Bob Vila's 10 April "Must Do" Projects
With cold weather finally on the way out, April offers the opportunity to return to outdoor living. Prep your space for spring and summer by maintaining the home exterior and beautifying the lawn and garden. Then turn your attention indoors, specifically to the basement to protect your home from spring flooding. Most of all, take a moment to appreciate the season, and your house, too.
By Bob Vila
- Check the Sump Pump
As many homeowners know, April showers can bring flooded basements. Heavy rains cause soil to become saturated with water, and that water can leak into your home through window wells or a vulnerable foundation. A sump pump should be able to mitigate the problem, but only if it's in good working condition. Check yours now to prevent costly flooding later. First, check the sump pump pit for debris and remove anything that doesn't belong. Then, fill the sump pump with water to test the float and ensure that it starts and stops properly. Also, take a minute to clean the impeller, the small filter on the sump pump. If this part becomes clogged, it could cause a sump pump to stop running when you need it most.
- Unclog the Downspouts
Everyone knows that it's vital to clean gutters in spring and fall, but all too often homeowners neglect clogged downspouts, which can cause problems when torrential rains hit. After clearing your gutters of leaves and debris, run an auger or hose into the downspouts to clear away blockages. Then, consider installing a leaf strainer over the downspout to prevent future buildup.
- Paint the Front Door
Want to give your home a simple facelift without the expense of a major improvement project? There's no better budget solution than painting the front door. For the cost of a small can of paint, you can instantly brighten your home's facade and give it a fresh look for spring—all year long. Simply let the newly painted door make a statement on its own, or take the project even further by painting the trim, window frames, and shutters in a corresponding hue.
- Reseed the Lawn
Photo: Zillow Digs home in Green Brook, NJ
A hard winter can sometimes cause a lawn to come back thin and sparse in the spring. To give your grass a thicker, lusher look, the best thing to do now is to overseed. First, choose the best type of grass for your region: You'll want to select a cool-season variety, such as Kentucky bluegrass, if you live in the north; if you live in the southern states, go with a warm-season variety instead. Prep your lawn to receive new seed by mowing, then apply the seed using a spreader to ensure even coverage. Lightly water the new grass on a regular basis, and keep off the seeded areas as much as possible until the new growth is firmly established.
- Power Wash the Patio
It's amazing what a year's worth of grime can do to a beautiful deck or patio—namely, age it beyond all recognition. Using a pressure washer (you can buy or rent one at most home centers), spray down the surface of the wood or concrete evenly. Once the work is done, you'll be impressed by the results of your cleaning. Remember: When using a pressure washer on exterior siding, keep the wand a few feet away from the surface, as the powerful stream can cause damage to shake shingles or stucco at close range.
- Update the Garden
Freshen the look of your yard and garden by swapping out weathered fixtures and accents for new ones. Remove tattered wicker or rusty metal garden edging and replace it with reclaimed brick, mulch (or faux mulch), or your choice of material. Then, consider repainting a weathered birdhouse or adding a new, elegant birdbath to the backyard. Not only are they a welcome sanctuary for songbirds, but they double as delightful backyard architecture.
- Clean Bathroom Grout
Even a clean bathroom can look dirty and dingy if the grout is discolored. The first thing to do is to make sure the grout is clean—a toothbrush and plain water or vinegar will accomplish this. If the grout remains discolored try applying oxygen bleach. If stubborn stains persist, as can happen with porous grout, consider hiding the problem with a grout colorant (available at home centers) or good old-fashioned latex paint, applied with a thin bristled paintbrush.
- Dry Out the Basement
Because of their place below the grade, basements are vulnerable to leaks and excess moisture. That's why it's a good idea to run a dehumidifier in the basement, especially if you—or your off-season storage—spend a lot of time down there. Over time, excess moisture leads to mold growth, warped wood or paper, rust, and peeling paint. A dehumidifier allows you to control the indoor humidity level, and take extra water out of the air. You can choose from a small, portable dehumidifier or a whole-house system depending on your needs.
- Check for Termites
Preventing and eliminating termite infestations is a vitally important part of being a homeowner. But because of their tendency to hide in the wood itself, this destructive bug can be hard to spot. Take a walkabout your home exterior, armed with a screwdriver and a flashlight. Use the screwdriver to probe behind wood trim and siding, looking for any pellet-like droppings, discarded wings, or wood that appears to be decayed or water damaged. If you suspect a termite infestation, the best thing to do is to consult a specialist immediately. Don't wait to address the damage, or you could end up with tens of thousands of dollars in home repair costs before you know it.
- Plant a Container Garden
With the threat of frost now gone, it's the perfect time to plant a container garden. Choose colorful cool-season annuals like pansies and snapdragons, as well as ornamental grasses and vinca vines. DIYers of all ages can make an afternoon project out of it by crafting a window box from wooden boards, or painting a terra-cotta pot to match your home's exterior. Remember, because of their small sizes, container gardens require more frequent waterings than garden beds, so go ahead and give yours a good soak whenever the soil feels dry to the touch.