All summer long your lawn has baked in the sun, endured periods of drought and now faces the chilling days of Fall. What can you do to prepare your lawn for the Fall/Winter season and be strong and ready to grow in the Spring?
In the Fall, you should drop your mower and cut 1 to 2 inches shorter than you have all summer. Continue to mow it shorter until it stops growing and make your last cut the shortest of all. During this period, it is the time to feed and seed your lawn to prepare it for strong growth in the early Spring. There are a number of feeding products on the market in the turf builder category but there’s nothing like “organic” feed to supplement this by mulching your leaves. Cutting up fallen leaves into penny or nickel sized pieces and spreading it over your lawn provides a base of natural feed. Even if you don’t mulch your leaves, you should not leave them on the grass because they block important nutrients from the sun your grass needs this time of year.
A big repair I had last year was roof damage to a building with a medium sloped roof that held onto the 36 inches of snow we had last February. Many people try to remove the snow themselves but this often causes more damage from the removal instrument, often a snow shovel, or injury to the homeowner. Let the professionals handle this high wire act of climbing onto the roof for repairs.
The average roof replacement in the U.S. is $8,000. What you can do to prevent a complete replacement is look for signs of leaks in your attic and around skylights. During a sunny day, you can see pinholes of light looking up at the attic where a crack may have occurred. Press on the paneling to find weak spots or any signs of water damage. Early detection is the way to prevent major problems.
There are two issues the snow can cause and the first is less common. The weight of the snow build up can press down on weak spots. While it’s hard to believe, depending on roof size, just 12 inches of compacted snow can put several hundred pounds of weight on the roof. As snow builds, up to 1000 additional pounds of weight can be pressing down and on weak areas, these can cave in. This is why you should be checking inside the home for weak spots in your attic.
More common is the snow and ice melting into water which is looking for the path of least resistance and finds its way to cracks in sideboards or flashings. These are not meant to handle this amount of water and after hours and days of melting, can dump gallons of water into areas not meant to resist this much water.
Some people think tossing salt or other ice and snow melters on the roof is the answer, but often these products break down the asphalt and may even void your warranty. It is best to let the snow melt and keep a keen eye out for leaks.
In areas with heavy snowfall, gutters and downspouts can often fill with packed snow and either damage the roof or break under the pressure of the weight. You will need to judge the amount of snow and build up in the gutter system to determine if a mid winter removal is needed to prevent damage. This is not an easy process and may require professional help.
Finally, skylights may leak because their weep holes are blocked. Make sure you give a professional roofer a good outline of where skylights are in cases where you need a professional while packed snow is on your roof so he doesn’t accidentally damage them.
Seal foundation cracks before winter.
I wrote in my last post about a number of items to be checked on your property’s surface before winter.
Now, I’ll outline a few other checks needed around your property. It’s a great time to take care of these projects before the cold sets in and you have some time to work on any repairs. Checking the foundation for cracks is an important project and one that can have devastating problems if not checked thoroughly. Looking for cracks around the footers, siding, basement carve outs, storm drains, cellar access points and other cement foundation areas needs to be done regularly. Over time, water can access tiny cracks and when water freezes, expand beyond the size of the crack and push it to crack further. I’ve seen some cracks where several inches of water have leaked and when frozen, push the sides of the cement floor apart, causing severe home floor foundation issues.
Driveways and walkways should also be checked as these areas are on the front lines of storm weather damage. Filling cracks and cementing broken sections will not only prevent damage to your property but also injuries of those walking on them.
And sidewalks outside your property, you should be clear who is responsible for repairs as sometimes these issues are not also known when properties trade hands. As an owner, you’ll want the best presentation outside your property and will want to care for these areas. But sometimes they are owned by others including government entities who may not want you to repair their property. Be sure to check public records to determine ownership of walkways and easements that abut your property and be quick to get in touch with those responsible for needed repairs. Flagging these areas may also be a good preventative measure so the public is not using these areas if the current owners are slow to place their own caution signs.
Gutter Cleaning in the Fall
Our geography and type of climate we live in dictate many of the maintenance items on our to-do list each month. In those areas with four seasons, the coming of Fall is a time to check a number of items to prepare for winter’s cold and continuous clean-up after falling leaves and storms.
Checking gutters and downspouts to ensure they are secure and unblocked will save on repair bills in the future. Storms can knock downspouts from their brackets causing leaks. And blocked gutters can cause overflow and drainage onto your home’s facade and siding. It is advisable, during a storm, to check around the property looking for unusual draining or leaks that might indicate a repair is needed. After the storm, check all gutters and remove any blockage. Check on any areas where there maybe leaks or loose brackets. While it is not always pleasant to be checking during a storm, sometimes it is the only way to determine if there is a minor problem with drainage while the rainwater is pouring. Waiting until you can spot damage during dry weather may have given enough time for a much larger problem to be created.
While checking those gutters, it’s a good time to take a screwdriver and probe all wood areas of your property and look for leaks around deck areas, windows, doors and garage areas. Many times, poor gutter drainage can be dumping hundreds of gallons of water on an area and the damage can be severe if not caught early. But often, it is the smallest areas with a tiny crack from a falling branch that goes unnoticed for years until you find a massive leak behind that wood. Take a ladder and check with a keen eye all areas of the property for any damage, however tiny, that may have created a small opening for water to seep in. Use wood filler for any cracks found in wood siding before repainting. Caulk can be used for wood, cement fiber board or vinyl siding and should be used for any areas where moisture should not penetrate or damage will occur. Look for any cracks, holes, points of damage or butt-joints where previous sealant has opened up.