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Get Your House Ready for Summer

Cold weather can take a toll on any home, so HGTV Magazine consulted the experts on how to get yours back in shape.

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Clean the walkway

Pressure-wash the walkway, then replace damaged pavers or bricks, or just flip them over. If any pavers are sticking up too high, raise them, remove a little dirt, and drop them back in place. On concrete walkways fill in cracks with a masonry crack filler that matches the color of your concrete.

Spruce up the front door
Probe the weather stripping around the door with a screwdriver and caulk any post-winter gaps before tightening hinges that may have come loose due to shifts in temperature.

Prep the windows
Caulk any gaps in the framing and check that the mechanics are working by opening and closing each window a few times. Fill up two buckets: one with 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of ammonia, and 1 gallon of hot water; the other with warm water. Wash windows with the vinegar-ammonia solution first, then with water only. Dry with a squeegee.
Quick tip: Wash windows on a cloudy day. The sun may dry the solution too soon, leaving streaks.

Reinforce the fence posts
Replace warped or rotten pickets or posts, then give posts a good yank to make sure they're sturdy in the ground.

Redo the driveway
Sweep away debris, patch cracks, then use a squeegee to apply a sealer. For blacktop or asphalt, try Black Jack Blacktop Ultra-Maxx 1000 Driveway Filler and Sealer ($34 for 4?3/4 gallons). For concrete, try Quikrete Concrete Crack Seal ($10 for a quart, both acehardware.com for stores).

Tidy up the flower beds
Clear out weeds and use a spade to redefine bed edges. Till the top inch or two of soil if it's tightly packed, being careful not to disturb any bulbs below. Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch.

Fill in the grass
Remove leaves and twigs and de-thatch dead grass with a metal rake. Ask for help choosing the right seed at a garden center, then apply it to bald patches or anywhere you want a thicker lawn.
Quick tip: Weed-killing fertilizer will work fastest if applied right before it rains.

Fix the sprinkler
Check for any winter damage, including broken heads and cracked pipes, by running your sprinkler one zone at a time. Any bubbling or geyser-like area needs a new head.


De-gunk the birdbath
Empty the bath and fill it with warm water and ¼ cup of chlorine bleach. (Bleach is safe if you rinse thoroughly, but you can also swap it for 1 cup of white vinegar.) Cover the bath with a tarp or plastic bag, and let the solution soak for 30 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing.

Hose down the air-conditioning condenser
Shut down the power on the electric panel, then clear away any leaves or branches lodged in the unit. Wash down all the coils with a garden hose. If you find any chewed wires, call a pro to repair them.

Clear out the gutters
Clean leaves and debris from your gutters. The next time it rains, stand outside and look for breaks or leaks in your gutters and downspouts.

Repair the siding
If your house has wood siding or shingles, inspect for post-winter rot, repair the damaged areas, then touch up any faded stain or chipped paint. A nylon scrub brush and all-purpose cleaner should eliminate dirt and mold on engineered wood, vinyl, or aluminum siding.

Inspect the roof
Grab a pair of binoculars and look at your roof from across the street. Locate curling, cracked, or missing shingles. Also look out for damaged metal flashing around the chimney, pipes, and skylights. Get in touch with a roofer for fixes.

Clean the deck
Use a deck brush or power washer plus a deck-cleaning solution (like Cabot Ready to Use wood cleaner pump spray, $12 a gallon, acehardware.com) to remove mold, dirt, and mildew. If the finish is worn, let the wood dry for a few days, then reseal it.

Wash the cushions
Most outdoor fabrics are safe to throw in a warm wash. Air-dry, then put the cover back on the insert while it's still slightly damp to keep it smooth. If the fabric isn't removable, clean it using a soft scrub brush, dish detergent, and warm water.

Scrub down the gas grill
Heat the grill for 10 minutes at a high temperature so it's easier to scrape off gunk inside the cook box. Disconnect the gas line and let the grill cool before removing and washing the grates, burners, and drip tray in warm, soapy water. Wipe down the grill's exterior before putting everything back together.
Quick tip: To check the grill's propane level, feel the outside of the tank. The area with fuel will be cooler than the empty portion.

Our experts: Shawn Aherns, senior marketing manager at Andersen Windows; Chasitie Branch, consumer relations manager at Char-Broil; Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean; John DeSilvia, host of DIY network's Rescue My Renovation; Brian Patrick Flynn, hgtv.com; Chris Lambton, host of HGTV's Going Yard; Lou Manfredini, home expert for Ace hardware; Josh Temple, host of DIY network's House Crashers

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