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Answering all those burning questions you didn’t know you had about home ownership.

The Four Seasons of Exterior Maintenance

Picture of Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica Dabkowski

Helping you with all things homeownership!

In Michigan, we have four seasons: Winter is Coming, Extreme Winter, The Rain Before, and Road Construction. In all seriousness, each Michigan season requires a different series of tasks to maintain the exterior of your home and we’ll discuss each season of exterior maintenance in turn.

Ignore the wear and tear on your home from the outside elements each season at your own peril.  Left unchecked, wind, snow, ice, rain, and sun cause damage over time.  Schedule regular maintenance to tackle the exterior of your home and your yard to prevent headaches down the road.

Even for condo owners, you should ensure your association is taking care of these items. Your associations fees cover the common exteriors of your complex and lack of low-cost maintenance can lead to expensive repairs.

Remember, a well-cared for property retains its value and attract buyers when it comes time to sell.

Your exterior maintenance can include some DIY tasks or regular service appointments from professionals.  Here is a breakdown of what you should put on your to-do list each season for outside maintenance.

Let’s take a stroll through the four seasons of exterior maintenance in Michigan.

Fall (September – Early November)

Fall is perfect for many outside maintenance tasks. You will want to prepare your home for the upcoming winter weather, which can be the harshest on your home.

Gutters

Clear out gutters and downspouts of the leaves and debris that have accumulated. One inspector told me he just drags his blower up the ladder and blows out the gutters on a dry day. Depending on where you live, you may need to do this several times in the fall. If you plan to be in your home long-term and/or have a multi-story house, you can investigate gutter guards, which allow water into the gutters but block leaves from entering.

Ensure your gutters are directed so that they drain as far away from the house as possible and on a downslope. Check on the flow of water regularly during rainstorms to prevent major water damage. Blocked gutters cause the water to over flow the gutters in an uncontrolled manner, which means the water is hitting in suboptimal places.

Roof

Inspect your roof for any damage to shingles and double check seals around vents and chimney to prevent any leaks.

Cement

Seal foundation cracks to prevent critters from sneaking into your home. Remember, rodents are everywhere! They are going to seek warmth as the weather cools, and you’ll want to seal all entry points into your home.

Inspect your driveway for cracks. Seal cracks now to prevent winter damage from salt and melting snow.

The Yard

Rake leaves regularly in the yard so you are not overwhelmed with one big job at the end of the season. Plus, you don’t want to be “that house” on your block where all the neighbors are smack-talking your yard behind your back. Check your community’s leaf pick-up services, requirements, and schedule so you can get rid of compost in a timely manner.

Remove and weed any dead plants, especially those summer and early fall annuals. Aerate, fertilize, and seed your lawn in early fall.

Prune shrubs before they go dormant. Cut back perennials; divide and transplant as needed. Winterize sensitive plants such as roses, and stake any shrubs or young trees.

Plant bulbs now for springtime flowers. Look at catalogs and Pinterest for some ideas for your garden. Perennial flowers are less costly and time consuming in the long run, making your yard look nice with less work each year.

Trim tree branches that hang too close to your home. You don’t want any surprises during a storm so hire a professional company to care for your trees and trim where necessary. If you have tree branches growing into power lines, call your local electric company to request they trim those branches.

As you get closer to colder weather, drain garden hoses, detach from the spigot and store the hose inside over the winter.

Outdoor Living Spaces

Clean and cover outdoor furniture (or store it inside) to prevent damage and to reduce the nastiness you have to clean up before putting them back out in the spring.

Winter (Late November – Early March)

The outside of your home is where harsh winter storms and cold weather wreaks havoc. Get these outside tasks done starting in late November and early December, so you are prepared for snow and ice storms.

Gutters (Yep, again!)

Make sure gutters and downspouts are cleaned out thoroughly of leaves and debris before the winter weather arrives. If your gutters are clogged, the water can freeze up in the gutters causing them to detach from your home. This can also cause major water damage to your home if left for too long.

