July ushers in the start of summer, which translates into outdoor living, grilling and staying cool. But this month, like any other, there are things you can do to improve your summer living; things that will bring you more opportunity for leisure-time pursuits, while still keeping your home and garden in peak condition.
Here are my five top "must-dos" for the month of July:
1. Cool down - naturally
Installing a ceiling fan is a fantastic way to cut energy costs all year round. It helps circulate cool air in the warm summer months but can also help push down heated air in the winter, allowing you to dial down the thermostat and save money. It's also the perfect weekend project for a homeowner, since you can accomplish the task in a few hours and enjoy the investment immediately. Some things to consider:
- When choosing a fan, note the size of your room. The blades need to be at least 18-24 inches from all walls, a minimum of 7 feet from the floor, and 10 inches from the ceiling. Choose a 36-inch fan if your room is less than 12 feet square; 42-inch if the room is between 144 inches and 256 inches square; and 52-inch if the room is more than 15 x 15 feet square.
- Choose a ceiling box approved for fans. Boxes for overhead lights are not strong enough to support the weight. Choose a metal box that can support the weight. If you have access from the attic above, you can install the box to additional framing between joists. If not, grab a brace bar at the hardware store. This will screw into the joists, and the ceiling box and fan will hang from the newly added support.
- Turn off the electricity at the breaker box. Putting the wall switch in the "off" position won't cut it. To be safe, you'll want to turn off the electricity at the breaker box. Then carefully remove the old light fixture and its ceiling box with a screwdriver. Make sure the wiring is in good condition, and consult an electrician to replace if necessary. Making sure the hole is between two ceiling joists, trace the outline of the ceiling box onto the ceiling and cut out the shape with a keyhole saw. It should be about 5 inches diameter.
- Always follow the manufacturers instructions. Attach the fan's down rod with the ball end toward the ceiling and secure (usually with an included cotter pin). Next, connect the fan's wires to the circuit wires: white to white, black to black, and the grounding wire to the green lead wire of the fan or a grounding screw. Secure all connections with wire connectors and tuck them into the ceiling box. Attach the canopy or medallion using the screws included and install the blades. Make sure all screws are tightened securely to prevent wobbling.
2. Keep up with the pool
Depending on how much of the job you hire out, maintenance, supplies and electrical costs can run between $1,000 and $3,000 a year, with opening and closing, cleaning, checking connections, adjusting pH, adding algaecide, surface repairs and liner replacements. Cost-saving green alternatives are available. Before deciding upon chlorine as your primary sanitizer (it's a major pollutant), consider some of the natural water purifiers, which include saltwater, ionization, oxidation, sonic waves and certain types of plants. And if you're thinking about heating your pool to extend its use into the cooler seasons, consider solar thermal heating. Of all the solar technologies, its payback is the fastest. For more on swimming pool construction, decking, maintenance and safety, check out Swimming Pools 101.
3. Nurture your roses
If you have roses, you know that, although hardy, they do require special care to lead up to their full potential. Since their roots go deep, frequent watering is important. So too is fertilizer, which you should lay down after each flush of new blooms. And to trick your roses into re-blooming throughout the summer, remove the spent blooms and cut the stem down to the first or second five-leaf set. For guidance on rose varieties and their growth habits, consider Roses: 11 Sensational Varieties to Consider.
4. Decorate some clay pots
Since outdoor entertaining will be an ongoing affair this month, do something to dress up your patio or deck and play off your own skills and personality by transforming unused clay pots into decorative accents for your patio, deck or front porch.
5. Have some fun with some kid-friendly DIY
Few summer DIY projects are as easy to complete - or provide as much fun - as a backyard sandbox. With just some basic home improvement knowledge, you can build a simple backyard sandbox complete with benches for sitting, holes to trickle sand through and a beach umbrella holder for shade. Just follow the how-to here.
Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV's This Old House, Bob Vila's Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content - practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.