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Home & Garden

It's time for spring home, garden inventory

| Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ken Moeslein says this is the time for a "visual inventory."

In case the robins haven't made their point and the buds haven't given it away, it is spring. That chill will be going away as the days progress. On any day, if snow shows up, it likely will be gone in hours. The dominant outside color is turning green.

Moeslein, CEO of Legacy Remodeling in Dormont, is not alone in knowing there are jobs to be done around the home. It is time to get the house ready for the coming warmer months and to look at what happened to it during the long winter.

"You can take a look and see what the ice has done to the gutters and whether the downspouts are in order," he says as an example.

But it also is time for positive issues, too.

Alvin Sanfilippo, a master gardener from Hempfield, Westmoreland County, says that tomato plants, for example, can be started under lights about April 1.

Outside and in, for the house and in the ground, there are jobs that emerge every spring.

But John Fries from the Hampton-Shaler landscaping firm that bears his name has a warning.

"Sometimes being too antsy can cause more harm than good," he says. "Make sure the ground dries up before commencing work."

It is time to get ready.

For the house

Spring repairs in the house go from top to bottom.

Moeslein and roofer Bill Hudspath from Latrobe look at roof inspections as an obviously important spring job. The snow and ice that have weighed down on roofs and gutters are gone. Now is the time to see if there is any damage and make repairs.

Hudspath points to the damage ice dams can do. Leaking can be caused when ice creeps up below shingles, routed there because gutters are full.

"This wasn't as bad a year as last, but we still have seen quite a few of those problems," he says.

The two contractors recommend the installation of an ice-and-water-shield, a synthetic material placed under the bottom rows of shingles to block the moisture. Hudspath says the job can be done for as little as $500. Moeslein says repairing roof damage can boost that cost.

He and Moeslein also remind homeowners to see whether gutters have pulled away because of the weight of snow and ice.

These jobs are matters of repair as well as prepare, Moeslein says. He once lived the District of Columbia area and found residents there were more active at doing work in the fall to get ready for the cold season, rather than doing the repairs in the spring after the damage has been done.

He suggests this awareness as a way of getting ready for next year.

Hudspath also reminds homeowners to look for shingles that could be loose or showing signs of weakness or aging through "cupping."

Ken Batco from Dynamic Heating and Maintenance in Shaler advises not to overlook jobs down below. The most obvious chore is to let the oncoming of spring be a reminder to change the furnace filter.

He also suggests cleaning the air conditioner and making sure plant life is cleared for about 2 feet all around it.

"The cleaner it is, the better it operates," Batco says. "Hit it with a hose."

In the yard

Landscaper Fries and gardener Sanfilippo agree cleanup is one of the most important parts of spring care in the yard.

"Remove fall and winter debris," Fries says, ticking off the jobs. "Clean window wells and other hidden area along with the obvious ones."

The cleanup should include lifting up the matted leaves that were missed during raking season, Sanfilippo says.

"If they sit there in moist conditions, it just encourages mold and disease," he says.

Fries also says decomposing leaves are acidic so liming will help a lawn.

Sanfilippo says pruning is important now to keep trees and plants healthy as they move into the growing season ahead. Plants such as anabelle hydrangea, spirea and clematis all need pruning now.

It also is time to clean off dead branches on trees, and he cautions against the use of wound dressing, which is sometimes advised on those areas.

They both says it is time to begin work on the lawn. Sanfilippo says this is a great time to attack bare spots, then cover them with some protective straw or hay afterward. He says overall seeding can be done now, too.

Fries urges use of pre-emergent herbicides for early April and has one other bit of advice.

"Aeration can take place at anytime, but March and April are ideal," he says.

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