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Easier Home Maintenance This Fall

Tips for fixing, cleaning and tightening things up to prevent winter damage and save money, too

proposition: Just when you’ve removed the last of the gunk, swirling winds inevitably deposit a new batch of leaves in your freshly cleaned gutters.

You can avoid this nagging chore by installing gutter guards. Gutter guards work by screening out leaves, twigs and seeds while letting water flow into the gutter and out the downspout. Various types include screens, foam inserts and surface tension guards that flush debris over the top while channeling water into the gutter.

The price can be a drawback, however. Professionally installed guards can cost up to $30 per running foot. On a 2,000-square-foot home with 180 linear feet of gutter, that’s $5,400.

Fortunately, some of the most effective types of gutter guards are relatively inexpensive do-it-yourself versions that are readily available at home improvement centers for $1 to $5 per foot. Consumer Reports says to look for top-performing guards from Gutterglove, Amerimax Home Products and Raindrop. You can install them in half a day, saving yourself hours of ladder time down the road.

Tip: Buy the guards yourself and have a pro install them for $300 to $500. That’s still thousands cheaper than the brands provided by dealer-installers.

Paint outside surfaces
Extend the time between major exterior repainting projects by touching up any painted surfaces that have cracks, chips or blisters. Clean the area thoroughly and sand lightly. Apply top-quality exterior paint to keep your siding and trim looking new. When repainting your house, spend a little extra on best-quality paints, which last years longer than bargain-priced paints, saving you time and money in the long run.

Tip: Buy touch-up paint in quarts with screw-top lids for easy storage.

Repair the trim
Replace cracked and rotted wood trim with synthetic trim that’s virtually impervious to moisture and insects. Made from plastics and wood fibers, today’s synthetics come in an array of sizes, shapes and textures, and they are readily available at home improvement centers. They come either primed or prepainted, and they are easy to work with and install. The best part? Once synthetic trim is in place, you can say goodbye to ongoing maintenance.

Tip: Today’s wood composite trim is made with reclaimed wood fibers, has no formaldehyde and can be recycled.

Let in the light
Sparkling clean windows let in lots of light and help chase away winter’s doldrums. Zip through this essential fall cleaning task using a homemade cleaner made from two parts environmentally friendly ammonia and one part warm water.

And forget wiping windows with newspapers — all you’ll get are hands blotched with newsprint and piles of soggy newspapers. Instead, use streak-free microfiber cloths that absorb water and reduce wiping time. Sizes made for cleaning windows come in multipacks — a pack of ten 12-by-16-inch cloths costs about $20.

Tip: Microfiber cloths are reusable. Drop them in the clothes washer and pop them in the dryer for a fresh set of ready-to-use window wipes.

Do an ounce of prevention

Disconnect hoses before the first frost. You’ll prevent outdoor spigots from freezing and cracking, which can cause major leaks and require hours of time to repair. While you’re at it, be sure to drain your garden irrigation system to avoid leaks and busted sprinkler heads in the spring.

Tip: Take the worry out of cold weather by installing frostproof hose bibs.

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