If you didn’t call the power company to trim the trees yet, do that ASAP. Ice storms can cause branches to fall; get rid of any dead limbs before the storms hit.

Winterize Your Water Sources

Drain outdoor faucets and winterize in-ground watering systems to prevent pipes from bursting. You can DIY a sprinkler blow-out if you have access to an air compressor, but if you prefer a professional, this service usually costs $35-50 in the metro-Detroit area. My husband has been known to run outside and grab the professional blowing out the sprinklers across the street. Not a particularly organized approach, but it is effective. (Love you, babe!)

Prep for the Inevitable Ice

Stock up on environmentally-friendly salt or deicing treatments for your sidewalks, driveway, and porch to prevent slipping.  Sometimes eco-friendly composite decks and stairs can be more slick and hazardous when ice forms. Be careful since it might not be obvious!

Spring (Early March – Early June)

Sorry, everyone, but this is the BIG ONE! The BIG CLEAN UP! Once spring arrives examine your yard and home’s exterior to take stock and assess for any winter damage. As the weather warms up, you can catch up on certain outside tasks and prep your home before the summer starts to heat up. The spring can bring heavy rains, so stay on top of tasks that can prevent water damage or drainage issues. Moving right along on our tour of the Four Seasons of Exterior Maintenance in Michigan, let’s dig into spring.

Yard Cleanup and Drainage Check

Remove debris such as dead foliage and fallen branches and twigs that may be scattered in your yard. Clear out any growth or brush you don’t want. Be gentle raking and walking on your lawn at this time since new grass shoots will start to peek through.

Check on exterior drainage systems and consider improvements to get ready for spring’s rainy season. To prevent costly water damage to your home, now is the time to make sure all of your drainage systems are operating properly and verify they properly move water away from your home. Consider getting downspout extenders for gutters, having your landscaping slope away from your home’s foundation, installing storm drains in your yard or even a French drain system. Water is enemy #1 for damage to your home.

Remove leaves and debris from all area drains, gutters, and window wells. Always give your gutters a once over when it is raining heavily to see if they are clogged and overflowing and hire a professional if needed.

Beautify Your Yard

Get your garden tools and supplies cleaned, sharpened and restocked. Remove rust and seal blades for pruning shears, hedge clippers, trowels, etc. Clean and restock garden pots, gloves, kneepads, watering cans. Purge and organize your garden shed to get rid of what you don’t need or use anymore and then arrange the space for easy access and a more orderly set up. Don’t forget to get gas for that first mow of the season!

You can begin to plant summer bulbs, annuals, and perennials for beds and planters. Come up with a plan so you purchase only what you need and what works for the soil and sunlight in your yard. Cool spring weather early in the season is good for pansies in containers.

Order your mulch in the early spring so your yard will look clean and crisp in the coming weeks.

Once growth or buds sprout, you can fertilize and prune certain plants. You can transplant trees before they leaf out. Prune trees and shrubs that have any damage from the winter. You can’t prune azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons until after they bloom. You can prune nonflowering trees and shrubs in the spring.

Your Outdoor Living Spaces

Clean and prepare your patio or deck and any outdoor furniture or planters. Consider power washing to get rid of grime on items that can withstand the pressure. Big box stores will rent you a power washer for an afternoon if you do not want to buy (and store!) one.

Clean and repair your gas grill. Scrub the grates with liquid cleaner, and wash the burners and covers if you have them. Don’t forget to get the tank filled if you have a gas grill or stock up on charcoal.

Clean the exterior siding of your home or schedule a paint job if that is needed.  Depending on the siding’s material, you could get it power washed by a professional or DIY it.

Wait for pollen season to be over before you tackle windows/screens and even screen porches. If your yard gets a layer of yellow pollen, then schedule a good washing for later in the season.  You can wash your screens and windows yourself or find a reliable professional to get the job done each year.

