. Store the gear you won’t need during warmer weather. Replace the doormat if it’s worn or grubby. Put out an umbrella holder for spring showers. And add a mirror or lamp to make the space brighter and more inviting. Outside, dust off the cobwebs and sweep the floor. Check that mat, too, and replace it if needed. If you still have a winterthemed wreath on the door, replace it with a hanging basket filled with greenery and perhaps artificial flowers. Tuck a plastic container into the basket first if you want to replace artificial flowers with real ones from your garden once they begin blooming.
6. Clean the shower head
Nature provides the outdoor showers, but you might need to put in a little extra effort indoors. If a shower head is sluggish and no longer sprays evenly, it’s probably clogged with mineral deposits. Soak them away with a solution of half-vinegar, half-water. You might even be able to do this without removing the shower head: Tie and tape a plastic bag filled with the solution around the head, and completely immerse the nozzles. Or unscrew the shower head and soak it in a container filled with enough of the solution to submerge the nozzles. Vinegar is acidic, and with prolonged contact, it can eat into metallic finishes, so don’t soak the shower head for longer than 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a soft cloth.
7. Inspect the roof
Roof leaks can cause a ton of collateral damage to insulation, ceilings, walls and furnishings. The trick is to identify and fix problems before they lead to leaks — and to recognize ahead of time when you should schedule a roof replacement. Walk around your house with binoculars to check for moss, debris and shingles that are missing or curled. From a ladder, make sure flashing or rubber boots are intact around the chimney, skylights and vent pipes. And go into the attic to look for stains that point to leaks. Flashing problems often show up there first. If you find problems or aren’t comfortable getting on a ladder, call a roofing company and ask for an inspection, which is usually relatively inexpensive, especially if you don’t need a written report (often necessary when selling a house).
If you’re comfortable going up on the roof, you can kill moss by spraying it with a bleach solution or a moss killer; after it dies, let rain wash away the remains. But for most homeowners, a professional moss removal or roof repair is a safer way to go. And there are Youtube videos on how to replace damaged or missing asphalt shingles. American Home Shield suggests replacing a roof if more than one-third of the shingles are curling.
8. Clean the garbage disposal
This is not a March-specific task; it’s something you should do every week or two. Take a few minutes this month to make it part of your cleaning routine. With the machine off, scrub the opening with a bottle brush. If the disposal stinks, freeze vinegar in ice cube trays and let the disposal blend them to icy slush. As always, run water the whole time the disposal is on, and use cold water, not hot. Grease melts with hot water, then resolidifies when it cools inside the plumbing, causing clogs.
9. Change furnace filters
Yep. Every three months. If you did it in December, it’s time to do it again.
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