With the economy dragging, it's definitely the time for cautious spending, but some outdoor maintenance projects shouldn't be neglected. Here are a few projects that will help cut down on future spending.
"Basic maintenance is a lot cheaper than a new lawn mower," says Gary Zoll, owner of Zoll's Lawn and Garden Equipment in Medford. Homeowners can check the oil and replace the air filter. The oil should be changed once a year, but at the minimum, it should be checked and topped off. Lawn mowers use the same type of oil as automobiles. Air filters should be changed annually and can be purchased at a mower shop. With the proper tools you can even change the spark plug, says Zoll. "You'll save money in the long run."
If you see a waterfall every time it rains, it's time to clean your gutters. With the high winds earlier this summer, debris could have blown quite a distance to land in your gutters. It pays to check them annually, even in homes that don't typically experience clogging. Without properly operating gutters, surrounding wood is subject to moisture and water damage, so regular cleaning and maintenance could save your home from expensive repairs.
Leaks usually mean a gutter needs to be replaced, says Britt Parsons, owner of Britt Gutters in Medford. "Usually, it means rust has started." Occasionally, new homes will require gutter work after they settle, he says. "It's not anybody's fault. Sometimes a house settles so much a new drain needs to be installed." Spot repairs usually last a year, but some problems have no fix.
Pavers and patios
Flagstone patios and concrete pavers are the groundwork for outdoor enjoyment, but not if they don't drain properly or are full of pesky weeds and ants. A polymer dust can help eliminate these problems. Super Sand for pavers and Gator Dust for flagstones act like mortar once installed, according to Pete Cislo, owner of Leave Your Mark in Phoenix.
Summer is the time to install the product, he says. Old filler must be removed, and the patio or walk must be properly leveled before the new polymer sand is added. Misting the product creates the impervious surface.
"Wheelchairs go right over it," says Cislo.
The dust comes in two colors, gray and brown. With pavers, expect to pay about $27.50 for 60 square feet of coverage. Depending on the distance between flagstones, you'll pay $29.95 for 20 to 60 square feet of coverage.
"People with drip-irrigation systems need to make sure that the filter in the drip valve assembly is cleaned," says Jim Love, landscape architect with Galbraith and Associates in Medford. "Too often they aren't cleaned, and the system works inefficiently."
Water flow can be reduced or blocked completely, says Love. "You don't find out until things start browning."
Even some maintenance companies may overlook this annual chore, he says.
A healthier way to reduce water use is to make sure to use the seasonal adjustment setting on the irrigation controls.
"You save a lot of water and provide a healthier environment for your plantings," says Love. "You don't want to flood your plants in April."
The seasonal setting will deliver less water to the landscape in spring and fall, and ensure the landscape gets a bigger dose of water in the summer when it's needed, he says.
For plants and equipment, it's a matter of giving them what they need when they need it. It can add up to spending less — a good thing.