Tools on a pegboard
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Summer weather may have you sweating bullets right now, but as the summer season begins its slow fade into fall, it's time to start thinking about projects that can prep your house for the cooler weather ahead. Tom Kraeutler has the top four projects to get done this month.
Weekend Project 1: Service the Garage Door
Your garage can be a handy storage zone for tools, sports equipment, holiday decorations and anything else you want to hide away. We have even heard rumors of a few fortunate folks who manage to keep their cars in there! But for all this service, your garage asks for very little in return, so be sure to keep the door and opener in top operating condition by doing some seasonal maintenance. 

First, make sure the tracks, springs and any other moving parts of the garage door are well lubricated with motor oil. Apply the oil with a rag and wipe onto each part, taking care to wipe away any excess oil. Next, take a look at those big, heavy springs and make sure there is a safety wire running inside of the springs so that if they were to break, the springs would snap back on the wire and not fly off and hurt someone.

Check the garage door opener's safety reverse system. Place a 2x4 under the door and close it. The garage door should hit the 2x4 and then open back up again. There should also be an electric eye that protects the bottom edge of the garage door. Try closing the door and then breaking the electric eye's path to be sure it is functioning. By the way, if the garage door opener is older and doesn't have at least these two safety systems, replace the garage door opener!

Finally, clean the weatherstripping along the frame of the garage door and at the bottom with a cleanser made for vinyl to prevent the weatherstripping from drying out. Wash the exterior of the garage door using a mild detergent and stiff brush or power washer. If need be, remove any flaking paint, then sand, prime and apply a new coat of paint to the garage door. A nice, bright color will keep you thinking of summer even as the snow is falling!

Weekend project 2: Add attic insulation
Man with ladder and insulation
Photo: Jupiterimages/Thinkstock
Just like your body loses heat through its top-most point—your head—your home loses heat through the attic. The folks at the EPA's Energy Star Program recommend at least 12 inches of insulation (R-38) for most homes. Homes in colder climates should have around 16 inches (R-49) of insulation. The higher the R-Value, the better the insulation's ability to keep heated air from escaping, keeping you warmer in your home and your energy bills down. To find out exactly how much insulation you should have in your attic, check out Energy Star's Attic Insulation Guidelines. By answering a couple of questions about your home's heating system and climate where you live, Energy Star will calculate the right level of insulation for your part of the country.

If you need to add more insulation to your attic, here are a few tips. Make sure to wear safety goggles and a dust mask, and protect your skin from contact with the fiberglass. First fill the joist cavities until the insulation reaches the top of the joist, then if more insulation is required, roll out the insulation across the top of the joists, perpendicularly. Make sure not to block soffit or eaves vents and keep the insulation at least 3 inches away from ceiling fixtures unless they are specified as IC, which means they are rated for insulation contact. 

For even more energy savings, do a home energy audit on your own or with the help of a pro to uncover all the ways your home loses energy and can be improved with easy sealing projects. Being energy-efficient isn't just great for your wallet—it also helps our environment by reducing your demand for heat.

Weekend project 3: Clean and sanitize all garbage cans
Garbage cans
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The garbage can is probably the most underrated helper in the home. Although we place some pretty nasty things in trash cans, they do a great job of storing life's leftovers right in the middle of where we live, eat and breathe. Here's a tip to help maintain the trash can's stealthy persona. 

Once a month, take all indoor trash cans outside for a thorough cleaning. Mix up 3/4 of a cup of bleach into one gallon of water and wash the interior of the garbage cans, as well as the handles and lids. To make sure the bleach-and-water solution has time to kill bacteria and odors that could be harmful to your family's health, let it sit for at least five minutes, and then rinse out the trash cans very well.

Weekend project 4: Protect your home from robbery
Fixing a light
Photo: Chris Clinton/Thinkstock
The summer will soon be drawing to an end, and that means it will be getting darker earlier. This means that burglars intent on stealing your stuff get to start their workday all that much earlier! To thwart those plans, go around your property and look for potential entry points.

For instance, if you have a lot of shrubbery in the front of your home, it can provide a burglar cover to break in. Trim back the bushes to keep the entry point exposed. Replace some existing landscaping with plants that have thorns for a natural way to prevent burglary. 

Some lights around the property should be placed on motion sensors so they will come on to provide safety when you return home, and also help scare away anyone who doesn't belong there. For other home lighting ideas that add safety and security, check out The Money Pit's Exterior Lighting Guide.

Make sure the doors to your home have secure locking systems, and never give the key to your home when leaving car keys anywhere, such as a repair shop, car wash, valet, etc. You will never know if someone makes a copy, so play it smart.
If you have travel plans, burglar-proof your home by making sure you stop newspaper delivery and asking a neighbor to get the mail and any packages that might be delivered in your absence. 

If you can afford to do so, have an alarm system installed that will also monitor fire and carbon monoxide in the home to keep you safe on all levels.

More from Tom Kraeutler
Home security tips for vacation season
Water-saving tips for lawn and gardens
Home cooling tips for summer
Patioscaping: Create the perfect backyard retreat


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