Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Halloween for house maintenance
Saturday, April 19, 2020
This week we’ve added a Lifestyle series article about tending to your yard and garden. Lots of people are stuck at home and not sure what to do. And with spring around the corner, one of the things I’ve done to keep healthy and busy and also as a new homeowner is to go out and get housekeeping products.
House maintenance does a few things:
1) It shows pride in homeownership. What better way to show that you care about your home than investing into maintaining it and making it look good?
2) It helps to give your house value. Over time the sweat equity and time you spend all help make your house a better investment and also makes the neighborhood look better one house at a time.
3) It helps you keep your house clean and gardens and lawns looking great.
4) It keeps your home pest free.
Truthfully, no one wants to come home to a sloppy ugly place full of bugs and pests and if you’re bringing over guests, whether it be from a family perspective or from a dating and relationship perspective, you want to leave the best first impression because you want people to feel comfortable socializing with you and have a friendly environment to build a community. If your house is off-putting and garden falling apart and yard looks like a barren wasteland then pretty soon people will start getting an unsettling feeling and spend less time over. People historically are social creatures so having a nice environment conducive to social gathering is good for your social and overall health. Why do people go to night clubs or bars? It’s the preferred social gathering location and so you want to make your pad or watering hole a.k.a. your house and its garden as inviting as possible for you and family and neighbors.
So here’s what we’ve been doing to keep our yard and house relatively clean lately.
1) Invest in a good upright vacuum. We found you can get a couple of decent vacuums for various price ranges. For example Bissells were available for less than $100 while some Shark brands ranged in prices close to $200. And then there were Hoovers in the $200 range and Dysons in the upper $300 to $400 range. Look for a vacuum with a HEPA filter as many of the good vacuums will have this to help prevent allergens from escaping.
Another thing to note is that vacuums made for pet owners are made in mind for those having to deal with pet hair and fur and such likely have additional features and increased ability to pick up hair better as well as deal with other allergens. Make sure to check various consumer reports and reviews to get the best deals and features. For example, they might have increased suction power.
Yes there are cordless models, but eventually you will end up having to charge them. Sometimes the battery for these won’t last long enough to finish the whole job since suction power correlates with more battery drainage. So depending on what your task is you may need to take this into consideration.
Another option you can use is to look up robotic vacuums. These are nice for certain areas that usually don’t have heavy carpeting and not a lot of obstructions to the paths. The vacuums are often circular in shape. They also have one of two cleaning paths: random or serpentine. For example if you pick a vacuum that only has a random path, then the vacuum will slow down when it encounters a wall and then turn around and go off at a random angle away from the obstruction. In this scenario it would in theory go back and forth at random angles enough times in an hour to be able to get all major surfaces in a room. Another type of pattern a vacuum might have is a serpentine pattern. The robotic vacuum goes back and forth in a zig-zag motion until the whole room is cleaned or until it runs out of battery.
Some vacuums have additional features like a self-charging home station where the robot can find its way back and juice up with some power before heading back out to its last spot and continue cleaning. This allows the machine to not run out of power and get stuck in the middle of the floor. Some high end models of robotic vacuums even have a self-emptying station where it self empties the debris and the station may also vacuum the waste to an even bigger storing station so that vacuum can continue on its own automated program without you having to intervene for a longer period of time. And some vacuums may even have blocking strips to keep it from crossing certain boundaries.
So some features to look for:
- Make sure check what kind of power input the vacuum takes. Some old models that we found on Amazon take AA batteries instead of the more powerful lithium. A lot of these robotic vacuums have little sweepers and rollers that enable them to sweep particles under the machine and suck up stray debris where you can empty out a tray later.
- Some robotic vacuums in older generations don’t let you connect to wifi or map navigation to where you can see it on your phone or monitor your progress or control it from your phone. If you can handle not having some of these nicer features than you might be okay with an off brand version that is missing a few of those features but it will eventually still gets the job done. Keep in mind that the bigger vacuums can hold more particles and likely will have better cleaning power in many instances. They are for your bigger daily tasks while these smaller robotic vacuums are good for daily maintenance.
2) Next, invest in some good lawn care equipment and resources.
For lawn care there are many types of products but they often eith fall into granules and pellets or a liquid spray. Pellets and granules usually last longer and fall to the ground and stay there for it to be absorbed by the plant.