Pest Control

Little critters start to come out in the warmer weather so hire a pest service that can help you deal with ants, rats, spiders, or mice. Make sure your garbage is securely enclosed in an impenetrable fortress of a trash can; and clean up any areas with debris that create an inviting home for critters. I always think of those sassy raccoons from the 1988 smash hit “The Great Outdoors” starring John Candy and Dan Ackroyd.

Cement

Winter weather can be harsh on driveways and sidewalks. Repair cracks whether you have concrete or asphalt. Sealing or resurfacing can give a driveway a bright lift. If you have pavers, make sure you know how to clean and re-sand or hire a professional.

Summer (Late June – August)

If you hit that Spring Checklist hard, your yard is in pretty good shape by early summer. Early June is a perfect time to make your yard more beautiful and finish up any preventative care. You want to relax for the rest of summer!

Check on those Trees

Plan ahead and have a professional tree service come out regularly to ensure your trees are healthy and not diseased.  You may need to have your trees trimmed if you haven’t in a couple of years. Summer storms and trees full of leaves with unstable branches can only bring disaster at this time of year.

Gutters

Yes, it is all the seasons! Continue to check on your gutters during any rainfall to prevent any water damage to your home. Remove leaves and debris from all area drains, gutters, and window wells.

Yard Maintenance

Weed and clean up beds of early spring plantings that have stopped blooming. Now is the time to clear out those wilted leaves and dead plants to make room for late-blooming flowers.

Prune some flowering shrubs. Azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons can be pruned now that they are done blooming.

Add a splash of color with some annuals that can withstand the summer heat. It’s time to switch out the pansies and put in some colorful but hardy plants in containers and beds. Work with your local garden center to see what works best for your yard, especially if you have direct sunlight.

As the temperature rises throughout the summer, keep watering your lawn, beds, and containers. Don’t water in the middle of the day with the hot sun, but do it in the early evening when it starts to cool down. This also saves you money as water costs more during peak usage and if you water in the afternoon sun you are losing water you paid for to evaporation. My township encourages residents to water from 12 to 6 – either a.m. or p.m. because this is outside of the peak usage times.

Pest Control

Keep mosquitos from breeding in your yard. Mosquitos love standing water – any amount! So do your part to cut down on places where they can breed. Double check for standing water in your yard and any outside containers – such as wheelbarrows, flowerpots, buckets, watering cans, garbage cans, and children’s toys. Even the little bit in your gutter drain can lead to breeding. Store items in your garage and shed as much as possible.

Be proactive about mosquitos – both larvae and adults. Take evasive maneuvers for mosquito control to prevent larvae from flourishing. Look into non-toxic solutions such as nonchemical larvicides (Mosquito Dunks for larvae; Mosquito Bits for adults); goldfish, koi, and mosquitofish that prey on these pests; and solutions to make the water “move” more. Put the Dunks or pellets in your gutter drains to prevent larvae. Don’t forget to buy some citronella candles for when dining outside!

Hire a pest control service to manage any seasonal issues if you haven’t done so already. A pest service can offer suggestions and solutions on how to deal with any problems, inside and outside of your home. The summer means more spiders and, yes, rats. Do your part and keep your garbage contained and clear out debris in your yard so you don’t have a tempting “home” for critters.

Ticks are a big issue in Michigan – avoid having long grass to prevent ticks.  Mow your lawn regularly and remove leaves and debris, where ticks can thrive. Check yourself, your kids, and pets after being outside.

Four Seasons of Exterior Maintenance Wrap-Up

I hope you enjoyed our stroll through the four seasons of exterior maintenance in Michigan.Catch up on any maintenance you may have missed over the last few months and get moving on this season! I hope this list has helped you know what to prioritize and create a plan for the upcoming seasons. If you need any vendor contacts for professional assistance, give me a shout.

Photo credit: Valiphotos from Pexels

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