“Is My Grass Dead?” and Other End-of-Summer Home Questions Answered

the sun shining through a leaf

Hot, hot, and hotter: three words that describe mid-August weather. And like any kind of meteorological extreme, summer heat can do a number on your home and yard, leading to plenty of end-of-the-season maintenance questions. To help, we’ve compiled a list of frequent queries homeowners have this time of yearwith answers, of course! You can use this list as your guide to August home maintenance or just to answer some lingering concerns you have around the home this time of year.

the sun shining through a leaf

Is My Grass Dead? Should I Fertilize It?

This is one we hear from homeowners all the time. Yes, a patch of brown, thirsty thatch isn’t all that attractive, and that can make it tempting to rush right out and run for the fertilizer. However, that may not be the right move. Grass that’s been stressed out by dry, hot weather will sometimes go dormant. It’s still alive, but not putting out new growth. It’s a protective measure the grass employs during hot, harsh weatherand it’s totally normal.

How can you tell if your grass has gone dormant or if it’s dead? Take a small handful and tug. If the grass comes loose easily, it’s gone to a better place. But if you feel resistance, it’s still kicking. In this case, the best thing to do is to give it a slow, gentle soak at about ½ an inch deep every two or three weeks. Or you can start giving it one inch of water every week to get it green again, but only if you’re prepared to continue watering regularly like that for the rest of the summer. Grass is weakened after it comes out of dormancy, so another period of drought just might be enough to kill it. Whatever you do, don’t flood it with waterit won’t make your lawn green up any faster. Same goes for the fertilizer. Spreading it now will either burn your lawn or cause it to send up a bunch of tender young shoots that will wither quickly in the heat. It’s best to wait until the weather gets cooler for that!

My AC Bills Are Through the Roof. How Can I Lower Them?

High cooling bills are like an unwanted house guest: no one invited them, and they’re using up all your toilet paper and eating all your food. Okay, so they’re not exactly like that, but you get the gist. While it’s normal to expect some increase in energy bills throughout the summer months, a huge spike could be a sign that you’re not getting the most out of your AC. Luckily, you’re not totally at the mercy of your utility company; there are some things you can do to improve your home’s cooling efficiency.

The simplest thing to do right off the bat is to change your AC filters. According to the Department of Energy, this simple act can potentially make your AC unit run 5 to 15 percent more efficiently—not too shabby! Other things you can do? Try cleaning the condenser coils on your outside unit, which can get gritty after a season of mowing and dust. You can also run your ceiling fans at the same time as your AC. That act alone has been known to help homeowners reduce thermostat settings by up to four degrees. And every degree you can shave off means more energy savings!

How Do I Get My Grill Ready for Fall?

Late summer marks the end of cookout season, and for many of us, that means it’s time to bid your grill a fond farewell for the winter. But before you do, give yours a little TLC so that it’s ready to go in spring. First and foremost, scour grates, heat plates and the warming rack with a wire brush to break down baked-on grease and grit. Scrape out the ashes and buildup inside the burner box, and wipe down the inside of the grill cabinet and the grill exterior with a gentle, food-safe solution, such as a mixture of water and vinegar. Wash the drip tray and grease cup in soapy water and allow them to dry thoroughly before reinstalling. Keep in mind that this little cleanup routine is great for year-round grills as well: you can keep your grill space too clean!

To prevent rust throughout the winter, apply a coat of cooking oil to the grates, heat plates, warming rack and burners. For gas grills that have an electronic igniter system, remove the battery and keep it stored inside for the winter—that way it won’t be damaged by moisture. Finally, put all the parts back in place, top it all off with a grill cover and move it into a garage, shed or other protected area to sit out the winter’s hibernation. So long until next year, cookouts!

Can the Sun Damage My Siding or Deck?

Absolutely. The sun beating down all day can be pretty rough on the surfaces of your home. While many kinds of vinyl, aluminum, and fiberglass siding are tested and waranteed against UV damage, you won’t get the same kind of guarantee with wood boards. For wood-clad homes, it’s not a bad idea to walk around your house this time of year, looking for cracked or peeling paint on the exterior, especially on sides that are regularly exposed to the sun all day. If you find a lot of damage, you may want to consider repainting with a UV-resistant exterior paint.

Now, onto your deck. If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to give it a new coat of sealer, stain, or paint, since you’ll be able to get it done before the leaves start to fall. As you do, take a moment to put eyes on the boards, posts and stairs, too, to make sure there’s no rot or water damage there—otherwise, you’ll have bigger problems on your hands. Once you get a fresh coat of sealer on, you’ll be all set for winter moisture. Bonus!

Is There Anything Else I Should Do Before the Hot Weather Ends?

Hot weather provides an opportune time for a couple of other maintenance items, as well. Specifically, if you have an asphalt driveway in need of repair, now is when you should fix any potholes or cracks. You can DIY them yourself with liquid filler or crack-patching mastic.

Also, if you haven’t given your gutters any attention lately, you may want to do that now. Check the downspouts in particular—loose shingle granules can collect here after hailstorms, which could be an indicator of problems with your roof.

Lastly, start planning or researching large jobs, like roofing or siding projects or window replacements, that will expose part of your home to the elements while the contractors work. These are good projects for fall, when the weather is more comfortable.

Now go take a break and get yourself some ice cream! Armed with some home know-how, hot weather won’t keep you down!

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