You want to also differentiate what you’re trying to accomplish.
Some terms you might encounter:
Pre-Emergent or Post-Emergent lawn care weed killer
There are different kinds of lawn care products. Some lawn care products for example are pre-emergent and you use it to keep plant products from growing into your lawn. It basically is a barrier that prevents the seedlings from emerging in the first place.
Then there’s the post-emergent weed killer that kills the plants within a day or two if they’re already in your lawn and growing or full grown.
Both types likely come in liquid and solid products that you can spray or broadcast over your lawn with a lawn spreader. For liquid products you can buy pump sprayers. For solid products you would use spreaders. If you use a broadcast spreader these are the ones that look like wheel barrows that rotate and spread out your product over a fanned out greater distance. If you use a “drop spreader” it usually drops your product just between the wheels. You can also get spreaders that have “edge guard” which prevents some of the rotating broadcast spreader from spreading to one side so it doesn’t fly off to the sidewalk or road and thus wasting product. And then make sure you adjust the spreader to only spread the amount of product as stated on the bag instructions. You can also use hand spreaders that have a whirly-gig turning mechanism to spread your solid products on small areas that the wheelbarrow type spreaders wouldn’t work such as a small area beside your porch or sidewalk. Make sure to spread evenly so that you don’t miss any area.
Next, keeping your yard clean is essential. Get rid of leaves that are close to you house. Stray wood chips, wet mulch, leaves, dead logs and a lot of wet debris can attract pests and bugs and scavengers that may make it into your house. For example a lot of bugs will hang onto cardboard and clothes and follow you in or go through pipes. So be sure to maintain drains and pipes. Some of the world’s oldest insects have been around for centuries and some can even breathe if one part of the body is injured or removed! Insects can also be attractive to other pests like rodents, voles, moles, and gophers. So try to get rid of this food source, remove water sources and other creatures will head elsewhere.
There are many different types of mulches and grasses out there. For mulch you may consider stones, rubber, cedar, and many other kinds of mulches. They help regulate temperatures for plants but the decaying and decomposition of these wood materials can be attractive homes for certain insects and pests. So be careful. Also you can do research on grasses in your area just by looking up your state and typing in “grass types”.
Finally another important point in home maintenance is:
3) Don’t forget to have proper pest control.
For pest control, you normally want some kind of bait with insecticide, a residual barrier control, and an insect growth regulator.
First start off by identifying what kind of pest you have. What species is it? What is it attracted to? Where does it breed and where is it usually located? You can also apply the same principles to outdoor animals and adapt.
Now, let’s say it’s an insect pest. Here are some basic general principles:
- Clean all your kitchen counters and floors.
- Clean all the crumbs.
- Fix the leaks in the house.
- Seal entry points to the house with caulk or fix any gaps.
- Put a door sweep or door strip to fix door gaps that not only allow drafts to come in but also bugs to slip in.
- There are “weep holes” that are in the bottom part of your house in brick to allow expansion and also drainage of water and rain. These are not supposed to be sealed off. But supposedly you can put removable mesh in them to keep insects from crawling in if you want. Although the best thing is to put some residual dust and pest control substances in these and crawl spaces.
- Your bathroom and sinks have drain traps (looks like a U or S shape) that keep out sewer gas, but in an unoccupied house may dry up some and let some sewer odors in. Make sure to flush or run fresh hot water through your pipes every week or so for a few minutes or add a cleaning and deodorizer possibly with enzymes to break down anything in the pipes.
- Consider putting in toilet bowl cleaners that have some bleach or borax in them. This helps make the water in the drain system less palatable to bugs and they may come out of their hiding spot in search of water and food since their normal water supply is now poisoned.
- Don’t file your nails and feet or cut your nails or leave hair in your house all over. I’ve seen people cut their nails in the strangest places and leave hair and nails and dead skin cells all over the place. This is attractive to ants and other scavenger bugs.
- Keep the house as dry as possible with no standing water.
- Also clean the toilets and shower and bathroom tiles of fungus and mold and mildew which can attract pests.
- Remove cardboard and paper in your home and old clothes and furniture. Declutter. Use plastic or go digital instead.
- Don’t bring in furniture or old mattresses off the street.
- Make sure to wash your clothes, bedding in hot water and dry them completely.
- Take off your shoes when you enter and leave them downstairs.
- Vacuum weekly if possible.
- Consider having your bed raised up higher than the floor and isolated and away from the walls.
- Get glue traps and detectors or bug tape near vents.
- Add a bit of deodorizer and environmentally safe cleaner to the basement drain to keep it from attracting bugs.
- Consider adding dusts into electrical outlet voids and spaces and behind drains.
- Spray at least a 6 inch barrier surrounding your entire house to make bugs not want to cross to your house.
- Keep grass, mulch, leaves, flowers, bushes away from the corners of your house. You should be checking for termites and other pest invades annually at least.
- Consider blocking the hose opening when not in use and spray pesticide around it.
Again you can use your broadcast spreader to spray pest control granules into your lawn. You can buy pest control granules for instance to keep away ants, fleas, ticks and grubs at your local garden supply shop or hardward store for around $12 for instance.
Another good thing you can get is a pump sprayer and fill the container with your pesticide and then add the insect growth regulator and then fill the rest of the way with the remaining pesticide. Make sure you wear safety gloves and safety eyewear and a face mask if it contains any dangerous chemicals. Even if it’s non-toxic you don’t want to accidentally inhale insecticide or spray it into your eyes or get it on your skin. Try not to spray into the wind either and pick a relatively windless day.
It’s also a good idea to have more than one sprayer. For example you might have one for weeds and another for only pesticides with the sprayers clearly labeled so you don’t accidentally poison a plant that you want to grow or to accidentally ingest anything that you are using such as fertilizer for food plants.
Some special dusts that are not as toxic to humans include diatomaceous earth, boric acid and silicon powder. These can help dehydrate, scratch and injure insects, or become stomach poisons to certain creatures but not harm humans in the same way since we have different physical and biological make ups. It’s still not a good idea to have prolonged exposure to these items. Thus these are often used for an environmentally safer way to control pests and have less chance for the animals to chemically adapt and become resistant in the same way that they would to toxins. For example diatomaceous earth is more of a physical barrier and dessicant to certain insects with exoskeletons rather than the chemical sprays often used to get rid of pets. Do not confuse boric acid with Borax even though both have boron and sound the same. They may have some degree more or less to deter certain insects but boric acid often is the one that’s used since it’s more refined. However it only really works the best when ingested by the insect. And diatomaceous earth works best only when dry as when it is wet it loses the majority of its effectiveness to scratch or dehydrate the organism.
Lastly it’s a good idea to keep maintaining everything regularly. Some lawncare experts recommend a 4 step process to a great yard. This include pre-emergent weed killers, nutrition for the grass, insect killers, and end of the season maintainence treatments. I found a video entitled “How and when do I fertilize my lawn” by Westlake Ace Hardware that describes setting reminders close to holidays: Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Halloween. This is a good rough guideline to help you remember when to maintain your yard.
Currently the link is:
There are other products that you might want to consider purchasing on your own that will keep you plenty busy for many hours.
- Tiller or Soilripper / Claw
- Two pump sprayers or backpack sprayer for professionals (these backpack ones often are 3 or 4 gallon size with at least 90 to 150 PSI)
- Two different kinds of pesticides so that you can rotate your pesticides. Do not stockpile since pesticides can become weaker over time and that can also cause increased insect resistance. Keep them away from fluctuating temperatures and also away from flammable substances.
- Bucket or funnel for mixing with wood stick
- Insect growth regulator
- Dry powder for dusting
- Dust bulb or professional pesticide Bellows type hand sprayer
- Mop or Swiffer type mop
- Push broom
- Safety glasses
- Multiple Nitrile gloves
- Face mask
- Glue traps or detectors
- Commercial bait traps
- Bait powders, tablets, pastes
- Boric acid or diatomaceous earth or silicon gel powder
- Broadcast spreader or hand spreader
- Weed Killer
It takes a lot to maintain a house and keep it in good order, but overall it is rewarding and a way to show pride in your home ownership. It can reap benefits in establishing a relationship with your neighbors and community and also give you a sense of duty and way to also get you out and about and get some fresh air and exercise. We hope you’ve found this article helpful.